Heart Rate Training Redefined - Part III: Fast, Then Far

In Part I we introduced you to the notion that fitness is in the muscles, not the cardiovascular system. In Part II we discussed the principles of Specificity and Return on Investment (ROI), urging you to think about the alternative to offseason strength training.

Let's put these together in an example that illustrates the Endurance Nation training method compared to traditional endurance training. It's TeamEN against TeamYou and to make things interesting, we'll be playing tug-o-war!

The Teams

Our teams are going to pull against each other on the rope. You figure that the match might last a long time, so you'll need to train your aerobic fitness. Offseason Training Article Number 57 that you've read tells you that running and cycling at low to moderate intensities are excellent ways to build your aerobic fitness, as measured by your heart rate.

So you and your team follow this advice, while pounding out lots of bench presses, squats, bicep curls and seated rows. You're very serious about this whole business and all this varied training requires 10 to 13 hours a week...in the cold and dark of winter, shoehorned into holiday shopping, family activities, and closing out those end-of-the-year projects at work.

We, however, take a look at our team and see that some of the dudes are wearing blue shirts that say "Team Slow-Twitch." Others are in red, "Team Fast-Twitch" shirts. We put them on the rope and see that the blue-shirted guys can pull all day with a moderate amount of force.

The red-shirted guys can really yank hard on the rope a couple times, but then they are done and need to sit on the bench for a while to recover. They all have real lives and can only train six to eight hours a week in the offseason.

To accrue the biggest bang from training-time dollar spent, the TeamEN plan might look like this:

  • If you want to get really good at pulling on a rope, pull on a rope! Since all the muscles have to work together to pull the rope, doesn't it make sense to work the muscles in this same fashion? What's a better way to do this than applying the Principal of Specificity? Why work these same muscles in a different capacity and then try to transfer the strength? More importantly, we're busy. If our job is to pull on a rope, the most efficient use of our time is to meet in the sand lot, tug on the damn rope, then go about our business.
  • Our Game Day Strategy is to start out with the blue shirts, since they can pull all day. Then, as the competition requires more force, we will bring in the red shirts and stick them on the rope as needed.

TeamEN Training

So how does this ROI-driven, Principle of Specificity strategy manifest itself in training?

  • Have the Blues pull hard on the rope for a long time so they can become stronger and longer rope pullers.
  • Have the Reds pull hard a lot—if some can convert from Reds to Blues, then more Blues can be put on the rope and we can all pull longer before Reds are needed from the bench.
  • When working on pulling, Blues and Reds pull hard—both groups need to be the strongest and endure the longest as is possible.

The Showdown

After 16 weeks of training, the two teams meet. Remember that each team has 20 members: 15 Blue (Slow-Twitch) and five Red (Fast-Twitch).

First, it's Blue on Blue. The pulling starts and since our Blues are very good at pulling on a rope (remember, we've focused on higher intensity, event-specific training sessions, not lifting weights, etc), we only have to put eight Blues on the rope to your 10 Blues.

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