Exclusive Interview with Ross Edgley
- The event began at midnight at Silverstone Race Circuit on Friday, 22nd of January
- It took 19 hours, 36 minutes, 43 seconds to pull the 1.4 tonne Car 26.2 miles
- Ross had been training for the last 8 months (often up to 14 hours a day)
- He’s been fuelled on a specialist 6,000+ calorie diet created by THE PROTEIN WORKS™
- He’s raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust, Children with Cancer, Sports Aid & United Through Sport
- #WorldsStrongestMarathon trended for 18 hours on Twitter during the stunt
Ross this was crazy. Running a marathon is hard enough, but how did you even come up with the idea to attach a car to yourself and then do it?
Basically I thought running a marathon is good. People will talk about it on social media and it should raise some money for charity. But running a marathon with a car strapped to my back is crazy. More people will talk about it on social media and it should raise more money for charity. That was the basic theory behind it.
Also as a Sports Science graduate, I have to admit a (pleasant) separate purpose to this whole crazy stunt is that I believe too many people see fitness (and human potential) as a fixed doctrine. Like a set of strict rules they must follow. But my motto is, “There are many ways to get fitter, stronger and leaner. You shouldn’t discriminate against any of them or favor one. As soon as you do, you close your mind and limit your potential.”
So part of my decision to run the marathon was to start 2016 by ripping up the rulebook on fitness. Get people thinking outside of sets and reps and really explore the limits of human potential.
So apart from raising money for charity you wanted to become this “Sports Science Human Guinea Pig”?
Yes, exactly that. That’s a good way of putting it. When studying at Loughborough’s School of Sport and Exercise Science I read a lot of Verkhoshansky’s work. For those who don’t know Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky is considered by many to be the greatest strength and conditioning coach to ever live and orchestrated the strength and conditioning success of the Soviet Union athletes.
When addressing the commonly used, “Repetition/Weight Scheme” he says, “The summary of training approaches given in the table may be adequate for the average personal trainer or coach dealing with the average client or lower level athlete, but it needs to be expanded upon.” In other words, think outside the bench press which is exactly what I wanted to do by pulling a 1.4 tonne car 26.2 miles.
But how did you train for strength and stamina at the same time?
Now that is a good question. This idea that stamina kills strength is engrained in gym folklore. Also many would argue for good reason too based on the work of Robert Hickson and his research into, “Concurrent Training”. For those not familiar with Concurrent Training, this is where an athlete trains more than one fitness component (strength, speed or stamina) at equal amounts of focus, all within the same workout. Something that Hickson proposed — and supported by research from the field of Molecular Biology and his own experiences — will produce less than optimal results.
This all came about because Hickson was a keen powerlifter who had followed a traditional strength training protocol for most of his athletic career. This was until he went to study in the laboratory of Professor John Holloszy. Holloszy is considered the “father of endurance exercise research” and every lunch he would leave the Washington University Medical Campus and run through the nearby Forest Park.
Keen to make a good impression Hickson decided to break from his usual training protocol and accompany Holloszy.
But weeks into his new routine he discovered the strength and size of his muscles were decreasing. This was despite the fact he was still doing his strength training at the same frequency and intensity. When Hickson approached Holloszy with his strength and conditioning dilemma Holloszy suggested this should be his first study.
So in his new laboratory at the University of Illinois in Chicago that’s exactly what he did. Published in 1980 in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology he concluded, “Concurrent training” dilutes your effectiveness to improve a specific component of fitness. Your body doesn’t know whether to become stronger or more endured since the “potency” of your training a stimulus is lost.
So you trained for strength for a month and then stamina?
Not exactly. So to offer another perspective, instead of thinking about the “potency” of the training stimuli try and think of the body in its powerful entirety. What I mean by this is science always has a habit of studying things in isolation. Compartmentalizing things that are never compartmentalized in nature.
Take the research published by the Department of Health Sciences at Mid Sweden University in Östersund as an example. Amazingly researchers found cardio combined with strength training could actually, “Elicit greater muscle hypertrophy than resistance exercise alone.” What this means is — contradictory to Hickson’s research — combining cardio with weight training could actually increase muscle size.
To test this theory researchers took 10 male athletes and monitored them during a 5 week training program that consisted of unilateral knee extensor exercises. One of each subject’s legs was conditioned through a training protocol very similar to most conventional strength-based routines where they used a weight 75%-80% of their 1 rep. max and completed 4 sets of 7 repetitions. The other leg was subjected to exactly the same routine, but was also coupled with a 45-minute cycle during each session.
After 5 weeks scientists took muscle biopsies and used a MRI scan to analyses the changes in the size and strength of the leg muscles.
What they found was the leg that had been subjected to both cardio and strength training — essentially Concurrent Training — was noticeably bigger than the leg that performed strength training alone. Objectively results revealed the vastus lateralis (the muscle that’s located from the side of the leg) 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 (the muscle found at the front of the leg) had increased by 14% in the cardio-strength trained leg compared to 8% in the strength-trained leg.
People ask how. But 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.
So you managed to do what you set out to do and “rip up the rulebook” on fitness?
In my own small way, yes. But I should point out that friend and famed strongman Geoff Capes was doing this long before me. Crowned the World’s Strongest Man in 1983 and 1985, it would make sense that he trained for strength, but standing 6ft 5in, weighing 322 pounds, he was known for running 23.7 seconds for the 200m, was a national-level cross-country athlete in his youth and had a collection of marathon medals in his trophy cabinet to prove it.
Then you have guys like Rolf Feser who popularized German Volume Training (GVT) or the “Ten sets method” where you complete 10 sets of 10 repetitions — with 60 to 90 seconds rest in between — using a weight that’s roughly 60% of your 1 rep. max (or a weight you could perform 20 repetitions with). It works on the premise that you subject the muscles to an extensive volume of repeated efforts on a single exercise. The muscles are then forced to grow and adapt as the body is loaded above its habitual level (what it’s accustomed to) with both weight and volume and it basically fuses strength and stamina in a way like the World’s Strongest Marathon did.
What’s next for you then?
Basically pulling a 1.4 tonne car for 26.2 miles raised lots of money for charity, but it also left me with a newly acquired work capacity, an inability to over train and a tendency to get bored very easily. So not long after finishing the marathon I rung spoke to the team at THE PROTEIN WORKS™, rung the Teenage Cancer Trust (my chosen charity). Bought a rope. Found a tree. Then began training for this year’s charity stunt number two: The World’s Longest Rope Climb.
On 22 April I will attempt to climb a 20-metre rope repeatedly for 24 hours until I’ve climbed the height of Everest (8,848 meters). Already it’s taught me a whole new level of arm conditioning so I’ll have to come back and share it with you too.
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