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Explained: The Strength & Stamina of a Land Rover BAR Sailor

By Ross Edgely

Winning the America’s Cup will require a unique fusion of strength and stamina. This is because competitive sailing – unlike many other sports – requires a complete resilience to lung-busting cardio. A sheer defiance to muscle-burning fatigue. Finally, the mental fortitude to maintain a clear and continual cognitive function despite all of the above. Which is why I jumped at the chance to train with the team in Bermuda and perform a sport science autopsy on their strength and conditioning ahead of their 2017 America’s Cup preparation. With a whey protein shake in one hand and a notepad in the other, this is The Strength & Stamina of a Land Rover BAR Sailor explained…

Traditionally it’s believed strength training is simple. You eat mountains of food and move large amounts of iron in the gym. The squat, bench and deadlift are your best friends and you tend to avoid anything cardio related. The latter was in fear that anything that sent your heart rate above 85 beats per minute would plunge your muscles into a catabolic state.

Equally, it’s believed stamina-based training is simple. Whether you run, cycle or swim you simply learn and drill efficient movement patterns and then do enough of it to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Aerobic means, “With oxygen” since this relates to all activity where we need to breathe to complete them. This can be a steady, slow paced 20 minute session on a grinder, hand bike or steady 5km run. Anaerobic exercise relates to those shorter, quicker activities that don’t need as much oxygen like a 60-second session on a grinder, hand bike or 100m sprint. All of which can be done without (heavy) breathing.

But what’s interesting is rarely do these worlds unite, unless you’re a Land Rover BAR Sailor (as I’d discover).

Meeting Ben Williams (Head of Strength and Conditioning) and David ‘Freddie’ Carr was slightly surreal. Since I’d long known about the military-trained, fitness phenom that is Mr Williams as I’d followed his teachings on social media for a while. Equally, Freddie’s strength (and forearms) were almost an urban legend at GQ Magazine. But what was amazing is how together they were disproving the widely held belief that strength and stamina cannot co-exist. An idea supported by new research published by the Department of Health Sciences at Mid Sweden University in Östersund.

Amazingly Swedish researchers not only expelled the myth, but they also found it could actually, “elicit greater muscle hypertrophy than resistance exercise alone.” What this means is completely contradictory to conventional thought, combining cardio with weight training could actually increase muscle size. To test this theory T. R. Lundberg, R. Fernandez-Gonzalo, T. Gustafsson and P.A. Tesch took ten healthy men between the ages of 25 and 30 and subjected them to five weeks of unilateral knee extensor exercises. One leg was trained in a manner similar to most conventional strength training routines. Completing 4 sets of 7 repetitions at 75%-80% of their 1 rep. max. The other leg was subjected to exactly the same strength routine but was coupled with 45-minute cycle during each session. Following five weeks researchers used an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) and muscle biopsies to determine any changes in the cross sectional area and volume of the leg muscles. Specifically the vastus laterallis (muscle that’s located from the side of the leg) and the quadcricep femoris (muscle found at the front of the leg) were analysed.

What they discovered was the leg that had been subjected to both cardio and strength training was noticeably bigger than the leg that performed strength training alone. Objectively results revealed the vastus lateralis had increased by 17% in size in the cardio-strength trained leg compared to 9% in the strength-trained leg. Furthermore, the volume of the quadriceps femoris had increased by 14% in the cardio-strength trained leg compared to 8% in the strength-trained leg.

So where did this gym-based wizardry come from? Well it’s widely known that performing any form of cardiovascular training dramatically improves your capillary density. Capillaries are the small blood vessels that network through the muscles and by increasing their density you also increase your own ability to supply the working muscles with blood, oxygen and nutrients during training. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of strength training as power based athletes arguably place too much emphasis on shifting iron than looking after their capillaries. However under the roof of Land Rover BAR’s training facility in Bermuda this is not the case.

Yes, David ‘Freddie’ Carr and Ben Williams possess large, powerful muscles. But the capillaries contained within them are also incredibly efficient, dense and capable of flooding the working muscles with much needed blood, oxygen and nutrients. How? Through meticulously planned series of workouts created by Ben, that brilliantly embody the above…

Sailing Strength: America’s Cup & Land Rover BAR
By Ben Williams
 
Strength Training: This was taken from the strength taken performed earlier in the year when back at base in Portsmouth.

Mobility 15 mins. Working on the whole body. Foam rollers and power bands are great tool for releasing tight muscles and developing joint range.
 
Warm up. Try 5-10 minutes on a Technogym arm bike, rowing machine or a Bulldog Airbike. Start off easy and increase in intensity until your heart rate is raised and your body is warm.
 
Push/Pull Strength.
• Chest press- 3 x 6 reps (85% of your 1 repetition maximum)
• Bench Pull/Bent Over Row - 3 x 6 reps (85% of your 1 repetition maximum)
• Alternate Incline DB press- 3 x 6 each side. (80% of your 1 repetition maximum)
• Single Arm Bent Over Row - 3 x 6 each side (80% of your 1 repetition maximum)
• Weighted press up & weighted inverted row superset- 3 sets of 8 reps each exercise (+25kg)
• 45 degree barbell push & weighted pull up superset- 3 sets of 8 reps each exercise
*Rest for 90 seconds between each set.

Sailing Stamina: America’s Cup & Land Rover BAR
By Ben Williams

Anaerobic Capacity: Now from the base in Bermuda the team are placing a lot of emphasis on anaerobic grinding fitness with the following work.

Mobility 15 mins. Working on the whole body. Foam rollers and power bands are great tool for releasing tight muscles and developing joint range.
 
Warm up. Try 5-10 minutes on the machine you are going to use. Start off easy and increase in intensity until your heart rate is raised and your body is warm.
 
Session. Choose an exercise that includes upper body demand. We are an upper body dominant sport after all!
Once warm/exercise ready complete the following-
• 4 x 4 minute maximal effort rounds
• 2 minutes strict recovery between rounds
 
*Exercise Ideas= Arm Grinder, Bulldog AirBike, Rowing or Swimming (front crawl) if you do not have access to any upper body demanding apparatus.
 
Cool down. Fall on the floor. Roll around until your body gets back to an acceptable level of comfort. Then jump back on the machine and exercise easy for 5 to 10 mins. Mobility and stretching to finish.
 
*Please not that these workouts should only be undertaken by individuals who train regularly and have no underlying medical conditions. If in doubt please consult your physician before taking part.
**Fitness training should be part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.

 
Ross Edgley is an athlete adventurer, chief sports scientist at THE PROTEIN WORKS™ and considered one of the world’s most travelled fitness experts. He specialises in pushing the boundaries of human physical potential and exploring uncharted territory in the world of sports science, fitness and nutrition.