“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”~Michael Crichton
Often those of us in the exercise science field far too often spend our time reading science journals instead of history books. Now before I receive a lot of hate mail, let me clarify what I mean. Science is a good thing when used properly. There is nothing wrong with science and we have made great strides in many areas because of it. History on the other hand is something that cannot be ignored. Yet, in the exercise science world we ignore it, and why? How many have commented that if we ignore history we damage the future?
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”~Alan Bennet
I was first introduced to the history surrounding the LaSierra High School PE (Physical Education) program during a summit in Iowa put on by one of our mentors. That is also where I met Ron Jones, a great friend and fellow zealot. Many great things came out of the summit and we are still learning many more from our notes. It was during this summit that I first heard the name Coach Stan LeProtti. It was also the first time I was introduced to the almost super human feats that many of the kids at LaSierra were doing!
I could not believe that in a few short weeks, with no more than fifty-five minutes of PE per day for five days per week, that these kids were able to do what was being claimed. I had never seen but a hand full of people ever do a handstand push up, yet here was video of many kids doing just that! Coming from a martial arts background, I have seen some amazing things, the stories of the Shaolin Monks come to mind when I think of the feats performed by the La Sierra kids. They were that amazing!
Fast forward a couple years later and there I was staring at all of Coach LeProtti’s work! I could not believe the things I was reading! To this day I will be grateful to his daughter for sharing his life’s work with us! And here it was right before my eyes! To say I was a kid in a candy store would be an understatement. I had the formula! (Que evil scientist maniacal laugh)
The reason I was ecstatic was because I had just been tasked with creating a class called Get Fit for the general population at the University of North Dakota. I would be able to design a class for the Kinesiology Department that helped students literally Get Fit. And in my hands was the formula to do just that.
“There have been countless applications and methods of applying techniques that we stumbled on in the laboratory and in training that I thought were original discoveries. Yet, I always found that some systems were had already been utilizing the “tactic” in some form for several hundred years. Although all of the PPCT pressure points were developed by physicians, without the influence of martial arts, I found it quite ironic that all of the PPCT pressure points have been known for over one thousand years.” ~Bruce K. Siddle – PPCT Founder
Bruce knows exactly what Ron and I had discovered. That despite all of the science being used out there it was already known by someone before us, and someone much smarter. Now I have studied many programs from modern day and from yesterday, and to this day the history programs can easily compete with modern ones. The question for me was how do I prove that these programs can get results? So with the Get Fit class and the LaSierra formula, I decided that since I already test the students with a pre and post test, what better opportunity than to see what kind of results this could get. Now I know this is not a double blind mocha latte study, and personally I don’t care. Why? Because in the martial arts world if something does not work you can get hurt or die, it is that simple. So if these students get even a quarter of the results that the LaSierra kids did, then I would have proof that this program, a program that had not been active since LaSierra closed in 1983, works. Now this was not a university sanctioned study, it was just a search for a program that gets results for the general population by a PE teacher/coach.
This past fall semester of 2014, I ran an 8 week Get Fit class through the LaSierra formula. I combined it with a running program created by Col. Herman Koehler, the father of West Point and Army Physical Training. Following the program was really easy and it was fairly easy to implement because of my martial arts background. Once the class finished what I call the “learning phase” they would have roughly five weeks on the program three times per week for fifty minutes. In actuality they worked for roughly forty-five minutes.
When I test the students, I use the following: 300 shuttle run with a two-minute rest and then repeat. This tells me the recovery ability of a student after an all-out effort that takes approximately one minute or more to complete. Coincidently, this test was also used in the La Sierra program also, I did not know that until recently. The other tests consist of a one minute timed max effort. Those tests are: dead hang pull ups for men and a flexed arm hang for women, sit-ups, push-ups, and full range bodyweight squats. There were roughly fifteen students in the class, and through the duration I had zero injuries. Also of note is that every other week for one class period, I would let the students play Hooverball. (I would love to share more on Hooverball, but that would be better served for another Lean Berets article. The rules can be found with a quick online search.)
I am not going to get all “sciencey” and throw averages, means, and medians at you. Instead I will share some of the individual results. Please also note that these are all typical results for the class. Probably the most interesting result was from a female student that is in the military, her last PFT (Physical Fitness Test) was a 150 out of 300. After three weeks into the class, she scored a 220. She also related to me that she was doing no other training at the time. Here are some of her other numbers: 300 shuttle: 18 second difference on initial testing to a 5 second difference on post testing. Push-ups she increased by 12, Sit-ups increased by 6. She also added 25 seconds to her flexed arm hang and increased her squat test by one.
Here are a few of the other results: Male student Run: From a 5 second difference to a 2 second. Push-ups increased by 10, No change on sit-ups or pull ups, however there was an increase in 8 squats.
Male student: Run initial 17 second difference to a 1 second difference. Everything else on his chart increased, push-ups by 9, sit-ups by 3, pull-ups doubled, and squats by 10. This student was very out of shape when the class started.
These were just a few of the numbers achieved by the students, there should also be a few notes to consider as well. The formula I had was not the full program as the LaSierra kids did it. This has since been rectified and I am currently using it correctly as it was done in LaSierra, and will have some new numbers by the end of March. Another area is the law of diminishing returns, what that says is that results like this get smaller the more trained a person gets. That is very true for most people who start any program. The average person makes a lot of gains initially and then after a while the gains get smaller the more fit a person becomes. What makes this different is of the three examples the second student was already in really good conditioning and was able to break through a training plateau that he was stuck on for the last two years. The really interesting part of the LaSierra system is that the really important part only takes 15 minutes to go through!
The system works, even today. What makes this exciting is that if we can work together to bring this program back, we will be able to change some major issues facing our country today. Today we are a nation of spectators. We have become what President John F. Kennedy feared. The challenge President Kennedy laid down all those years ago, to be a nation that plays on the field and does not just spectate, rings more true today than ever! Let us band together as Americans and bring this program back, not just for our country but for our children.