The 3 S’s of Hybrid Training: How to Increase Speed, Size, and Strength
There aren’t many coaches out there who are as “diverse” as Nick Tumminello. He’s equal parts meathead and evidence based, which basically means he can sit at any table he wants to in the proverbial high-school cafeteria.
It doesn’t matter if it’s with the cool-kids, football players, hipsters, Honor Society, or theater nerds…Nick’s “in” with them all, just like in the fitness community.
- Bodybuilders, powerlifters, CrossFitters, Olympic lifters, barbell lifter uppers, you name it, he’s always invited to the party.
I respect Nick a ton. He’s someone I’m always learning from and someone who always keeps things in perspective. What’s more, he’s never dogmatic in his approach to training people. If something works – and can be backed up with a rationale explanation (whether anecdotal or backed by evidence/research) – it works.
There’s a reason his Twitter profile says the following:
“I train the trainers.”
His latest resource, S3 Training Method: A Programming Framework for Improving Speed, Size, and Strength, is a doozy (<– it will rock your world it’s so thorough, and is an excellent addition for any trainer or coach looking to add a little “kick” to their programming for the new generation of clients looking to have it all), and is available starting today at a heavily discounted price.
He was kind enough to contribute a stellar guest post today.
The 3 S’s of Hybrid Training: How to Increase Speed, Size and Strength
Is it possible to get stronger, enhance your performance and get bigger all at the same time?
I’d say yes…
Training through a spectrum of movement speeds and loads will enhance your explosiveness, improve your strength, and increase your muscle will leave. Gone are the days where you must focus on one specific goal and ignore the others.
The Three S’s
Let’s explore the three S’s—speed, strength, and size—to help you understand exactly what each quality is.
In the context of this article, movement-speed training focuses on improving your rate of force development—that is, how quickly you can use your strength.
Remember: power = strength × speed. Therefore, exercises used to improve your movement speed are total-body power exercises. The heavier the load you’re working against, the slower your movement becomes. For this reason, the principle of specificity dictates that, in order to do all you can to improve your explosive power, you don’t just do exercises that involve moving against high loads (i.e., strength exercises). You also do exercises that require you to move at high speeds.
Adaptations to training are specific to the demands that the training puts on the body. Therefore, regularly performing exercises that require you to move fast in certain directions makes your body more capable of moving fast in those or similar directions.
With this principle in mind, you should include exercises for each of the three pillars of power—vertical (or diagonal), horizontal, and rotational—in order to improve your functional capacity by enhancing your capability to move fast in multiple directions.
Since the goal is to move fast, the exercises improving total-body power (i.e., movement speed) use loads that are not heavy (relative to the loads used to improve strength). In fact, they should incorporate very light loads (sometimes just body weight), but demand that you move at high speed – as fast as you possible can.
In addition to training movement speed, we also need to better adapt to and potentially refine the tri-phasic muscle-activation pattern used only during fast, ballistic athletic movements.
One of the best workout methods to achieve both of these goals is to perform medicine-ball throwing exercises.
When throwing the ball, unlike when lifting weights, you don’t have to slow down at the end of the range of motion; you can just let the ball fly. Therefore, simply throwing the ball in different directions (power is direction specific) trains your body to generate explosive power without putting on any brakes.
Also, whereas Olympic weightlifting can be difficult to learn and trains only in the vertical or diagonal power pillar, explosive medicine-ball throwing exercises are easy to learn and require you to move fast and explosively in all three pillars of power.
To do so use a variety of medicine-ball throwing exercises—throwing either against a wall or into open space (e.g., field or parking lot)—to help you become more explosive and therefore more powerful and athletic.
Training for improved strength means improving one’s capability to produce force in various movements. Put simply, the more force you can produce in a given movement, the stronger you are in that movement.
Like power, strength is task specific; therefore, the further an exercise gets away from the specific force-generation and neuromuscular coordination patterns of a given movement, the less directly it carries over to that movement. This fact in no way makes the exercise bad, and it certainly doesn’t make it nonfunctional. It simply means that the less specific an exercise is, the more general it is.
You should incorporate a wide variety of cross-body and compound exercises to help you improve your functional capacity by developing strength in various movement patterns, directions, and body positions.
Remember, if you can perform a broader range of specific tasks, you possess a higher functional capacity. This relationship is crucial because you don’t want your body to be merely more adapted to a limited number of gym-based exercise movements (only Olympic lifters and powerlifters need to specialize in specific exercise movements).
Instead, you want your body to be more adaptable so that you can successfully take on a variety of physical demands.
Although training for strength gains and training for size gains (i.e., hypertrophy) are certainly not mutually exclusive, the size–strength continuum is characterized by some important differences between the two.
Although both involve creating mechanical tension on the muscles, strength training is geared toward increasing force production. Size training, on the other hand, is geared toward getting a muscle pump and creating microscopic damage in the muscle, which causes the muscle to repair itself and grow larger.
If you think of your body as a computer, then strength training is geared more to upgrading your software (your central nervous system, or CNS) than to upgrading your hardware (your muscles). In contrast, training for size is geared more to upgrading your body’s hardware—bones, connective tissues, and, of course, muscles.
The rule of thumb in training for size calls for using more reps and lower loads than when training for strength. In practical terms, this approach means using a weight load that allows you to perform about 9 to 15 reps per set; performing 6 to 8 reps per set serves as a nice middle ground between the general strength.
Although all types of training can provide neurological benefits—especially early on—the goal of training for size is more physiological than neurological.
In fact, contrary to popular belief, increasing muscle size depends not on the specific exercises you do but on the specific physiological stimulus you create. To build muscle, you need to create a training stimulus that elicits the three mechanisms for muscle growth (i.e., hypertrophy): mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage (Schoenfeld 2010).
In short, there are two ways to get stronger and build a great-looking body that can get things done: neurologically and physiologically. Both approaches are addressed by the S3 Method: A Programming Framework for Improving Speed, Strength & Size, which helps you reprogram your body’s software and improve its hardware for more muscle and better performance capability.
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