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E72 | Keep It Real #16: Training Expectations vs Reality

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On today’s episode, Greg, Doug and Trevor #KeepItReal while discussing training expectations versus reality.

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Episode Transcription:

This is the Resilient Performance Podcast. Welcome to Keep It Real number 16, uh, we got a text message recently from a coach friend of ours, um, asking about a client who he works with, who wanted some programming that had some extensive orthopedic issues and is in the Marines. And he was just kind of asking questions generally about what someone like that, with the specifics of his case and orthopedic issues, what are some things that they should avoid or do. And then generally speaking, you know, with our experience, what are some things that someone in that career field should be doing? So that’s just kind of brought up the, the topic, uh, generally about what people sort of imagine they need to be able to do.

Um, you know, if say a patient comes in and they’re an athlete, or they just want to have general fitness. They’re sort of perception of what they need might not actually match what we think or, you know, or what they, what they actually need to continue to move forward and progress and feel good and move well, and be able to train and perform for the, you know, for the long haul.

So that was just sort of the topic to go with. Um, so when you guys want to take it first and when was it? Yeah, I mean, I think if we’re talking about like the military to begin with. A lot of times, the people’s initial exposure to physical training is in a selection course where the goal is actually not to get them fit and prepare them for their job it’s to it’s to select them and to weed out people that they don’t think have the physical, psychological fortitude to proceed with the remainder of the training.

So in a lot of ways, their initial exposure to physical, I don’t even want to call it physical training, but to just like structured physical activity is basically punishment where the idea is to get people, to try to quit. And so a lot of times they take that mindset with them. Once they do qualify and get to their units, they think they have to train and go for broke every time they go to the gym.

So that’s, that’s kinda number one. So selection is not training, um, and you know, physical, physical training. Can be a good proxy for some of the other characteristics that you really want to select for it, because you can’t take an untrained person and have them do missions in Afghanistan or Syria, or somewhere like that.

You want to see that they can handle discomfort, work well as a team, think their way through problems and being sleep deprived and physically and psychologically stressed. Is a proxy for some of the things that you really care about that you can’t do in training initially because of the time financial and logistical constraints.

But then once people get to a unit, even if it’s like a special, well operations unit, there’s often this perception that like, well, you have to be ready for anything. Therefore like your training has to reflect that, but you know, it’s the old Axiom, like if you train for everything, you train for nothing.

So I think that like with any other sport, You have to do a needs analysis and figure out, like, what are the, what are the real priorities from a physical standpoint? I think for, for the military, it’s you want to have relative strength. You want to have really good, you know, like aerobic ability. And do you also want to have the ability to maybe do things in short bursts?

If you have to like sprint to get behind cover or like pick somebody up, you know, drag a letter, that kind of thing. Um, well, you tend to not need is the stuff in the middle. And that’s, that’s the case in a lot of team sports too, but ironically enough, a lot of the training that people in the military gravitate towards is the middle stuff.

A lot of like, really like glycolytic work. Um, you know, where it’s, they don’t do a lot of workout, low intensity in a more like aerobic type zone, which is, which tends to be the kind of stuff they do. The most of they don’t do a lot of like real. Relative strength work. Um, they do a lot of like training to failure and kind of like a, like a, a bodybuilding or like a higher rep range.

And they’re doing a lot of just like more glycolytic type things. Metcons and they also do a lot of things. And Trevor can maybe speak more about this because he brought it up before our call things that I have a really high learning curve and technical component. So, like, I don’t want to have the whole like should athletes or military people do like Olympic lifts as an example debate right now, because that could be its own conversation.

But like if someone’s never Olympic lifted and they’re in the military, I don’t, I personally don’t think that learning how to Olympic lifts is worth the investment and time when like a special operations unit, they have to be good at shooting, uh, parachuting at diving, uh, communications at medicine, Atlanta navigation, all these different things.

And they don’t even have enough time to do there. There tactical and technical disciplines enough. So to like take something that, that requires, you know, even more than like two minutes to do well in the gym, just to me is not worth it to achieve the kind of, kind of outputs they need. So that’s kind of maybe a, an overview of what I think that population needs, but like you said, a lot of times their perception of what they need doesn’t match the reality of like, they don’t have to be, you know, Olympic decathletes and CrossFit games, champions, and.

You know, iron man athletes, they need to be like physically prepared enough to do their job and then have a little bit of a buffer it’s needed to be fit and certainly way more fit than like the average person and need to be physical generalists, but they don’t need to be great at any one thing. They don’t need to train like powerlifters.

I mean, I’ve seen some units where they’ll bring out like, you know, a really high level powerlifting coach to teach the squat, deadlift and bench, and then they’ll have like a, a champion kettlebell lifter teach kettlebell lifts. And it’s like very like specialized in piecemeal, but there’s no one to kind of like put things together.

And so these, a lot of these people don’t know, like how do, how does all this stuff fit into a unified training program? I think that simplicity for this population and even in sports is reign Supreme because the, the, the complexity should be in like the, the actual job preparation, not in, not in the ancillary or the supportive training.

I think your, your point Doug, about like being generalist is super important. And I, when we, like, when we work with, uh, um, you know, we worked with in the past, it’s like it just spending so much time trying to learn like the technical side of, of fitness, meaning like the different, you know, Olympic lifts.

Cause those are very temporary. Major or whatever it is. If they’re something with a really high scope component in the weight room, it does take away from my third cognitive real estate to be able to focus on the technical and tactical parts of the job, which is a million times more important than learning how to like appropriately do a kettlebell snatch or, or, or an Olympic lift or something of that nature.

Um, and I think, you know, if you are spending so much time trying to learn that the technical component of things in the gym, it’s going to be like, it’s a, it’s going to take a long time. So then B you probably won’t. Either you’re going to not be strong enough. You’re not going to get enough fitness adaptation from it in a population that Jen like genuinely needs to be fit to be able to do their job well.

Or you’re going to try to get a fitness component when you don’t have the skill component of it. And then you’re going to have a higher risk of injury. So I think that’s why, like when we were programming for, for that population, we try to do things with like, as little learning curve as possible that really worked on like those output based qualities, more than worked on, um, More than work than like the actual skill component of things.

So like, like the strength work was a lot of like, you know, search or squats or something really simple for a lower body strength that you can just pick up a weight and kind of move and there’s are the risk reward. There’s not, not huge risk with it. And we will do a lot of things like sled pushes and sled drags and those kinds of things that.

Keep their joints in pretty good positions. And again, have such a low learning curve, but you can still really good get a good fitness adaptation to it. And then I would add with what you’re talking about with like the low intensity aerobic work, I think for most people. So in that population, because of the selection stuff that is so much on your feet running all the time, we didn’t really program a lot of running for that population.

It was a lot more. Like the things that Doug crushes still like, you know, HICT type stuff, whether you’re walking on a, on a inclined treadmill with a weight vest or whether you’re doing, uh, HICT step ups with a weight rest for 2030 minutes, just doing something like that, where there’s really, you know, low impact on the joints.

It is a more of a longer duration thing where the velocity of the movement is really, really low. Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. And then, so going back to, with your experience and like with the general, you know, everybody in the military is doing different jobs of course, physically, but if you had to put like numbers on it, what’s the, is the age old question?

Like what is strong enough? Like what is enough endurance? Like, could you put some sort of metric to it for people who are listening? Yeah, I guess I would like to see, I think most people in that population should probably be able to. Trap bar deadlift, double their body weight, which like, that’s not crazy.

Right. Um, and it’s not, it’s not two and a half. It’s not three times. Like, so if you’re, you know, like 180 pounds, 200 pounds that puts you like the 400 pound range and that, that might even be more than you need. But I think if you can do that, like you don’t need to get stronger, right. Aerobically it’s, it’s a little more challenging because a lot of the benchmarks that people typically use for that population are running based.

Like, I don’t know if you can say, if you can run, I’m sure. Like if you did enough normative data, you could, you could find that like, if you can run a mile in a certain amount of time, but like you have the aerobic fitness, but like, what I would want to do if in my perfect world is I want to get people to do some kind of like an inclined treadmill test with a standardized weight.

So, you know, depending on probably somewhere between like 60 and 80 pounds, which is. Probably at the higher end of what people should be carrying on a mission. I know they carry more sometimes, but you’re almost like combat and effective if you’re carrying more than that. Um, and then get normative data on like, all right, like what, what’s a reasonable distance to cover, like in, in an hour, you know, on like, say a 25% grade with 60 to 80 pounds, I wouldn’t go more than an hours because like now your, your testing is taking up, you know, it’s detracting from your training time.

But a lot of times, like with, you know, people want to find shortcuts, especially with, with aerobic work and you just can’t do a bunch of Metcons and glycolytic work, and then expect that it’s going to prepare you for, you know, like a 10 hour Overland movement. Like you might be able to get away with it, but it’s an accident you’re not really prepared for it.

Um, so there, there are unique annotations you get from doing things over an hour. And I think that like, even though time is a big constraint as population they need to spend. One or two days a week approaching continuous activity for an hour to get those adaptations. Um, and that, that’s why we liked the HICT stuff because, because the intensity might be a little bit higher with an HICT variation than what they might use on the job.

You’re getting the aerobic adaptation, but you’re also because the intensity is higher. The duration is a little bit lower and it’s more realistic for people to have competing demands. I actually want to do a podcast with the guys who wrote the, uh, the uphill athlete book. And I reached out to. One of them and haven’t heard back yet.

So if anybody has a connection with the athlete, guys, maybe try to facilitate that because you know, they talk about how like they work with even some climbers and Alpine athletes who like one of the, I listened to their podcast. And one of the athletes that work with is a PA and he’s on his feet surgical PA’s on his feet, like 12 hours a day.

So he really can’t do like three hour workouts when he gets home. So they tried to find ways to actually prepare him for ultra marathons. Using kind of like a lower volume approach. And if you’re going to do lower volume, you’ve got to raise the intensity, but you don’t want the intensity to be so high that you can’t accumulate enough volume.

So it’s always that, that sweet spot, but I would say double bodyweight trap bar deadlift, um, and then possibly even into like some kind of a carry, like, so maybe even like a trap bar deadlift for a couple of reps, not a one RM, maybe even something like, let’s say three 50 for three to five reps. Pick it up and be able to walk a certain distance with it.

I think if you can do that now you’ve got lower body strength covered. You’ve got grip, strength covered. You’ve got the specificity of like carrying a litter and that kind of thing. I’d want to have some kind of like an aerobic type event, like the weighted, um, inclined treadmill walk for about 45 minutes to an hour and try just like pass fail.

Can you do this distance? So I’m kind of like a pull-up test, maybe strict pull-ups with like, Twenty-five pounds to simulate body armor. Um, I would want to see people do that maybe like in the eight to 10 range of strict pull-ups with that 25 pounds. And then possibly even some kind of like a, this is where I want to have some kind of like a sprint thing, but I wouldn’t want guys running like forties, you know, because that’s higher risk.

I don’t know if I’d want guys even doing like a hundred. Cut. You know, so maybe that’s where I might, even though it’s a test go kind of more than glycolytic range, like, like a 300 or something with no kit, because you have to be fast to run a good 300 and you have to have a little bit of kind of, you know, that’s going to be a different reflection of their aerobic fitness as well.

So for a test, I might like something like that and want to see guys, you know, again, this is just a pass fail. Right? How long would you be able to break. Break like 55 seconds, something like that, which again is not terribly fast, but like, I want, I want the, I want it to be the kind of thing where if you can pass the test, we know you’re kind of mission ready.

And so if a guy can trap our deadlift double bodyweight, walk around with it, do eight to 10 pull-ups and kit, um, you know, some kind of like an inclined treadmill thing with weight and then run a 300 and let’s say like, you know, some low fifties. Yeah, I think now you’ve got someone like that really covers the broad spectrum of physical abilities that you need to do that kind of mission.

Very cool. And then, um, Trevor, you kind of cut out on us for a second there, generally speaking, I’m wondering, you know, have you guys had any other cases non-military related people come in where. You know, the, the expectations didn’t meet reality on, on what they should or shouldn’t be doing. And I’m just trying to think of examples from this.

I would say with some of the people who they’re, their number one form of exercises is race, you know, running, whether it’s, you know, they do. Whether they do do marathons or half or half marathons or whatever, but they’re coming to us again. They typically come to us in PG because they have some sort of ache or pain or symptom, um, or they kind of, they need to be doing some strength work, but in their head, when, when, cause they’ve had other people, whether it’s friends or family or coaches, and if it had them to tell them that they need to be doing strength, work in their head, they think that, you know, the.

They they’re currently running five days a week for 60 to 90 minutes. They think in their head that they need to be strength training for five days a week for 60 to 90 minutes when they currently do none. So for those people, I always have a conversation that’s like, I need you to do, you know, 20 minutes of a couple of really simple exercises, like a sled push or a kettlebell deadlift or whatever it is.

You know, for, for probably a total of 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times a week, and that’s probably a NUS enough of a shrink component for you to be able to get the adaptation that we need because you’re currently doing nothing. So I think there is that almost like an all or nothing mindset for a lot of people in terms of what they should or should not be doing.

It’s like this adding in something new, you don’t need a ton of it because you do none of it. So we add in. A teeny, teeny, but we’re going to have probably enough volume and enough intensity that we’re going to get the adaptation that we need for you to be able to do the other things that you actually need to be able to do.

Yeah. One example I’m thinking of, um, also is like people will come in or cause I’m working with a lot of like college age or high school aged kids where they’ve trained for a few years now and they might imagine that. They need to be doing what they’ve been doing for the past few years for like forever.

So I’m just thinking off the top of my head with like a trap bar deadlift. For example, I had a conversation with a college kid about like, sort of what you were just saying before Doug is like, how much is enough? And once you reach it enough, then just keep it and don’t continue to push past there. And then you can shift your focus to more of like, all right, I’m strong enough.

So now let’s get more powerful. Let’s get faster. Let’s be more elastic. Let’s. Get really, really good with change of direction, um, short ground contact times type of stuff. Um, and sort of shift your focus to that while then like just kind of touching your maximal strength stuff less frequently. So you’re going to feel even better.

Um, and then, you know, so your, your training should change as you get better. And that was sort of, the expectation is like, well, I’ve done, you know, some, some hard effort, max effort type strength work. Sort of like every off season or like year round for years. And I need to keep doing that and keep pushing the envelope.

So that was one example. I thought though. Yeah. I think the reality is like people should be training this stuff all the time. Anyway, so. Even, this is like almost a periodization talk, but people talk about how, like you have to have like a strength-based to do power work, let’s say, and that may or may not be true, but I don’t think for like, if you’re a speed based athlete, there should ever be a time during the year where you don’t do any speed work and all you do is lift.

You might prioritize strength a little bit, but I mean like, are there any good sprinters where like, you know what, like, I’m going to devote more attention to lifting than I am to just sprinting. Like, I don’t think that actually exists. So once you get to the point that you’re strong enough, like you’re going to keep strength training, and maybe even the same number of days a week, but you’re just not going to like, try to go for max.

Isn’t like, there’s no benefit to trying to like, to PR in the gym. So like, if you can, if you can get to that double bodyweight trap bar deadlift, like you can keep trying to progress the weights, but you should never feel like in training that you’re going to like. Missile lift, or I have to go to failure because now, now there’s like, you know, more of a chance for them to go wrong.

So you can keep trying to improve in all these things. But I don’t think there should be the urgency, even if at any point you’re training were doing a supportive thing, like lifting, you should feel like you have to set like a PR like as long as the weights are, are going up, then, you know, you’re getting stronger.

So there’s no reason to me to like, have to test it and. No any experience in that, or even people who focus solely on strength will tell you that when you’ve been lifting for a long time, like the weights, don’t just go up. So you might, even if you’re trying to get stronger and prioritize again, the weights are going to go up.

When they feel like going up, you’re not necessarily going to have control over how much additional weight you can do. So once you have enough training experience and training, age things, kind of plateau, anyway, it’s more about just being consistent, not necessarily trying to, you know, to push the weights heavier.

anything else on this topic guys, or anything else you want to talk about? It doesn’t have to be related to it. I think it’s the last thing is just the whole like risk reward thing. I mean, regardless of the sport or occupation, um, there’s going to be enough orthopedic stress and all these, these sports and in these occupations that.

The goal of strength training is to just try to increase that, you know, that physiological potential, that, that bank account, so to speak. And if you can do that without having to withdraw as much in the process, that’s, that’s the goal. So, um, like using the military people as an example, like. Some of them, if they’re like a unit where they do a lot of shooting, they might be in body armor every single day for hours at a time.

So like for that population, like maybe doing like really heavy single leg work, it seems to make more sense to do that than to do like a lot of back squatting and conventional deadlifting and even trapper to look like I wouldn’t trap or to lift that population more than once a week. And if I did, I want to make sure that it wasn’t when they had a lot of like, Lumbar fatigue from wearing body armor all day.

So I’d want to make sure it was done at the right time of the week. Um, because like no one cares these guys aren’t making their money because how much they deadlift or squat or bench in any sport, unless it’s powerlifting. So, you know, we can, we can talk about trying to get specific with it, but all these people are kind of the same they’re human beings first.

Like how do we prioritize their health and longevity? And their performance while also developing strength, speed, power conditioning, um, and the, the health and longevity piece, I think should be like the priority, because if you’re not available for your job, it doesn’t matter how fit you are. And availability is the best of the best ability in sports.

Yeah. I was really like your point there, Doug, about it’s like pretty much everybody needs to be a generalist unless you are one of the, you know, Like a track and field athlete where you’re super specific in terms of you just have to have be really elite at this one output, or if you’re a power lifter in that regard, like most teams were athletes and kind of the military population as well.

It’s like they have to be able to kind of do everything in different amounts, which is why their training should, like you said, take into consideration the most important thing that will keep them. They’ll either keep their job, which is the technical tactical component. So understanding like the practice schedule and how intensive practices are and what they’re doing outside of there.

It’s time with, with us, whether we’re PTs or a strength coaches really should we, we need to have that information because it is going to impact like our, our day to day selection and exercise, selection, and programming and progression and periodization and all that stuff. So I think it’s just a great point of like, we always have to look at.

Kind of the totality of what the person is dealing with on, on, in their life and in their sport or in their, in their job with regards to the kind of military population like we’ve been talking about today, they’ll be able to give them what they need at that time while keeping them healthy enough that they can go and do their job as effectively as they can.

Awesome. Well, that’s all let’s wrap this one up, I think, straight to the point type of episode. I like it. You guys have anything else? Thanks everybody. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.