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Insane intervals with Scot Prohaska


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A who’s-who list of top pro athletes has run the Manhattan Beach sand dune as part of their conditioning programs: Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce of the NBA; Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzales of the NFL; Tito Ortiz and Roger Huerta of the UFC; Rob Blake and Petr Sykora of the NHL.

When my good buddy Scot Prohaska, a top strength coach, invited me out to the dune last summer for his “Sunday Ritual,” I foolishly agreed.

The sand dune is more than 100 yards long and 50 yards wide, with 45 degrees of incline. Just walking up the thing can shoot your heart rate past 170 beats per minute. Imagine what happens when you try running it.

I surprised fellow Testosterone contributor Nate Green with a 7:45 A.M. wake-up call, and had him meet me in the lobby of the Long Beach Hyatt for what I said would be a “light recovery workout.” Yeah, that was mean.

Craig Weller, JB, and Nate Green preparing for a "light recovery workout."
Craig Weller, JB, and Nate Green preparing for a “light recovery workout.”

Scot picked us up at 8:15. On the way over to the dunes, he outlined the workout:

At this point, I had a nice laugh at Nate’s expense. Then I noticed that Scot was also chuckling, only he didn’t seem to be looking at Nate when he did it. I’d figure out why as soon as I got my first glimpse of the dune.

The view from the top.
The view from the top.

We warmed up for 10 minutes with Scot’s athletes, and then started the workout. My legs were on fire after the first climb. Nate’s legs felt like one big muscle, with no knees.

Halfway up the hill on the second set, Nate auditions for a Kiss tribute band.
Halfway up the hill on the second set, Nate auditions for a Kiss tribute band.

By the end of the third interval, the one where we shuffled sideways to the top, we knew why Scot’s athletes are some of the best conditioned in the world. But what was truly scary was realizing we were still walking up the dune. The sprinting had yet to begin.

JB and Scot do the sand-dune shuffle.
JB and Scot do the sand-dune shuffle.

If you want to see what the sprints look like, click here. (And notice the group at the top of the dune taunts the group that’s sprinting. Tough crowd.) But I can describe it simply enough: eight of the 20 athletes training that day puked in the sand. I didn’t, but Nate did.

Nate, right after losing his coffee (vomit not shown).
Nate, right after losing his coffee (vomit not shown).

But we still had more work to do —push-ups, running stairs, and then climbing the dune one more time.

It's all downhill from here.
It’s all downhill from here.

The workout took just over 60 minutes, after which a dozen of us went to a local breakfast spot to clean them out of eggs, fruit, veggies, and whole-grain toast. Oddly enough, it was actually a good time, despite all the vomit.

That’s why I wanted to give you a chance to get in on the fun. I talked Scot into sharing some of his creative interval workouts. These are workouts he does with the elite athletes he trains, to supplement their strength training, plyometrics, and high-quality sprint work. And, like the sand-dune workout, they’re all fun and just a little bit crazy.

Workout #1 – The Petr Sykora

Sykora, right wing for the Pittsburg Penguins, has played in the NHL finals four times in 12 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1999-2000. He trains with Scot in the offseason. This is one of his favorite workouts.

He prefers to do it in the sand, but you can try it anywhere you can drag a sled and toss a medicine ball — both of which you’ll need to do this workout.

Warm up, then grab the medicine ball, with your sled loaded and ready for use.

Rest 180 seconds, then repeat the circuit one or two times.

Workout #2 — The Last Woman Standing

Scot named this one after middle-distance runner Roseline Agboke, who has won two national championships at 800 meters. It’s been known to make grown men cry.

You’ll need a stopwatch and either a track or another surface that allows for uninterrupted sprints of varying distances.

After you warm up:

Rest 120 seconds, then repeat four or five times.

Workout #3 — The Fighter’s Rite of Passage

This workout isn’t named after any particular fighter, but instead is prized by all the fighters Scot trains. If you want to do this workout with Scot, you have to be invited by one of them.

You don't need an invitation from Tito Ortiz to get tapped out by the fighter's interval-training program.
You don’t need an invitation from Tito Ortiz to get tapped out by the fighter’s interval-training program.

No invitation? You can try it on your own to see what you’re missing.

After warming up:

Depending on your conditioning level and sanity, you can either repeat the workout or go home.

Workout #4 — The Gut Check

Scot uses this circuit with his athletes every few months to gauge their conditioning and mental toughness. All you need is a stopwatch.

After a warm-up, start your stopwatch, and do the following:

Look at your stopwatch. When it hits two minutes, repeat the circuit. So if you did the first circuit in 90 seconds, you get to rest for 30 seconds. If you needed 1:45 to finish, then you only get to rest for 15 seconds. (See a video of the entire circuit here.)

Repeat until you can’t go again.

Scot pits his athletes against each other. They repeat the circuit until only one of them is left standing. On a good day, he says, his athletes can complete the circuit eight to 10 times.

So there you have it: five creative interval workouts, counting the first one on the sand dune. There’s at least one good option for any time of the day or year, and any type of indoor or outdoor facility or location. Your only limitations are the ones you put on yourself.

Just one piece of advice: Don’t do them alone. Drag a group of buddies out and make sure you challenge each other. You’ll give your workouts a motivating jolt, and you’ll all end up in bad-ass shape.

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