Ivan Abadjiev, Legendary Weightlifting Coach, Passes Away at 85

In sad news coming out of Bulgaria, it’s being reported that legendary Bulgarian weightlifting coach Ivan Abadjiev passed away on March 24 in Germany; he was 85 years old.

Abadjiev is arguably considered among the most accomplished coaches ever in the history of Olympic weightlifting. From 1968 to 1989, and again from 1997 to 2000, he served as head coach of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation. During that time he produced 12 Olympic Champions, 57 World Champions, and 64 European Champions.

Ivan Abadjiev (center podium) accepting a team award at the 1985 Worlds. On the left is David Rigert of the USSR. On the right is László Ambrus of Hungary. Photo courtesy of Bruce Klemens.

His training methods have come to be known as the Bulgarian System of training, which revolved around an intense, competition style of training the snatch and clean & jerk as primary exercises in a workout. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Abadjiev studied the American basketball training system and theorized that an incredible level of sport-specificity could be applied to weightlifting training.

Abadjiev’s model led Bulgaria to a stunning Olympic victory over the Soviet Union in 1972. By the 1980s, Bulgaria, a country of under 8 million people, was arguably the world power in weightlifting, routinely defeating the Soviet Union, a country that (at the time) had a population of almost 300 million people.

Coach Abadjiev lived in Northern California from roughly 2007 through 2012, where he was active in coaching the sport. He was instrumental in coaching with a young(er) Dave Spitz at American Weightlifting, the Non-Profit Organization that was a prelude to the powerhouse weightlifting team California Strength. 

His career was not without controversy, at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, two Bulgarian weightlifters, Mitko Grablev (56 kg) and Angel Guenchev (67.5 kg) were both disqualified after they tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. A similar situation followed at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, where the entire Bulgarian Weightlifting team was expelled after 3 positive doping violations.

Featured image: Screenshot from School of Champions

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All Day Energy Greens Review — Are There Actually 5 Servings of Vegetables In This?

The Institute for Vibrant Living is an Arizona-based company that claims their greens powder, All Day Energy Greens, is “one of the most potent, energizing, alkalizing, immune-enhancing drinks available” and that it “exceeds the nutritional equivalent of five servings of fruits and vegetables.” But what’s actually in it?


Buy All Day Energy Greens on Amazon

Ingredients

There are close to forty ingredients that are all lumped into one proprietary blend, unlike some greens powders that separate them by their function, like digestive health, antioxidants, and so on.

The list includes powdered alfalfa, spirulina, barley grass, acerola cherry, watercress, spinach leaf, astragalus root, green tea leaf, beet root, maca root, yerba mate, and a variety of fruits and berries.

Notably absent are probiotic bacteria, but there are several kinds of digestive enzymes — amylase, cellulase, protease, and lipase — which are linked to improved nutrient absorption.

One serving contains 25 calories, 1 gram of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and no fat.

All Day Energy Greens Ingredients

Taste

While it smells like your standard grassy, earthy greens powder, the taste is in fact very pleasant — I’d liken it to a mixed berry flavor, with undertones of grape and carrot. I really liked it.

Effectiveness

It’s a proprietary blend, which I’m not personally a fan of in greens powders because I like to know if I’m getting a clinically effective dose of some of the more medicinal ingredients in the list, like astragalus and maca root. They’ve been linked to circulatory health and sexual health (though not very conclusively) and are typically used in doses of 30 grams and 1.5 grams respectively. Since they both appear in the second half of an ingredients list of an 8.25-gram serving, they probably aren’t going to confer many of their alleged benefits.

All Day Energy Greens Nutrition

However, unlike a lot of greens powders, this does provide a very comprehensive list of the vitamins and minerals present in a serving, and in this respect the nutrition is extraordinarily high. One scoop  contains 633 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, 100 percent of your daily Vitamins D, K, B12, biotin, riboflavin (B2), and folic acid (B9). There’s also 80 percent of your Vitamin A and 10 percent of your daily iron, magnesium, and potassium.

That’s a serious amount of nutrition that makes All Day Energy Greens outstanding in its field. Given the ingredients, it’s also likely that it delivers a potent dose of antioxidants, though that particular benefit isn’t quantified on the label.

All Day Energy Greens Review

With all that said, it’s tough to conclusively say that All Day Energy Greens provides “the nutritional equivalent of five servings of fruits and vegetables.” If it provided, say, the nutrition in five servings of spinach, many of the vitamins and minerals would be higher (it would contain three times as much magnesium and Vitamin A, for example).

That said, it is a very nutritious supplement, particularly when you look at the price.

Price

It’s $29 for 30 servings, or 96 cents per serving. That’s inexpensive for a greens powder, particularly one that delivers this much nutrition.

Compare that with Athletic Greens ($4.23 per serving), Onnit’s Earth Grown Nutrients ($2.30/serving), Patriot Power Greens ($1.96/serving) AI Sports Nutrition Red & Greens XT ($1.33/serving), Green Vibrance ($1.08/serving), ORAC-Energy Greens ($1/serving), PharmaFreak Greens Freak ($1/serving), Sun Warrior’s Supergreens ($0.55/serving), and Amazing Grass’s Green Superfood ($0.52/serving).

The Takeaway

I liked everything about this product except for the marketing. But given that the greens powder industry is awash in similar claims, I can’t truthfully say that “five servings of vegetables” is an extraordinarily inaccurate claim — but the language should nonetheless be toned down a little.

This is a very solid supplement that delivers an outstanding amount of nutrition for a very low price. I would have liked to see some probiotics thrown in too, but for the price point, the nutrition, and the transparency, this is one of the better deals you’ll find.

Buy All Day Energy Greens on Amazon

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17.5 Open Workout Tips From Top CrossFit® Athletes

The last week of the CrossFit® Open is finally here. If you’ve been following each week’s action, then you’re more than likely relieved at what workout 17.5 entails. This week’s workout is a time-based workout that involves ten rounds of thrusters and double-unders.

If you missed the official workout announcement, then check out the workout below with the movement standards video.

As always, athletes start on a 3, 2, 1 countdown before beginning the workout.

  • 9 Thrusters – 95lbs men/65lbs women
  • 35 Double-unders

10 rounds total in as little time as possible with a 40-minute time cap. 

This workout seems simple, but time management is one of the toughest feats to accomplish, especially in competitive timed workouts. Top CrossFit athletes are generally great at this aspect, so we compiled a list of some of the best tips released for 17.5 so far.

1. Lukas Esslinger (Finished 21st in the 2016 Games) & The Progrm – Importance of Pacing, Discipline, and Mechanics

Coach John Singleton talks about the importance of pacing this workout and performing it within your best capacity. He also mentions the importance of movement mechanics and equipment setup to allow smooth transitioning.

2. Nicole Carroll (CrossFit HQ Director of Training & Certification) – Pacing and Transitions

Carroll hits on the importance of pacing, as this workout is ten rounds. “It’s much better to get a little ways into this workout, then think I can pick up the pace.” She also discusses how important transitions are for maintaining a quick workout time.

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3. CrossFit Coach Cody Looney (Coach at CrossFit Advantage) – Splits and Pacing

Coach Cody shows how Katrin Davidsdottir split her rounds on a whiteboard, which is a cool visual to help give you context into realistic pacing for yourself. He also talks about the best way to manage your workout capacity to stay on your pace.

4. Josh Bridges (Finished 13th in the 2016 Games) – Double-Under Advice

Bridges shares extremely valuable insight he learned from workout 17.5 and that of course is…don’t trip.

A post shared by Josh Bridges (@bridgesj3) on Mar 23, 2017 at 8:41pm PDT

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The 2017 CrossFit Open has come and gone and there’s only one more weekend to log and improve your ranking. This workout may seem more simple than others we’ve seen this Open, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Feature image from The Progrm YouTube Channel, @bridgesj3 Instagram page, and @nicole.carroll Instagram page. 

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17.5 CrossFit® Open Workout Announced

Congratulations to every athlete who’s competed in the 2017 CrossFit® Open this year, as you’ve made it to the final week. This year’s Open has been filled with tons of ups and downs and has certainly kept fans on their toes. The past month’s Open workouts have tested every CrossFit athlete’s strength, endurance, and mental capacity.

This week, the CrossFit Open Workout 17.5 announcement will be coming from the new home of the CrossFit Games Madison, Wisconsin. Fans have been anticipating this workout announcement due to Dave Castro’s Instagram photo hint earlier in the week that focused on “dead meat.”

A post shared by brookeence (@brookeence) on Mar 22, 2017 at 1:30pm PDT

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This week’s live athlete match-up consists of two CrossFit powerhouses including two-time Fittest Woman on Earth Katrin Davidsdottir and two-time third place Games finisher Sara Sigmundsdottir. Workout 17.5 is posted below.

As always, athletes start on a 3, 2, 1 countdown before beginning the workout.

  • 9 Thrusters – 95lbs men/65lbs women
  • 35 Double-unders

10 rounds total in as little time as possible with a 40-minute time cap. 

Check out the 17.5 standards video below for full details and rulings.

If you’ve missed the first four weeks of the CrossFit Open, below is a quick recap that can catch you up to speed.

CrossFit Open Workouts 17.1 and 17.2 both had dumbbells for the first time in CrossFit Open history. On top of that, during these two weeks we saw multiple elite Games competitors withdraw for injuries and personal reasons. On the flip side, let’s not forget Alethea Boon’s comeback after tearing her Achilles seven months ago. She’s currently ranked 18th in individual women.

CrossFit Open Workout 17.3 involved a crazy tough barbell snatch ladder. From Beyond the Whiteboard’s article on the CrossFit Games website, they found that less than 2% of Open competitors made it to snatch weights of 245/175 lbs, and less than 1% made it to the final round of 265/185 lbs.

Ironically, 17.4 was arguably the quietest week of this year’s Open, as it was a repeat from 16.4. These workouts are great because they give athletes the ability to improve from previous years, but this year belonged to Samantha Briggs and Mat Fraser.

The 2017 CrossFit Open has been everything but boring. As we head into the final week, athletes are giving their final push to record their best scores in the sport they’ve worked so hard at in the last month.

Feature image screenshot from CrossFit YouTube channel.  

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Gua Sha Therapy — Does It Work for Strength Athletes?

There are a lot of methods a strength athlete can utilize to help them recover. Besides your typical eat well and get a good night’s rest, there are methods that involve soft tissue massage. In the strength and conditioning world, we’re beginning to see older methods (thanks to Instagram) become more Westernized such as cupping and Ghu Sha.

More than likely you’ve seen pictures of athletes with the cup imprints and what look like bruised scrapes throughout their body. These scrapes are a result of what’s known as Ghu Sha (pronounced Gwah Shah). It’s a form of Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) that involves softly scraping soft tissue with the aid of a tool for recovery purposes, but does Gua Sha have benefits?

To provide more background and insight on whether Gua Sha is really beneficial for strength athletes, I reached out to Dr. John Rusin DPT, CSCS, and owner of Functional Hypertrophy Training, along with Dr. Jason J. Peloquin, Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) at Hands of Gold Chiropractic.

What’s the Background on Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is one the original forms of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) that lets a clinician effectively break down the fascial restrictions in order to promote healing. The aim of the Gua Sha is to create micro-traumas at the damaged tissue to enhance healing,” explains Dr. Peloquin.

This style of therapy may look new to most lifters, but it’s been around for thousands of years. “This ship is literally thousands of years old, it’s an ancient Chinese technique that they’ve been doing for literally thousands of years,” explains Dr. John Rusin.

“It’s relatively new in our fitness/rehabilitation westernized industry, because people starting making their own tools and monetizing upon those tools, and then running courses to teach people how to use those tools,” says Dr. Rusin.

How Can Strength Athletes Benefit From This Form of Soft Tissue Therapy?

“When you look at any type of soft tissue modality, or manipulation and you look at two windows where it can be beneficial,” states Dr. Rusin. “The first window would be actual therapeutic benefit, so you have pain alleviation, movement enhancement, and performance enhancement. Those things happen in the pre-training routine, so if you’re working on something like a mobility deficit, then this could play a role in enhancing your mobility, and that’s just one example,” explains Dr. Rusin.

A more intriguing second window, especially for the fitness population is Gua Sha’s role in recovery. I use it sparingly now, but it’s a way to manipulate bigger musculature, so something like ART or manual manipulation soft tissue therapy are hard to go through something as big and thick as the quad, so Gua Sha allows you to use a tool that literally coerces the muscle and the dermatome over that muscle more importantly. It’s something you can get a little bit more of a quick result from by using broader stroke, so to say,” says Dr. Rusin.

“Healing needs to take place after treatment in order to see the therapy gains. A recommended time lapse is a minimal two days between Gua Sha therapy sessions, or until the slight bruising has subsided,” states Dr. Peloquin. “Continually damaging a tissue without letting it repair will eventually weaken the tissue and lead to further complications or injury.”

Can Some Strength Athletes Benefit More from Gua Sha Than Others?

Gua Sha could be a useful therapy for pre-workout purposes and recovery. I was curious if certain strength athletes could tell if they’d benefit more with Gua Sha than other therapies. “No, I’m a big believer in everyone’s going to respond differently to different stuff. It’s figuring out which modality you respond best to,” says Dr. Rusin.

“Personally in my practice I’ve helped multiple groups of strength athletes.” Peloquin explains that whether you’re focus is heavy lifting or endurance work, then you may benefit from Gua Sha. “The heavy lifters always seem to have grip strength problems due to the static load being endured on their forearms/hands. As opposed to strength athletes who endure repetitive endurance exercises that lead to poor biomechanics as they fatigue. This can create a myriad of biomechanical stressors thus leading to conditions mentioned above.”

Is Gua Sha Safe For Strength Athletes?

The bruising you frequently see on athletes via Instagram videos and photos getting Gua Sha done often looks alarming. My next question involved the Gua Sha side effects that illicit these bruises and if it’s actually normal/safe.

Dr. Rusin pointed out that there’s a controversy currently going on in the industry, which could make Gua Sha an issue for some. “Non-licensed people are doing Gua Sha illegally on athletes, clients, and the general fitness population. Unless you’re a licensed practitioner such as a chiropractor, physical therapist, osteopathic doctors, licensed athletic trainer, licensed massage therapist, to list a few, then you really shouldn’t be using a Gua Sha tool on people. It’s 110% illegal,” states Dr. Rusin.

“I saw some Gua Sha posts and mentions following the Arnold, and it should be noted that this is therapy that licensed practitioners do under their scope of practice. It’s not something your strength coach should be doing on you. There’s always the inherent risk of people not possessing the diagnostic capabilities. It’s the difference between pointing out something like a malignant tumor, which presents itself as a soft tissue issue in your leg, or just having neurological trigger points. The risk comes with the safety of the practice and the possibility of misdiagnosis,” sum up Dr. Rusin.

Are Those Red Marks Side Effects of Gua Sha?

Dr. Peloquin pointed out that these marks can be a side effect of Gua Sha and it can be normal for some athletes. “There may be some degree of discomfort during the procedure that should resolve spontaneously – within a few days. Some patients may develop mild bruising, which is normal and resolves on its own.”

Dr. Rusin pointed out that a lot of bruising may not be ideal for this style therapy. “A lot of people don’t know how to use Gua Sha’s tools, because in ancient China they used to use it as a systemic health method. They would literally scrape to the point of bruising through the tissue (red blood cells coming to the surface). They would think that the bruising was what caused systemic recovery.”

“The more science and more research that’s out there shows this is not a mechanical process. If you’re going to get Gua Sha done on you, or any form of tool-assisted work and you’re bruising, then there’s a serious problem. That’s not something that’s warranted. People go super hard, way to heavy, and they traumatize the tissue they’re trying to target.”.

“You’re always looking for a result, but if the result is you being purple up and down your IT band, then that’s not what you’re looking for. Softer is often better because we’re trying to illicit a neurological adaptation. There’s no breaking of scar tissue or realigning of sarcomeres, there’s no mechanical processes happening, which a lot of people wrongly state,” explains Dr. Rusin.

What are the Benefits of Gua Sha?

The real benefits of Gua Sha revolve around what’s actually happening with this soft tissue therapy. “What’s happening is a neurological adaptation that occurs from the sensory feedback from the tool going over your durmatomal patterning. There’s different nerve roots that come out to the skin, and they control sensory feedback on the skin and the underlying tissues. All Gua Sha is really doing is going over durmatomes and areas with correlations to nerve roots to illicit a relaxed and recovered parasympathetic response from the underlying tissue,” says Rusin.

Dr. Rusin also pointed out the misconceptions people have with Gua Sha. “People think, ‘we’re breaking up scar tissue,’ but in reality you’re not doing that whatsoever. For example, look at the layers of the skin and how deep those are. You have your cutaneous tissue, subcutaneous, adipose tissue, and then you have the muscle belly. In reality, you’re an inch or two away from the stuff you think you’re breaking up scar tissue on.”

So What’s the Call on Gua Sha Therapy?

Gua Sha has been used as a therapeutic modality for thousands of years, and only recently has it become more popular in the fitness industry. Much like other forms of soft tissue therapy, there’s always an inherent risk with its practice. The risk, as Dr. Rusin states, often comes from those who lack the experience or knowledge to utilize Gua Sha therapy properly.

If you’re interested in Gua Sha, use the information provided above to assess how you could use this therapy for your benefit. Also, ensure you seek out a licensed professional when using any form of tool-assisted therapy.

Featured image from @dominiquematthews_ifbbpro Instagram page. 

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Greens First Supplement — Should I Really Be Alkalizing My Body?

Greens First is a greens supplement by Ceautamed Worldwide, a Florida-based company that is intended to “alkalize” your body and deliver “the phytonutrient and antioxidant benefits of a diet rich in dark greens and brightly colored fruits and vegetables in one, easy-to-use product.”

So what does the actual science say about Greens First? Let’s find out.

Ingredients

There are 49 different foods that are arranged into seventeen categories, some of which only contain one ingredient. Each category has its weight listed next to it to help give you a rough idea of the dosage.

There’s the “greens blend” of barley grass juice powder, chlorella, and spirulina. Next is a vegetable blend of juice powders from carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, parsley, and kale. Then what’s called an “OxiSure™” blend that I believe is another word for an antioxidants, which contains ingredients like green tea extract, powdered berries, and powdered cruciferous vegetables.

Next are separate blends of fiber, non-GMO soy lecithin, digestive enzymes, probiotics, sprouted barley, a resveratrol blend, more green tea extract, quercetin, milk thistle seed, red beet root, cinnamon, aloe leaf powder, turmeric, kelp, and licorice root.

Greens First Ingredients

The ingredients are diverse and tick most of the boxes that greens powder aficionados usually look for: the grass juice powders, the algaes, the antioxidants, the digestive enzymes, and the probiotics. Everything is non-GMO, vegan, and free from artificial ingredients, sweeteners and preservatives.

One scoop contains 40 calories, 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of fiber.

Taste

A very refreshing spearmint flavor. I should note that there’s a large sticker on the container to advise me that “with each season’s harvest, every blend (…) has a uniquely vibrant taste all its own,” so it’s possible that your Greens First will taste different. The one I received is a pretty pleasant (though not subtle) blast of mint.

Effectiveness

First, the pros: there’s just about everything you might want in a greens powder as far as ingredients go: grasses, seaweeds, antioxidants, enzymes, probiotics, and even milk thistle, which has been linked to liver health (and remember that the liver is what actually “detoxifies” the body).

Greens First Review

The ingredients list is also pretty descriptive as far as dosage goes. Let’s keep using milk thistle as an example: what’s nice is that you know that each serving contains 75mg of the stuff. However, the dosage that’s most commonly recommended for benefits is at least 100mg three times per day, so you’re probably not getting much benefit in that regard.

You do know that it contains 2.5mg total of barley grass juice powder, chlorella, and spirulina, which is probably an effective dose for some benefits to your cholesterol and blood sugar. You do need to do your own homework to figure out the effective dose of whatever ingredient you’re most interested in, but at least the packaging is relatively descriptive regarding dosage.

The downside of this product is that it makes some unfounded claims. The biggest problem I saw Greens First is that there is no micronutrient information on the label. That means I don’t know whether or not Greens First provides any vitamins or minerals besides sodium. It probably does, but there’s no way to know exactly what and how much; all it tells me is the macronutrient content (carbs/protein/fat) and the sodium content (15mg, or 1 percent of your daily intake).

There’s also no information about how many antioxidants or probiotics it provides, and those two components being relatively high is usually something you can count on in a greens powder.

This makes the label’s claim that it provides “naturally occurring and easily absorbed vitamins, minerals and macronutrients” and “15+ servings of fruits and vegetables” more difficult to justify. Not even the most nutritious greens powders (the ones that do disclose their nutrition info) approach the nutrition of 15 cups of vegetables, and Greens First doesn’t even try to support that claim by providing nutrition info.

Greens First Nutrition

Then there’s Greens First’s big claim that it helps you “Alkalize Now!” While there’s no harm to consuming more alkaline foods (they tend to be fruits and vegetables, after all) there’s no real consensus in the scientific community that this is an aspect of your nutrition that you should really be focusing on. Acidic food may make your urine more acidic, but it probably isn’t making the rest of your body more acidic and in any case, different parts of your body vary in how alkaline or acidic they are. There’s not really a set point, and your blood only falls out of its slightly alkaline state if you’re in certain disease states.

It’s not like there’s absolutely no point to consuming more alkaline foods. Studies show there may be some benefit in reducing morbidity, but a lot more research needs to be done — alkalinity is certainly nowhere near as important as vitamins and minerals, an area in which Greens First falls flat.

Price

It’s $37 for thirty servings, or $1.23 per serving. That’s not very cheap, particularly given how little I know about the vitamin and mineral content — there’s no way for me to tell if it’s a smart financial decision because it combines the benefits of other supplements, for example.

Compare that with Athletic Greens ($4.23 per serving), Onnit’s Earth Grown Nutrients ($2.30/serving), Patriot Power Greens ($1.96/serving) AI Sports Nutrition Red & Greens XT ($1.33/serving), Green Vibrance ($1.08/serving), ORAC-Energy Greens ($1/serving), PharmaFreak Greens Freak ($1/serving), All Day Energy Greens ($0.96/serving), Sun Warrior’s Supergreens ($0.55/serving), and Amazing Grass’s Green Superfood ($0.52/serving).

The Takeaway

Given the ingredients label, this greens powder contains practically everything you might buy a greens powder for, if ingredients are what’s most important to you.

Given the lack of a nutrition label, you can’t know if the ingredients are providing any benefit. I wouldn’t recommend a health supplement that provides so little information about its nutrition.

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Interview: Alex Viada Talks Optimizing CrossFit and Mixing Ultramarathons With Powerlifting

Alex Viada is a little like Big Foot: seen by many, but most disbelieve his existence. (He also spends a lot of time running in the woods.)

He’s well-known for doing what a lot of old school coaches don’t think is possible, like deadlifting 700 pounds within a week of running a 50-mile ultramarathon. He’s elite as both a powerlifter and an endurance athlete, but that’s just one example of the kind of fitness his company Complete Human Performance is able to engineer. He specializes making his clients not just good, but awesome across multiple fitness modalities. (It’s why his biggest client base is military personnel, followed closely by CrossFit® athletes.)

Basically, he makes a living shattering fitness myths on a daily basis. We needed to talk.

BarBend: OK, you’re an extraordinarily strong powerlifter with the endurance of a team of sled dogs. As a coach, do you specialize in combining those two areas of fitness or would you argue that you can build an athlete who is powerful and a great sprinter and has great endurance and has an awesome snatch?

Alex Viada: You know, the underpinning methodology is really just about how to combine different training stimuli, different stresses. The whole idea of strength and endurance is really just an example — a pretty extreme example — of how we approach training.

We look at it as stimulus first, we don’t really talk about resistance training or cardio specifically. We talk more about what the body, what different kinds of stresses do to the body and we organize training like that, not just, “Here’s your cardio and here’s your lifting.”

By doing that we can combine pretty much anything you can train for any combination of sports as long as you’re taking into account what you’re doing with your body with each workout. Strength and endurance is just one subset of our athlete population. The whole idea is being able to develop every dimension of athleticism kind of simultaneously.

Image via Complete Human Performance on Facebook.

So, what limits do you put on your athletes? What’s an example of someone who has come to you with a suite of requests that you had to say weren’t possible?

You mean like if someone said, “I want to go to the Olympics for three different sports”? (laughs) The first limit we put on people is we ask, “What is your body type?” The place where your body type is at dictates a lot of your peak performance and what you can really expect.

For example, I’m 230 pounds. I know I’m not going to be the fastest ultrarunner in existence ever. And if I let myself lose 100 pounds, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as strong as I am now.

So the first thing we tell people is, “Where you are right now, what you’re willing to do, and where you end up on the physical spectrum is going to determine a lot of your peak capabilities.”

The other thing is realistic training targets and when you want to hit them. We train for everything concurrently, but obviously you can’t peak out on anything at once. We look at how far everyone is away from any one of their goals – like what is a reasonable runway for this goal given their history.

And, they need to understand these things may take 50 percent longer to get to, if they, say, have a target of a 500-pound squat and at the same time they want to run their first marathon. We understand they may need to prioritize one or the other. So helping them prioritize and determine which is the most immediate training goal, focus on that, and then we kind of work toward the potential in the others.

BarBend: How can an athlete tell if they’re better equipped for hybrid training? Are there some athletes that this style of training just doesn’t work for? 

AV: You know, the funny thing is that before it was called hybrid training, it was called called exercise. Being in shape.

The whole idea of having no predisposition towards a degree of aerobic endurance and strength and coordination and everything like that, every individual is capable of it unless you have multiple physical restrictions.

There’s really no such thing as a non-responder, pretty much everybody has a great ability to improve across the board, especially in the areas they’re not currently training. We have people who haven’t run in 30 years, 300-plus pound strongmen out there doing 10ks. Obviously they’re not going to be fast, this individual isn’t going to suddenly become a gazelle, but he’s certainly capable of doing significantly more than he thought he had the predisposition for. So I think elements of this training are useful to any athlete, because it benefits everything.

BarBend: OK, let’s say I’m a powerlifter. I have a 700 pound squat, I haven’t done traditional cardio in years, I’ve long since accepted that I can only be strong and not a marathon runner. I come across Alex Viada, and I’m like, “I can be an endurance athlete too without losing strength? Great!” 

Where do I start. Probably by really increasing the amount of hours I train per week, right?

AV: No, not even necessarily. The biggest mistake everyone makes when they make that decision is to do a lot of heavy intervals. They think it’ll increase their sprint speed and everything else.

That’s borderline useless. If you have a 700-pound squat, you’re gonna burn through energy stores and shred your legs pretty quickly if you do sprints. (But) it’s not going to make you significantly better aerobically, and all it’s gonna do is hurt your squatting.

So the important thing to tell people to do is start slow, start easy, and slowly accumulate hours. And really determine where that zone 2 low intensity threshold is for you. I tell some people to get a heart rate monitor and go see what their speed is at 70 percent of their max heart rate, and that should be where they’re doing their training initially.

For many powerlifters, that might just be a walk to start. In that case, the best thing they can do is start walking more, you’ll get better eventually.

BarBend: So eventually, would they find themselves training a lot more or would you find ways to fit both training into the same timeframe?

AV: It really depends on what the goal is. If the individual wants to do a marathon it’s going to require extra hours. But if this person just wants to get in and improve their recovery and aerobic base a little, even just walking to and from the gym is going to make a big difference.

We can find economies. You see a lot of people doing “powerlifter cardio” where they start pushing sleds around. We can chuck that out and do stuff that’s a bit more productive. For a lot of people, 20 minutes of sled training will really just result in 5 big pushes because the ladder is so taxing.

So long story short yes, we may be talking about 10 to 15 percent more training minutes. But one of the biggest things we find is that a general increase in background activity level really does the trick for a lot of people, it doesn’t need a lot of time.

Head down keep grinding! One week left @crossfitgames 📷 @dgardner40

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BarBend: What about the opposite, when someone’s a marathon runner and they want to get significantly stronger? They’re probably running every day or every other day. Do you find it’s more difficult to get a runner and make them strong than get a strong person and make them run?

AV: Yeah I think for a lot of powerlifters, it’s tough for them psychologically but if they just start walking regularly you see an improvement in their recovery, and I think that comes relatively quickly. You’ll have people who have been doing cardio for two weeks and they’ll say, “My God, I’m recovering in my training sessions so much faster, I’ve got in six working sets of squats in the time it used to take me to do three, it’s awesome, I’m gonna keep doing it.” It’s easy for them to see improvements and results.

On the other side of things, getting a lifelong runner in the weight room can be tough, especially because the benefits are more preventative. We worked with one of our coaches who is an ultrarunner, and he does multiple hundred-mile races and wins most of them. So getting him to think seriously about strength training was challenging because he was like, “I’m winning them anyway, what’s the point?”

But after getting him in the weight room and giving him a program for a couple of months he was saying after the race how much better his recovery was, how much better his quads felt on the downhill, how much less beat up he felt.

So for serious runners, out of fifteen hours of training a week let’s just take an hour and a half from your running and put them toward strength training. This is gonna help you return from races faster and hopefully prevent injuries, so even though we’re taking ten percent of your time, hopefully we’re going to keep your injury- and fatigue-related off days to a minimum because of this. It takes a little more of a leap of faith, but it always pans out.

BarBend: What are some of the biggest mistakes you made as you developed your approach to hybrid training?

AV: The biggest challenge I ever found was trying to keep my slow work as slow as possible and not get the urge to get carried away with it. It is always tempting to up the intensity and to turn a training run into an interval run, and I think I had to throw away a lot of stuff I was reading in other endurance programs because so many of them have work built into them to build power and speed. But those were things the lifting was giving.

So I would have taken a more critical eye to some of the running programs I was using and removing things that I flat out did not need because of all the lifting.

BarBend: What’s the biggest difference in your approach to training now versus ten years ago?

AV: I used to take the approach that every other training system was dumb and it had to prove it was quality. These days, I assume everything has some quality and I try to figure out what that is before dismissing the rest of it. I think that’s come from having such a big varied team of coaches like we’ve got at Complete Human Performance.

It s given me a lot of interesting things to incorporate into training and nutrition that I never would have considered. By seeing quality first, you’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You’re seeing little good tidbits of information from sources that you may never have expected. So being that open minded, I think, is the single best thing that’s happened to my training and coaching in the last decade.

Just one more..

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BarBend: I read CrossFit athletes are your second largest client base after the military – what’s some of the most common advice you find yourself giving those athletes who want to be more well-rounded?

AV: Two pieces of advice. The first is periodize your training, which means have a season where you work on fundamentals and your base. Don’t just be doing the same workouts all year round and expect to get any better. You need to have an off season to work on your fundamentals, you need to progress toward any kind of competition season. Even if you’re just a casual fan of functional fitness.

If you do everything randomly year round, sometimes you’ll be completely over reached and other times you’re gonna go four days without a certain training stimulus, it just makes no sense. So randomness is good for competition and some training but generally, training needs to be progressive. This is an activity that has so many skills and disciplines you need to spend the time solely working on the fundamentals. So that’s one of them.

The other thing is to actually learn how to run and how to move and how to row. So many of these individuals, even at the Games level, are horrendous, horrendous runners. And the ones who have actually taken running and rowing and everything else seriously, they use those portions of competition to just relax and really blow away everyone else out there who is competing.

So, take the conditioning side of things as serious as the lifting side of things when it comes to form and efficiency and you will be a much much much better athlete.

BarBend: Are there any aspects of diet that you feel a lot of hybrid athletes miss out on? 

AV: The biggest thing I would say is don’t be too monotonous with your diet. I know meal prep culture has created a legion of people who eat the same thing every single day for months at a time, all packaged in Tupperware.

I think that with this kind of training, there’s so many different, well, insults to your body (laughs) that you need a good range of foods, a good range of micronutrients, and a slightly varied range of macronutrients, that’s so important.

If people try to second guess their physiology too much and restrict their diet and stick to four or five basic foods, any sort of deficiency that they’re introducing will be magnified.

My biggest diet tip is, whatever your diet is, maximize the variety of food. And you’re not gonna gain weight if you’re doing (our training) properly because you’re doing so much work. (laughs) So don’t worry about that.

BarBend: You talk a lot about mental recovery as the most important component of training, what do you mean by that?

AV: Any time somebody hits a wall in their training, you can get through the physical side of things. But if you get to a period in your training or your competition season where you’ve had some bad workouts, you’ve had a bad race, you’re questioning everything else because you just feel slow, you feel weak, if you’re engaged in the process and you’re in a problem solving mode you’ll get through it.

But if you’re mentally burned out, if you’ve been pushing yourself too hard too long, no part of you can get you through that training period. You have to take time off, you have to go do something else. And it can get really bad, some people just never rediscover their love for their training.

Mental recovery is as much about learning how to take everything down a notch — the competitive streak, or the high intensity, the “I’m gonna go rip the head off off a chicken” craziness you get when you lift. It’s about taking all of that down a notch and saying, “Let’s focus as much as possible on basically being able to relax, being able to unplug, being able to stay focused on your goals.

The techniques are really varied. Some people we work with like yoga, some people like meditation, some like long walks in the woods. Everything with mental recovery is about being able to get away from your training as it is normally. Do something different and do something that puts you in a much different mindset.

I think it’s so important. It’s like with lifting recovery you can have active recovery, you get out you do some different for your body, your’e still moving it, you’re still working it, but you’re giving it something else to do that isn’t to do with training. And it’s the same thing with your mind.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Featured image via Complete Human Performance on Facebook.

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