Middlesex University 9th Annual S&C Student Conference 10th March 2018

Yesterday I went to Middlesex University for the  9th Annual Strength and Conditioning Student Conference.  I think I’ve only missed one since they started!

As always it was nice to catch up with a few colleagues and I was particularly delighted to hear Perry Stewart speak, who had previously worked for me some years ago before his role with QPR and more recently his role as Lead Academy S&C coach (U9-16) at Arsenal FC.

Perry Stewart- Title: Understanding the Youth Athlete- From Theory to Practice

Perry split his talk up into three parts which I have discussed below but he started off with an important point.

Youth S&C Coach as a Career

I wholeheartedly agreed with Perry who made a passionate point that too often working with youths is seen as a right of passage for less experienced coaches to gain their experience on route to working with the pros.  As Perry said, it is a specific population that needs a specific expertise, along with a lot of experience.

It’s so rewarding because you’re starting with a blank slate- you are building the foundations rather than trying to re-build them.

So now on to the three elements of his talk:

Football as a Business

Perry asked that no one took photos of his presentation but I can say that Perry revealed some fascinating insights into the business that is professional football.  He highlighted the huge sums of money it costs to put together a team.  Now it wasn’t such a surprise to me that the top teams in Europe have assembled a squad at a cost in the region of £500 million pounds (Man City, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Man United, Barcelona).  But what was more surprising was how much it costs to support an Academy player for a season.

U9-U11 £3000 per year

U12-U15 £40,000 per year

U16-U17 £300,000 per year

U18 £500,000 per year

Pro £££££££££££ (based on contract)

Perry said that the chances of an Academy player making a debut in the Premier League are less than 0.05% (I think!!) meaning it is more likely they will be struck by an meteorite!!!  And I think the chances of them getting a professional contract were still less than 1%.   Given the huge costs to run an Academy and the percentage of players making it professionally a number of Academies have closed.


Growth & Maturation

Perry went into a lot of detail on the way Arsenal use the Peak Height Velocity (PHV) to report back to the coaches on their development.  He mentioned the Robert Mirwald (2002) maturity offset (age at/ of PHV) calculation as well as the Khamis-Roche method (% Predicted Adult Height).  During PHV you can sometimes see the adolescence ‘awkwardness’ where athletes are like baby giraffes or bambi on ice!!  During this time you may need to modify the training somewhat.

Such as:

  • reduce reduction of the same tasks- use lots of variety
  • periodisation- modulate volume and intensity
  • gradually increase workload- avoid acute spikes in training load

Arsenal categorisations for Khamis Roche method:

  • Pre PHV <85%
  • Approaching PHV 85-89%
  • Circa 90-95%
  • Post >96%

Typically Arsenal takes measurements quarterly although will increase them to every 6-8 weeks if they are circa PHV.  For further info please see this presentation by Dr. Sean Cummings Practical-case-study-of-using-maturation-assessments-and-sport-Sean-Cumming-UK

Arsenal Training System

Apologies as I can’t remember the specific titles for each phase but it went something like this:

Motor competency >> Overload phase >> Specificity >> Periodisation and Planning

You develop the skills (how well you do it) then you add some load to the skills (how well and how much you do).  After that you apply the skills to the sport (how fast you do it) and finally you build the skills into a more targeted annual plan.  He concluded with two videos showcasing some of the drills and how they are progressed from U9-U16 for speed and then strength.


Dr. Ben Rosenblatt- Title: Physically preparing teams to win major international tournaments

I have known of Ben’s work and reputation for several years having followed him in his roles as a senior rehabilitation scientist for the BOA and EIS, and Senior S&C Coach for the Olympic winning GB Women’s Hockey team.  Ben now is the Lead Men’s Physical Performance Coach for the FA.

Ben split his presentation into three areas too:

  • Training Durability
  • Tournament Durability
  • Game Impact

He started by asking the question we should all ask as S&C coaches- but in a slightly different way.  Normally the question is ”what are the physical demands of the sport?”  If you know this you can prepare for it.  But he asked instead,

who are the most PHYSICALLY CAPABLE OF TOLERATING the demands of training?

Who are the players in the team who seem to be always turning up to every training session ready to get after it, that don’t pick up many knocks or illnesses?

Training Durability:

I was interested to see that Ben has been using a jump profile to measure physical characteristics that might be related to training durability.  But unlike concentric measures of power or force he was focusing on eccentric measures.  This makes sense as it is the deceleration components that place the most stress on the body!

He was looking at both the speed of the eccentric lowering phase of the jump but also the depth.  It appears that those athletes that can drop deeper but faster and can then obviously arrest that momentum in the time needed to deliver the jump are most robust.  They are typically the strongest (1.7 x BW Back squat) and have a mean power on the eccentric phase of 8 W/kg performing the jump in under 0.5 seconds and a depth of 40cm.

Is it a surprise that stronger athletes are most durable? No! But it is good to see a test that is sensitive enough to discriminate between the athletes who get fatigued by a tough session and those that actually respond positively to it.

Doing more work than normal

Ben was able to show that stronger players have a potentiation effect (jump performance) the day following a match/session where you have to do more work than normal.

Fit players sleep better

Players who score more than 20.5 on a 30-15 test ease to sleep better.  Equally unfit players who also have to do a high training load are going to experience significantly larger amount of fatigue.

Tournament Durability

Essentially this part of the talk can be summarised as ‘Training tougher than a Match.’  Ben highlighted that in a week where he wanted the team to get after it (in a previous training camp) he used GPS to record workrate and specific percentage of time in high speed running zones (>5 m/s).  He found that only 8% was above match intensity in the training.

He spoke to the coaches about needing to get them to be training at higher loads than in a match during this period and they constructed a few drills to specifically address this such as a 4 vs 4 game in a 60 x 40 Yd. pitch where the ball could only be played forward.  This encouraged a lot of movement ahead of the ball to keep possession.

Game Impact

Ben asked two questions:

  • What matters most?
  • What’s easiest to change?

He said he spoke to the Head coach and his summary of the hockey strategy was they need to jump back harder and get ahead of the ball harder!! Basically they needed to be faster at retreating when they lost possession of the ball (GET BACK) and faster at advancing ahead of it when they gained possession (GET THERE), and do it for the entire match (LAST THE GAME).

Planned vs. Programme Change of Direction

GB Hockey prided themselves on being the fittest team in world hockey but one of the things Ben found was that players were very slow to redirect their changes of direction when they needed to respond to an opponent/change of possession etc.  He said they were all very good at doing high speed shuttle drills but this was a closed drill with an anticipatory change of direction.

Biomechanics tells us that the deceleration loads of unplanned directional changes are much higher than planned directional changes.  You spend more energy taking longer to change direction!  So he spent some time on doing more unplanned high speed changes of direction to make more of an impact on game day!


  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

=> Follow us on Facebook

=> Follow us on Instagram

=> Follow us on Twitter

Physical Conditioning for different game styles

Hey Everyone.  I recently had the privilege to be invited back to speak at the Master Performance Coach Level 5 tennis coach qualification, at the National Tennis.

I was asked to speak about how to physically prepare for different game styles.  I had recorded the presentation separately as a webinar so you can hear what I had to say!  Hope you enjoy.

Understanding the Demands of Tennis

It should always be at the forefront of any strength & conditioning coaches mind the question:  What are the ‘physical’ demands of the sport and who are the athletes that are most physically capable of tolerating the demands of the sport?

The likes of Raphael Nadal have spoken out about the stress on the body of the current tournament schedule.  But I am still exacerbated that in 2018 there is still very little data on the ‘mechanical loading’ of elite Tennis.  From personal communication with trainers who work with Top 100 players on the tour, I know that it is possible to pay for the Hawk Eye data- which costs £250 per match.  Hawk eye uses a camera to track player movements and from this you can determine distance covered in the match.

Thankfully there are promising signs that technology advancement in Tennis is catching up with the needs of the coaches.  For years accelerometers and GPS technology have been redundant in Tennis because the discrete movements of tennis players which take place over short distances have been too difficult to accurately detect with GPS units.

From speaking to Matt Little I know that he uses a catapult system with Andy Murray.  From this technology he can calculate player load for each session using the accelerometer and he can use the GPS to measure distance covered and highest speeds reached.  Apparently the GPS can actually work inside- he has used it successfully in bubbles, and the next break through will be being able to get feedback on what percentage of time Andy spends accelerating to and decelerating from particular speeds.

So for me knowing how much load is going through a player across the course of the competitive calendar is the key thing to know first and I hope that the Performance Analysis teams will be able to shed some light on this over the next few years.

In the meantime we have to make some assumptions about the likely demands of the sport on our players and acknowledge that different types of game styles may put different demands on the body.  I maintain the belief that at the top level of the game a tennis player has to be able to do all the different game styles at some point and we need to be able to prepare for all of them.  However, I do believe tennis players (like all elite athletes) win because of their strengths so of course we need to be mindful of what they do best- what the physical demands are of that playing style- and devote enough training time to prepare specifically for that.

Demands of a particular Game style

Power Game- Big Serve/Forehand 

Need muscle strength and power to hit fast serves and groundstrokes that can enable them to hopefully finish the point off with one or two more shots.  There are different types of athletes who employ this type of game style.  Obviously the big tall men and women will use this game style.  Think of Maron Cilic and Kevin Anderson.  The tall athletes may also lack the movement skills so need to work hard on their speed and agility so that they can stay in the rally if a counter puncher can turn the point around.

The other type of athlete who can successfully use this game style is the likes of Roger Federer.  While he is known as an ‘all court’ player his recent success at the Australian Open 2018 was built on a very effective 1st serve where he won 81% of points on his 1st serve.  He finished 75% of his points in the tournament in under 5 shots, compared to Maron Cilic (69%), and Rafa Nadal (58%).  He was also able to hit a forehand immediately after his 1st serve in 86% of the time from an imposing 2.07m inside the baseline.

Attacking baseliner

Similar to the Power game they also need muscle strength and power.  However this game style may not be able to rely on a big serve or massive ground stroke to win easy points.  They will be looking to maintain pressure on their opponents by maintaining a strong court position on the baseline and taking time away from their opponent with several aggressive ground strokes.  They will need quickness to get off the mark and good footwork to maintain steady balance.  They will also need a high level of anaerobic fitness so they can keep a high intensity throughout the match using short sharp bouts of explosive work with incomplete recovery.

All court player

Similar to attacking baseliner but they will also look to attack players with accuracy (not just power) and they have a willingness to approach the net regularly.  They do not serve particularly big, or play with huge power from the baseline but instead look to rely on a variety of skills in both attack and defence to disrupt their opponent.  They may come forward to the net whether serving and volleying or approaching from the baseline.  They will therefore need to be explosive to move forward quickly, cover the net and get up for smashes.  They will also need great speed and footwork to take the ball early and play at a high tempo to take time away from their opponent.  They will also need a good all round fitness as they will be moving forward a lot.

Counter punchers

This game style is often suited to someone who lacks a major weapon that allows them to consistently win shorter points, so they base game around developing a higher level of fitness.  They use the pace of the opponent and they are more likely to move deeper behind the baseline to give them more time to hit the ball.  This means they will often cover a lot more ground and rely on wearing their opponents down by making them play another shot.  Fitness has to be very high for this player.


Training Sessions for a Specific Game style

As far as training videos go I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of video footage of training I do with my athletes.  I need to get better at that!

But for some examples of a couple of ideas for how you could work on specific qualities for different games styles check out these below:

Attacking baseliner/all court player- Roger Federer warm-up

Notice the explosive movements laterally and up/back.  Federer won 75% of all his points in less than 5 shots at the recent Australian Open 2018 so he is looking to move aggressively into the court following behind his very effective first serve.  In fact Federer was able to hit a forehand after his first serve 86% of the time at an imposing 2.07m inside the baseline.  His warm-up, his speed work and even his stamina work will ideally be about doing high quality work for 5-15sec work max.


All court player- Ed Corrie CH 215 WR stamina session

Rather than use a big serve and forehand Ed will use precision and timing.  This session was about working on precision of footwork around the cones even when he is tired, as well as maintaining a good tempo of high intensity movement into the wider areas.  This is to enable Ed to keep beating the bounce and set up with precise footwork so he can hit the ball on the rise and take time away from his opponent.

This session can just as easily be done as a speed session but with recovery between the work bouts.

Want more info?

For those of you wanting more info on where to learn more about Tennis Strength & Conditioning I recommend three books below:




  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

=> Follow us on Facebook

=> Follow us on Instagram

=> Follow us on Twitter