By: Regan Quaal
Who Founded Lactate Retention Method (LRM)
When training athletes the goal is always to use the most effective methods possible for the intended adaptation. While minimizing the risk of it affecting the athlete’s performance in their sport. In my opinion this means as coaches we should always be doing our best to stay up to date on the most effective training methods. This means we must be regularly communicating with other coaches who are at the forefront of our field, to figure out what they are doing differently that is yielding them such good results.
I first discovered the Lactate Retention Method when I worked for Cal Dietz at the University of Minnesota a few years back. I later found out he came upon this method through communication with Henk Kraaijenhof, who was the first to ever document it that Cal was aware of. This chain of communication goes to show as coaches it is our job to continually grow and perfect our practice no matter where we are at in our careers, so we can help our athletes be as successful as possible.
How LRM Was Discovered
Hank Kraaijenhof came about the idea for this method when he was having his track athletes perform high intensity intervals. Typically, when an athlete finishes an interval that produces lactate or “the burn” within their muscles, they are instructed to perform a light jog after the interval to “flush” their legs. Henk instead instructed his athletes to drop into a deep squat position immediately following the interval.
His reasoning for this was, if the sessions overall goal that day was to improve the athlete’s ability to tolerate lactic acid, then it made no sense to flush it out. He believed a more efficient way to improve the athlete’s lactic qualities would be to have them perform a deep squat after each interval. His rationale was that the deep squat would trap the lactic acid in the muscle, that was produced during the interval, so the muscle would “soak” in the lactic acid for a longer period of time. He believed that the additional time the muscle was in contact with the lactic acid would accelerate the athletes intra muscular buffer capacity. Giving his athletes the ability to tolerate higher levels of lactic acid (1).
Cal has since implemented these same methods with his hockey players at the University of Minnesota. He has implemented LRM in conjunction with many modes of exercise other than running, including lower body resistance training, stair sprints, extensive plyometrics and bike sprints.
What LRM is & its Implementation
The Lactate Retention Method (LRM) is the utilization of lactate for cellular adaptive purposes. Lactate is utilized in this method by performing an isometric movement immediately following an exercise interval that produces lactate.
The isometric movement, when performed in a deep position (or at a long muscle length), limits blood flow to and from the muscle. Its purpose is to trap the metabolites that were produced during the interval in the muscle. Once the metabolites have been trapped it forces the muscle to utilize them as efficiently as possible. The adaptations the muscle will make from this method will significantly improve an athlete’s lactate clearance rates and tolerance when lactic demands are required in sport.
When implementing the Lactate Retention Method any mode of exercise can be used as long as the two different major components of the method are followed.
1. Lactate must be produced during the initial exercise interval (generally meaning exercise must occur for 20-30 seconds at a minimum and the exercise must be performed at a high intensity)
2. The isometric exercise performed immediately after the initial interval must utilize the same muscle groups and be held at a long muscle length for a duration of 20-40 seconds
As long as both of those components are followed you will be enjoying the following adaptations:
· Improved lactate utilization
· Improved lactate threshold/tolerance
· Increased ability to sustain high power outputs for longer durations
LRM & Conditioning
The reason why this method is so beneficial is because it focuses solely on developing the athlete’s capacity to tolerate extremely lactic states. This improved capacity will transfer to improved performance when lactate demands are required.
Utilizing LRM is more efficient than traditional lactic intervals for conditioning because it extends the period of time your muscles are in a lactate state without you having to perform additional work. Below is an example:
Traditional Lactic Intervals:
1:00 Bike@90% / 1:00 Rest x 8 = 8 min. work
LRM Lactic Intervals:
:40 sec Bike@90% + :20 sec squat isometric / 1:00 Rest x 8 = 5:20 min. work
· Same lactic state duration with less work (2:40 or 33% less work)
· Less mechanical damage from biking/interval action of choice
· Decreased amount of fatigue, more energy to put towards sport skill
Video demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is2ka41oCF4
LRM & Resistance Training
The LRM can also be applied to resistance training. I regularly use it during phases that utilize higher volume too target increasing the athlete’s muscle cross sectional area. I personally do not find it ideal to prescribe higher rep ranges to the major multi-joint movements, like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. I have found it often creates compensation patterns (over use of the low back/erectors) when the athlete becomes fatigued during the latter reps of the set and increases the risk of injury. To counter this negative I keep the volume on my main lifts lower and perform isometrics immediately following the completion of the main lift, to get the benefits of higher times under tension.
Another benefit I’ve discovered when implementing LRM is that utilizing an unloaded isometric after a heavy multi joint movement gives the athlete’s an improved sense of body awareness. It forces them to become more conscious of their body position and if the correct muscles are firing when performing, allowing them to make correction before completing their next heavy set. Below is an example of how I utilize LRM during hypertrophy training.
Traditional Hypertrophy Training
Squat 3x10@65% (2:0:1) = 30 sec. T.U.T. each set
LRM Hypertrophy Training
Squat: 3x5@75% (2:0:1) + 20 sec squat isometric = 35 sec. T.U.T each set
· Increased duration of time under tension with less reps being performed
· Heavier loads utilized
· Less mechanical damage from loaded squatting action
· Improved body awareness (body positioning/correct muscles firing)
· Decreased overall fatigue and soreness
Video demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D68rVx0KY1U
Applying LRM to our Program
The great thing about the LRM is it can be applied to nearly any program as long as you abide by the two rules listed above. There are a few factors to keep in mind though if you want to use this method as effectively as possible. First, the adaptations that will be made are only local to muscles groups being trained with this method. It does not have a global effect on the entire body’s ability to tolerate and utilize lactate more effectively. Based on that, it’s best to apply this method to the specific muscle groups or movement pattern that have to deal with lactic demands regularly in your athlete’s sport, so choose wisely based on their specific needs. Below I have examples of how to apply it to the following major movement patterns:
Squat – Eccentric Emphasis
Split Squat – Eccentric Emphasis
Hinge – Eccentric Emphasis
Thrust – Eccentric Emphasis
Horizontal Push – Eccentric Emphasis
Vertical Push – Eccentric Emphasis
Horizontal Pull – Eccentric Emphasis
Vertical Pull – Eccentric Emphasis
Another factor to keep in mind is that the LRM can be used in conjunction with other training methods very effectively, especially in the weight room. The best time of year I have found to implement it is in the early off-season when training volume is high. During this time of year, I usually perform a phase with an eccentric emphasis then one with an isometric emphasis, following the Triphasic recommendations. Adding the LRM to either one of these phases is beneficial because it will build upon the already valuable benefits you are gaining by performing movement at low velocities. Plus, it will increase time under tension while minimizing fatigue and mechanical damage. Both above and below I have examples of utilizing LRM with isometric and eccentric based training.
Squat – Isometric Emphasis
Split Squat – Isometric Emphasis
Hinge – Isometric Emphasis
Horizontal Press – Isometric Emphasis
Vertical Press– Isometric Emphasis
Horizontal Pull– Isometric Emphasis
Vertical Pull– Isometric Emphasis
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Shakopee High School