Hi there! This is Eric, an undergraduate member of the Athlete Health Lab. While the rest of the lab has been primarily working with Zac and Ali to improve their cardiorespiratory fitness for altitude and acclimatization, I have been focused on the resistance training aspect of the expedition preparation.

Improvements in maximal strength have been consistently correlated with improvements in endurance performance, which is most often attributed to better work economy (Aagard & Anderson, 2010; Hoff, Gran, & Helgerud, 2002; Millet, Jaouen, Borrani, & Candau, 2002; Beattie, Kenny, Lyons, & Carson, 2014; Hoff, Helgerud, & Wissløff, 1999). Consequently, the focus with the resistance training is to increase maximal strength while minimizing injury and addressing specific deficits and personal health/physical concerns identified within their needs analyses.

Both weekly resistance training sessions are full-body workouts with a higher and lower intensity training day. Lower body training is prioritized during the higher intensity session due to its importance in occupational tasks such as skiing and climbing, but is not emphasized during the other weekly workout on account of it following days of chamber training involving heavy use of the lower limbs. Upper body and core training is included to help with activities such as carrying, lifting, and digging, and to potentially have some positive effect on skiing performance. It will also probably help with opening tight containers at altitude! The upper body and core are not trained much or at all outside the resistance training and the twice-weekly schedule of resistance training is fairly low frequency, so they are trained with a moderate-to-high intensity in each workout.  These are important considerations to make in order to ensure adequate recovery, allowing for better training and lowering the risk of burnout!

In the months of their general physical preparation phase (GPP) leading up to the holiday season, we prioritized improving theirgeneral movement quality, work capacity (i.e., their ability to perform work over a given span of time), and muscular endurance. Individuals with lower training ages tend to benefit more from higher volume training (i.e., with more reps and sets) compared to those with higher training ages, who usually benefit more with higher loads (Ebben, Kindler, Chirdon, Jenkins, Polichnowski, & Ng, 2004). It’s been noted that, based off the training so far, Zac seems to respond better to higher loads and lower weekly and session volumes relative to Ali, which is somewhat expected given their respective sexes, body sizes, ages, and baseline strength levels—check out what Dr. Mike Israetel has to say on MRV (maximal recoverable volume), MEV (minimum effective volume), MAV (maximum adaptable volume, and MV (maintenance volume) for further reading! Of course, individual differences exist and should be accounted for in program design, too! Since they’re both fairly new to resistance training, higher rep ranges were used and overload (i.e., progression) was primarily accounted for by increasing volume. Furthermore, machine loaded exercises were used in order to maximize training effect without the skill requirements associated with free weight exercises. This is relevant since we wish to focus on building a basic foundation of muscular and neuromotor fitness before increasing the specificity of movement. That said, free weight exercises were introduced as training progressed to help them learn the movement patterns and body awareness needed for exercises in latter training blocks.

IMAGE Eric (left) and Zac reviewing the day’s program. Courtesy of Jill Cameron, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation.


Coming into the New Year, Zac and Ali will have developed a reasonable base on which we can build general strength to end off their GPP while maintaining the general muscular endurance they worked on earlier. Accessory movements used in this block of training will include practice of movements for higher priority exercises in the upcoming specific physical preparation phase (SPP). These movements will mostly be free weight exercises and use muscles in recruitment patterns more typical of their occupational demands while on Mount Logan.

The latest fitness assessments showed improvements in most training outcomes, and I look forward to seeing how Zac and Ali progress as we increase the intensity and specificity in this upcoming phase of training. Up until now, Zac and Ali’s programs have been fairly similar, but I intend to make slight adjustments in their programming in order to help provide them training that best accounts for their individual differences. I am excited to continue working with them in 2020 to get them ready for their May expedition!

Eric L.

Eric Ting Lai
Hanson Fitness and Lifestyle Centre,
Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, University of Alberta




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