The Socratic Method

TAGS: Sports Training, sports, speed, conditioning, athlete, Ability, sports injuries, strength coach, Elitefts Info Pages, training

Article Sections:

1. Program Management (periodization)
2. Fibre Composition Mythology
3. EMG Studies and Performance Application
4. Volume Practice and Conventional Norm
5. Specificity of Training Spin-offs
6. Brief Words of Wisdom

One of the first pressing, inquisitive minds who stepped on the face of this earth was Socrates. His routine- from which he became well known- was to repeatedly question the backbone of someone’s theory (his patented form of debate). This almost always resulted in Socrates breaking down the structure that up-held this groundless theory- at some point in these pressing waves of questions. Each series of questions looked deeper into the theory for truth and reason; and his success was founded upon finding contradictions in his oppositions’ rationale.

Why don’t we do this anymore? Are we content with all that surrounds us in the training world? Better yet, when something that is found factual in the scientific world but doesn’t hold up in the practical (training) environment then why don’t we ask ourselves why? Why aren’t we willing to press-on until truth is found?

These are my questions. These are what I find a bit too suspicious- void a backbone- and frail under the test of contradicting information. These are the questions that I have had to ask myself, in search for superior preparation means, and now I ask you the same.

Scientific fact is a lot like war. Whatever remains standing at the end of the day is routinely accepted, and whatever gets demolished by way of reason and inquisition becomes washed away with the tide of yesterday’s current of popularity.

Brace yourself; I am about to drop nuclear bombs directly on the heart and soul of traditional training practice! At the end, let’s see what remains.

Inquisition #1: What’s Up With Linear Periodization?

If I remember correctly, it was Theodor Holm Nelson who first discovered a better way to organize, sort, and read material. As he made the “Xanadu” to “hyper-text” transformation, everything seemed to change before our naked eyes.

At the start of it all, he questioned the rationale for linear train of thought. This was even before PC’s had been developed, mind you, and he was still able to see beyond the limits of current technology. Nowadays, information does not have to travel from “point A” to “point B” in a straight path, which has allowed us to process information at will.

It’s kind of like when you read Playboy magazine. Socrates would ask; wouldn’t it be a pain in the ass if you had to slowly peruse page by page, bit by bit, until you reached the centerfold? Thanks to non-linear thinking, we have the god-given ability to use logic and wisdom to flip directly to the pin-up shots. Socrates, digging deeper, would wonder; why don’t we use this same logic in the training world?

Does it not seem sensible to do so? Are we just waiting for another “Ted” Nelson to come along and guide the way? (Before I get volumes of mail stating otherwise; I understand that Westside Barbell has a more up-to-date approach in practice, I am speaking to the masses of individuals that are having a difficult time making this “type” of a transformation!)

It is all likened to breakthrough research that Werner Heisenberg dictated on “the uncertainty principle.” While others lusted after the “transformation theory” because of how good it looked on paper, Werner didn’t like the way they it looked in the real world. Even though he developed a solution (superior means), the opposition was, ironically, too stubborn to transform their own thinking to match up with his- mostly because it was new-and-different and contradicted their current understanding. In fact, it wasn’t until the opposition withdrew their claim in support of his that Werner’s work became accepted.

Sound familiar? As great as linear periodization looks on paper, it just doesn’t work out in the long run. Hell, even the people involved in such logic question its’ validity; wondering whether it is the actual work that is producing results or if it is just a sensory illusion produced by the earlier stages of over training that are followed by a stage of de-loading. Of course, anyone could understand how confidence is critical enough to garnish a split-second off of one’s time (or whatever the standard). In the large scheme of things, it really is ridiculous to train for such a long period of time and reap such a small, if any, reward for your efforts. And, what if the peaking phase doesn’t produce a peak? Am I alone, or wouldn’t you also like to know that results are not going as intended before the big event? Is it not more rationale to have a system that allows manipulations as you go, based upon current findings, and which all will lead you to continual progression (peaking)? Would you not want to structure it as such for yourself? Then, why not for your athletes benefit, too?

First Order of Business: Open Yourself Up For Success

A better system has been developed. In fact, some of the best athletes in the world already have access to this method of administration- and, now, so can you. It is called Autoregulation- or the Drop Off Method- in which fatigue is calculated each training day, which allows a relationship to training frequency to be drawn. Thus, each training day is the “peak” from the last nano-cycle (session), in a sense. Results are assessed and, based upon up-to-date deficiencies, projections (solutive-guidance) are then made to propel results to even greater levels at an even faster rates- with the aide of The SuperSeven contents.

To answer our initial question- What’s up with linear periodization- you can now see why the answer is simply, nothing!

Inquisition #2: What’s My Fibre-Type Composition, Today?

There is chaos in the training world, it seems, to train based upon another groundless theory; fibre-type composition tests for mapping out future (needed) performance practice. I think if Socrates were here, he would play it out like this:

Why are you so concerned with your dominant fibre type?
Because fast twitch fibres are associated with greater strength, speed, and power than their counterparts- slow twitch fibres. Not to mention that they are bigger, and I want to get as buffed as possible.

For you, what is the dominant fibre-type in your contractile system?
Fast twitch.

How do you know this?
Because I took a test to see how many times I could lift 75% 1RM- to failure. I compared reps to the standard scores and was found to be 80% FT/ 20% ST.

Don’t you think that you could condition your system through training to get higher and/or lower reps for the same percent of your max, if you concentrated on such?
Well, no. Fibre Typing is inherent, you can’t change it like that. That is why athletes are able to get faster and stronger and some are better suited for endurance events.

So, are you BOTH strong and fast?
Well, uh, I have okay strength but a lot of people are faster than me.

Then, atleast, you are a pretty big guy then?
Not exactly. I would say that I need about 10-15 more pounds of muscle to be willing to take my shirt off at the beach.

Now, how does fibre-type composition scores relate to you, as an individual, and your performance, specifically?
I don’t know. Everybody just knows that it’s important, I guess.

**As a side note: I have performed percentage of maximum tests on my athletes in the past. In fact, on one test method, 85% 1RM where 6 reps was to be considered the control, I saw as many as 13 reps and as little as 2 reps performed- both tests administered on days of full restitution via Drop-Off Margin principles, on different days but WITH THE SAME ATHLETE! I guarantee you that fibre composition is a manipulative factor!**

What came first, performance or fibre type composition?

I would bet that an interview with Socrates must have felt like an interview with the devil’s adversary. Your theory is guaranteed to be laced with sugar and spice until you concede defeat by swallowing its’ contents in your own confusion. What is the relationship between speed, strength, and fibre typing? Does it all really matter, anyways?

Recent research has shown that muscle fibres aren’t of particular interest when surmising speed, strength, or power potential. In fact, studies show that a muscle fibre that is spliced with a neural impulse opposite of initial (slow twitch muscle innervated with fast twitch electrical impulse dynamics) will take on the characteristics of a fibre type that is commonly associated with the new impulse (fast twitch, for this example). This knowledge of fibre-transformation allows us to understand why the “typing” of an athlete’s muscle fibre makeup is a waste of time, and, rather, focus should be placed on manipulating the impulse so as to create an adaptation favorable to your goals. That is in the scientific setting, so what about in the training environment? As stated previously, any coach worth squat can train an athlete to manipulate fibre composition, realized as number of reps per standard percent of their 1RM. Once again, you may be born with a 60/40 split (fibre type ratio) but it does not mean that it has to stay this way. Furthermore, the largest men in the world do not have larger fibres than the average, non-trained human. A lot of this is due to the bodybuilder’s insane development of energetical size (not to be confused with frictional- or elastic- size (hypertrophy)) and development of new, functional fibres (hyperplasia). Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, in simplest terms, is the weight gain that you find when you saturate your system with energetical elements strategically or via various modalities of preparations and/or supplements (i.e. creatine monohydrate/ AN-2, etc).

As for the chicken versus the egg; the ratio of fibre-types found in an athletes system is the result of (1) initial level of preparedness (what they were born with) and (2) the augmentation via training means (transformation of slow-to-fast or fast-to-slow based on training influence). So, one can deduce that fibre-typing is of good use to validate the modality of training influence in the past and not grounds for projecting beneficial applications for the future- as long as an initial level was known, for comparison’s sake.

Outside of limb length/ratio data; Why isn’t there reliability in predicting size/power, size/strength, speed/strength, etc, relationships based upon fibre-typing?

The research is contradictory. It states that the largest, most powerful, and strongest fibre is the fast-twitch fibre. If this were ALL true then an athlete with tremendous sarcomeric hypertrophy would also be proportionately strong, powerful, and fast. We know this to not be true.

Just compare the physiques of top-level sprinters, powerlifters, etc, and you will quickly find that size is not indicative of anything, and does little to help us project speed or strength levels. And what about guys like Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez? How are they able to throw so fast being that they are far from ready to grease up and get on stage, nor do they spend summer’s touring the U.S. with a strongman stage-show act? Where is the fast-twitch fibre carryover there?

Traditionally, defensive backs are faster then linebackers but the LB’s are typically stronger. Explain that one based upon fibre-typing rationale- you can’t! And the list of contradictory information is so extensive that it is not even worth my time to investigate all of them at this time- I believe my point has been made. Of course, there will be exceptions to this rule, but exceptions are hardly enough to substantiate a training law!

Lastly, functional hypertrophy is better used to coin the absolute- and proportioned- development of elastic and frictional contents, not just some easy-out for explaining why some big guy is functionally sound while another isn’t. The term is only validated as such, otherwise it is just as groundless as fibre-typing for sports preparation practice!

Fixing the Fibre-Finding Frenzy

We already know, from research, that muscle fibres (frictional elements) may lock-up under speed and/or power conditions so as to enhance movement efficiency and proficiency. Efficiency is enhanced because less energy is expended when only the elastic elements of the movement process are utilized fully. Proficiency is increased if the frictional elements are held-stable because the dampening effect of the elastic process is limited, allowing for greater “spring”. In an athlete that possesses ND mastery, they will actually see movement via the frictional elements during the late stages of the amortization phase and early on into the beginning stages of the ensuing concentric action. This obviously makes frictional elements “synergistic” rather then just “supportive”. Poor NDE, novice athletes, and inadequate absolute frictional development can all lead to premature cross-bridge action- and/or movement- which are all destructive physically as they are perpetuates to injury.
We can then state that someone needs to develop specific levels of elastic hypertrophy (tendons, fascia, etc) if he wants to become stronger, faster, and/or more powerful. Depending upon the desired goal (speed, strength, and power), various levels of frictional development will be needed to increase movement efficiency and proficiency. This information also lets you gain insight into why the force-velocity curve, adopted from physics, is only partially appropriate for human movement, and that the f-v curve is absolutely non-synonymous with the strength-speed dynamic illustration (S3P-C). This also allows us to classify force under various degrees of importance for performance preparation: velocity-dominant force phenomenon (V-Dom); velocity-dependant force phenomenon (V-Dep); and absolute-force phenomenon (Ab-F).

So, really, is it not a question regarding frictional and elastic development and their inter-relationship (ND control)? How else can you explain ALL of the contradictions to the fibre-typing mythology, I mean theology, in sport based upon practical and scientific support?

Those bodybuilders that try to crossover to sports training really do make a mess of things, don’t they?

Inquisition #3: What’s the Electrical Rate of ‘No Progress’?

A lot of people are now starting to jump on the electrical association bandwagon. This is another one that Socrates would have a field day on. The theory is that if an athlete engages in work that is of the highest electrical output then all categories of fitness will be raised (speed, strength, power, size). What a good waste of a great scientific breakthrough! In the end, it is more important to couple knowledge regarding, both, the sensitivity enhancement to electrical impulses AND enhancements of neural output so as to avoid over-training via proper management of the magnitude of localized- and centralized- fatigue.

Why is it that the electrical activity associated with doing an unloaded curl at max speed and a maximal loaded curl at the greatest rate possible have been shown to be identical in scientific experiments? Furthermore, why is a reactive barbell curl the greatest in terms of associated electrical impulse (for biceps as well as triceps)? How can the result of this information lead anyone to believe that electrical activity is a mandatory requirement, or even a sought after constituent to the training process? Does it all mean that unloaded movements will make us just as strong as loaded movements, and if so, why don’t the followers of this theory all train like that? Furthermore, what do you find in association between electrical impulses and related force outputs? What does it all mean, in practical terms?

Importantly; how is this information manipulated to become compatible to athletes with different impulse-sensitivities (ex. we know that the same input magnitude will not result in the same output magnitude, and this changes per given athlete as it does cross-laterally in a same athlete (strong/dominant side))? Anyone who has experimented with EMS strategies has asked themselves this same question; Why is it that different magnitude of results are found with the same frequency of administration (different athletes, same performance standards; speed, strength, etc), even so when comparison of right versus left limb analysis are made (same athlete)? Once again, how do the advocates of this method make explanations to appreciate such matters of sensitivity? They don’t!

This is important knowledge, too. It is actually the knowledge- and application- of the synergistic effects of sensitivity- and arousal- enhancement that make an elite athlete susceptible to increased training responses, as it also allows the athlete to better regulate matters of over-training.

Knowing that popular advice by the proponents of electrical-magnitude training is to strive for maximal output of the neuro-muscular complex in training to reap the greatest reward (regardless of sport or goal, not to mention individual dynamics (ND)). Is this assuming that speed, strength, power, and size all get raised proportionate to one another? Is anyone else scratching their head out there as they try to figure out how so many got sucked into this manner of thinking in the first place?

Let’s assume it all to be true for a second, just for fun. Besides, it is nice to live in a perfect world, ignorant contradictions, for at least a small fraction of your day. Max effort work, maximum force applications (ex. reactive methods), and maximal speed applications are assumed to be qualitatively indifferent based upon the electrical-impulse theory (according to some of the contradictory scientific research). That sure is nice to know that now you can sit on your couch and watch football whilst doing biceps curls as fast as possible with the remote control in your hand and you will get tremendously huge, strong, powerful, and fast. What a breakthrough! I knew that all that heavy lifting was bad for my health, anyways.

Who are they kidding? Who has trained this way and found the results that they were looking for, every time? I know that someone can slip-up on a ND phenomenon some of the time, but the odds of that are as good as Heidi Klum taking a hit of ecstasy before she decides to suddenly stop by your house and model for you, personally; not to mention, invite you to give her a sponge bath in exchange for “anything you want.” Meaning, I wouldn’t rule it out, but the odds aren’t good enough to bet on.

Okay, so maybe divisions can be drawn. We can investigate the dynamics of the impulses under factors of magnitude, rate, timing, joint angle, etc; but it still won’t get us where we want to go. That bit of information is only good when you have been hired on as a journalist for some trendy, new-age training magazine that wants to try and confuse their readers with scientific hoopla- but don’t they know it never works? I mean; we are smart enough to not fall for that, aren’t we?

Additional Information Note: Personal investigation has shown the true peak-magnitude for electrical impulses to be more commensurate with the real force profile of athleticism: lowest values for v-dom (speed); greatest values for ab-f (power); and middle returns for v-dep (strength). I think the mass-confusion can be blamed on researches that lack enough practical understanding to test appropriately, thus strength always scores highest on force and electrical impulse charts with them. I would also wonder if they do this consciously so as to not conflict with the current confusion of the force-velocity curve being synonymous with the strength-speed dynamic.

Transmission Nearly Complete

My advice: Get out of the dark ages. Oh, you mean you want some advice that you can actually use? Okay, well, in a sentence: Use the S3P-C to support your direction for program content administration, based upon the commensuration of your goals and present standing, and wrap it all up in a blanket of SuperSeven with direct regards to critical elements; such as auto-regulatory training. There it is, in a nutshell.

Now, you may wonder what my simple, solutive-guidance is for this one- electrical impulse training rebuke. The fact is- I don’t have one. Not all irrational training strategies can have a glaring opposition; an “oxy” to its’ “moron”, so to speak. This is one that needs much more than a simple suggestion, it needs a complete re-mapping of how one thinks; a new perspective from which to gain insight. This isn’t found as easy as we would like it to be, and this is precisely why there is a vast falling out at this stage- not many can press on when such misdirection has lead to such discouragement. We hate to get fooled twice; remember how dumb our friends looked when they got tricked into believing that there wasn’t a Santa Clause- oh man, that was funny! Sometimes it is easier to just quit than press on, especially when it is our discretionary decision.

Then again, we could start to appreciate the value of progressive motor unit sensitivity to electrical stimulation and not just assume that all is a result upon an enhancement of neural discharges via the CNS. In fact, advanced athletes will defer an increase of neural-output for an increase in motor unit sensitivity (response) to lower magnitude impulses (stress), which will result in the production of a more efficient system. And, of course, a more efficient system will allow us to increase scores of athleticism (proficiency) quicker; and that, too, will become more rapid at this stage. Remember, it is only novice athletes that will rely solely on electrical enhancement for sporting advancement; and elite athletes rely on developing a more efficient system so as to handle more stress since the responsiveness to such impulses is heightened.

Lastly, relying solely on EMG studies will only lead us to engage in absolute force/ maximum electrical discharge training. Furthermore; most of us would bypass the required physical work to do such activity and settle for EMS training, exclusively, since we could, theoretically, appropriately induce the greatest magnitude of electrical impulses and control/responsiveness to such influences. And in fair shake, what you will find is not a direct increase of any performance factor resulting from the incredible shock to the system, but the secondary effect, sensitivity to such impulses, may advance your sporting career dramatically- if you manage it properly!
In short, the comparison of electrical activity scores must be held under certain restraints. Just because absolute electrical activity is found in absolute force work does not mean that it is sustained for the longest duration. The greatest mean (per unit time) score of force and electrical output is present in strength work of maximal loads. But, I am refuting the popular opinion that training solely on magnitude of scores alone is appropriate for all independent performance factors (speed, strength, power, and size). In short, gauging training influence solely on electrical influence present will not make an athlete stronger since it will deteriorate the ability of the system to sustain force, as is present with maximal loading and increased durations to complete the lift. There are coupling effects available, but distinction of singular means are rarely addressed but need recognition.

Inquisition #4: What’s the Power of Pythagoras? (Counting the Numbers)

Pythagoras was recognized as a philosopher in his lifetime, 580-500 BC, but is currently considered by many to be the first real mathematician to grace this earth’s surface. It was no secret that numbers fascinated him when he was alive. Indeed, he believed that numbers were powerful beyond expression, and was overwhelmed by one number in particular.

Many of us are familiar with the work that Pythagoras did with triangles, but not too many know that a lot of this intrigue stemmed from the integer “10”. In all of his years of research and experimentation, he concluded 10 to be the perfect number. In fact, a triangle may be drawn in segments of four ascending sections, each divided into groupings of 1, 2, 3, and 4 allocations, respectively. Moreover, 1+2+3+4=10, which delighted Pythagoras greatly, giving him substantiation to investigate this number for more than it is worth.

2,500 years later we are still, sub-consciously, fascinated by this number. Whether it is ten repetitions or ten sets, or the compilation of the two, we have proven to be intrigued by the power of this pure and perfect number. Why?

Why ten sets? Why ten reps? Why three workouts a week?- or even four? Why do we rely on numbers of traditional evidence in our society at large to be our guide to controlling volume?

Was Pythagoras right, after-all? Is there power beyond the realm of rationalization with some numbers? Or, do we just take part in these practices because they are popular, comfortable, or easy to remember?

Calculating a Result

Why not use our current level of fitness as a standard from which all work is performed? Why not be our own scientific study in deciding what is appropriate volumetric conditions for us each and every training session? Why not couple the relationship between fatigue and frequency so that results will come prompt and continuous? Or, is it best to allow some outside study to be the dictator of how much and how often we can handle a stimulus?

Would it not be great if we could find a system that would allow individuality to be present, non-discriminate to speed, power, or strength measurement standards, and will reliably project results as it does our next optimal training session date? The future is here! Read up on my auto-regulatory training strategies and feel free to email me if you have further questions.

Inquisition #5: When Did We Let Them in Here?

Investigate the training community for a moment and you will find some interesting things going on; powerlifters training like bodybuilders, football players training like Olympic lifters, tennis players training like recovering out-patients, etc. What a joke! I will be the first to tell you that specificity is only important under neuro-dynamic conditions. That is, movement selection isn’t the solution we are looking for, nor is some trendy one-size-fits-all approach to building athleticism.

Powering Your System to Perform Better

Recently I was directed to check out a few popular sports training catalogs on the Internet by one of my associates that lives in the United States. If you want to know what presses a coach’s patience quicker than anything else on the face of this planet, look no further than what I saw on that day. It is the deterioration that sports preparation has seen ever since crafty sales-teams (big business) have wedged their sly, self-serving feet into the fitness and competition arena. They are stepping on everything once reasonable with a shade of high profiteering that has undoubtedly surrendered us to performance enhancement decay via propaganda of pertinent preparation.

I saw three main classes of products: (1) unstable objects; (2) resistive bands; and (3) unstable objects with resistive bands pre-attached. The marketing campaign is geared towards all sports, all athletes, and all levels of health. That’s right, NOW you can use the same program and equipment to train for upper level performance enhancement as you did for post-surgery rehabilitation. If nothing else, it seems a bit too convenient to be trusted!
I don’t even think Socrates, himself, could come up with a question to boil water on this belief- he would just sit their quietly as he shook his head in disgust. I am going to cut against the grain, myself, on this one and boldly state that I would never recommend buying a single product from those catalogs- ever! They have anything but the athletes’ interest in mind, and that is revolting! And, if they do actually have the athletes as their first priority then they, obviously, aren’t competent enough to entrust doing business with- period!

The Real Gripe

What is up with all of the professional athletes in the United States that endear this off-the-target approach of an otherwise good term- functional training? Is it that they are too lazy to get involved- and stick- with a program that demands results? Is it because they would rather “hang out (train) with other professional athletes”; as a football player from the Baltimore Ravens was heard saying in substantiation for his sugarcoated training program? Would they really rather coast along to the top of the sporting world, pressing the rest of us to believe that all we need is the right ‘genetics’ to get to the top, like Terrel Owens, among others? Do they really think that busting their behinds for a few months before scout camp is enough to take our current standard of professional sporting results to the next level (as a whole), above and beyond today’s standard? Do coaches that market such business practices even know that they are scarring the sporting world, which, when instituted in effect, will take years to heal? Is the power of the dollar that strong? Are there not things greater than a buck, such as the sanctity of sporting competition, and the personalities that result from being a part of such practice?

Specific Suggestions

For Coaches: Listen before you speak and follow before you lead. Specifically, always be weary of those that have been trampled before you, and be attentive to your predecessors who have proven to be successful. Ask yourself why to everything that presents itself to you, from training practice to proposed-revolutionary equipment.

For Athletes: Find a coach that you can trust. Never be complacent with mediocrity, always press the limits of human attainment- physically and emotionally. Never be afraid to press your coach for specific and pertinent answers to your relative questions of interest. Lastly, never become involved in a program that doesn’t make practical sense, but never be afraid to broaden your horizons in an attempt to expand your performance- even at that, do so judiciously.

60 Seconds Worth of Wisdom (wrapping it up)

Always keep an eye out for contradictions. This can be in current scientific research, popular practice, and any media outlet source. If there is contradictory information, question why. Go straight to the source if at all possible. If the source is unwilling to be challenged, once again, question why.

Never be complacent. Always strive for expansion, mentally and physically. An athlete can only help his situation if he learns and only hurt his situation if he acts in ignorance- the same is true for a coach. Research shows that the world’s expansion of information is literally doubling every eight years. Tax your mind to keep up physically with the times. It is next to impossible to play catch up, and complacency is the ignition to this curse.

Piece the puzzle together. If it doesn’t fit then it is most likely the wrong piece. Cure this early on. This includes all restrictions to your performance; coaches, training partners, information sources, etc. Everything must become habitual-successful before it becomes successful. Be warned, you will never wake up one day a world champion unless you paid the price. And, delving further into that last sentence; When I say; “very few exceptions to (this) rule”, you should assume it to mean; “not me,” until proven otherwise.

Historically, a large portion of the greatest ideas to come about was initially rejected by popular opinion. Don’t write something off too early because it is different. Examine its contents and ask yourself if you are truly open to the possibility that it can offer you- if proven correct. Lastly, always use the Socratic Method to distinguish fact from fiction; truth from trickery. We can only get the answers wanted if we ask the questions needed.
These are some elementary steps to performance evolution!

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