What is LRJ? It stands for Lift-Run-Jump. Simply put, they are the three elements of performance training. This week, I want to give insight into the LRJ origin and how it shaped King Sports Training. See, I have an “ah ha!” moment every once in a while, though few and far between, I’ll take what I can get. This particular moment altered the course of my thinking enough to make a significant difference in my programming and training.
During the Olympic seasons, both winter and summer every couple years, I have the TV broadcast on even if I can’t watch because I want the energy permeating the atmosphere. Much like the World Cup, a global sports event is such a special thing. I consider having been a strength and conditioning coach at the Olympic level for both the US team and individual athletes as one of my greatest achievements.
At the time, NBC commissioned the famed American composer John Williams (known for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, among others) to do the theme song for their Olympic broadcasts. They are already so iconic, but this year he came out with a new one that took it to another level.
While most of his work is instrumental, for this he added lyrics. Just three words: “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” That itself is the official Olympic motto in Greek. In English, it means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.” Perfect attributes for any Olympian.
One day, while in the weightroom - game is on in the background - the broadcast came back from commercials and played the song. As the lyric “Citius, Altius, Fortius'' was sung while I was watching athletes do their workout, the “Ah-Ha!” came out of nowhere. I realized that no matter what you do training-wise, wherever you do it, whoever tells you to do it, whenever you do it and all the rest, you’re doing one or all of three things. You either lift or you run or you jump. Call it strength or speed or power or conditioning or complexes, it’s LRJ.
No matter what piece of equipment you are using, even with just body weight like push ups, you are lifting something. The principle is applying force against a resistance, even if that resistance is just gravity. Same goes for run and jump. There are varying degrees of intensity, but a lift is a lift and a run is a run.
I’ll excuse every possible “yeah, but…” because it’s not necessarily a huge paradigm shift. The point is, it translates. This helped my program design. I classified everything we were doing in one of those three categories which helped me easily quantify how much of each element was written into the program. If I recognized I had too much of one component, I scaled it back.
One way I hope this shapes your thinking is to be more cognizant of the overall workload of your program. Bouts are the word I use for an LRJ “event.” Each L, R and J event is considered a bout on the body and should be counted toward the total stress load on the athletes. The goal is to allow for the body to absorb the training and recover, so monitoring total bouts is a big part of program design. The key takeaway is that bouts are cumulative. You may have heard me say stress is cumulative–same concept.
Also, not all bouts are created equal. Change of direction is typically a more intense running bout. Depth jumps or weighted jumps are more intense than jump ropes. Off-season lifts can feature higher intensity. Sometimes it takes feedback from your athletes to really tell if there’s too much or not enough.
Then, of course, different seasons and levels affect the periodization of LRJ. Bench players, which may simply be younger athletes whose development is the highest priority, have a year-round “off-season.” They can have more training bouts than starters.
For front-line players, soreness can be counterproductive. Soreness, especially super soreness (not an academic term, just a characterization of being very sore), isn’t necessary for development. I like to say I major in minor soreness. It’s a misunderstood topic that we may spend more time on later down the road, but it always goes back to allowing your athletes to absorb the training and knowing when to pull back. More is not always better.
LRJ has the normal progression to it. With running, everybody learns how to run naturally, but you don't naturally learn how to run correctly. With lifting, becoming proficient in foundational movement patterns like the squat archetype are essential. Especially with our LGs - little guys and little gals - fundamentals are first. You can ramp up the LRJ as your athletes demonstrate the capacity.
So, as you watch some soccer (or maybe you call it football) these next couple weeks, just keep in mind that it has to start somewhere. Maybe one of the youth athletes you’re working with today has a chance to play in front of the world on a global stage tomorrow.