A Standard Conditioning Program For All Fall Sports

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns shared with permission, by Wayne L. Westcott PhD.
Dr. Westcott
Should all fall sports participants engage in conditioning programs to reduce their risk of injury and improve their athletic performance? The answer is an unqualified yes! Boys and girls? Yes. Strength athletes who play football and endurance athletes who run cross-country? Yes. Ball handling teammates who play soccer and field hockey? Yes.

Without question, all young people who compete in fall sports should perform appropriate exercise programs to enhance their physical fitness. Of course, some of the training procedures will vary based on the demands of the activity. For example, football players should emphasize power exercises such as sprinting, cross-country runners should focus on endurance exercises such as three to five mile runs, and soccer players should include both sprinting and sustained running such as 100 yard dashes and half-mile repeats.

But when it comes to muscle conditioning, I propose that a similar strength training program may be successfully applied to all of the athletes. Oh, there are some differences, such as the number of repetitions completed. Generally speaking, power athletes respond best to lower (4 to 8) repetitions with relatively heavy weightloads, endurance athletes respond best to higher (12 to 16) repetitions with relatively light weightloads, and combination athletes respond best to moderate (8 to 12) repetitions with moderate weightloads.

However, when it comes to the exercise selection all of these athletes should be strong in all of their major muscle groups. Regardless of your sport, there is no advantage in having a weak upper body or a poorly conditioned midsection. Going a step further, training some muscle groups more than others can be a serious disadvantage.

Years ago when I was a university track coach, I determined that sprinters should have powerful quadriceps muscles to explode out of the blocks, and flexible hamstring muscles to prevent hamstring pulls. All winter we strengthened their quadriceps and stretched their hamstrings, and I couldn’t wait to see the results of my specialized conditioning program. As it turned out every single sprinter pulled a hamstring muscle and I was dumbfounded. What had I done wrong?

Simple. I unintentionally promoted a serious imbalance between the sprinters’ opposing muscle groups. You see, a powerfully accelerating quadriceps group must be properly decelerated by a relatively strong hamstrings group. If the hamstrings muscles are significantly weaker they will be overwhelmed by the stronger quadriceps muscles, and injury is inevitable in spite of their flexibility.

So what should I have done to better condition and safeguard my sprinters? Clearly, I should have strengthened all of their major muscle groups, especially their hamstrings and quadriceps. Years later, working with the Notre Dame High School track and cross-country teams, I discovered how well the comprehensive conditioning approach really works. All of the athletes trained all of their major muscle groups, and the result was one injured runner in four years, and four consecutive Massachusetts and New England championship teams.

But why would football players train with the same exercises as cross-country runners or field hockey players? Because they all have the same major muscle groups. Let’s take a look at the major muscles of the body, and the basic free-weight and machine exercises that strengthen these muscle groups.

Major Muscle Groups Recommended
Free Weight Exercises
Machine Exercises

Quadriceps (front thigh) Squat Leg Extension
Hamstrings (rear thigh) Squat Leg Curl
Hip Adductors (inner thigh) Hip Adduction
Hip Abductors (outer thigh) Hip Abduction
Pectoralis Major (chest) Bench Press Chest Cross
Latissimus Dorsi (upper back) Pulldown Super Pullover
Deltoids (shoulders) Shoulder Press Lateral Raise
Biceps (front arm) Biceps Curl Biceps Flexion
Triceps (rear arm) Triceps Pressdown Triceps Extension
Erector Spinae (lower back) Trunk Extension Lower Back Extension
Rectus Abdominis (abdominals) Trunk Curl Abdominal Curl
Neck Extensors (rear neck) Neck Extension
Neck Flexors (front neck) Neck Flexion

Many people mistakenly believe that strength training inevitably results in larger muscles and more bodyweight. This is not necessarily true. Strength training produces stronger muscles in all cases, but gains in muscle size and bodyweight are very dependent upon personal genetic factors. For example, most football players have mesomorphic physiques that respond to strength exercise with relatively large changes in muscle size and body weight. On the other hand, most cross-country runners have ectomorphic physiques that respond to strength exercise with relatively small changes in muscle size and body weight. Furthermore, the heavy weightload – low repetition training followed by football players maximizes muscle strength and size, whereas the lower weightload – higher repetition training performed by cross-country runners emphasizes muscle endurance without additional bodyweight.

The main point is that all fall sports participants can benefit from a standard program of strength exercise, and that the results will be specific to each type of athlete. A stronger athlete in any sport is a better athlete, and more importantly, a more injury-resistant athlete. If your fall athletes are not presently performing basic strength exercises, like those presented in the table, you can greatly enhance their sport safety and success by starting a sensible strength training program. Thirty minutes a day, twice a week, is all the time and energy requirements necessary for some significant physical benefits.

 TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks again to my friend Dr Wayne Westcott for sharing his excellent articles with me.


Twelve Reasons Every Adult Should Do Strength Exercise

During the past few years more and more studies have shown that sensible strength training produces many health and fitness benefits. Key researchers, such as Dr. William Evans and Dr. Ben Hurley, have provided a wealth of data on the positive physiological responses to basic programs of strength exercise. Based on presently available research, consider the following 12 reasons why every adult should perform regular strength exercise.

Benefit One: Avoid Muscle Loss
Adults who do not strength train lose between 5-7 pounds of muscle every decade (Forbes 1976, Evans and Rosenberg 1992). Although endurance exercise improves our cardiovascular fitness, it does not prevent the loss of muscle tissue. Only strength exercise maintains our muscle mass and strength throughout our mid-life years.

Benefit Two: Avoid Metabolic Rate Reduction
Because muscle is very active tissue, muscle loss is accompanied by a reduction in our resting metabolism. Information from Keyes et al. (1973) and Evans and Rosenberg (1992) indicates that the average adult experiences a 2-5 percent reduction in metabolic rate every decade of life. Because regular strength exercise prevents muscle loss it also prevents the accompanying decrease in resting metabolic rate.

Benefit Three: Increase Muscle Mass
Because most adults do not perform strength exercise, they need to first replace the muscle tissue that has been lost through inactivity. Fortunately, research (Westcott 1995) shows that a standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about 3 pounds over an Week training period. This is the typical training response for men and women who do 25 minutes of strength exercise, 3 days per week, and represents an excellent return on a time-efflcient investment.

Benefit Four: Increased Metabolic Rate
Research reveals that adding 3 pounds of muscle increases our resting metabolic rate by 7 percent, and our daily calorie requirements by 15 percent (Campbell et al. 1994). At rest, a pound of muscle requires about 35 calories per day for tissue maintenance, and during exercise muscle energy utilization increases dramatically. Adults who replace muscle through sensible strength exercise use more calories all day long, thereby reducing the likelihood of fat accumulation.

Benefit Five: Reduce Body Fat
Campbell and his co-workers (1994) found that strength exercise produced 4 pounds of fat loss after 3 months of training, even though the subjects were eating 15 percent more calories per day. That is, a basic strength training program resulted in 3 pounds more lean weight, 4 pounds less fat weight, and 370 more calories per day food intake.

Benefit Six: Increase Bone Mineral Density
The effects of progressive resistance exercise are similar for muscle tissue and bone tissue. The same training stimulus that increases muscle myoproteins also increases bone osteoproteins and mineral content. Menkes (1993) has demonstrated significant increases in the bone mineral density of the upper femur after 4 months of strength exercise.

Benefit Seven: Improve Glucose Metabolism
Hurley (1994) has reported a 23 percent increase in glucose uptake after 4 months of strength training. Because poor glucose metabolism is associated with adult onset diabetes, improved glucose metabolism is an important benefit of regular strength exercise.

Benefit Eight: Increase speed of Gastrointestinal Transit Time
A study by Koffler (1992) showed a 56 percent increase in gastrointestinal transit time after 3 months of strength training. This is a significant finding due to the fact that delayed gastrointestinal transit time is related to a higher risk of colon cancer.

Benefit Nine: Reduce Resting Blood Pressure
Strength training alone has been shown to significantly reduce resting blood pressure (Harris and Holly 1987). Another study (Westcott 1995) has revealed that strength plus aerobic exercise is also effective for improving blood pressure readings. After 2 months of combined exercise, the program participants dropped their systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg.

Benefit Ten: Improved Blood Lipid Levels
Although the effects of strength training on blood lipid levels needs further research, at least 2 studies (Stone et al. 1982, Hurley et al. 1988) have revealed improved blood lipid profiles after several weeks of strength exercise. It is important to note that improvements in blood lipid levels are similar for both endurance and strength exercise (Hurley 1994).

Benefit Eleven: Reduce Low Back Pain
Several years of research on strength training and back pain conducted at the University of Florida Medical School has shown that strong low-back muscles are less likely to be injured low-back muscles. A recent study by Risch (1993) found that low-back patients had significantly less back pain after 10 weeks of specific (full-range) strength exercise for the lumbar spine muscles. Because 80 percent of all Americans experience low back problems, it is advisable for all adults to properly strengthen their low back muscles.

Benefit Twelve: Reduce Arthritic Pain
According to a recent edition of the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter (1994), sensible strength training eases the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is good news, because most men and women who suffer from arthritis pain need strength exercise to develop stronger muscles, bones, and connective tissue.

There are 12 physiological reasons to perform regular strength exercise. On a more basic level, it is important to understand that proper strength training may help us to look better, feel better, and function better. Remember that our skeletal muscles serve as the engine, chassis, and shock absorbers of our bodies. Consequently, strength training is an effective means for increasing our physical capacity, improving our athletic performance, reducing our injury risk, enhancing our personal appearance, and improving our selfconfidence. Everyone can benefit from a sensible program of strength exercise.

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to Dr Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., for compiling this weeks research information, and for his continued work in strength and Fitness Research.



This week I offer another brief, intense, efficient strength training program.

It’s called the “DOUBLE EIGHT”.

This workout was created by Dr Wayne Westcott. It is a combination of classic Arthur Jones style H.I.T. training, paired with the equally classic Delorme Watkins protocol.

The Double-Eight Program is based on the subject’s eight-repetition maximum (8RM) weight-load, which is typically completed with approximately 80 percent of maximum weight-load. Each exercise repetition is performed in about six seconds (a two-second lifting phase and a four-second lowering phase), through a relatively full range of joint movement.

Set one. The first set begins with eight repetitions at 50 percent of the 8RM weight-load, Although this is a relatively light warm-up set, it activates the neuromuscular system in preparation for a relatively heavy follow-up set. Due to the low effort required for the first set, lifters rest only 60 seconds before performing the second set.

Set two. The second set is performed with the 8RM weight-load, and lifters perform as many repetitions as possible. Exercisers almost always complete more repetitions with their 8RM weight-load when they first perform a preparatory set with 50 percent of their 8RM weight-load. The time requirement for the light exercise set (50 seconds), recovery period (60 seconds) and heavy exercise set (50 to 60 seconds) is less than three minutes. If lifters complete eight multi-muscle exercises per workout, the total training time (including a one-minute recovery between exercises) is about 30 minutes.

Progression. To enhance performance improvement, exercisers can increase the 8RM weight-load whenever nine repetitions can be completed in good form. To emphasize gradual progression, they generally add only 2.5 to 5 pounds of resistance to the previous weight-load. In many cases, our participants increase their exercise weight-loads every training session.

Frequency. Although brief, the Double-Eight Program is so physically demanding that our participants only perform two workouts per week (typically Mondays and Fridays). This provides ample time for muscle recovery and remodeling, and reduces the risk of overtraining.

Exercises. For our program, we prefer a push-pull routine, pairing opposing muscle groups on successive exercises. Our standard eight-exercise program is presented in Table 1. As you will note, these are all multi-joint exercises that involve several major muscle groups.

Summary and application

The Double-Eight Program is a basic and brief strength-training protocol that features a low-effort preparatory set with 50 percent of the 8RM weight-load, followed by a high-effort stimulus set with the 8RM weight-load. We recommend a 60-second recovery period between the successive sets, as well as between the different exercises. We have had excellent results with this structured and supervised 30-minute high-intensity training program.

Our participants’ favorable response to the Double-Eight Program may be related to the following factors:

l. A limited number of exercises, each of which involve several major muscle groups.

2. An alternating sequence of pushing and pulling exercises.

3. Neuromuscular facilitation of the prime-mover muscles, resulting from the preparatory, low-effort exercise set.

4. A focus on one high-effort set of each exercise.

5. One-one-one training sessions with encouraging instructors.

Table 1. Strength-Training Programs for Advanced Exercisers

Leg press / Squat Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus   maximus 8 reps. with 50% 8 RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weight-load
Dip Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids,   triceps 8 reps. with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weigh=tload
Chin-up Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids,   biceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps.with 8 RM weight-load
Chest press Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids,   triceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weigh-tload
Seated row Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids,   biceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps.with 8 RM weight=load
OH Press Deltoids, upper trapezius, triceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weight=load
Pull-down Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids,   biceps 8 easy reps with assistance 8 hard reps
Incline Press Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids,   triceps 8 easy reps with assistance 8 hard reps.

Give the DOUBLE EIGHT a try. You’ll be glad you did.