The Importance of Strength

Excerpt from the CTP Guide:

“One of the biggest errors you can make is thinking that maximum muscle strength does not play a role in your sport. We’ll talk about why this idea is wrong (for each and every athlete) in a minute, but first take a look at the following facts about strength:

  • Strength is easy
  • Strength is safe
  • Strength is fast
  • Strength is accessible

There is absolutely no downside to becoming strong! And when it comes to your loftiest athletic goals, strength is what will push you over the top.

Generally, there are two reasons an athlete may be avoiding a strength program:

  1. It’s unfamiliar to them. We’re all afraid of and uncomfortable with the unknown. That’s fine. This chapter is here to get you more comfortable with the idea that even you can–and should–be extremely strong to excel at your sport (yes even you–distance triathlete)


  1. An authority figure told them it was bad for their health and/or dangerous. Beware the anecdote of that one guy who got hurt in the gym that one time. Beware the health professional that knows an extraordinary amount about anatomy and disease, but very little amount exercise physiology. And beware the colleague/competitor that declares you don’t need weights because “after all I’ve never used them.” Statistically speaking, a strength training program for maximum strength is one of the safest things an athlete can do.


The fact remains, if you want to reach your full physical potential, you must become exceptionally strong to be exceptional. If you don’t want to reach your full physical potential–then why are you starting this training program?”

Prehab Success Stories

Now that you’ve planned your workout program using some of the fundamental principles of CNS training, you can gauge: How are you doing?
Amazing Results demand  the best training techniques.

How difficult is it to do the exercises correctly?
If the exercises are running smoothly– with no trouble on balance or form–then you’re doing it wrong. Remember, these exercises are intended to stress the CNS in order to drive adaptation. If the exercises don’t seem challenging (i.e. difficult) then you aren’t adequately driving the neural changes that you’re seeking to accomplish. In this case, you should increase the difficulty by increasing the weight, adding asymmetry or cross-loading to functional exercises (such transitioning to single leg or one arm), modifying the posture of the exercise (e.g. go to a half-kneeling position) or choosing a new or more difficult exercise. Generally, increasing repetitions is not adequate to induce a CNS stress.

Conversely, if you are not able to do more than a single repetition without falling over, you need to reduce the difficulty of the exercise so that you can at least get somewhere between 7-15 repetitions in order to build and restore stable movements.

How tired are you at the end of your workouts?
Simply put: you should be fatigued but not sore or “gassed.” A general sense of fatigue without muscle specific or cardiovascular exhaustion indicates that you’ve stressed your CNS system without targeting alternate systems. This way your body will be able to focus its energy on recovering and adapting your CNS.

If you exhaust multiple physiological systems during CNS specific training, you put yourself at risk of over training and developing inefficient “work-arounds” or compensation patterns in your exercises.

Did you transition between phases too soon?
You should be building your workout program around a progression of phases, with each phase aiming to achieve a specific change or improvement. Universally, the first phase in your workout program should be focused in establishing stable movement patterns. This will make you more efficient during your training and prevent the occurrence or recurrence of injury.

However, we’re often eager to quickly move past this phase to get to the satisfying “meat” in our workout program. Don’t short change your movement patterns. The improved efficiency and injury resistance is critical to seeing your workout program through to its end goal.

Is something missing?
Did you include everything you need when you planned your workout program? Generally, most workout programs require phases for movement patterns, strength, and metabolic training in order to reach the intended goal. Sport specific training program also require skill training and performance phases in order to be successful.

If you forgot to include one of these elements in you initial planning for your exercise program, you might want to revisit your plan and see if you need to add something in order to be successful.

The slightest changes can make extraordinary differences.

Goal Setting and Planning

The first question you need to answer before you start laying the framework is: “What do you want to do?”
-Are you trying to shed a few pounds?
-Are you looking to take on a new activity?
-Competing in a specific event?
-Maybe you just want to look and feel better?

These are all worthy goals, and regardless of which one you select, your time will be well spent.

Building a fat burning body from the ground up.

The important thing is that you know where you are headed.
Without setting a specific goal, your program will be listless, and quickly fall apart at the first sign of difficulty or trouble. Goals give you direction and focus your fitness efforts on something meaningful.
Once you’ve got this in place, you can start to layout your timeline. Remember to include periods in your training for improving movement and building strength. These two characteristics will make you feel and move better. Consequently, you’ll train harder and improve faster. Ideally movement and strength (in that order) should be the focus of the beginning of you’re workout program for the maximum benefits.
Once you’ve got your timeline in place, you can start looking at the logistics of your training.
• What equipment do you need?
• Do you need new clothing (shoes in particular)?
• Will you need any sort of gym memberships?
• Are there conflict in you schedule that will cause you to miss training?

Thinking about these eventualities in advance will make you plan for these considerations before they become problems. The middle of a shock intensity training cycle is not the time to be looking for solutions.
Finally, after all of this has been handled, set a date to start your next training program, and set a date for its end. Training programs should temporary. That’s not to say that you can’t keep exercising once the current training program ends. You’ll just have to develop a new workout program, something different and exciting that will keep you interested.

The CTP’s read list

Our Best of List, is always growing!Pushups

Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe

Functional Training for Sports by Michael Boyle

Movement by Gray Cook

NSCA’s Guide to Program Design (Science of Strength and Conditioning) by Jay Hoffman

The Outdoor Athlete by Courtenay Schurman

Neuroscience for Dummies by Frank Author

Periodization Training for Sports by Tudor Bompa

Motor Learning and Performance by Richard Schmidt

Intervention: Course Corrections for the Athlete and Trainer by Dan John

All of these text have played an instrumental role in the development of the Central Training Program. Their knowledge, insight and experience was drawn upon heavily in the development of the Central Training Guidebook and continues to help shape the way the Central Training Program is built.

Microcycles, revisted

In the Central Training Program Guidebook the topics of micro cycles is discussed within the context of getting the most out of your Phase III, metabolic training. Here’s a quick review:

-Stress is require to drive adaptation

-Stress induced by training results in a period of reduced fitness/performance immediately following the stress. (For PNS activation and recovery).

-This period of recovery is followed by a phase of supercompensation, with higher than baseline performance.

-To plan out these these periods of stress, recovery, and elevated performance we use the following three types of microcycles, based off of training volume–normal, shock, and recovery.

In the Guidebook, we outline the  rhythm of your training microcycles to ensure maximum adaptation (be it increases in performance, fat loss, muscle gain, or other). And our trainees and their improvements continue to show that this rhythm is solid.

However, based off some very interesting writing by Mark Rippetoe, we’ve begun experimenting with the duration of our microcycles (the current version of the Guidebook recommends one week) with some exciting results.

Here’s what we’re finding is that the adaptation cycle can be tightened and accelerated earlier on in your training and then gradually lengthen as your fitness progresses to continue making large gains.

Here’s how it work:

-At the very beginning of your metabolic training phase, set your microcycles on a very short, but very effective, two day time frame.

-After your first adaptation cycle (Shock->Normal->Normal->Recovery->Shock->Normal->Recovery), which will be roughly two weeks, extend the duration of your microcycles to 4-6 days (depending on how long your planning for your phase III to last) with even more intense normal/ shock cycles to drive faster adaptation.

The improvement you make in your fitness during those first two weeks will pay off huge as your continue you training program and will result in a much lower rate of ‘burn out’

One final concept: involution

Involution is 5$ word for the idea that, if you don’t work out, you get out of shape.

Just like training, there’s a science to involution too.

Basically it comes down to this: the amount of time it takes for involution to occur is directly related (an approximately equal to) the amount of time it takes for your adaptations to occur.

This means that you need to be extremely wary of backsliding during your two day microcycles, as your fitness will start to deteriorate quickly. Fortunately, if your following the CTP template, you”’ be well protected against injury through the functional training you accomplished during Phase I and have a stron reservoir of strength to draw on from phase II.