Episode 23 – Road to Kona 2020- Lee Taft – Small additions, for large subtractions (from your run times)

Lee Taft

In part 2 of our Road to Kona 2020 series, we hang out with Lee Taft, a super coach for speed & agility. Not something you’d expect in a series on qualifying for Kona, right?

Working on your ability to produce force and power is an incredibly undervalued part of Iron Man training , yet the vast majority of triathletes don’t include it. That changes today! Lee and I dive into the simple and even FUN ways that you can add multidirectional/multi-planar training into your routine, as well as a few other fun twists and changes that you should make, in order to unleash your full power out on the run course!

Lee has a ton of fantastic resources that you can (and should) check out-





Speaker 1:

Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech, and much more to help you get fitter, faster, and stronger in and out of your sport, giving you expert insights talking with other leading experts, and now, your host, world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

… everyone, and welcome to this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast. Today is episode number 23. Fitting that we’re talking with Lee Taft again, and he’s worked with a number of basketball players, and Michael Jordan’s number is 23. Pretty cool. Happened by accident. Totally nailed it. Lee Taft is back for part two of our Road to Kona 2020.

Now, one thing I do need to correct, and I didn’t go back and delete it, I did this on purpose because I want you to see we are all human, we all make mistakes and mess up. So, I mentioned in the last episode, if I’m not mistaken, that there were people who are rolling over their qualification for Kona to next year. You can’t do that. I made a mistake. I made an oopsy, and I am not going back and deleting it and playing on. I’m perfect. No, I’m owning it. I actually mentioned it here in the episode with Lee, and I’m not deleting it out because I want you to see that mistakes happen and that’s how we learn.

Also, of note, with Lee today, we are going to capitalize on increasing your work capacity by adding multiplanar movements. That sounds like edited, but I just had to get it out with a little bit of energy because this is something where massive returns have been seen for HVT triathletes over the last decade that I’ve been working with, especially Iron Man and Half Iron Man distance.

The number of triathletes who come to me after working with another coach, who have just been given long distance runs, it really bothers me. Lee and I get in to a little bit of the details and a little bit of geeking out here, but we talk about increasing your capacity via multiplanar training. It’s really, really simple to do. You don’t need fancy equipment.

People asked, “Do I need to have these bands?”

You use your body weight. You use different movements and you do it repeatedly before you get off the bike or, rather, after you get off the bike for a break. You take a minute or two, do a couple of exercises. I even mentioned how I have some of my long distance triathletes do it in the middle of the race. So, to find out what those are by listening in.

Before we get to that, two things, three things. Number one, fantastic feedback from the interview with Lisa Lewis, Dr. Lewis. A lot of you have said, “Hey, this is something that I’ve had on my mind that I should probably be training, and I don’t really know where to find resources or how to do it.” That episode was perfectly timed.

So, number one, kudos to you because you’re really getting to know yourself and thinking about what are the uncommon things that I can do that are going to get me the results that others won’t have tomorrow. There’s so much more to it. We’re going to cover that in other episodes because I don’t want this intro to be too long.

Now, this is the second point that I’m adding. I’m rerecording this intro here. It’s actually Friday morning, October 18th, and the original intro was recorded back when Lee and I did the interview, but I wanted to rerecord it on Tuesday and released it, but I actually had really bad food poisoning. So, I’ve been laid up in bed for another three days.

In that time that I was actually sick, Lee actually announced that he’s doing a level two for his Certified Speed and Agility Coaching Course. So, I strongly encourage you, if you are a coach or even an athlete. Number one, you have to take the level one, the regular CSAC, which you can do on NSPA, National Sports Performance Association, which I believe is nspa.org. I’m not 100% certain on that website, but it’s something along those lines.

You have to take the level one in order to go do this 30 or 35-person two-day seminar with Lee, but I strongly encourage you to do so, whether you’re coach or an athlete. I’m not one of those coaches, and I don’t believe in pretending that I know it all and I learned it on my own. No, no. Lee is a fantastic coach. His level one certification is phenomenal. I strongly recommend it. You can find it at speedcertification.com or you can check out leetaft.com, L-E-E-T-A-F-T dot com.

So, we’ll get into the interview with Lee in just a second. We’re going to cover our last piece of housekeeping here, and that is a lot of you have been emailing me about the certified strength coach for cyclists, and I’m laughing because I’m giddy, because it’s been almost two years in the making. I actually just went back earlier this week, actually this past week, and before I got the food poisoning and rerecorded two of the segments to bring them up today.

So, I don’t want you to think that this is outdated stuff. You’re getting true cutting edge. This is what I’m doing today. So, this isn’t me like, “Oh, what did I do two years ago?” and then I’m going to catch people up by adding add-ons. No, no. You’re getting actually what I am doing the day that it’s published.

Here’s the thing. If you are on the HV training newsletter list, you are going to get first dibs. It’s going to be the end of October 2019 or the beginning, very beginning of November 2019. You’re going to get first dibs and not only are you going to get first dibs by at least two to four weeks before the page is published for the public and the course is open to the public, but you’re also going to get a very special price that is never going to be seen again as a thank you for being early, for wanting to learn, and looking for good information.

So, one of the things that I want to mentioned about this certification course is that it really is up-to-date, and it is not connected to Training Peaks. So, a few of you have emailed me and said, “Hey, has Training Peaks decided on a release date and a price point?” This is all me. I was working on this about eight months before Training Peaks approached me about doing those courses. So, this is something that is very, very valuable. It’s even more appointed. There’s a lot more information in it than you have in the Strength Training for Cycling Success Course on Training Peaks. So, keep that mind. Get on the HV training email letter or newsletter email list because it is going to be a lot of fun to have you guys open up probably a Facebook group, a private Facebook group to answer questions, and also as part of a thank you.

So, last thing as we go forward, get your pens and notebooks out because we’re going to dive in to how to bring your running training up another level with Lee Taft starting right now.

Lee, thank you so much for joining us today.

Lee Taft:

Oh, it’s my pleasure. I’m always excited to talk to you, Menachem, and I just appreciate everything that you do, and this has been something I’ve been looking forward to.

Menachem Brodie:

Oh, vice-versa. I was getting giddy this week looking forward to this. So, it’s the highlight of the week. True to form, you had a little popup that you had released on your YouTube channel, another video. So, as soon as we’re done with this, I’m going to pop over and watch that.

Lee Taft:

Oh, great, great, yeah, yeah. That was fun. I’ve been doing a lot of this stuff, and we can get into this, obviously, as we talk, but a lot on spacial awareness, vestibular involvement, which it’s always involved, but we can do things to help train that a little bit more. So, I think that’s fun stuff. So, you’ll see it’s a real basic video, but if you’re the type of person that can dig deeper into a simple drill, you’ll understand it. So, that’s, hopefully, what people get out of it.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s one of the great things about this is that in order to improve running economy or efficiency, depending on which path you’d like to go down, it really is mastering the basics and allowing you, your body to be able to deal with the different forces, to create stiffness at the right time and in the right places. Really, I think that’s a great place to start for today’s episode.

We’re talking about individuals who are injured this year and are rolling over their Kona registration to next year or those who just missed the cutoff and are looking to make those simple or more complex changes. Let’s dive into that. If you’re thinking about someone who’s coming back from an injury, we’ll start with that population, they’re coming back from maybe a little bit of an overuse injury, from running, they have to roll over their Kona registration to next year, what are some things that they should be thinking about including their running training that most triathletes do not or maybe they know they should but neglect?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. That’s a great question, and especially in the specialized sport of triathlon competitions, biking, running, it’s so specific and repetitive even though a triathlete, obviously, there’s three different things, but it’s not like you’re changing from event to the other within three minutes, right? I mean, it’s hours and then you change. So, you’re getting a tremendous amount of repetition. Well, what comes along with repetition is, especially if the repetition has any malalignment, there isn’t a proper functioning going on there, you’re going to have some kind of injury.

So, if we look at the human organism, it likes to be fed in various ways so that it can create more options for the body to be successful and protect it because the more that … Let’s say the more that a set of proprioceptors protecting a particular joint or all of the joints, I guess we could say, the more options that it has and the more availability it’s giving than obviously the higher level stress of repetitive movement at least has a chance to be more successful.

So, if we were to take an athlete that is putting a lot of road mileage in and a lot is relative to that person, I think one of the things they have to be able to do is give multiplanar training considerations so that the joint doesn’t just get maybe a sagittal plane emphasis all the time. We give it some transverse, which I think is the most important of all the planes that we have to be able to develop, and then, obviously, some frontal plane.

I think if we can give that in any number of ways, there’s a lot of ways to do that, what happens is now the body can absorb more of one plane because it’s been trained in these other planes or it has more capacity to handle it. So, these men and women who are coming back from injury or maybe just a poor performance, maybe an overuse of just too much volume, they need to be able to have a little bit more capacity built in to their training pattern so that the body can expand on it every time it touches the ground. I think that’s the real important part.

Menachem Brodie:

This is relatively simple to do, right? I mean, this isn’t something that’s rocket science because I see a lot of people, and myself included five years ago, “Oh, well, we have to do this glut activation series, which takes you 15 or 20 minutes, and then we’re going to do some striders, and then we’re going to get into it.” So, out of that hour we’re spending all this time going through isolation exercises or maybe a little bit of specific exercises, but there’s an even simpler way to do that, is there not?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. I mean, if we add … Let’s say we’re in a situation where it’s cold and maybe getting outside to do the warmup might not be the best option, but you got to get outside to get your work in. Maybe even if you’re in a jam or you’re in your garage or your living room or whatever and you have access a medicine ball, maybe doing multiplanar lunges, maybe doing multiplanar reaches, which would …

The difference between a lunge and a reach would be the lunge is I’m actually stepping forward, sideways, backwards, rotationally from one foot, not leaving that foot, but planting my other foot firmly and then recovering back. A reach would be I choose a foot, I stand on that foot, and I reach either the opposite leg or if I have a medicine ball, I’m reaching that medicine ball, obviously, via my arms, and what happens is in order for me not to fall over, I have to activate all the stabilizers and intrinsic muscles to be able to become much more stable and now those potentially inhibited muscles become activated, and I didn’t even run yet. You know what I mean? I haven’t even gone out and run, but now all of a sudden, I’ve got all these multiplanar control simply by making my body have to adjust to these different movements.

So, yeah, it’s really, really simple, but let’s say you want to get outside. It’s nice out and you want to go out. Well, why not do just a little bit of agility, literal stuff like if you’re in your driveway, run to the end of the driveway forward, back pedal back. The next time, go up, maybe do a little bit of carioca or a lateral shuffle, skip sideways, and skip backwards while opening up your hips or we just call that a drop step skip. It’s like you’re swinging your knee open like a fence gate.

So, you start doing things like that. You’re not only getting body and spatial awareness, but you’re also developing joint range of motions just because you’ve got these limbs moving outside of your center of mass and so the joints have to be able to accommodate that movement so that you don’t trip and stumble and fall or use your line of movement. So, yeah, really, really simple, and the simpler you keep it with adding just simple variety, the better you are, and the safer you are.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s one of the most important things I think that gets lost nowadays is it’s not a matter of going through this massive range of motion. We see a lot of well-meaning trainers who are going through a single deadlift, they’re trying to do the hip airplane, if you’re familiar with that, the McGills made it fairly popular for the midsection and the gluts, but they’re just not executing it right with the joints in the right position. They’re just going through that motion of, “Oh, well, it should look like this.” The intent that you have and that joint position is so vital, is it not or are you saying there’s a little bit more room to play since we’re getting ready for a run?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. No. I’m with you on this. I think, for example, and this was not produced at all, but this morning, I do my workouts really early. I get up and I go out in my garage and I do my stuff and one of the things I did this morning because I was doing a slide board workout. Today was my non-strength weightlifting day, so I do my cardio. I was doing a slide board. So, one of my warmups when I do that is the airplane, but when I do it, I start with my rear foot elevated on my bench.

So, I go through a very strict range of motion and I feel each position as I go through it. So, for example, if I’m standing on my right leg and I’m going to drop my left hip, my pelvis down, I want to feel myself getting through the right hip joint, and I want to feel myself sitting back through that hip. Then as I open up, I want to feel myself getting into the groin and the adductors, and I don’t want to overemphasize my lumbar movement. I want to move as a unit.

So, by just putting a little bit of support in a rear elevated stance, now that airplane action is very controllable. Then after I’ve done a couple of those, then I’ll do it without it. Then if I don’t feel like I can control it, I don’t it because I don’t want faulty movements and stuff, especially for me at my age. I’m just trying to stay healthy. I don’t need to do things that are crazy and wild. So, I can really control that movement and get so much more benefit by feeling the entire range of motion that I’m going through even if it’s only a 30-degree range of motion.

Menachem Brodie:

I think that’s really important for a lot of triathletes to hear because it tends to be that endurance athletes, we tend to think of, and I talk about this in my upcoming certification, is we like to be hard men and women like, “Oh, yeah, I just did so much, and triathlon is HTFU,” Harden the F up, but, really, we need to think about the big picture, and we’re looking to complete these big events, but I honestly don’t know a single triathlete who’s like, “Yeah. I just want to this one and then be broken the rest of my life.”

So, here, you’re talking about controlling stiffness first, learning to feel the range of motion, and then building out from that. That, if I’m not mistaken from our last podcast, is that’s the basis for your run performance improvement is getting that control in the stiffness first, and then learning how to propel yourself forward down the road.

Lee Taft:

Exactly. Yeah. I mean, the economy is so overlooked. We like to be, and I guess it’s a societal thing. We’re very competitive. We don’t like to be perceived as unable to do something, so we’ll push ourselves beyond the limit, even if it’s just to ourselves. I mean, I train by myself. I don’t have anybody to train with and sometimes my competitiveness comes out. I’m angry that I wasn’t able to accomplish that skill that I was just working on or a balance activity, so I’ll push it, but I think, in general, if we’re going to be competitive in an event like a triathlete or a bike event or whatever it may be, of endurance, an endurance type event, we have to understand that the more efficient and economical we are, the better off we are.

So, when we’re doing preparatory exercises, so we’re doing warmups, we’re doing multiplanar movements to make sure that we have this capacity, we’re doing drills to create stiffness, which helps us just reduce so much hard muscle work and we get to use tenderness work, we still have to be extremely economical and efficient because if I am trying to let’s say have more stiffness and use of my tendons versus having a real muscular effort all the time like it would be if I’m pedaling uphill, if I’m trying to be more elastic, if my joint alignment, my core integrity, which is stabilizing my spine and my pelvis, if all that stuff is in order and it’s very efficient and effective, it’s just so much easier for the body. It’s effortless. My chances of getting overuse injuries go way down.

So, it’s hard for me now, I suppose when I was younger it was a little bit different, but now I look at it I’m like, “We can accomplish just as high results that we are aiming for by being much safer and more efficient. So, why wouldn’t we do that?” I guess, again, that’s why we have jobs because those people who don’t, who need us because if everybody did it perfect, you and I might be selling clothes right now in a store.”

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah. It’s like value investing or indexing. It’s really boring, but at the end of the day, look at Warren Buffett.

Lee Taft:

That’s right.

Menachem Brodie:

It takes years, and I think that’s part of the problem we have in teaching people about economy and efficiency that, one, those are two different things and, two, is that’s where you should start at because you don’t get that seal of approval or that badge of joining the group, of finishing your first 20-mile run after only three months in triathlon. You don’t get that stamp of, I guess, it’s peer approval. Would that be the thing?

Lee Taft:

Sure, yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

So, how do we change our mindset here because this is something where there aren’t growing number of triathletes who are starting to open up their eyes, and also runners, I think, a little bit more than triathletes, actually, because they’re so tired of the overuse injuries. They’re looking for five to eight-minute series that they can do before or after their strength training sessions.

One of the things that I’ve fallen in love with the last couple of months has been tempo lifts. So, one kettlebell or a book from Trader Joe’s, groceries, whatever it may be. It’s 3-0-3 or 3-2-3 goblet style squats. Is this something that the listeners can use through maybe a hinge or a squat or other ranges of motion to help them learn that control in stiffness or would you say that there’s a better place for us to start?

Lee Taft:

No. I think that’s good because strength is the foundation of all that we’re going to do. That’s the foundation of development from a child, a baby, all the way up through. So, sometimes we forget that, and I think it’s very interesting over the years of listening to other coaches of distance running, marathoners, triathletes, bike, all of this, the disdain by many of them, and it’s amazing to me because that inaccurate word that I would hear is of strength training was amazing for me, but then went for whatever reason due to an injury or something when they all of a sudden started to strength train they’re like, “Holy cow! I just tapped into an area of my body hormonally, chemically, whatever, that all of a sudden I’m better. It’s easier. I’m more efficient when I run.”

So, they’re seeing the benefits of that. So, now when we start to go to these tempos, tempos do some great things for us. Number one, if we have enough stress, and that’s relative to the person because we can’t all start out at the same place, but if we have enough stress, we know when we go slower or occasionally hit some isometric, we are getting a really good effect on the tendon, okay? So, we’re starting to build stiffness. We’re starting to build a tendon that has more integrity and tensile strength.

Well, that is a good thing for those who are not real strong because now they have more capacity within those tissues. So, just by, like you said, let’s take a kettlebell. Sometimes it’s just body weight or if body weight isn’t enough but we don’t have a kettlebell, go single leg, a split squat or elevated split squat and go slow and, like you’ve said, maybe a three down, maybe a one to two-second pause at the bottom, and then if we want to maintain tension, go slow up or if we want to now induce a little bit more power, then maybe we pop up in a second or less, and that can be cycled into your program.

Definitely, getting involved with strength training, adding that, even before you go out for your runs if you’re only doing it as a small circuit, as preparatory work, I think it’s fantastic. Plus, you get a race in some good chemicals that help you feel better when you go run.

Menachem Brodie:

Even more so, I think this is something a lot of people don’t talk about when it comes to tempo lifting. One, they’re not aware of it for the most part, but it also allows us to work on, two, the components of the aerobic energy production. So, we have the oxygen utilization, so the number in size of slow-twitch muscle fibers and the substrate availability.

I mean, it’s one of those things that you can easily stimulate the hypertrophy of slow-twitch fibers and you’re essentially working on your lactic buffering production or ability, rather, without having to produce a ton of it and getting really, really beat up by the miles and miles you’re putting out on the road.

So, it’s not just that strength side, but it’s also the aerobic side if you do it properly in my opinion. Would you say that that’s something that you’ve seen performed in other sports where it’s more endurance like distance rowing or anything like that or is this something new using the tempo to help build those endurance abilities, as well as strength?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. Well, I know it’s been around for a long time in sports like skiing, cross-country skiing, even downhill skiing, distance speed skaters. I remember years ago, I was actually at the 1980 Olympics when Eric Heiden was the golden child of those Olympics other than the hockey team. Part of the training that they did was a lot of that because they obviously were building strength qualities, but they needed to be able to have the ability to access capacity and being able to buffer lactate and being able to do it over a period of time.

So, it has been around. I don’t know that we’ve understood it as well as we do now because it’s coming out much more and it’s being used as a viable option for people. The other thing is sometimes when somebody is injured and they can’t actually perform running or biking or swimming, if it’s maybe the shoulders, you can get it in the form of weight training if you just control your tempos and you extend your volume, your overall volume. So, you can get that aerobic capacity or anaerobic lactate or ATP-PC system if you want just doing through the strength. So, definitely a real good viable option.

Menachem Brodie:

Love that’s where your mind went as well because the next question is it also gets you the ability to strength train at lower weights, but, also, you mentioned the tendon strength. So, we also have not just the tempo but isometrics as well, where we can improve the tendon strength through 30, 40-second isometrics. Is that something that you’ve used with triathletes or runners in the past? Do you recommend using isometrics at all or you tend to shift more towards the dynamic movements? Of course, it depends, but as a whole, what would you say is your thought on isometrics to use to grow tendon strength as well?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. I definitely use that and having continued to do that. Right now, I currently work with a couple of female athletes that one of them had two ACL injuries. The other one had one. So, we do a lot of that stuff just to give them, again, some strength and capacity control of a position and be able to lay down some tissue for them. That’s what the research is telling us right now.

A lot of it spawns off of therapy modalities of holding an isometric position with a certain weight that you’re able to hold the position that you’re after for at least 45 seconds. So, for example, just as a rough example, if you even took a kettlebell, sat on a bench, put the kettlebell over your toes and you lifted it up like you’re doing a leg curl or, excuse me, a leg extension and you held it for 45 seconds, they find an analgesic effect, so the pain goes away in their knees, but over time, it starts to help with the tendon thickness and strength. Therefore, it eventually leads to less pain and then a more productive tendon.

So, I’m a big fan of it. I think it’s really important, especially in anybody that’s even healthy. If they have no issues. I think it’s just using it as a foundation to build towards the more explosive movements or the repetitive explosive movements such as running. It’s not exactly a high-level explosion, but, still, it’s an explosion off the ground.

So, the more supportive tissues I have, the better I’m going to be. So, I’m a big fan of it, and I think you just got to be careful that you don’t overdo it and you start to gain too much stiffness when we need … because what happens is in certain types of strength training, we end up getting co-contraction. In a co-contraction, I was just talking about this either today or yesterday, too, is co-contraction is good. We want co-contraction because that’s the stabilizing factor of a joint, but when I need speed, I need inhibition of one side and excitation or action of another side so that I can move a limb faster.

So, we want to make sure that we are accomplishing both, but I think if you start with the isometric and the eccentrics and build your way up into more explosive stuff, I just think you’re following a really good paradigm.

Menachem Brodie:

Well, let’s take that and get into that rabbit hole a little bit because a while ago, you mentioned when we started here the controlling stiffness first. So, we’ve gone over the control and you mentioned the stiffness and how isometrics can be good, but you need to have that good co-contraction. Let’s go down that rabbit hole and learning how to produce stiffness at the right places and the right time or as we spoke about last time, proximal stiffness to produce distal movement.

Lee Taft:

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. So, I’m going to go specific and then we back our way back down to general. So, one of the strategies we’ll use if I’m trying to improve let’s say a volleyball player, which I happen to have a couple that I’m working with now, and I want them to jump better. I have a middle. So, a middle for those who aren’t familiar is the person, usually one of the taller players, they’re in the middle of the net, and their main job is to block. That’s what they do. They block.

So, they don’t have the luxury of ending really deep. They just don’t have time because they’re reading a set and if they’re moving really quickly. So, one of the things that we need to train them towards is being able to gain stiffness at maybe a quarter depth of a squat because they can’t go much deeper than that. They won’t get up fast enough. So, we need them to be able to handle heavy weight. Again, that’s relative at heavy weight and get strong in that higher position. So, they need to be able to gain that stiffness to be able to drop quickly to the quarter depth and then be able to get back up.

Now, if we take a sprinter, a sprinter better not go down to a quarter depth, otherwise, we would call them a squat runner. It’s the young kid who just doesn’t know how to gain stiffness yet and stay tall when they run. So, as we get closer to events that are important, and what I mean by that is a high school kid, the first meet of the year is not the most important meet of the year. It’s just we’ll train through that, but as they get towards the states, we’ll start doing things where they’ll do quarter squats, quarter step-ups, things of that sort, so that they’re getting closer to the range of motion that they need that explosive strong strength and that stiffness and stability.

Now, to get there, I’m a fan of luts. Make sure we strengthen and fuller range of motions. Again, full range of motion is relative. Do we want to go all the way down? Maybe not with everybody, but if people can, we’ll do that. Then we gain our control, our stiffness, our co-contraction, our ability to be able to hold those positions, and multiple positions throughout the range of motion, must like a power lifter would, where they’re going to maybe do a 10-second eccentric and feel each range and each position and being able to control it.

So, all those are important factors. So, stiffness is not just relative to me touching the ground really fast like a jump roper and that kind of stiff. It’s being able to gain control throughout the full range of motion, if that makes sense. I know I rambled, but that’s what we’re looking at as an overall general rule.

Menachem Brodie:

No, 100%. That ties into where I was thinking about taking this as you’re talking about different squat depth for different production of force for different athletes, which on top of this we could go down the rabbit hole of the femur length versus the tibia length, which we won’t do because I feel like we can do a whole three-hour special to get in on that one.

This is something that’s important for a lot of triathletes because, and don’t get me wrong. Everything can be good. As Dan John says, “Anything can work. It’s just a matter of how long and what the end result is,” but a lot of people have gone from not doing strength training at all to now there’s a lot triathletes who are doing crossfit, and that goes with the personality type, type A, very competitive, but the challenge that I see at least and have seen is that crossfit is very much Olympic-based squatting, which means that you need to get your ass to grass for it count, right?

When we look at a triathlete and the arguments with some of the crossfit coaches have been, “Yeah, but they’re on the time trial bike. Look at the range of motion.” That’s a very twisted way to look at the time trial bike because, yeah, it’s a very specific motion and you could say it’s a deep squat, but it really isn’t because of how you’re supporting the body.

What would be some things that you would look for in a triathlete to help them understand, “Hey, you can use squatting as a way to develop stiffness, but you need to use this particular range”? What would be some stuff that they should look for either on a mirror or with a coach to understand what their squatting range of motion should be and to learn how to be able to produce that stiffness through that range of motion for their bike and their run?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. That’s a great question. Again, I think you probably get frustrated with this as well as anybody else is you hate to give people the answer, “It depends,” but as a professional, we’ve got to be careful not to give absolutes when it could depend. So, going into this, I’m just going to start with it does depend. Let’s say this.

Menachem Brodie:

In general, in general.

Lee Taft:

In general, yes. Probably the one thing that I’ve been working on a lot lately listening to, just even following some of the way some of the Chinese train, their squatting. There’s a guy near us, Bill Hartmann, who has done a lot with this. So, I personally do this, but I’ve been doing it more with my athletes and I’m capable of is we try to get them to be able to squat straight down. In other words, your pelvis goes straight down. If there was a line from my ankles up, I’m trying to follow that line down.

Now, in order to do that, you’re going to have to give some support to the dorsiflex position, okay? So, most people can’t do that. They don’t have range of motion. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to give them a heel lift. They’re going to put them on a slant board or whatever. What we’re after is we are trying to get them to be able to go down into what is technically what a squat is because anytime we drive our hips back like a power lifter, where their hips are going to go back, they’re supporting so much weight, that has a hinging component to it, but a pure squat is a vertical spine, pelvis remains neutral and we flex at the knees and the ankles, and we squat down.

Now, anything outside of that would be considered a compensation. So, if I can get my athletes to feel being able to stay braced in the core, not extended, and be able to squat straight down with use of the slant board or heels up on a plate or whatever, and maybe even using hand supports, maybe straps to be able to get them there and get into those depth and be able to gain stability not just in the joints that are being highly stressed, the knee and the ankle and somewhat of the hip, we’re also stressing their rectors, the stabilizers of the spine because it wants to go into extension and you want to flex forward at the hip. You want to bend and push your hips back because that’s the normal way we would squat.

So, now, we take that squat and we’re going to call that just a human squat. That’s a squatting pattern that we see that certain populations in the world squat like that all the time. That’s the way they rest. That’s the way they move. That’s a very common pattern.

Now, we’re going to take that and we’re going to give it its variations of now we’re going to say, well, at a kettlebell, where I’m going to have a little bit more of a hinge. Then we go to maybe a front squat, which I’ll probably have a little bit more of a hinge, and then I’ll go maybe to a back squat. I’ll have even greater hinging. There are all forms of squatting, but I’m starting to introduce this hinge pattern.

Now, how does this help a triathlete? I am giving that human organism, that body the ability to stabilize, to fix a position that is building stress. We could call that the intensity of a joint or this … I’m drawing on a blank on the word I’m trying to come up with here, but it’s hitting a position that they can stabilize and allow the joints to move, but not have compensation throughout let’s say a lumbar joint, the lumbar spine or the T spine. I can remain solid there.

So, every time a runner puts their foot into the ground aggressively, whether they’re going uphill, which could cause some extension, going downhill could cause some extension of the lumbar spine, they’re able to stabilize those positions because they have stability within the joint. So, the ankle joint going uphill, when it touches, is going to be more dorsiflexed, right? I mean, because the toes are going to be higher than it would be if I were running downhill.

When that occurs, there’s all these compensations that go through the rest of the body. Squatting is a very slow way to be able to address those potential compensations, okay? So, I hope that made sense. It’s a lot of stuff there, and there’s a lot more we could go into, but being able to squat down, not squatting back, being able to squat straight down, get the knees out of the way, and get the pelvis to drop straight down, you’re building capacity for a human organism to move the right way and stabilize all the joints, and to gain that stiffness we’ve talked about.

Menachem Brodie:

Just to reiterate what you said at the beginning, it does depend on each of the athletes.

Lee Taft:


Menachem Brodie:

If you guys go back, Lee and I spoke about that in the first episode. You touched on with the hips and how things have to move. We spoke about this with another guest, Camille, who’s a bike fitter down in Florida, a very good one, talking about how there’s anteverted hips, forward-pointing hips, back-pointing hips. So, don’t just go out there and slam a bunch of weights under your heels. It’s a matter of learning the movement and understanding how your body works.

Something really important to note here is that nobody is perfectly symmetrical. So, you may have differences between your right and left hip, and that will keep you from going through what Lee is talking about.

Lee, to bring it back, I think a lot of people miss exactly what you said is that’s a true squat, the Eastern squat, where it’s just like you hit the Austin powers or you hit the button on the elevator and it just syncs straight down, where a lot of coaches are teaching a hinge squat, which isn’t wrong, but it’s-

Lee Taft:

No, not at all.

Menachem Brodie:

… a true squat. I think that’s something that a lot of triathletes miss and athletes in general is that there’s a true squat and there’s a hingey squat, and there’s a squatty hinge. All of them are okay. It’s a matter of finding out, “How does my body move? Where am I right now?” and then like you talked about, dialing in on the control and understanding what’s going on at the lumbar spine, what’s going on at the pelvis, and learning how to control through the range of motion.

There’s no necessary or specific range of motion where you’re going to walk in and be like, “Oh, now you’re squatting.” If someone moves three inches perfectly vertical up and down and that’s where they are today, that’s also a squat, right?

Lee Taft:

Exactly. Well, the other thing, to go back to your point, and you’re absolutely right, you cannot. The two girls that I have I just mentioned that are ACL, I am not going to put them in the full range of motion because they’re just not there. They’re not capable of doing that right now. Number one, it could be painful for them. Number two, they might not have just the joint range of motion due to still some intrinsic inflammation in there that’s not allowing them to get range of motion.

So, what we do is we hit a range that is comfortable for them, but we start to get them to feel what it’s like to do a proper pure squat. So, again, I’m big on let’s get the human organism to move where there’s much variety as possible. Is a hinge or a box squat or a power lifting squat wrong? No. That’s absolutely accurate for that event or that sport or whatever training modality you’re after.

So, if I have someone that does have knee pain and still want to see if I can get some squatting done with them because it’s going to benefit them, well, maybe I’ll do a split squat where their knee is completely 90 degree or, excuse me, their shin is completely straight up and down, so that the knee, if they do go full depth, it’s only 90 degrees, but, yeah, I’m not putting any sheer force on that knee, okay?

We want to work towards being able to get them there, but I may never be able to do that. So, absolutely. You don’t go into what I just said and all of a sudden, day one, get on a slant board and put your butt straight to the ground because you might be able to do that and you start it out with body weight, but, yeah, absolutely. It’s got to be dosed properly.

Here’s the other thing. This is probably the thing that as I’ve aged and been in this profession for as long as I have, I just think people have to understand, training is a journey. Yes, you might have to get ready for an event in Hawaii or an event in Las Vegas or an event in Minnesota or wherever you’re going to travel to, but that doesn’t mean training stops, right? It’s got to be as long as you’re going to be on this planet. You should be having some form of training. So, take your time. Be patient.

I don’t have to have perfect form by the time I go to this next big triathlete meet, but I have to make sure I’m working towards it, so when I resume training after the event, now I just start building from there. Then by the next event, maybe I am better. So, I think that’s one of the big things is we can’t just look at training as it’s only there to get me ready for the next event. If we do that, we’re shortsighted and then we almost keep restarting again rather than building on what we’ve already accomplished.

Menachem Brodie:

To add to that, I mean, this is something that I argue more with triathletes than the cyclists or basketball players or runners I work with and that is, “How are you feeling today?” I always ask them, “How are you feeling today? What did you get into this weekend?”

“Oh, I laid around and did Netflix.”

“Why did you do that? I thought you were supposed …”

Understanding where the person is where you are that day just because you’re able to get so much range of motion last week at this weight does not mean that you’re going to be able to do the same later more. Sometimes the smart thing is to dial back and, “Hey, you know what? The weight that felt like a perceived exertion of six last week feels like an eight.”

Well, that’s your body telling you something. You need to be intelligent and recognize that and write it down and track it because otherwise, you can find yourself, like some of our listeners, really derailed, where you’re like, “Yeah. I had a training plan,” but they just follow like it’s as Dan John calls it, they’re following it like it’s a bus bench as opposed to a park bench like, “My fitness is going to arrive at 7:52 AM on Sunday, October 21st when the first wave of …” It doesn’t work like that.

Lee Taft:

That’s right. Yeah. No, you’re good. The other thing is when you track it, so when you write it down, you’re not just writing it down so that you have a log of what you’ve done, you’re writing it down so you can say, “You know what? All of a sudden, my left knee on the outside is getting really sore.”

Well, if you go back maybe a week or two weeks and you say, “Ah! You know what? I bought a new shoe, a new running shoe, a training shoe,” or “I started doing this new exercise and I’m noticing that, so I’m in pain.” So, it’s something you can always refer back to because most injuries, especially for triathletes, other than a fall, it’s very chronic. It’s gradual. Next thing you know, there it is, and it could be a month down the road and you’re like, if you don’t track that, you might not realize, “Well, I changed something a month ago, and now it’s showing up.”

Menachem Brodie:

That’s the missing link for so many people is, “What did you change on the last month?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you change shoes? Did you change inserts? Did you change the mattress you sleep on?”

That’s a whole another story. We’ve covered a lot here, Lee. We talked about the ability to have control in stiffness first to feel the range of motion, the joint range of motion that you have and being able to have that multiplanar training focus as you’re getting ready for warmup, how warmup doesn’t necessarily have to be outside. Let’s wrap it up together here and talk a little bit about transition practice, going from the bike to the run. This is something I’d like to have my triathletes practice year round. I think it’s a skill as much as training the tissues to have that transition from a non-impact force in a very close position to an upright position in the impact force.

Are there any thoughts or maybe tips that the listeners would be able to take away that would help them be able to learn this skill or do you see it more as a different thing that they need to learn in order to make that transition from the bike to the run easier on their body and to evoke the best possible tissue qualities and, thus, I guess performances, if you will?

Lee Taft:

Yeah. I think, in general, one of the things that I have recommended in the past for people is if they’re capable, and this would be obviously in certain stages of training because at some point, you’ve got to get yourself ready to get off the bike and start running. You don’t have time to do this little strategy. I’m going to tell you and your listeners is if they can have just a little basic jump rope with them, get off the bike, and then begin basic jump roping, what’s happening and if we look at what we’re getting from that, when you jump rope, you’re jump roping from an extended body position. I tell them, “Start with your knees locked, but your knees won’t remain locked. It’s just a protective thing.” I don’t want an overly bent knee right off. What I want them to do is use their feet and their ankle.

So, by jumping, I tell them, I say, “Just make yourself as tall as you can, stack your head right over your ribs and your ribs over your pelvis and all the way down to the feet. Use the balls of your feet and become springy right off, and just do maybe 10 reps, stop, kick your legs out, do 10 reps again, stop, kick your legs out, and repeat that up to maybe five to eight times based on how you’re feeling and how it’s feeling in you because your calves had not had to respond quickly to anything yet, other than if you’ve stood and you pedaled. It’s still more of an isometric type action than it is an elastic type action.

So, by staying tall, now the spine and everything is elongated. It’s managing forces, and just go ahead and do a little bit of skipping, tall skipping, not power skipping, tall skipping like what we would call an A skip or a snap skip, where they’re starting to strike the ground a little bit. Literally just go up and back maybe 10 yards a couple of times before you begin your run.

Then the last thing I would do is add I call them lateral jumping jacks. I’m sure there’s other names people call them, but it would like doing a lateral shuffle but really tall, okay? I’m not really bending my knees or my hips, and I’m swinging my arms rhythmically as I do it. So, it’s not a true jumping jack as I push off and move sideways. My arms reach high and then as I recover, they swing low, and then as I push, they swing high. So, what I’ve done is I’ve done multiplanar things, I’ve done some exercises that are very reactive and elastic, and I’ve done that in an extended body position, okay?

Now, can you go and do some bird dog exercises, glut bridges? Absolutely, but I think you need to be able to do some movements off the ground from the reaction of the ground in a tall posture seem you’ve just been sitting in more of a bunched, crouched, closed posture. So, hopefully, that makes sense, but it’s really easy, it’s real simple. In the past, people that have done that said that it felt pretty good. They actually felt really good doing that.

Menachem Brodie:

We’re definitely going to add the jump rope here, but it’s validation because a couple of the Half Iron and Iron Man athletes I’ve had, I call them ballerinas because you look like a ballerina going across the stage with the lateral jumping jacks.

Lee Taft:

Yeah, you’re right.

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah. Super Marios and ballerinas, when they see that in their transition and I tell them to do it on race day if the transition isn’t too much or once they get out of transition, every single one of them had a PR on the run when they started incorporating that.

Lee Taft:

That’s awesome.

Menachem Brodie:

It looks ridiculous. So many people made fun of me, but I was the last one laughing because I set a 17.5 or a 6.5-minute PR for the run, but it really is really cool. You’re putting on a ton of information also, Lee, leetaft.com. YouTube has been just super amazing from a coach and an athlete standpoint. Tell us a little bit more about where the folks can find you online.

Lee Taft:

Yeah. Well, I appreciate you allowing me to do that, but, yeah. If you go to leetaft.com, you can find resources. So, if you’re interested in any of the mini courses or things of that nature, that’s pretty much where that’s housed. If you want some just quick tips and quick information, free stuff, anything, YouTube. It’s basically what it’s called is Speed Tips from my Garage. I have this garage that doesn’t look like a garage. It’s all fit out with regular little small fitness facility, and that’s where I do my training, and that’s where I do a lot of my video tips and speed tips. So, they can go there.

It’s @LeeTaft for anything of Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. That’s pretty much just my name and you can find the stuff there. I try to put out a lot of information. I’m just passionate about that. The profession has been great to me, and I try to help younger people and people that are getting in that maybe aren’t so young, but newer to it and want some strategy. So, yeah, so I have fun with it. It’s a lot of fun for me to get stuff out.

Menachem Brodie:

Your passion and love for this is very apparent, and that’s something that struck a chord with me personally many years ago. Lee, thank you so much for taking time out of your day and sharing a part of your knowledge with us, and really looking forward to, hopefully, having you on a third time. It’s always fun sitting and talking with you.

Lee Taft:

I enjoyed what you’re doing and actually, it’s just awesome, and I think I’ve heard some of your other podcasts and people that you’ve talked with and you being a guest. I’ve always listened and I’m a fan of people who are passionate themselves. So, thank you for what you’re doing. Appreciate you having me on.

Menachem Brodie:

Thanks, Lee.

Speaker 1:

That’s it for this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast with world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie. Don’t miss an episode. Hit that subscribe button and give us a review. For more exclusive content, visit humanvortextraining.com or get the latest expert videos from Coach Brodie on the HVT YouTube channel at HV Training. Until next time, remember to train smarter, not harder because it is all about you.


Picture of Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.


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