<strong>From the Front: diet
and Performance (or lack there of)</strong><p>
Comrades, if you are like most young men in this country, you read a lot in magazines about diet
and performance. The status quo on what you should eat
looks like this: Lots of protein, just enough carbs, and stay away from fat! (At least the bad fats: saturated fat).
<p> This is all well and good if you are bodybuilding and need to cut a few percentage points off your body fat percentage. Its also fine if you are rather overweight and need to slim down. But if you don't need to lose fat, there is no need to eat
like this. Your performance is at stake here and performance, or lack thereof will either make or break the mission.<p>
Here is a great example. I was helping the AST Pre-Scuba course out one morning. There was a young man in training who has done very well on the evaluations and in the daily training. But this week was different. It was raining and the air temperature dropped 15 degrees. The water
was cooler by several degrees as well. In the beginning of the session he was going strong. But two hours later things were drastically different! He had reached the end of his metabolic rope. The shivering was in and out, his nose was bleeding from time to time, and he simply didn't have the energy to stay afloat with all his equipment on. He was absolutely unwilling to quit and was determined to carry on, knowing full well that he was going to fail. Chalk one up for Combat Control! They found a hell of a man in this guy! Before our eyes he was turning purple in his extremities as his body tried to compensate. His breathing and concentration was slipping. His one focus was his team now. The team was his lifeline, they had to succeed...We pulled him out of the water
and put a wetsuit top on him. It didn't help.<p>
That was it; we pulled him from training for the sake of his own health despite his pleas to stay with the team. He wasn't in trouble, he didn't quit, but it was time to stop for the day. <p>
Upon questioning we found what we suspected. He was on a low fat diet
and does not take vitamin or mineral supplements. He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him. It was an open and shut case. Change the diet
to include more fat and get some iron in your vitamin and mineral supplement to help avoid sports anemia. <p>
This is a great example of why as an operator you should not strive for bodybuilder proportions, training, or eating
. It's also a great example of knowing what to listen to and what to disregard. Personally, I stopped going to one GNC store for vitamins because the nosey know-it-all woman behind the counter thinks that men don't need iron in their diet
and supplements and felt it was her duty to hammer this point home every time I went into the store. The fact is that if you are an operator and you are training hard, you do need iron to avoid sports anemia and related conditions. For a simple explanation of this condition read what Dr. Patrick Bird of the University of Florida has to say at:<p> http://www.hhp.ufl.edu/keepingfit/ARTICLE/anemia.HTM
So what is the take away lesson here? Proper nutrition
is the key to success. As an operator you are not concerned with eliminating every gram of fat from your diet
. That said, you should also avoid processed or junk foods. Whole foods are the key here. Plenty of meat and potatoes, green vegetables, dairy products, etc… For those of you who have trouble in this area Muscle Media Magazine's David Kennedy has foolproof advice, "If it wasn't on this earth 10,000 years ago, don't eat
it!" You can't go wrong with that! I have been around the block a few times and when you are in this business you learn really fast what does work and what doesn't. I recall a great example from a buddy of mine who used to teach at the US Army Ranger School. While flying the students to the next phase, the aircrew thought they would hook the boys up and they brought out a bunch of McDonalds food
for the flight. My buddy couldn't stop laughing because in about 30 minutes you knew which students had consumed it. They were the guys who were throwing up on the ruck march. On the other hand, some fruit, chicken and rice, or an MRE would have done the boys well. Take heed and think about what you're eating
the next time you visit the grocery store.
<strong>Stretch Shortening Cycle?</strong><p>
From the STS forum Com Seraphim writes: "I've been doing the PTP workout
with deads and sidepresses. After reading about SSC I tried it on a heavy set of sidepress with impressive results. It felt great. Fast on the concentric phase and slow and steady eccentric phase. I had balance and power to spare it seemed. So, I was wondering… the Deadlift is a more complex movement, and probably more dangerous, is it safe to do a fast concentric motion on the dead? I tried it with only 135lbs to test it out and it seemed like it 'felt' dangerous. Any comments?"
First, there is a bit of confusion about what exactly the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) is. A Stretch Shortening Cycle is simply an eccentric (stretch) movement followed by a concentric (shortening) movement. Take hopping for example. As you land on your toes the calf muscles lengthen or stretch (eccentric phase) and then shorten (concentric phase) to produce the next hop. This eccentric phase followed by a concentric phase is the SSC. Nothing more, nothing less…almost. There are some important strength and performance implications here that require closer examination.
If you are familiar with Pavel Tsatsouline's works then you know about High Tension Techniques. If you are new to HTT allow me to enlighten you. The basic premise is that in all lifts you should tense or contract as many muscles in your body as possible. Physiologically there are a number of advantages to doing this. Over all it is a safer way to lift and your power generation will increase. We will examine that in a moment. For now, be sure to brace your entire body for a punch. Most importantly squeeze your glutes, brace the abs, and crush the weight. It is also very helpful to flex the lats and tri's, and try to screw your legs into the ground.
<strong>What Research Shows</strong><p>
Research clearly shows that when you tense a muscle and keep it tight during the eccentric (stretch) phase, the concentric (shortening) phase will be more powerful. Zatsiorsky notes "If a muscle shortens immediately after a stretch force and power output increase, and energy expenditure decreases." In other words, not only will you be stronger, you will be more efficient! SSC, also known as reversible action of muscles is an innate part of many exercises, but not all. Zatsiorsky states, " Reversible muscle action is an innate part of some movements, such as the landing and take off in running; in other movements, such actions must be learned. Since many sport movements are highly complex and executed in a very brief time, even some elite athletes fail to perform this reversed muscle action correctly."<p>
Sometimes we are detrained as we grow up. The concept of isolation has set back millions from realizing the potential of this phenomenon. Take the dumbbell curl for example. Try curling the "old" way and note how you felt. Now tense your entire body, particularly every muscle in your arm. Curl up, but stay tight as you descend. At the bottom, instantly reverse the bell (don't bounce!). See the difference? That's RMA/SSC at work. <p>
Did you know that this is nothing new to you? Visualize this: Close your eyes and imagine that you have to pick up a huge boulder or a giant stump. You know that sucker is heavy and awkward! Keep your eyes closed and bend over to pick it up. What happened? You took a deep breath, pressurized your abs, tensed the whole body, and then you bent down to pick that sucker up! Who ever said HHT and RMA/SSC was new? You have it programmed into every cell in your body!
<strong>Physiological and Time Factors</strong><p>
You're tense and tight, you've taken a breath and pressurized your midsection, and you bend down to lift the boulder or a Deadlift bar. But you mess around with your grip for a second and when you finally go to pick it up, you don't have as much power. What on earth is going on?<p>
Time is an important factor here. Research shows us that maximal power is realized when reversal from eccentric to concentric is near instantaneous. Any delay begins to deteriorate the force multiplying effects. However, even a long delay still generates significantly more force than starting from a relaxed position with no eccentric phase. Recall the curling example. If you were to start with a heavy weight you might not get it up on that first concentric contraction. If you start at the top and stay tight you may very well knock out a few reps by taking advantage of this process.<p>
The reason that a delay will weaken these effects is multi-focal. The longer a contraction is held, the more fuel it consumes and the more waste builds up. This weakens the muscle fiber's ability to maintain peak contraction. Neurologically the longer a stimulus is fired through the neural pathways, the less conductive the pathway becomes, making the stimulus weaker. Additionally, the stored elastic energy that was built up in the tendon complex during the eccentric phase begins to dissipate. This all results in reduced performance potential.<p>
It is also believed that stretch reflexes come into play here. While there has been a great deal of debate, Zatsiorsky feels that the stretch reflex does in fact play a part in SSC, particularly at the end of the eccentric phase and the beginning of the concentric phase (when examining sprinters). He states, "Overall there seems to be ample evidence to conclude that stretch reflexes play an important role in SSC and contribute to force generation during touchdown in activities such as running and hopping." He further cautions though, "This scenario may be especially effective in a non-fatigued situation, but it can be put under severe stress during SSC fatigue." In layman's terms, the more reps you do of an exercise, the more dangerous it becomes as the body's various mechanisms weaken. Anyone who has collapsed under a bar or during a set of max pushups knows what that feels like. This is another reason we never train to failure.
<strong>Putting It All Together</strong><p>
Zatsiorsky notes three fundamental conditions for effective use of the SSC phenomenon:<p>
1. Well-timed pre-activation of the muscle(s) before the eccentric phase.<p>
2. A short fast eccentric phase.<p>
3. Immediate transition (short delay) between stretch (eccentric) and shortening (concentric) phases<p>
So to sum up, stay tight all over, starting before the eccentric phase, and transition instantly with out pausing. That's it right? Comrades, you should know better!<p>
Comrade Seraphim's question hints at something else that is fundamental to a misunderstanding of SSC.
"Fast on the concentric phase and slow and steady eccentric phase."
"The Deadlift is a more complex movement, and probably more dangerous, is it safe to do a fast concentric motion on the dead? I tried it with only 135lbs to test it out and it seemed like it 'felt' dangerous."
Nothing in the above says anything about a fast concentric motion! And so we enter a new realm of study: Explosive Lifting.
Explosive lifting is another animal altogether! Tsatsouline notes, "it is not appropriate for beginners." So are you a beginner? Not bloody likely! Dremach, a researcher from the old Soviet republic of Belarus concluded that this type of lifting was appropriate only for intermediate and advanced lifters. He set the minimum standard at being able to Deadlift twice your bodyweight. He noted that beginners who take on explosive deadlifting are likely to get injured and/or fail to develop good technique.
<p> In this country of instant gratification most people feel that once they get a few basics out of the way once they can do a few reps in decent looking form. Gents, in this game you are always a beginner and you are always learning! I have been deadlifting for 14 years and I still learn something new every time I step up to the bar! If you started doing the dead in the last 12 months, keep on going for a few more years before thinking you can tackle the tools the pro's use. The bottom line here is that until you are pushing some seriously heavy weight; don't even think about doing deads explosively.
<p>On the other hand, if you do as Zatsiorsky and Tsatsouline advise by staying tight and mastering high tension you will do just fine in your quest for higher poundage.
<p>One final note on the subject. In Pararescue we have a saying: "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast." Study on that.
There is always a great fascination with abs and the number of sit-ups one can do. The problem is that high rep sit-ups are the opposite direction you want to go if strength is your goal. Have you ever tested you 1RM for sit-ups or any other abdominal exercise? Give it a shot; I think you will be disappointed in your performance.
<strong>Product Review: H2H kettlebell
I recently purchased a copy of Jeff Martone's new H2H kettlebell
Drills video available from <a href="http://www.myaffiliateprogram.com/u/dragondr/b.asp?id=1025">www.dragondoor.com</a>. I have been aware of Jeff's background ever since I met Pavel and so my expectations of a fellow operator were high going into it.<p>
The first thing you will notice about Jeff is that he is a humble man, which makes you like him that much more. I would have loved to serve with him. <p>
He dabbles in a few safety tips, which unfortunately are necessary for those who have escaped the laws of natural selection thanks to technology and modern society. If the very sight of a KB
wasn't enough to illicit a cautionary approach you deserve what you get.<p>
After that we get to the meat of it and Jeff leads you through the preliminaries in a manner that would make his instructors at Robin Sage proud. Simple and to the point. From there he moves from basics to more advanced drills while making them look so incredibly simple that you can't wait to try it them out.
<p>Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by his skill and grace! These drills are not so simple! I have started incorporating many drills into my Workouts
and I have found them to be addictive. An hour later I'm still "playing" while completely out of breath and gunning for more.
<p>All in all Jeff has put out a great product and it definitely has a place in every Girevik's library. Get it now!
Living By The Motto,<br>