Primal Endurance and MSP (Unscientific, yet Noteworthy Observations)

by: F.R. Danna, III

Lately, I have been on a sort of journey within a journey experimenting with a new training methodology.   I certainly don’t profess to be a marvelous athlete, or have any palmares in my sport (cycling).    I do believe strongly however, in sharing the things that work for me, with others.  This is not a post with pictures of me standing on podiums, or proof in medals, measures, lap times, etc. This post will not feature sexy words such as: compute, quantify, evaluate, assess, or calculate. These are merely my observations after using the method for a few months.

I want to be a better cyclist. That is what drives this whole pursuit. I don’t have the time to put in any any significant base mileage. Just don’t have it. Wish I did. But Don’t. What we have here is a desperate attempt to make my road, gym, rest, and repeat days more significant. In an effort to improve my performance after my first few terrible forays into bike racing, we (my family came along for the ride) decided to take on The Primal Blueprint….uh…lifestyle. I say lifestyle because I hate the word “diet”. This isn’t a diet. It is a completely different way of living. Mark Sisson(@Mark_Sisson), the author, has a large following. I might be one of those, but that isn’t the point. The point is that if you are looking to be the in the best shape of your life, just have a look. So after that lifestyle came into play, one of Mr. Sisson’s books in conjunction with “The Primal Blueprint”, is “Primal Endurance”. This book was revelatory for me. I’ve even tweeted about it! I don’t want to rehash the book for you. I would encourage you to read both if you are one of those always pressed for time type athletes who is either a guy OR gal. Not trying to sell here, just telling you what works for me. In other words, I have no interest whatsoever in either of the aforementioned publications.

There is a great deal more within this book, but since we are focused on MSP, let me quickly jump to that. MSP stands for Maximum Sustained Power. MSP training was developed by Jacques DeVore (@jdevore1) a strength and conditioning and cycling coach with private gyms in California called “Sirens and Titans Fitness”. As written in Primal Endurance: “It is a revolutionary approach that leverages decades of the best strength-training science and takes a logical, leap to deliver a beautiful complement to the aerobic sessions that form the foundation of endurance training.” In a nutshell, it is a radically different method of training for endurance athletes. Zeroing in: “The essence of Maximum Sustained Power training is to first improve your absolute power (e.g., your highest vertical jump in a single rep, or maximum weight you can deadlift for five reps), then conduct MSP workouts that help you sustain the highest possible percentage of your absolute power for as long as possible, relative to your competitive event.” Let’s fast forward a bit, there is a lot to this friends, and I would suggest reading for yourself to see how this will fit in with your fitness goals. Ultimately, this allows me to completely maximize my gym time. Yes. The gym time is hard. Yes, the road time is less. Yes. This is geared towards ensuring all athleticism. Quality all around athletes make great cyclists, runners, and swimmers.

Here is the concept: begin by finding your five rep maximum (5RM) on deadlift. If your fundamentals are sound, your execution of these repetitions should be focused, and deliberate. They should be excellent reps. After finding your 5RM, you complete the rest of the sets: 4-3-2-2-2-1. Again, focused on the quality of each rep. “By conducting mini-sets (where you stop before total failure) separated by rest breaks, you can lift significantly more total weight in the workout.” I have been completing these workouts as with the Primal movements: pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and planks in conjunction with MSP training, cycling, swimming, walking, running, and yoga. You are damn right, yoga. Hell, let’s call it Yoga! It has been a critical piece of the puzzle for me, stay tuned for something about that later!

I began the program with a 135 5RM. Very sad. What blows my mind is, that was in mid-January, with lots of rest, lots of slacking, and little time spent on the road OR in the gym. Each and every time I visit the hex bar in the gym for the deadlifts, I am impressed with my ability to completely and powerfully execute the repetitions and tough it through a  MSP workout. It hurts. Maybe it hurts more than the traditional three sets of ten repetitions type workout, maybe it hurts less. That is up to you, I think. All I know is that I have been adding 10 lbs weekly, and am currently at 210 lbs on deadlift. While someone who is looking to build mass may giggle at that, I am a cyclist. I need mass like I need another pound on my bike. I am between 145-148 lbs, and am happy there so weight isn’t something I need, nor want. Overall, I am thrilled with the results.  I haven’t had any races yet this season, but am excited to race soon.  What is really wonderful, and what I want to convey here, is that while my gym time is painful, it is also incredibly rewarding. I (occasionally We, when my wife can come), swim laps (..and end up in a race), ride stationary bikes (..and end up in a race), row machines (yep, race), and Yoga. Yoga isn’t a race.  Duh.  This program teaches you to vary your training program.  Rest frequently, spend less time hammering, and more time way below your HR threshold.  Using all movements in and out of the gym to improve your body composition, makes you stronger.  Overall strength makes a better athlete.  As a comprehensive conclusion to all of the madness I have just supplied your mind with, training (for any sport) should be fun.  The goal is easy: enjoy your workouts, they should be meaningful to you, involve those you love with your training, and mix it up, for crying out loud, mix it up!  Just don’t forget to ride your bike, or run, or whatever it is you do.

Thank you kindly for reading, and please, if I can be of any assistance to you email me at: frdanna03@gmail.com.

The above methods do not belong to the author, they belong to Mr. Sisson and Mr. Devore, and are discussed in Mr. Sisson’s Book Primal Endurance.  I claim no ownership to them, and have no financial interest in either.  The words and opinions expressed are those of the author.  

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