Are you a sport coach, physical prep coach, athlete, or parent curious about developing athletic performance? Have you heard about the pitfalls of early sport specialization? Check out part 1 of the Long Term Athletic Development series I did for Train Heroic here.
If you have wondered whether or not your deadlift is on point, you're definitely not alone. Often forgotten amongst the Monday morning bros during american bench press hour, the deadlift is the bees knees in terms of testing ultimate strength.
Find out how to take build your super hero deadlift here.
Not too long ago I did an article for Stack.com on the importance of energy systems training in regards to athletic performance.
You can read it all here.
At some point in time in this vast universe of weights, benches, racks, protein shakes, chicken breast, and broccoli, we have all been on a “diet.” In this same universe, we have all ended a diet only to regain everything back. Cut the amount of calories and increase your exercise and you’ll seamlessly lose weight. This is often the practice of extreme dieters, fighters, wrestlers, and physique competitors. Hit a stalling point and you cut calories again. Hit another stalling point and you increase exercise. Then you hit another stalling point and you just can’t break the plateau.
Do you cut calories again and throw yourself into the deep dark abyss of minimal, bonehead eating?
Hell to the NO.
Cutting calories will eventually get us to a point where we can no longer progress. When you continuously cut calories, your metabolism adjusts and slows in order to meet the stimulus and maintain homeostasis. When we diet, the following metabolic adaptations occur:
- Our organs and muscles require fewer calories and consume less energy
- Sympathetic tone decreases
- Decrease in thyroid function
- Increase in cortisol in certain cases
- Lack of energy
- Disturbances in testosterone, leptin, and ghrelin
- Thermogenic effect of feeding (TEF) decreases due to fewer calories being consumed
- Not enough fuel for the muscles for recovery and/or muscle growth
- You’ll burn fewer calories
This is the body’s way of making sure we don’t just melt away and turn into Gumby. Do you want to stimulate growth and progress again? Are you coming off of a diet, challenge/contest, or physique show? If you are facing any of these challenges, you might just need to do what we call reverse dieting.
What is reverse dieting? Why do I need to do it?
In simplistic terms, reverse dieting is a phase after dieting when we slowly add calories, macronutrients, and foods back into the diet in order to re-regulate our metabolism to a healthy, sustainable level. The biggest reason why extreme diets and calorie restriction are not successful long term: it just isn’t sustainable. The body is not made to live, train, and adapt on 800 calories/day. We also can’t deprive ourselves of the most wonderful breakfast cereals and pizza in the world forever. There is a tipping point. A diet will always end at some point. Otherwise, we would all eventually diet down to death.
This is where reverse dieting comes into play. As mentioned previously, our metabolism slows as we diet down. Likewise, the same way we slow down our metabolism when we diet down, we can speed up our metabolism to bring ourselves back to a safe point, burn more calories, help support our training and energy demands, build muscle, and burn fat again. However, this doesn’t mean we just throw all of the calories we can find back into our diet right away. It also doesn’t mean we just go binge on pizza, cupcakes, and beer while going hours deep into a Netflix binge while simultaneously firing an automatic machine gun into the air.
No, it means we need to have a game plan to incrementally add calories, macronutrients, and foods back into the diet. This allows the metabolism to adjust and increase so we avoid gaining excess weight and fat back, versus, adding too many calories, macronutrients, and foods back in too fast when our metabolism is still slow and not ready to match the food intake. This allows us to better maintain lean body mass and the weight we previously lost. Then, when it might be time to cut calories or adjust macronutrients again for a new diet, contest, challenge, or show, we can do so in a safe manner.
The Big Question: How do I reverse diet?
The first thing to note is that with a reverse diet we providing a principle of progressive dietary overload to our metabolism. The same way we may provide progressive overload in the form of reps or weight across a training program. We might be ready to go hit up Golden Corral right away, however, our body and our hormone levels are certainly not. As we add food back in, our hormone levels concerning leptin, ghrelin, forms of thyroid, testosterone, and growth hormone are going be slowly returning to normal. The point of reverse dieting is to allow our bodies to readjust in a safe way that lines up with our physique and training goals.
In today's segment of the RUF STRONG Athlete Series, we have professional MMA fighter and Kickboxer, Adam Vanderveen. Adam has been putting in hard work since December in preparation for his fight this coming Saturday. Adam is truly the definition of what it means to be consistent and dedicated to his craft. Here we go!
Alex: Hi Adam. Could you start out by telling everyone a little bit about yourself?
Adam: Sure Alex. For the sake of time, I won’t get too far into my back story. I’m currently 33, on top of fighting, I'm a full time marketer for Evinrude Outboards. I spend most of my time at the office, traveling for work, training/coaching, and maintaining my duplex. On top of that busy schedule, my girlfriend and I are preparing for our first child this Summer.
Now, you have had quite the extensive career so far in MMA and kickboxing. What would you say are your biggest accolades and accomplishments that are the most important to you so far?
To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed any accolades along the lines of title fights, or competing for any of the big promotions. I’ve been honored to headline a show at the Rave though. I say it was an honor, because it’s such a historic venue. There are photographs hanging on the wall there of boxing matches from over 100 years ago, so it’s really exciting to contribute to the history of combat sports in that venue.
I could easily say my biggest accomplishment is the team that I coach for. A few years ago, I started coaching kickboxing for Neutral Ground and Pura Vida. They were both only Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools at the time, with a small handful of students interested in mixed martial arts. The progress and careers of those students, and the growth of the team is hands down my greatest accomplishment in the sport, and one that’s shared with the whole team and coaching staff.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome so far during your fight career?
The biggest challenge of my fight career has been the internal struggle of motivation. It’s something I’ve talked to our team about. I find that the hardest thing about training is showing up. This sport takes a huge toll on the body. The more you train, the harder you train, the more you feel it. On the days when you already have aches and pains from the week before, and you’re exhausted from morning practice, it can take a lot to convince yourself to go to evening practice. Once you’re there, your coaches and team mates will get you through practice, the hardest part is showing up, twice a day, every day, but that’s what makes the difference. The only reason I’m still involved with this sport, after 10 years, is that I keep showing up. It’s as easy and as difficult as that.
Having kids is a job in its own and it is something that you hear people always talking about as an obstacle to their fitness/training. You actually have a kid on the way. Have you thought about how you may go about still completing all of your drill work, technique work, and strength & conditioning and perhaps this could be some advice for others to potentially implement as well?
I’ve actually thought a lot about it. My plan is to rely heavily on my partner, and to also give back and take care of our kid when she needs to complete her own workouts or have personal time, so that it’s fair and there’s balance. I’m also fortunate enough to train at a gym where it’s really common to see a small posse of kids hanging out in the corner during practice.
I’m also going to rely on my commitment to my team mates, and my membership at RUFP to keep me going. I find that it’s really easy to sleep in or take a break, when I have no accountability, but when people are counting on me, or when I have a workout scheduled; it’s not really a choice. I made a commitment, and I have to honor it, so I’ll show up, even though I’m sure all I’m going to want to do is sleep.
What are some things you potentially look for when you're in the ring or cage as a way to possibly attack?
Fear. Blood. Weakness. Haha, kidding. Not really. Any of my team mates would probably tell you I’m a bit of a bully when sparring. I don’t go too hard in practice, but when I find your weakness, I’ll exploit it. I do it in practice though, because that’s what I want to do in the cage. Every opponent is so different in this sport. Different techniques will work on different opponents. I’ve never compared myself to a dinosaur before, but why not start now. Remember how the raptors tested the fence perimeter in the original Jurassic Park. Well, apply that to fighting. I try different strikes or techniques until I find something I like that works on any given opponent, and then I use it.
You also do some coaching as well. Is there a difference in the way that you may approach certain aspects of striking or anything when you are coaching versus being the one out there performing?
I’m definitely a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of coach. I’ve picked up some bad habits over the years, but I’ve also picked up a lot of ability that I can’t coach, such as timing. When I spar or fight, I’m able to use my body and head movement to avoid a lot of strikes. When I’m coaching though, I’m teaching my students to have a very structured defense. Before I started coaching, I used to train under Duke Roufus, and the biggest philosophy of his that I’ve embraced is how important defense is, especially if you want to enjoy a long career in this sport. It’s so important, because you can only get hit with big shots so many times in your life. There are some evasive movements I’m able to do because after many years of experience, I can recognize and react to opponent’s strikes, but I teach my students to use the structure to make sure they’re protecting themselves until they’ve also had enough time in the sport to be able to recognize and react to strikes similarly.
When you are thinking about strength & conditioning and MMA/kickboxing coming together, what are some of the things that immediately come to mind?
I think the first thing that comes to mind when I think about strength training for MMA and kickboxing is the concept of conditioning yourself to compete for multiple rounds of a specific amount of time. For professional MMA, we compete for 3 five minute rounds. In order to be as effective as possible throughout the course of the fight, your body needs to be conditioned to perform for each of those 15 minutes. I’ve taken some beatings, but one of the most frustrating fights of my career was one in which I was so dominant that I won the first round by a score of 10-8, and then lost the next two rounds because of fatigue, and the fight resulted in a draw.
You have had some shoulder and knee injuries during your journey. What was the biggest challenge for you during those injuries?
Any injury that results in surgery is a big setback. I’ve had 4 of those now, my left knee twice and both shoulders. The first time was the hardest. I was an 18 year old college freshman football player. At the time, so much of my identity was being an athlete. Being laid-up and recovering from knee surgery put all of that in question. Once I concluded that first rehabilitation and got back into competition I gained an understanding that injury is a risk of competing in sports, but fortunately most sports related injuries can be treated, allowing you to still participate or compete.
Who are some people within the MMA realm that you really look up to and have tried to take certain things from?
As I said earlier, I grew up in the sport at Duke Roufus’ academy, and again, the biggest take away from my experience there was the importance of keeping healthy. If you’re injured you can’t train. If you break your training partners, you have no one to train with, and if you get your bell rung too many times, you have to leave the sport all together. I believe in fighting, and in any sport, a big part of making it to an elite level is staying health long enough to get there.
Some of the guys I look up to the most in the sport are actually kickboxers. I’m a fan of guys like Rico Verhoeven, Nathan Corbett, and Tyrone Spong. They all compete for Glory, and I’ve always been a fan of Dutch style kickboxing. I’m really happy that Glory came along to fill the void left by K1. It’s nice to see that there’s still some interest in pure kickboxing matches.
You have put up some big weights here with your training pretty early on. What is your favorite lifting accomplishment thus far?
It’s funny you say that, because I don’t think I’m lifting anything heavy at all. I know I’ll never squat like I used to. My knee just doesn’t respond well to it. So without being able to squat heavy, my lifting goals revolve around deadlift. I think I’ll be happy when I’m pulling reps of 400+. Then we’ll see how heavy I can go from there. Overall, I’m feeling a lot stronger since I’ve started working out at RUFP. That strength is translating into endurance during practice, especially when grappling or wrestling. It’s requiring less effort to exert the force necessary for those techniques, which means more gas left in the tank.
You've got a fight coming up this Saturday here. Beyond that, what do you feel like may be next for you?
I can’t wait to fight this Saturday. I’ve been ready to compete since January, and have continually lost opponents or not gotten matched. I’ve learned better than to count on any fight actually happening until it does. It’s probably the most frustrating part of the sport. Injuries are understandable, but unfortunately there are a lot of unprofessional fighters that drop out of fights for little to no reason at all.
Beyond that, I’ll probably keep going at the pace I have been. Last year I had 1 fight. 2-3 is ideal to me. My ultimate goal is to keep competing until my kids (only 1 on the way so far), are old enough to remember. I think it will be a really cool memory for them to have of their dad.
If you could go back to give one piece of advice to the younger Adam, what would it be?
That’s a tough question. Part of me wants to say, “don’t play football”. I truly loved that sport, but my body didn’t. All of my major injuries and surgeries are football related. Some of my best memories and friendships are from playing though, so I don’t know if I’d actually want to give that up. I’m going to be really torn when my kids are old enough to play. It’s such an incredible experience, but I know the toll it takes on your body. Good thing I don’t need to decide today.
Alex Rosencutter, CSCS, CISSN, CES, NSCA-CPT