Lactate Threshold, The Forgotten Panacea

Lactate Threshold Training, The Forgotten Panacea

For years the science of sport has looked at Lactic Threshold aka Anaerobic Threshold as a basis for performance and training. To avoid making this article to scientific I have add a link in which one of the top research physiologist, Dr. Kravitz explains the details

My purpose in this article is to present the case for training smart. I have been in and know many of my friends who are into Crossfit as athletes, owners, coaches, etc. Simply put Crossfit is a diverse training system based on cross training using various methods. Truth be told, many of us have been doing this long before there was such thing as Crossfit. However, since its inception it has evolved into a sport, the sport of exercise as many refer which is true and quite endearing if you ask me. As an exercise enthusiast I like it and am glad to see that many more people are embracing fitness as a way of life and a sport.

Ok, so lets get down to it then. If it is a sport and we want to treat it as such and compete then we need to start incorporating principles of human performance that are key to safe and effective progressions. After all, most of those competing are not professional athletes which means they have real jobs, with stressors that many athletes do not have and without the support that most athletes have (i.e. regular massage, stretching regimens, proper nutrition, etc.). Regardless, all athletes need a plan and NO athlete can go 100% everyday, day in and day out year round. And if you think you are Superman or Superwoman get over it, it does not happen.

So, this is where lactate threshold plays a role. The Lactate Threshold (LT) is the point during exercise of increasing intensity at which blood lactate begins to accumulate above standard levels. This corresponds to a key factor known as RPE or rating of perceived exertion which operates on a scale or 6-20 and can be put into Zones 1-5 and is a key performance measure. Since most lack the tools to test lactate blood levels we use the RPE and corresponding Zones to determine our LT.

Here is a list of Zones and RPE

    •    Zone 1: 6-8 RPE
    •    Zone 2: 9-11 RPE
    •    Zone 3: 12-14 RPE
    •    Zone 4: 15 RPE
    •    Zone 5: 16-20 RPE

    •    Zone 1/Recovery: Low intensity, easy, body rejuvenating zone.
    •    Zone 2/Extensive Endurance: Long endurance, conversational-level zone.
    •    Zone 3/Intensive Endurance: Increase of intensity, lactate production rises.
    •    Zone 4/Threshold: Just below or slightly above lactate threshold, discomfort, anaerobic.
    •    Zone 5/Anaerobic Endurance: Intensity now exceeds the lactate threshold.

Much of this work and study of the LT has been around endurance sports such as Triathlon and Cycling. Many of know Lance Armstrong, his coach used this system as the basis for all Lances training. A majority of his training was in Zone 4 or 15-16 RPE.

Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong’s coach, explains:
“Power isn’t the issue. Anyone can produce 400 watts for a few seconds. However, most riders can’t produce 400 watts for a very long time without going anaerobic and slowing abruptly. What’s key is the ability to produce significant power while remaining under your lactate threshold (LT) and in control. All of Lance’s training revolved around raising his power at LT. The secret is to do most of your hard training a little below, at, or slightly above your lactate threshold.”
And much like Cycling, Crossfit is about the ability to perform under intensity and over time aka Muscular Endurance. Therefore when teaching, training, coaching athletes for Crossfit and performance instead of doing daily WODs where you push yourself to exhaustion train smart and use LT as the basis behind performance measure. A majority of the training should be in Zone 4 or an RPE of 15 with only 1 day a week being in Zone 5, RPE 16+.  As one increases fitness levels the RPE will correlate to a better time and increased performance. This will help prevent burnout, injury and again most important lead to increased performance.

For more specifics and information please feel free to email me

Strength & Conditioning Program Design

All my programs incorporate principles of bio mechanics, psychology, kinesiology,
physiology, anatomy, neurology, and experience. These concepts/principles/methods/
patterns are reflected in various programming structures. Here is a sample

The pyramid
Start at a specific number, say 5 and each set for a pre-determined amount increase the
reps. Once you reach the top of the pyramid come down the other side using the same
Ex: 5,6,7,8,9,10,10,9,8,7,6,5
Psychologically this is a very effective approach. Starts light, progressively becomes
more challenging but with an end point in sight and then “becomes easier” the typical
perception is that this is easier than the same approach with the saw tooth.

The saw tooth
Start @ specific rep, for the sake of this article I will stick with the above numbers 5-10.
So here we start with 5 increasing each rep up to 10 where once at top we start over at
5 and repeat sequence
Ex: 5,6,7,8,9,10,5,6,7,8,9,10
Psychologically this appears easier because of the so called break from the peak back
to the low end. But physiologically this is a type of interval that allows one to peak and
do repeats. In the end I am cannot say which is harder I will let you determine but I do
know from inquiry that people prefer the pyramid to the saw tooth

The straight set
Simple, do 5 reps for 5 sets. No deviation just straight forward work and always a good
barometer. The pyramid and saw tooth compliment this particular concept. Together one
can do the same basic moves, say for example the Kettlebell snatch or pullups without
the it being repetitive. The change in variables changes the demands of the ve helping
one to grease the groove and applied e law of specificity while overcoming the GAS law.

The ladder
The ladder system I first learned through my coach Mark Reifkind &the RKC training.
This is a very effective method and has many variations. Two In particular are the
Top to bottom & the Bottom to Top.

The top to bottom
This is a great and a psychological winner. Start at your peak and come down. I equate
it to mountain biking or snowboarding where you take the lift up and ride down, always
the fun part.
Example: Kettlebell snatch: 20,18,16,14,12,10
The bottoms to the top is by far harder mentally and in many cases is more rewarding.
Much like the previous analogy, this is purely the climb in mountain biking, no thrills, no
downhill (equivalent to the pyramid concept). However, for a cross country mountain
biker like myself and former pro adventure racer I loved reaching the peak no matter
how hard. I always would take moment to stop and the smell the roses and this is a
great programming practice to do just that
Example: Kettlebell snatch: 10,12,14,16,18,20

The timed intervals
This is a very common used concept with the tabata protocol often used, which is 20
seconds work, 10 seconds recover for 4 minutes of fun. There of course are a multitude
of variations, my favorite being the aforementioned Tabata, the on the minute work and
30 seconds work/30 seconds rest.
These are tough due to the simple fact of accountability. They also provide an excellent
opportunity to increase and train both strength and conditioning.
The on the minute work is used in many programs including Westside barbell, Crossfit,
and Kettlebell training. I employ these in each of the above system programming. The
results speak for themselves and traditional are a love hate relationship for my students.

The couplet
Aka the superset can combine exercises addressing similar or opposing movement
patterns. A simple example is a push pull or more specifically military Press with pullups.
This method allows one to accomplish more work under conditions typically which
involve more duress but at the same time provide a bit of relieve and can enhance the
other movement.

The triplet
Much like above, this concept combines 3 moves typically of different patterns. In
Crossfit there is a great workout known as Cindy which is a bodyweight based triplet.
One performs 5 pullups, 10 pushups, & 15 squats for up to 20 is a killer as
are triplets in general. Of course this type of methodology helps one accomplish a
bunch of moves and work.

Progression is key! Knowing how and when to implement a specific programming
pattern as above is more challenging than a simple numbers game. The Mathematics
and psychology of performance are far more complex then we are sometimes led to
believe. Over simplification is often a key part of under performance. Knowing ones self
and athletes is key and not everyone can or should be trained the same way. The hope
is that these programming methods, patterns, concepts above help empower one to
greater performance.

Training v.s. Working Out

Training VS Working Out
Is there a difference between training and working out? Yes! How so?
Let me confess that I am a workout junkie. I love working out doing all sorts of sports and activities. In fact for much of my life this is exactly what I have done, play and play everything and thank goodness I was fairly good at everything, which made it so much more fun for me. However, I never recognized my true potential because I was essentially a scatter brained athlete playing this and that but never putting the time and effort plus focus necessary to see myself all the way through to my potential.
So here I am now, the old guy with the stories that keep getting better and better but not what I should be telling or at least could be telling. Let me say that I see nothing wrong with being a workout kind of person. I believe that it is essential that we do what we perceive best for us. After all, who am I too tell anyone else what to do…of course that is unless you hire me to do so.
However, since I changed my mindset to one of training I have had more success, learned more about myself, the process, the journey and the taste of sweet success or as I say the dessert portion of the menu than every before. The rewards have been far greater than I would have expected.

For instance, when I first began kettlebell training the emphasis was on the basic movements in particular the swing and the snatch since this was the move that I need to perform in order to become certified. For 4 months I honed my skills with first the 2 hand swing and 1 arm swings working my groove, incorporating all the principles and learning how to effectively and efficiently move the kettlebell. After a couple weeks of swings I added the snatch to the movement starting with 16kg and low reps of 5 reps for 5 sets and over the 4 month window gradually progressing to the 24kg kettlebell for high rep sets (keep in mind the test required 28 snatches/arm with the 24kg continuously with only one switch). By sticking to these basic moves and slowly adding in the Turkish get-up, windmill, squat, clean and press over that window I was able to comfortably pass the snatch test and demonstrate both movement and teaching ability of all the above exercises thus earning my certificate.

Having a coach help guide me through this process and teach me the finer points of each move as well as the progressions helped me prepare and successfully complete the program. In addition, I truly began to understand the importance of having a real goal and the necessary attention to detail and preparation required in order to meet said goal. These skills have since helped me continue to achieve and help others achieve as well.
There is a true difference between knowing what you have to do and what you have forth coming than just ‘playing by ear’ or doing what you feel like. For instance, I know that if I keep squatting eventually those numbers are going to grow and it is only going to get more challenging, one look at my workout journal and this is very obvious. Better yet look at professional athletes such as Olympians who spend years practicing, training, refining their skills and abilities relative to their sport and in most cases nothing else! For these athletes peaking at the highest level is their main concern, years of training for one day, one moment.
See for me once I allowed myself to be trained and started to train for something my world opened to a new universe. In addition, I am truly a better coach now than ever before and through/because of my experiences I no longer work people out, I train them. The end of this is better results, more goals achieved and way less issues such as injury and attrition.
I am not saying I never ‘workout’ or work people out, but I see that training and practicing with a blueprint or outline of what I or my clients are supposed to do has led to a better results across the board. I attribute much of this to the dedication, consistency, persistence, patience and focus of the practice which in turn is increasing the skill and truly training the mind and body to function at a higher level with greater integration. 
So Below are some of my key training principles. 
Keep in mind that training is both a mind and body experience. When we place our body under stress compounded with the daily stress we incur, we are placing our central nervous system in a state where being present and aware of our life conditions and circumstances is crucial to our ability to perform at its highest levels. Training the body trains the mind and the central nervous system, therefore when planning your training regimen keep in mind that what you are truly training is the central nervous system and the brain and in doing so the by products are great training sessions which include great ‘workouts’, muscular conditioning, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular conditioning and a metamorphosis of your body!

• Choose Quality over quantity. Exercise is not so much about how much you do but more related to the quality of the movement. In this instance as in many, more is not always better and in fact for most of us non-professional athletes and weekend warrior types less truly is more. For example, in most cases doing 5 extra repetitions poorly does not serve a purpose other than to increase your risk of injury. So, focus on doing your movements with the highest degree of quality and effectiveness. What this does is train the mind and body to operate at a higher level and in a stronger and more cohesive nature. This will increase your performance capabilities and decrease potentially harmful things like injury.

• Rest and recover including nutrition and sleep are essential to progress. These factors are an equally important piece of the pie for living a fit and healthy lifestyle. For instance, lack of nutrition will negatively effect the positive (good) hormones of your body such as growth hormone, testosterone, etc., which will in turn minimize the positive aspects of your workout thereby limiting your progress. Moreover, lack of sleep will have similar effects on the hormonal structure and function of your body further minimizing your body’s ability to repair and progress. To take this one step further inadequacy in both these areas will hamper not only the positive effects of exercise but will carryover into your everyday life and contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle and therefore overall unhealthy well being.

• Do the things that make you better. When choosing exercise, food, etc. choose the things that you know make you better. This should seem obvious and indeed may be, however more often than not people do the opposite. Thus, pay attention to what makes you better and be mindful in the process of choosing. Again less is more and putting aside ego when performing is essential to truly progressing to a higher level of performance. Keep in mind performance is not only physical but truly is mental.

• Avoid training your mind and body to the point of failure. It is better to under train and go at it again the next day rather than over do it and either hurt yourself or have to rest for a few days. The key to performance is to be able to do your best and do it day in and day out, i.e. consistency. Therefore, if you over do it, putting your mind and body in conditions it is not ready for you will likely end up with a negative result. So, train smart and follow a plan and do not try to be a hero or do something you have no business doing especially if you know the risks outweigh the rewards. Note: There is a point, place and reason to go to failure but this is by no means random but is planned and accounted for!

• Listen to your mind and body. Our body is often much more aware and mindful than we are. So, if you are doing or the plan calls for something that your body or mind says it is not so sure about, listen carefully and you will thank yourself. All things being equal you will have many more chances to do this and much more time in your life to do so. Do not be afraid to rest if that is what your mind and body is telling you. Live to fight another day, being the best you can be. Keep in mind that training is a journey and requires attention to detail internally and externally! I always say that all plans are or should be written in pencil, allowing the coach or athlete to adjust on an as need basis.

• Technique, not reps, sets, and/or weight is the key. Leave the ego at the door and be willing and open to learn how to do (from someone qualified) what it is you wish and then do it right. All too often I see people setting themselves up for or at least putting themselves in harms way for the purpose of ego and/or just not knowing better. That is not a viable excuse when you are sidelined with an injury. There are knowledgable people throughout any area of life who can teach you the how to. Once you learn how to, then practice and do so as close to perfect as possible! Train for life fitness not for the WOD.

• If you train and move poorly you will develop bad habits and be in poor condition. Think posture and think the number of people who have back pain, over 80%. Daily life is not designed to maximize the human body natural movements. We live in a flexion society (sitting, round shoulders, head forward staring into the screen, etc.). These positions and the ones often used in exercise do not enhance our body’s natural function. Therefore, as related to the prior principle of technique, learn how to move and train with proper form and function. Learn to identify what it is your body needs and train/move with good habits. The key is to provide your body with good data so you can perform at high levels, pain free.

• Strength is a skill, a learned skill. Practice, practice and do so with know how and if you want to get better at a particular exercise, sport, etc. you will. If you want to bench press more weight do not spend your time on a bicycle. Strength, as with any skill takes focused, mindful and dedicated/committed action. Take the time, get on the train and enjoy the ride you will truly reap the benefits and come one step closer to your goal and mastering the skill. Again, move through your daily practice with your goal in mind. Choose wisely what you do and how you do it.

• Progression is key. You want to move forward in training as you do in life, therefore progression is key. That means having a strong program design, listening to your body/mind and following the program accordingly. Training, being fit, living a healthy lifestyle, and life in general is truly a journey. You need to know when to push, when to back off, when to rest, when to test yourself, when to challenge yourself and when to make changes. Set a goal, define and design a program to meet said goal, and then follow through with practice and mindfulness. In doing so, you will progress and put yourself closer to achieving said goal(s) and you will find many other benefits intrinsic and extrinsic.

• Clarify your intentions. What is it you want? Clearly defining what it is you want, having a goal leads too much greater reward. However, there is risk involved especially if you set your goal(s) way beyond your means. Your intentions must be clear and so should your understanding of what it takes to achieve these intended concepts. Setting reasonable goals with a bigger picture in mind will lead to greater success.

Life and training for fitness are parallels. They are not mutually exclusive or independent of each other in principal and concept. How we approach our life and our training of our body are reflective of one another. Therefore, it is our principals of living and how we live and go about our daily existence that are key to achieving in life.

One thing is for certain, in life, living at the highest quality with a daily practice that nourishes and enriches all aspects of your being is indeed a way to live a fulfilled existence with health and wealth on all levels.

Why Athletes Should Do Yoga

Yoga will make you a better athlete period! Here are the reasons

*Yoga is about breathing, that is the critical element. More importantly it is about breathe connected to movement. And as an athlete learning how to breathe, learning how to control respiration, learning how to deepen the breathe providing the body with more oxygen per breathe, slowing the heart rate, controlling the stroke volume, etc. Linking breathe and movement, saturating your body with O2 will only help you perform better, longer, and stronger.

*Yoga is about union and for the purpose of this topic it is the union of mind and body, breathe and movement. It is the ability to connect all systems of the body and help them to operate and the highest levels of efficiency and therefore effectiveness leading to a more integrated and fused approach to movement and a more relaxed state of mind within the movement. Yoga will make your mind and body move with more grace, more steadiness, more fluidity, more control, balance, power, speed, endurance, agility, flexibility and stability.

*Yoga will strengthen your body, your connective tissue, your structure and integration, your muscles, your breathe and your mind

*Yoga will increase your range of motion, your flexibility, your stability and your natural anatomical posture increasing your bodies ability to function at the highest level.

*Yoga will help you learn how to meditate for the purposes of relaxing your mind and slowing down all things going on around you. It will ground you amist chaos and in all sports there is chaos at all times, but it is the athlete who can slow things down and act ahead of and according to what is going to and what is in fact happening at the same time. Calming the mind, creating a stillness and understanding of the fluctuations of the mind is integral to all aspects of life and athletics is just one example arena.

*Yoga is an athletic form of movement and stillness. It teaches one how the body functions and how to address its own personal needs. There is not a person out there who could not benefit from this and athletes who know more about their body and their needs related to sport and life thereafter are in a much better position to be health and fit to perform.

*Yoga is a way to stretch and enhance flexibility, open the deep aspects of the bodies connective tissue, enhance range of motion and a part of the prehabilitation, rehab, restorative, regenerative and recovery process. The difference is it is an complete integrative system of health and wellness that is far beyond what most people do and think when it comes to stretching. After all, flexibility and creating the openness and range of motion in the body is far more than just about folding forward in a standing or seated position to stretch the hamstrings.

This is just the basics, a little stream of consciousness related to some of what I have observed due to yoga in myself and others. I am not the only athlete or coach encouraging athletes to take into consideration the addition of a yoga practice. It does not have to be a 90 minute practice but it is one you should learn from a teacher who can analyze your body, your sport and see how it fits.

I do know this, it is my most important practice and it is the difference in my practice and ability. My mind and body function at a much higher level and this integration means I operate at a higher level of sequencing, fusion, function and action making it much easier for me to move and to do so with precision, coordination, strength, power, speed, endurance, agility, balance and other factors that define the athlete.

This gallery is why I do yoga, all the above concepts help me to perform a variety of sports at a high level, some professional others collegiate or amateur, but nonetheless I perform better because of Yoga.

Do not take my word for it, try it and find out yourself!