Thursday, June 17, 2010
The Workout From Hell
My damaged back has turned the summer plans upside down, with the upside being that I’m so limited in what I can do it will add some focus to my training. The last few days I’ve been testing my limits to see what I should and shouldn’t be doing. In conclusion, I’ve decided it’s time to dust off the “Workout From Hell.”
My buddy Largo wrote this workout program for a climbing magazine back in the 80s. While no one questioned its difficulty, it never became a part of the climbing lexicon because, frankly, it’s not very good training for the sport. These days it’s pretty antiquated as training for anything. In a world where symbiosis and functionality are king, it’s preaches isolation and iron so strongly that it conjures up black and white images of Arnie, Franco, and Muscle Beach.
Though dated, the program is not without merit (note above pic of a ripped Largo back in the day). Its graduated rep scheme that begins absurdly high and transitions to very low is great for targeting energy systems. And it’s even more intriguing given I lack mobility and can’t do complex movements. The lack of functionality doesn’t bother me because, when I’m healthy, I spend too much time playing and too little time training so my sports specific engrams (neuromuscular patterns) are firmly in place.
Of course I’m already very familiar with the WFH. I try everything. I began my first cycle of this program the day after I read about it. Back then we’d try anything to improve our climbing. Without resources like the internet we weren’t privy to why the Europeans had come out of nowhere to dominate the sport that we’d ruled for a couple of decades. It wasn’t due to the WFH but we didn’t know that, so I hit the gym with the fervor of an amphibious rodent being dropped into a bath.
Like Largo, the first time I did this I was so sore that I couldn’t reach my hands above my head to wash my hair, much less climb anything. And while it didn’t improve my climbing it helped my fitness. Over the years I tinkered with it. I’d do a cycle each year, in the off season, to build base fitness and avoid muscular imbalances. And while I’m not sure it was the most efficient tactic for my climbing only lifestyle, as I was doing back then, I think it will help with some weaknesses that I currently have and be good overall training for my current multi-sports lifestyle.
I’m not sure how much help the WFH is in the modern world. Something like 90x, for example, is a far more thorough training regimen. But some of its aspects can still help improve fitness, especially for those targeting specific weaknesses. And the structured repetition scheme, which never became popular for the masses, is pragmatic for sure as it directly addresses muscular endurance, hypertrophy (though Long misidentifies this phase, though it's a semantics error as he knows what it does), and power. My evolved version of the WFH is quite different than the original and I’ll post it when finalized.