ELEMENT SPECIFIC TRAINING
By: Kim Hartt
Photos by: Skip Faulkner, at Better Bodies Gym
have been competing in fitness for four years now and it wasn't until this past year that I learned the most efficient way to train for these competitions. A good friend of mine, Brandi Carrier actually introduced me to this specific kind of training program and she had learned it from four time world aerobic champions, Grant and Sandy from Clearwater Florida. Coming from the source, you can see how effective this training program really is. It is designed to produce winners that are able to execute every move in their routine precisely and yet still make every element look effortless.
| These conditioning programs not only help with the specific elements that are required within your routine, but also will help to increase your general strength and add shape and tone to both your upper and lower body without even hitting the weight room.|
These conditioning programs not only help with the specific elements that are required within your routine but also will help to increase your general strength and add shape and tone to both your upper and lower body without even hitting the weight room. You use your own bodyweight for resistance and are able to progress the resistance by use of ankle weights or a weight vest.
I started these conditioning programs back in February of 1999, while preparing for the NPC USA National Fitness Competition at the end of July, 1999. I gave myself 6 months to reach my long term goal for this past year. It is always better to prepare in advance as you will be able to enjoy the gradual progression of your strength, conditioning, and weight loss?without feeling pressured or stressed. People who cut themselves short on time, generally take drastic measures to meet their goals by the deadline. In return, the results are very short-lived (maybe just for the day of the contest), and most likely the rebound effect will occur; an extreme weight gain resulting in more body fat than they started with. This is hard on the body, and a slow, gradual, progressive training program is always better for long lasting results.
The goal of a good fitness program is to develop the fundamental, basic skills with good technique and build from there. This takes time, dedication, commitment, and perseverance. But remember, these are the key elements of success.
The first conditioning program I am going to take you through is one which includes strength elements as well as pyometric exercises. Plyometric drills will give you the dynamic power of explosion that is required for elements such as sushanovas or toe touches.
Always begin as you would in the weight room. Start with a 10 minute aerobic warm up on the cardiovascular machine of your choice, and then spend a minimum of 15- 20 minutes stretching both upper and lower body.
The first exercise is the Step Straddle Support. This involves strengthening of your shoulders, chest, back and arms to push your bodyweight up off the floor. As well, your hip flexors, quads, and gluteals to pull the legs up and hold them isometrically for a given count.
Begin by placing your hands on either side of the narrow part of the bench, and while pushing through your upperbody, simultaneously lift your legs up off the ground.
This is harder than it looks, because the first time I tried this, I couldn't lift my legs off the ground. But, as long as you continue to try to lift them up and focus your mind towards that, you are still working and strengthening your leg muscles.
It is best to have a stopwatch for this exercise because you should time your reps and rest time in between each set. To condition your legs, I would suggest starting with four sets, with 5 reps in each set. Hold the straddle for at least an 8 second count, resting for 16 seconds between each rep, and one minute between each set of 5 reps.
As this exercise gets easier, the progression would be to add ankle weights for resistance, starting at only 2 pounds, and moving up in increments of 2 pounds at a time. Buy ankle weights that you can add 2 pound bags to, as you progress in strength. You can also increase the amount of time you hold the straddle press to build muscular endurance, and decrease the amount of rest time between reps and sets to increase intensity. All of these progressions should be done gradually and they
can be applied to all of the exercises in this program.
"Rock Ups" is a very good exercise to stimulate the strength in your core trunk muscles from which all of your presses and push up elements are done. As you rock forward, you are stimulating the lower abs and as you rock back, you are stimulating all of the muscles in your back. Make sure that this exercise is done in a controlled manner and not "swinging", where momentum is used instead of isolation of the aforementioned muscle groups.
Start with 3 sets of 10 reps with one minute rest between sets. To increase the intensity of this exercise, add a weight vest and gradually increase the intensity by adding 2 pound weights to the weight vest in the same manner you did with the ankle weights. You always want the exercise to challenge you. It is only when you have to struggle through and focus in on the working muscles, that you make incredible gains in your strength progression.
V-Supports use a lot of hip flexor and lower abdominal strength and control. Start by putting your hands behind you, one on each bench. Push up using your shoulders and triceps, trying to lift your body up off of the ground. Start with the legs in a crossed position in front of your body?then start tilting your pelvis into a posterior pelvic tilt by using your lower abdominals. Next, start to open your legs and raise them into a "V" position by using the strength in your hip flexors.
Do not be discouraged if you cannot get your bottom off the ground for the first couple of times, (I couldn't). In fact, it took me at least a month on this conditioning program before I could actually lift my whole body weight off of the ground and hold it in this "V" position. Remember, as long as you are trying to push yourself up and lift your legs, you are stimulating those muscles and you are making progress.
Start out with 3 sets of five reps, as these are more difficult than the Step Straddle Support. Then, as this element gets easier, as with the other elements?you can increase the reps, sets, ankle weights, and actual counts for holding the element. It will get easier! It may seem impossible at first, but remember, with consistency, determination, and perseverance, you can do anything!
The Hip Flexor Exercise is very important because of the demands put on the hip flexors to be strong for elements such as straddle jumps and presses.
Start with 3 sets of 20 reps. For proper form, point toes out and control the contraction versus bouncing your heels off of the floor. When 3 sets of 20 reps becomes easy, progress with ankle weights, reps and sets.
Power V ups are important for abdominal strengthening. This kind of sit up utilizes quick, fast twitch fibers to gain dynamic power and strength for both the upper and lower abdominals. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps and progress with ankle weights, reps, and sets as above.
Hyperextensions are important to strengthen the lowback which balances the strength of the abdominals, as well as assisting in dynamic strength moves, such as a one arm/one leg push up.
3 sets of 15 reps are recommended here. Use a weight vest or hold a weighted plate in your hands for resistance.
The last portion of this conditioning routine goes into the Plyometric Component:
Punch Jumps are important to develop quickness, explosiveness, and height on jumps. Start at a lower height of only 2-3 stacked benches to get the feel for this exercise. Start at the top of the bench and then step down with right foot first and as soon as the left foot comes down. Explode with your "Punch Jump" back onto the bench and then repeat as quickly as you can. Your goal is to build up speed and a "spring-like" feeling with this exercise.
Do 10 stepping down with right foot first and then 10 with the left foot first. You will find that your coordination is challenged, as well, with this exercise. Keep focused and don't be afraid to use your arms to help you get more height. Again, as this exercise gets easier, you can use the weight vest for spring loading. This will improve both the explosiveness and height of your jumps.
Assisted Straddle Jump - For this exercise, you require a partner that will hold onto your waist and help to assist with the height, so you can work on your form of the jump. Your focus will be on "Explosion" into the air, while contracting the hip flexors hard to lift the legs as high as you can and then snapping them down as quickly as you can, just in time to hit the ground and "rebound" back up into the straddle position in the air. This is a very important drill for the hip flexor strength and overall stamina. I recommend that you do 5 sets of 5 good straddle jumps in a row with a one minute rest in between sets.
Remember, form is everything and this straddle jump must be technically sound from the very beginning, as it is your fundamental building block for other advanced moves such as a sushanova.
Roll to Back Straddle Jump - This is a very demanding exercise that not so much concentration is put on the form of the straddle jump, but more into the power of the legs to explode into a straddle jump from the floor.
Starting in a crouched position, you will roll back into a piked position Then, roll forward and catapult yourself from that fully flexed crouched position into a full out straddle jump. Putting this at the end of your conditioning program really works the endurance of your hip flexors?as they have to pull extra hard to lift the legs from this fully flexed position on the ground.
3 sets of 5 reps of this exercise at the end of your program will definitely develop muscular endurance, strength and power in your legs?so that when you aren't fatigued and you just have to do one single straddle jump from standing it will be a cake walk for you, not to mention how high and breathtaking the jump will be.
It is very important to cool down with some form of light cardio exercise. Now more than ever, it is important to stretch all of these muscles?as this will challenge them in a different way than you are used to in the weight room. Continued stretching on a daily basis will aid in the muscle recovery and maintain flexibility of the muscle.