How to turbocharge your workout
© Ross tyre push
Ross Edgley has run a marathon pulling a MINI and done the world's longest rope climb. Here's how...
Once I announced the news that I was going to complete the world's longest rope climb (8,848m – the height of Everest) my inbox was flooded with questions of 'how'.
When it comes to our training, we too often think in terms of repetitions, sets and training times. But the human body isn’t a repetition-counting machine. It’s far more intricate and powerful than that and can be subjected to thousands of training stimuli. One of the most overlooked of these variables is work capacity – the amount of training you can perform and positively recover and adapt to.
Imagine you’re a swimmer who's training for a marathon and you don’t have much running experience. However, you’ve got a high work capacity from spending hours in the pool every day. Although your legs may suffer with fatigue – and you won’t have your “running muscles” – your body as a whole will be able to tolerate a good few miles on day one of training.
Although every athlete will respond differently, if you look to incorporate the below into your training, generally speaking your work capacity will increase. Then you too can do car-pulling marathons and Everest-scale rope climbs...
1. Add More Sets
The most commonly used technique is to add sets to your workouts.
To keep things simple, imagine you can do four sets of three repetitions on a 180kg deadlift. What would be easier: trying to complete four sets of three repetitions with 190kg or just adding another 180kg deadlift for one repetition at the end? I'd hope you'd say the extra one repetition.
Then next session, add two repetitions with 180kg and three after that. Once you're able to do six of three repetitions, your work capacity has improved. Now it's time to drop back down to three sets with a bigger weight and attack that 190kg deadlift for three repetitions.
The key to this method is just adding one repetition per session. It's not vastly above and beyond what your body is used to, therefore it’s not that taxing on your body.
Then when you drop back to just three sets (with more weight) it's less volume than you've grown accustomed to, which sets you up nicely.
2. Add More Cardio
Next, simply add cardio-based workouts around your strength training.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this.
It could be as easy as 30 minutes cycling in the evening, which would allow you to perform your usual strength-based training in the morning. Or getting down to the swimming pool in the morning to clock some lengths in the pool.
Basically, depending on your circadian rhythm – this is your “biological clock” which determines when your body "peaks" – and your work schedule, just look to get some additional cardio in. Adding cardio-specific workouts in and around your usual strength and conditioning routines is one of the easiest ways to increase work capacity.
3. Add more “finishers”
This final method is also my favourite.
Try adding "finishers" – quick, intense, movement-specific exercises – to your strength training.
One reason this is so widely used in strength-based sports is because many sports scientists believe adding cardio to your strength training floods the body with a "cocktail of catabolic hormones" that kills your body's natural anabolic (muscle-building) response to training.
Worth noting is that this is subject to debate and (again) varies from person to person. But for now, just know that adding these exercises to the end of your training also helps to improve your work capacity:
– Five x 20m sled sprints after a heavy squat session
– 10 x five metre rope climbs after an intense arm workout
– 10 x 10m tyre flips after a big deadlift session