Category Archives: Interviews

How to Become a Metabolic Machine! An Interview With Katie Anne Rutherford

I’m quite pleased to interview Katie Anne Rutherford today – a dual powerlifter/figure competitor with a highly impressive work ethic and regimen, and an advocate of DUP for powerlifting strength and muscularity. I believe that many of my readers would benefit from adopting a similar approach and attitude as Katie Anne, while obviously tailoring the training and eating to individual weaknesses and preferences. I hope you enjoy our discussion!

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1. Hi Katie Anne! Thank you for agreeing to conduct this interview, I know my readers will appreciate it. Let’s get right down to business. You compete in figure and powerlifting. Which do you like most and why?

Thanks so much for the opportunity Bret! I appreciate it! Yes I do compete in both powerlifting and figure – I truly love both! However, I would say my number one love is training. I have been an athlete as long as I can remember so the athletic performance of powerlifting is what gives me the most enjoyment. I would have to say that I like powerlifting slightly more for that reason – it’s just you vs. the weight. Not much subjectivity to the sport. However, I do love the femininity and challenge of figure – it takes a different type of mindset and training. I love the constant strife to improve myself in both sports – either with how much weight I am lifting or sculpting my physique through hard work each day. With that being said, I would not choose one over the other. I love being a duel sport athlete and demonstrating to women that you can still lift heavy and look good on the figure stage!

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2. Great answer. Let’s switch gears and talk diet for a minute. You’re an advocate of IIFYM, and you have a freakishly high metabolism. How many calories were you consuming when you first started working with Layne Norton, and how many calories are you currently consuming?

Thanks Bret! When I first started working with Layne, I was actually consuming close to 2700 calories (over 300g of carbohydrates) and maintaining weight! However, I weighed closer to 165lbs then (vs 143lbs now). Over the course of the last year, I lost about 20lbs over about 8 months to step on the figure stage. My macros never had to go below 165g of carbs in my prep – which is relatively rare for female prep standards. Over the course of my reverse diet this year, I reached an intake of 320g of carbs and 80g of fat – close to 2700 calories while doing no cardio and maintaining stage leanness. I started my reverse diet at about 144lbs last November and ended it (in Late May) at the same weight. Right now, I am not quite back up to those food numbers (after having had to diet down for a couple weeks for my two figure shows) – but inching back up. I am currently eating 260g of carbs and 65g fat one week post show.

3. I bet many of my female readers are envious of your bodyweight multiplier of 19 for total calories. But this wan’t all magic – it occurred in tandem with some serious strength gains. You turned your body into a metabolic machine by getting freakishly strong. How strong were you at the big 3 lifts when you first started working with Layne, and how strong are you now?

Thank you! That means a lot to me. When I first started working with Layne (we met at a seminar he held in Columbus, Ohio for the Arnold), my max squat was around 290lbs and my max deadlift was around 300lbs. I am not even sure what my bench was! Probably around 130lbs or so. Currently, my max squat is 347lbs, deadlift is 363lbs, and bench is 175lbs.

4. Amazing. Actually, what’s even more amazing is your training volume. You adhere to a DUP approach to training. How many days per week do you squat, bench, and deadlift?

Yes I do! I actually started my DUP training one year ago. Prior to that, I was following a hypertrophy/power program from April of 2014 until July of 2014, which is when I met Dr. Mike Zordous, who has conducted quite a bit of reseach on DUP. Layne and I decided to focus on powerlifting from that time on and incorporated it into my training. I currently squat 3x per week, bench 4x per week, and deadlift 2x per week. Prior to my last training block, I was doing the three main lifts 3x per week. We changed my program up a bit since my bench tends to be the lift that lags behind my other lifts. I am currently prepping for Raw Nationals in October.

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5. Do you just grind through week in and week out, or do you deload regularly? And do you ever have days where you go super light and pull back the reins due to fatigue and exhaustion?

I typically deload about every 5 weeks or so. Generally, there are not many days where I feel completely exhausted and have to go super light – occasionally, if I am not feeling well or I just do not have much energy (which I have experienced a couple times due to figure prep), I may leave out my amrap set (as many reps as possible) and add an extra set. The beauty of DUP is that the volume is looked at from a weekly perspective. As long as I am getting my volume in for the week, I try not to stress about little changes to a day here and there. For example, if I am battling a shoulder injury, let’s say, I might decrease my bench weight and increase the sets and/or reps to equate for the same volume for that session (volume = weight x reps x sets).

6. Do you ever incorporate variety with the big lifts, or is it pure specificity? In other words, do you ever pull conventional (since you pull sumo), or perform front squats, or high bar squats, or close grip bench, or board presses? What about pause squats, pause deads, and extra long pause benches? If not, why?

My lifting is pure specificity – I do not incorporate variations of squats into my program or pull conventional on deadlifts (I pull sumo). I do add in accessory work to focus on my weaknesses – for example, I add in shoulder exercises to help with my bench and back exercises to help with deadlift. However, with DUP, I focus on weekly volume progression. Especially since I am a dual athlete, focusing on too many variations would be overwhelming for my programming. I run a very high volume training schedule – therefore, I have to determine what will give me the most benefit in terms of my powerlifting programming. So as of now, I solely work on the lifts in the same way that I compete (back squat, sumo, and bench with a slight pause). My training is constantly evolving, however, and so who knows how long that will stay constant!

7. I would imagine that you’d attribute most of your body improvements to increases in powerlifting strength. But what other exercises do you typically perform in order to “round out the body” for figure competitions? Please include your favorite accessory lifts for the glutes, hams, lats, delts, and any other favorites.

Yes, I have found that the BEST glute exercise that exist are the squat and deadlift – I can attribute the significant change in my lower half to those exercises alone in the past year. However, I do occasionally add in hamstring work (glute ham raises or leg curls), but no additional quad work. Other accessory work that I really have to focus on are back focused exercises – your back can truly never be big or dense enough for figure! I also add in quite a bit of shoulder work too. Some of my staple exercises I add in are rack chins/pull ups, any type of rows, shoulder presses, lateral raises, calf raises (seated & standing), and standard bicep and tricep work. My accessory work is typically spread out over three days – with a heavy emphasis on back. Figure shows are won from behind 😉

8. Do you do any cardio? If so, how much and what type?

The only cardio I perform is cardio squats and deadlifts! (anything over 8 reps). Haha – no, I do not perform traditional cardio right now, unless I randomly decide that I want to do some interval sprints every once in a while. I warm up on a cardio machine before my lifts for about 10 minutes – if that counts ☺

9. When you compete in figure, do you change the training much? In other words, do you employ higher reps, or add in more accessory lifts, or increase cardio? Or do you keep that all the same and just rely on diet?

When I am getting close to a competition, I do add in a bit more accessory work to increase the volume for my lagging body parts for figure. Generally, my training stays pretty constant throughout the year. Leading up to a powerlifting meet, I typically reduce the amount of accessory work I am doing just to conserve more energy for the main lifts. Ebs and flows, but generally stays constant! Luckily, I have not had to do much of any cardio since last fall – so the only tweaks that Layne and I make to get a bit leaner are through my diet (macros).

10. Do you bulk and cut throughout the year or just stay close to a given bodyweight? By the way, what is your current bodyweight and bodyfat percentage?

Since my show last fall, I have maintained my weight at around 141-146lbs. I tend to fluctuate in weight quite a bit simply due to my high sodium and water intake. To give some perspective, I ended my reverse diet this year at 145lbs and stepped on stage at about 140lbs. I will hope to reverse diet, put on some mass, and maintain around 148lbs this fall/winter. Right now, I weigh 143lbs. I had my body fat measured in the spring when I weighed 145lbs – it was 8 percent – I would estimate I am probably slightly under that right now coming off my show.

11. Let’s revisit nutrition again. What are your current macros, and what does a typical day look like in terms of eating?

My current macros (after coming off my competition season, where I competed at NPC Junior Nationals and NPC Team Universe) are 260 carbs, 65 fat, and 150 protein. My coach and I are reverse dieting and will continue to do so until I determine when I want to compete in figure again. Since I follow a flexible diet, a typical day truly varies! I eat a lot of eggs – so usually I start my day with 2-3 eggs with toast and cream cheese. Pre workout, I focus on getting at least 25 percent of my daily carbs and post workout is the same as well. I like to save quite a bit of my fats for night when I have more eggs or peanut butter (one of my favorites).

12. What are some of your favorite foods that you make sure to include in your diet each week?

As I mentioned, I love eggs! So I usually have 3-5 whole eggs per day. I also love whole grains and potatoes – so Ezekiel bread and sweet/regular potatoes are staples in my diet. I can never turn down ice cream – so that is something I also love to treat myself to at night typically. However, I also eat lots of fruits and veggies – roasted asparagus and strawberries being two of my favorites. Peanut butter, honey, and rice cakes are also foods that I enjoy. No foods are off limits for me, my taste buds are always changing, so I change up my meals pretty frequently!

13. Great choices, and very well put! Just goes to show you the value of added muscle mass in combination with high frequency/high volume training. What advice can you give to beginners out there who are seeking to change their physiques through strength training?

My number one piece of advice is that results will come with hard work and consistency. There truly are no shortcuts when it comes to getting results. Focus on establishing both a training and nutrition plan that are sustainable for the long term – and a workout program that emphasizes heavy lifting and progression. I see too many beginners focusing on quick fix diets and training programs that are not maintainable for the long term. Also, find a program you enjoy! The journey of health and fitness should be something that complements your life and happiness – not detracts from it.

14. Do you believe that figure and powerlifting complement each other, or could you see better results if you just focused on one or the other?

I do believe there are aspects to both types of training that complement each other. The heavy lifting of power lifting has developed my physique into something I honestly never could have achieved without it! Focusing on my weaknesses with bodybuilding accessory work has also given me more strength for power lifting. With that being said, I am sure if I solely focused on powerlifting and did not maintain the leanness that I do for figure, of course my absolute strength would increase. However, as I mentioned before, I would not give up one for the other. I truly enjoy the challenge of being a duel sport athlete. I will say that I do not think I would have the legs that I do without powerlifting – even if I focused solely on bodybuilding.

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15. Thank you very much for your time Katie Anne, last question. Where can my readers follow you? I believe you’re on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube right?

Thank you for the opportunity Bret! I am on Instagram, @katieanne100. My YouTube is under Katie Anne as well (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1SUzQui0z4IBw21dENIpvg) – and my Facebook is www.facebook.com/katie.rutherford Thank you Bret! I hope that this was helpful and interesting for some of your readers!

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Band Glute Exercises for the Win: Erin McComb’s Intriguing Training Methods

This interview is going to blow some of your minds. Remember Erin McComb from Operation Strong & Sexy? To make a long story short, she hurt her hand and couldn’t grip anything. Rather than give up, she trained through the ordeal and won her first bikini competition, taking her division and the overall. Her glutes and legs looked incredible. How did she do it?

Not through conventional means. Although I wanted her to do plenty of barbell and band hip thrusts, safety squat bar squats, safety squat bar good mornings, safety squat bar lunges, back extensions, and various other glute exercises, Erin did her own thing. She went rogue and trained glutes every workout with her own random glute exercises, all involving bands, bodyweight, or light dumbbells for high reps not to failure. These glute workouts ranged from 5-60 minutes and she’d do them around 6 days per week.

You will see a video of these glute exercises at the end of this interview. To be clear, she did no heavy squats, no heavy deadlifts, no heavy hip thrusts, no heavy lunges, and no heavy back extensions. Many of you would assume that these exercises are “sissy” movements, but Erin’s glutes looked better than when she was deadlifting 245 lbs at a bodyweight of 100 lbs. I’m definitely not telling people to quit going heavy or abandon progressive overload. But clearly there’s something to high volume/high frequency/low load glute training. Enjoy!

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1. Erin, big congratulations are in order! Please tell the readers what you just accomplished this weekend.

Thank you- it still feels so surreal. The competition in California is so fierce and there were so many strong competitors! Two weeks ago I won my class at Jon Lindsay’s Grand Prix. I also won the overall which means I went up against the other class winners for a sword/division title.

2. Is this the first time you’ve finished first? How many competitions have you entered so far?

This is the fourth time I have placed first in a total of 7 regional competitions. I never do well nationally.

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3. You had team Zero Gravity doing your nutrition for this comp, right? What was the general strategy – you were carb cycling, right?

Yes, Zero Gravity does my diet and we are still trying to figure out what works well for me. When I met the team I was vegetarian (formerly vegan) so every prep has been totally different as I incorporate new protein sources, but I always like their outcome. We carb cycle the entire prep and instead of giving me a generic meal list of “eat this at this time” we plan around foods I can have and I just pace myself (or gorge on high carb days) based on what day of the cycle I am on. As a competitor I will probably always be hung up on food and portions, but this makes me less neurotic so I’m grateful.

4. Now let’s talk strength training. What did your training split look like over the past few months, and what were your main areas of focus?

My training has always been a bit unconventional. I will try basically anything once to see if it works for me (and I totally encourage that in others). For this prep I was coming off a hand injury so until mid-February I was unable to consistently lift. I severed the tendons, an artery and the nerves in one of my fingers and took almost two full months off as even moderate activity got my blood moving too much and I didn’t want it to affect my healing. When I hit the 12 week mark of my surgeon telling me I would no longer be at risk to rupture my tendons, I was able to lift more consistently. We use our hands for so much, I really had to modify training. Given that I took so much unplanned time off I more or less did full-body workouts for my prep. Thank goodness that our bodies are so smart and can recover lost strength so quickly! I would focus on a muscle group and at the end of my workout I would get in a few sets of something else, usually legs. My biggest areas of focus were my shoulders, glutes and quads so they got the most regular attention.

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5. You jokingly called yourself “The Crazy Band Lady,” but there’s some serious truth to that name – I’ve never seen anyone train like you did. Your lower body training was based almost entirely on bands. What was your strategy with the bands – progressive overload, or just feeling the glutes doing the work?

In our time together, I’ve learned a lot about how my glutes activate which has also helped me connect with my other muscles. Given that my previous training emphasized overall strength (deadlift based, you couldn’t keep me from deadlifting ever) it was hard to come to terms with atrophied strength and limited grip. I was frustrated I couldn’t train in my comfort zone. And then I remembered how you described working with Nathalia and my perspective on training changed. Nobody has time to feel lethargic or overtrained. We have often talked about how my band work gives me a great pump, but it doesn’t make me sore so I started focusing on what I could do with bands. I wanted to train glutes every day. So every day I would spend time, whether it be 5 minutes or an hour, with my bands. I’ve done some weird stuff too, and some of it seemed like a great idea and did nothing, and some of it I have no idea how I would do without. Angles this way, weight over here, and I wouldn’t stop until I felt it in the area of the glute that I wanted. Bands have allowed me to tailor exercises to how my own body moves, not how a machine tells me how to rotate around a given point. There was really no structure to my training except to get in there and feel it- slow and controlled. Yes I’m the chick at the gym grabbing her own butt or foam rolling glutes in the middle of a set. I did band progressive overload, I always sought more reps or an extra set or a bonus band to keep my body from getting adjusted.

6. So you mean to tell me that for the entire competition prep, you never performed any heavy squats, deadlifts, or hip thrusts? Just high frequency band work along with the seated abduction machine with the occasional leg extension, leg curl, and machine hip thrust for high reps?

Yup- nothing heavy at all for lower body except the hip abduction machine. My “heaviest” lift would involve up to a 50 pound barbell which is definitely not my normal go-to weight. If someone had told me last year that I would train this way in 2015 I would have laughed. But my overall strength is still there. I really didn’t hip thrust for several weeks as I was experimenting with bands. Yet I could still almost lift what I did when we trained regularly. A couple weeks of dedicated thrusting and I’m fairly certain I could push 300 (challenge accepted?). After my next competition I would love to see how much my band work has improved my strength for other lifts.

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7. Do you feel that this is the best you’ve ever looked on stage?

This is hands down the best I’ve ever looked on stage and better than I ever thought possible. We are all so critical of ourselves, but I can truly say I am very proud I was able to come in this way that day.

8. Methods used during the week before the competition are fiercely debated in our industry. How did you peak for the competition in terms of water, sodium, and carb manipulation?

As I said before, we are still learning how my body responds as this was my first prep as a non-vegan/vegetarian, etc. We definitely tweak my water, sodium and carbs, but it’s been different each show. I have no idea how Ryan decides what to do (he has everyone do different things), but I’ve learned to listen. A lot of people dislike the water thing and they sure let me know, but let’s be real, it’s not a big deal. I’m not refusing water and then running a marathon, just layering on tanner and makeup, though walking in heels when you want some fizzy water is annoying. There are people who cut for days and days but I’ve never gone more than a day. Besides, when you drink as much as I do then sit on your bum for a day, I don’t perceive it as a problem. It just gets hard to blink lol.

9. Did you miss any workouts or fall off the wagon in terms of diet adherence during your prep?

No prep is perfect. I started earlier so I had more time for the “practice makes perfect” thing. I did travel to Hawaii twice during prep so that made training tricky, but in general I was pretty obedient. And this is where I admit that I am a terrible human being and I lied pretty much my entire prep about doing cardio. I absolutely loathe it, even if it’s just walking. I have never been a devout stairmaster princess. I am very good about making time for weights, but cardio equipment may as well have barbed wire because I just can’t.

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10. What’s next for you – to go for a pro card? If so, what do you think you need to do in order to make it happen?

I have always enjoyed the sport and I can’t imagine quitting. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pursuing a pro card, but it really is a fun experience just training for these shows and making new friends. Currently, I am training for a national show which is a pro-qualifier. If I were to receive first or second I would earn pro status and be able to step on stage with the gorgeous ladies I watched turn pro (heyyyy Karey Grabow and Sarah LeBlanc). That would just be incredible. I feel that my physique last show was great for me, but I know I have more to give. Obviously I want to continue to grow and shape the booty, but I also will be focusing on shoulders to keep symmetry. I have about three months to train, so wish me luck! :)

Sprint mechanics in world-class athletes: a new insight into the limits of human locomotion

JB Morin

JB Morin

JB Morin is a man on a mission – to unravel the science and discover the practices behind what best makes athletes sprint faster. He has amassed an incredible team of researchers who are equally as interested in advancing speed training science and methodology. I urge athletes and coaches to read through this interview carefully, as the information is cutting edge and highly insightful. 

Hi JB (follow JB on Twitter HERE), thanks for agreeing to do another interview. Your LAST INTERVIEW was very well received in the strength coaching and track & field communities. You’ve been very busy, and your BRAND NEW PAPER is getting some great attention. But let’s back up a bit. Over the past several years, your lab has published some incredible research on sprint mechanics. Why should we care about sprinting forces – how can it help us improve upon our training methods?

Thanks Bret, it’s always a pleasure to share views and research conclusions with you and your followers. Initially, the labs and collaborators involved in these studies were performed by the research group at the University of Saint-Etienne on the sprint instrumented treadmill, but then we extended and basically confirmed our results in the recent paper using track embedded force plates at the French National Institute of Sports INSEP. Even though I personally moved to a new position at the University of Nice, our multi-center research group still has projects under review, and in preparation. 

As to your question, our approach is considering the overall mechanical output of the neuro-musculo-tendinous system and the resulting forces applied onto the ground to propel the center of mass (CoM), and in turn the entire body. So in this “dynamics” context, ground reaction forces (GRF) in relation to subjects’ body mass are the main determinants of the motion of the athlete’s body, and in turn of his sprint performance.

This is a “macroscopic” approach in that we only measure and study the overall output of the system, i.e. the magnitude of resultant GRF produced, and the orientation of its application, from its horizontal, vertical and lateral components. So here is one limit of this approach in terms of training, it tells us how much force is produced and how effectively it is oriented onto the ground but it does not go into further details as to the muscles involved, their respective contributions to the total (resultant) GRF, and their timing of activation (coordination). Still, these two “basic” elements: magnitude of GRF and orientation of the GRF vector are very interesting from a training perspective to quantify both the muscular capabilities of the sprinter, and the effectiveness of GRF application. I usually refer to “technique” for the latter concept, but it is also a matter of muscle action.

In the 2011 paper, and then in a 2012 paper involving top level individuals, both using the instrumented treadmill technique, and now with this force-plate 2015 study, we basically show that the sprinters who are able to produce the highest acceleration and 40-m or 100-m performance are not those who produce the highest amounts of resultant GRF during the acceleration, but those who are able to orient their push with the highest horizontal component step after step. To make things simple, if I train and produce a resultant GRF of 100 arbitrary units per body mass, and orient this push with a high versus low effectiveness, the horizontal component of this GRF, i.e. the component that will propel my CoM forward, will be high or low, and my forward acceleration of the CoM will directly follow. So in terms of training, our studies consistently show that for the acceleration phase performance, horizontally-orienting the GRF produced is of higher importance than trying to develop a higher GRF production capability. Of course, training to both produce more force AND orient it more forward will be the ideal, but for sure at a given same level of force output capability, the highest acceleration will be produced by the athlete able to orient his push the most horizontally…

The main training challenges now are to find out how to best train this ability. As your readers know, training science has gone into much detail as to how to increase the lower limbs’ “total” force, now the idea is to increase the athlete’s ability to apply this force with effectiveness. Our aim in this series of studies was to investigate what mechanical factors differ between non-specialists, good and world-class sprinters during their acceleration. Now our challenge (ours and coaches’) is to investigate and test the best solutions to develop these factors through practice. Training implies time, money, sometimes pressure for performance, and risk of injury, so you want to know what to work on and how.

I am excited for future research to emerge elucidating the best methods for improving the horizontal orientation of GRF production. Now I ask you to please discuss the pros and cons of your previous lab’s methods.

Our previous methods were based on having the subjects sprint on a motorized treadmill that accurately and instantaneously responds to the subjects’ motor actions. Every Newton of propulsive or braking ground reaction force was associated with an acceleration or a deceleration of the device. To see this in detail, watch this video. The obvious limit of this device is that subjects do not sprint overground, and a serious familiarization session is needed before undertaking any sound measurements. Furthermore, the top speed reached and the overall sprint performance is around 20% lower than what subjects could typically do on the field. However, we showed in a 2011 paper that treadmill and field performances were correlated and the fastest sprinters on the treadmill were also the fastest sprinters on the track, and thus inter-individual comparisons were possible.

For the pros, first and foremost, this device allows measurement of the three components of the GRF, at the sampling rate of 1000 Hz, and for any type of duration (for instance we simulated 400-m efforts for a fatigue study, or repeated sprints in another one). It is totally safe, and even highly skilled sprinters told us that the acceleration feeling was very close to what they experienced on the track. So it’s virtually like having a force plate under the feet for the entire sprint. In addition, this device allows athletes to perform a typical acceleration phase (from zero to high speed), which was hitherto not possible with other devices on which subjects typically had to drop themselves onto the fast rolling belt. Last, the motor torque is adjustable so we can do resisted or assisted sprints (data in process). Only 2 motorized treadmills of this kind exist in the world; one is at the Laboratory of Exercise Physiology at the University of Saint-Etienne in France, and the other one is at ASPETAR Sports Medicine Hospital in Doha, Qatar. 

Sounds like the pros of using the motorized treadmill for research far outweigh the cons. To your knowledge, how many published studies on sprinting forces (or impulse or power) to date examine elite sprinters?

If by elite sprinters you mean sub-10 second guys, very few scientists were lucky enough to specifically and directly study such a population, and publish the results in peer-review Journals. Peter Weyand and Ken Clark did recently, Bezodis et al., and Japanese colleagues who published a congress proceedings’ abstract showing the GRF traces of top Jamaican sprinters. I like to remember that Archibald V Hill, the famous physiologist, also did field experiments on top-level sprinters in the 1920’s (see this fascinating tribute paper):

My favorite sport science picture. Archibald Hill during field sprint measurements.

My favorite sport science picture. Archibald Hill during field sprint measurements.

By the way, Hill and others showed the exponential decay of sprint velocity as a function of time in papers from 1927 and 1928 (see below).

Of the published papers that currently examine sprinting forces (or impulse or power) what is the major drawback of every single one of the papers?

Studying sprint mechanics is a “pick your poison” game: either researchers like Peter Weyand or our group used instrumented force treadmill and studied treadmill sprinting rather than overground sprinting, or researchers used force plates and studied “real” sprinting mechanics, but over a very limited number of steps (typically 1 or 2). The treadmill modality allows you to measure GRF continuously but either at realistic top speeds only (Weyand’s studies) or the entire acceleration phase but until top speeds that are lower than reality (our studies).

The main drawback of the force-plate approach is that you get accurate but really narrow “pictures” of the sprinting mechanics, since you have data measured over one or two steps in the blocks, at 8, 12, 25 or 40-m of the sprint. It does not allow you to have a broad knowledge of the GRF production over the entire performance, and there is a risk that the data you collect do not represent the entire sprint. 

Well put JB. When I was in New Zealand at AUT University, I told my supervisor John Cronin that we should have built an entire 100 meter track lined with force plates embedded into the ground. I don’t think it would be that hard to do, and it would have allowed for some incredible research. There currently aren’t any Universities to my knowledge that have anything like this. What was your solution to overcome this problem?

Should money and logistics allow you to build it, this kind of track is possible, however, empowering the plates, setting filters, gains in the signals, time-synchronizing the different plates, digitizing the data and eventually getting smooth and treatable GRF data will be a huge challenge. In our recent paper, the INSEP engineer, Antoine Couturier, had a really hard time getting final data for us to process and study, and the force plate setting in Paris is only about 7-m long! In fact, Figure 1 in our recent paper (see image below) is one of the most impressive Figures I’ve ever inserted in a publication, and there were many hours of work behind these data.

GRF traces over time and the corresponding positions of the force-plate system.

Vertical, horizontal, and lateral GRF traces over time and the corresponding positions of the force-plate system.

So it might take a little while until longer installations than the currently existing 10-m to 15-m force plate systems are available for human performance research. But at the time of Hill’s research on sprint running in the 1920’s they used magnets and coils along the track, so we can definitely anticipate that such instrumented tracks will exist in the future.

In our most recent study, we virtually re-constructed a complete 40-m by having athletes perform several 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40-m sprints, and placing the starting blocks at various distances from the force plates, so that we collected data for almost all the steps of a 40-m sprint in each of the subjects. Because these highly skilled sprinters have very reproducible kinetic and kinematic patterns, we assume that, should this have been possible, the data collected over a continuous 40-m measurement would not have been different from those we present here.

Below is a schematic representation of the protocol design:

Schematic representation of the protocol, by Pierre Samozino.

Schematic representation of the protocol, by Pierre Samozino.

This is a great step up from previous research! Does this mean it’s perfect?

Perfection does not exist in science, and we always struggle to limit drawbacks and biases, and use the “least worst” solution, method, design, device, etc. Sometimes it is frustrating, but my view is that when nothing better exists, you must do with what’s available to you, and just be conscious of the limits floating above your results and conclusions. Refutability and debate is the basis of the scientific game, and what is accepted as true now will be adjusted/refuted/confirmed in the future. You have to be humble and accept the inherent limitations of the current methods, and try to put sound knowledge forward. Otherwise, you just stay at your desk waiting for perfection. This is for sure easier as there is no risk of having to say, “we were wrong”, but it is unproductive and hopeless.

Amen JB! Let’s talk about what we learned from this latest research. Please discuss the relationship with stride rate and stride frequency throughout the entire 40 meter sprint.

Our results show that while step length increases regularly over the acceleration phase (from the blocks push-off to the 40-m line), step frequency is almost instantaneously leveled at the maximal value athletes can reach: 80% at the first step and about 90% after the third step, and then remained constant thereafter. This is basically what Sofie Debaere et al. also reported in 2013: high-level sprinters develop in the 0-to-10-m phase a step frequency higher than 95% of the step frequency they reach at maximal speed. As a consequence, the speed increase of high-level athletes is afterwards quasi-exclusively caused by the increase in step length.

Fascinating! Do faster sprinters produce more total force into the ground in the blocks and during the 40 meter sprint, or is vertical or horizontal force more important? What about the ratio of forces?

In the blocks, elite sprinters produce much more (about 25% more) horizontal force and power than less skilled sprinters.

When averaging data from all the steps of the 40-m sprints after the blocks push-off, we observe that faster sprinters produce 10% higher horizontal force (Effect Size of 1.75). Contrastingly, they produce less vertical force (2% on average, Effect Size of 0.59). Note that our comparison is based on the data of 4 elite sprinters (best 100-m times ranging from 9.95 to 10.29) and 5 sub-elite sprinters (10.4 to 10.6 s). Sorry we could not recruit more athletes of the same level to perform more detailed stats than just % difference and Effect Size analyses.

Ratio of force data (the “ratio of force” in our approach is the ratio, for each contact phase, of the horizontal component to the resultant GRF) show that elite athletes are more efficient both in the blocks (+13%, ES of 1.46) and on average over the 40-m (+10%, ES of 2.31). In other words, since elite sprinters produce around 10% more horizontal force and around 2% less vertical force than their sub-elite counterparts, their ratio of horizontal to total force ends up being around 13% greater.

Does this validate your previous findings using the sprint treadmill?

Overall, yes, clearly. The horizontal force production during the acceleration is significantly and highly related to field sprint performance, whereas the vertical and resultant GRF production are not. This is better expressed through the paramount importance of the “ratio of force”, and in summary, the fastest sprinters at the end of the acceleration phase are not those who produce the highest amounts of total force with their lower limbs, but those who orient their push the most effectively, and in turn produce the highest horizontal force. In both our treadmill and overground studies, acceleration and 40-m or 100-m performances are significantly and highly correlated to the average horizontal force produced per unit body mass, and not to the average vertical force produced. Note that the vertical force produced per unit of body mass was only related to the value of top speed reached, as previously observed by Weyand et al.

Our new study supports the fact that the importance of horizontal versus vertical force production to sprint performance basically depends on what phase of the sprint you are interested in: whole acceleration versus top-speed phase only. However, even in top speed sprinting, horizontal force is critical.

If we look at Figure 1 from the study (shown above), we see that throughout the 40 meter sprint, vertical force rises and horizontal propulsive force diminishes. Many track & field specialists infer this to mean that vertical force is more important than horizontal force. Why is this outlook unacceptable?

Yes, this is true if you look at the force peak only, but what is really important is to look at impulses (i.e. force-time integral). The vertical impulse increases and the horizontal net impulse decrease over the acceleration, respectively because the CoM height increases from the starting-blocks to the classical running position and because as you know (muscle’s force-velocity relationship), our bodies can’t help producing lower and lower amounts of force as moving velocity increases.

We recently submitted a study focusing specifically on impulses in which the vertical impulse per unit body mass is not correlated to 40-m performance, whereas horizontal net impulse is. So definitely, to accelerate in the early phase of a sprint (typically a 20 or a 40-m sprint), what is a key determinant is the amount of net horizontal, not vertical impulse you produce. So although speed and vertical impulse increase concomitantly over the acceleration, the amount of speed produced (i.e. sprint performance) is not correlated to the amount of vertical impulse produced.

That said, our data (treadmill and track) clearly and consistently show that only the average vertical force produced AT TOP SPEED is well correlated to the amount of top speed reached, and not to the amount of acceleration produced beforehand. So maybe here is the main confusion made, you should not extrapolate what is important for top speed running only to what is important for acceleration. Our paper, currently in review, shows that vertical impulse tends to be negatively related to 40-m acceleration performance in very high-level sprinters (when its influence on performance is tested independently from that of the horizontal impulse, by means or multiple regression analyses).

Many coaches (such as myself) seem more interested in maximum speed sprint mechanics. Why should we be more interested in acceleration sprint mechanics for sports? 

To me this is paradoxical, if you look at the descriptive time-motion data published in various sports, you see that in fact, only in track and field 100 and 200-m is top speed running a key factor. In all other sports where sprinting is a major physical ability (soccer, football, rugby, etc.), only much shorter distances represent most of the demands of the game, and very rarely do players actually reach their individual top speed. A simple reason for this is that in order to run at your top speed, you need an acceleration of 30 to 50-m depending on your level, in a straight line, with no opposition (tackle, change of direction, etc.). This almost never happens, and when it does, it occurs in situations that are not key situations for a defensive or offensive action. Take a rugby player (except maybe in Rugby 7s) who is able to slalom between defenders and sprint towards the try line, the decisive action will be his ability to accelerate and change direction over the first 5-20-m, afterwards, his top speed (once again, reached after 30 to 50-m) might not be a determinant anymore. Last, studies show that in soccer or rugby, most sprints and decisive sprints are shorter than 20 or even 10-m, so no top speed is involved here – just “top acceleration” capability.

So to me, if you list all sports involving sprinting and sub-list only those involving pure top speed (reached after a complete acceleration) versus those involving maximal acceleration over distances too short to allow players to reach top speed, there might be only 100-m and 200-m events concerned versus a plethora of other sports. Not to mention that if you think, from a training perspective, about the number of athletes concerned in the world (i.e. 100/200-m sprinters versus all the other sports), then top speed capability might be considered as a really minor capability compared to shorter distances acceleration capability. Take the famous NFL combine 40-yard dash. It is clearly an acceleration test. Even if in fine, a high acceleration on the field will result in a high running speed, the typical constraints of the rugby, soccer, and football codes do not often allow players enough time and space to reach their absolute maximal speed. From the tenths of sprint acceleration files we’ve processed in elite athletes and soccer and rugby (all codes) players, I think 90% of all players reach their top speed between 30 and 40-m. However, we observed that in young players (below 18), top speed is reached before 30-m. So these might be exceptions to the aforementioned general observation. Some authors observed very short distances to reach top speed in college football players, during specific short sprint tests, but we may wonder whether this top speed could have been actually higher in a longer sprint acceleration context. This is the difference between the “absolute” top speed of an athlete or a team sport player and his “top speed” in the context of the shorter-than-necessary distances that the demands of his sport allow (see discussion here). So when talking about “top speed” in sports, we should definitely clarify between absolute top speed and top speed in a specific sport context.

Last, even though some acceleration sprints are “flying start” sprints, the durations still rarely allow players to reach their absolute top speeds. Nota: for numerous and detailed references in all the above-mentioned sports, look for “time-motion analysis” or “physical demands” of these sports in PubMed.

I see that you were also able to calculate horizontal power overground. How did you pull this off? Previously we needed a specialized treadmill in order to enable us to do this? 

Yes, one of our recent aims was to propose and validate a field method to get horizontal net force, and mechanical power output in sprinting from either time-distance (photocells split times) or time-speed (radar or laser) measurements. The idea was to allow many more coaches, scientists and athletes to assess and monitor the mechanical power, force-velocity profile and even effectiveness of force application (ratio of forces), and use these variables in their practice (training load, follow-ups, effects of fatigue, etc.).

The theoretical basis of this simple method, first authored by Pierre Samozino, is that when humans (whatever their level) accelerate from null to maximal speed, the change in speed over time superbly follows an exponential decay. So we fit the speed-time curve with this simple exponential function, and then derivate the speed-time curve to get the acceleration-time curve. Then, using the laws of motion in the forward direction and estimating the air friction on the runner from body mass, height, wind speed and air temperature and pressure, we obtain the net horizontal force output, and when multiplying by speed (since power equals force times velocity), we obtain the mechanical power output produced in the horizontal direction. The validation was made by comparing our computations to the force plate data we’ve mentioned earlier, and basically, it works very well. The validation results were first presented in an abstract at the International Society of Biomechanics in Brazil in 2013, and the full paper is currently under review. Many coaches in various sports currently use this approach, in collaboration with us, and we’ve already published a couple of studies about soccer players acceleration versus top speed performance, hamstring injuries and how injured players differ in their mechanical output from non-injured players, at the return to sport and after 2 months of full practice, and a comparison between elite players from different rugby codes.

See below for instance the computations we did of Usain Bolt’s force-velocity profile and power-velocity relationships over his World Record 100-m sprint. The cool thing is that our computations are based on the published 10-m splits of the World Record, but should force plates have been installed under the track in Berlin, our validation results show that we would have obtained values within 2-3% of what Bolt exactly produced…

For a detailed explanation, see this video of a workshop I did at Auckland University of Technology SPRINZ institute in 2013 (second part, sprint force-velocity-power profile).

Force-Velocity (FV) Profile of Usain Bolt's World Record Performance

Force-Velocity-Power Profile of Usain Bolt’s World Record Performance

This is incredible! Thanks JB. Moving on, horizontal power was the most highly correlated marker of maximum sprint speed and 40 meter performance in your study. Do we know how to best increase horizontal power in training? What are your ideas?

I think that for historical reasons (use of weights and weightlifting for S&C) and for obvious mechanical reasons (gravity and loads apply a vertical constraint), it has been overall easier to work on vertical than horizontal power development. And if I agree that there might be a transfer between gains in vertical power through training and gains in horizontal power, I am convinced it is the case in lower level and heterogeneous populations, but not above a certain level. In collaboration with researchers Matt Brughelli (see an interview with Matt HERE) and Pedro Jimenez-Reyes, we recently collected a ton of data in various sports and for levels ranging from leisure to world-class, and our first results (paper writing in process) show that jumping power in elite rugby players for instance is not correlated at all to sprint power as we measure it with our method.

In pro rugby players, sprint power and 30-m sprint time are highly correlated (bottom left), but not sprint FV profile and jump FV profile (top left), not sprint max power and jump max power (top right), and not jump max power and 30-m sprint time (bottom right)

In pro rugby players, sprint power and 30-m sprint time are highly correlated (bottom left), but not sprint FV profile and jump FV profile (top left), not sprint max power and jump max power (top right), and not jump max power and 30-m sprint time (bottom right)

I like to illustrate this by the “toothpaste tube” theory: when the toothpaste tube is full (low skill level), no matter how you press the tube (no matter how you train) you’ll get some toothpaste (performance improvements). So any kind of force training might result in sprint performance gains. But after a certain skill level, when the toothpaste is almost empty (very narrow margins for improvement), you’ll have to press the tube with very specific and well-designed gestures. In a sprint acceleration training context, this might relate to the horizontal force training, when vertical force does not transfer to sprint performance anymore.

So I really think there is an interest in specifically targeting horizontal force and power development to train for sprint acceleration – especially with highly skilled athletes. One of the best ways is probably resisted sprinting using sled and additional loads, or elastic bands, or uphill sprinting. As to sled training, some studies recently confirmed the higher effectiveness of high loads compared to low loads. Kawamori showed that heavy load sled training resulted in a higher sprint acceleration performance, not because more resultant force was applied after training, but because heavy loads led subjects to push with more effectiveness and apply similar amounts of resultant GRF, but with a more horizontal orientation (and thus higher horizontal component of the GRF and in turn forward acceleration). So the key is in coaches’ hands, I think they should systematically think about finding exercises and training modalities that stimulate the forward push, in addition to or instead of the vertical push, whenever possible.

I concur! Thanks again JB, one last question. Do you have any other interesting research in the works?

Yep, our main current project is a one-season follow-up of tenths of well-trained athletes, soccer, rugby players’ force-velocity and power profiles in sprinting, using our simple radar method. Our focus is to seek whether power output and force-velocity profile in sprinting (or an unexpected change in these variables) is related to a higher risk of injury, and could be an objective variable to focus on in the prevention, rehabilitation and return to sport process. Other projects are in the works about the role of hip extensors in the horizontal GRF production, the so-called “transfer” between vertical and horizontal power (now that we can assess the latter precisely and specifically in sprinting), and the best training methods to develop this horizontal power output in many sports such as athletics, rugby or soccer. So I guess we’ll have new and exciting things to share for the next interview.

lemaitre

 

An Interview With Behemoth Dan McKim, a Highland Games Champion

Most of you have probably never heard of Dan McKim. Dan is currently one of the best Highland Games competitors in the world, having won the National Championship from 2010-2013 and the World Championship in 2011 & 2013. I met Dan at the CSCCA Conference in Salt Lake City this year, where we were both working the Sorinex booth (I was promoting my Hip Thruster to the various strength coaches). Dan and I instantly hit it off. Even though he looks like Goliath, he’s a wonderful guy.

Dan

From left to right: Richard Sorin, Bert Sorin, Dan McKim, Bret Contreras (hint: being closest to the camera gives the illusion that you’re the most jacked!)

BC: Dan, first things first, who do you think would win in a fight – you or me? Just kidding buddy, trust me, I wouldn’t ever mess with you after seeing your hang power snatch prowess. Please tell us a bit about yourself, and be sure to include your height, weight, and age.

DM: My money is on you, bud. What’s the saying … “if looks could kill?” I kid. I kid.

I’m 32, 6’5″ and my body weight fluctates a bit depending if I’m in season or off-season (290-295 in-season, 300-305 off-season). My wife and I have five young boys, ages 7, 6, 3, 3, 15 months. And yes, for those keeping score at home, we have a set of twins in there! We live in Kansas City, Missouri where I work as the Midwest Rep for Sorinex. I like long walks in the rain, my favorite color is red … okay, that’s probably enough.

Dan McKim

BC: Twins – oh no!!! I have a twin and we put my poor mother through hell, but you have 5 boys in total, I couldn’t even imagine how much of a handful that is. Props to you. Now tell us a bit about The Highland Games. How many events are there?

DM: The Scottish Highland Games is part track and field throwing and part strongman. People always ask me what I do, and I tell them, “big guys in kilts throwing heavy stuff.” You know, Bret, pretty much your family reunion, right?

It is comprised of eight (internationally) or nine (US and Canada) events. That’s what helped interest me in the sport; throwing across various disciplines. I was a collegiate thrower and always loved throwing, so this was a great transition for me.

BC: How does one start learning more about The Highland Games if one is interested in training and competing?

DM: The best tool is www.nasgaweb.com. It’s the North American source for discussion, training, technique work, schedules, ranks, equipment sources and more. Other than that, YouTube is a huge asset in training and competition development.

BC: Perfect! Now let’s talk training. When we were lifting together, you informed me that you can’t squat deep, and I saw that you have a nasty case of buttwink when you try to squat rock bottom. Clearly you have deep hip sockets and can’t squat deep due to your anatomy. How do you work around this? Do you do half squats, or just avoid squatting altogether?

DM: Well, since I met with you, I’ve started to switch my set up a bit. I have started to think of “pinning” my big toes to the bottom of my shoes, which forces my knees to track better and keep me from hitting rock bottom. Since our talk, my knee pain has improved; thanks, man. As I prep for this off-season, I’m excited to move my depth from letting my buttwink hinder and hurt my squat development. I’m excited to see how my numbers and strength improves now that I can squat more appropriately within my anatomy.

BC: You don’t deadlift from the floor, correct? I imagine your posterior chain gets plenty of stimuli with all the Olympic variations and throwing you do, would you agree?

DM: I do. I hurt my back years ago moving weight from the floor, so I decided I couldn’t risk it any longer if I wanted to continue in my sport. I do Olympic variations twice a week and get my posterior chain work through lots of back hypers, glute ham raises, curl work, and modified deads such as RDLs and straight leg deads. And I think you make a good point about the throwing I do. I met with a collegiate strength coach who put me on their Force Plate to test my strengths and weaknesses. Given the movements I do in my sport, I was very posterior dominant. The throws I do are very reliant on a strong posterior, and that was very evident in my testing!

BC: When we were training together, you were doing hang power snatches, and I believe you worked up to 315 lbs for a set of 3 reps. What are your favorite explosive lifts in the weightroom?

DM: Haha! You have quite the memory, my friend. Yes, I believe the hang snatch to be my favorite explosive and most transferable lift for my sport. After that I think the hang clean is the second best for me. (Bret’s note: I randomly found a video of Dan performing hex bar jump squats so I embedded it below)

BC: You were already a fan of the hip thrust when I met you, but I showed you the American deadlift and the rounded back extension, which work the glutes thoroughly as well. Your glutes were burning like crazy after just one set of all 3 exercises. How important are the glutes in Highland Games competitions? Do you incorporate any specialized glute training in your program?

DM: What an awesome day that was! I’ve since added the rounded back extension (love it) and hip thrusts more readily in my programming. Like I said earlier, a strong posterior is critical for my events, so adding in the things you showed me has not only helped my training but also my back health. Sorinex sells a glute ham roller, a new piece, that I love doing leg curls and glute ham bridges with. So, in short, I’m realizing that the glutes are very important to my sport, and my time with you and on the Force Plate helped reiterate that to me. (Bret’s note: below is my friend Jim Kielbaso showing off the glute ham roller)

BC: Yep, preaching to the choir! Tell us more about your training. How do you split it up, and how many exercises, sets, and reps do you typically perform?

DM: Many people accuse me of doing a “bodybuilding” split, as I like to break my days into muscle groups and movements. Because I love to lift, this allows me to get five days of lifting in each week, pushing it hard every day. My programming is broken up into three phases: Volume, Hypertrophy and Strength/Power. As I progress into each phase, the reps drop while the weights increase. Right now, I’m doing this over a 14 week period with a few rest weeks in between the phases. Here’s how I break it down each day of the week:

Monday – Bench press, close grip, triceps
Tuesday – Hang clean, back squat, posterior chain
Wednesday – Back and bis
Thursday – Incline, strict overhead press, shoulders
Friday – Hang snatch, front squat, anterior/quad

BC: Okay, so I can see why some people say it resembles a bodybuilding split, but it’s easy to see how it would still be very effective for explosive sport training as it contains two pressing days, a pulling day, and two heavy/explosive hip and leg days. What are the strength feats that you’re most proud of in the gym?

DM: Probably my 341 lb. hang snatch and 500+ lb. bench press.

BC: Not too shabby my friend. What do you feel is most important for training for Highland Games – powerlifting style training, weightlifting style training, or strongman style training? Or is it a combination of all three? I imagine you’ll say weightlifting.

DM: Great question! I think weightlifting is the most transferrable but there have been many a successful thrower from strongman and powerlifting backgrounds. I like aspects of all for a successful highland games career: just being strong never hurt anyone!

BC: Good point. What are your current bests in the various Highland Games events?

DM: 

Braemar Stone: 43″9″
Open Stone: 56’7″
56# Weight for Distance: 47’5″
28# Weight for Distance: 94’9.25″ (North American Record)
22# Hammer: 132’2.75″ (World Record)
16# Hammer: 157’7.25″ (World Record)
Caber Toss: We’ll throw a different caber at each event
56# Weight for Height: 18′
20# Sheaf Toss: 35’2″

BC: Awesome. How do you mix in the event training throughout a typical week? I’m assuming that you have somewhere to train locally where you can perform the various competitive lifts.

DM: I have all the throwing implements at my house, so when it’s time to practice, I load up my truck and head to the park. I have at least two locations near my house that I can throw at, and thankfully the cops know me at this point. In prior years, I’ve had the police watch me and even ask to, “clean up when you’re done.” During the season (April through September) I’ll typically practice the events two to three times a week. But, during the off-season I won’t practice the events at all. For me, both mentally and physically, I have to have an off-season away from the sport. I’ve been competing in it for 10 years now, so it’s becoming more and more important that I don’t bury myself with the Highland Games. When I first started, I was so addicted and excited about throwing that I practiced five to seven days a week for 18 months straight; rain, snow, cold … it didn’t matter. While I got a lot of volume in, I wound up inured as my body never fully recovered for either throwing or lifting, as I was still lifting five days a week.

Dan Milo

BC: Yep, all of us lifters have to learn this lesson as we age. Now let’s talk eating. You’re a large man. Do you know how many calories you typically throw down per day? What about macronutrient split?

DM: I hit about 3,700 to 4,000 calories. I don’t necessarily count them, though, as it’s a struggle for me to maintain a high body weight. If I want to stay around 300 pounds, I have to consciously eat all the time. I also don’t focus on the split like I should: I just try to eat more protein!

BC: I met Matt Vincent the year before at the Sorinex Summer Strong conference, and he’s another strange combination in that he’s a humble, gentle giant just like you. Am I right that it’s usually the two of you battling it out for first and second spot?

DM: In the past four seasons, I’ve won two World Championships and Matt has won the other two. We’ve been going at each other for a few years now, and it doesn’t look to be slowing up anytime soon!

Matt-Vincent

Matt Vincent

BC: Now let’s talk roids. You’ve never used them. Some of the guys have, and some are now using testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT). You believe that this is unfair, right? Please elaborate.

DM: I’ve never used steroids and have held a strong stance against PEDs my entire career. It is sad, but any strength sport will have guys who feel they need to cheat and destroy their bodies to throw far. Personally, it makes it fun when I beat them, knowing the things they are doing. Unfortunately, a popular item is TRT, which is on virtually every commercial break or radio sponsor that you hear. What I’ve been fighting for in my sport is, essentially, the same rules that the NCAA, IOC, SHGA, WADA, etc. all have in place. Even the UFC, now, disallows TRT as an acceptable “medical” treatment. Yes, I believe it is unfair. Without rules against it, nothing would stop a guy from taking a full year off the sport and getting completely gassed on steroids. Then, when they were ready to compete again, since they now have low “T” from their steroid use, they could get prescribed TRT to keep their levels high. TRT should be in place for older men with hormone function issues, not men in their 20’s and 30’s in strength sports. It’s a sad state of affairs, I believe. Just a few years ago putting testosterone in your body was considered a PED or even steroid use; without question. Now, we’ve slapped a medical term on it to make athletes tell themselves it’s okay to do. Thankfully, it’s still considered a PED in mainstream sports, but my sport has been soft on it. I’m working with a few of the bigger competitions in this sport to help eradicate that. More to come!

BC: Great points. Let’s switch gears. Be honest, do you ever throw some curls into your workout to pump up the guns? It’s okay Dan, we all want a biceps pump. And on a serious note, is there anything about your training that other competitors find surprising?

DM: You better believe I do! I work them in once a week for looks, but mostly for auxillary work. For me, they fit in nicely with my upper back work, which is important for events such as the caber and hammer. And, as you already know Bret, the fastest way to put on size and weight is through upper back work, glutes and hammies. I just figure the curls help me with upper back work, right!? Haha! Other competitors find the “bodybuilding” split I build my workouts around to be surprising. I’d say that, along with the volume of work I do each week. I love to lift. I’m a meathead. So, for me to get the most done in a week that I can, safely, I split my workouts into muscle groups so I can turn around and train hard the next day. When I’m done competing, I’ll still program like this, as I simply love to work out.

McKim

BC: Glad I’m not alone in my affinity for curls. Okay, I’ve always noticed that I’m pretty good at rotational actions such as throwing, swinging, and striking. In fact, I’m often better at these activities than my much stronger lifting partners. Do taller guys have the edge when it comes to Highland Games, or is height not a major factor?

DM: Taller guys do have leverage advantages as well as release point perks, but I’d say your success in those actions is due to your athleticism. You are an athletic guy, Bret, which translates well, I believe, into those movements which are more athletic than a static box squat or deadlift. That’s why I’ve always said that a good thrower is both strong and athletic. In the Highland Games, we are throwing such heavy implements, that you truly have to have a base of strength that rivals other strength athletes (strongman, powerlifting, weightlifting). But, it’s the combination of strength, athleticism and explosive ability that makes you a formidable and successful thrower.

BC: Amen! Great interview Dan. I wish you the best of luck in the future. Where can readers follow you and find out more about you?

DM: Always an honor to chat with you, man. So many of us appreciate your work and expertise. I really do thank you for helping me line up my programming better. I’ve got a few ways people can follow my competitions, training and life in general.

Dan McKim eBook: Behemoth: Power Training for Strength Athletes
Dan McKim Website 
Dan McKim Facebook Fan Page
Dan McKim Twitter
Dan McKim YouTube
Dan McKim Instagram

Behemoth