POWER. Read that again. POWER. Jump up out of your chair and ball your hands into fists. POWER.
Feel every inch of your body coursing with strength, your muscles ready to explode into action as if you were ready flip over a table, charge through a wall and bring the fury of ten thousand suns to bear against the demons of mediocrity dotting the landscape.
That feeling of being able to go out and conquer the world is the influence of Dr. Fred Hatfield. He is known to many as Dr. Squat and an accomplished author of multiple books. Everyone who heard him speak or got to meet him in person knew he was one of the most passionate and inspirational people in strength training. It was impossible to listen him without immediately feeling charged and ready for action.
Read Hatfield’s book Power: A Scientific Approach, and you’ll see how he influenced Power Athlete in immeasurable ways. In this article I am going to highlight just a few of the topics from the book that helped to shape Power Athlete and its underlying principles.
Chapter 1: “Strength Training”
Hatfield identified 23 different sources of strength and broke them down into anatomical/physiological factors, psychoneural/learned response factors, and external/environmental factors. The good news is that only two of these are genetically predetermined; the rest can be affected by training! When we look at the Power Athlete Athletic Continuum, there are three elements that influence where you sit: genetics, geography, and opportunity. Through our training, we must provide the opportunity for our athletes to enhance those 21 other sources of strength they can impact. We will dive into some of these later in the article.
He also knew that when it came to strength training for athletes, solely focusing on increasing absolute strength (1 rep max) wasn’t the answer, as movement at this intensity is slow. To use his words, “most sports movements are performed in a twinkling of an eye.” Knowing this we must also train in a way that decreases the transition time for eccentric to concentric, increase the concentric force, and increase the maximal force that we display.
Chapter 4: “Elasticity and Your Stretch Reflex”
One of the factors that affect strength development is your tissue viscoelasticity. Simply put, your tissues want to return to their resting length after being stretched. Coupled with this we have your stretch reflex, which is your involuntary reaction to a “harmful” stimulus. This reaction is controlled by your muscle spindles which lie within your muscle cells. Their job is to sense the length of a muscle (eccentric loading) and say “oh shit, we have too much tension!” and react with (concentric) contraction, opposing the stretch.
We can take advantage and use this reaction to generate greater strength, but to do so, we need to train this specific ability. You see this in the Power Athlete Methodology with the Principle of Compensatory Acceleration, Field Strong's application of Compensatory Acceleration (CAT) to our lifts and the use of plyometric training. Both stimuli teach the body to take on a high eccentric load (resulting in higher tension), react in minimal time, and switch to a concentric contraction resulting in an explosive push off.
Chapter 5: “Feedback Loop”
Another area that goes hand in hand with stretch reflex is your Golgi tendon organ; its job is to detect the tension in the contracting muscle. Just like your muscle spindles, when tension gets too high it thinks “oh shit, we are going to hurt ourselves!” Think of this as the muscle’s length governor, preventing you from tearing your muscles in half. Hatfield refers to this as the “feedback loop.” However, the problem with this governor is that it is set too conservatively, meaning it sends an alarm well before there is a danger. The good news is that we can teach the body to push back the set point which sends the signal. Even better news is the way we accomplish this is the same we work on our stretch reflex.
Chapter 12: “Activating Totally”
One of the best ways to influence the first three factors is through the use of CAT. If you’ve hung around or trained under Power Athlete for any period of time, this should be a familiar concept. If not, you’re gonna learn today. Simply put, you increase the acceleration of the bar as you move through the concentric (up) phase of the movement, taking advantage of increasing leverage. Think of your Back Squat; every inch you get above parallel the stronger you are, so take advantage of that and speed up!
This is where we develop the POWER in Power Athlete! Hatfield defines power as “the ability to get as many motor units as possible enervated to contract in a sudden burst of movement.” Remember when he talked about sport happening in the twinkling of eye? This is how we train for that. However, this doesn’t just happen; it is a learned response that takes reps and concentrated effort on your part to continue to explode through every inch of the movement.
Chapter 26: “Nervous System”
At the end of the day we are working towards central nervous system (CNS) efficiency. Why is this so important? Your CNS is the link between your mind and your muscles. It is responsible for sensing changes inside and outside of the body, interpreting those changes, and responding with the appropriate muscle contractions. This is the key to displaying attributes of strength, power, and speed, as well as the ability to learn new skills both inside and outside of the gym.
I have talked a lot about the knowledge that Dr. Fred Hatfield shared with the strength and conditioning community, but it would be impossible to talk about his ideas without also talking about his passion and presence. You can never lose sight of the fact that the way he talked was as equally impactful as the revolutionary knowledge he provided. No greater example I can think of is his quote on passion. The first couple lines hit me right away like a ton of bricks.
“Passion - It's not commitment to excellence, rather utter disdain for anything less. Not endless hours of practice. Perfect practice.”
This is what we are all about. It isn’t good enough to show up to the weight room and go through the motions day in and day out and expect greatness simply because you put the hours in. You have to go in with the mindset of persistent pursuit of perfection and attack each training session with a burning passion. This is what I work to instill in my athletes everyday both in the weight room and on the rugby field. This quote gave me chills the first time I heard him speak it on Power Athlete Radio years ago, and it still does as I am writing this today.
After an introduction to CrossFit in 2007, Carl became a certified coach in 2009 and co-owner of CrossFit South Bend in 2011. In addition to coaching CrossFit and CrossFit Football classes at the gym, Carl has been coaching high school rugby since 2009. He uses the CrossFit Football and Power Athlete concepts to help his young athletes identify their goals and provides pointed instruction to help achieve those goals.