MAF and strength training

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by Davidlbn, Jul 20, 2019.

  1. Davidlbn

    Davidlbn Double-Digit Post Count

    MAF heat rate training seems to have been adapted to many of the training protocols discussed on this forum.

    First off MAF training is an endurance training protocol geared to developing the aerobic system.

    In my experience (Ironman training) it is extremely effective at developing an aerobic "base" with amazing results.

    The caveat is that it is meant for endurance. The book is titled "The big book of endurance training and racing" !

    For a newcomer to this type of training this means a fair amount of volume. In my experience, ignoring the health benefits, it is not particularly effective for developing performance without the volume. For example if you are running 5k's 3-4 times a week with the goal of reaching the peak level of performance that this volume allows you may be better served by including intervals and tempo work as well.

    My experience is that you need the volume to properly develop the aerobic system, maybe 8+ hours a week as a minimum?
    Therefore for improving performance for marathon events MAF is extremely effective if you put in the (long) hours.

    In the initial phases MAF recommends eschewing all forms of speed and strength training until the aerobic base is somewhat established. After that one can add strength training but you should still try to keep it as aerobic as possible using grease the groove style training.

    Once speed stops improving from MAF HR training as evidenced by a monthly MAF test (you'll have to read the book!) you can add a little speed work. Keep doing that until you reach a plateau, at which point you revert to aerobic base training again.
    Repeat these cycles, week after week, year after year to achieve peak endurance performance.
    This how multiple world Ironman champion Mark Allen beat all comers year after year.
    (Yes, he also included strength training, but in an extended range of exercises, typically 12 exercises of 2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps).

    All strength training is regarded by MAF as anaerobic, regardless of max heart rate reached.

    My understanding therefore is that according to MAF you cannot develop optimal aerobic conditioning for ultra-endurance via strength training.

    The book is littered with anecdotal evidence proving that even strength is improved when trained after first establishing an aerobic base.

    So in this context I'm not sure of the relevance of MAF heart rate in strength or strength endurance training unless an aerobic base has already been established (and is then maintained or re-established for each training cycle)

    Don't get me wrong, I've been very satisfied with the results of the Strongfirst training methods - as I was with MAF training for Ironman.
    I am just trying to understand how they can live together in the same space.

    Anyone care to chime in and enlighten me?
    Bauer likes this.
  2. Bauer

    Bauer More than 500 posts

    I would guess that Pavel's new book Q&D will cover this to some extend.

    As far as I can see the main A+A forethinkers like @Al Ciampa don't care much about HR for strength training these days but about energy systems. Both MAF and SF have in common that they tend to avoid the glycotic system because of it's endocrine and metabolic side effects.

    Maybe some Strong Endurance or Second Wind attendees can shed some more light on SFs take on endurance.
    Bro Mo and Steve W. like this.
  3. ali

    ali Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Well there's many column inches devoted to such on blogs within SF and oodles of users' experiences, opinions and views on many threads.....settle down for a long read over the weekend. If you search, someone may have listed all the threads in one handy place but can't remember where that is myself.
    Broadly, I think, MAF in how it is used with various SF training is more a guide, a rough one and an educational tool to have some idea of 'exertion' and how that applies to in-session training and recovery.
    How it is applied to strength, as it is intended to be utilised with endurance training, is up for debate.
    Strength on its own....nope....but in combo with conditioning, as above, a guide with breathing, recovery with fast and loose and monitoring signals of fatigue are all factors to be considered.
    The MAF in its simplicity is to stop athletes going too intense for too long in consideration of frequency....if you are only going into intensity briefly and not for too long especially when the athlete is not an endurance athlete then its use perhaps is not so relevant, or not to be seen as an absolute.
    Personally, I found it very helpful for guidance as mentioned.
    There is a broad consensus that consistently smashing yourself to bits in whatever activity you do, be it endurance or high intensity, is not a good thing. The MAF thing ties in here but maybe more or less for some than others.
    Individuality matters too, as does genetics....perhaps those that benefit more from longer more sustained aerobic training v those that perform less distance but do more intensity at the right frequency for them comes down to genetics and if you are blessed with the genotype that favours greater lactate buffering capability. If not, then training for greater aerobic efficiency is a better strategy, maybe?
    There are a lot of variables and differences to consider.
    In general then, for strength, if you consider strength from a neurological input, not necessarily through energetics, then MAF does not really apply.
    Also, it is worth many top level athletes have achieved success using MAF?
    Does Kipchoga and other Kenyans use it? Mo Farah?
    For Kenyans certainly, it is a lot of very easy running and a culture of running that has led to success....they use a similar 'talk test', running in groups and base building the same as MAF in that sense?
    Is it all just semantics?
    Base building/MAF/steady strength building v higher intensity/hard effort are balanced by frequency. Higher frequency, more to the left with less frequent visits to the right. The sweet spot is right where that 'v' is. And it starts from left to right. Only going to 'v'? Great for are going to need some of the stuff on the right for performance whatever you do but with greater need for recovery. Doing both makes the 'v' bigger. That's the happy place.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
    Denny Phillips likes this.
  4. conor78

    conor78 More than 500 posts Certified Instructor

    If you haven’t read it yet check out Primal Endurance by Mark Sissons. His work ties in this MAF approach and includes strength work/nutrition etc. I’ve been listening to a lot of his podcasts and his approach seems to dove tail into Anti G training and the S Endurance approach.
  5. vegpedlr

    vegpedlr More than 500 posts

    MAF=Maximum Aerobic Function NOT Maffetone. Other coaches use the term differently, while Maffetone has a unique method that includes other things.

    I use MAF for most of my training, and have for a long time with great results. Unfortunately, the Big Book scared me away from strength training. Naturally, I got weaker. Since my endurance pursuits are off road, I need a fair amount of strength. Like other forms of anaerobic training, Maffetone isn’t against it, just that must be used wisely because of the toll it takes. In his view, most people are deficient aerobically, so they need to start there.

    Maffetone does like strength work and has written about online. He calls it “slow weights” and is very similar to Easy Strength or PTTP. Low volume, high frequency, never to the point of developing significant fatigue that require recovery. Every day’s workout should be repeatable day after day. And the MAF test is the most important thing. If it improves, then what you’re doing works, keep at it.

    Last fall I did three months of “Easy Strength and Easy Endurance.” I got stronger in every lift I was working on, and my MAF test improved. So while interference in concurrent training is possible, if you keep it Easy, not likely.

    Also worth noting that Mark Allen did quite a bit of strength training, but it was the sort derived from bodybuilding with too many exercises, sets, and reps to ever work for me.

    Discussed somewhat in another thread but relevant here House and Johnston’s The Uphill Athlete does a great jog discussing these points.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
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  6. Bro Mo

    Bro Mo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I believe it is simply a way to guide the avoidance of glycolosis. Keep high intensity efforts short enough so the HR doesn't go too high and recovering long enough so the aerobic system is more solely used to refuel those efforts.
    Oscar likes this.
  7. ali

    ali Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Overreaching Attenuates Training-induced Improvements in... : Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

    The point on semantics.....

    This recent study (just published, haven't read the details) divided 2 groups of runners....those that 'functionally overreached' did not perform so well as those who were 'acutely fatigued '.
    I take from that, and in trying to internalise all aspects of training effects, that doing too much is counter-productive.
    Thus 'the dose is in the poison'.

    It is about what tools, data and internal emotional and physiological sensory information you have at your disposal to monitor it all. And thus the blend of activity and recovery you are measuring. And if it is accurate or not.
    Come up with an algorithm and you've cracked it.
    Heart rate is one of them. But it is only one of them.
  8. Snowman

    Snowman Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I might just be restating things in a slightly different way, but...

    I think aerobic capacity (which is most effectively developed using MAF or sub-MAF steady state cardio) is what determines how much work we can recover from, whereas power/strength determines our peak output. Somewhere in the fuzzy gray area between those two we have "work capacity". If you're an aerobic machine with no strength, the wheels fall off once you get significantly higher than your training intensity. If you're strong and powerful but have no aerobic base, the wheels fall off after a certain amount of time (or you're crippled for days after your event).

    The science there is beyond my understanding, but we consistently see that people with a better aerobic base are able to absorb more strength training volume, and stronger folks have a broader range of intensities that they can operate in. The two clearly feed off each other, and no amount of one type of training will replace the other. A+A work is probably the closest thing I've seen to a magic bullet for developing work capacity, but even then people see huge improvements from adding pure aerobic work to it.
    fractal, bencrush, Anna C and 3 others like this.
  9. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Senior Instructor

    @Davidlbn, as with many things, the devil is in the details. I was an avid amateur running for 20-25 years, but it took me reading "Running Formula" by Dr. Jack Daniels in order to set my lifetime PR's, and I was in my mid-40's at the time. There is a right amount of higher-paced training to go along with your big aerobic base - the combination is what it takes to turn in a peak race performance.

    bencrush likes this.

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