Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley is back for another installment of his Fitness Corner column.
Riley and assistant strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is an archive of past columns. Dan and Ray have also made the club's strength and conditioning manual available. Click here to download it. And here is an abridged one for the fitness enthusiast.
I am a Ranger instructor at Fort Benning. My buddies and me love to work out. A normal day if we aren't in the field is to run in the morning and lift in the afternoon. Our runs are for endurance and some speed. We run five to eight miles twice a week, two speed workouts ranging from 400's to 800's, and road marching with a rucksack for up to twelve miles once a week. This is a typical five-day aerobic workout. * *
*We are looking for a good weight workout in the evening that will add to the pushups, chin-ups, dips, and sit-ups, we must do. To carry heavy rucks we need to strengthen the lower back, the shoulders, and the traps. We also need to strengthen our legs for road marching. This workout must be smart on time management and cannot be more than four sessions per week. We are looking for a good overall body workout. *
States Army Ranger*
My only hands on experience with the Army is eight weeks of Basic Training at Fort Dix (New Jersey), back in 1973. I had a blast in Basic but that was the extent of my Army training. Upon completion of basic training I went directly to West Point. I enlisted in the Army after grad school to become the first Director of Strength Training at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
While at West Point I became somewhat familiar with the physical and mental rigors of Ranger school. We had many Cadets who would go to Airborne or Ranger school during their summer break. Upon their return I could observe the toll it would take on their fitness levels. While at West Point I also had the opportunity to observe what impact over –training had on physical development.
I admire you and your buddies for what you do for a living. Your jobs are critical for our country's National Security and far more important than anything we do in the National Football League.
Your work is physically demanding. Each day you expend large amounts of energy performing your job. Additional energy is spent developing and maintaining the high fitness levels requisite of a Ranger Instructor.
The Stress and Adaptation principle discovered by Hans Selye is very explicit. There is a limited supply of energy available to recover from physical stress. Exceed that supply and failing adaptation occurs. Signs of failing adaptation are lingering stiffness, muscle soreness, chronic fatigue, weaker today than you were your last workout, difficult to warm up, heavy-legged.
I looked at the volume of work you guys are performing and my biggest concern for you is over-training. Your job requires that you engage in a variety of physical activities during the course of a normal workday. These activities cannot be overlooked when it comes to recovery. Additional energy expenditure (exercise) above and beyond your normal workday should be meaningful and brief. In other words don't waste time or energy on non-productive exercise.
You have no choice when it comes to the physical demands of your job. However, you do have a choice when it comes to how much exercise you perform to improve your strength and conditioning levels. Make sure any additional exercise you add to your already ambitious schedule doesn't become too much exercise and prevent you from recovering from one workout to the next. If you over-train (perform more exercise than is needed) your strength gains will be less than they could be. Don't be satisfied with just getting stronger. Your goal must be to generate maximum gains for the effort you exert.
Too much exercise can be just as detrimental as not enough. My advice to you and your fellow soldiers is the same advice I give to highly disciplined athletes. "Perform as little exercise as is needed to stimulate the best physical gains." More often than not the highly motivated athlete performs "as much exercise" as his or her body can tolerate until they get hurt or reach the point of diminishing returns. Make sure you and your buddies don't embrace this same strategy.
Players (soldiers) with this mentality (more exercise is better) exist in a non-recovered state feeling tired and listless. Remember, the right amount of exercise should make you feel better and perform better. Too much exercise does the opposite.
Keep accurate records of everything you do. Eliminate non-productive exercise. After warming up make sure every rep and set you perform is productive exercise designed to increase strength or maintain near maximum strength levels. You guys don't have much extra energy left to use on exercise so don't waste it on sub-maximal, non-productive sets. Warm-up and then get busy. Make every set count.
You should see steady progress until you eventually level off. Any decrease in strength or fitness from workout to workout may be a sign you are performing too much exercise, or have not allowed enough time to recover.
If you are ever in doubt always perform less exercise, not more. Could you march eleven miles instead of twelve, and get the same results? Could you perform fewer exercises or fewer sets, and make the same strength gains? Invest your time and recovery energy wisely. Find out how little exercise you must perform to get the best results.
It is difficult to prescribe a specific regimen without knowing what equipment you have available and what is the quality of your exercise.
I am well aware of the physical tests you must perform. Rather than perform pushups, chin-ups, dips, and sit-ups, in a separate workout, I'd suggest you incorporate them as part of your overall weight workout.
In an attempt to conserve time and energy, I would recommend no more than two total body weight workouts. Conserve time and energy, there is no need to split your routine. Perform all upper and lower body exercises in the same workout. To generate maximum gains you must adhere to the exercise guidelines we prescribe. Each set should be performed at near maximum intensity except the stiff-legged deadlift. A sub-maximal effort is recommended while performing the stiff-legged deadlift.
- Leg Press – perform 1 – 2 warm up sets
- Leg Extension – 1 set x 12 reps
- Leg Curl – 1 set x 12 reps
- Leg Press – 1 set x 20 reps
- Stiff-legged dead lift – 1 set x 12 – 15 reps
- Bench Press – 1 set x 10 reps (use barbell, dumbbells, or machine)
1 set x 8 reps
- Chin-ups - 12 reps (use a weight belt to add weight once you can complete 12 good reps with your bodyweight).
- Dips - 12 reps (use a weight belt to add weight once you can complete 12 good reps with your bodyweight).
- Chin-ups - Perform as many good reps as possible. Negative only chin-ups can be substituted for variety.
- Dips - Perform as many good reps as possible. Negative only dips can be substituted for variety.
- Lateral Raise - 1 set x 12 reps (perform seated with dumbbells or manual resistance, or with a machine).
- Front Raise - 1 set x 12 reps (performed lying or seated with dumbbells or manual resistance, or with a machine).
- Seated Press - 1 set x 10 reps (use dumbbells or a machine).
1 set x 8 reps
- Shrugs - 1 set x 12 reps (use dumbbells, barbell or a machine).
- Biceps Curls - 1 set x 12 reps (dumbbells, barbell, machine, or manual resistance).
- Pushups - Maximum number in 60 seconds.
- Situps - Maximum number in 60 seconds.
If you go into a workout tired or unsure if you have recovered from your last
workout, allow another day to rest, or, cut back on the number of exercises. Remember, it
is not how many exercises or sets you perform that stimulates maximum gains. The key
to maximum gains is how you perform each rep and complete each set. Work as hard as
you possibly can (safely) using the techniques we have described in the Fitness Corner.
Sergeant Annan, the order for the day for you and your troops is to find out how
little exercise you and your men can do to get the best results. On behalf of the entire
Houston Texans organization, thank you for your service and be safe.
Selye, Hans, M.D., The Stress of Life, New York, N.Y., McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1978.
*My son of 10 (Dylan) won't accept my denial of him to work out with weights. I keep telling him that his body isn't ready yet for heavy workouts. As an NFL expert would you explain to him that he has to wait for a few years. I know that he wants to do everything to make it in the NFL someday, but I don't want him to be burned out at age 25. *
*Robert von Gerhardt *
Amsterdam the Netherlands
Dylan, if you can read this, "Listen to your Dad." He is right. You are too young to begin a structured strength program. Strength training is not fun. It is hard work.
Adults have much more to gain from lifting weights than you do, yet most begin a program and then quit after a brief period. Why? Because it is hard work. It requires long-term discipline and behavior modification.
This is one of the "ten most frequently asked questions" we receive. Log onto the Fitness Corner and click onto The Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions.Question number "3" deals with children and lifting weights.
Robert, your advice to your son is good. I've observed many children who had success as a young athlete and then completely lose interest in athletics by the time they reached high school. Well-intentioned Moms and Dads meticulously orchestrated their daughter's/son's childhood to prepare them for a future professional career. Personal trainers, speed coaches, and technique coaches, occupied any free time.
My advice to parents is let their children be children. Help keep them active and fit with fun activities. Listen to our team nutritionist Roberta Anding, and teach your children sound eating habits. If they are interested in exercise teach them how to properly perform sit-ups, pushups, modified pushups, bodyweight squats, lunges, or step-ups on a box.
I have two sons and both were high school and college athletes. One was drafted as a professional baseball player. I waited until they were freshmen in high school before I started them on an organized strength program. That is my advice to parents.
Dylan, send me an e-mail when you are almost fourteen and I'll help you get started. Until then, have fun playing, stay active, don't add any excess weight, and most important, tell all your friends to root for the Texans.