Q: What do you think of supramaximal methods such as heavy partials, limited ROM exercises and holds for building strength and size? I read your Templates article and most of your others and don't ever recall you using things like board presses, lockouts, holds etc.
A: I recommend them sometimes but not really in the traditional sense. Partials, heavy supports, supramaximal holds, and limited ROM isometrics all pretty much all work via the same mechanisms.
They increase strength 2 ways. First of all, they can "temporarily" increase neural drive. Say you take a heavy weight out of the bench press rack and either hold it for 10 seconds or do partial reps for 10 seconds. After the hold your ability to then lift a heavy load in normal fashion is temporarily enhanced. This is due to increased sensitivity of the contractile proteins that effectively bind up large amounts of calcium that were released during the supramaximal hold. Therefore, due to enhanced force of the mechanical twitch, you temporarily end up stronger than before. This is why I've told some lifters I was training for powerlifting to unrack a supramaximal bench press and simply hold it for about 5-10 seconds about 5 minutes prior to their heaviest bench attempts in competition.
Additionally, by loading up and emphasizing certain parts of a movement with supramaximal weight, you can prolong the level and duration the muscles are under tension. Thus partials, holds, and isometrics can be good for increasing strength in the "sticking point" of a movement. This is why I often prescribe them for bodyweight exercises like chinups and why some variation of "partial holds" are included in most gymnastics progressions. If you can't do a chinup and the tension you can generate at the midpoint of the movement is what's holding you back strengthwise, how much time under tension do you get in the midpoint of that movement in a standard set of 5 rep assisted chinups?? Maybe 5 seconds.
Now, say you start at the top of a chinup and lower yourself down to the midpoint and hold it for as long as you can, or do partial reps in that same limited ROM, both for say 10 or 20 seconds. Now you compare 20 seconds to 5 seconds. It's obvious the set of 10 or 20 second holds or partials can be better for increasing strength in the weak part of that movement cuz of the increased and lengthened tension you created in that ROM. Same with bench press. Powerlifters that wear bench shirts find the shirt lifts the bar about halfway up for them. So all they have to worry about is the top half of the movement. Which is why powerlifters do lots of "partial range" board presses and lockouts since the lockout is their "sticking point". That won't work for shirtless lifters though because their sticking point is more towards the bottom.
The bad thing about using those methods for strength is that the strength from a partial movement is fairly specific to the joint angle. In other words, the reason you see lots of guys in the gym that can do 1/4 squats with 405 pounds but can't squat an empty bar ass to the grass is because the strength they gain doing those 1/4 squats isn't transferable to the full range squat. Another thing is, it's very easy to get injured working with supramax loads associated with those methods. Working with the bodyweight is one thing but supramax bench presses, pulls and squats with heavy weights way above your maximum full range strength is another. Do that for a good while and you could very well end up being a Train Wreck.
Now what about size? There are bodybuilding books recommending schemes that consist nearly 100% of partial range training by loading up weight in the strong range of a movement and performing partial reps. (Static contraction training/power factor training by Pete Sisco). Basically, anything you do to place tension on a muscle group will develop strength or size to a certain extent. Bodyweight movements, pushing a car, throwing rocks, isometrics, positives only, negatives only, or whatever. There are plenty of ways to induce tensions and plenty of books on each one of those schemes alone.
Now, if the basic tenet of partial range bodybuilding were 100% true, then the guy squatting 405 in quarter squats would be a lot stronger in a full squat and have bigger legs then deep squatters wouldn't he? Yet, in the real world the reverse is true. If you unrack a bench press 200 pounds heavier then your max and do a bunch of partials, you will probably feel like you're "the man", and you'll temporarily probably be quite a bit stronger due to the potentiation affect I described above. You might also stimulate "some" chronic strength and growth, yet you DON'T fully activate and train all the muscles involved in the full range bench press or train "full range" strength.
Additionally, a bodybuilder using partial range supramaximal weights on every exercise for the whole body WILL over time strain the heck out of their joints, ligaments and tendons, little doubt about that. That's why most powerbuilders and guys who use a lot of heavy partials are almost always training around injuries. In fact the only time I've ever been hurt in the gym was following one of those types of routines for squats and I strained ligaments in my back!
So, for size improvements, the only time I'd recommend partials in the strong point of your ROM is when the ROM must be limited due to injury, or sometimes at the every end of the set when you do a static hold or partials to increase the length of stimulus on the muscle. Partials and isometrics etc. performed in the "weak" range of a movement have much greater value and greater overall carryover based on what I've seen in the real world and the research.
Q: 1)In one of your Q&As in 2004, you showed a simple drill which taught you to get full leg extension which could be done in very little space. It was great! I was wondering if you have any similiar drills? Especially since getting to a track regularly is hard.
2)A question regarding sprinting technique. As the foot strikes the ground, are you meant to "push-down" then relax until the next foot-strike? Or would this cause you to tense up in a counter-productive way?
A: You must be referring to the single leg box jump. I have another drill that works very well. Bent over single leg butt kick jumps. Simply bend over slightly and hold on to something in front of you. From here, stand on one leg and make sure the leg is fully extended. Next, simply jump up and down trying to kick yourself in the butt with the jump leg each time you jump. Be very careful, do on a semi-soft surface, and make sure you have the strength, otherwise you will tear up your shins and ankles.
As for "pushing off" when sprinting, no not really, it should actually be more like your foot "rebounding" off the ground,- although at the beginning of a sprint there will be some pushing going on.
Q: When I watch college basketball I see the players jump about a foot
or more on all their jump shots. Is this just because their verticals are so
high that it's effortless for them, or is there something special they do? My
standing vertical's 22inches but my jump shot is only a couple of inches.
Whenever I try to jump really high on a jump shot, it seems like I lose all my
power on the release and the ball falls short. I was always taught that power
comes from the legs. Can you please clear this up for me?
A: Imagine you're standing up holding a heavy barbell and have to hoist it above your head. Would you bend your legs, explode up, jump way up in the air, and try to push it at the peak of your jump? Or would you bend your legs and drive it up powerfully without leaving the ground and with a good base of support? Probably the latter. That should tell you that yes, power does come from your legs, but jumping up and shooting the ball at the peak of your jump is complete BS as far as being the most "powerful" way to shoot a ball. The jump shot is a very specific mostly unnatural skill that must be practiced. When I played basketball it took me 2 years of practicing every day to get a proficient jump shot. I threw up a lot of 10 and 15 feet airballs until I got the hang of it. That's really all you can do. Practice it enough and one day it might feel right.
Q: How do you objectively quantify intensity (for the purpose of
tracking progress) in a strength training program? Do you use an algorithm that
takes into account all factors of an exercise and/or workout, such as sets,
reps, rest, weight, exercise, and tempo of lifting? I'm looking for a method to
help with objectively measuring and planning my training.
A: I look at the weight that's on the bar, the reps, the performance in other things, person's energy and motivation level. Honestly I can't even define algorithm and I doubt if many other good coaches and athletes I've been around can either. But they can all make progress over time if they can count 1-100 and add up the poundage of 45 pound plates and be honest with theirself about how their state of recovery. This is not rocket science. Either the bar weight is going up or it's going down, performance is going up or down, and a person is getting worn out or fresher. I try to look at things from a big picture perspective and keep things simple.
I try to avoid having people think too much and having them overanalyze every single aspect of training. Even if you try to do that, it's impossible unless you can control EVERY aspect of a persons life. The body does not really differentiate between various stressors. So outside stress can have just as much impact as what you do with training.
I try to be very observant and teach people how to assess their own trainability status. A simple motivation assessment first thing in the morning can go a long way for most people. Simply rate motivation on a scale of 1-10 and note the readings over time and how they correlate to performance in the gym or the sport. In my experience, that will do a lot more for most people then elaborate training schemes. Also things like nutritional status can't be overlooked and can often make or break a training scheme.
Q: I just finished reading the VJDB. I found the info on
race and body type especially interesting. My question is this:
By what standard/measurement do you qualify one as long limbed or not?
I've heard that one's wingspan is typically about the same as his height so I guess if you start to go above that then you're getting into "long arms" territory.
But what about legs? How long is one's inseam usually relative to height? I'm somewhere between 6'2" and 6'3" (not exactly sure), my wingspan is 77.5" and my inseam is 34.5".
A: It's all relative and their are no rules that I'm aware of. Do you have shorter limbs then most people or longer limbs? All you gotta do is observe. At 5'9 I have a 33 inch inseam so based on your height I'd say you don't have long limbs. :)