Reinhold Messner The world’s greatest mountaineer pushed the limits of human endurance

Reinhold Messner
The world’s greatest mountaineer pushed the limits of human endurance


The peculiar greatness of Reinhold Messner is grounded in a pure form of selfishness. His pas de deux with the world’s most inhospitable wildernesses have always been about measuring his own might, skill and especially will. “I am Sisyphus,” he has written, “and the stone which I push up the mountain is my own psyche.”

He has carried that heavy burden to the literal ends of the earth. Messner, 62, is not only the greatest high-altitude mountaineer the world has ever known; he is probably the best it will ever know. His 1980 solo ascent of Mount Everest by “fair means” — without sherpas, crevasse ladders or supplemental oxygen — remains the most primal test conceivable of man against the earth.

That ascent, and Messner’s subsequent conquest of the world’s 13 other peaks of 8,000 m or more, set the gold standard for mountaineering. “He had nobody’s footsteps to follow,” says Ed Viesturs, an American climber who completed the fair-means ascent of all 14 of those peaks in spring 2005. “After Messner, the mystery of possibility was gone; there remained only the mystery of whether you could do it.”

Messner’s obsession was formed early in the Dolomites and other Alpine ranges — he was born in a narrow German-speaking valley of Italy’s South Tyrol. His first venture to the Himalayas in 1970 ended in tragedy when his younger brother Günther died after summiting Nanga Parbat. Several members of that expedition accused Messner of abandoning his brother in an egotistical push to open a new route of descent, but the discovery of Günther’s body last year confirmed Messner’s contention that he had been killed by an avalanche.

Messner later traversed Greenland and the Gobi Desert, and tackled both poles by fair means. He served a term in the European Parliament for the Italian Green Party, and now heads a range of museums about the lure of mountains and raises a family back in South Tyrol, where it all began. He’s been decried as arrogant, defensive and abrasive. But in answering to no one but himself, Messner obeys a higher calling. His achievements will inspire lone wolves and stubborn dreamers for generations to come.

Who you calling stud?

Evidently the secret to nailing more bench press reps than I could do a week ago is being called stud.  Maybe because I never played sports I never really had nicknames growing up. So I’ve gotten a little thrill out of the casual nicknames I get at the gym — ‘killer’ and ‘big guns’ among my favorites.

Today I was meant to do three sets of 12 reps at 70% of 1-rep max on bench. Last week doing three sets of 10 I failed on #10 on the last set. So I was apprehensive about making 12 reps today. Visiting coach Max was there to spot though, and he stood ready, prepared to grab the bar if needed.

A word about Max. Within five minutes of meeting for the first time he’d asked what I can bench, squat and deadlift, how much I weigh, and what the exact color of my urine is. Not exactly cocktail party conversation, perhaps, but I didn’t find it odd in the slightest to have this conversation after completing one of his workouts. Now that he knew my vitals he could help me achieve my goals. And one of them is to get to triple digits on my bench.

So though he was there for my safety, he was also there for inspiration, reminding me to keep my form correct, telling me when to speed up, and in general, rooting for me.  Getting wavery towards the end of each set, I slowed down and began to doubt I could keep getting that weight up. But there’s no room for doubt with a booming “You got it, stud!” coming from above your head. You’re calling me a stud, well, I just have no choice but to lift that weight, and do it again, and again. So I nailed all 12 reps on all three sets, getting 7 more reps than I was able to last week. Maybe I am a stud, after all!


Speed Training

What is speed?

Speed is the quickness of movement of a limb, whether this is the legs of a runner or the arm of the shot putter. Speed is an integral part of every sport and can be expressed as any one of, or combination of, the following: maximum speed, elastic strength (power) and speed endurance.

How is speed influenced?

Speed is influenced by the athlete’s mobility, special strength, strength endurance and technique.

Energy system for speed

Energy for absolute speed is supplied by the anaerobic alactic pathway. The anaerobic (without oxygen) alactic (without lactate) energy system is best challenged as an athlete approaches top speed between 30 and 60 metres while running at 95% to 100% of maximum. This speed component of anaerobic metabolism lasts for approximately eight seconds and should be trained when no muscle fatigue is present (usually after 24 to 36 hours of rest)

How do we develop Speed?

The technique of sprinting must be rehearsed at slow speeds and then transferred to runs at maximum speed. The stimulation, excitation and correct firing order of the motor units, composed of a motor nerve (Neuron) and the group of muscles that it supplies, makes it possible for high frequency movements to occur. The whole process is not very clear but the complex coordination and timing of the motor units and muscles most certainly must be rehearsed at high speeds to implant the correct patterns.

Flexibility and a correct warm up will affect stride length and frequency (strike rate). Stride length can be improved by developing muscular strength, power, strength endurance and running technique. The development of speed is highly specific and to achieve it we should ensure that:

  • Flexibility is developed and maintained all year round
  • Strength and speed are developed in parallel
  • Skill development (technique) is pre-learned, rehearsed and perfected before it is done at high speed levels
  • Speed training is performed by using high velocity for brief intervals. This will ultimately bring into play the correct neuromuscular pathways and energy sources used

When should speed work be conducted?

It is important to remember that the improvement of running speed is a complex process that is controlled by the brain and nervous system. In order for a runner to move more quickly, the leg muscles of course have to contract more quickly, but the brain and nervous systems have to learn to control these faster movements efficiently. If you maintain some form of speed training throughout the year, your muscles and nervous system do not lose the feel of moving fast and the brain will not have to re-learn the proper control patterns at a later date.

In the training week, speed work should be carried out after a period of rest or light training. In a training session, speed work should be conducted after the warm up and any other training should be of a low intensity.

Speed Workouts

Event Speed Session
100 metres 10 × 30 metres at race pace from blocks with full recovery
3 to 4 × 80 metres at race pace with full recovery
800 metres 5 × 200 metres at goal race pace with 10 seconds recovery
4 × 400 metres at 2 to 3 seconds faster than current race pace with 2 minutes recovery
1500 metres 4 × 400 metres at goal race pace with 15 to 10 sec recovery
4 to 5 × 800 metres at 5 to 6 seconds per 800 metres faster than goal race pace with 6 minutes recovery
5,000 metres 4 to 5 × 800 metres at 4 seconds per 800 metres faster than goal race pace with 60 seconds recovery
3 × 1 mile at 6 seconds per mile faster than goal race pace with 2 minutes recovery
10,000 metres 3 × 2000 metres at 3 seconds per 200 metres faster than goal race pace with 2 minutes recovery
Five 5 min intervals at current 5km race pace with 3 minutes recovery
Marathon Six 1 mile repeats at 15 seconds per mile faster that goal race pace with 1 minute recovery
3 × 3000 metres at 10km race pace with 6 minutes recovery




by Paul Brueske

Let me start by saying I think Louie SImmons is in fact an strength training genius. I feel his training program is ideal for powerlifters and there is no doubt it is an effective training routine for anyone seeking to improve their strength and power. However, after studying Louie’s program extensively I have found many reasons why high school coaches and in many cases college coaches should not use his routine with their student athletes.

1. In the typical high school strength program there is usually a large number of student- athletes training at once. Moreover, coaches oftentimes must work under the time constraints of a class period. Therefore, using chains, bands and many Louie’s special exericses is simply not practical in this type of setting.

2. Louie doesn’t feel olympic style lifting is needed. Maybe not for powerlifting but in throwing its a must. Throwing and the sport of weightlifting are total-body efforts in which proficient performance is directly related to full extension of the hips, knees, and ankles. Olympic style lifting is the most sport-specific lifting a thrower can do. Not only do the olympic lifts require strength, they also require coordination, balance, flexibility, technique. (The same ingredients a successful thrower must have) The traditional powerlifts DO NOT incorporate these concepts to the extent that the olympic lifts do. Virtually all top throwers are also very accomplished in the Olympic lifts. Ask any world class thrower what lifts they feel are the most beneficial and you will undoubtedly hear the “olympic style lifts “mentioned.

3. Louie’s training program is individualized in that it targets an individual’s weaknesses. This is a very sound concept. However, when your supervising a group of 60-100+ athletes at once it is practically impossible to design an individualized routine for that number. In a high school setting, you might be able to target general weaknesses that several members of a team share such as lack of explosive power, but it is not possible to effectively tailor a routine for each athlete and still run an efficient and organized weight lifting class period. It is just not practical.