January 2014: Interview with Ian King

by on January 24, 2014

JOHN: I am honored to have Ian King for our expert interview this month. Ian has been around a long time, and his philosophies and methods have stood the test of time, and he continues to be a great source of information. Ian tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became so passionate in this field?

IAN: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your audience! When I about 7 years old I became a ‘student’ of the local strongman. Now at first that may seem nothing out of the ordinary, but let me put it in context, to indicate the synchronicity of all this. It was the 1960s on an island in the Pacific, and the ironman was not able to hear or speak. I was in awe of what his physique and his feats of strength. I was also blessed to be raised in this environment where there was no television, so play through sport occurred multiple times a day. It was truly the greatest environment for an athlete to be raised in, at least if you take the raw approach to optimal.

I was ‘expelled’ from my first gym, the local YMCA, when they realized a 7 year old was working out, and these were the days when it was ‘bad’ for kids to do strength training. I remained active in a variety of sports throughout my youth, however I has this aching realization that neither I nor anyone I knew had the answer to the question ‘What is the best way to train?’. When I was given the opportunity to pursue answers to this by attending university in the early 1980s in Australia I took this up. As strange as it may seem, I only wanted to find answers to this question.

As a result of my passion for and commitment to training, I attracted a growing list of athletes seeking my services before I had even graduated. The thousands of athletes I have had the opportunity to guide in their training and competition became my real-world laboratory, where I took what I had learned about creating hypotheses and objectively assessing the outcomes.

As a result of my search for the answer to the question ‘What is the best way to train?’, and the opportunities availed to me through training large sample sizes of athletes for many years in a row, I was able to confidently reach conclusions and create a long list of original training concepts. I have published these during the last two decades. These training concepts have literally reshaped the way the world trains.

I’ve worked with athletes at the elite level in sports that would fill the alphabet, and for that I am very thankful.

JOHN: You remind of a time when I went to Honduras for a church trip. There were a couple of guys there from La Mosquitia. They were my height (5’6), and they were jumping up and dunking a basketball. They were also doing some things I have never seen in volleyball. I was sort of in shock, and asked them how they could do that. One of the guys told me he literally had to wrestle alligators and catch snakes for food in the jungle there, so this stuff was very easy for him.

When you attended university, did you think the teaching was of high quality, or did you shake your head and think they were missing the boat?

IAN: With no disrespect to my lecturers they had no idea about training. It was not entirely their fault because at that time (the early 1980s) there was very little information or focus on optimal athlete preparation in the western world. Keep in mind the National Strength Coaches Association (NSCA – yes, that was what it was originally called) was just over one year old when I started at uni. I was viewed as a bit weird (for a number of reasons I’m sure!) but one reason I refer to is that I had this passion and thirst for knowledge in strength training (and I practically lived in the gym! In fact I sometime bump into people who were students in that era and they typically say ‘You were that guy who was always lifting heavy in the gym!’).

It was in the 1980s, what I have called the ‘Decade of aerobic training’ so I was the odd one out. When I started doing basic strength research I had no-one to guide or help me, and it was very rudimentary. If it wasn’t a V02 max test, no-one was interested.

I recall one of the few studies conducted on myself as an undergraduate was one looking at ventricular hypertrophy in weight lifters – and you can see the cardio-vascular connection. I set at new direction with the strength focus of my undergraduate work but it was still pretty raw.

In fact I’ll never forget when the lead exercise physiology professor took me aside one day in his office and told me had some journals that were of no value to anyone else and asked I wanted to have them – they were some of the original issues of the NSCA Journal. I thought I was the luckiest person alive, and that act certainly impacted my career because it brought me up to speed in an instant with what was happening in the industry in America.

I found it very interesting when the 1990s came along and some of the same aerobic researchers at my university who had no interest what so ever in strength training suddenly switched over and began to establish themselves as strength researchers!

During my postgraduate studies I challenged the aerobic claims of some of the PhDs at my university, and learned very quickly that is one way to get ostracized, as my services were shortly after no longer required in a sub-editoral role I held with a state based journal in a related field.

Turned out I was one of the first if not the first to openly challenge what I called the ‘aerobic myth base’ and it taught me to get ready to move through life dodging and weaving as the knives were being thrown at my back!

Fortunately impressing my colleagues and being their friend was and still is not high on my agenda. What is best for the athlete is all that matters. I just accept that a decade or two later some highly-gifted marketer or academic will make a name for themselves with my ideas once they reach the tipping point of acceptance.

I was also pretty disgusted with the treatment strength training received in our university text books. A common strategy used in the absence of any evidence when there was a desire to support a popular paradigm was to use references to newspaper articles! I guess they assumed that most people wouldn’t read the reference list to see it was such weak or in fact wasn’t actually evidence at all! I learnt that in one case the book author was a personal friend of the lecturer in a course I was taking, so I kept my mouth shut and just got through that unit!

So I took solace in the publications that I found credible, such as Phillip J Rasch’s ‘Weight Training’ (1966) and Bill Starr’s ‘The Strongest Shall Survive’. And of course ‘Iron Man’ magazine amongst other more ‘accurate’ mags!

Now things have changed in that there is strength training and other athletic component training in the university curriculums, however (and again I realize I won’t be making any friends) from what I have seen, the gap between what is possible and what is being taught to undergraduates is no different.

In hindsight however I am grateful that there was very little information available in my undergraduate days on how to train, because it forced me to find my own answers. The power in that were not just the answers, but the strategy to reach objective conclusions. This is a powerful tool and one that is not taught for all the lip service given to it. For the most part students and the masses are told what to think, not how to think. As we all develop new questions every day about what is the best way to train, the ability to seek and reach the answers is a life skill that has served me well, served thousands of athletes well, and in fact, served the world well, when you consider how many people around the world apply the concepts I developed through these strategies.

JOHN: Talk a little bit more about the aerobic myth base that you mentioned for our readers.

IAN: Well they were serving up aerobic training in the 1980s as a cure-all for everything. To make it worse there was some really dodgy ‘evidence’ being presented to support it. I will give you an example. I listened to a academic presenting in New Zealand at a national convention, extolling the benefits of the ‘aerobic base’. The evidence – he had read a newspaper article in which a person had talked to a person who said that an athlete said he felt so much better for his off-season aerobic program!

Keep in mind we weren’t too far of Kenneth Coopers works, or the influence of James Fixx, and then there was Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda, all riding the fitness wave.

Now this was really affecting the way athletes were being trained, and I am including national level athletes in all sports in all countries. I will never forget when my powerlifting coach and training partner decided one year that we would be adding running to our General Preparatory Program. Now I have no problems running generally speaking, but to take up running for 2 months when you weigh over 110kgs and haven’t run for a long time and were not going to be running for a long time, didn’t make too much sense! But it was the trend of the 1980s.

I had some very successful outcomes when experimenting with a different approach to this high volume aerobic training, in a number of different sports in a number of different countries. However there was little I could do to turn the tide or overcome the weight of the myth, other than to speak openly and without fear about my conclusions. I was one of the first in sport to do so, and like any pioneer, I took the knifes in the back, but perhaps it did just something to advance the possibilities that coaches and athletes would think about training before blindly accepting the dominant paradigms of the year or decade.

Fat loss in image based sports and non-sporting pursuits have been going through their own dogmatic trends. Ironically, because aerobic bashing has become popular by the late 1990s, there was actually an equally non-evidenced paradigm about the superiority of high intensity training over low intensity training for fat loss. This is just an over-reaction, using the same tools of social conditioning.

What’s totally missing in the discussions and dogma of all the decades during the last 50 years is the discussion of understanding what an individual responds to optimally, taking into account all variables including their training age. It’s not difficult, but takes time to develop the ability to interpret and individualize. My concern with this skill is that it is not being reinforced enough. Teaching what to think is dominating the teaching of how to think.

JOHN: You have gone against the grain it would seem for a long time, and listened to your instinct, and what you are actually seeing. For the life of me I don’t understand what is wrong with thinking a technique has merit if you see it work on hundreds upon hundreds of people, but there are those in the industry now, I call them pseudo scientists, that don’t believe any practice is valid unless proven by “studies”. The guys up on “science” that I talk to are not part of this group and laugh at these guys as they understand the limitations and flaws in this thinking, but it is certainly interesting to see these “proof” debates rage on these days.

One of the things that is sort of re-emerging as a debate topic is stretching. You alluded to it on a recent podcast we did. I got a lot of mail on that one. It wasn’t condemning mail, in fact it was folks that wanted to understand a little bit more about your views on it

Can you first talk about pre-workout stretching. Is there a type of stretching you prefer for this pre-workout period?

IAN: Yes, I know what you mean about the ‘response’ to my training ideas. The acceptance of or resistance to paradigms I have developed over the last three plus decades has been a very interesting experience to see it first hand, and I identify a lot of different reasons for this. There is a quote that I use to illustrate this point, and you will see it used extensively through my ‘Legacy’ course:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
— Arthur Schopenhauer

When I began teaching seminars in the US, I learnt very quickly how violently opposed my ‘new’ (I had been using them for a decade or two by then) ideas were. My teaching that chin ups (vertically pulling as I defined them in my lines of movement concept) did not equate an opposite movement to the bench press (which I defined as horizontal pushing); or that the stiff legged deadlift did not equate an adequate opposite movement to the squat. What I didn’t consider was one of the dominant influences in the US was designing and teaching training program design like that, and I copped a lot of serious backlash. It got very ugly. Then there was the seminar I did in the North East in the late 1990s, where a large number of audiences were encouraged to engage in a mass walkout during the day, because apparently my content and delivery was just awful. Ironically the local guru that lead that walkout published nearly everything I taught that day, and the subsequent ten years I couldn’t find a single reference to my name!

For me all that matters is we advance the possibilities in training. I wrote this statement over fifteen years ago, in 1997:

My challenge was to find out what I needed to know to get a result. I did that through trial and error, and found the only information I retained was that which I needed to know.

I have no attachment to ego or have not invested time or money into a device or concept such that I would cling to it. As I have said throughout my career, my success in coaching can be linked back to my willingness to have no attachments.

Take static stretching or even stretching before training. I have been amused at those who suggest I chose this position for the sake of it. I developed my approach to stretching after living stretching since I was a youth, and from those formative decades was in the position to reach conclusions for the benefit of my training and the athletes in my charge. I have actually been quite overwhelmed by the dogma that came out of left field in particular during the late 1990s that has intimidated masses of athletes around the world from following their instincts in relation to stretching.

Now I want to make something real clear. If someone has a different opinion than me, that doesn’t concern me. I see no reason why we would judge others for having different beliefs. My concern for them would be did they reach this conclusion through personal experience or are they simply the collection of thoughts from others. In other words, just because I say ‘x’ doesn’t mean I want you to go out and blindly agree with me. I want you to conduct your own internal trials and assessments and reach your own conclusion!

Nor do I don’t reject mainstream ‘science’ just to be a contrarian. I appreciate the contribution of scientists.

It’s simply not good enough to put a person’s training outcomes on the line just because someone with apparent authority claims this is the ‘way’ to train.

Now that I have laid some foundation down I’ll get into the stretching topic. I have watched the ‘trends’ in relation to stretching, and written extensively about it during the last 30 plus years. Personally I have been stretching with discipline and focus for about 40 years, so I am not a text book expert – I can actually touch my toes.

I believe it’s important to reflect on the modern history of strength training, at least from my perspective. In the 1980s I stretched before training, mainly static stretching. I did so in the company of world class lifters in both power and Olympic lifting, and from many different countries. Some stretched, some didn’t. Some did static stretching, some did dynamic stretching, and some did a mix. The key was no-one cared. No-one questioned or debated on the topic. It wasn’t ‘hot’. It just was.

As we progressed into the 1990s I observed a groundswell of increased interest and activity in stretching. I then also observed a raising body of reasons why athletes should not stretch. One of the more popular ones that reared up during the late 1990s and early 2000s was ‘it will make you weak’. Now I want to be real clear. Those leading the anti-stretch movement didn’t stretch. They were not flexible, and never had been flexible. They couldn’t touch their toes! To see athletes get sucked into this was like watching strength athletes take advice from weak people, fat loss pursuants taking advice from obsese people etc. Now this is occurring more due to the internet and the ability to create the perception of being someone you are not. It still doesn’t make sense to me.

My value system is that flexibility is the most important quality generally speaking:

Flexibility is the least understood physical quality. It is the poorest developed quality in most athletes. Quite a paradox if you accept my belief that it is the most important of all physical qualities, due to its relationship with injury prevention firstly, and then performance enhancement secondly.

In the 1990s I called it ‘the last frontier’:

Flexibility training (and its benefits) is the most unexploited and poorly understood aspects of training. I liken it to the ‘last frontier’.

Now I also predicted that when we reached the tipping point, things would accelerate. I think we are near that point now:

This is an area which I expect to be developed in the next decade – suddenly people will become experts on the benefits of flexibility, and its effect on injury prevention and performance enhancement. It is too powerful a training component to go unnoticed for too much longer.

When I see trend spotters writing in support of stretching, when they were amongst the most critical of it in recent years, and have never done it themselves, I know they are only doing that because they realize the floodgates are about to open and they want to rush to position themselves in the perception of the market as the one to ‘bring them the new way’. I have seen this over the last few years.

Back to my approach…

I do two things that are still considered relatively unique. I recommend stretching, and I recommend stretching before the workout. So why am I a big fan of static stretching? Because for the average person most of the time it is the most effective.

Static stretching I believe is most effective for increasing flexibility.

I understand human nature – slow to react, quick to over-react. My message here is don’t get caught up looking for the ‘latest’ – old fashioned static stretching will serve you well!

Don’t be bamboozled by the bells and whistles. Old-fashioned static stretching should, I believe, be utilized in the majority of your stretching time.

So why do I typically stretch before training, even through this period of ‘inquisition’?

As I said during our recent audio interview, stretching opens up the joints. If you load the joints in a less than optimal joint gap condition you risk a few things, including:

  1. Increased joint wear which means you will accelerate the aging process – the only people that should be happy about this are the orthopods lining up to sell you a joint replacement
  2. Increased nerve compression – so you will lift less, getting a lower neural training effect
  3. Reduced muscle sliding – so you will get less of a mechanical training effect

Collectively, not only have you increased the aging process and reduced the potential training effect, you also risk suppressing the post training adaptations – which are critical. I have this theory that your post training adaptations – neural, metabolic and hormonal – will be over-ridden post the joint trauma protective mechanisms – so you may feel the ‘pump’ during the workout but wonder why you don’t feel the training effects in a manner you would expect.

JOHN: Well being that I have been pounding away for almost 30 years now; I really want to dive into this. I am sure readers also want to understand how to apply this, as we aren’t the type of people to just do what is the norm. We want to be SUPERHUMAN!

So let’s look at chest for example. What would you have me do before training chest? Which stretches and how long would I hold, etc?

IAN: Great example to use, chest, as I have found over the decades that universally (and I mean in all countries I travel through and talk to people) the two muscle groups most placed in a muscle imbalance are chest and quads, in that order. I start with shoulder rotations to increase the joint temperature (which means lubricate) the shoulder joint. I then recommend doing stretches in the following order, generally speaking, for specific reasons:

  1. Neck – e.g. lengthening the upper trap reduces neural inhibition to upper body brachial plexuses (nerves feeding the upper extremity), which means an optional order to stretch.
  2. Shoulder – e.g. three way shoulder stretch. Now this is the most commonly known and used upper body stretch in sport in general e.g. you see swimmers doing it traditionally.
  3. Forearms – e.g. the three way forearm stretch. Now this is a really neglected stretching combination. If you appreciate the load the forearms take in all weightlifting disciplines, you might want to rethink this neglect. When the forearms get so bound up its tough even for a top end physical therapist to break into them!
  4. Chest – e.g. the four way chest stretch with the arm up against a vertical frame or wall.
  5. Lats – e.g. the two way lat stretch – vertical and horizontal. This would have to be one of the most underdone in terms of duration because it is not as comfortable to set up, especially the vertical variation. I have worked closely with a number of bodybuilders to help them understand and develop competence in this stretch.

This would take 15-20 mins minimum, and if we wanted to really advance or overcome some injuries, may take as long as 45 mins. So about 4-5 mins per each of the five major muscle groups I listed above.

That’s the basic shell. Whilst it may bear resemblance to what I have published before, I have in the last few years developed some amazing variations to really accelerate unexplored sections of the upper body.

What many fail to appreciate is the subtle difference between upper and lower body stretching. Due to the increased mobility of upper body joints, the temptation is to simply separate the joints in upper body stretching, not effectively lengthen the connective tissue.

The next major flaw in execution in stretching for strength sport athletes is the inability to distinguish between optimal relaxation for stretching and optimal aggression and ‘hard work’ optimal for strength training. It’s a bit of a yin and yang situation, and for this reason many strength athletes miss the boat.

Another detail I will share is my approach to work a wide variety of joint angles in stretching. This is very important especially in radiate or fan muscles, where one line of stretch will not capture all the multi-directional fibers.

Finally, the art of what I call ‘progressions’ and ‘variations’ in stretching. Progressions are like going up the ladder in strength sets – starting sub-maximal and doing a bit more intensity (in the case of stretching more length) in each subsequent rep. Variations are like doing say an incline bench and a flat bench, to pick up the different angles. I do the same with stretching.

Now I know there’s a lot of information here, and a bit rushed, but my message is this – when you read and listen to training discussions, including with sports strength coaches, you head 90% focus on strength and everything else piled into the remaining 10%. I dream of a world where it will be normal to have balanced discussions and balanced competency/knowledge about all aspects of training – because this will mean more people will get more out of training and life longer healthier lives.

I’ve developed a lot of video footage on stretching (as well as other training modalities) and I would like to offer you the opportunity to peak at some really good upper body footage. I will make arrangements for you to see this electronically!

Now I know it’s only a theory, but remember I’m the coach. I leave the measuring and confirmation to my scientist colleagues. I give them the ideas to research, they follow the bread crumbs. Take my theory of speed of movement (tempo) and three digit timing system. That had more than its share of rocks thrown at it, but look at the attention now paid to time under tension and quantifying the three contraction modes in a lift – it’s universally accepted. I don’t mean to be arrogant, but if being honest means that is what you thing, I am still happy to say this – based on the evidence of the last 30 plus years, everything I do in training will become main stream one day. You just have to decide which side of the acceptance curve you will embrace it – before the classic 10% market acceptance rate, at which point in time the trend spotters whose ‘coaching’ careers are actually ‘marketing & publishing careers’ will start publishing it, or before?

I am happy for you to go slow. Work it out for yourself. And it gives me more time to develop new concepts that separate us in the highly competitive elite sporting arena!

Let’s be clear about the crumbling of the ‘Stretching Wall’. First they told you it was bad. Then they took a fall-back position saying it was okay afterwards, but not before. The next fallback position was it was okay before as long as it was dynamic and not static. It’s like watching an army retreat. I have a question as to what are these people waiting for? They are never going to have the discipline to stretch, so I guess they are looking for the intellectual mastery of the concept before you are allowed to follow you intuition and do any stretching you want any time you want to! But the question for you should be more self-centered – what’s best for you now? And you need to figure that out for yourself, based on your own experiences, in an objective mental environment!

JOHN: This is excellent. I actually can’t wait to do this before my next chest workout. How about quads. I will share with you that I have always stretched my quads once the muscle was very engorged with blood, with the reasoning being that I believe a pump can help with hypertrophy, and when you stretch a pumped muscle, it seems as if you can load even more blood in there during subsequent sets, and pump it up even more!

IAN: I respect whatever conclusion you come to, and value you have reached one! Here is my conclusion using the quads as an example. The patella-femoral joint is one of the most at risk joints in the body, along with the femur-tibia or knee joint as a whole, as far as longevity and quality of life is concerned. In a nut-shell the ability to locomote in nearly all humans is compromised at this joint at some point in our lives, providing we live the natural term. In my opinion, if you load a joint when the joint relationship of that joint is not optimal, you accelerate the wear. It is for many a small point that over time becomes a big point. Basically those who do not ‘open’ or ‘free’ the joint with modalities such as stretching prior to loading are accelerating or advancing the joint wear, and reducing their quality of life. At best they will pay the price in later in life. At worst they will pay the price even earlier. That’s my perspective on the chronic implications. In relation to acute conditions and pain experienced (including any sub-conscious level discomfort) in the knee joint during the warm up or work sets will reduce the neural firing and reduce the training effect. My recommendations for those with even so narrow a perspective as hypertrophy would be to take a more global or holistic approach, to create optimal training effects.

The knee joint is so susceptible to wear that I go further and stress that any person participating in a quad dominant sport, in particular a hard surface quad dominant sport, should reduce their percentage of quad dominant movements. Now of course this is another one of my ‘crazy’ ideas that will only be embraced when some marketer jumps only it. In the interim it does make me cringe to see the impact that those who have no idea about training but love to publish have on the hundreds of thousands of unthinking athletes around the world who are doing walking lunges in their warm up and 101 ways to do lunges and other quad dominant movements in their workouts. But I digress again….

Which raises the question how does anyone determine if they have optimal joint relationship in the knee or any other joint that may preclude the need to do the stretching I am talking about? I don’t know anyone other than myself and my coaches who can do that, so I guess the masses are going to have to wait until yet another of my concepts become mainstream, no doubt assumed to be the brainchild of someone on the north east or south west of the US. In the interim anyone really keen to master what I am talking about would be served by doing at least my Level 1 coaching course, which you will find at http://www.kingsports.net/Coach/courses/menu.htm or getting someone who has been in my coaching program (the higher the level the better) to help them, and they could find this list at http://www.kingsports.net/Coach/coaches.htm.

You should be spending twice as long stretching the lower body as you do the upper body, and as we typically don’t walk on our hands, failure to apply optimal strategies such as these has far greater impact on quality of life (and even mortality) than stuffing up the shoulder joints does.

JOHN: Back when I was training at John Parillo’s performance center in the 90’s he was big into a very intense type of stretching that he believed manipulated fascia tissue allowing for muscle growth. Do you have any thoughts on that?

IAN: My first thought is great to hear he was a fan of stretching. I would need to know more about the loading parameters of the flexibility training to comment however. Generally thinking I believe there may be validity in his hypothesis, however as will all practitioners, we leave the ‘confirming’ to the sports scientists, which typically occurs some decades later. What I might allude to here is that the specific mechanism by which and positive correlation identified by John may be more multi-faceted that even he may have been aware of.

JOHN: This is great and I can see that you are putting a lot of time in this stretching methodology! Let’s switch gears for a minute. Let’s talk about time under tension as it relates to hypertrophy. Do you think there is an optimal time in terms of seconds during a workset?

IAN: I think it’s a really power theory but it’s still a model. We can go further than models, but models are a great starting point for communication, education and exchange. I notice the subject has really gained in popularity over the years, which makes things a lot easier. When the concept was first raised it was not so smooth. The academic modus operandi in the 1970s and 1980s seemed more focused on disproving than proving, and there were some outspoken pseudo-scientists who took the concept of time under tension to task with what seemed to be in the intent of disbarring it completely. But it survived!

Time under tension may be highly corrected to physiological adaptations such as hypertrophy, but it not the only variable. An equally powerful variable is load, and as soon as you have two or more variables to manipulate you have a far greater interpretative challenge, as we find with hypertrophy.

One of my original concepts I proposed also was that as training age advanced, the optimal number of reps for hypertrophy can lower, which means that loading rises in its contribution relative to time under tension. So potentially, in a generalized sense, there may be a point in time in your training career where optimal time under tension reduces. And this is condensed in an annual sense, meaning that (if you apply a year plan) there may be times in the year where it is optimal to apply longer TUT, and times of the year to apply shorter time under tension.

I remind again the need to consider intensity (as measured by load) in addition to volume (as measured by duration of tension). I have written extensively on the subject of wave loading and other advanced loading strategies, sharing my conclusions. For example, after watching a weightlifting seminar with former Romanian weightlifting coach Dragamir Circosalin in the early 1990s, I adapted the methods taught to bodybuilding, resulting in the 6/1/6/1 or 5/1/5/1 methods for bodybuilding training.

Loading also presents the opportunity for increased work capacity presented in longer TUT sets, which is what the above methods do. Other strategies of mixing loading and TUT include the time test method I termed ‘back off sets’, where you do higher reps after exposure to higher loading.

The challenge with these methods is that intensity potentially brings a whole new different overtraining symptoms, and when a person over-reacts (as humans are prone to!), less than optimal outcomes result!

Now I trust you can see why I placed the prelude that I did to this discussion about time under tension.

Another caveat I have on the whole discussion relates to transfer to sport, as you know my niche is helping the elite athlete fulfill and even exceed their own expectations of what is possible in sport performance. And what I am seeing is a trend with no apparent end point – the mis-guided belief that a bigger or even a strong athlete is a better athlete. Any development that is unbalanced is not optimal. Developing strength and size (both as a strength coach and for the athlete) is relatively easy, and therefore is the default position. Changing sports performance long term optimally through combing on-court/field and off-court/field training is far more challenging, and rarely done.

We first saw the belief that if the athlete has more hypertrophy they are a better athlete, then dominance of thinking became and we are still here – that maximal strength is king. Out of context it is, well, useless, perhaps even detrimental.

Now I won’t labor this point further as I know that most of your readers may simply want to get bigger and stronger and the Olympic podium or World Series championships are of no interest to them.

What I encourage each person to do is to note all their training, through disciplined consistent recording of training in their training journals – and objectively look for cause-effect relationships. What I want to hear is a person say “Ian, I have recorded my training for the last x years and analyzed it objectively and I have come to the conclusion that x is optimal for me.” Now that helps because they have come to a conclusion. What I do next is my magic, where I analyze the accuracy of their conclusions, look for flaws in thinking, and look for alternatives and additional possibilities. Why? Because no matter what we do there may be a better way, even if just a slightly better why – which over time could be massive – and I will raise this possibility.

JOHN: Speaking of time under tension, you are friends with and have had a profound influence on one of my mentors Dr. Eric Serrano that gives you alot of credit for this theory. Tell me a little bit about how you guys met, and how your interaction was?

IAN: As you know Eric is a great guy. It hope this means more than the usual blowing the wind up the usual place that we get a lot of and perhaps the following will show more what I mean. Perhaps I am a bit of a dreamer but I liked the days when people involved in training were people with integrity and great people. And like I said maybe I am going back too many decades, like the late Reg Park – more than just strong in strength – strong in character. Eric fits into that mould. He is a very giving person, but again, you already know that. As a medical doctor, to me he also epitomizes what I look for in a healer – a person who cares for people more than he cares for how much they are paying him.

If he had any fault I would say he is too generous and I have joked with him about this! I think like most of us over time he has learnt to be more astute with whom he gives his time and association to.

Eric’s memory may be better than mine but I believe we got connected through common friends, and it may have even been in Canada during one of the earlier SWIS conventions in Toronto with Ken Kinakin that we got to know each other better. I have gone to Eric for guidance in many matters related to my family and athletes health, and I would hope that I have reciprocated adequately with my help to him in training information and guidance.

I want to acknowledge Ken Kinakin also for his genuine desire to put together a lot of training wisdom in one place as he did with this SWIS conventions. I was always impressed with the caliber of people he was able to attract in a range of disciplines. He didn’t lose touch with the wisdoms of the earlier strength athletes, who were always represented in his speaking panels.

In addition to the SWIS seminars, Eric’s also been in some of my seminars in different locations in America and it’s a real honor to have such as knowledgably, humble and giving person in the room. Learning is accelerated when people trust and believe in each other. And trust is a currency that’s low in the current marketing driven ‘educational’ space at the moment, due to the amount of deception that is deemed acceptable in the North American business culture.

I really value my relationship with Eric and the help and support he has given me over the years. The world could do with a lot more Eric Serrano’s. As you know, when you approached me to contribute, I didn’t hesitate for the reason alone that Eric supported you also. Associations mean a lot to me – but that I mean I want to know that a person has the character to choose their associations wisely, such that I can support their associations without reservation. Typically when I get approached to contribute the first thing I will do is look at the assocations. If can be as simple as if x is supporting you, so will I. Conversely it can be if you are associated with y, then I’m not gong to play.

And his accent really helps me – when people say they can’t understand my mixed up accent, I love it when he starts talking – it makes me sound better! And I’ haven’t even started on his spelling…. (if you saw me write you know I am not in position to critique!)

JOHN: Oh his spelling is legendary, especially across text messaging! I understand him fine, from knowing his so long, but when I do videos with him, many people are like “what did he say”… LOL!

I thought it would be interesting for you to take a look at many quotes and thoughts Ian has presented in his literature over the years. There are so many good messages here.

Aerobic training has been overemphasized in training literature and practice. It is essentially in many cases an ineffective and inefficient method for performance improvement. The popularity of endurance training has largely been the result of endorsement of paradigms by influential people in sport education, who fear loss of face by acknowledging that their teachings are nothing more than paradigms. – King, I., 1997, Winning & Losing, (book), p. 124

I’ve probably lead the anti-aerobic movement. You go back ten years ago and everything was aerobic. I was one of the first to say, listen, I’ve tried it and I’ve tried other ways and I think I can give you a better way. Now what we’re seeing is an overreaction. We’re seeing people saying to not do any aerobics. It’s just gone too far. – King, I., 2000, In an interview with C. Shugart, t-mag.com

If we find a better way tomorrow, we should feel no attachment to the limitations of our current way, and be willing to replace any aspect of our thoughts or actions with more effective thoughts or actions. – King, I.., 2005, The way of the physical preparation coach (book), p. 90

Resist the temptation in program design to conform to mainstream paradigms simply for the sake of conforming, no matter how dogmatically they are presented, or how much you may be ridiculed or ostracized for trusting your intuition over conformity. Make our own minds up based on a combination of respect for your intuition, the athlete/client’s intuition, the results, and in respect of the body of knowledge available. [1]

Research is nice and I’m definitely not critical at all of the contribution of academics. But my decision to train a certain way is not based on the latest research. It’s based on the conclusions I’ve reached on cause and effect relationships in the real world. People can become too infatuated with the concept of science. – Shugart, C., 2000, Meet the press: Coach of Coaches – An interview with Ian King, t-mag.com 29 Friday 2000

I have been personally stretching in training for nearly four decades now. I have been recommending and enforcing it to large populations of athletes for nearly two decades. I have watched the impact, fine-tuned the application, and found ways to optimize the training results from stretching. I have also learnt the side-effects from not stretching, not stretching enough, or not stretching effectively. In fact, the real world laboratory that I have been fortunate to have participated in has taught me so much about the role of flexibility training! – King, I., 2002, Get Buffed!™ II (book), p. 99

Due to the significant absence of flexibility training in training programs to date, most athletes, coaches and other ‘experts’ have never been involved significantly in a stretching training program. Despite this, and despite the obvious physical manifestations of lacking ability to demonstrate range of movement, many form outspoken and dogmatic positions on topics including stretching. That is their prerogative, however my suggestion would be – don’t put too much weight on the words of someone who cannot touch their toes, and who has never lived with a committed to this form of training!—King, I., 2005, The way of the physical preparation coach, p. 39

It doesn’t matter what you, another person, text book or research article thinks/claims should happen as far as the training outcome – all that matters is what is happening, what was the outcome. Value this above all else and respond accordingly, with no attachment to your prior perceptions where the message is to the contrary. – King, I.., 2005, The way of the physical preparation coach (book), p. 3

It is also appropriate to remind you of the natural human and social reactions – an over-reaction in the short term and an under-reaction in the long term. When a ‘new’ thing becomes popular, many over-promote it and many over use it. After a while they become disillusioned or bored, and then under-use it.

Instead of going through this ‘yo-yo’ response, I encourage you to objectively analysis any new ‘trend’ – ask yourself, what application would that have for me. In doing so, I want you to cut out any marketing hype, or the opinions of others – ask and answer the question yourself with complete objectivity. If you can do this exercise I believe you will save yourself a lot of time and energy. – King, I., 2002, Heavy Metal Q & A, T-mag.com, 30 Oct

Look at it this way. If you do it the way everyone else is doing it – all things being equal, how are you going to be better than everyone else? Realistically changes do occur (albeit slowly) in sport training – because someone dared to do it differently. These people gain the advantage, are at the cutting edge. The sheep follow. Which do you want to be? – King, I., 1997, Winning and Losing, p. 30