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

Perfect day for it…





I really like the bike trails that we have here, today was a perfect day to ride, almost no one out fighting the wind.  Just as I would expect it to be on the day of the ride, the wind quartered about half way through and I ended up fighting it about three quarters of the time.  I will have to start riding in the evening as well to get in the amount of saddle time I want to work up to.  One other thing, if you plan on doing any endurance riding at all, do yourself a favor and get your bike set up just for you.  I cannot tell you how much more comfortable it is to ride a bike that fits.  I have gone through 3 major saddle upgrades in the past three years and each one took about a month to get used to.  You sure don’t want to make a major change in the way you ride right before a big event, you want to be really used to the bike when you are going to be spending a lot of time on it.  The route I took today is becoming a favorite, it is about an hour long without wind and it favors the way I like to train, I never stop.  18.5 miles with two turnarounds and never came out of the pedals.  That is the way I will ride in August, this jaunt is just about two rest stops worth, I want to add another thirty miles to this before the ride.  Also need to work on speed, this tempo would get me 59.2 miles by 11:30, probably 20 miles short of Hells Gate, something to think about but then it is the first training ride of the season.Image

Countdown to the Hotter’n Hell 100…

The big endurance ride of the year is only a hundred days or so out now, time to fine tune the bike and get some serious saddle time, this is the year we go for the big one, the hundred mile course.  And we are going to do it with a team of at least 5 people, so we have to be serious about our cadence and especially our rest stop discipline.  We cannot stop every 10 miles or even 20 like in years past, the cutoff for the 100 mile course is closed at 11:30AM or earlier, depending on the weather, which gives us about 4 hours to get the first 70 miles done making ‘Hell’s Gate’ before the cutoff.

We all have camelbacks and know how to use them, we should probably try to make the first stop at 50 miles, somewhere to the west of Burkburnett on the way back from Electra.  Getting 5 people to adhere to that sort of schedule will be tough but the alternative is to leave the stragglers behind and go for the gate without them.  The start will include about 14,000 cyclists and we will start in front of maybe 12,000 but still, passing up the first three rest stops should seriously thin the herd in front of us so that when we do stop the lines will not be as long, keeping stops short is key though.  Rest is for after the ride, stopping is for hydration only, and then back up and ride.  Since we rode together last year I know that we have 3 strong riders and me and the rest can keep up, practicing taking the lead and rotating through the pack practice would help us immensely, both with drafting and keeping our minds off of the road and the monotony of pedalling, which can be mentally draining especially into the wind.

It will be interesting to see if my training this year will serve me as it has in the past, I am getting better at hydration too, I think, which should serve me extremely well, we are due a real scorcher, the last two years were pretty mild for the end of August(the ride is always exactly 9 days before Labor Day).  I have been drinking at least a gallon and a half of liquid a day, some days two, this seems about right as the temperatures here are in the 100’s most days and I work outside in it all day.

I plan on taking as much advantage as I can of the community rides we have here every day and getting out on the bike trails as much as I can, I have to wear in the new Brooks before August.  Yall be good and watch for cyclists when you drive.


Beginning a Prilepin cycle…

OK, in the 60’s and 70’s a Soviet named A. S. Prilepin charted the workouts of thousands of weightlifters and boiled all of his raw data down to a simple chart, The Prilepin Chart.  Using this chart an athlete can program workouts to maximize the strength gain and lessen recovery time and exposure to injury through overtraining.  Basically, intensity equals adaptation until the overall demand impacts speed.  Enough of that, simply put you train a single movement a finite number of reps/sets at some percentage of your 1 rep max.  

Since I am starting an overhead squat strength cycle, today I had to find my 1RM in the overhead squat.  2 sets of 5 with an empty bar to warm up the movement then, 5 @ 65#, 5 @ 75#, 3 @ 85#, then singles of 95#, 105#, 110#, 115# and 120#.  I didn’t fail at 125# but my form sucked so badly at 120# that I called it right there rather than risk injury, train smarter, not harder.

Now that I have my number, 120, I need to calculate three more numbers to use the chart, 70%, 80% and 90% which is 84, 96 and 108 or rounded to my available plates, 85, 95 and 110.  The chart states that if you are using less than 70% of your 1RM you should do sets of 3-6 reps with a total of between 18-30 reps with the optimum number being 24.  Between 70% and 80% of 1RM sets of 3-6 reps and a total of between 12 and 24 reps with the preferred number being 18.  80% to 90% of 1RM calls for sets of 2-4 reps and between 10 and 20 reps with the desired number being 15.  Above 90% us 1-2 reps per set, 4-10 total and the magic number being 7.

My workout scheme for the foreseeable future is training OHS every night, I plan on using a three day cycle for strength adaptation in a rotation of:  Heavy adaptation using the Prilepin chart on day 1, intense 5 by 5 sets on the second day and technique/muscle memory on the third day of the cycle with low weight/high rep GVT(German Volume Training).  The way I see the next three days shaping up is this:

Day #1:  Warm up with 5 sets of 5 on empty bar then 6 sets of 3 reps @ 85#.

Day #2:  Warm up with 2 sets of 5 empty bar then 5 sets of 5 @ 65# then 5 sets of 5 @ 75#.

Day #3:  Warm up 2 sets of 5 empty then 10 sets of 10 @ 50#.

Programming will vary cycle to cycle, but you get the idea.  The heavy day sets up the adaptation and the other two allow for technical practice and spending time in the hole.  Time will tell, obviously, now go lift something heavy. 

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!!