Four years have passed since the Olympic flames have been extinguished and the time is upon us to light the flames again and to honour the best athletes in the world. These athletes have devoted thousands of hours to be in a peak state in Beijing, to test there training and nutritional protocols that they have tweaked over the years. The effectiveness of these protocols will judge who steps onto the winner’s podium to international acclaim and who will retreat back to the drawing board to ponder another four years training.
One coach who is re-knowned for producing bigger, faster athletes and perfecting his program designs so that athletes peak on the big day is French Canadian coach Charles Poliquin. A native of Ottawa, Canada, coach Poliquin has been hailed as the most successful strength coach in the world having trained Olympic medallists in 18 different sports. Charles became fluent in English, French and German so he could research European journals and speak to European coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. This was necessary because any previous research in the USA and Canada was based on aerobic training or weight training with subjects who had never previously lifted weights. Such data would not reflect the same response in athletes. Charles developed principles and he perfected the art of writing routines that produced results. His books and courses are the culmination of his theories and knowledge. Since then his work has been translated into 7 different languages and he is the most scientific peer reviewed strength coach in the world.
To stay on top of his field, Charles spends 16 hours a week studying the latest research and learning from the brightest people in the scientific and medical community. Studying an athletes blood samples or his Genomic profile i.e. studying a persons genes can determine whether nutritional deficiencies or toxicity will be a limiting factor in an athlete achieving success. In events where milliseconds are the difference between gold and silver, no stone is left unturned in getting someone to the peak of their ability.
Charles Poliquin has listed his principles for training in his manuals and books. As he is the second person chosen for our lessons from legends I will share some of his pearls of wisdom. On average Charles had 11 weeks to work with his athletes so the first point of assessment is a structural balance test. These tests would address imbalances between the legs and the shoulders to reduce the chances of injuries and to accelerate future progress. You are only as strong as your weakest link and since Charles has been to Ireland a number of times in the last few years there are a number of people qualified to conduct these tests. The training program is then designed to correct the imbalances and achieve the training goal of the athlete in the 11 weeks. There are no power plates, bosu balls, body-blades or treadmills in his gyms. The use of Power Plates is frowned upon as “nobody squats during an earthquake and research at the University of Calgary failed to reproduce benefits previously published in the literature.”
The exercises Charles chooses are based on what has continuously proven to get results. Squats, dead-lifts, chins, presses and dips are a staple of his program designs. Charles mentor Pierre Le Roy, himself a strength coach to Olympic medallists in weight-lifting has listed his three secrets to success as hard work, hard work and yes, you guessed it, hard work. Pierre’s work ethic had an influence on Poliquin’s program design and the exercises you choose and the programs you use are only as good as the time it takes you to adapt to them. The training programs take less than an hour and as the exercises are hard, if you are taking longer than that there must be plenty of chat and very little work.
An experienced trainer should change an exercise frequently while a beginner should have their workout changed every 4-6 workouts. Adaptation is not good for changing body-shapes as a muscle has no reason to change if it is not challenged. Physiologically, our goal is to damage muscle in order that it will, break down, repair and become stronger. So, in essence, you should be sore the days following your weight-training. If you are not, the chances are you will remain the same shape you currently are. You should be keeping a detailed training and food log diaries. The average lifter should focus on the 2% rule: you should be able to add 2% more weight or an extra rep from workout to workout. If you can’t, then you need to do something different.
Changing exercises, or variables of an exercise such as repetitions, sets, rest and tempo can stimulate muscle growth. Coach Charles Poliquin is credited with introducing the science of tempo into the strength training community and when you alter the speed of an exercise you can force different areas of a muscle to respond. The practice of strength and interval increases stress and therefore raises the stress hormone cortisol and one of the best ways to control the cortisol produced by training is a post-workout drink. Anything that will mitigate how much cortisol you produce in a day will make a big difference in changing your body-shape. A French study showed that just seven grams of fish oil a day has been shown to mitigate the amount of stress hormones a person produces. Poliquin recommends this supplement as a must for Irish people as the Welsh, Irish, and English have been shown to have the highest rates of depression in the world, and we also have the highest levels of omega-3 deficiency. Omega-3 raises serotonin i.e. happy hormone in the brain and in the last two years alone, there have been over 600 studies released on the benefits of fish oil in helping against depression.
Poliquin struggles to pronounce the word CARDIO! None of Charles athletes perform aerobic training. His athletes get faster, leaner and stronger from not performing aerobic training. Studies have shown, the more aerobic work you perform the weaker your bench press and vertical jump will become. To an athlete whose earnings are based on performance this can make a big difference in there take home pay. For fat loss purposes, Charles find’s aerobic training to be worthless. Most people are already stressed enough, and aerobic work only further stresses the adrenals glands. We are designed to throw a rock at a rabbit not run after it so this means we are designed for short bursts. Slow, continuous aerobic work interferes with the brain’s ability to recruit high-threshold motor units and interferes with power development. Charles’s hockey players always have the highest VO2 max at training camp, and all they do is interval training a few weeks out of camp. In fact, in the ’92 Olympics, the Canadian alpine ski team actually surpassed the cross-country team on aerobic scores using this interval method as the results were measured by third party university labs.
Charles approach to nutrition is to follow a diet of our ancestors. We have evolved on a diet of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts. 70% of the population are not tolerant to carbohydrates such as breads and grains and this is evident with the number of muffin tops on view today. So, if you want to get lean and improve your energy you should stay away from foods that have a glycemic index above 50 or a high glycemic load. To prove his point, Charles has perfected a system called Bio-Signature Modulation to spot-reduce body-fat stores and improve your health. His work on what your fat stores say about you and your health has been verified with studies in Tennessee with cardiologist Dr Mark Houston on hypertension, dyslipidemia and diabetes. What you eat has a massive factor on your lifespan.
Charles Poliquin has been at the forefront of the strength training community for the last 28 years and he will continue to be there for many more. In future times, the fitness industry will have the latest gadgets and gizmo’s to test your resolve with false claims but principles will hold true to the test of time. Methods are many, principles are few, methods may change but principles never do.