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Extreme Training for the Regular Joe and Jane


The personal training environment has traditionally been very conservative in terms of exercise prescription. Everyone is afraid of hurting someone and law suits. Therefore, many of the workouts you see in gyms are chat sessions with a few bicep curls mixed in. Not only has the traditional bodybuilding methodology ruled the “standard” training protocol, the 3 sets of 10 is still the volume of choice for just about every exercise. Well, although 3 sets of 10 reps will provide a good reference for hypertrophy, it falls short of the goal in many other aspects. At the Institute of Human Performance (IHP), we take a very different approach to training. Although we will perform bodybuilding exercises when indicated, we emphasize “gut check” conditioning. We asked ourselves a very simple question a long time ago. How can ordinary Joes and Janes get the extraordinary results they want? The answer was simple, many did not like it, but it was still simple; “hustle behind the muscle.”

Lack of physical conditioning is responsible for most of the ailments that plague our society. At IHP, we see most of the chronic orthopedic conditions ‘magically” disappear after about 4-6 weeks of our “gut checking extreme” conditioning program. We don’t believe it’s any one exercise or modality that does it. It is purely a conditioning phenomenon. Most injuries also occur when fatigue sets in and the coordination of the stabilizing system falters. For example, most skiing injuries take place during the later part of the day. Tendon tares are also believed to have a high fatigue component as part of their mechanism of injury. Knowing that a high level of conditioning plays such an important role in performance and well-being, increasing our client’s functional capacity to OPTIMAL levels becomes our first call. Regardless, of where we start with a client in their training progression, optimum performance is always our final destination.

There is no doubt that our training is extreme, but on our way to optimal performance we do slow down and “smell the roses.” That is, we take our time progressing clients through the proper progressions needed to do a couple of things. First, we obviously want to develop good movement skills and an appropriate physical training base. So we start our clients at a pace that is challenging –but always well within their capacity. This is crucial for developing the trust that will surely be needed later on. Second, and just as important, we want to develop the psychological profile of a winner; a person who believes they can do anything they set their mind to. This is often the toughest aspect of training anyone, and is surely the greatest gift a trainer can give a client; the power to believe they can do what was previously thought impossible. The physical adaptations often come much faster then mental shift –the power of belief. We take out time in acquiring both. After all – most of our regular Joes and Janes don’t have deadlines to get better.

The protocols used for the advanced clientele of IHP can be best characterized as medieval-supersets. They are centered around pushing the envelope on “metabolic tolerance.” We train individuals to be very strong to short-high-intensity work. This work produces high levels of the feared lactic acid. However, it’s not the lactic acid that should be feared, because lactic acid does not remain lactic acid after it is produced. It disassociates into hydrogen and lactate. The increased hydrogen concentration is what everybody feels and what everyone should fear. It is hydrogen that lowers the pH of the blood, gives you the “burn,” increase respiration and eventually inhibits muscle contractions. So – if you want to make your clients indestructible, you have to train them to tolerate, utilize and buffer high levels of hydrogen and deal with the pain associated with this metabolic condition.

I know what people are thinking. What about strength and cardio training? Are they not also important? Yes they are, and we can get them from the super, power-circuits we perform. You see, when one performs lots of work in a short period of time, speed is usually a major variable in the equation. Speed provides momentum and controlling (i.e. reducing and producing) momentum requires strength. The more speed, the more momentum, the more momentum, the more strength needed to manipulate it. Therefore, strength development is a natural by-product of power circuits. High work output also produces the high hydrogen concentrations and low blood pH we previously mentioned. This metabolic state requires aerobic metabolism to regulate it, especially during the recovery periods (Excessive Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption). Therefore, the cardio you are looking for is built into the performance and recovery of the power circuits.

Now that we have covered the basis of our training, let’s take a look at some of the actual training protocols we have successfully used at IHP. One of our favorite protocols for the lower body is a giant set of various simple exercises. We have taken this “Leg Crank” circuit and adopted it to various situations with multiple configurations. Here is one of the basic “Leg Crank” circuits we use. Try it as a continuous circuit for iron legs and heart of steel.

Time Exercise Reps
25 sec A Speed Squats – below parallel 24 Reps
35 sec B Alternating Lunges 24 (12 Reps Each Leg)
30 sec C Split jumps 24 (12 Reps Each Leg)
15 sec D Jump Squat (to parallel) 12 Reps
105 seconds

We perform this 84-rep (AKA - the five dozen scheme) protocol in less then 105 seconds and go through 1-6 sets inside of a workout with about 2-3 minute recovery. We try to keep it about 6 sets per week, any way you want to do them. Our clients will do these protocols in sets of 2-3 in a row and a few will go through all 6 non-stop! This protocol actually provides an enormous amount of size to our athletes and really hardens our ladies' thighs – it is hard but well worth the effort in terms of results.

Leg Crank. These IHP Janes are doing the leg crank with 6.6 pound medicine balls – cause the standard protocol just won’t push them enough!

For those of you that are like me and have no knees left after years of abuse (e.g. wrestling and Judo), jumping can really keep you on track for a knee replacement. So, after ACL reconstruction, and bilateral knee meniscus related arthroscopy we go another route. It keeps our legs very strong, gives us pretty good size, kills the cardio with no high impact, helps with driving force and causes no pain in the knees. We pull or drag a 200 pound tire forward, side ways and backwards using ropes and handles or various other forms of harnesses and attachments. We will do 25 yards runs using each style of pulling and perform workout of 300-400 total yards. This takes about 40 minutes. Another option, usually reserved for Saturdays (AKA – Circus-Circus day) when we entertain the locals driving by, is the HUMMER Pull. With our heavy harness – we pull Victor’s Hummer around our parking lot. Three laps send our studs home purring like little kittens. Needless to say - our college and professional athletes eat this up.

Tire Pull (Backward)- Various attachments make the tire drags a real killer. We use the “Ab Wings” to train pushing and driving. Tire Pull (Forward) - “Low tech – high touch” training. Tire pulls takes guts and a charged CNS.
Tire Pull (Side)
Hummer Pull. The V-Man on the Hummer pull. The Hummer around the parking lot will make your legs feel like spaghetti. Better on our parking lot than while scending your Grand Canyon hike or playing on the iron grid.

The next in line is a killer chest blaster. To keep things simple we will keep a similar rep format for all other power, super-circuits. We use bands or a set of pulleys for this the standing exercises. Let’s take a look at it.

Time Exercise Reps
25 sec A Bodyweight Push-ups 24 Reps
35 sec B Slit Stance Band Punches 24 (12 Reps Each Leg)
30 sec C Spit Stance Band chest flies 24 (12 Reps Each Leg)
15 sec D Jump Squat (to parallel) 12 Reps
105 seconds
Band Punches. Alternating band punching is great for the core and really will kill the chest if you use a high enough band resistance

This chest circuit is a favorite with all of our clients – especially the men. They seem to do a little better do their upper body strength. However, many of our female clients have developed enough upper body strength to do very well with this training approach. We perform anywhere between 3-4 sets within a work out with about 2-3 minute recovery.

The last super-circuit will be a pulling sequence. This protocol is a favorite among our swimmers and cross-country skiers. Check it out.

Time Exercise Reps
20 sec A Standing Band Rowing 24 Reps
35 sec B Standing, bent-over alternating band/pulley 24 (12 Reps Each Leg)
30 sec C Standing poling (or swim) strokes 24 (12 Reps Each Leg)
15 sec D Overhead med ball throws against a wall/floor 12 Reps
100 seconds

This pulling circuit will really blast the back and even triceps during the poling (or swim strokes). Like the chest protocol, we perform 3-4 sets with about 2-3 minutes between sets. We prefer bands for these protocols because of the speed component needed. We find bands to be better suited for fast explosive work. The bands we have utilized for over 7 years are the JC bands (orange through blue range) distributed by MF- Perform Better (800-556-7464).

Our clients take about 2-3 months of training before they develop a base where we feel comfortable challenging them with some of these protocols. For the most in extreme training – try our “GUT CHECK” day. This is only for the clients that are at the top of the training food chain! Our “GUT CHECK” day starts with 6 sets of super legs – non-stop! We don’t care how and when you rest – the clock starts when you make your first move and ends when you finish your 504th rep. The few clients that can finish this monster do it in about 8-10 minutes with excellent form. We rest 5-10 minutes and perform 3 sets of the chest circuit with 3 minutes rest in between each set. We rest 5 minutes after the chest circuit and go on to 3 sets of the pulling circuit with 3 minutes rest between each set. We rest 5 minutes and finish with a stability ball core protocol consisting of 5 non-stop exercises – 3 sets of 10 reps of each of the five exercises (we cal it the FAB 5 protocol).

GUT CHECK DAY is done once every 1-2 weeks and only for about 1-2 months. Then we take a long break from it and go to other “gut checkers.” workout is a grueling 60 minute workout that leaves you sort of pale and ready for bed. BUT – what an accomplishment to know that you can finish this – can you say “bring on the pain.” When our clients finish this protocol, their view is that nothing they do in their life or sport is this tough – thus they are ready for just about anything.

Along with our other training approaches, such as hypertrophy, power development, stability and balance training this method of conditioning adds a new dimension to fitness and performance. It is certainly challenging work that leaves the client confident in their abilities and ready to take on the extreme situations that await them outside of the gym. Try to progress your clients to this level of training, but remember to do it over months of work – not days. Be safe and progressive. Remember, extreme training is cool – but safe extreme training is cooler! Every day without breathlessness, is a day without life – that’s what I say.

At IHP we have had many professionals come and learn about our unique style of training through our new mentorship program (www.ihpfit.com) – the education vacation of a lifetime! If you are interested in learning and even trying some of these protocols – step up! Visit our web sight or call us at 561-620-9556– we’ll tell you all about it!

The chest and back protocols discussed above, along with many others, can be seen in our The Essence of Band and Pulley training video available at www.ihpfit.com.