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A look at how we build programs and develop new methods

Below is an example of the thought process that we use at Rogue when designing programs:

Matt and I are in the process of prepping for backcountry snowboarding season. In this training log I’ll talk about our recent programming and how you can apply these same things in your own training.

First, let’s look at the demands of backcountry snowboarding:

+ Large aerobic foundation
+ Large aerobic endurance capacity of legs and  (Some days I’m hiking uphill with a 20-40 pound pack for 8+ hours)
+ Relatively high max power and strength (relative to your weight) for dropping cliffs, jumping over things, and making big turns at high speeds

Where I’m at:

+ Good aerobic foundation
+ Decent work capacity
+ High max power (33-35” vertical) and strength (500+ deadlift, RFE split squat = 300+). High for my sport, not in general.

So, based on that here are my current goals:

+ Improve strength endurance (% of max output that I can express for extended periods of time)
+ Improve aerobic capacity of fast twitch muscle fibers
+ Maintain aerobic capacity of slow twitch fibers

Backcountry snowboarding is really just hiking uphill with a pack for a long time. I’m about 200ish pounds and with my gear I’m hauling closer to 250 pounds up the hill. It’s equivalent to doing thousands of step-ups with a 50-pound weight vest on your back. I then need to be able to be fresh for short bursts of max effort snowboarding.

You've got to earn it when riding in the backcountry which makes awesome finds like this even more special

You’ve got to earn it when riding in the backcountry which makes awesome finds like this even more special

If I become anaerobic walking up the mountain and trash my legs I’ll have no power or strength left for the run down. Also, if I move at a snails pace because I have no aerobic capacity I wont get much boarding in. So, the goal is to improve the amount of work that I can do without negatively affecting max power and strength output. If it works out, I’ll be able to go up and down the mountain faster, for more laps, and recover faster between anaerobic runs down the mountain. All good things.

 More technical explanations (skip if you don’t care)

I am focusing on aerobic capacity of the fast twitch muscle fibers because I already have a solid aerobic foundation (general and of slow twitch fibers). That means any gains in aerobic capacity will primarily come from training the fast twitch fibers.

My relative maximal strength is already as high as I’ll ever need it. So my focus on strength endurance will allow me to simultaneously improve mitochondrial density (mitochondria = aerobic power plant of the cell) and improve the percentage of my max strength that I can tap while staying aerobic.

 Techniques

 Timed sets of single reps. One rep every 6-8 seconds for 5-10 minute intervals.

For example, here is the week one workout:

+ Trap bar deadlifts @ 315 pounds: I was able to get 40 reps in 5 minutes for 2 rounds (that’s 80 reps in 10 minutes of work).

+ DB Row (70#): 45 reps per arm in each of the two five minute sets

+ Weighted Ring Pushups (20# vest): 50 reps in each of the two five minute sets

 That was a tough 30-minute workout. The goal is to work up to doing two 10 minutes sets over the course of 4-8 weeks, with 80 reps in each 10 minutes set. If I can do that I’ve effectively doubled the amount of work I can do without breaking down. So, not only would my strength endurance improve drastically in the muscles used, but the percentage of my max that I could use without becoming anaerobic would likely improve drastically as well – which would mean that I could likely do something around 365-405 for 40 reps in 5 minutes.

 Here are the rules for selecting a weight for this method:

+ Around 60% of 1RM
+ No grinding reps
+ Drop each rep from the top to reduce eccentric load
+ Keep heart rate below 160 (to ensure the exercise is aerobic)
+ If muscles start “burning” you’ve chosen too much weight

 The goal of this experiment is

+ See if this method works (it is an experiment)
+ Find out what exactly is too much volume. I’ve played this game with HICT step-ups, goblet squats, push ups, and rows. But, the goal here is to work with slightly higher loads to accomplish the same thing (improved mitochondrial density in fast twitch muscle fibers) and improved relative strength endurance in the same muscles.

 Stay tuned for part 2 where I will discuss the other new method that we are experimenting with. I’ll be updating how this experiment goes over the next few months as well.

By Jonathan Pope