Saturation Workouts Hospitalize Iowa Hawkeyes
Saturation Workouts Hospitalize Iowa Hawkeyes

Yesterday the Associated Press reported on thirteen football players from the University of Iowa being hospitalized after a workout that included 100 squats.

Highlights of the article:

– they were all diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, “a stress-induced syndrome that can damage cells and cause kidney damage and even failure in severe cases”

– even with severe muscle soreness and discolored urine they did more workouts

– Thursday, 100 squats and pull a sled 100 yards; Friday, (while having unusual pain) upper body workout!; Monday, another workout!

– the athletes are expected to ensure better hydration in the future

Let’s hope all 13 of them make full recoveries and don’t continue to pay the price of compromised health in later adult years. Every football season high school and college football coaches engage in lethal training regimens (about 10 football players die every year from dehydration) and it all stems from the macho, bonehead “make ’em tough” training that displaces reason and finesse with saturation and overkill. Literal overkill.

Just as bad, these philosophies filter down through all strength training so when Joe Accountant, and Suzy Lawyer decide to improve their health by lifting weights they inherit the sick, stupid legacy of this bonehead mentality. More volume, multiple exercises per muscle group, multiple sets every workout, no pain – no gain. Too tired to do your workout? Don’t rest – do a different workout to ‘confuse your muscles’ and ‘keep it fresh’. Coaches, personal trainers, magazine articles and workout-de-jour books all tout more and more of the above.

Matt Hayes at Sporting News says this, “Is this really what we’ve come to? After Rashidi Wheeler collapsed and died during a conditioning test at Northwestern. After Devaughn Darling collapsed and died after mat drills at Florida State. After Dale Lloyd collapsed and died at the end of 16 100-yard sprints at Rice.”

And none of these coaches, trainers or workout authors wants any form of objective measurement, because that would put the lie to their ridiculous workout regimens. And next year ten more kids will die on the football practice field. Fortunately these thirteen were ‘only’ hospitalized.

Is it any wonder reasonable people like Joe and Suzy give up in the gym? Please . . . train with your brain.



  • Carl

    Excellent information, Pete. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Interestingly, I just saw this on the news, and then checked the SCT website for updates and voila here is the story. This craze is truly crazy. Take the Fitness Program Crossfit. I was initially impressed with the idea of Crossfit. They do some great stuff like olympic lifts, deadlifts, squats etc. What was puzzling to me as a trainer, was doing 50-100 reps of those lifts? And, that’s after doing a 1 rep max! Yes, I have seen their workouts and they do that. Oh, and they run X amount of meters, do 50 push-ups and 100 “ab mat” sit ups. They say that they “scale” the workouts for those less athletic. Fine. But, many people are competitive and “push-it.” Plus, they foster a competitive environment. I have encountered several Crossfitters who have come to my studio (Pilates) with injuries. I guess the only folks who will benefit from this crap are Neuro and Orthopedic surgeons. Very sad.

  • It’s all part of this trend of touting an exercise regimen as “insane” or “extreme.” Would any other aspect of health be sold to people as “insane”? Do you want an insane injury rehabilitation program? An insane stretching program? Insane thoracic surgery? Insane nutrition? And it’s not just silly – it’s irresponsible and it leads to young people dying in the pursuit of ‘insane’ ‘extreme’ workouts. Actions have consequences – and people in this business should be more responsible.

  • Kevin

    This is not even how the cavemen would train!
    No wonder so many sports men and women have terrible injuries after and during their competitive lives. Where is the coaches association tribunal in this? Why haven’t the local Coroners sought for an embargo on this type of clueless coaching? It goes to show that poor coaching is now wide spread. The time is right for SCT. Oh yes.

  • John Stephan

    Thanks for bringing this article to light Pete,
    The football coach who advocates training to that degree in my opinion should be tossed out on his ear. Better yet he should be forced to perform the same workout he foisted on his players.

    You’ve absolutely nailed this phenomenon on the head Pete.
    I believe It stems from the “more is better mentality” that certain bodybuilders advocated back in the 60’s and 70’s and surprisingly is still extant even to this day.
    The one person who best is described as the bonehead of boneheads in this regard would be none other than former Mr. America Steve Michalik. I cringe when I read some of his ridiculous workouts that he performed and advocated to his naive trainees. His training methods can only be described as torture because you would have to be literally insane to follow this man’s sadistic training regimen. For instance can you imagine doing sprints with a 100 lb dumbbell on your neck or performing 100 reps with a very heavy weight on a vertical leg press without stopping regardless if you were having a purple apoplexy. The only way a sane person could do this would be under the threat of having a cattle prod placed in your rear end and this was just warm up!!! The real workout followed….Rhabdomyolysis under his soft headed tutelage would be the starting point of when you knew you finally got to the muscles where a person would be literally pissing out damaged muscle fibers, evidenced by the Coca Cola coloured urine and the overall body ache.
    To make it even worse I read he has a book out entitled….get this….”ATOMIC TRAINING”!!… no doubt for the atom sized brains required to follow his advice.
    Some of his even more bizarre examples of attempting to add muscle relate to a time when Michalic plateaued (big surprise there) and couldn’t put on any more muscle despite using boat loads of steroids. This guy then resorted to eating monkey brains!! No exaggeration here, you cant make this crap up!
    If you want a nice case of rhabdomyolysis then follow the football coach’s and Steve Michalik’s training methods, you will need a new kidney in no time! Working out can literally kill you. There are many examples of athletes who followed the brainless advice of so called trainers who are sadly no longer with us.
    Seriously now the only way to train safely and properly with consistent progression is implementing the methods advocated by Pete Sisco where each movement is quantified. Everything else is guesswork and leads to either under training or even worse, over training and injury and even death. Each one of those 13 football players is lucky to be alive.


  • Thanks, John. Hey, don’t sugarcoat it. Tell us what you really think. Haha. Those examples certainly epitomize the macho mentality of trying to operate at the threshold of unbearable pain and permanent damage. And these just don’t seem to realize how most people have zero interest in training that way. People want results with the minimum of pain, not the maximum. And you nailed it with the quantification. Measurement is where the macho hype ends and the science starts. I think that’s exactly why these guys avoid the topic.

  • i hate to say i told you so, ummm
    i called this just the other day in my post about rhabdomyolysis
    i have had workouts that i think were too much, even with isometrics.
    this is a terrible thing and i hope people are called out for it and the word gets out to change the status quo.

  • It seems like these coaches are all preoccupied with maximum dosage prescriptions. “What’s the most these kids can do without dying?” I wish they would ask, “What’s the least they can do to be in peak condition?”

  • Dave Neely

    I wonder if part of this for the football coaches is trying to generate adversity and teaching the team how to endure and overcome it in the hopes that it will translate onto the field during a tough game. They are literally risking their players’ lives for this and not even making them better athletes. There has to be a better way to instill this type of toughness.

  • John Stephan

    thanks Pete,

    I know we have had our laughs at the expense of the cement head training concepts out there but what you have brought to light underscores just how deadly serious it is to not train with your brain and blindly follow the latest crazy muscle shredding,blasting torture session. There are well intentioned athletes out there whose only crime was to not question the advice they were given and then ended up permanently disabled or dead from Rhabdo. (rhabdomyolysis)
    I have experienced rhabdo twice in my life and each time it occurred was due to high volume, high intensity training after a lengthy layoff where the eccentric phase was emphasized,the first time I experienced rhabdo I was following the latest 80’s bodybuilding craze appropriately called “Psycho Blast” by Denie, remember that one?! it called for lifting as heavy a weight for a ludicrously slow amount of time in both the concentric and eccentric phase of the lift. I’m shaking my head I as recall the tremendous tension headaches I got as payment for following that stupid routine while performing full squats with 400lbs on the bar. If I didn’t die from rhabdo I was certain to kill myself from a self induced brain aneurysm. INSANITY INDEED!!!
    Interestingly I found out that there are only two species of animals that are susceptible to rhabdo and that is human beings and horses and for humans it is only male of the species that are prone to it. It is also believed to occur during the eccentric part of the contraction i.e. the lowering of the weight.
    So what does this tell us then?
    Not only does full range training not only generate tremendous shear forces to the joint that could potentially wear it out sooner but also to the muscle cell walls themselves which once ruptured release vast amounts of potassium and myoglobin into the blood stream where it subsequently takes out the kidneys. Yet another reason to avoid full range workouts and opt instead to employ SCT as it eliminates the eccentric part of the lift where rhabdo is likely to occur. If you are the type of individual who is susceptible to extreme muscle soreness after exertion then PFT should only be performed as described by Pete Sisco to your own level of fitness. Like Pete says “train with your brain.”


  • For grins, (or should I say teeth grinds) here is a sample of a Crossfit Workout take “directly” out of their website as a “workout of the day”. This is actually a “tame” workout.
    Warm Up (15 Minute Cap)

    Hip Mobility

    Run 400 Meters NFT (not for time)

    3 Sets of Back Squats 5 – 8 reps @ 30 – 50%
    Strength Workout

    Back Squat
    If you are on week #1-
    Set #1 is 5 reps @ 65% of your “working” one rep max.
    Set #2 is 5 reps @ 75%
    Set #3 is 5 reps (or more) @ 85%

    Conditioning Workout
    Start with a 400 Meter Run then
    3 Rounds of
    10 Overhead Squats 135M/95W
    50 Double Unders
    Finish off with another 400 Meter Run

  • These guys with the saturation programs never cease to amaze me. It’s like having a mild tension headache and these guys tell you to take two Vicodin and then two Percodan and then two Oxycontin – then they proudly sit back and say, “See? I told you that would kick the ass of your headache. Boo yah!” I’m the guy saying “try half an Aspirin and putting a hot towel on the back of your neck.” The macho mentality is keeping these guys from seeing the obvious – any advanced technology is about getting more for less.

  • Pete,I have read your articles for quite some time now and have yet to try your approach.Certainly it is a matter of history that many old time strong men did heavy support work which sounds very much like your ideas in some respects.

    As a long time instructor I can only agree with so many things that you have said about the silly ideas you read in the muscle comics about muscle confusion etc.In fact I have almost laughed out loud at times at your very timely exposure of such nonsense.Truly the training world is a veritable sea of nonsense in so many areas that I am often left quite speechless by a lot of what I read.

    I to am quite worried about this trend to label exercises as extreme and insane.My general comment that would be -you would probably have to be insane to try them and the extreme results that you might get would be not likely those you hoped for.

    Speaking of stupid and macho one of the things that I have read and sometimes heard is the claim for example that no one knows what a hard squat workout is till they throw up etc.Presumably the more effective the workout the more vomiting must occur.I have sometimes sarcastically said of this one, that this is the science of bucket counting.It also presumably makes vomiting a goal, hardly sensible.

    Speaking of insane{and probably extreme too}is a group class of some sort held in a fashionable gym in London that involves the use of small metal balls that{ as far as I can tell}if they are not used fast enough in so called exercises, give the user an electric shock.Hard not to have contempt for this sort of thing.

  • If only they drilled and worked over the minds of these men half as much as their bodies. Oh but then they may start to question, haha
    Skill is a big part of the game, drill that and learn about real strength training.

  • Pete you should go on the facebook for Iowa and become friends with whomever is there and show them the light.

  • Thanks, Charlie. The Static Contraction Training facebook fan page is now up. Wish me luck. 😉

  • Exactly! That’s the giant benefit to sports teams from Static Contraction isometric training. It’s the fastest workout to get strong and it doesn’t deplete the body so all that extra time and recovery resources can be spent practicing the skills of the sport. It’s a huge win.

  • Thanks, Ed. Contempt is right. A negative feedback from an electric shock is appalling. Talk about not looking forward to your next workout. And, yes, I’ve hear that line about, “You haven’t done a real workout until you’ve puked halfway through it!” Again, a completely unsustainable exercise philosophy. Maybe that’s all they have since the positive reinforcement of from steady progress is not possible with their methods.

  • MikeW

    Just now seeing this. I saw something I found very disturbing a couple weekends ago in San Francisco. A few friends and I had gone for a hike out on Lands End, along the Pacific Ocean as it rounds the SF peninsula. It was a very warm day for January, near 70°. There was a group of about 6 Marines in uniform running about 30 teenagers up and down the cliff trails, carrying crates with MREs that they passed from one group to another while running and making them do push-ups, set ups, and other exertion exercises when they weren’t doing that. Some of these cliff trails are very steep with hundreds of feet of elevation. These kids were in varying degrees of fitness from overweight to underweight to fairly good shape. They weren’t inductees as they were in street cloths and still had their civilian hair. As a consequence of this extreme exertion, some were literally passing out. One overweight guy was down on all fours dry heaving unable to catch his breath. Another, very slender guy was lying on his back unable to stand up. Even once he was sitting up, he couldn’t get to his feet. My friends and I were all appalled at this, knowing it isn’t wise to put young bodies under this much physical stress without prior training and conditioning. I wanted to say something but on the other hand felt intimidated by the ‘macho military’ culture. I doubt it would have made much difference anyway other than make me feel better. I fully appreciate that our service men and women need to be strong and fit and need training, perhaps even extreme training in due course, to achieve these fitness goals. Pushing out-of-shape bodies to extremes, if not literally killing them, however, makes no sense at all!

  • Sorry to hear that story, Mike. About 11.5 recruits per year die during US military training and 69% of those are ‘exercise related’. 100% of those exercise deaths are avoidable. A senseless loss of young life.

  • I have now read a little about Cross Fit and have gone from being slightly interested to highly doubtful.Once again it all seems a bit macho,brainless and if sustained and I cannot believe it can be sustained for long will quite inevitably lead to bodily breakdown at a number of levels from muscle,joint issues to compromised immune systems and anything else in between.

    Personally I find it hard to understand why anyone would want to do any saturation type program to start with or continue for long.I can only assume that naivety is an element,as is the ability to rationalise hurt{no pain no gain,whatever does not kill us makes us stronger etc}and the desire to prove just how super tough you are{ whilst hiding the ant-inflammatory pills in the back pocket}A final element I think and this is often drawn out on cross fit sites I have looked at is a reaction against the big mass market gyms/fitness clubs which quite rightly derided for peddling nonsense via training and gimmicks like exercise on unstable surfaces,vibration plates etc.Cross Fit is seen by contrast as more real,authentic and not for wimps etc.Ah out of the frying pan and into the fire?