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All articles are written by S&S owner Evan Perperis unless otherwise noted.
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|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 20, 2018 at 10:45 PM|
Strength & Speed Develpoment Team Athlete Nathan Thiel takes you through instruction on how to build your own rig holds including a ball and nunchaku.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 7, 2018 at 10:40 AM|
Strength & Speed Develpoment Team Athlete Nathan Thiel takes you through instruction on how to build your own spear and target for practice at races like Spartan Race or Dirt Runner.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 28, 2018 at 7:35 AM|
As someone who has never setup, produced or run a large-scale race, it is easy to show up to an event and harshly judge the way things are done. Complaining about long lines or less than knowledgeable volunteers is easy when you are not the one that has to organize everything. Therefore, when I judge a race I try to use some common sense mixed with my opinion on how they handle problems.
In 2014, I had a history of bad luck with timing chips. At Warrior Dash World Championship my chip broke so I was listed as “Unnamed Participant” on the official site. At Obstacle Course Racing World Championship I lost my chip and bib number somewhere on the course. At World’s Toughest Mudder my timing chip started registering my laps as over 3 hours despite their actual time being about half that. Luckily, it still correctly counted my laps. At The Battlegrounds I had another chip error and my finishing time was an hour slower than it should have been. This resulted in my placing going from 3rd to around 260th.
With that being my first year of OCR, I could have easily lost hope in the quality of OCR events. It would have been easy to whine and complain about all these events, instead I look at how each of them handled the problem. In all cases, after a quick email or talk to the race director they corrected the error without any drama. At The Battlegrounds they even went above and beyond sending me a gift certificate to the winery located on site. It is actions like that, which help me judge an event.
I expect everything to run relatively smoothly and as long as there are no major problems, I realize the race organizers are doing their job the best they can. When you are trying to get volunteers to stand in the sun all day, you do not get to choose who shows up. It is really anyone that is kind enough to donate his or her time. Frankly, I am just thankful volunteers come to races that enable me to race hard and then go home to spend time with my family.
Next time you think about writing a scathing review of a race, take a moment to really think through what they did wrong. If it was something that happened to you personally (broken timing chip, misunderstanding on the course, volunteer providing poor instructions, etc.), did you tell the race director or someone of authority? If you did and he told you “sucks for you”, then by all means give an honest assessment online. However, if he did what he could within reason to fix your problem, than to me that shows better treatment of athletes than a smoothly run event.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 1, 2018 at 9:40 AM|
The trend in the obstacle course racing (OCR) community almost looks like a competition to see who can cram the most races into their year. If your only goal is to have fun and enjoy racing, then continue to do that. However, if your performance goals are more important than your experience at races, you may want to reconsider your schedule. Ideally, racing falls in between period of building and tapering, that is preceded by a long off season of just training. By “building and tapering”, I mean you keep applying high levels of stress to your body to create fitness adaptation, then you reduce the stress prior to your race allowing for peak performance. Instead of signing up for a race every weekend, follow these simple rules when planning your race schedule if you are looking to maximize performance.
1) Allow for base building: Your OCR schedule should not mark the start of your training, but rather create an event that allows for backwards planning. Two to four months prior to your first race should be the beginning of your serious training (plans can be found in “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR”;). This allows you to follow a training plan that involves weeks of building along with the occasional recovery week. If you want to see real improvements in fitness, you need to build a strong aerobic base with high volume running. What is high volume? That depends on your current level of fitness, fitness history and overall goal. It may be 20 miles a week, 50 miles a week or 80 miles a week.
2) Allow for taper prior to a race: While it is cool to see posts from the top athletes the week before the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC) called last chance workouts, it is not the best technique to perform at your best. Doing a super hard work out the final week before a race is not tapering. If you go too hard or too close to your race, you will be standing on the start line sore. Even if you may not be physically sore, your muscles may still be weak from you maxing out two days ago. Whether you notice it or not, you are limiting your ability to peak because your muscles will still be recovering from that workout. You can still do a lactate threshold (long interval) or VO2max (short interval) workout the week before a race but it should be towards the beginning of the week and it should be a lower volume than you usually do.
3) Allow for recovery before your next race: If you race every weekend, you will constantly be recovering from races or tapering for a race, which will not allow you to build or taper to your next event. If you are racing the longer OCRs like Toughest Mudders or Spartan Ultra-Beast and not allowing your body to recover, you are not optimizing your gains and may result in injury. Depending on your fitness level, a race like a Spartan Super may also require extended recovery. The shorter races like Conquer the Gauntlet will allow for more frequent racing and the shortest races with the easiest obstacles like Warrior Dash will allow for the most racing.
4) Set appropriate goals for double race weekends: If you are planning on racing twice in one weekend by doing two races in one day or one race Saturday followed by another race Sunday, you need to set priorities. Your goal should either be to perform at your best in the first race and accept risk with the second race or perform mediocre at both races. If you are truly maxing out your effort in your first race, you will not be able to perform as well in your second race. You may be thinking, “Athletes like Ryan Atkins and Jonathan Albon, were able to excel doubling down on a weekend at OCRWC.” They did well because they are in better shape than their competitors are, so a drop in their performance is less noticeable if everyone’s performance is suffering. Hence, the ability to do things like place high on both days.
5) Pick two to three races a year as your most important race: While everyone wants to do well at every race they participate in, you should pick a couple that are your most important, sometimes called an A race. This will allow you to conduct a true fitness build and a proper taper to peak for your event. Everything else is a B race, one with a short taper or a C race, one with no taper or almost no taper.
So what should an “ideal” race schedule look like? Ideally, you have 2-4 months of building of fitness prior to your first race. Then after you start racing your races should be spaced out every 3-4 weeks. This allows for a 2-3 week build in fitness and a 1-2 week taper for each race. This does not always line up so well in a perfect world, but the concept should be there regarding building and tapering. If you are looking to just finish, race a lot and have a lot of fun, then keep signing up for races every weekend but if you are in it to win it, take a hard look at your calendar.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 17, 2018 at 9:35 AM|
When my friends, peers and acquaintances see that I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition I frequently get a flood of questions. Occasionally, they see my water bottle, shirt or sticker that lists Hammer as “Endurance Fuels” and they say something like “I only run 5ks though, these products cannot possibly help me.”
This line of thinking is both faulty and inaccurate. As I trained for my first attempt at qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I noticed something strange happening. Despite almost no speed training, I was getting faster by the week. In addition to getting a personal record (PR) my marathon by around 15 minutes, I also got a PR in my 5k and 10k within a month of my Boston Qualifying Race. This high volume approach to short distance success is nothing new, but runners who are trying to improve often miss this concept.
When explaining this to the average runner, I ask them “How far do you think a professional 5k or 10k runner runs in a week? Do you think it is 20 miles like most recreational 5k runners?” Looking at an elite 5k or 10k runner, their training plans will have volume a lot closer to an advanced marathon training plans available in running magazines or books. The reason is because high volume works at building aerobic strength and running economy. Both of these enable for short fast races. Adding in high volumes with some VO2max and lactate threshold work, has allowed me to PR for 5k almost every year.
Although I usually prepare for marathons in this way, I rarely use this approach for shorter races. This year, I decided to focus on Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). Most of the OCR races are short, around 5 miles, minus a couple of really long ones that occur later in the year that are ultra-distance in length.
After four months of high volume training that was fueled by supplements from Hammer Nutrition, I have started getting great results in OCR. Over the course of 2015I walked away with 10 podium finishes. My best results came in late July when I had four podium finishes in three weeks including a 2nd place overall at 24 hours of Shale Hell, an ultra-distance OCR in Vermont. This resulted in me being on the top 20 leaderboard in the world for OCR, reaching as high as the 9th spot. I show these results to athletes that race short distances to convey the message that just because you do not do long races, does not mean you should not do some long distance training to build your aerobic base. With high volume training, nutrition becomes very important and that is where Hammer comes into the equation.
Using Hammer Nutrition products I have found that they are the perfect counterpart to this type of training. Morning runs are fueled by a bottle of Heed to ensure I have energy throughout the entire workout and to prevent a loss of electrolytes. Post-run I refuel with Recoverite to ensure my muscles are full of glycogen for my evening training session run and protein to help rebuild. In the afternoon, I typically conduct strength training and follow that session up with some more Recoverite mixed with a scoop of Whey. Prior to bed, I take REM Caps and a scoop of Whey to maximize my deep sleep and boost growth hormone. The following day the cycle repeats itself, but I allow for 1-2 rest days per week.
For those that are reading this and think endurance supplements are not valuable to the short course racer, you are wrong. The products created by Hammer Nutrition are useful for any athlete that is serious in achieving results. Whether you run 5ks, lift weights, run ultras or are an OCR athlete, Hammer provides one of the key variables in the equation for success.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 14, 2018 at 10:50 AM|
Over Christmas I asked Santa for sandbags that I can use for my own training and for training clients. Santa was kind enough to bring me two models Brute Force Training bags, The Athlete and The Strongman bags. That being said, I paid for these bags and Santa was kind enough to wrap them for me then give them back. Now let’s get down to the good and bad of these bags
Price: I am not going to lie these things are expensive, at least on my budget they are. Right now as I am writing this review you can get the same to bags as I bought for $130 and $160 on the Brute Force web site. This seems expensive for an empty bag with handles and a couple of empty fill bags inside. However, when you compare this price to other sandbag type training tools on the market targeted towards Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) enthusiasts the price may be cheaper, depending on size. Also, with the Brute Force bag you control the weight inside. So as you get stronger you can make your bag heavier while other bags on the market will make you pay for another $130+ bag.
Durability/warranty: Each bag is made 100% in the U.S.A., which as a vet I find kind of cool. The bag itself is made from a similar material that military duffle bags are of. Which if you have seen of the abuse those bags get put through that should be an indicator of how tough these bags are. In case you do damage your bag Brute Force will repair the bag if it falls under their warranty, which covers “normal wear and tear, zipper issues, manufacturing defects and generally anything else (… ) within reason”. When you receive your bag included is a care sheet that outlines what you should and should not due with the bag in order to keep the bag in as good of shape as possible. Basically don’t drag it across rough jagged surfaces and don’t set it on fire (apparently someone did that).
Versatility: About the only thing I can’t do with these bags is max out on a lift, but I also didn’t buy the biggest bag. Furthermore, single rep max lifts are usually not the point of sandbag training. For most of us using sandbag training it is to get ready for a specific obstacle in an OCR race or to use the dynamic load as a different way of training as opposed to the static nature of barbells and dumbbells. I have yet to go truly heavy with my bags, but even with only 45lbs in the bag lifts like cleans and even curls take on a whole new aspect of core training. If you are unfamiliar with sandbags, basically think of the weight as a pendulum you now have to control and absorb as opposed to a barbell that provides a more rigid and controllable object.
One major difference between a Brute Force sandbag and others in the OCR world are the handles. And to be quite honest, the handles are one of the main reasons I went with these bags over others. Brute Force attaches not one, not two, but nine handles to their sandbags (unless you opt for the bag with none, but that’s your choice). Each set of handles is positioned to be able to give you a different grip for different lifts and exercises, which makes them a much more versatile tool in anyone’s workout regimen. As a certified personal trainer I feel that the handles make the bag much more beginner friendly. More handles lead to more exploration as to how to best use them. If you have a bag with only two straps coming off of the ends, it can be more difficult to find the best ways to use it. Also with all of those handles included on the standard bag you are saving money. Other bags will make you pay around $30 for an extra attachment that you have to configure yourself.
Lastly on the topic of versatility we have the load itself. As I talked about earlier you can put as little or as much weight in each bag as you want (each bag is rated for a certain range of weight). Which is a nice way of saying you have to go out, and put the sand in the bags yourself. If you want to buy the sand it is roughly $4 for a 50lbs bag of play sand. So for my 2 sandbags I used 4 of the included fill bags and 150lbs of sand for a whole $12. With those three bags I have four fill bags with 25, 35, 45 and a 55lbs respectively, this is where the true value of Brute Force bags comes in. I can load all of those bags up in my one Strongman bag and go get a killer workout, OR I can now use four different weights with my clients across a range of abilities and strengths. The fill bags take about 15 seconds to switch out.
In closing I am a HUGE fan of these sandbags. While yes the upfront cost is steep, the value of Brute Force Sandbags over other sandbags in the OCR market is astounding. Whether it is the ability to make the weight personalized, or the usefulness of the different handles Brute Force Sandbags are definitely my choice for sandbag training for OCR. Check out all of their gear at www.bruteforcetraining.com I don’t have a promo code to give you because this was not a sponsored review, I’m just a fan of their product.
(all images from Brute Force website and social media channels)
Jared Has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jared was a college athlete competing in both soccer and track. Since beginning OCR in 2014 Jared has competed in numerous races, he qualified for OCR World Championships in 2016. Jared finished in the top 50 in the 30-34 age group on the OCRWC short course, he also completed the 15k standard course completing each obstacle and keeping his band. Jared is a member of Team Strength and Speed as well as the owner of JRen Fitness
|Posted by Strength & Speed on December 16, 2017 at 5:05 PM|
Exercise induced muscle cramps are often multifactorial and one intervention may not always immediately solve the problem. Unfortunately, there is no strong research behind the definitive cause and most of the recommendations come from expert opinion and/or athlete anecdotes. The theories regarding cramping are related to poor hydration/electrolyte imbalances and nervous impulse “misfire” that prevents a muscle from relaxing. In the past athletes would use pickle juice or mustard to alleviate cramps and noticed improvements almost immediately. This was credited to the sodium content but newer research indicates that this would not be an adequate amount of time for sodium absorption. Exogenous electrolyte consumption can take upwards of one hour for absorption if provided under optimal conditions. New discoveries suggest that certain flavors (like those present in pickles and mustard) trigger a neurological impulse that negates the misfire which allows for the muscle to relax. When it comes to preventing and treating cramps, the best approach is to incorporate all interventions.
1.) Warm up effectively
2.) Pace yourself and do not push beyond thresholds experimented with during training for too long
3.) Stretch thoroughly and remain limber days prior to a race
4.) If you do cramp, stretch immediately and pursue myofascial release techniques
1.) Maintain hydration for days leading up to the event
a. Do not wait until the night before the race to achieve optimal hydration
b. If dehydrated 2-3 days prior to an event, do not chug down water in high volumes. Increase water consumption by 8-16 ounces three times per day (with or without meals). Tapering will also serve to prevent normal fluid losses from reduced volume of training.
c. Urine should be relatively clear with a very slight yellow coloration. Once this has been achieved prior to the race, hydrate to match losses and maintain hydration status.
2.) Hydrate before, during, and after racing
a. Before: 16 ounces 2 hours before and then 8 ounces <30 minutes before
b. During: Enough fluid to prevent >2% weight loss during exercise
c. After: 16-24 ounces for every pound lost during exercise
d. Volumes may be subject to change depending on race length, temperature/humidity, and altitude
3.) Marginally increase electrolyte consumption days leading into the race and have an electrolyte rich meal the morning before a race
a. Example: oatmeal with peanut butter, banana, and a pinch of salt
b. If this is not possible, consume a sports beverage one hour prior to start of competition
i. Gatorade (or other equivalent product), Hammer Endurolytes, or Nuun electrolyte tablet
4.) Consider carrying a single serve packet of mustard or dill relish on the course for emergency cramping. These condiment packs can be found at most restaurants and grocery stores.
Luc is a registered dietitian with his M.S. in Nutrition and certifications in personal training and wellness coaching. Luc hones his professional skills through counseling athletes/fitness enthusiasts and through his career as a clinical dietitian at East Carolina University. As a member of the Strength & Speed Development Team, his main hobby is competitive obstacle course racing with notable appearances at Obstacle Racing World Championships (2014-16) and a 50 mile completion at World’s Toughest Mudder 2013. Luc can be followed through his Facebook (www.facebook.com/lrlabonte) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/lrlabonte_ms_rd_ld/) accounts.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on December 6, 2017 at 9:40 PM|
Strength & Speed is opening the application window for their 3rd S&S Developtment Team. Both years have been successes including athletes getting their first sponsors, several becoming ambassadors for brands and many hitting new PRs including first Ultra-OCR win, first win, first cash podium, most podiums in a year and more. To check out some of the athletes from the last two years, check out the Teams page.
Unlike Pro Teams which often provide larger benefits like free access into races spanning multiple states and other perks, the biggest benefit of this team is access to knowledge for improvement not published elsewhere. Upon entrance into the team you will have small group access to personal trainers, a nutritionist, OCR professionals and other sponsored athletes. As part of the Development Team, you will get unprecedented access to knowledge includes training information, workout templates and guidance when applying for sponsorship.
Additional benefits of the team include name/S&S score on the website, a couple of items of free apparel, marketing support, discounts not available to non-team members and the opportunity to expand you influence in the OCR world. As S&S gets perks they are allowed to share, those discounts, free items and free entries are passed along to the team. Companies want athletes that not only provide them quality finishing results but also have an outlet for spreading their message. Being a part of Strength & Speed gives you an established platform to spread your desired message to a larger audience rather than trying to build something on your own from the ground up.
Getting sponsored by a larger company is not an easy task and it requires significant work. The athletes at Strength & Speed have already solved a lot of the challenges associated with this process. If you do not need training advice but just knowledge on how to get sponsored, the Development Team will also help you with that.
Apply today by filling out the information below and sending it to [email protected] as AN ATTACHED WORD DOCUMENT if you are interested. We are not necessarily looking for the best athletes, just those with a strong desire to succeed. Application window closes on January 15, 2018:
(Cut and paste the below into a word document and fill out)
Is this your first year applying?:
Major Goal for 2018:
Minor Goals for 2018:
Races for 2018:
2017 Race Results:
Race Highlights from 2016 or Earlier:
Social Media Sites (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/etc.):
Other Relevant Information You Think We Should Know:
Other Sponsors (if applicable):
Possible Interests in Expanding Influence (interested in writing articles, reviews, videos or other ideas?):
(Reference Criteria section of the website for below information. Proof of score not required at the time of applying.)
|Posted by Strength & Speed on November 24, 2017 at 9:45 AM|
1. Captain America
As if there was ever a doubt…Captain America, the superhero created using drugs. Captain America’s “super serum” is real, but modern day people call it steroids and human growth hormone. They literally inject him with this stuff and he goes from skinny to jacked. While actual performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) require more work, the concept is still the same. Even my favorite group of nerds over at Dorkly agree with me. Check out this video:
Batman’s juiced up, back breaking enemy is definitely on drugs. Instead of “super serum” he calls it “Venom”. I’m assuming that it is a mix of steroids, HGH plus probably a couple of other things. Maybe that singlet is hiding the gynocomastia around his nipples. I would say Bane is a pretty open and shut case too.
3. The Incredible Hulk
While not quite as bad as the top two injecting themselves to achieve their massive physiques, I am pretty sure gamma radiation would fall be banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) if it gave you super strength instead of just making you sick and giving you cancer. At 7 ft. tall and 1040 lbs. I do not think there is much grey area there (unless you are Grey Hulk….nerd pun!)
1000+ pounds with chest striations and veins?
Alright Bruce Wayne is not on the definite list, but I’m throwing him up there as very suspect. I mean the guy runs a billion dollar company, fights crime almost every night and still has time to train to be in top shape? Something has to give. He probably says they are “for recovery” like some of the baseball players were citing. Definitely suspect….luckily there are not drug tests to enter the Justice League.
Do I really care my super heroes are doped up? No not really, but I think it is good to look at things from more than one angle instead of just accepting things at face value. What do you think? Did I miss any known super hero or super villain egregious PED users? Comment below or on the Facebook post that led you here.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on October 2, 2017 at 11:10 PM|
This is the final article in the series. The first one covered a general overview, the second one covered crushing (open and closed hand), the third one talked about pinching (open and closed hand) and now to complete the cube we will talk about intensity along with supporting exercises.
Working on intensity it just a matter of working your rep schemes for any of the above training tools. If you want to improve your 1 rep max strength you are going to follow very low reps, such as five and below. If you want to work on endurance, you are going to follow higher reps, like 8-20. Both are important for OCR. While most obstacles are primarily endurance focused, 1 rep max strength is also important as demonstrated by anyone who has grabbed an extra wide bar on a rig but failed to have the strength to hold on.
You may be thinking, where do all those wrist curls and reverse wrist curls come into play for grip strength? Exercises like that will strengthen the forearm, which help stabilize the hand providing power and muscle balance. Bottom line is you still want to finish off your grip strength focused workout(s) with some standard forearm curls, reverse forearms curls and weighted wrist rotations to ensure you have covered all the facets of grip strength. Just like with pinch grip training, if you are going to purchase grip tools, focus on crushing tools first before buying items that focus on support muscles. Items like:
Heavy Hammer II or Wrist Reinforcer: These are basically an adjustable dumbbell but you can only add weight to one side, making what resembles a weighted hammer. Where it differs is the handle is thicker than a normal handle so not only is it training those supporting muscles but also working your crushing open hand grip.
Twist Yo’ Wrist and One Wicked Wrist Roller: Both are variations of a piece of gym equipment I rarely see anymore. They involve twisting a spool (Twist Yo’ Wrist) or a bar (One Wicked Wrist Roller) with a weight dangling from a rope. As you twist the rope gets wrapped around the spool or bar pulling the weight higher. These definitely burn the forearms as the weight reaches closer to the top and fatigue sets in.
Wrist curls, Reverse Wrist Curls and Wrist Rotations: Finally, using standard dumbbells, or if you have them available thick bar dumbbells, wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are great to finish off your forearm training. These are great for a final forearm pump at the end of your workout. Adding in some rotations while holding a weight, helps build endurance in those supporting muscles along your forearm. While most people can go pretty heavy in wrist curls, reverse wrist curls and rotation will require you to drop the weight significantly due to the smaller muscles involved. You can even use a thicker barbell to further stress your crushing open hand strength.
After four posts, we have covered the eight facets of grip strength in depth. If this did not satisfy your quest for the ultimate grip strength knowledge be sure to look at www.Ironmind.com and think about ordering their publication MILO. Specifically be sure to check out the June 2016 issue, which has an article by me. In those articles I list one of my favorite grip strength workouts for Obstacle Course Racing, which uses a mix of Ironmind store bought products and items found around the gym. If you have ever raced and failed an obstacle due to inadequate grip strength, then you are not going to want to miss these training tips. MILO is the only place this specific workout has ever been published since my book had already gone to the publishers by the time I developed these techniques. Do not miss it.