High Performance Minutia

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I don't think you're nervous enough
It happened to show its own face
Search for the soulless ends
Now point him towards rest. 

      -Chevelle/Highland's Apparition

Power = Force X Velocity

There are many methods (exercises, program design, equipment, supplements, etc.) of developing a powerful body. Some of them are nearly worthless. Quite a few provide an ounce of benefit in exchange for a boatload of effort and expense. The few that deliver that tiny edge with little expense? Those are the details you want to give some attention.

A recent edition of the Strength and Conditioning Journal  contained three studies on the type of strength and conditioning minutia that I can stand behind. If you want to develop more power in training and achieve new heights in competition, get scared and have some caffeine.

Researchers noted wins and losses of high level power lifters, collecting data on various hormone levels before, during, and after competition (1). Although all competitors experienced a surge in testosterone after their events, the winners hit a higher level than the losers. It feels great to compete and to be finished, and victory is sweet.

More importantly, those with the highest cortisol levels before battling the weights demonstrated superior lifts. The ones who lifted the most were nervous, excited, on edge. There are a number of ways that elevated cortisol is thought to improve athletic performance. "Fight or flight" helps the brain, nervous system, and muscles to lift things, apparently about 2 to 3% heavier than those with less cortisol.

The second study examined the effect of caffeine on bench press performance. All subjects performed a bench press test after having either caffeine or no caffeine (on two different days). After a moderate does of caffeine, subjects completed (on average) two more repetitions in a bench press test and reported lower levels of perceived exertion.

This study adds to a long line of evidence (some of which I talked about HERE) that caffeine helps your body to move better and your mind to feel like pushing it. But don't overdo it, rock star.

The final study measured each participants vertical jump under three slightly different conditions. The conditions were 1) jump as high as you can, just jump, 2) jump for maximal height, reaching toward a target, and 3) jump as high as you can over a hurdle set near the subjects estimated peak jump height.

Subjects jumped highest when a challenging hurdle was placed in front of them. I've had suspicions on this for quite a while. In the back yard, I've made friends jump onto and over picnic tables and lawn chairs stacked on boogie boards. 

Jumping into naked air is kind of lame. Jumping toward a target is good for some motivation and feedback, but it's not the same as jumping OVER a challenging obstacle that scares and mocks you. You have to ignore any hint of fatigue and make every jump count, or else you pay a little. The result is a lot of repeated, extra high maximal effort jumps, which adds up to a killer vert.

                                                 O's ottoman jump

Forget the supplement stack, the fancy chrome exercise machinery, and the reverse undulated periodization lifting schedules. Cortisol, caffeine, and lawn chairs are your ticket to Awesometown. And rest, we all need rest.

Maybe it should have been Awesomeville. I don't know, I haven't been there myself. I was just excited to see some verification of the back yard and basement observations.

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1. The effects of training volume and competition on the salivary cortisol concentrations of olympic weightlifers. BT Crether et. al, J Strength and Conditioning Research 25(1) 10-15, 2011. 

2. The effects of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance. MJ Duncan et. al. J Strength and Conditioning Research 25(1) 178-185, 2011.

3. Kinematic and kinetic variation among three depth jump conditions in male NCAA DIII Athletes. JP Smith et. al, J Strength and Conditioning Research 25(1) 94-102. 2011.

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