DB Hammer *Training Principles* Discussion

On a side note, the new chapters that I’ve wrote so far are:

  1. Neural aspects of strength training
  2. Training tools: using weight releasers
  3. Training tools: using jumpstretch bands
  4. Training tools: kettlebells, boards, boxes

These are completed, I only have to have them edited. I’m also working on a chapter detailing how is hypertrophy stimulated.

Now, on to the ongoing discussion… I personally like autoregulatory training. I’ve been using it in the past and even designed an autoregulating powerlifting program a while ago.

However one thing that I’m not sure of, is the acceptable drop-off margin. In fact, in my own autoregulating training when there is the slightest drop off, that’s when the exercise stops. Which takes me to the 3-6% drop off zone advocated by DB Hammer. To me it’s wrong to use the same margin for all types of work. For example a 6% drop off during maximum lifting will surely not have the same effect/impact on the CNS and structural system than a 6% drop off from low-intensity lifting. In the first case the volume will be relatively low so the musculoskeletal impact will be insignificant and the CNS will take a huge blow. In the second case we’ll have the opposite effect, the muscles will suffer from a lot of micro-trauma from the high volume of work, but the CNS will be relatively unaffected.

So even if we have the same drop off margin, the recovery time required will be completely different in both cases since the CNS recovers at a much slower rate.

Same could be said with sprinting. Do you honestly believe that a 6% drop off in maximum speed work (60-80m for example) will have the same impact than special-endurance with a 6% drop off? Is the later even safe to do without risking injury?

Then we have the issue of the number of exercises. A 6% drop off with 2 exercises will not have the same impact as a 6% drop off with 4 exercises. Let’s not forget that CNS fatigue is cumulative. So a 6% drop off in 4 exercises could actually mean a 20-30% drop off in neural efficiency. The effect can be even worst if the exercises target the same area/muscles/movement pattern. In that case, not only does the CNS stress is increased over the 6% barrier, but the stress on the muscles is too.

And is the 6% drop off margin even acceptable for any sportint activity? Since DB give the example of a baseball pitcher, we can believe that this is his assumption. Well, how does that work with precision sports like gymnastics, figure skating or even golf? Will the player hit his wedge until he loose 6% distance? From experience, this would mean 6-8 hours practices (I’m been a competitive golfer in my day). And can we even say with precision where the loss of performance comes from? Fatigue, CNS fatigue, technical mistakes, dehydration etc.

I’m not saying that DB’s autoregulating methods are wrong. However he doesn’t provide enough information to use this method correctly. And before accepting them , we must question their logic.

Here’s a figure from the new chapters. It illustrate the nature of the neural drive.

A. is rate-dominant of a high magnitude
B. is rate-dominant of a low magnitude
C. is duration-dominant of a high magnitude
D. is duration-dominant of a low magnitude

As to were I took the info, in part from the work of Jurgen Weineck, from Mel Siff and from the class given by my old professor of psychophysiological control.

Here are 3 other figures illustrating the adaptation processes to training:

On top: The normal adaptive process to strength training by DG Sale
Middle: An ideal adaptive process when limit strength and limit power is key
Bottom: An ideal adaptive process when relative strength and relative power is key


What distances? What volumes? What types of sprinters? What strokes?

I feel that the greater the repeat the greater the taper potential and for trials and finals formats. My experiences are that sometimes after a very taxing CNS set the rotation of athletes become less and less…what are your experiences?

What percentage of training do the methods represent? Weight training for most sports are a small part…and this is a small part of a small part!

These are some of my concerns- a 6% drop off from an 80m sprint is immense and the other limitations you point out are clear.

It may be a little difficult to define the gradations between 95 and 99%, though you can adjust quite finely. For example, in sprinting, you can dial up the muscular demand yet maintain a lower CNS load by running into the wind and reverse this by going with it for the same running time.
I might start with 95 to 96- or even 97% in your “capacity” catagory, with 98 to 99% in the higher risk catagory. Certainly proactive planning can create a peak exactly whereyou want it. World Records and personal bests by my athletes were almost always set in the most important meets of their season.

I agree with you Chris.

Some more to add:

  1. Similar sort of concepts with regard to Olympic lifts / sports performance on the field
  2. Both utilise a lot of terminology used in the Soviet Sports Review (plio, mio, aux) and Supertraining (correspondence, preparedness). Jay has supposedly read these inside out.
  3. DB is definitely American or has very close links with the US. Athletes coming to him from the NFL, NBA based in Germany? Nobody in Europe has even heard of this guy – ever!
  4. Same age (been in business same amount of time 30 years)
  5. DB always finishes his replies with EVOLUTION (EVO-Sport)

Who said there should be a magazine concerning strength coaches antics - this would be a sell out

I mean where did CT originally learn about this stuff. Supertraining, S & P, Soviet Sports Review, the psychophysiological control class? Just curious.

Where did DB say apply the 6% dropoff to running? I was under the impression it was supposed to be used mainly for lifts even if that presents some problems as well.

As I said, mostly from Weineck and Siff. I’ve read a lot about the nervous system in the past 3-4 years and fomulated my theory based on what I read. I did include some of DB’s information, that which I found to be truthful and applicable.

Pages 66 and 67 of his book: “What if an athlete is performing sprint work on the track and runs a best of 10.40 secpnds x 100 meters for that day? How would you set up the drop-off margin for this athlete? (…) His drop-off will obviously be slower, not faster, so we will have to find 106% not 94% of his initial to calculate this point of cessation. Using a cheap calculator we can find that this cut off point will be when he slows down to above 11.02 seconds.”

I like Your questions,and I 'm more than willing to answer them,but which of my statements exactly are You referring to?

I am a bit surprised of Your words about trials and multi-round (and possibly multiple stroke) sprint race formats,as much more than repetition numbers,I actually find rest,regeneration,and proper nutrition and supplements really help to maximize one’s potential there.What do you mean by athletes’ rotation? Please excuse my lack of understanding once more.

As for percentages indicated, I wasn’t referring to weights at all,but to % of best times in the pool management.

RE Drop Off: From 10.40 to above 11.02 eh??
Does anybody out there with any experience AT ALL with sprinters believe that this is equivalent to a 6% drop in a lift?
Proof that the calculator hasn’t replaced the need for a brain.


I have never used such a percentage for any athlete…from world class to high school. Why do this? What does it teach besides slow speeds?

I do a lot of submaximal repeats in the 98% range to have swimmers learn to tolerate heavy workloads to bust through stale periods. As for my lifting I can’t get into the details as Chris T because I never worked with a strength only athlete.

Sprinters only have a small window of oppertunity to improve from a CNS standpoint. With 2-3 speed workouts at different lengths and means spending time on submaximal work for supramaximal results is a path to win the 10 x 100m on 5 minutes but run dead last in a final of a grand prix meet.

Also how long can you use such a specific method? Simple programs like mine work and have drop off IMPROVEMENTS of strength from +5% to 2% to 1% to 0 or -1% (swimmers may decrease all physiological systems but perform well from being completely free of tightness and fatigue)

When do you use “auto regulatory training” in a year round program? 3-6 weeks? Also how does this effect speed with the track or pool?

6% drop off in sprinting is obviously stupid and by no means comparable to 6% in weights. But to fully right off the AREG system can someone answer me this. Say we are using speeds that equate to 98%, Charlie and Clemson both state this as a useful submax speed at want point, after how many reps, is the session stopped? Is it when 98% becomes impossible or to risky if so is this not a 2% drop off session?

May i point out that i am not trying to argue that this system works, i’m not, i am just trying to find out why people are arguing it doesn’t.

I’m talking about the high end, where PBs will be scarce, as they might well represent the equivalent of a new world record. This is not true, of course, when the athlete is still improving rapidly, and ,with swimming with a time multiple of 4, I would suspect that CNS demand differs.

The session is set up with known numbers that the athlete has handled before (you’re not moving into new territory). Any drop off from the expected time would be cause for concern, as it should be relatively easy- and usually is.

Okay cool, so your athletes would always be training well within themselves and this in turn alleviates injury and overtraining potential and thus allows low(er) risk long term progression. And, it should also ensure the athlete never slows down which would train slower speeds which is undesireable. Makes sense and this method would also allow for higher frequency of sessions which when everything is added up would probably equal more neural learning time and in a fresher more desireable state.


Personally 90% of my work is in the weight room, so what I’m saying might not be applicable to track work. But for me, any drop off in the quality of the lifting technique is unacceptable. I do plan a certain training volume, and most of the time my athletes do not suffer from any form deterioration, but if an athletes is tired he will have less tolerance for work. In that case you must stop the exercise when form deteriorates. It is not only dangerous injury-wise and overtraining-wise, but it can also lead to erroneous motor patterns.

This is the art of coaching, knowing when to stop an athlete even if the planned workload is not finished. To some extent I would say that this is applicable to the track too.

This is real training regulation, however it requires a keen eye and supreme knowledge of the technique involved to be able to spot any technical mistakes. This is why cookie cutter methods such as a percentage drop-off method can become popular: it gives the coach an easy way out … however it’s not necessarily optimal. From my experience, form deterioration will occur way before there is a 6% drop in performance. This is especially true for track work.

The other part of the art is to establish when to really go for it! the allignment of all the circumstances necessary for success (a new PB).

Not always! This is all part of the process of setting the stage for higher performance along the way. When ready, the athletes I worked with ripped off colossal performances on the practice track- every bit as spectacular as their World Records. This requires the right timing, the right muscle tone, the right conditions, and the right recovery afterwards.

yeah i appreciate that, thanks i get it now.