Mike Guadango Interview with Cal Dietz

Mike Guadango – How intently have you read Charlie Francis?  I believe he brushes upon your 2003 issues with alternating intensities with his High/Low approach.  Actually he believes that once a certain level of preparedness is achieved that even medium intensities need to be classified as high.  What are your thoughts on that?

Cal – In many ways, Charlie Francis and I are in complete agreement on some of his concepts.  In fact, his High-Low approach is very close to what I do for my in-season programming.

However, it is important to keep in mind that a lot of his methods evolved in the course of working with some of the most advanced athletes in the world.  What works for the best athletes in the world will not work for lower level athletes. Also, as you might have seen on a recent issue of ESPN’s 30 for 30 titled “9.79,” there is a good chance that Charlie’s athletes were using performance enhancing drugs to an extent that Charlie didn’t truly understand.  A wide range of approaches can show extremely positive results for athletes that are juicin’.

I personally do not believe that using the High-Low method as your sole approach for off-season training with normal athletes will allow your athletes to achieve freakishly maximal results. When I had an athlete that needed to become much, much stronger before working on speed, the Undulated model was the only approach that enabled me to get my athlete there.

Let me give you some examples of what I have been able to accomplish with my undulated approach.  One athlete could only complete 2 repetitions at 205 pounds. Eleven months later, he just missed 405 on a raw bench press.  Another example of extreme results is a 260 pound athlete running sub 4.5 40’s timed electronically. Another athlete walks in squatting 275, benching 195 (body weight of 185).  Within two years, he is back squatting 540 and benching 335 and still only weighing 185 while playing a sport.

Now extreme results do not always transfer into sports performance. Because some of the qualities I am developing will be for injury prevention, power, or explosion, they will not transfer over to the athlete being better at shooting a basketball better, shooting a hockey puck better, or hitting and throwing a baseball better.  But if you need to significantly improve your athletes’ strength, you cannot reach those results with the simple weekly loading associated with the High-Low Method.

A final thought:  I am guessing many of these minimalist advocates have never been the head strength coach in a collegiate setting where, if you don’t produce dramatic improvements in strength and speed, you stand a good chance of getting fired.  I might have a kid for four years, but that is four seasons.  Programs, coaches and entire careers can be dramatically changed in one season.

The point is this:  as the Head Strength Coach, I need to get my athletes as strong as possible and as fast as possible and do it as quickly as I can.  So then, in addition to the undulated approach, we also work on sport specific movements or use my ASFM Method, or focus on sub-maximal work aimed at improving performance in their sport. I don’t see how a High-Low program is not going to be able to accomplish this.

Mike Guadango –  Have you communicated with Dan Pfaff at all?  He spoke about having issues with his athletes peaking after deload weeks, which is contrary to most athletes and coaches experiences.  He said they peak better after moderate intensity weeks.   Have you noticed similar findings?

Cal – I have not had much exposure to Dan Pfaff and his methods.  I would love to sit down and chat with him for an extended period of time.  I know I could learn a lot from him.

I did have a chance to work with one of his former athletes, Mario Sategna, who became a track and field coach here at the University of Minnesota before moving on to the University of Texas. So I believe that I have some idea of how Dan Pfaff thinks through by interactions with Mario.

I would have to agree with Dan that moderate loads are better for peaking.  The approach to peaking for a long time has been to basically have people train with extreme high volumes for months, then get some rest in there, up to 3-5 weeks, and this was supposed to produce an optimal performance.  This is far from optimal and I agree with Dan that moderate loads, not rest, are a better approach.

But let’s face it, peaking athletes is an enormously complicated and poorly understood process.  It is different for distance athletes than it is for skill athletes and it is even different for individual athletes in the same sport.  To get a feel for the complexity, consider a skill sport.  Ideally, peaking should be an accumulation of motor skills coming together to get maximum performance.  When I realized many years ago that truly everything we do is a skill, this lead me back to Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuck’s four classifications of motor skill learning.  If you buy that, there would be four different peaking models just for motor development.  Now add in physiological variables and you could end up with 6-10 different performance elements you are trying to peak!

This is why when you get to the more advanced athlete, you have to be in constant communication with them.  Ask them how they felt before and after the training, before and after practice, get sleep information, diet information, ask them why something worked or why it didn’t work.  In my opinion, peaking has to become very individualized for advanced athletes.

Mike Guadango– In my studies and experience I’ve received the best results in speed, power and strength with my advanced athletes by performing more speed related work than weight related work.   Judging by the organization of your methods and the way you progress your speed work (referencing the examples from your book), it seems you believe that the main stimulus comes from weight work.  Why is that?

Cal – I may agree with you depending on what you mean by “advanced athletes.”

The athletes I get coming out of high school and for the first at least two, sometimes three years, need to get stronger if they are going to get the maximum results from speed development training.  If you can’t cause a great stretch reflex because your body cannot withstand the force when your foot strikes the ground, then you will not cause a positive stretch reflex and a force reversal reaction.  And if you can’t do that, you will not be able to develop the level of speed needed today.

With my more advanced athletes, this is not the case.  Now when I say my more advanced athletes, I mean those that have built up enough strength for their sport.  In some rare cases that could be my fourth year players, in other cases it is athletes in their 30s who have built their strength enough through their collegiate and early professional careers.

For these athletes, we don’t have to address strength more then 3-6 weeks to keep them healthy and strong. The rest of the time, maybe as much as 10 weeks, is spent on speed work and yes, high velocity work in the weight room along the lines of my ASFM Method found in Chapter 6 of Triphasic Training.

Mike Guadango – Understanding that principles and concepts are the same, how do you go about training for different sports, positions, etc, not only from a strength standpoint, but from a rehab/prehab and bioenergy standpoint?

Cal – When I program, I look at programming movements based upon performance, so what correlates to the sport, what movements, and I really focus on them, it may be general, it may be specific.

In the beginning, it is usually more general. Most athletes need to get a lot stronger.  Well I believe one of the best movements to develop total body strength is the back squat. In my undulated model, if I had an athlete that is a mental warrior that would do whatever I ask, I would have them back squat 3 days a week.  Athletes today usually want variety, but variety is not what you would use to get the best results.  The best way to get strong is to take one main total body lift and to do it consistently so that the body is not trying to adapt to all of these other different stressors at once.

The next programming principle would be to weave in injury prevention exercises tailored to the sport.  Let me say unequivocally, that rehabilitation has done a lot for pre-hab in the field of strength training.  It has literally changed the game.

I currently program for 8 sports and at times write up to 22 different programs a month in those sports. Baseball players are more likely to get shoulder injuries and hockey players are more likely to get groin injuries.  But hockey players can miss games due to shoulder injuries and baseball players can get groin injuries.  Programming for so many different sports has forced me to get good at preventing injuries specific to that sport.  I then take that knowledge and cross-fertilize my other programs with that information so that, let’s say, my baseball players, get the biggest bang for the buck groin prevention exercises without having to spend as much time on it as I might have to do with my hockey players.

With respect to pre-hab work however, one word of caution.  When getting into performance, many of those pre-hab exercises are not letting the muscle function at its highest level because you are not training it how it is supposed to be trained in sports. I believe at the beginning of your programming, you can add more rehabilitation exercises to isolate a particular muscle, but then the isolation must leave and the slow movements must leave, and you must train that athlete with high function and at high speeds.

By the way, I just learned that out of over 1000 potential lost games (counting all the players) for one of my contact sports, we had 4 missed competitions. I am proud of that but I recognize that’s a lot of luck also!

Mike Guadango – You’re definitely influenced by the Bulgarians, no doubt about that.  But not only did the Bulgarians specifically target athletes that can respond well to high stress, but EVERY aspect of their life was controlled and accounted for.  You seem to be using a similar model with athletes when you can’t control any of the following: school, sport psychology, sport practice, family stress, typical collegiate style nutrition (Pizza & Beer), not getting enough sleep and worrying about when the next time they’re getting laid.  How can you explain the success of your high stress program while having little control over so much stress?

Cal – This could actually be a 40 page response, but something you have to look at is that the human body is made to function every day of the week, of every month of the year, so if you wanted to back squat everyday you could, if you wanted to hit the same weight, or if it was an undulated loading model like Triphasic training system, and if you knew exactly how many squats to do that day, so that you could recover and do it the next day, however, many people do not want to do that, so basically, my 3 or 6 day a week undulated model is essentially loading an athlete less then another type of program, like the High-Low Model on each day, but I spread the volume out over the week. Let me give you an example, if we had 10 hours a week to practice a sport, then if it didn’t matter to do it everyday, why wouldn’t you practice 10 hours in 1 day? Well, we know that the intensity will eventually drop, so my example of this is, if I can keep the intensity higher and do a little bit less of a workout, but do it during the course of the entire week, we would do more volume, which will produce a higher results, and this is why the Undulated Model and my programming methods work better then a three day split, or High-Low Method, based upon the results I have seen. I also felt I could control more buy training everyday a little but versus training a lot on one day and then resting and hoped it worked out.

The lack of control of stress is assuming they will not train over the natural breaks in the academic calendar and will recover during those times. Again I over trained them when they are with me then let them rest when away.

Mike Guadango– You mention in your 2-day or in-season programming that volume comes from practice and performing volume work in-season will lead to overtraining to athlete.  In my experience, it’s been the complete opposite.  If my athletes are overtrained, I have them perform bodybuilding workouts to help promote blood flow and deliver a bit of a “pump” to them.  I found that dynamic or strength work will sometimes be too stressful in-season where as bodybuilding lightens the load for them.  Do you have any info on hormonal responses in-season that can shed some light on this; or is it more trial and error for you?

Cal – The volume just has to be accounted for and most of the volume is done in practice during the season. You are correct on using body building approaches for recovery.  You can also use a low intensity strength circuit and get the same effect.

In my experience, I have found some dynamic strength work at least once per week has positive effects my athletes during season. Maybe its due to the training age and level of off-season training they get to. Just a thought.

The hormonal is another issue that I have support though research on my reasoning and methods but would take a lot to explain.

Bottom line is if you can get results then you’re on the right path.

Mike Guadango – Also in regards to in-season training… I noticed that you don’t have athletes perform any “conditioning” work.  Does this include low intensity cardio for recovery purposes?  Will you have athletes perform this in-season?

Cal – I am a big believer in anything that gets the blood moving for recovery.  Acupuncture, vibration training, saunas, hot and cold tubs, body building does, low intensity cardio, all cause vassal dilation, move blood around, clean out toxins, have multiple drainages from various organs, etc.  This is something that is often undervalued in how we approach training athletes.

So the question for me is what low intensity cardio?  My feeling is that you want a full body movement, arms and legs moving, with the heart rate in the range of 120 and 130 where it is most efficient.

Mike Guadango -You mentioned that you don’t want lactate to buildup in-season.  How do you prevent that from happening during the eccentric phase of your in-season training?

Cal – Yes, I do mention that I don’t want lactate to build up in the season; I will only take them to lactate / Glycolytic Flux for 2 weeks of an eccentric block, download them for a week, followed by  a 2 week isometric block. During that eccentric and isometric block, I may only have one workout a week that is 20 or more seconds during the Eccentric block and isometric Block. Depending if the second workout during the week is max effort/under 10 seconds or with eccentric and isometric focus. This would be only 4 or 8 days/workouts during the in season that would go into lactate / Glycolytic Flux.  This is also dictated by the off season training loads and if the athletes have done Triphasic Training with them as well.

This is almost the same concept I use during the off season, during the off-season training, my athletes will undergo lactate in the weight room for the first 2 blocks / 4 weeks of training, then what happens, then the rest of the off season we stay out of lactate/Glycolytic Flux training because we train Aerobically or CP Phase-Alactic in our training(sets under 10 Seconds). The reason for this is because the German rowers back in the 60’s found that they could only peak their athletes after 6 to 10-12 weeks of training the lactate system and the only way to get to the higher levels would be to build a larger aerobic base, it supports everything that you do, hold  your breath for 10 minutes and see how that works out. It supports the CP Phase, it supports both of the creatine phosphate recovery systems, which is a bi-phasic, a fast and a slow recovery, the greater aerobic base you have, the easier you can recover to do a repeated sprint or repeated max effort interval, and when I am saying that, the faster you can recover, the more intense that the next effort can be. Does that mean that an elite shot putter should go out and run multiple miles? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It means that the athlete should do an aerobic circuit in the beginning of his training to have an excellent aerobic base to support his creatine phosphate recovery so that he could do maximal effort repeat sprint intervals later in your training. I have had people ask me, well if you look at many of my programs, especially with my biometrics method, where the organism regulates itself how much work it’s ready to do, so the human body tells us how much work it needs to do. This is essentially cyber-genetic periodization or cybernetics, the Soviets had a conference on it in 1957, I call it Biometrics. So for example, if one of my athletes is doing 5 – 7 second interval bouts of maximal efforts on back squat, and all of the other exercises they do during the workout , through auto-regulation or the Biometric method, this athlete did 70 bouts of 5 – 7 second maximal efforts on a Wednesday, came back, and repeated it, so we knew they did not do too much, but again, 70 bouts of 5 – 7  or even 10 seconds of exercise, at maximal effort, whatever it is, is very aerobic based, actually it is up to 50 % aerobic, so even when I don’t have to do much aerobic work, because of the loading and the system of training I’m implementing, the high volume on those particular days of short sprints, or any particular day of high volume work, is also a supported by aerobic system and is also training for your aerobic system.