Q: I have read that training to muscular failure is not a good idea especially for athletes. What about technical failure? By this I mean someone who uses Olympic based lifts (power or hang versions). Is a workout that carries on till a missed lift occurs going to have the same effect as say working up to a squat 1RM?

There is a difference between a movement designed to stress the muscles and a movement that is an athletic event. A squat is just a movement that strengthens muscles but an olympic lift is an athletic skill in itself. The olympic lifts take practice and if you notice how olympic lifters train they do their specific skill (olympic lifts) first while their fresh and then they do squats and other exercises afterward to strengthen the muscles involved in their skill.

It's not a good idea to train moves requiring great technical ability in a fatigued state or training those movements to failure because the injury risk is too high. Training to failure on an olympic lift would be similar to a gymnast intentionally training to failure in a double back flip! Who would ever intentionally do that? Of course there will be times when you attempt a maximal lift and miss, just like there are times when a gymnast attempts a maneuver and misses. That's just part of training and learning but I wouldn't strive for this. Instead, just train the o-lifts until you feel bar speed start to drop off or until it becomes more difficult to lift a given load but stop well before the point of failure.


Q: There are a lot of diets out there with a move now being to timing and combinations being critical. What sort of diet do you personally use and does this vary from and within your clients?

A: Good question! I am a big believer that the composition of a diet and nutrient timing are more important than simple calories in or calories out. The simple calorie method is rather crude. Few people realize that the calorie counts on food labels and calorie charts may have little to do with the caloric value of foods to any particular human. Calorie counts for foods were obtained by burning the food in a bomb calorimeter and measuring the heat produced. A bomb calorimeter is not a human body. The values are rough approximations made up almost 100 years ago. The energy value of carbs, proteins, and fats, vary not only with particular foods that contain them and your dietary composition but also with each person's biochemical individuality which affects the digestibility and efficiency of the use of food by the body. Table sugar mixed with water, for example, provides a more efficient source of energy and puts on more bodyfat than table sugar eaten by the spoonful. Another example - 100 grams of sugar consumed during or immediately after a workout will be soaked up like a sponge by the muscles. The same 100 grams of sugar consumed at bedtime (assuming the workout was earlier in the day) will be soaked up like a sponge by your fat cells.

Anyway, I think overall people need to pay more attention to meal composition and I like people to try to consume more of a caveman diet for body composition, performance, and overall health. That means if you can't shoot it, grow it, and it's not green, then don't eat it!

This means lots of lean proteins, vegetables, EFAs (essential fatty acids), and fruits while minimizing grains and processed carbohydrates. The amount of grains and carbohydrates should be commensurate with one's metabolic rate and goals. If your goal is to get leaner than cut back on starchy carbohydrates. If you need to gain weight do the opposite. I like protein to be around the 40-50% mark. High protein is important for stabilizing blood sugar, minimizing cravings, increasing thermogenesis, and of course keeping the body in positive nitrogen balance. For someone with an ordinary metabolism I like the majority of the daily carbohydrate intake to be ingested postworkout and at breakfast.

Obviously, endurance athletes will require more carbohydrates and calories but I think all too often athletes (and coaches) in speed and power dominant sports try to make up for a poor diet and try to manipulate body composition too much with conditioning work when they would get better results in sport by taking the opposite approach. Use diet to keep body composition in check and use exercise to boost performance.


Q: You have written a lot about improving vertical jump and how it is a good measure of explosiveness. What about the other way? Will me doing a VJ specific program improve my lifts? How is there a carryover?

A: In most situations increasing your vertical jump won't directly increase your lifts, however, it can dramatically increase your lifting potential. That's because the vertical jump is so dependent on muscular recruitment and the ability to instantly turn on as much force as possible. Force= Mass x acceleration. The VJ will help strengthen the acceleration part. This isn't automatically gonna turn you into a great lifter but it surely won't hurt anything. In order to lift a lot of weight you gotta be able to turn on a lot of force and leave that force turned on for a good amount of time (strain against a heavy load). Having a strong vertical jump will give you a head start on the first part.....turning on a lot of force instantaneously. In fact, if your lifts are limited by the speed at which you can develop force then yes, you can get an immediate carryover from improving your vertical jump. But in order to improve the "mass" part of the force equation you'll have to spend some time lifting heavy loads. Regardless, I don't think it's any coincidence that some of the best squatters had very high vertical jumps prior to becoming lifters.