Q&A: Anaerobic Threshold & High/Low

Hi Mike I’ve been following your work for at least 6 years now and I’m a huge fan of your work. I’m always learning something new about athletic development. Your recent post on instagram with you going through an aerobic circuit on a Lo day inspired some questions in me. Sorry if this is too much but whatever you feel like sharing will be greatly appreciated!
What method do you use to find out your anaerobic threshold?
What does your progression look like in regards to doing 21 minutes in the aerobic circuit? Did you start with low total overall time and/or more rest time than work time?
Do you recommend using a hi/lo program at all times of year?
Thanks for your time!
Best regards,
Keith Kirwan


Keith,

Sorry for the delay in regards to answering this question.  As you probably have noticed I haven’t answered questions in a while – reason being, I’ve been busy coaching and learning haha.  Selfish, but – c’est la vi.  I am currently on a mission to put more out there for guys now… we’ll see how long it lasts before I’m once again over booked and put writing on the back burner.  So filtering through a lot of questions I came across this one and I thought it was a good one.

Finding the anaerobic threshold – there’s a few different ways we can go about this but in our setting, some are pretty impractical.  So what we do is estimate and then auto-regulate.  We need to do a lot of auto-regulating for a multitude of reasons:

  1. Maximal Outputs (strength, power, aerobic, etc) vary on a day by day basis
    1. Cumulative effects of stress are ever changing
    2. Weather (Very few people PR on rainy days)
    3. Sleep
    4. Nutrition

The list of why we auto-regulate can go on and on – but you get the point.  So, circling back to the question of anaerobic threshold.  We’ll typically go through a basic formula of 220-age x 85% and then we’ll gauge it from there.  Some days it could be higher, some days it could be lower pending on the athletes interpretation of the stimuli which is based off of RPE.  In which case, we’ll build a baseline of how they’re “supposed” to feel in certain ranges, and then won’t even use a HR monitor because they’re usually pretty on point with where they’re supposed to be.

The beauty of performing the aerobic strength work is that the athlete will not want to go past the anaerobic threshold because it will be too uncomfortable and form will diminish.  The only problem with it is when you get a lazy athlete that doesn’t want to work.  However, we don’t typically have that problem at our facility, we’re fortunate to have very driven clients.  I will occasionally run into this problem in a team setting, but not frequently.

The progression of this is not only dictated by the level of physical preparation of the athlete, but the frequency in which the athlete trains.  It’s not unusual for us not to progress in some instances, others will progress by 1minute each session, week, some may increase by 2 minutes, it’s pretty individualized.  And unfortunately, I’m not clever enough to come up with a scale to quantify standards as to why and why not.

We’ll typically stick within the 2:1 work:rest (Tabata method) but keep it monitored because we don’t want form to diminish.  Though the research supports the high intensity for both aerobic & anaerobic benefits (Tabata method), it’s not conducive for the exercises we’ve selected as loading movements + high fatigue usually = poor form which results in an increased risk of injury.

The schematic of alternating intensities or High/Low can be applied in concept within each workout at all times of the year.  However, the intensity of high/low must be monitored.  Always keep in mind, that not every athlete deserves to utilize high/low.  High/low is used for recovery purposes; and not all athletes physical preparation call for that.  In fact, it’s useful to spread out the intensity to intentionally avoid high/low in early stages of GPP.

You can check out Chris Hogan’s program to see how we utilize high/low method.  

 

Sprints & Drills in a Conjugate Model

Hey Mike, love your work. Anyways, if you’re using a conjugate method of periodization how would you incorporate sprint and speed work/drills? Would the sprints take over the ME lift on the lower day I assume, then strength work follows? Thanks for everything you provide man!

———————————-

Bailey,

Good question – I’m going to first assume that your question on conjugate method is really concerning the concurrent method.  Don’t worry, it’s a very common mistake.

Now, the answer to that question lies in the question of timing.  This all depends on when/where you are in your training model.

I typically prescribe to a Charlie Francis training model – Vertical Integration.  Early stages of GPP, you want to keep intensities low, so it’s not uncommon to perform speed work on upper body days.  Where as later on down the road, upper body days can be considered low intensity days and speed work is coupled with lower body work.

Keep in mind, I don’t have Max Effort (ME) or Dynamic Effort (DE) days in my programming. So if you plan on sticking on the same program implementation throughout, which is very easy and very common here’s a way you can organize.

Monday – Acceleration, Jumps, Lower (Dynamic)

Tuesday/Thursday – Tempos or Low intensity speed drills, Throws, Low intensity jumps, Upper

Wednesday – Top Speed, Jumps, Lower (Basic GPP)

Friday – Alactic Capactiy, Jumps, Lower (Max Effort)

I would also suggest keeping ME work later in the week so you do not fatigue too early in the week and it takes away from valuable speed work.  Remember, you produce more force running than you do in a squat rack.  Weights need to compliment the speed work if speed enhancement is the goal.

Hope this helps!

Training Log

Starting new…

I realize how dogshit my form is with my cleans.  Originally I didn’t care I just wanted to move some heavy shit but then I got tired of my friends making fun of me.  So I decided to start over and do it right.

So here’s my new programming.  I’m too lazy to post all of it so I’ll post bits and pieces here and there weekly.

MONDAY WEEK 1

Re-Accumulating:
1. Warmup
A. Groin pulses 1min
B. Glute pulses 1min
C. 3-D Hip flexor stretch pulses -30 ea.
D. 3-D glute stretch pulses -30 ea.
E. Groin mobs
F. -shoulder act/posture circuit 3x
Chin Tuck (CT) 10
CT + ext. Rot. 10
CT + shoulder flexion 10
Lower trap act. 10
G. Neck half moon Rot. 20 ea
H. Trap/stern stretch 3x20sec ea
I. Lat rot stretch 30ea
2. Aerobic Strength Work and Motor Reeducation 20% 3x10ish

  • RDL
  • Upright Row
  • Front Squat

3. Skill Work 40%

Skill work @40% preceded by aerobic work @20% & after everything GPP #WuTang #taytay #FreakStrength #FreakFam

A video posted by Mike Guadango (@guadango) on

  • 10ish Mid-thigh Cleans
  • 10ish Low Knee Cleans

4.  GPP

  • Circuit 1 (2x)
    • Butt Squeezes 10 (Weighted)
    • SL Leg Press 10 (Weighted)
  • Specific Strength
    • Front Squat (quasi-heavy singles ~75-85%)
  • Circuit 1 (2x)
    • Butt Squeezes 6 (Heavier Weighted)
    • SL Leg Press 6 (Heavier Weighted)
  • Circuit 2 (2x)
    • Weighted Handstand Pushups 6
    • Weighted Rock Climber Pullups 10

 

Starting Back Up From Zero

Hey Mike,
I have become obese in the past 5 years with a depression (over it now) but the eating disorder remains as well as the very low level of fitness. Having been a semi pro athlete for a big part of my life, I still have some strength left in me but basically zero “fitness” or shape and very limited motivation or willpower.

Anyway,
yesterday I went walk jogging for very short intervals, found a great half pipe type hill/valley (very steep) so I decided to run in it up and down, rest and repeat. I watched myself to not overdo it. I felt better for the next 3-4 hours than I had felt after any of the past 2 years weight or gym ring training sessions.

So my question is, how would you approach starting out with basically zero shape, ok flexibility and ok strength levels.
I bought your 52 week GPP when it came out and am wondering whether to do that, do some HIIT type kettlebell drills or my hill running. I have this feeling that, now is the time to do something or else I might get some health problems that I let build up over the past years.
I am wondering what the right order in which to approach things is. Start with the heart, gpp, strength… weightloss… My goal is health first and maybe in time be a little athletic again.
PS: I go for a regular 20-60 minute walks
Thanks a lot
Chris

—————-

Chris,

Props to you for wanting to get your shit back in order.  The toughest thing for guys in your position to do is actually getting your ass up and doing something about it.  I see tons of people all the time telling me that they want to do better and want to win, but no one is willing to do what it takes and is willing to WORK to WIN!  So, kudos to you bro!

My first order of attack with you would 100% be to get all your stabilizers functioning properly.  It’s obvious that the big muscles are functioning just fine, they’re able to move your appropriate bodyweight and then some.  But we need to make sure your stabilizers are functioning properly so they can take the stress of work without fatiguing excessively.  This problem is very common.  There’s a lot of people that get that bug and want to change their lives and then can’t figure out a way to stay healthy while they try to climb that mountain.  Which is why a lot of them come tumbling down.

So, I always have people start off with a ton of daily low intensity activity that improves work capacity and a very low level.  This keeps things extremely submaximal and easy to recover from, which will enable them to perform movements daily, which will keep soreness and negative association of pain away from exercise, which in turn will help make movement and exercise part of the daily routine.

I think incorporating the 52-week GPP program will be extremely beneficial to your program.  It will make sure you develop a proper foundation in motor patterns and movements, as well as slowly and steadily increase your work capacity of both small and large muscles.  I’d stay away from HIIT until your comfortably moving efficiently, otherwise you’re going to derail your process.

The most important thing I can tell people about succeeding is that there’s nothing sexy about it.  It’s a f***in’ grind! It’s doing something little every single day to work towards your goal.  It doesn’t happen in 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 year or 1 decade.  It’s a lifelong process.  Embrace your process and accomplish anything!

 

Check out the 52-Week GPP Program – Click Here to Buy!

shopbook

Volume for Major Movements

For your workouts, do you take in account total exercise volume ( sets* reps* weight ) for the major power movements to avoid muscular imbalances ? Its a confusing subject to me about balancing volume because people are stronger/ weaker in certain lifts like bench, squat, dead lift, barbell row, and shoulder press. How would you program for the average Joe?

———

Steve,

Yes. But, to be honest, most of my loading is autoregulated as of late. I base each exercise off of the main exercise in that workout, which the volume of is dictated by form and speed. And unfortunately, what I have planned, isn’t always what I do with my guys. There are just too many variables to consider and account for during training to assign strict sets/reps when training athletes.

A general guideline that I go by for people is 2:3 Push:Pull ratio. Obviously it will vary a bit sport/goal pending.

With traditional movements, volume and intensity will be dictated by quality of movement and skill of the lifter. I can typically tell what’s weak by watching them move loaded and unloaded. Then, I’ll program things from there.

My first mode of attack is typically to get everything strong around the main movement and then hit the main movement once the support structure is properly developed.

 

Ex.

Wanna big bench? Unilateral pulls, pushes & cuff work before excessively loading the bar.

Wanna big deadlift or squat? Lunges, split squats, back extensions & ab/aductor work before loading the bar.

 

If you want a big house you need a big foundation.

Once all that is set, then main movement volume and intensity are typically based off of a linear loading scheme utilizing Charlie Francis’s Hi/Low parameters & Prelipens Chart.

Prilepin's Chart

If you want to see a decent way to go about doing it in this fashion, check out this e-book:

The Ultimate Bench Program

FreakStrength - The Ultimate Bench Program