Archive for the ‘Strength and Conditioning for Performance’ Category

This exercise is a step up from the swing. It can be an exercise by itself and it is also a very good drill to practice a part of the classic Long Cycle (AKA Clean and Jerk)

Most people learn quickly by watching. So here is a short video of the exercise. You may get by after simply watching the video. Or you may need to read a bit more about the details. But what you can never do is to get better at the movement without practicing it repeatedly- over and over…again and again.

You can also hear the exhalation. When you feel confident in the exercise you can copy how I breath. Or simply exhale rhythmically. It follows that you inhale automatically if you exhale hard. What you should not do is hold your breath.

If you think you need more tips on how to do the exercise, read on. It may be boring since it has some technical terms but some people understand and improve skills better of they have a deeper understanding on how the things are done.

The movement is not slow, so you may need to re-read the description below a few more times to relate to the movement.

Breakdown of the movement


From the initial starting position, apply enough force to swing the kettlebell (or kb) backwards. This is part is called the “Backswing”. It will then come to a stop and at that time, the forearm of the holding hand is pushing against the hip. Backswing ends when you push the forearm forward with the hip to propel the kb forward.


With your application of force to push with your hip, the kb will change direction and will swing forward. This part may be called the “Acceleration phase”. The kb swings forward at a fast motion. Some textbooks describe ballistic training which involves movements like throwing.

The speed described by the books starts at around 1.7 m/s. I measured the speed of the kb in Snatch (which has the acceleration phase) with a linear position transducer and the sensor says the highest velocity in the whole movement cycle is around 2m/s to almost 3m/s. Sometimes even higher. Speed is reduced slightly when heavier kb is used.

I mentioned this to show the potential of kb exercises especially those with a swing component, to enhance explosive power.

Acceleration Pull:

As the kb moves forward, it follows a curved path as it rises since it is held by the hand. Approximately -45 to -30 degrees before the arm assumes a horizontal position (0 degrees), pull with just enough force. The pull starts from the ground with the foot of your kb side giving a quick push, then your torso twists s little, the scapula of the holding arm starts to pull back.


The shoulders move up and back, and then the elbow bends. The hand relaxes to allow the handles to rotate and the hand to reinserts deeper into the handle. The ball of the bell then rests on a triangular “rack” formed by the volar part of the forearm, the biceps, and the pectoralis major (chest). This is also known as “Rack” position since the kb is racked or resting.

The movement from the starting position to the racked position is called “Clean”. Most likely this name is taken from the “Clean” in weightlifting since they are quite similar.


From the racked position, slightly twist the torso and push forward with the shoulder to drop the kb. The hand and forearm will guide the trajectory of the kb.

As the kb is dropping, the hand is slightly relaxed to position from being deeply inserted into a cyclindrical grip with the fingers wrapped around the handle. Most lifters practice having the middle finger be aligned with the middle of the handle. This prevents extra wriggle at the backswing since the weight will be balanced.

As the kb drops and follows a curved path backwards, the backswing of the next cycle has started.

The big secret:

Keep repeating as many reps as required! While focusing on only 1 aspect among the phases described. Keep practicing until you feel more competent at that area. Then practice some more to make it more reflex like. Then focus on another aspect and repeat the process. Then practice your improved version. Repeat and try to polish your technique. As you keep practicing, your fitness also improves which helps a lot in proper execution.

You can move up in kettlebell weight as your technique improves. Generally, it is prudent to practice with “lighter” loads if you are not so familiar with the movement. As you practice, you naturally get better. Strength is also improved and it is but natural to challenge yourself to the next level by lifting higher loads.

These are not the only factors but when you follow them, they help a lot.

And if you want to move to another level, seek professional services of qualified and experienced coaches. It does make a world of difference as long as you know what you want and want it bad enough.

Comment below if you have questions or reactions.

The Kettlebell snatch is one of the two lifts in the biathlon event in Kettlebell Sport. If you are not in it for competition, it is still a very dynamic and useful lift. It is almost a ballistic lift except that you do not throw the kettlebell but you, well, snatch it. It is an overhead and fast lift. It depends on your training goal if you want to do a few repetitions- like 10 and below, or do more, like 20’s and beyond.

But before you do so many reps, it is better to polish your snatch technique. Many, or probably all lifters who are learning how to do the kettlebell snatch experienced some slight bruising on their forearm. That is because the bell slammed hard on the forearm. It can be avoided by a combination of proper hand insertion and for some, a slight dip. There is more than one technique to do the snatch. In the video, one type is shown, although it may be a slight combination of two techniques especially for the right arm.

It is a great exercise or developing strength-endurance. It involves most major joints and muscle groups, it improves the function of your “posterior chain” of muscles, and it can even help improve your cardio-respiratory endurance to a certain extent. Over all, it is a great exercise that gives you a great bang for your buck by improving a lot of fitness and even performance related fitness components.

Each lifter will have a technique which would be best suited or him or her. And again, like everything, you need to learn some fundamental skills and then practice, practice, practice so you can improve. Good luck!

Late last year, I had the honor to support a runner from my beloved city. Sandi Menchi came all the way to Hong Kong from Baguio city, Philippines to participate in “The North Face 100- Hong Kong 2016”. She was endorsed by Sir Jonel Mendoza, our editor – in -chief at frontRunner.


The finish line finally! (Photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

Just to make it clear, I am not a dietician nor a nutritionist. I am a Strength and Conditioning coach. So I may not be very technical in my approach to nutrition. But I try to be practical and to make things simpler. It would be useless to make a detailed and complicated chart that computes the minute nutritional and energy requirements of an activity if it cannot be implemented.

Our muscle tissues are our “engine”. We need glucose, stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver, for fuel when we run races. We need our body fat to keep us insulated, as well as a steady energy source for low level activities. Running 100 kilometres requires a lot of energy and fluid. Our muscles store energy in the form of glycogen which will be broken down to glucose when needed as fuel. Our liver and muscle cells are able to store glycogen but is only able to fuel around 20 to 30kms of running. After that, the body will have to rely on body fat for fuel- which takes a longer time to break down. It may even start to break down muscle tissues as energy source, which is not good.

So in order to keep you going, you have to take in food- and not just food, you need to take in carbohydrates. Here are some tips we used during the TNF 100:

1.Make sure you eat well 1-2 days before the event. Not only on the night before. Eat a lot of carbohydrates and food which does will not upset your digestive system. This is where the term carbo loading comes from. It is basically filling your muscles and liver with glycogen days before the actual race. Of course, drink a lot of fluids especially water. Refrain from alcoholic drinks though.

2.Prepare snacks pre-packed in single servings. Better to have with you one to two servings of food that you like. Even though there are aid stations where you can eat, or where you expect to meet your support crew, it is better to prepare for the worst. In Sandi’s case, we boiled camote where were then wrapped in bite sized portions. I made sure she has them the night before the race, not during the start of the race. Kamote, for those who eat it often, gives you that sustained energy, plus the “turbo” effect (for those who know what I mean!)


A refill bag of kamote in the checkpoint just in case she needed them. One piece is just enough size for a quick snack and individually wrapped for convenience. (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

Kamote is what we handed Sandi to bring with her. Andre was her main support crew but I informed them that I will meet them at CP5 with warm siopao. Prior to the race, I learned she loves siopao so it is one of the foods that was prepared for her. There were also some chocolate bars, chips – to replace sodium lost through sweat; energy drinks; and some more siopao. Another kababayan, Sir Bong, also prepared a delicious meal for her and was also waiting for her at another CP at a later part of the race. For the support crew, it would help the runner a lot if you would also provide encouraging news and prepare all other things the runner may need in order to minimize time spent at checkpoints.


She likes siopao so we also prepared some. It has carbohydrates, sodium, and amino acids- which helps in the feeling of satiety. Better to run not feeling hungry! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)


3.Make sure you also have adequate sodium intake, but not too much. I also prepared chips- yes- the junk food. It has lots salt. If you are fine with it, it is also a way of ingesting sodium without overloading on it since you cannot eat that much bag of chips on the checkpoints. But it may be easy to overdose yourself with salt tablets or salt sticks. (In case you were wondering, Sandi did not eat the chips. She had the siopao instead).

4.Use energy gels which you like. During the race, do not try a brand which you are not familiar with. Some do not like the taste which makes it harder to swallow. Make sure you take gels, energy bars, rehydration salts and drinks which would not upset your stomach. If you estimate that you will be at the last stages of the race at night time, better prepare some gel with caffeine or arrange to have coke or coffee. It helps to keep you alert so hopefully you won’t miss trail marks.


Andre really prepared very well! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

5.In relation to number 4, do not rely only on energy gels for fuel. That is why it is good to bring bite sized snacks to eat in between checkpoints (e.g. the Kamote). Bring some chocolates, bread, fruits which would not get squashed. And again, carbohydrates require a lot of water to digest so drink water as you eat to make sure you can absorb and metabolize your food on time.


an apple a day! and oh, that is a nice looking sweatshirt! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

6.For those who have upset stomachs, prepare your medicine a few days before the race. You may take them the night before just to make sure your stomach doesn’t bother you. One or two tablets is not heavy so bringing some during the race might help.

7.Have a good meal after the race. It is good to have some protein with that meal to help in your recovery. Have a good rest after and keep drink a lot of fluids too. It is very basic but sometimes it is what we tend to neglect.

8.Finally, these tips will work best if you practice your eating plan during your training so you will discover how to make it work best for you. Some of these tips may not work for you but may work for others. So it is better to make mistakes during your practice runs so that you will not repeat them during the race.


A job well done! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)


Karate evolved from it’s ancient history of being a peasant’s secret weapon into an organized sport. In it’s development, it has sprouted into different styles or different “schools”. But now as a sport, these different styles compete under one set of rules and the world governing body is the WKF. But even with all these complexities, one thing has not changed from it’s earliest deadly form to its present form as a sport: That to be effective, a karate technique has to be delivered with speed, power, technique, and timing. Training in karate alone definitely improves strength, power, and speed to a certain extent. The best and most successful karate athletes have these qualities developed at exceptional levels. They trained hard in karate and they also are very athletic.  But now that the level of competition is very high and there are more and more competitive karatekas, only the best and strongest will reach the top. There has to be strength and conditioning training for karate-do athletes to enable them to train hard in karate, perform to their highest level, and reduce the chances of getting injured. In other words, strength and conditioning training for karate-do athletes highly increases their success rate. Strength and conditioning training for Karate-do is now very important if we want to rise to world class level.



Fond memories

brandSome years ago, karate athletes can compete in both the kata and kumite events and still be successful. I was working with the Philippine Karate-do team for their preparation for the Busan 2002 Asian Games. For this competition, they had a lean team of 3 gentlemen and 2 ladies. One of the ladies would compete in both events. My task as their Strength and Conditioning coach was to make them as physically fit as possible for this competition. Their strength and conditioning training has been emphasized. I would augment as a Physical Therapist too since I am also one. We had a few months of strength training before this particular preparation in our training facility in Manila. Then around 4 months before their competition, we headed off to a training camp in our satellite training facility in Baguio City. The training facility has a running track and sleeping quarters for athletes and coaches and a mess hall. There is also a small weights room with a few pieces of equipment. At least there were a few sets of barbells and dumbbells. The greatest advantage that we were able to get from this training camp is that we were able to increase the team’s training volume and intensity well above what they can do in Manila. That was achieved because the climate in Baguio is cool. The environment is very conducive to training since we are in a barracks and there is no distraction. The altitude is around 1,500 meters above sea level. It is not that high to elicit big physiological advantage but we noticed there was still a positive effect. And the cool and tranquil environment enabled the athletes to tolerate conditioning work a lot better than when we did it in the hot environment in Manila.

Their strength and conditioning training started at 6 am. We would go out of the compound and run up around the hills for around 30 to 45 minutes and back to the running track. We then did reaction drills, and footworks. It was also a time for the one who was making weight to do extra running and calisthenics. By 7:30, the morning session was done and we head off to the mess hall. Breakfast was great, and we had a lot of fresh vegetables since Baguio and nearby places produce vegetables which are sold in the lowlands. After breakfast, everybody goes back to the barracks to wash up. I would be waiting for those who need physical therapy treatment in the physical therapist’s cottage. Or they would go to the masseur if they feel tight and stiff. Some would have a nap. This is all done by 10:30 am. By 11:30 am we would have strength training sessions at the mini gym beside the running track. The training plan is posted on the wall of the gym and as we progress I would update it. By 12:30 we would have finished stretching and cooling down and ready for a good lunch. Meal times serve as our debriefing sessions and meetings. The head coach and I would discuss a bit more later if needed. Afternoon is recovery time. They are instructed to nap. Well, at first they would say they wanted to go sightseeing around the city since Baguio is the summer capital of the Philippines and it is a tourist spot. Then as the training intensity increased, they need not be reminded since they would nap voluntarily. The head coach and I also needed it! The third session, which is skills training, starts 5:00 pm and ends at 6:30 pm.


photo credited to

Periodizing their training

After 4 weeks, we shifted the training schedule. Skills training is now more emphasized since their conditioning level has improved a lot. They do 2 sessions of skills training now. The first is at midday before lunch and the second is late in the afternoon before dinner.  Strength and conditioning is still at 6 to 7:30 am. As our training camp progressed, so did their abilities. But mental stress is also there. The pressure on them to perform, the separation from their families, and the feeling  of fatigue is affecting them. To minimize this, we lowered intensity for a few sessions and went “sightseeing” one weekend. We went hiking, which is a lower level of conditioning. The athletes were smiling and said I just tricked them into training. Well, I was just making efficient use of our time. The head coach also allowed them to go home on the next weekend to have a break. I also got to go home. My home is in Baguio city but I stayed with them all the time in the camp. So I was so glad to visit home too!

Training side effects

By the end of the training camp, we were ready. I never noticed but one of the ladies came to me and said before we started the training camp, she was a regular girl. When we were about to break camp, she had a very trim waist, had great abs, and sharp triceps and deltoids to show! She proudly wore sleeveless shirts upon going back to the Manila where it is hot. Those were just side effects of strength and conditioning training but what we were after was to have the athletes attain their peak physical fitness for their sport in time for their competition. Mentally, they improved a lot as well since their confidence improved. Skills wise, they improved very well since they were able to practice harder, more, and with more focus.

The reward of hard work

The team left for the Asian games and I was left behind since I also train other teams and the budget is just for the athletes and the head coach. I was proud that I had done my job to the best that I can. They came back with two bronze medals, one in the women’s kata, and one in the women’s -60 kg kumite.

busan ag 2002

Source: Wikipedia

Karate-do continues to evolve as a sport and is trying its best to be in the Olympics. The level of competition has increased and so is the extent of preparation. Hopefully by 2020 Karate-do will finally be in the Olympics. Strength and conditioning training for karate-do is now even more important. I remember the words our late Shihan Arsenio Bawingan Jr. I was a young lad in the Baguio City YMCA then where he taught Karate. He told us that if we want to be good, we should train really hard. Not just in the dojo. He told us to run, do calisthenics, even lift rocks (Strength and conditioning was not known then). His words turned out to be prophetic.  Train Better! Play Better!

kettlebell valstrengthtraining

These kettlebells were abandoned in a storage room. They were probably used in the 1980’s to early 90’s.

From a training point of view, there is a wide application for Kettlebell training. When used properly, it can improve the whole spectrum from endurance to explosive power. Kettlebells increase strength well enough to improve performance in a wide variety of sports.

The following are documented physiologic adaptations in athletes attributed to kettlebell training:

Effects on Aerobic Capacity

NCAA Division 1 athletes were used as test subjects on a study examining the effects of kettlebell training on aerobic capacity. The subjects initially underwent a graded exercise test to measure their maximal oxygen consumption prior to a 4 week training program. They were then divided into two groups- either a circuit weight training group or a kettlebell training group. Both groups trained 3 days a week for 4 weeks in addition to their off season conditioning program. The circuit weight training group did a combination of free weight and body-weight exercises in a circuit fashion for 20 minutes. The kettlebell group performed 15 seconds kb snatch followed by 15 seconds of rest done consecutively, also for 20 minutes. The researchers were able to measure a 6% improvement in the maximal oxygen consumption in the kettlebell group while there was no significant change in the circuit weight training group. This points to the direction that kettlebell training can be used as an alternative to maintain or even improve cardiovascular fitness.

Strength and Power improvement

KB valstrengthtraining

In 2013, the results of study about kettlebell training was released. The study aimed at examining whether kettlebell training transfers strength and power to weightlifting and powerlifting exercises. There were 37 subjects divided into an experimental and a control group. Their abilities in the barbell clean and jerk, barbell bench press,Oly bar valstrengthtraining vertical jump, and back extension to volitional fatigue were assessed prior to and after a twice a week kettlebell training program with a 10 week duration. Although the there were no significant findings for the result of the vertical jump test, the researchers were able to determine that there is transfer of power and strength in response to 10 weeks of kettlebell training.  This findings were similar to an earlier study published in 2012 which compared the effects of 6 weeks of weightlifting and traditional heavy resistance training versus that of kettlebell training. The researchers compared the effects on strength, power, and anthropometric measurements. The subjects were tested on 1RM for barbell back squat and power clean as well as on vertical jump. They were divided into either weightlifting or kettlebell group. Training was twice a week for 6 weeks. Results showed no difference was between the two groups for vertical jump and anthropometric measurements. There is improvement in both power and strength for both groups but greater strength was observed in the weightlifting group. So kettlebell training may be as good as weightlifting and traditional heavy resistance training in improving explosive power. It also does improve strength but barbell training may be better for that aspect.

There are a lot of cases wherein athletes benefited a lot from kettlebell training. Some of the teams that I work with do use kettlebells in some areas of their training. A mentor also shared a story of a successful pre-season training for a professional baseball athlete. He trained the athlete using mostly the fundamental kettlebell lifts. The athlete went back to playing baseball with significant improvement in performance.

The bursts of power, torso and joint stability, coordination, as well as mental focus that is developed in kettlebell training makes it a very good training tool for a variety of goals. Although, sometimes the coach has to decide if this type of training is appropriate for certain athletes and training situations. Athletes who are determined and are patient are the ones who benefit a lot from this type of training.

1 Arm KB Jerk used during preparation for the Asian Karate-do Championship 2015

1 Arm KB Jerk used by Grace during her preparation for the Asian Karate-do Championship 2015.

(Photo above shows a sequence of shots. The highlighted heel and hair shows an explosive movement which is finished with a very good fixation- also practicing very stable shoulder position.) 

Is kettlebell training the best method? Are kettlebells the best training equipment?

If you are into kettlebell sport, then that is how you should train. But if not, it is a part of a “toolbox” that can be used instdepending on your situation. They can be used with other training tools and other training methods as long as they are planned well. Kettlebell training, when done properly, provides stimulus to improve power, strength, local muscular endurance, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Maximal strength development may not be as good when compared to barbell training however, that is because of the inherent characteristic of the kettlebell that limits its weight. And maximum strength is usually measured using a barbell. A significant amount of weight can be added to the bar and it does not affect the bar thickness whereas the size of the competition grade kettlebell limits its maximum weight.

Take note that the outcome of a training program is dependent on a multitude of factors- some controllable, and some not. Intensity, volume, rest periods, training methods, as well as feedback and instructions are just some variables affecting any training program. There is no “best equipment” or best training method. It is having the passion to do what needs to be done and making the best of what is available in the given situation all the time that makes you achieve your goals. The kettlebell is one great tool but it needs to be used well and consistently to elicit positive adaptations. With this we can Train Better, Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.


  1. Effects of Kettlebell Training on Aerobic Capacity – Falatic, J. Asher, et al. 2015
  2. Kettlebell Swing Training Improves Maximal and Explosive Strength – Lake, Jason P.; Lauder, Mike A., 2012
  3. Transference of Kettlebell Training to Strength, Power, and Endurance – Castro, Jessica, et al. 2013

Training for performance for top level athletes requires them to train full time. But there are some great athletes who also have to work and look after their families. How do they manage to perform well given the time constraints? Many top level athletes are gifted physically. They are born with qualities that make them good in their sport like a good height, ideal muscle fiber type, advantageous limb & torso length for their sport, etc. Aside from having the right genetic traits, they were able to express those genetics potential because of other factors like very good work ethics and attitude- they train even when it does not feel “fun” anymore. They train because they understand that it will make them better. And their training works because it is done consistently and most of all it is well planned and efficient. They train not just for the sake of training but with a lot of purpose. A good plan in preparing for competitions does not need to be very complicated. It just has to work for the person who is training. Let’s try to make it simple and general, and then you can add some details later as you establish some fundamental ideas.  

Make a simple training plan so that it can fit your schedule. A simple training plan also makes it flexible enough to adjust to unplanned circumstances. Answering these two questions may help in your planning:  

First: What performance related fitness component do you need to improve that would enhance your performance? Examples are strength, agility, explosive power, mobility and stability. Assuming you are an athlete who have good skill levels, what performance related fitness component has to be emphasized for you to have your best performance? Identify what area/s you need to improve on that has the biggest effect to your performance. It helps if you can measure and record it. Then re-assess after some time. Usually, there would be more than one. But if you realize that your skill level is not that good, work on it more. Strength is a very fundamental component to work on since it supports the development of most other components. Strength training and Conditioning can only support your skills for your sport but it won’t directly improve them.splitsnatch

Second: When do you need to be in peak condition? It is not possible to be in peak condition all year round but through a progressive and monitored training program, it is possible to influence the body so that it will be at its best condition on the most important competitions. After the competitions, the mind and body needs to recover so as not to burn out. The news about professional boxers preparing for their fight like the much anticipated fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is a very good example. Even though this is the fight of their lives, the boxers only started their training for this particular fight only a few months prior. Their skills are very well developed already. What they need is to make sure that they can sustain their game plan and be able to recover after giving out and absorbing a flurry of punches. They also need to recover in between rounds. Fine tuning their skills and conditioning their body to be able to deliver and absorb very powerful punches requires actual sparring. Athletes also want to have a long career and enjoy life after retiring. The intense training to achieve peak form is physically, mentally  and emotionally demanding that getting in peak form too often and too earl, as well as trying to maintain that top form would eventually be too much stress. The outcome would be overtraining wherein there would be an eventual drop in performance.

It is important to understand the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome so as to be able to plan your training better (Read related article). That is why training comes in stages and the intensity gradually increases as the body adapts to it. Training intensity cannot be high nor low all the time if improvement is to be expected.  After knowing your particular “weakness” and knowing when you have to be in your peak condition, then you know how much time you have to prepare. Having too much time may actually work against you if you are not disciplined enough. Having too little time won’t get things done well enough. But then again, time is relative. It depends on your current condition. Well conditioned athletes who are coming back after a few months of rest will need a few weeks to get back into peak form. Others may need a more gradual, but longer approach.  

After answering these questions, then you can choose how to prepare. Different sports would require different ways of preparation. And mostly it would be sports specific- which means practicing the sport itself. There would be supplemental training too, which enhances and supports the improvement of your perceived “weakness”. Understand how the body adapts to training stress and other training concepts before focusing on too much details since the details would be dependent on each person’s circumstance. It would be better to try to make the training plan simple but effective rather than so complicated but is impractical. Train Better, Live Better!

Unstable Surface Training is now quite popular. It is now marketed as a way to greatly improving strength as well as stability. Or does it?

cp sbDuring the 90’s, not many gyms would use unstable surface equipment. The swiss balls, and later the BOSU, were still being popularized in the rehabilitation setting and they were used for the rehabilitation of patients who have difficulty in maintaining control of their torso and balance. They were used to improve the functional abilities of Cerebral Palsy, stroke, and similar patients. They were also very useful in treating injured athletes and good Physical Therapists helped in maintaining injured athlete’s fitness levels while they were recovering from injuries. The BOSU, as well as teeter boards, and balance discs were used to re-establish a patient’s balance and control over an injured ankle or knee. Eventually, these rehab equipments found their way into gyms for use by the general population. They are very useful in the fitness industry especially since “core” training was the hype a few years ago- and even until now.


The unstable surface devices are useful from the rehabilitation setting to the general population for their goal- to improve functional abilities like standing balance, walking, gait training to improving local muscular endurance and control of the midsection or “core”. Now, it seems that they are also being marketed for the athletic population as a way to help improve athleticism and performance. The general population whose aim is to improve fitness is different from the elite athletes whose aim is to improve performance. That is when it can be confusing. People want to be glamorous and to be identified with a special group. It is always about the inflated ego. And that is why advertisers are very successful. They target the general population- say those who love to work out in gyms and make them relate to actual athletes by using famous athletes as models for their products. People would think that using a particular product would then make them into good looking athletes. Now, young athletes and sports coaches get confused. They would ask the strength coach to use BOSU, or swiss balls, or TRX for their training to improve their performance. It is the other way around but they may not be totally wrong. If improving their performance means re-training an injured ankle, then they would have a point, or their performance level is not yet that high as in the case of developmental teams. But remember, best performance is the expression of the athlete’s full potential. And what Strength Coaches do to help athletes do this is to help them maximize expression of their strength. That is why there are Strength coaches. And this strength is supported with good conditioning.


Now, going back to Unstable Surface training- will these devices help in the expression of maximum strength? There was a study conducted in 2008 which compared 1RM strength, and upper body and trunk muscle EMG activity during the barbell chest press exercise on a stable (flat bench) and unstable surface (exercise ball). The results show that there was no difference in 1RM strength or muscle EMG activity for the stable and unstable surfaces. In addition, there was no difference in elbow range-of-motion between the two surfaces. Taken together, these results indicate that there is no decrease in strength or any differences in muscle EMG activity for the barbell chest press exercise done on an unstable exercise ball when compared to a stable flat surface. It does not show that performing the bench press on an unstable surface would recruit more motor units nor decrease force output.


Another study was published on 2013. It was done to to compare force output and muscle activity of leg and trunk muscles in isometric squats executed on stable surface (i.e., floor), power board, BOSU ball, and balance board. The findings show that increasing the instability of the surface during maximum effort isometric squats usually maintains the muscle activity of lower-limb and superficial trunk muscles although the force output is reduced. This suggests that unstable surfaces in the squat may be beneficial in rehabilitation and as a part of periodized training programs. This study suggests that unstable surface training is valuable in the rehabilitation of injured athletes since it elicits same muscle activity without the maximum load thus it helps maintain or reduce the decline of fitness levels while waiting for the injury to heal.


As for performance, another study was done to compare the production of force and paraspinal muscle activity between deadlifts carried out in a standard way and with different instability devices (Bosu and T-Bow). Thirty-one subjects performed an isometric test for 5 seconds in each condition. After that, they performed 5 repetitions with 70% of the maximum isometric force obtained in each one of the previously evaluated conditions. Records of electromyographic activity and force production were obtained. The subjects produced more force and muscle activity on the stable surface than under the other conditions. These data shows that the performance of deadlifts under stable conditions favors a higher production of maximum strength and muscle activity. The researchers conclude that the use of instability devices in deadlift training does not increase performance, nor does it provide greater activation of the paraspinal muscles. These results also questions the value of unstable surface training in the performance of other types of exercises.


valclipperrace2007-08One sport, (and occupation) that requires exerting near maximal effort repeatedly on an unstable surface is offshore sailing. Sailors on big boats have to drag, pull and hoist very heavy sails. And when they sail upwind on stormy seas, they have to do it on an inclined surface which bounces all around with no rhythm. Fishermen who do not use wind powered boats still have to work on the same unstable surface. And you cannot stop in offshore sailing. When you are tired, you cannot stop the waves nor the wind. You still have to exert effort in order to maneuver your boat until you reach your destination which may take a few weeks to months.


Photo courtesy of Michelle Wong

Do they train on the BOSU, swiss balls and the like? Maybe, but most likely not. Their actual training is sailing itself. Strength training does supplement their training since they need to exert near maximum effort. Squatting or bench pressing on swiss balls for them is like a BMX race athlete training on a bike with those stabilizing trainer wheels.


Unstable surface training has its merits since it lets the body use a lot more motor units. More torso stabilizer muscles are active when doing an exercise on an unstable surface as compared to doing it on a stable surface. But once the initial challenge of learning how to use an unstable surface device has been overcome, the body will use only the required motor units to perform the exercise with the load. Think about it this way, when learning how to ride a bike, you tense up, use a lot more effort and action to control and move the bike without losing balance. But once you learned how to ride a bike, you are more relaxed and use lesser effort. Even if you did not ride a bike for many years, you would still be able to if you wanted to.

To sum it up, Unstable Surface Training has its uses but like anything that is made into a product, advertisers and promoters can always hype it to attract the attention of consumers. If you are an elite strength and power athlete and if your goal is to further maximize your strength and power, you probably have known all along that there is no way squatting on a swiss ball can make you break your PR, it can only break one’s bones and snap ligaments. But if you are a regular fitness guy/gal, these unstable surface devices may have a place in your training- although it will not be the main exercise. It is good to try different exercises once in a while to explore how you can use them for your improvement. For weekend athletes, these devices still can help you improve. Most weekend athletes do social sports like basketball, badminton, even trail running. These sports activities demand good knee and ankle control. It is good to try some exercises on the BOSU for ankle and knee control. But do not go overboard and do barbell squats on the swissball! Some people can do them but ask yourself these questions:“What good does it do for me if I will do it?”; “If I can do it, should I do it just because I can?, will it make me better?”; “Will I gain any benefit from this exercise and are the benefits greater than the risks?.” (click here for warm-up exercises which also improve ankle and knee proprioception) There is a story of a well known and respected Strength and Conditioning Coach and former athlete who was demonstrating squatting on a swiss ball. He does squats on swiss balls very well but unfortunately, on that day he was demonstrating, he landed badly when getting off the swiss ball that he tore some ligaments in his knee. If we think about it, how much more if a lesser skilled athlete, with weaker ligaments, would perform a loaded exercise on the swiss ball? His chances of getting hurt would be so high that it is insane to train for squatting strength on top of a swiss ball. And Strength Coaches would first think about not harming an athlete when prescribing an exercise.

Remember, the person who is ultimately responsible for your health and safety is YOURSELF. You have chosen to read this blog probably because you want to improve the quality of your life. The writer tries his best in his own way to convey information which he knows will be useful in improving strength and overall fitness. Use and share the information. And temper what you do with your good judgement. Train Better, Live Better!

Evidence leads to the conclusion that Strength Training helps endurance athletes (click here). Aside from enhancing the efficiency of movement, it also contributes in lowering the incidence of injuries. But does endurance training help improve performance of strength and power athletes? The answer is not so simple but it goes back again to the athlete’s main goal. If the main goal is to improve overall performance, training that also also improves a type of  endurance may help. But if the goal is to increase maximal strength, long slow duration endurance training will not help. The answer is not a simple yes or no because training to improve endurance- Cardiorespiratory and local muscular endurance, can be done as a long duration- low intensity training, and/or high intensity interval training. Long duration- low intensity training does not help in improving maximal strength but high intensity interval training may indirectly have a positive effect on improving maximal strength especially if repeated bouts of near maximal to maximal effort is required. However, most athletes may not necessarily need to exert near maximal to maximal effort in a single movement. Their sport may require explosive power but the load may not be maximal. The sports where maximum load is attempted are Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, and since the load is maximal, it is lifted once for three attempts with rest in between. While jumping, throwing, punching,  sprinting, and the like all require explosive movements and need to be repeated many for the duration of the game. But there may be no rest or short rest in between repetitions and the load is submaximal. It is in these sports wherein high intensity interval training is very useful. That is still in addition to a very good strength foundation.


To determine if endurance training helps in the performance of athletes who rely on power and speed, an investigation was designed and completed to evaluate the compatibility of cardiovascular endurance and neuromuscular power training. Baseball players were used for this study since they rely on mostly power and speed. They were divided into two training groups with lower body power measured before and after their playing season. The Endurance Group performed moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular endurance training 3-4 days per week throughout the season, while the Speed Group participated in speed/speed endurance training. There was a significant difference in lower body power between the two groups during their playing season. Power output of the endurance group decreased by an average of 39 watts while the speed group’s power improved by an average of 210 watts. This leads to a conclusion that athletes who rely on speed and power, like baseball players, basketball, volleyball, and the like, should rely more on speed or power interval training for their conditioning.1 The difference in numbers is quite obvious. This may translate into an athlete able to sprint faster or jump higher which increases their chances to scoring higher and ultimately winning over their slower opponents.


However, the beneficial effects of endurance training cannot be overlooked as well. It elicits favorable muscle adaptations such as enhanced blood supply, energy use, and fuel storage capacities.2 A good aerobic capacity also helps anaerobic performance by aiding in eliminating anaerobic metabolism by-products. Higher levels of aerobic power help to delay the onset of fatigue which reduces injury potential as well as errors in movement and in making decisions in a game.3


If maximizing the efficiency of the anaerobic system is the goal, then it means the ability to recover in between bouts or sets of exercise, or between plays in a game, should be maximized.

For the top athletes of Weightlifting and Powerlifting, their ability to recover in between sets of near maximal to maximal lifts is so much higher than a beginner or an athlete who is into other sports. This is a manifestation of the Principle of Specificity of training. Another factor is that top athletes of these sports are most likely born with muscle fiber types, limb length, psychological attributes, and other traits that would give them an advantage over other athletes. Well thought of training programs further enhances these attributes and the ultimate manifestation would be best performances by the athlete. We can analyse it like this: fitness components are like rooms and the body is the building. The floor area of a building is limited- so much like the genetic ceiling of each individual is finite. The sizes of the rooms would depend on what room we want to emphasize. A building designed for a house would have bedrooms, kitchen, toilet and bath, living room, and those who have a bigger building can afford to have study and entertainment rooms. A person who has more genetic endowments and is much more motivated to train has more potential – more “rooms”. If that building will be redesigned as a restaurant, then the bedrooms would be eliminated to make way for a bigger kitchen, and a big dining area- the rooms which make up a restaurant. An untrained individual is like a building with the rooms not yet laid out. Modifying the layout of a building with its limited floor area is similar to training an athlete for a particular sport. It enhances the fitness components required for that sport. To enhance one aspect, other aspects may have to be sacrificed- and those are the aspects which are at the opposite end of the desired spectrum. So training for an predominantly aerobic endurance sport lessens the potential “floor area” for manifesting the maximum strength within that athlete’s genetic potential. But it should be understood that this is more important in the sports at the extreme ends of the explosive power – aerobic endurance spectrum.


For the general population however, it may be possible to enhance both maximum strength and aerobic capacity since their level of development is low to start with. But once their genetic potential is being realized, like in athletes, making gains in strength and aerobic capacity would become harder. Both strength and aerobic capacity will be competing for resources within the human body needed for recovery. Training for these components taxes the body. Both are stressors that the body has to recover from in order to improve.


Since strength/power and endurance are at the opposite ends of a spectrum, maximizing strength may mean sacrificing some aerobic capacity- the type which is used for sustained effort with low intensity- such as long distance running. If the goal is to increase strength and power, what needs to be emphasized is the type of training which enhances ability to recover between bouts of very short but very high intensity effort. Time required for long slow duration training is long. Not only does it compete for recovery, it also competes for training time. So a better way to support an athlete’s ability to recover between bursts of powerful movements is to incorporate high intensity interval training rather than long slow duration aerobic training. Train with short bursts of cyclic movements like sprints with very short recovery periods- shorter than that required for full recovery of the atp-pc & glycolytic system. This is a better way of supporting maximal strength development rather than using low intensity- long duration activities. Train Better, Live Better!


  1. Non-compatibility of Power and Endurance Training Among College Baseball Players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. January 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 1 – pp 230-234
  2. Is Long Duration Aerobic Exercise Necessary for Anaerobic Athletes? Strength & Conditioning Journal. April 2013 – Volume 35 – Issue 2 – p 44–46
  3. Quantification of the Aerobic Component in Strength/Conditioning Programs. Schmidt, Richard J. National Strength Coaches Association Journal. April 1981 – Volume 3 – Issue 2 – ppg 40-41

Endurance Athletes perform their sporting activities under sustained effort. Classic examples are long distance runners, swimmers, cyclists, and yes, a combination- the triathlon athletes. This topic pertains to these classic examples of endurance athletes. The common factor among these athletes aside from their very high level of cardiorespiratory fitness is that their events are closed skill and repetitive in nature. If their movements are more efficient, lesser effort is required to IMG_20130904_074128cover a particular distance and the successful athletes are able to cover certain distance in the shortest possible time. Moving the body (example- running) through the required distance, is work as defined by physics. Since power is equal to work divided by time, the fastest athlete in the race is the most powerful athlete. Here is when Strength Training enters the scene. It enables  the athletes’ strides to be a bit more powerful. If each stride is a fraction of a second faster and covers a few more centimeters, imagine the accumulated effect of thousands of strides in an endurance race. It would be ultimately be an improvement of their personal best. Strength trained endurance athletes would also be able to power through near the end and sprint to the finish. Strength and Power Training is now gaining reputation as a strategy to improve endurance performance.

Concurrent Training:


This is simultaneous endurance and strength training in a training period but not necessarily in a training session. Studies show that concurrent endurance and strength training improves  cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory fitness. A study conducted in 2008 let subjects perform Concurrent Exercises. The effects showed reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure , and more importantly increased VO2max. 1


The benefit of having concurrent training is having both the benefit of gaining strength and also of cardiorespiratory and local muscular endurance. But since these qualities are on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum, the trainee would not get the best of both worlds if there is no emphasis on one aspect. The trainee will be more rounded- will have some amount of strength and also some endurance. The goal will guide the coach and trainee on what to emphasize more- is it endurance or strength? For endurance athletes- the emphasis should be on endurance training. Strength training will be supplemental training but should not take up a big bulk of the training volume.


There was a systematic review of scientific literature on the effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners on 2008. This was done since there is a perception among highly competitive endurance runners that concurrent resistance and endurance training will improve running performance. But there are still those who would not want to try Strength Training for endurance athletes since endurance athletes traditionally did not train for strength. But after analysing several studies, the researchers concluded that resistance training likely has a positive effect on endurance running performance.2

A Guideline for Concurrent Training:


There was a recent study which aimed to determine whether the duration (0h, 6h or 24h) of recovery between strength and aerobic training influences the effects of a concurrent training program. Athletes were randomly assigned to either control (CONT), concurrent training (C-0h, C-6h or C-24h) or strength training (STR) groups during a 7-week training period. Two sessions of each quality were proposed each week with strength always performed before aerobic training. Measurements were performed before and immediately after the overall training period. Cardiorespiratory benefits were greatest in C-24h. Gains in maximal strength were lowest in C-0h.The study emphasized that the interference on strength development depends on the recovery delay between the two sequences. Daily training without a recovery period between sessions (C-0h) and, to a lesser extent, training twice a day (C-6h), is not optimal for neuromuscular and aerobic improvements. Therefore avoid scheduling both strength training and endurance training, with less than 6-hours recovery between them to obtain full adaptative responses to concurrent training.3


Using the results of the study as basis, it is better to have at least one day of recovery between your endurance training and your strength training if gains in strength is the objective. Results would be noticeable if the duration of concurrent training is around 2 months with 4 training sessions a week – two of endurance and two of strength in alternating basis. Take note that this was done on athletes who have undergone training. Weekend warriors may try lower volume and/ or lower intensity depending on their capability. One of the determining factor is the ability to recover. Even if the study says 25 hours recovery works, if the individual cannot recover well within 24 hours, then extend the recovery time and lower the intensity for the next training session until the body is able to speed up its recovery.

What Exercise would be best for Endurance athletes like runners and cyclists?


The Squat is one of the main exercises, if not the main exercise, that would be very beneficial to runners, cyclists, swimmers- both  for sprints and long distance. Most endurance athletes are either overtrained or almost overtrained thus it is important to control the volume of strength training so as not to add extra stress to the body’s ability to recover. This can be done by limiting the number of exercises to the most beneficial one. It can be just the squat and it will work as long as done properly with the optimum load, volume and intensity.


There was a study conducted to investigate the effect of maximal strength training on cycling economy.  The intervention Trek-Road-Bikes-005group performed half-squats, 4 sets of 4 repetitions maximum, 3 times per week for 8 weeks, as a supplement to their normal endurance training. The control group continued their normal endurance training during the same period. The intervention manifested significant improvements in measures of maximal strength, cycling economy, work efficiency, and time to exhaustion at pre-intervention maximal aerobic power. No changes were found in V̇o2max or body weight. In conclusion, maximal strength training for 8 weeks improved Cycling Economy and efficiency and increased time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power among competitive road cyclists, without change in maximal oxygen uptake, cadence, or body weight..4

Other Benefits of Squatting for Distance Runners:

full squat valstrengthtraining

Gorsuch, and his colleagues analyzed the effect of squat depth on multiarticular muscle activation in collegiate cross-country runners. They conducted a study which measured muscle activity with surface electromyography (EMG) during partial and parallel squats in collegiate cross-country runners (10 males and 10 females) in a randomized crossover design. They found out that there was no difference between male and female runners when it comes to muscle activation. This means that both males and females benefit from doing squats. They also found out that there is more muscle activity in the parallel squat than in the partial squat. This means that when we do the squat, it is best to do it parallel or even lower to take advantage of the available range of motion as well as the increased muscle activation. The researchers concluded that parallel squats may help runners to train muscles vital for uphill running and correct posture, while preventing injury by using lighter weights through a larger range of motion.


Click here to read more about squats.

Click here to read about squats outdoors without gym equipment.

Click here for prehab and advanced rehab of ankle sprains.

Example of a concurrent training program for endurance athletes:

This is just an example based on the studies and on practical training considerations for an endurance athlete who has access to a weights room. This is a 6 week training program 8 weeks before a race.

Concurrent training

This is a sample template. It should be modified according to the athlete’s goal and fitness level as well as time availability.



1. Concurrent Training Enhances Athlete’s Cardiovascular and Cardiorespiratory Measures. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research September 2008. 1503-1514

2. The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review.Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.November 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 6 – pp 2036-2044

3. The specific training effects of concurrent aerobic and strength exercises depends on recovery duration. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2014)

4. Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. August 2010 Vol 24. 2157-2165

5. The Effect of Squat Depth on Multiarticular Muscle Activation in Collegiate Cross-Country Runners. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. September 2013 – Volume 27 – Issue 9 – p 2619–262

In order for a training regimen to work, it has to be executed on a regular basis and depending on Olythe goal, the different training variables should be varied to cause the wanted adaptations to happen. Many people who start a training program for the purpose of improving health would quit after only a few sessions. One reason may be expectations are high but effort given is low. And some individuals may think that a training program has to be complicated and sophisticated in order to work. A complicated routine may be perceived as doing a lot of work but in reality, the work done may be actually low since the load is low due to inability to adapt, or the total repetition is also low, due to constantly changing routine and exercise. It does not help doing a complicated routine if it cannot be sustained. One of the things which is not usually discussed in the reference books is that the training program that works is the one which  is simple and straightforward.


valstrengthtyraining.kbStrength coaches come from different backgrounds and the ones who can successfully train athletes have had their share of trial and error too. There are textbook references but they may not be pertaining to the exact condition and situation that we encounter. When I was younger, I was initially mentored by bodybuilders. The training program that I used to pattern my own training was that of bodybuilders. Then as I got to know some other mentors, as I read different books and articles, attended workshops & symposiums, and as I interact with different coaches, I got to understand some other methods & techniques. I started trying out different training programs on myself and those that worked were used with the athletes that I work with. As the years went by, there are more and more “re-discoveries”, fads, and trends. With all these training methods, it can be really confusing.


Having the opportunity to work with the top athletes in the Philippines and in another country in many different sports and from age 14 to 54, I have utilized a variety of training programs. And I have noticed a pattern manifest itself. I see it more often, now that I am aware of it. The training program that creates results is actually the simpler one. It is not the overly complicated routine. The complicated routine may work for a short while but things always change and situations change. When many factors which are beyond the control of the Strength Coach changes, it becomes difficult to implement the complicated routine. But most of the time, the “simpler” routine can still be implemented. Since it is quite simple, it can be flexible and modified to fit a situation, to lead to the training goal.


People normally expect quick results, and that it is easy to get bored doing the same routine over and over again. They might view a simple routine as boring, and not “state-of-the art”. But take a look at the trends, it is coming full circle. Early Strength Training programs emphasized compound lifts using simple barbells or just plain heavy stuff like logs and stones. As long as you lift well, train well consistently, and have a good recovery, good results follow. Then machines became quite popular.  Many other “ground breaking” and “state of the art” equipment were invented. They are really useful, but it does not mean that they are always superior to simpler equipment. It just depends on the situation and the goals. The more type of equipment, the more choices. And more choices sometimes creates confusion. In the Philippines, there may not be so much equipment to work with, but there is plenty of heart. I was lucky to have worked with athletes who want to become better. I consider myself lucky to have started working with a modest amount of equipment. Some equipment were even broken. That made me more creative on how to design a training program for a team with limited equipment and the athletes did improve. When I coached in another country, the situation is different. There are a lot of equipment, so much variety. It provides a different opportunity to learn. It is logistically easier and it allows us to work with a lot of different teams with different requirements. But if you were to make a record which equipment which most, if not all of us Strength Coaches in the institute where I work prefer to use- it would be the freeweights, more specifically the barbells. We have different backgrounds- some are locals, some are from parts of Europe, some are from South East Asia like me. But most if not all of us still would utilize freeweights. Irregardless of our background, and of our past experiences, it shows that we use the one which works. We use freeweights like barbells, most especially the Olympic barbells. I also see the big contribution of Kettlebell training especially in strength-endurance. The Olympic Barbell and Kettlebells are deceptively simple. But even in their simplicity, there are so many complex movements that can be done. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that Olympic barbells or the Kettlebells are the ultimate training equipment. It just depends on the training goal and the situation. I also personally like using bodyweight exercises for endurance and conditioning. The above equipment, including bodyweight exercises, demands that the user utilize almost all of the major joints and muscle groups in a coordinated and skillful way.


Think about it, you can utilize simple equipment, a simple routine, and produce outstanding results.


Here is an example of a part of a particular training program that I implement for a certain training phase:


Day 1:  Day 2:

Deadlift x 5s x 5r

Front Squat x 5s x 5r

Bench Press   x 5s x 5r

Pull ups 4s x 10r

2 arm swing    x 3s x 20r

Day 2:

Cleans 5s x 5r

Parallel Back Squat x 4s x 5r

Barbell Shoulder Press x 5s x 5r

Turkish Get up x 3s x 3r/3r

The first set is a warm up set. It can be made into an ascending pyramid (increasing weight per set) or just straight sets (same load). For this training, you only need a barbell, a bench press, and a kettlebell. It requires 24 to 48 hours recovery in between Strength training days. Boring? Well, an experienced lifter may not be so bored. With the right intensity, it is challenging. Depending on the athletes mobility and stability, it may take time to be able to do full range of motion. This training program is usually for those who have been training consistently for a few months and shows good mobility with sufficient strength. It can be for new athletes IF they have the required ability to execute the exercise in the required range of motion while still being able to stabilize their body with the load and it depends on their movement aptitude. Most new trainees may not yet exhibit those qualities. So if you look at it, it may seem so simple, yet it is for more “advanced” trainees.

If you want a dynamic warm-up that stretches your hip as well as strengthens your torso, click here.


No overly complicated stuff. Straight to the point. Simple. Efficient. Useful.