I often get frustrated with what I see in fitness the past few years. Ideas and concepts we threw out years ago for being ineffective, injurious, or just old school idiotic find themselves thrust into our face again and again online and in the fitness mags.
Remember Pat Matzdorf? Well, you should. He discovered some “secret” Eastern Bloc training methods including one called “Depth Jumping.” In 1971, he broke the World Record in the High Jump…you HAVE to remember this right?…with a leap of 7’3.” The Track and Field World began leaping off boxes, steps and bleachers to all increase your spring.
Even though Fred Wilt called these jumps “Plyometrics,” one can find references all over the place discussing Shock methods long before Matzdorf. There were some warning, some caveats, before tossing these haphazardly into your training. Some argued that you need a double bodyweight back squat BEFORE you get any value from these movements. Don Chu (1998) recommends that you should handle 50 repetitions in the squat with 60% of bodyweight before doing plyometrics. (A set of 50 with 60% of bodyweight is NOT that hard. But do it. Eat a lot of fiber tonight.)
Oh, and one little thing that I have observed (and I am fully prepared to be wrong): you get to really use these ONCE in your career. What I mean is this: when you start using them, whatever increases you get are all you will ever get from shock training or plyos. Like sport specificity and isometrics, it helps. But, it only helps once. Of course, it works: For elite athletes who squat double bodyweight.
So, why haven’t you heard of Pat Matzdorf? My senior year at Utah State we had two (TWO!!!!!) teammates jump this world record mark of 7’3.” It wasn’t the shock jumping. It was a genius athlete Dick Fosbury (who also needed modern pads as NOBODY lands in a sawdust pit on the back of their neck), who decided to go over backwards.
Interval Training was invented, in a sense, after Roger Bannister used it to train for the world’s first sub four-minute mile. Otis Chandler, a Stanford Shot Putter who also took third in the Nationals in weightlifting, proved, once and for all, that lifting made you throw farther. He later became the Publisher of the LA Times. Robert Gajda became Mr. America by circuit training (PHA is what he called it) and John Jessee wrote books throughout the 1960s on training with things like clubbells, Kettlbells, sandbags, and an array of movements that have only been recently invented.
Here is my point: as I type this, people are beginning to argue that much of what you see in gyms today has only been around a decade. It’s the worst kind of ignorance and I usually define ignorance as what we choose to ignore.
Yesterday, Nathan Holiday came out with an excellent blog piece, one I actually enjoyed (here you go for the link) but he included these two lines:
“CrossFit has done more to change the landscape of the health and fitness field than any other athletic movement. If you deny that, you either don’t understand what it is, or your emotions are fueling your opinion.”
At best, as I noted on Facebook, Greg Glassman’s influence in strength and conditioning doesn’t really show up much until about 2003. In my October 2002 edition of Get Up, I have my first mention of Crossfit because I thought this line had great merit:
“Heavy load weight training, short rest between sets, high heart rates, high intensity training, and short rest intervals, though not entirely distinct components, are all associated with a high neuroendocrine response.”
Like most people, I didn’t know what “neuroendocrine” meant so I looked it up and discovered that it was a hormonal response that affected nerves. I had seen this discussed in a book by Phil Maffetone years before, his 1994 work “In Fitness and in Health: Everyone Is an Athlete,” and I still enjoy Maffetone’s system for approaching health, fitness and wellness.
As I reviewed the editions before October (all the editions are available for free here on my website), I found some gems:
British Javelin Throwers Training Program
Power Clean: 60K x 10
Squat: 70K x 10
Power Snatch: 50K x 10
Front Squat: 60K x 10
You did these in a circuit, one after another, then take your heart rate. You did this three times and, yes, you were finished.
The August 2002 edition introduced us to Jim Smith. His article, “A Different Kind of Battle” was the clearest early piece on carrying, or hauling, stuff to train. Certainly, Ralph Maughan had been having his athletes drag stuff since the late 1950s, but Jim’s article really got me thinking a lot more about the future of all of this craziness. I looked at back at the end of this edition and reworked a very successful training program I used in the early 1990s:
The next big issue would deal with the method of getting into condition. I would now recommend dumping all that superset stuff and get out sleds, canvas, dumbbells, and wheel barrows and have a few months of pulling, pushing and dragging. I sprint with an 80 pound stone in my backyard and it does miles more for my “conditioning ”than a couple sets of ten. Coach Maughan was right about plowing!”
The next edition, may be the best ever. Steve Shafley and I discuss One Lift a Day in enough detail to smother all idiotic questions. Then, Jim Smith discusses “Primal Cardio.” The date is September 2002 and Jim is talking about Bear Crawls, Alligator Walks and Sandbag Carries.
Sprint 50 yards then,
Walk about 50 yards
Bear Crawl 50 yards then,
Backwards Sprint 50 yards then,
Backwards Bear Crawl
Sprint 50 yards
Backwards Alligator Walk
Repeat either of those a few times and get back to me! Also, in this issue Eric Aragon, who is not only a good friend but the guy who drove me to the hospital after I hurt my wrist, gave us “Less is More.” I then invented this term after he gave me this article.
Lastly, even the term “MetCon,” also was around before “all of this” as this is how Ellington Darden and Arthur Jones explained that weird inability for the whole system to keep up, even though your Heart Rate is reasonable and the muscles you are about to use are “fresh,” but you just can’t go on. Like all things “HIT Related,” there is no way to answer it to anyone’s satisfaction. Here is a link for a discussion of it on a HIT site…and without comment you will see “Hydra” in the URL.
Getting back to Nathan’s excellent blog, let me simply show what bothered me…it was this line:
If you deny that, you either don’t understand what it is, or your emotions are fueling your opinion.
It is this: the “Either/Or” issue. I have been with people who have told me “Either you believe in X or you will go to Hell.” It must be nice to have a side job as Chief Justice of Judgement Day, but so often now we are finding that the fitness industry is falling into Moral Theology. It usually sounds like this:
Are Back Squats good or bad? Film at Eleven.
“Film at Eleven” was an attempt at humor. The answer, of course, is that squats are Evil.
Either/or is an attempt to put you in a corner. “Either put a ring on my finger or I am out of here.” Either/or is the enemy of such important and insightful answers such as “It depends” and “Let’s work on this more.”
Crossfit is PART of the story of modern fitness. Like Nautilus machines, where it will be in a few years depends on exactly what Nathan addressed in his blog, especially his insight/demand for better coaching. I have been paid as a coach since 1979 and I still sit in the front row at workshops. You NEVER get it all right.