A tale of a Cougar and the Felix
September 7, 2010
No this isn’t a screenplay for a porno involving an older lady. This is a tale of two very different kinds of strength.
One of the most important jobs of a Strength Coach is to design programs on an individual basis. What works for one guy may not necessarily work as well for another and may even be detrimental to performance.
A Tale of Two Athletes
Let us take for example two individuals who I train that are the same weight. First up we have Felix. This is a guy who would beat a sloth in a hanging off branches competition. He is monstrously strong, his rate of force development isn’t world class nor is reactive ability, but his brutal hulk like strength makes up for it. Felix would be at the Static end of the static- spring continuum
Cougar on the other hand is no where near as strong as the Felix. He is however one of the most explosive guys I have met. His reactive ability is so good that even as a big fat heavyweight he was still able to knockout out back flips, somersaults and other acrobatic shenanigans at will. Guys like Cougar are proficient at storing energy within the muscle-tendon units when they are lengthened (upon landing) and are able to release it during subsequent muscle action (when jumping) to produce an extra forceful contraction. This is known as the Stretch Shortening Cycle. Cougar is an example of someone who is at the spring end of the Static spring continuum.
The Static – Spring Continuum
The guys at the static end are uber strong, think power lifters. They are able to shift huge loads but the rate at which they do so is often slow. The spring guys have natural bounciness, they are not necessarily very strong but they are adept at using the Stretch Shortening Cycle mentioned above.
Where you fall on this continuum can have a dramatic affect on the direction your programming should be taking. Felix would benefit from movements that allow his nervous system and muscle tendon units to get better at storing elastic energy and releasing it during subsequent muscular action. These sorts of movement would include various forms jump training, medicine ball throws and speed lifts.
Cougar is already a freaking Gummy Bear and gets enough reactive training during skill practice and sparring. He will benefit the most from focussing on becoming brutally strong by picking up really heavy stuff in the lower rep ranges. If you are somewhere in between the two, you will benefit from a mix of both maximal strength work and reactive training.
So how do you know where you stand? A lot of times you can guess where someone is just by watching them compete. Anderson Silva seems springy, Matt Hughes seems very statically strong. But it is always best to have quantifiable data so here are the two tests I use.
The Drop Jump vs. Vertical Jump Test
First we need to find your vertical jump height. This can be done with an elaborate system of chalk on a wall. Drop into a ¼ squat and explode up marking the chalk on a nearby wall at the top of your jump.
Next we will do a drop jump from a 12” box. Step of the box and bounce up and mark the wall. If your depth jump performance was lower than your regular vertical jump you aren’t great at using stretch shortening cycle and are probably at the static end.
If your drop jump was more than your vertical jump move on to an 18” box and keep going until your jump height fails to improve.
If you drop jumped more than 20% higher than your vertical jump you are at the spring end. If your drop jump was between 1-20% you need a mixture of reactive training and maximal strength work with more reactive training being done the closer to 1% you get.
5 Rep Speed Bench test
Find your 1 rep max (1RM)in the bench press. Get in 10 minutes rest and then load the bar with 50% of 1RM and try to perform 5 reps in less than 5 seconds (without crushing your sternum). Keep increasing or decreasing the load until you can just barely complete the 5 reps in 5 seconds. If you managed to get all 5 reps in 5 seconds with 70% of 1RM you are freaky reactive, 55-65% 1RM is the middle ground and 40-55% is at the Static end.
Try out these tests and see what direction your training should be taking.
Oh and i almost forgot its been a while….