Two minutes into his workout, Louie Vito is already dripping sweat. Rivulets run down the Olympic snowboarder's legs, pooling on the floor as he clutches 50-pound dumbbells and launches onto a 24-inch-high box. "This sucks," he pants, smiling. "Thanks for throwing me into the fire."
"It's what I do," says his trainer, John Schaeffer, with a shrug. "Now drop the dumbbells and run steps. . .fast!"
Vito takes off toward a staircase leading to the second floor of the Winningfactor Sports Sciences training center, Schaeffer's gym in a converted farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania.
He's in for another two minutes of grueling work. Next up: a five-move medicine-ball circuit done without rest. "Ballistic moves performed under extreme fatigue recruit muscles you don't normally use," says Schaeffer, dropping one of the many insights that have made him among the most sought-after trainers in sports. "Louie is lucky it's a moderate-intensity day—on high-intensity days, I don't let him drop the weights."
For Schaeffer, a former world champion powerlifter and kickboxer, fatigue isn't just the result of exercise; it's the goal. And anyone who doubts his methods need only consider the accomplishments of the athletes he has trained, including eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno, world heavyweight boxer Alexander Zolkin, and 2013 NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy. "John takes you to the very brink of your edge and then brings you back," says Ohno. "But he never pushes you past it."
The results can be almost freakish: Vito taking NFL athletes twice his size to task in mixed-sport workouts; Ohno leg-pressing 2,000 pounds (14 times his body weight); McCoy changing direction in two-tenths of a second at full speed while carrying 70-pound dumbbells. "The training is tough, but my athletes quickly come to realize that they have much more energy and muscle power than they ever knew they had," says Schaeffer. He has dedicated 30 years to mastering ways to trigger that realization and capitalize on it. Learn his five training secrets to unlock your own potential and take your workouts to a whole new level.
The Fuel Rule
Don't Be Afraid of Fat
"The thing that most radically improves athletes' performance is proper nutrition," says Schaeffer, who developed the recipe below to help clients push harder in workouts and recover faster afterward. "Most of the calories come from high-quality fats, a more efficient source of energy than carbs," he says. "Plus, your body is actually less likely to store fat as fat."
Combine 1 cup raw oats, 4 Tbsp coconut oil, 2 Tbsp whey protein, and 1 cup applesauce. That makes four servings (no baking). Eat one, wait an hour, and hit the gym.
Brief Workouts Are Best
Muscle growth and fat loss are proportional to hours spent lifting, right? "They're not," says Schaeffer. He points to Ohno's workouts leading up to the 2010 Olympics, which rarely lasted longer than 30 minutes. "But he did more in that time than most guys do in two hours," Schaeffer says. "Workout density trumps duration because it forces you to keep the intensity high."
Slice "fat" from your workouts—that is, socializing at the water fountain, chatting up the brunette on the treadmill, and watching SportsCenter highlights. Then give your rest periods the same attention you do sets and reps. "Keep them to 30 seconds or less," says Schaeffer.
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