Stretch Shortening Cycle



The fundamental elements of human power production are: high-speed strength, low-speed strength, speed of force production, strength-shortening cycle and muscle memory or skill. The first three elements are trained in the gym, the fourth is a gift of nature and the fifth means that you could be the most perfect physical specimen ever to walk the earth and you wouldn’t be able to chew gum and walk, unless you practiced chewing gum and walking, of course. Let’s talk for a moment about number 4.

Do you remember the classic scene in the doctor’s office where the patient is sitting on the exam table and the dr. hits his knee with a rubber hammer and the patient’s leg kicks out? That is a demonstration of the stretch shortening cycle. A perfect example of the body’s defense mechanism against overstretching, when the hammer hits the tendon over the knee and quickly shortens the quadricep muscle, the brain immediately tells the quad to contract and simultaneously keeps the opposing muscle, the hamstring, relaxed so that there is no opposition to the leg’s movement, preventing overstretching. The same phenomenon can be seen in weight training, called ‘bouncing out of the squat’, the athlete lowers the weight under control until, at the very bottom of the squat the pre-stretched muscles rebound to start the weight up again.

The stretch shortening cycle is a built in part of the human machine but knowing what it is and what it does can help us in getting to know our bodies better. Plyometrics is a subject that really embraces the stretch shortening cycle, many of the movements rely on it for their effectiveness. One of my favorite exercises is platform jumping or box jumping. Many people do this in their workouts, but there are two ways to do this and two very different results.

The basic box jump starts with the athlete standing in front of a wooden platform and jumping from the floor to the top of the box, fully extending the hips each time and jumping back down to the floor. If you can do this, awesome. Now think about this, start on top of the box, jump to the floor and spring back onto the box without pausing at the bottom. This is where the stretch shortening cycle lives. Try this ten times with a small box or snatch block, 6 to 8 inches tall to begin with. Rest at the top instead of the bottom if you need to and try to keep your heels from touching the ground when you land at the bottom, this leaves all of the stretch in your legs. The first several times be careful as there is a component of skill and balance involved in getting back to the same spot you started each time. Think unicycle, don’t hurt yourself trying to help yourself.

workout: run 1 mile, no stops

Day 1- A New Body The Hard Way, By Taking Action!

If you have come to the realization that you have to make a change in the way you manage your own health and are ready to start now then you need a few things. Pen and paper, a small notebook will do or a cheap spiral they sell in school supplies.

Make a small square in the top corner of the first page of your notebook and write your weight down there, you will do this every day. The purpose here is to develop the habit of weighing yourself every day, not that it is important to know what you weigh, but it is important to build habits. We are going to begin small and add things as we go. I say we because I am doing it with you, I need to develop good habits, too.

The rest of the page-
This is where you write down everything you eat and drink all day, come back to the notebook as much as you need to and be as complete as possible. You can’t change a bad habit until you realize that you have one. Don’t cheat here and leave stuff off, that can be of no help whatsoever. You will also write down all of your activities here, the ones that are active that is. If you mow the yard, that’s cardio, write down how long it took. If you walk somewhere, write down how far. Try and add a walk to your activity each day this week, even if it is just around the block, then write it down. Concentrate on doing these two things every single day, do them for one week.

Think actively-
When you wake up, get up. Don’t lie in bed and try to go back to sleep, it is exhausting. Do something around the house, tidy up, clean some dishes, pet the dog or cat, just don’t lay back down. Some things that you might ordinarily put off during the day don’t take as long to get done as you might imagine if you just jump in and do it. If you can get one thing done in that period of time that you would normally waste rolling around trying to get back to sleep your day got so much easier. One less load of laundry, one sink of dishes, tidy up the bathroom even catching up on email or surfing reddit, you are training yourself to get active and stay active during the day. This is a good thing.

OK, enough. Good job today, see you tomorrow. There will be a new post and some new information. Take it slow, do things well.

Transitioning to the Home Gym…

After 3 years of CrossFit training at an affiliate box I have come to the conclusion that I will be better served in the short term by doing my own programming. You see, CrossFit has a series of standard movements or exercises that form its core prescribed programming, such as handstand push-ups, pistol squats, muscle-ups, double-unders and the like. Lets be clear, I cant do any of these. A muscle-up is a chest to bar pull-up with a full ring dip, I have never in my life done a single pull-up. Same with the rest of these movements, well, I have managed a total of 10 double-unders lifetime, never more than 1 at a time.

Try as I might and with all of the encouragement in the world I could not do any more CrossFit without being able to do any of the core movements of the proper CrossFitter. I hate that the routine of going to the gym every morning and hanging out with my gymrat pals came to an end but hopefully the transition to home gymming will bear fruit and some substantial gains be made. Over the past several years I have developed a lot of love for Olympic lifting and would really like to see some substantial gains here so I am following the StromgLifts 5×5 training 3 days a week, M-W-F to grow and maintain strength with free weights. This program has a strict linear progression that I am going to try and follow about 5 months, the natural end of the beginner cycle. Then I will assess and see where I might want to go from there. On T-Th-S I am following the 50 Pull-up progression to finally get some dead hang pull-ups going. I have just finished the fourth week of this, still doing negatives but feeling really strong. My major hurdle to doing bodyweight exercises right now is my body weight, still hovering around 300#. On the plus side, when I do get some pull-ups I will be a seriously strong dude.

While doing the 5×5 and alternating the pull-up progression, I plan to work in some HIIT work as well, but slowly so as not to degrade my recovery. I am thinking of alternating tabata bike sprints with 5 sets of 10 shuttle runs first and then working in more and more variety. As the first two programs begin to mature I am looking to take on the 1st major hurdle, the benchmark workout Fran. 21-15-9 alternating pull-ups and thrusters, my target is to complete the workout rx in under 5 minutes. Then I will move to mastering double-unders and switching to a Bulgarian method lifting program to get my squat to around 1.25x bodyweight, this will make pistol squatting very easy once I get the balance down. Pull-ups can be maintained by adding to other workouts, so I dont lose any of the gains I have worked hard for.

All of this is far down the road but making attainable goals is part and parcel of moving forward. Slowly I am making gains and avoiding injury and I am OK with that. I would rather have perfect form than talk about making PRs will recovering from avoidable injury. Lift safe and recover, words to live by.

Don’t take my word for it…

I like to think that I make pretty good decisions, I am not an expert on anything but I know quite a few and I am not shy about asking for help when I realize that I could use some. When I started into fitness I was really jumping into a big pool, I needed help with just about everything.

Thankfully the fitness community is a very giving, social group, there are plenty of resources if you take a small amount of time to find them. On my journey so far I have made a few friends and found out quite a bit of information that has really helped me.

Firstly, I am a CrossFitter, I drank the kool-aid and I will be WOD-ing until I drop. This community has some super minds working all the time and here is a short list: Olympic weightlifting, Mike Burgener, Diane Fu, Mobility, Dr. Kelly Starrett, Gymnastics, Carl Paoli, Strength, Rob Orlando, to name a few. On the web there is the team at California Strength, Littlest Lim, Shaheen, Scott Hisaka, Spencer Moorman and others, they post their workouts on Youtube on a regular basis, very cool to watch their progress and check out their programs. Mike Bledsoe and his bunch over at Barbell Shrugged does a weekly podcast that drops every Wednesday if memory serves, they have expert guests and a really entertaining and informative show, definite don’t miss stuff there.

Glenn Pendlay and the boys at MDUSA also post heavy on Youtube, that is where at least some of your future Olympic stars are coming from. One of my favorites is Jon North and the Attitude Nation (Attitude Nation Salute!!!) a super lifter and good freind of Donny Shankle. I hope this little list can help you at least as much as it has helped me, good luck and good lifting!!