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Foundational Strength Development

Foundational strength development is the development of a superior base from which all other fitness adaptations can leverage themselves. It is strength and power that form the basis of all physical ability. With the development of strength and power, anything below that level of intensity then becomes easier. The more strength and power that is present the greater the body’s ability to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time.

Lets take a marathon runner for instance. This athlete obviously needs a strong endurance background, which gives him/her the ability to sustain adequate levels of exertion over a long duration. However, endurance alone will not suffice. Why? Because without adequate foundational strength development the level of performance over the duration of a race will be too low. The athlete will be cutting a thin line between sustainable and maximal. The higher the athlete’s maximum performance level over any duration, the higher they can perform over the longer durations because their peak physical limit is higher so there becomes a bigger margin between endurance performance and maximum performance.

If two endurance athletes have the same level of endurance but one can sprint faster and squat more, the stronger and faster athlete will always come out on top.

Needless to say, foundational strength development applies highly specifically to strength and power athletes as well as those engaged in team sports. It is also the most applicable form of foundational training for the general public looking for health and well-being.

Foundations are built on strength. The more force a muscle is capable of producing, the more efficient that muscle is at performing any given task.

What About Variance?

CrossFit promotes variance. Their method is about eliciting as broad an adaptation response as possible. With this in mind they post a workout of the day, each one being vastly different than the one that came before it.

Unleashed Training does things a little more specifically. It can logically be assumed that to develop this broad adaptation response you need to radically vary the stimulus. But things are not always logical. There is no need to provide this much variety year-round. In order to develop a skill or ability you need to “grease the groove” by neurologically training the same or similar aspects over and over. In this way you can ensure adequate levels of progression and hence results.

So we might prescribe a set programme that you perform over a given time period that is rather repetitive from one day to the next. The assumption of the untrained eye is that this will not allow for variance and broad adaptations. But it will. We prescribe only functional movements that have the highest application to the specifically required tasks. So the movements we prescribe may be repetitive but they are applicable to so many things and fall within the parameters of foundational conditioning.

Even if you are performing a repetitive cycle, that cycle contains highly functional, highly transferable movements and stimuli. So the foundations being developed are applicable to as much of a range, if not more, than that of the most creative fitness approaches, without compromising the effectiveness, progression or consistency of the skills and abilities being developed.

Foundational Strength Development is Applicable to Who?

It is a common theme among coaches, trainers, magazines etc, that each individual’s training needs vary so radically that a complete programming structure from scratch must be designed to most effectively meet that need. Lets face it, how can you possibly say that an elderly person with muscle wastage has similar requirements to an Olympic level shot-putter? Well I’m saying it so hold onto your hat and leave your know-it-all attitude at the door (if you have a know-it-all attitude that is, kudos to you if you don‘t).

You see, the shot-putter needs tremendous strength and power in order to hurl that big heavy iron ball as far as possible. So the athlete will spend considerable time in the gym training with weights and training for maximum power. He will also be eating in such a way so as to invoke an anabolic response from his muscles so they get bigger and stronger to throw that ball (shot) further.

Is this dissimilar to the elderly lady? At first glance they couldn’t be further apart in terms of their needs. But wait, look a little deeper. Does this elderly lady not need to condition her muscles by increasing their size and strength? Of course she does, that’s why she’s been prescribed a strength programme. She also needs to eat in a way that promotes an anabolic response. Almost identical needs, even though the purpose is vastly different. So how do you programme for them with the same parameters? Simple, it’s just a different scale, not type. These two will train in an almost identical fashion, the only difference is the scale. The old lady will obviously lift lighter weights and will not be performing exercise requiring too much impact. Everything else will be pretty much the same.

This is why we say that we coach foundational strength development. It’s not because we coach only strength athletes, it’s because strength and power form the basis for everything. The more strength and power a person has the easier it is to perform other tasks. It is loss of strength and power that puts people in nursing homes. It is the strength and power levels of athletes that determines champions.

Foundational strength development is for everyone. Our programming structure is designed to develop foundations, we are not providing specific programmes for just one isolated group of people. If you are human and you move then the Unleashed method applies to you.

What About Cardio?

What is commonly referred to as “cardio” is seen as the be-all-and-end-all to fitness training. Many people are led to believe for some reason that slow, continuous cardiovascular exercise should form the basis for all fitness and sports conditioning programmes.

We still incorporate cardio in many of our programmes and training schedules. And yes, this applies to periods of almost exclusive foundational strength development. Most people only see the obvious things like running, swimming, cycling etc, as having any benefit on the cardiovascular system. Anything that increases the heart rate and causes the body to need more oxygen is conditioning the cardiovascular system.

A heavy set of squats or a barbell complex will provide adequate stimulus for the cardiovascular system for those that do not have a specific aerobic or anaerobic need for cardio development. Specific and isolated cardiovascular training is only ever prescribed for those with a targeted need to increased cardiovascular fitness for a given sport, such as distance runners and cyclists.

Conclusion

Foundational strength development and the development of muscular power is the most efficient way for conditioning the most solid base for all other fitness adaptations. In fact, we have tested the performance of some of our participants after a period of foundational strength development. The result was an almost 20% increase in most other types of workouts. We attribute this mainly to mechanical efficiency, which is developed through strength training. This result even occurred in middle distance runners, swimmers and tri-athletes.


Foundational strength development precedes everything else. Without a solid base of strength and power everything else suffers.

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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

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