The Key to Faster Running Revisited
Several years ago, my colleague Ken Jakalski and I decided that Dutch trainer Henk Kraayenhof’s mantra: “Do as little as needed, not as much as possible” was a perfect fit for our minimalist workout philosophy. However, many of our colleagues in the strength and speed training world have responded to our minimalism with disdain. They cite the need for more explosive lifts, increased core work and an endless variety of “SAID” (Specific Adaptation to Implied Demand) exercises for raising event performance. In the midst of the battle, it’s nice to receive some positive feedback from the “home front,” so I was very pleased a couple of years ago when I received the following letter from Dave Pike, a student the Air Force Academy (he was already a pilot), who decided to an independent research study on deadlifting and distance running for his statistics class:
The data-gathering phase of the research project I told you about has concluded. After the 4-week study I am now ready to organize and process the data and begin some statistical tests. Some very interesting results to report. I hypothesized I would see dramatic strength gains in my experimental group and was not disappointed.
I wasn’t sure of the effect on 3 mile run times however.
One individual increased his deadlift 1 RM from 245 to 335 in the 4 week trial period. Lifting was conducted only 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday following your protocol. (Now the study is complete we plan on lifting 4-5 times a week to see the difference) The same individual also improved his 3 mile run time by 3 minutes and 40 seconds with only doing biking for cardio training on the off lifting days–Tuesday and Thursday.
Another individual decreased his run time by 2 minutes and 53 seconds with no cardio training at all during the 4 week period. He only did the weight workouts. He increased his 1RM in the deadlift from 275 to 335 during the same time frame.
I included myself in the project and likewise saw similar results. Of note for me was an increase from 350 lbs 1RM in the dead lift to 405lbs over the 4 week period (I had already been following your program since May with my initial 1 RM of 275lbs.) I likewise did not do any distance training but biked 2-3 times a week for cardio. My biking improvements are another story…I’m also convinced the DL has dramatically improved my biking performance! The last distance running I did for time was a 1.5 mile Air force fit test in which I ran 9:47 back in early May. Since then I have only biked for cardio. I decided to really push the limit and see how my improved strength would help me in distance running. 2 days ago I completed a half marathon with a time of 1 hour 46 minutes 52 seconds. Not bad for no running training whatsoever. I am very sore in the quads and hips but still was able to do 2 reps at 365 lbs today…probably could have gotten 3 but decided not to risk it.
None of us in the experimental group have gained any muscle mass. In fact we have all lost weight ranging from a couple pounds to 7 pounds in my case.
What I found interesting is that the control group’s data for improving 3 mile times showed a similar improvement in 3 mile run times as expected from just conducting running training, however, it appears that the experimental group was able to achieve the same result without any distance training!
One of the runners in the control group is currently training for a marathon in September and now that the study is over he is convinced by the results of our experimental group and is changing his whole training program to work with those of us wanting to continue with your program. It will be interesting to see how the increased strength will help him. Regardless of how my data comes out statistically and all the limitations I have due to small sample size, researcher bias etc. I think I have replicated the results you have seen for several years now with your elite athletes with a group of Air Force officers in their mid-thirties.
The excitement for those who took part in my little experiment group is fun to see. All want to continue to push the strength gains and are looking forward to running faster with less impact stress on the body! Our focus is now going to center on improving our fit test scores for the 1.5 mile distance so we will be looking at shorter-distance speed improvement using your methods. This whole study has been a lot of fun. I am most happy to report no injuries sustained whatsoever! I have to admit that was a major concern for me considering the age of the group, the fact several had never dead lifted before and the amount of weight we would be lifting.
Dave Pike [/i]
Certainly Dave’s research was not far reaching in establishing the efficacy of our training protocol and he is quick to point out the sample size is not very large. However, it does show that heavy lifting can improve distance running without running at all! Dave decided to continue on with the protocol by using it to prepare for a more recent round of fitness testing.
Here Dave reveals the results of his continuing use of the bearpowered training protocol combined with Pavel’s Naked Warrior:
Just wanted to pass on to you some interesting results…as you know I’ve been following your program and doing the ASR speed training for a while now. Today I took the cadet Physical Fitness test here at the Academy. The test consists of pull-ups, standing long jump, sit-ups, push-ups and a 600yd run in that order. In each section you are allotted 2 minutes to do as many as possible then you move directly to the next section. To score a “max” on the test you have to do 21 pull-ups followed by 2 tries at a standing long jump over 8’8" then do 95 sit-ups, 72 push-ups then a 600yd run under 1:35. I had made a deal with the cadets in my squadron that if anyone met or beat my score or improved by over 100 points from their previous best score that I would have them over for a big party at the house. I had not done any training outside your lifting and ASR protocols specifically designed for this test…So I didn’t know what to expect other than I am stronger than ever in my life with a virtual max in the dead lift now over 460lbs-I weigh 173 at 7.3% body fat. All I can say is that I am amazed at my results on the PFT today:
Pull-ups: to (reach the test-BR) max = 21. I stopped at 25-could have probably gotten 30-I initially was doing weighted pull-ups using your methods but quit about 3 months prior.
Standing Long Jump: To (reach the test-BR) max is 8’8"-with no previous practice my first jump was 9’2"
Sit-ups: max = 95…I stopped at 96 and was still cranking…The only ab work I do is Abs 45, Obliques 45 and what I call combos or alternating between the two.
Push-ups: max = 72…I stopped at 73 and was still going-think I could have hit 100…once again the only thing I do is the bench press and have gotten to where I can do 5, 1-arm, 1-leg push-ups each arm from Pavel’s Naked Warrior-I also do weighted Pistols with 30lbs on top of the dead lifts several times a week
600yd run-here’s where I amazed myself and everyone else. I ran a 1:25 which is so far the fastest of anyone who has taken the test…including the cadets many of whom are in great shape.
I could not believe how strong and powerful I felt as “the bear” never really jumped on. I did have to back down a bit as I strained my right hamstring during a flying sprint last Friday (I was 1/100th off my target time so decided to do another…bad move)…anyway, despite a cranky hamstring I still was able to bring it…I’m thinking I could have hit 1:20 had I been completely healthy.
The whole athletic department staff are the ones who administer the test to the cadets: All the head coaches, assistants and PE instructors…they couldn’t believe my performance. I told them it was all from dead lifts. I think my performance maybe turned enough heads to at least get some of them to read your book. I bought 2 more copies of your book and e-book “Underground Secrets to Faster Running” for my squadron as I’ve been training some cadets who have also seen some great improvements and I lent one to the strength coach for track and field to read. He said he’d give it a read so I’m encouraged. Even if I can’t convince him or the jumps coach to train the vaulters I work with more in line with your protocol, at least I’ll be able to really help my normal, average cadets who need it the most.
Anyway…just wanted to tell you I’ve continued to be amazed at the results…I trained one of our female pole vaulters this summer using your methods and she ended up taking .13 off her first flying 10 and over 4 seconds off her 300m trial times. She is now working out with the team and is miserable with the “old school” traditional training methods they have her doing…In her case it is now a “curse” having the knowledge she does and not being able to train how she wants…I feel really bad for her.
Dave Pike [/i]
Dave mentioned that his Deadlift “virtual max” exceeded over 460 lbs.
In my book, “Underground Secrets to Faster Running” I describe how our strength training protocol utilizes the concept of “virtual max” to build each workout. The term “virtual” is derived from using the old and simple “reps” chart that almost all lifters are familiar with:
1 rep=100% of max (1RM)
2 reps=95% of 1RM
3-4 reps= 90% of 1RM
5-7 reps=85% of 1RM (We never exceed 5 reps at the 85%)
Using this system allows us to guarantee that the athlete will be able lift a new max!
Here’s how it works for a lifter with a current 1rm of 300lbs: 90% of the 1 rep max (from above) is 270lb (300 x .90). The lifter should be able to complete 3-4 reps at this amount. However, we can test “virtual” max by having them do a set of 5 reps at 270lbs. If they succeed in making all 5 reps, then 270 lbs represents 85% (rather than 90%) of 1RM. Simple math tells us that our athlete now has a “virtual” max of 317 lbs (270/.85). The virtual max would be rounded to 320 lbs.
We use the term “virtual” because the athlete has not actually lifted the amount yet. Can the athlete actually lift this amount? We can’t be 100% sure but we can test again—here’s how: 95% of 300 lbs=285 lbs. The lifter completes 3 reps (90% level) at 285 lbs. The math gives us 285/.90=316 which we round up again to 320 lbs and acts as a validation of a potential new max.
We now have 3 ways to go:
Have the athlete virtually test the next level (2 reps at 300 lbs)
Have the athlete lift 320 lbs
Have the athlete virtually test the 320 lbs at the 85% level
Generally, we retest at 85% level of the current virtual max of 320 lbs and proceed as above. We do this so that if we try for an actual new max it will be somewhere near the 320 lb level so we can be confident that the lift will be successful. This method has worked so well for us that we rarely attempt a new actual max!
At this point you might be asking what does this have to do with minimalism in training. What should be noted is that Dave’s workout is based on the deadlift, bench, pistols and 2 core exercises: AB 45 and OB 45. We’ve now rolled up the 2 core exercises into one simple exercise called (and quite rightly so!) Torture Twists (you can see them in the “Resources” section on my website www.bearpowered.com), bringing the number of exercises to 3. In fact the maximum number of weight room exercises we use for every sport is 3: Deadlift, bench or pushups, and plyometrics. For speed work we use our ASRspeed program exclusively. ASRspeed is based on a patented algorithm that uses only 2 parameters to predict a final time (or distance covered over a specific time) for any runner and with >97% accuracy. You can learn more about ASRspeed at www.ASRspeed.com.
You bet, but more importantly, it allows us to “do as little as needed, not as much as possible”
Our training protocol has changed dramatically since posting my article, “The Holy Grail in Speed Training” on Dragon Door. We have dropped more exercises without sacrificing performance, but the basis of the that article has not changed: mass-specific force is still the Holy Grail of faster running!
Barry Ross has been coaching for more than 25 years, initially a track and field throwing events and general strength training coach. His focus in the last 10 years is on increasing the strength and speed (power!) of athletes in a variety of sports including football, baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, rugby, cross country and track. Coach Ross has had a solid percentage of his athletes receive NCAA Division 1 and 2 scholarships in a variety of sports (including volleyball, football, soccer, and track) at UCLA, San Jose State, U.C. Berkley, University of Southern California, UNLV, Washington, and the Naval Academy. Among his most well known athletes are Jessica Cosby, winner of Pac 10 titles in the shot put and hammer, as well as a NCAA Division 1 title in the shot put and Allyson Felix who, as a 17 year old high school student in 2003, broke all of Marion Jones high school records in the 200 meters and went on to run the fastest 200 meters in the world that year. Ms. Felix also became the first track and field athlete to go directly from high school into professional track. His strength training methods are used by high schools and college athletes as well as professional baseball, tennis and rugby players. Barry has written a book, Underground Secrets To Faster Running, describing his training methods as well as the science behind them. He can be reached at www.bearpowered.com
Yeah, I do not eat any vegetables. Except for carrots and salad 2-3X/week.
Adding: when taken to court for false claims regarding his isometric training course, Charles Atlas was asked if it was true that his muscularity was built solely through isometrics.
After some badgering, Atlas finally admitted to occasionally lifting weights and that that might have contributed to his phsique.
How often did he lift weights?
About three times per week.
I hear that Haile Geb only needs to train with 10 minutes per day of pushing a lawnmower.
Seriously, this is a pathetic attempt to sell a book/DVD based on a training protocol that does not match that used by any top elite runner. Nor any serious club runner.
Buy a book by Arthur Lydiard or Seb Coe`s father.
Barry Ross is the same guy that said Allyson Felix’s sprint training had no positive effect on her results and that it was the lifting they did that made her progress.
The stuff I’ve read from Barry (in articles and on his forums) always supports running fast to become faster. His book just focused on the lifting part of his protocol. His other website, ASRspeed, focuses solely on fly sprints as the running training. Basically, he trains by lifting heavy (>85%) and running fast (>95%). Intensive tempo and overdistance work aren’t a part of his protocol. I know both he and Ken have a ton of respect for Charlie Francis and often reference him throughout the discussions. I believe the quote they often like to use from CF is something like, “Sprinting is specific to itself.”
As for distance training, I am completely clueless…
Go read his forum. He’s said it multiple times. I’m not going to bother finding it. He actually had to ban members of the Felix family from his site because they tried to point out she did a minor amount of lifting with him and actually ended up hurt for a fair portion of the time.
It’s also funny you mention that he supports running fast to become faster because he recommends that someone begins sprinting just before the season and doing only lifting the rest of the time because sprinting isn’t necessary.
I never visit this site.
Interesting - I’ve occasionally thought what Alyson Felix thought of this bloke claiming to be the brains behind her elevation to the elite level.
From what I have read, he had very little to do with her track work and was merely a high school ‘jack of all trades’ strength coach who happened upon an extremely gifted athlete for a few years whilst she was in high school.
It was some time ago, and by now I would have thought he had other strings to his bow other than to keep regurgitating the Felix line.
After several years of pushing his barrow, there’s still no real evidence at the elite level that his dead lift & ASR protocol develops faster athletes.
From a fast running perspective, the anecdotes at the start of this thread have more holes in them than swiss cheese. Hardly an endorsement for what appears to be a very dubious premise for his ‘secret to fast running’.
He’s got something to sell and there’s plenty of suckers out there looking for the quick fix, so good luck to him.
You can say what you will about Barry and me. We both have broad shoulders. My exchanges with Charlie go back to the time Mel invited both of us to join the Supertraining forum. Charlie knows how I feel about his insights, expertise, and contributions to the speed community, as well as the classy way he has helped forum members with problems not even directly related to speed enhancement.
You will not find any disparaging remarks about Charlie or his training protocols on the bearpowered forum. In fact, there is no other author whose works are so highly recommended on that site as Charlie’s. When I do my seminars, Charlie is the one I most frequently quote. Whenever I save up a few extra dollars, it’s one of Charlie’s e-books that I most look forward to purchasing. If you think there is a major disconnect between my positions and those of Charlie, check with someone who knows both of us, Tom Green. He can help set the record straight.
For those who disagree with our approaches, we sincerely respect your opinions. However, I’ve found a few previous posts to this thread somewhat disconcerting. It saddens me that forum members would denigrate the insights of Officer David Pike without knowing the background, particulars, or focus of his study. Pike, a US Air Force 2nd Lieutenant, was conducting a graduate school research project involving several fellow officers. When that project was complete, he forwarded the procedures, data, and analysis to Barry. Barry was not even aware of this project until Dave suggested he was planning to conduct such a study. Dave has no connection to Barry other than being a visitor to the forum.
After Barry received the data, he asked Commander Pike’s permission to present this information on bearpowered.
There are many things you can criticize us for. Just ask our spouses and they would agree. However, in this case, I think the classy thing to do would have been to avoid disparaging comments about someone before first getting the other side of the story. Officer Pike deserves better.
He had ‘no dog in this fight,’ and it is unfortunate that his link to Barry cast doubt on a project that, were its not for its association with someone you dislike, might have been given better consideration.
Barry Ross has never made disparaging comments about Charlie or his training on his forum? That is an outright lie. You may not find them anymore because of some trimming done after the fact, but it certainly existed.
Ok I can or cannot say if Barry Ross has made disparaging comments about charlie or his training but I know for a fact that Ken Jalenski has never made a degrading comment about Charlie or anybody else for that matter. Trust me the man is a stand up guy. I used to train with him when I was playing football and running track. When I told him I have a friend who is going to visit charlie and he invited me to go along he was excited for me. He asked me to call him and talk about what we do and what he says. He always comments about how intelligent charlie is. But when I was training with him we always talked about technique, turnover, body lean, you know, all the right stuff a sprinter should know. We never did the quote on quote Barry Ross method. He did explain it to me but we never actually did it. Trust me everything we did was actual speed work. I was still training at michigan state at the time so I was getting info from all over.
Well notice I said Barry Ross, not Ken or Joe or Jack or Jimbo or anybody else. Thanks for the concern.
I’ve been coaching high school track and field for the past thirty-five years. I have never coached an athlete remotely close to an elite level or even emerging elite, but I take what I do very seriously.
Back in 1996 I had two paralympians, Tony Volpentest and Marlon Shirley, compete on my high school track here in Illinois. Against one of the best fields of Masters runners in my state, Volpentest ran the 200 in 22.94, a time faster than 97% of every able bodied high school kids I’ve ever coached. Volpentest had no feet and no lower arms. In fact, he had to rest is stumps on padded paint cans in order to start.
How was a guy with no “feet” for dorsiflexion or “push-off” able to run that fast with keel bars that, by today’s “Cheetah standards,” were practically Frankenstein-like? If correct arm carriage was so significant, how was it that he could run that fast (at least by my standards) without anything remotely resembling proper arm swing mechanics?
Despite the fact that I sponsored a specialty clinic called Ground Zero: The Role of the Foot and Ankle in Running featuring Tony’s coach, nobody in the running community whom I had contacted could basically ‘answer’ my questions regarding how he was able to run that fast on keel bars. That then led me to Dr. Weyand’s locomotion lab at Harvard University and later at Rice.
Little did I know that, across the country on the west coast, Barry Ross had been contacting Dr. Weyand regarding how a strength-training program might align with the findings from his JAP 2000 study, which is now considered by many to be “seminal” research in the field locomotion.
Dr. Weyand referred Barry to me, and that began our relationship, which culminated in a “study” similar to what Charlie did with the Jane Project. In fact, I referred to it as the “Barry Project.”
I was going to “give” Barry a fairly decent high school two miler (10:03) who had never broken 7.8 mps (9.56 in a fly 75) in his first three years of high school. I would have that athlete follow his protocol to the letter, and I would analyze any changes in mechanics via SiliconCoach and OptoJump, to see if, with nothing different in the way this athlete would be trained other than the addition of the strength protocol, what the effects that protocol would have on his top speed. My hypothesis was that no single lift with no ancillary lifts, no standard periodization, and no conversion phasing, and carried out over a relatively brief period of time available to a typical high school athlete would have any impact on an athlete’s ability to generate higher meter-per-second.
I presented all my findings to Supertraining a little over a month into the “project.”
For those who despise Barry for what you consider to be a limited background, lack of expertise, marketing hype, or his unfair ‘challenges’ to the elite in the coaching ranks, I will say that much of what is ‘out there” falls under typical ‘cyber-noise/gossip”’ which is often the result of distorted quotes and hearsay.
If Barry has said any disparaging remarks about Charlie, I have never head him say those to me, and we are often in communication. I frequently endorse Charlie’s e-books on the bearpowered site, and quote Charlie often in forum threads. If there was any resentment that Barry felt toward Charlie—as a person or a coach, or major disagreement on key issues, I would certainly have expected him to disagree with me or challenge my insights on Charlie’s approaches, which he has never done.
Has Barry banned members of the Felix family from his site? Yes. One and not “members.” And the reasons for that banning have nothing to do with Barry trying to ‘silence’ a critic.
Has Barry misrepresented his “role” in working with Felix?
I have read his book twice, and Ms. Felix’s name appears nine times throughout the entire book. Most of those references were intended to introduce his actual involvement in her training. Here is one of those passages:
“Eleven years later, in 2000, freshman Allyson Felix walked up to me and said, “I want to lift weights with you”. The three other young ladies, two freshman and one sophomore, who accompanied Felix spoke up immediately–“So do we”. Felix had recently returned from the United States Junior (under age 20) National championships where she had been tested in a number of categories to see where she could improve her performance. The tests showed that Felix, though still a freshman in high school, already ranked at the elite levels in almost every category tested except one: Her strength rating was below the minimum chart level.”
Ms. Felix chose Barry because her coach at the time, Wes Smith at Los Angeles Baptist high school, told her to approach him. Barry had been a long time voluntary throws coach at that facility. Coach Wes Smith liked what Barry had been doing over the years they worked together.
Barry had recently completed 4 years of coaching Jessica Cosby, a fifty-foot plus thrower who was ranked #3 in the US among high school shot putters a year earlier and was finishing up his work as throws coach for the lengendary Tommie Smith at Santa Monica City College. Barry did not apply to the college but was sought out by Tommie Smith at the request of two of Smith’s throwers.
Barry had ample time to watch Smith’s coaching methods and toward the end of the season, he invited Felix to have Tommie watch her run and comment on what he saw.
Pam Spencer Marquez, a three time Olympic high jumper, and later a member of the USATF Athletes Advisory Committee and Secretary of USATF, was one of the members that accompanied the U.S. junior team that Cosby competed on as well as Felix’s team four years later.
Marquez asked Barry to coach her own daughter when her daughter decided to drop basketball to become a shot putter.
Barry has never, and does not now, consider himself a strength and conditioning coach. This was never his ‘job.” In some ways, it has been much easier for Barry to accept the research than many of our colleagues because he was not a long time sprint coach.
His book was intended to put forth a link between the support force data presented in JAP2000 and a possible means of improving the athlete’s ability to generate greater forces through a specific strength training protocol.
Ken, why the lies? Part of the reason the forum was deleted was because of the fact that Barry made such absurd comments to begin with. This isn’t the place to go into detail as much of it is banned from discussing on this forum, but Barry’s comments re: Charlie, CFTS, and other elite coaches have hardly been positive, to put it lightly.
What forum or part of the forums with Barry were deleted? You probably have more insight regarding this forum than I do. To clarify the issue, perhaps it’s best to ask Charlie what of Barry’s posts he had to delete because of “absurd” comments. I believe all of Barry’s posts are available in the archives. Under Search type in “Barry Ross” and all those exchanges should appear. The only one to clear this up would be Charlie.
Regardless, my initial comments were addressed to material that currently or in the past has appeared on Barry’s site.
I just found this in the archives:
Originally Posted by Juggler
James, good to see you posting again, but somewhat ironically, I have to disagree with someone who knows more than me, namely you:
Does that mean that Charlie is 100% correct? The doubt was with “some of his coaching methods”; not all.
[i]Response From Charlie:
“I have to agree here. Challenge is fair game, just as I’ll answer back with my views. It’s clear from this thread that this has been a good thing. There are some great posts here for everyone to read and think about.
As for “one athlete”, one is one more than most will ever develop.”[/i]
I don’t find in Charlie’s rerponses anything to suggest that he was disturbed with Barry’s tone, style, or quality of posts that required deletions. Again, maybe you know more than I do on this issue.
I will say that the above comment from Charlie is just another example of the class and character he approaches any discussions on these issues. And it is that kind of class and character that I try to emulate on Barry’s site, Supertraining, this site, and in any correpondences I have with colleagues on issues where, as Charlie notes, “challenge is fair game.”
Ken wrote: 'possible means of improving the athlete’s ability to generate greater forces through a specific strength training protocol."
I appreciate your comments Ken and I cetainly have no personal issue with yourself or Barry Ross, but Ross does goes well beyond suggesting his protocol could possibly improve an athlete.
He literally denounces the established sprint training methodologies universally aknowledged and practiced by many coaches including the best in the world, and claims he has unearthed the secret to faster running.
His theories are still hugely untested and apart from the brief encounter with Alyson Felix when she was in high school there is virtually no evidence of any other sprint training success directly related to his ASR & deadlift protocol.
He’s basically a strength coach (obviously a very good one at that) with some history of success with throwers.
He is not a sprint coach, has never been a sprint coach and probably will never be a sprint coach so anyone aspiring to or already coaching sprinters would need to keep that in mind when buying any of his products.
Are you playing dumb on purpose? The old forum on BearPowered, which included exchanges between members of the Felix family and Barry, Barry making numerous poor remarks about Charlie, John Smith, and many other coaches, in addition to some hilarious comments (including muscular hypertrophy merely being caused by fluid retention, with other factors being much more minor) and more were all deleted.
Let’s not even begin to get into the athletes he has attempted to attach himself to (many of whom enjoyed plenty of success before and after Barry supposedly “trained” them to varying degrees).