Athletic Performance Academy – Latest news & updates from Athletic Performance Academy

BOOK REVIEW- Methodology of Training in the 22nd Century

Hi Everyone,

it’s been a while since I’ve done a book review but I have recently been reading a book that has been really interesting and I wanted to share it with you.  It is called ”Methodology of Training in the 22nd Century” written by Henk Kraaijenhof.

I actually have a few chapters to finish (there are 12 in total) but I really wanted to focus in on a particular chapter that will have meaning for you whether you are business owner, athlete or coach.

For the first 10 years of my life as a coach I invested nearly all of my time learning about the science of training in elite sport.  For the last 10 years I have continued to do that while also navigating the new frontier of commercial sport and all that it entails.  One chapter in particular was a great overview of the balance between the two settings of science and capitalism.

As a coach first and foremost I want to learn about the best approaches to train someone to achieve the highest levels of performance in competition.  As a business owner I have had to wrestle with the idea and later accept that it won’t always be the best method (the one that gets evidenced results time and again!) that is the most popular- it’s the one that is best marketed.

I think Chapter 2 did a great job of describing this state of affairs.

Chapter 2- Sociocultural Backgrounds of Modern High Performance Training

Sport and Performance

Modern sport has its roots in capitalist industrialization.  The desire for performance lead to the need for recording the results and the birth of records in sport.  Different sciences analyze from different perspectives (with the ultimate goal to maximise performance leading to improved results).

Biomechanics- performance is regarded as a physical value of power (P), which is the amount of mechanical work accomplished in a given time.

Exercise physiology- proves relationships with biological reactions of the organism.

Science of training- the original science and focuses on a systematic approach to training, based on the demands and results of the competition.

Setting of Modern Elite Sport

High performance sport was a political goal and science was the instrument to realise this goal.  Elite athletes were often called ”diplomats in tracksuits.”

Until the end of the East-West conflict, the funding of sports at the elite level was completely established by the government in all successful Eastern European countries.

The centralised socialist planning was able to ensure a foundation for controlling long term performance development from kindergarten to the the Olympic level.  For the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a country with only 16 million citizens to win 102 Olympic medals in the last Games in Seoul in 1988 was a prime example of the efficacy of the whole sport system.

Methodologies without evident effects had to be excluded.

The system of the GDR worked because of its systematic quality, relying on a centralised network of controlled processes that were in line with a long-term approach.

After the end of the cold war, elite sport was no longer needed as a political instrument and the governments in Europe gradually withdrew their involvement in elite sports.

Now we have a high performance sports system which acts as a entertainment sports network with globalised economic dependencies and the breakup of the national state.  The task of the modern professional athlete is no longer (only) striving for the highest performance in competition.  In fact, it is of comparable importance to achieve a high amount of public attention aside from the sport, because the modern athlete is treated as a product, aimed to be sold at the highest possible price on the market.

The Olympic movement was an idea for amateur sport, but after the end of the political east-west conflict, the Olympics were fully embedded into the capitalist idea of profit and professional athletes were accredited to compete. The sociological perspective reveals that, in modern elite sports, maximising competition results or sports performance seems to be secondary to maximising profit.

Sports Performance Training as a Product

Today, sports performance training is offered increasingly as a service by a variety of providers, leading from single people to big companies.

A successful business model in the sport performance market relies strongly on good networking and marketing rather than on a sophisticated training approach.

It’s about a subjective assessment of being in good hands and not on the verification of the contribution to competition results of the given service.

The practice of sport is used to express a certain kind of lifestyle.  In a highly commercialised society, consuming products or services are strongly related to a lifestyle.  The lifestyle is a product-related image, created by the industry in order to sell an imaginative new self-identity.

McDonaldization of Training Methodology

This term refers to the concept of standardised mass production made famous by pioneering American companies like McDonald’s and Ford.  The coordination and the control of the training processes in elite sport are based on the same logic.

The main goal is always to find the most efficient, logical and reproducible way to reach a goal.  Features of McDonaldization include:

  • Efficiency- optimum training methodology with best possible cost-benefit ratio
  • Computability- quantifiable parameters
  • Predictability- clear time structure of training planning
  • Control- monitoring of training parameters

But there are a number of side effects of McDonaldization in training methodology.

  • Template methods
  • Mechanistic approach- more is better
  • Inflexibility of approach in spite of the fluidity of biological and environmental changes
  • Automation and deskilling of expertise- dehumanization through rapid adoption of technology

The organisation of businesses geared towards making money always leads to standardisation.  In every McDonald’s restaurant all over the world, every hamburger equals the other, as well as the ingredients, preparation and sales.  Any systematic approach requires a certain degree of standardisation in order to increase the likelihood of getting the desired results in a specific timeframe.  This is why planning of training also relies on standardised parameters, but there are limitations to this approach.

 

From a biological point of view, there is nothing like an average or standardised individual-  either on an anthropometric, metabolic, neural, nor on a personality level.  Unlike in a McDonald’s franchise optimal training results:

  • can be achieved from different starting positions
  • can be complete despite incomplete or variable training stimuli
  • allow margins within which it is possible to reach the same effects

The goal of McDonald’s is not to produce good hamburgers, the goal is to sell many hamburgers.

Considering performance training services in modern sport as a business, the same principles apply. Standardisation becomes very apparent via the rising popularity of exercise orientation in the training methodology of athletes. Exercise orientation implies that the characteristics of the equipment or the methodology itself are the foundation of the training approach and not the demands of the sport or the needs of the individual athlete.

Without exercise-orientation, McDonaldisation is impossible.  Tailor made training is exactly the opposite.

Therefore it is logical that in a gym, everyone is doing the same thing based on uniformity of the facility designs, the equipment orientation of the methodology, or the subjective bias of the coaches, led by the latest fads.

Generalisation is the core concept of marketing and, in order to become commercially successful, it requires serial production and no individualisation.

The bias a coach has for a particular methodology seems to be derived from subliminal mechanisms of the commercial market, rather than on individually based sports profiling

In summary, this behaviour is typical for a complex highly differentiated society where McDonaldisation is the only possibility.  In a McDonalised society, people rarely seek the best means to reach a goal- instead they fall back on popular means.

It is suggested that methodology of training in high performance sports should NOT accept and represent the principles of McDonaldisation too much.  The prevalence of standardization leads to uniformity like the ”template method.”

Therefore, it has to be questioned whether a humanistic high performance sport is possible in a McDonaldised society, as McDonaldisation contradicts the essential characteristic of every competition and game: unpredictability, the essence of human life.

 

Where I am next presenting?

 

Level 2 Certificate in Strength & Conditioning

Dates: 11/12 Jan and 15/16 Feb 2020,  09:00AM-17:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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How To Stay Motivated

If you’re anything like me November feels like one of the more difficult months to stay motivated and productive.  It’s dark and wet and we are all kind of waiting for Christmas to kick. Many of us will get off track with our nutrition and training goals too.

”Movember” is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancertesticular cancer, and men’s suicide

So it seems like a good time of the year to talk about how to stay motivated.  Being motivated means that I can stick to my meal plan, hit my workout and basically keep a fit lifestyle all year round.  Here are some of the things that have motivated me to train and improve my physique throughout my career.

  1. Rehab injuries in High School
  2. Get bigger in College
  3. Get leaner (Work as a Fitness model)
  4. Help others reach their fitness goals (Work as a Fitness Trainer)

You have to have a higher purpose for working out other than just to look good- that motivation will only last in the short term.  Even with a deeper purpose that doesn’t mean that you won’t have days when you don’t feel motivated.  So below are 6 Tips to help you stay motivated.

  1.  Have a workout partner
  2.  Hire a fitness trainer
  3.  Use an app like MyFitnesspal to track workout and nutrition progress
  4.  Get a Bodpod or Dexa scan test to measure your body composition
  5.  Have a vision board- the first and last thing you should see in the morning are pictures of things you want to achieve
  6.  Buy an outfit that you want to fit into

 

Interested in Personal Training?

At this time of year we can help you get control of your life and make fitness and health a priority!

We’re looking for 10 superstars that are looking to get in the best shape of their life in the next 90 days.

If this sounds like you then contact Daz Drake at daz@apacoaching.co.uk

 

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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

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APA are Recruiting!!

I have a few important announcements today!!!

APA Are Recruiting!

APA have a number of vacancies within the APA network.  If you would like to be considered for a role with APA then please send a covering letter and CV to APA Owner, Daz Drake at daz@apacoaching.co.uk with email title APA.01

For Full Details Download the PDF by clicking HERE

Gosling Tennis Academy

There are a number of roles at Gosling Tennis Academy.

[update September 9th 2019Full-Time strength & conditioning coach]

We are looking for a coach who can start immediately.  The ideal candidate will have experience of working within elite junior tennis although we will consider applications from coaches with complimentary skills and experience.

The role will involve working with children with a focus on high performance players between 11 and 16 yrs.  You will need to have a DBS and be on the update service before you can start the role.

Remuneration can be discussed at interview and will be commensurate with experience.

We are also looking for part-time strength & conditioning coaches who have a passion for working with youth athletes and would be available to lead on the Mini Academy (5-10yrs) and Junior Academy (10-12yrs) programmes.

These squads run in the evenings from 4-6pm Monday to Friday and would be suitable for a coach who is looking to gain experience of a high performance training environment.

Gosling Tennis Academy is based at Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City and is operated by Better

New Hall School

The role at New Hall School is for a part-time strength & conditioning coach who has a passion for working with youth athletes and would be available to lead on one to one lessons and small group training sessions with senior school students aged 11-18yrs.

These sessions run in the lunchtime and after school periods at 1-2pm and 4:30-5:30pm and would be suitable for a coach who is looking to gain experience of a high performance training environment.  Priority days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  This role will start in September 2019 and the successful candidate would need to have a DBS and be on the update service.

So what are you waiting for?

If you are interested in applying for any of these roles then send an email to APA Owner, Daz Drake at daz@apacoaching.co.uk

Remember to indicate your preferred location if you have one.

Free Training Reminder

If you have signed up for the FREE Webinar ”How To Get Buy In That Lifting Weights Is Safe For Children” then click the link below to sign up!

SIGN UP HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.

Remember:

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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

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Workshop Review- [Part1] Proformance April 2019

This will be the first in a series of Workshop reviews starting with a Guest Blog from APA coach Gabe Fishlock

Over the 6th and 7th of April myself and many other professionals spent the weekend diving down rabbit holes of various depths inside the heads of James Baker and Dr Mike Young, the minds behind Proformance. If you haven’t heard of Proformance check it out https://proformance.pro/; if you have.. revisit their resources! Proformance has been built as an online platform providing coach education network to us as sport and fitness coaches develop, to further develop our athletes. This blog review will summarise how I made sense of the information that was served up over the weekend, as follows:

What’s To Come

  • Who are James Baker and Mike Young?
  • An Integrated Approach to LTAD: An Overview
  • An overview of each stage within this approach: Foundation, Development and Performance
  • Five Take Homes (Or all I could remember)

 

Who are James Baker and Mike Young

James Baker:  comes from a coaching and teaching background, UKSCA accredited and a qualified P.E teacher, working in schools across Gloucestershire and implementing a rigorous and successful framework for athletic development within the P.E curriculum at St Peter’s High School, now at Aspire Academy in Qatar as the Lead Sport Scientist and Strength and Conditioning Coach for Track and Field Athletes.

Mike Young: Director at Athletic Lab, North Carolina, an exceptionally well-established centre for athletic development. Mike has a strong grasp of the practical and theoretical requirements of being an athlete from his competitive younger days as a decathlete, a PhD in Biomechanics, and not to mention a vast array of coaching experience, qualifications and research.

 

An Integrated Approach to LTAD: An Overview

The weekend began with James outlining the Proformance approach to LTAD, highlighting their 5 aims of LTAD:

  1. To give athletes the best chance to achieve their dreams
  2. To equip the athletes with training skills to excel in a high performance environment
  3. To build a high level of physical fitness across a broad array of qualities
  4. To develop athletes that can tolerate the training loads of sport and training, to maximise their availability to be coached and compete through and after the process
  5. To give a range of physical abilities, that will assist a healthy active lifestyle beyond competitive sport, or allow transfer from one sport to another.

An overview of each stage within this approach:

Foundation, Development and Performance

James made note of Rhodri Lloyd and Jon Oliver’s work in developing the YPD Model and that this built the framework for their approach, consisting of 3 stages spanning adolescence, with the necessity of a novice athlete to begin at the foundation stage, whether they begin training at 11 or 15.

Stage Foundation Development Performance
Age 11-13 13-15 15+

 

Foundation- the focus is on learning to train, a variety of skills

Development- the focus is on training to train, looking to improve physical capacities more notably

Performance- focuses on training to compete and win, be it a contract, scholarship or competition etc

 

Foundation

Aims:

  • Engage and educate the athletes around safe and effective training
  • Build relationships with athletes that will provide them with support
  • Introduce a broad spectrum of physical qualities
  • Provide a learning environment where play and exploration drive development and engagement*
  • Monitor development – build a picture of individual strengths and weaknesses
  • To be competent individuals in Athletic Motor Skills Competencies

[Daz note- James showed a progressive syllabus which aligned with the school term, so there would be a new focus of activities every half term, so every 6-7 weeks.  You would be encouraged to design your own progressive movement syllabus that introduces and build on a broad spectrum of activities]

Frequency – One or two non-consecutive days

Intensity – Body weight up to 70% 1RM if suitable

Time – Keep it short, sweet and busy, 45-minutes max with short rests

Type – Vary equipment as possible within your constraints BW, bands, balls etc.

Foundation Stage Outcomes

  • A score of 22+ in Body weight technical competency assessment (slightly adapted from Dan Baker)

 

Development

The Aims:

  • Maintain individual engagement (but be mindful interests change)
  • Continue educating the individual
  • Provide additional support skills- emotional skills, nutrition and cooking
  • Continue to monitor growth and maturation
  • Introduce advanced movement skills

Objectives:

  • Further development of technical competency
  • Introduce Olympic Lifting
  • Develop movement skills through more reactive games
  • Use monitoring to provide detailed insight in to strengths and weaknesses

Growth & Maturation

The influence of Peak Weight Velocity (PWV) may be seen in this stage, with females experiencing this post-Peak Height Velocity (PHV) where stagnations in performance may occur. Boys may increases body mass by over 20% in this period, while experiencing PHV and potential deficiencies in movement ability. Do not be afraid to regress an athlete to foundation stage activities to overcome these issues.

 

Performance

The process until now should give further value in building a clear profile of their strengths and weaknesses, allowing for a more specific training programme during this stage and an informed decision when specialising in a sport during this stage.

Aims:

  • Specialise in a single sport/ discipline
  • Prepare for the next level of competition i.e. National or International
  • Train to compete and win
  • An increase in training intensity and frequency

Objectives:

  • 2 x BW lower body strength
  • RSI 4.0
  • Prepare for the next training environment, its training volumes and intensity

 

FIVE TAKE HOMES

 

  1. “What you permit, you promote”
  2. Progress and regress athletes as they need to be; do not exhaust all your options early for the sake of engagement – challenge your coaching to challenge your athletes
  3. “Create a motivational learning environment” – plan the session and how the athletes will gain most from it
  4. Find ways to monitor everything that’s important to development
  5. Plan the end goals and each step that will get you there, and us this to engage athletes

 

One final note I would like to make is a big thanks to James Baker and Mike Young for putting on the event and making the effort to travel over from their respective places of work to deliver the content. And thanks to all the coaches I meet and conversations we had.

For those that may be interested they are hosting their Child to Champion Conference at Hartpury University, Gloucester on the 27th and 28th July. I would highly recommend this event from previous experience, with multiple speakers talking on a range of subjects. Further information and tickets can be found here.

Biography

Gabe Fishlock holds a BSc in Sports, Conditioning Rehabilitation and Massage from Cardiff Met and is awaiting a grade for an MSc in Strength and Conditioning. Currently working at APA leading the development of young tennis players on the 10 & under, and 12 & under programmes at Gosling Tennis Academy.

 

Remember:

  • 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

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[Guest Blog] How I Recover Between Heavy Lifts- Todd Davidson

I recently had the privilege to be interviewed by Todd Davidson on his Platform to Perform podcast.  He reciprocated the favour and agreed to do a guest blog for the website!

I’ve followed Todd’s early career and he has always struct me as really dedicated coach who has a thirst for learning! He has been competing in power lifting and recently shared his thoughts on how he recovers from heavy lifts.  So I asked him to speak about this.

How I recover Between Heavy Lifts

Following episode 12 of the Platform to Perform (yes, a shameless plug), with Daz, we spoke off air about an Instagram story I posted on CNS fatigue.

As part of our chat, and this subsequent blog I will attempt to unpack the minefield of CNS fatigue, and as per Daz’s questions, how I try to recover between lifts.

For context, and those who haven’t been following my #Challenge500kg on Instagram, I recently qualified for Nationals in the 74kg weight class in Powerlifting.

This blog will be a mixture of my experience and what the research has demonstrated where CNS fatigue is concerned in an attempt to answer the following questions

  • How to better manage the stress of competitions
  • Recovery rates of the body’s various systems
  • What impact this improved understanding of CNS fatigue might have on programming for both the athletes

After a day that involves no more than 9 total attempts on the platform, why do I crash and burn?

Surely it is the CNS fatigue?

For the last 2 years I have been competing I had also thought that. I’ve fallen asleep on the tube journey home, scrabbled my sentences on the evening following a meet, so it must be my CNS being fried?

Until very recently, I was convinced this was the case…but let’s hold up a second a take a look at the research

Firstly, before we dive in to CNS fatigue it is important that we define what the CNS is, what it does and what leads to CNS fatigue

Anyone who has studied sport science will have been told the CNS is the brain and the spinal cord.

The peripheral nervous system being anything that is not the brain and spinal cord (for simplicity’s sake…our muscles)

Before we differentiate between central fatigue and peripheral fatigue, I am reminded of quote by one of my favourite strength coaches, Dan John, when I say

‘the body is one piece’

Whilst activities may lean more towards one end of the spectrum (i.e. peripheral fatigue or CNS fatigue)..it is important to note that we cannot separate the two.

The second thing to note, is how long does the CNS actually take to recover?

Although the body is one marvellous piece, and you cannot isolate a particular system, your muscular system, your nervous system and connective tissues recover at different rates.

If we think about it logically:

  • Connective tissues (ligaments and cartilage) receive no direct blood supply, therefore their recovery rates are going to be slower than the muscular system since there is no direct blood supply to take waste products away
  • Any kind of movement has to start with the neurological system, be it the CNS (i.e. the brain sends signals to the muscles) or the peripheral nervous system (i.e. muscles and glands send signals to the brain) so it wouldn’t make sense for the central governor of power output (i.e. the brain) to be so readily fatigued without an ability to recover quickly
  • Recovery of any system, but especially the muscular system, will be proportional to the stimulus applied to it (think type of training, volume, intensity, frequency etc)

If the volume of training is low enough (as arguably is the case when doing 9 singles at meet), the nervous system may well be recovered by the next day, as was demonstrated in Howatson et al’s 2016 study, looking at male athletes clocking below 10.45 in the 100m and squatting in excess of 190kg.

Perhaps intensity isn’t as much as a key player in CNS fatigue as volume then?

Conversely, longer duration, lower intensity efforts, contrary to popular bro science, appear to induce more CNS fatigue than higher intensity efforts (Thomas et al 2016).

Although recovering the next day might be useful if you aim to jump straight back into training following a meet, it doesn’t mean much if you failed to perform on the day.

So how do we go about trying to minimise nervous system fatigue when it comes to the stress of competition?

Firstly, stress in itself isn’t inherently a bad thing…it’s how we manage our bodies stress response (both short term and long term) that determines how effectively we can utilise our flight, flight or freeze response.

As a Powerlifter, I very much want my sympathetic nervous system to kick in and release adrenaline as a means of overcoming the physical and psychological stress of competition… but I don’t need my system to be going into overdrive every time I go to lift something  >90%.

For this reason, my coach has me practise singles at RPE 8 (a single with 2 reps in reserve, ever so slightly heavier than my opener)..which means come competition I have faced and overcome the psychological and physical stress of a weight slightly heavier than my opener.

Going months on end without touching weights at >90% means handling your opener will be novel stimuli.

Novel stimuli is much more stressful, be it psychological or physical, than stimuli to which you are accustomed.

For reference, Mike Tuchscherer, who is widely credited with being the first person to explicitly use of RPE in Powerlifting, has noted that his athletes can use singles at RPE nearly all year round…but depending on the lifter singles at RPE 9 (1 rep in the tank) seem to tail off after 2-5 weeks.

Going back to the topic of recovery rate differences between the muscular system and the nervous system…

if the nervous system really took that long to recover would the Bulgarian weightlifting system (whereby lifters maxed out on their snatch, clean and jerk, and squats twice a day for 6 days a week for months on end rumour has it), really have survived as long as it did?

Now I’m not ignoring the drugged up elephant in the room,

Since heavy singles are likely too short in duration to mechanically tear muscle fibres, perhaps the Bulgarian weightlifting system provides anecdotal evidence that the CNS recovers much faster than most bro science has us believe in the first place?

I admit my knowledge of performance enhancing drugs is close to non-existent, but I am assuming many performance enhancing drugs do not work on the level of the central nervous system?

When I posed Daz’s question about recovering between lifts at a meet to my coach his response was ‘how fried do you think you would be if you performed 3 max attempts in the comfort and confines of your gym?’

If you never practise the psychological stressors of competition, you will naturally perceive such situations as more stressful.

For anyone who dismisses the wrecking ball effect that stress can have on everything from your training to your immune system, please refer to Mark Sapolsky’s lecture series or book on ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers’

In conclusion:

  • Athletes can manage their stress response by practising psychologically stressful aspects of their sport (1 throw competitions for throwers, powerlifter and weightlifters practising hitting their openers, perhaps alternating between 1 and 2 serve matches for tennis players etc)
  • The CNS recovers far more quickly than we might expect (but this doesn’t mean the muscular system has as well)
  • Volume may be a bigger drain on the CNS than intensity

Biography

Todd Davidson is an accredited strength and conditioning coach and will be undertaking a P.E PGCE, based at a Ealing Fields High School in September. As well as qualifying for the Classic National Championship in Powerlifting, with a 500kg total in the 74kg weight class, Todd has also published research on the change of direction deficit and is the proud founder of the Platform to Perform podcast.

References and Resources

Thomas, K., Elmeua, M., Howatson, G., & Goodall, S. (2016). Intensity-dependent contribution of neuromuscular fatigue after constant-load cycling. Medicine and science in sports and exercise48(9), 1751-1760.

Latella, C., Hendy, A. M., Pearce, A. J., VanderWesthuizen, D., & Teo, W. P. (2016). The time-course of acute changes in corticospinal excitability, intra-cortical inhibition and facilitation following a single-session heavy strength training of the biceps brachii. Frontiers in human neuroscience10, 607.

Howatson, G., Brandon, R., & Hunter, A. (2016). The response to, and recovery from maximum strength and power training in elite track and field athletes. International journal of sports physiology and performance11(3), 356-362.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iV1N4gjGoA&t=356s Juggernaught Strength Training video on the Principle of Stimulus Recovery Adaptation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOGPsziWaMo Andy Galpin’s 55 Minute Physiology of Endurance lecture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3db3t70DFUY How to Improve Confidence Under the Bar (with specific reference to singles at RPE 8)

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

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  • 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

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Can Heavy Sled Training Make You Faster?- Part 2

I wanted to follow up one the blog on JB Morin’s Pacey Performance Podcast with a bit more of a discussion around resisted sprints.  This will be a two-part blog.  The first blog looked at the benefits of resisted sled work in developing technical mastery.  This blog will look at the use of resisted sprints to inform the force-velocity relationship and deduce a more appropriate individualised training programme.

Assessment of Power

The assessment of athletic power production is common in sport science practice.  Knowing the load that an athlete produces their highest power output on in a variety of athletic tasks can improve individualised training prescription, resulting in more specific and potentially enhanced adaptations.

We have seen that rather than just profiling one single explosive movement such as a bodyweight jump, we can gain further insights into athlete capabilities by measuring the expression of force at a range of velocities (e.g the Force-Velocity relationship).

It is generally accepted that training around ‘optimal’ conditions for power is viewed as an effective means of improving maximum power.  Therefore this supports the rational for profiling optimal loading characteristics.

While this type of assessment of power is pretty common with various forms of jumping (including loaded jumps) this has not been common place in sprinting and specifically resisted sprinting.

So What About Heavy Sleds?

According to research cited in Cross et al 2017 Resisted sprinting (eg sled towing) is widely regarded as a means of overloading capacities specific to sprinting acceleration performance.  However, the current body of literature examining the effects of resisted sprinting is somewhat limited, and typically uses relatively light loading regimes.  It appears most researchers cap loading parameters based on the premise that training against resistance above a certain magnitude (e.g >10% decrement in unloaded velocity) will lead to negative adaptations in technical and performance markers.

But Morin et al 2017 argues that in the same manner that training in conditions of high velocity may improve velocity capacity, training under significant loads may have a place in the development of high force or EARLY ACCELERATION capabilities

In research by Cross et al 2016 they used a radar gun (Stalker ATS II) set on a triped 5m behind the athlete and 1m high (approximating centre of mass).  The distances used for each load were selected from pilot data as an exaggeration of what was required to reach maximum velocity. This ranged from 45m unloaded to 20m at 120% body mass.

Loading was increased until a 50% decrement in unloaded maximum velocity and a visual peak of the power-velocity relationship were observed (although from the above information I assumed that they continued to even higher loads, where velocity would presumably drop more than 50% to ensure a sufficient time span of stimuli to capture the peak and the ascending part of the power-velocity curve).

 

The figure above shows the Force-Velocity Relationship that was established in the research by Cross et al (2016).  They showed that:

External sled-loading of up to 96% of body mass (~50% decrement in maximum velocity) has been shown to correspond with acutely maximised power (the ‘middle’ of the FV relationship).

The mean was 78% and 82% body mass for recreational athletes and sprinters, respectively.  Furthermore, there was a wide range for both cohorts (optimal load of 69-91% and 70-96% for recreational athletes and sprinters, respectively).

The sprinters displayed a much greater maximum velocity capacity than their recreational counterparts (8.35m/s and 9.75m/s respectively).  There was a very large effect also in the velocity at which the sprinters generated maximum power (at 4.19m/s and 4.90m/s, respectively).  This represented an optimal velocity of around 50% of maximum velocity.  This highlights that it is:

the ability to produce force at greater velocities that characterises well trained sprinters rather than absolute force-production capabilities

 

Heavy Sleds Mimic Acceleration Mechanics

One of the things I took away from reading all the scientific papers was that sprinting against a heavy load (as high as 96% body mass) mimics the first 2-3 steps (or early acceleration of an unloaded sprint).

 

I don’t fully understand the mathematics but they were able to show that sprinting with an external load at maximum effort modeled the same kinetic conditions experienced during the acceleration phase on an unloaded  sprint (i.e corresponds to the same velocity).

In the example of an athlete towing an individualised optimal load (~82% body mass), sprinting in these conditions mimics the moment power is maximised during an unloaded sprint [i.e steps 2-3 or early acceleration].

Applications in Training

  • Lighter loads (~10% decrements in velocity) traditionally used in research (or even assisted methods) likely have relevance in the development of horizontal force at HIGH velocities
  • Greater loads (>50% decrements in velocity) may provide a more effective overload for the development of short distance sprint performance (i.e force and maximum power).
  • All loads may indeed express contextual specificity in external F-V characteristics
  • To implement heavy sled work into training have an athlete work against a load that generates a 50% decrement in unloaded sprinting velocity!

 

Future research should look at other athletic populations such as rugby players.  Mechanical capacity for force at low velocities might be key to performance in acceleration based collision sports.  Therefore perhaps rugby players would generate maximum power at lower velocities than the average seen in the study by Cross et al (2017).  Future research should determine optimal loading characteristics of force dominant athletes.

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Can Heavy Sled Training Make You Faster?

I wanted to follow up one the blog on JB Morin’s Pacey Performance Podcast with a bit more of a discussion around resisted sprints.  This will be a two-part blog.  The first blog will look at the benefits of resisted sled work in developing technical mastery.  This is more an opinion of mine rather than based off lots of scientific research.  The second-part will look at the use of resisted sprints to inform the force-velocity relationship and deduce a more appropriate individualised training programme.

Resisted Sprints in Tennis?

Before we get into the detail let me start off by saying that I am a big proponent of resisted sprints, but not in the context of what we are going to talk about in this discussion.  As you might expect from me (what with my favourite topic now being around the question of how we learn skills) I will make a case that ‘light’ resistance can help with the ‘feeling’ of what good form should feel like.  I find the resistance can feed into your mistake and make it greater so you actually overcompensate and have to produce more force…otherwise you will literally fall over!  The extra effort your muscles are forced to make helps you feel (and therefore learn) what proper movement is.

Implicit learning is when new information is acquired without explicit awareness of the details of the information itself

In the context of Tennis I’m not talking about sleds for acceleration sprints in a straight line.  I use bungee resistance which I have never really quantified in terms of how much velocity drop off it might cause.  But truth be told tennis players are never really getting up to any appreciable speed so I don’t imagine it has major impact on the movement speed.  I just like the fact that in order to stay balanced you have to get your body in the right position, and if you don’t the bungee will not forgive you for it and pull you even further off balance.  The bungee is the ‘coach’ and it gives far greater feedback than I could ever do by ‘telling’ them to get wider and lower!!

I also find the light resistance enables you to repeat the movement several times which is something I took away from the concept of raising anaerobic power in the book ‘Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.’

We sometimes talk about ex players who might not make great coaches because they ‘Just Do It’ and they may have difficulty in verbalising how they do it, or describing how it should feel etc.  The notion of having talent stems from this idea that they were just born with it, or at least what we can say is that they probably ‘Learnt it ‘Implicitly.’  Implicit learning doesn’t rely on conscious working memory.

The opposite of implicit learning is explicit learning, which is typically how we learn sports skills including running technique (e.g receiving explicit instructions from a coach).  This learning style is a highly conscious process and relies heavily on working memory.

The question then arises, how much resistance is enough to help an athlete feel the ‘correct’ form but not too much that it negatively affects it? In Tennis, as I said earlier, I’m not sure we are talking about enough resistance that it is going to have a significant impact on the kinematics of the movements.

So What About Heavy Sleds?

Academic studies have clearly shown that the determinants of sprinting ability are both the absolute PHYSICAL CAPABILITY of the the body and the TECHNICAL ABILITY to apply this raw capacity in an effective manner.

In the effort to preserve the latter skill, studies featuring resisted sprinting have often used or promoted comparatively light protocols, selected to minimise kinematic alterations to unloaded sprinting technique in both the maximal velocity and acceleration phases (7.5-15.5% decrements in velocity and ~7-20% Body mass).  In the next blog we will discuss how these loads may not provide an effective stimulus for maximising horizontal power production.

However, it is important to say that from the recent scientific studies that have used heavy sleds all the loads used were considered to substantially affect sprinting technique (although this was not actually measured).  From personal communication with JB Morin the question he asked me to consider was

So What? If ACUTE sprinting technique is negatively affected and there are negative adaptations in technical and performance markers, but in the longer term they run faster?

JB Morin in one of his recent articles said that: ”This theory of negative adaptation is largely unsubstantiated.  Furthemore, this notion generally misses the underlying concept of training as a function of the force-velocity relationship.  In the same manner that training in conditions of high velocity may improve velocity capacity, training under significant loading protocols may have a place in the development of high force or early acceleration capabilities (Morin et al. 2017)”

One of the things I took away from reading all the scientific papers was that sprinting against a heavy load (as high as 80% body mass) mimics the first 2-3 steps (or early acceleration of an unloaded sprint).

Heavy Sleds Mimic Acceleration Mechanics

My own experience of accelerating is that it is one of the hardest thing to improve with an athlete that isn’t perhaps strong enough to accelerate with the textbook type mechanics we are looking for.

No amount of cueing is going to help the athlete pull it off.  The benefit I found personally (as an athlete who has never been very strong at the push off) was that being able to push say 60% body mass over 30 metres, I get 30 metres to repeat the same acceleration mechanics that I would normally only experience for one or two steps and with comparatively less time in contact with the ground during actual sprinting.

For me the extra resistance gives my body more time to feel the correct form.  The jury is still out on how this affects sprint kinematics both acutely and chronically but as JB Morin has said, would you rather have done an intervention that keeps a consistent sprint technique with no appreciable change in speed, or have faster athletes who might have altered some of their mechanics? He would rather have faster athletes, and so would I!

Distances as a guide for training

45m unloaded

40m at 20% BM

30m at 40% BM

30m at 60% BM

30m at 80% BM

20m at 100% BM

20m at 120% BM

Applications in Training

To help athletes learn andor improve the skill of accelerating my strategy would focus around resisted sprints using some of the loading guidelines above and a couple of simple cues such as analogies.   I’d also consider periodising the load on the sled starting with a heavier load and slowly reducing it without the athlete’s conscious awareness of it so they can preserve their sprint technique with less and less load.

Analogies and Indirect Instruction

Provide the athlete with one simple biomechanical metaphor that ‘chunks up’ the task relevant (rules) into an individually processed unit of information (such as creating a C shape with the racket when hitting a forehand).  Below are some examples to cue acceleration mechanics using analogies. While providing the athlete with an analogy is explicit in nature, it is ‘cognitively efficient’ – means it requires few attention resources. The idea extends the argument that simple rules are as effective as complex rules for delivering technical instruction.

Marginal Perception

This refers to a gradual change to the stimuli without conscious recognition of the change. In Tennis if a player keeps hitting the net during their serve the traditional approach would be to explicitly inform the player about the biomechanics of the serve.  The  player would most likely improve but they would also be consciously aware of the changes in technique.

An alternative approach would be to be to begin practising with the net at a lower height, thereby allowing the player to serve the ball over the net with greater ease.  Each lesson the coach might increase the height of the net by the smallest margins so that the player is not consciously aware of the change.

My thinking was that you could do the same with the weight of the sled that the athlete is pulling.  Each time they come in you just reduce the amount of weight so that they keep accelerating with a nice technique.

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 227 JB Morin

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 227 – JB Morin

JB Morin

Website

Background: 

Jean-Benoit Morin, often known as JB Morin, is a full professor at the University of Nice in France.  He has a PhD around sprinting and sprint mechanics.

Discussion topics:

JB on the contrast between academic research and real life

”It’s very, very important to me to go and see people at the elite level, to see the real life issues, and the real life context.  In my opinion, it’s a way to ask better questions, it’s a way to challenge what we do, and it’s a way, I think, to better design what we do.

The main issue is that when people work with athletes, they work with individuals, and they work with individual changes in everything.  When they read research they see group results, and we all know that group results can be influenced by individual variability.  For example, you can see some group results that totally contradict some of your single player’s behaviours.  Sometimes applying the group result to a single player might not be effective.”

JB with an overview of what Force-Velocity Profiling is

  1. High Force- Low velocity
  2. Mod high Force- mod low velocity
  3. Mod high velocity- mod low force
  4. High Velocity- Low Force

”What we call profiling means building and assessing the individual spectrum of the force output at various possible velocities of motion.  We know that every load, every velocity is associated with a different level of force output.

What we understand from the F-V spectrum analysis is that if you analyse performance through a single load velocity condition, like you do a jump test or a 30-metre sprint, you only have one point of information.”

JB on some of the tools and simplified methods to monitor accurately in field conditions

  • My Jump app
  • My Sprint app

”With my friend Pierre Samozino we published some equations that allowed us to profile people out of the laboratory, and we confirmed these equations against reference devices.  Then some Spanish colleagues designed some Apple apps to measure the input easily in the field.  One of these is My Jump, the other app is My Sprint.  I have absolutely no conflict of interest.  I make zero money on what they sell.

These apps only measure accurately the inputs that are needed for our equations to calculate the mechanical outputs.”

JB on how to develop an optimal profile for horizontal or vertical force velocity

”We have computed the optimal profile.  The idea is very simple.  You can have the same 30-metre time with very different force-velocity spectrums.  And our question was does the force-velocity spectrum influence your performance, because we know that for the same Pmax we can have different profiles.

I can say now that yes, there is an optimal profile for sprint performance.  It depends on the distance you want to optimise, so it will not be the same for a 20-metre than for a 60-metre.  And so depending on your actual profile and the optimal profile we calculate, we have a better way to individualise the training.

The funny thing is that we have taken the 40-metre distance, and the actual profile of Usain Bolt, and we concluded that for his world record his F-V profile for that distance was not optimal.  It means that by having a different profile than he had, he could have run the first 40-metres faster.”

      JB on what the Force-velocity profile actually looks like 

      ”The analysis of the profile is velocity based force output.  Basically in sprinting and jumping, the profile looks linear.  It’s clearly linear even if the muscle cells or the muscle fibres have a hyperbolic F-V profile.  But when you do a global multi-joint exercises it’s linear, and so it goes from your maximum theoretical force output, down to your maximum theoretical velocity output.

      Then, our approach is to say where is your weakness on that curve? For example, if you’re someone who does only five 10-metre sprints, like a basketball player, maybe if you have a weakness on the V0 end, it’s not going to be a big issue because your sport doesn’t require a high V0.  If you are the same guy with the very same profile but you’re a 100 metre sprinter then yes, you will need to work on that.”

      JB on Resisted sprints and where we are at in terms of the research

      ”If you use zero resistance, you will sprint for a couple of seconds close to your V0 and then the higher the resistance the closer you will sprint to your F0.  Resistance is a way to set the running velocity, because there’s a clear relationship.

      Research wise until 2017, there had been some research on resisted sprints, but only 10% body mass let’s say.  I will not talk body mass, I will talk decreasing speed.  So 10% decreasing speed, or 20% decrease or maximum 30% decrease, and there was no research on other parts of the spectrum.  So it means the complete left side of that spectrum, even the middle side had not been investigated.  And even to date, there’s only one single study using loads that decrease your velocity by more than 70-80% which we call ‘heavy sleds’ or heavy loads.

      The problem with using percentage of body mass is that it can lead to very different resisted forces according to the surface, for example dry versus wet turf or concrete versus grass.  So it’s better to calculate as a percentage of velocity decrease. But to do that, we need to measure velocity. The best way is to set the load as a function of the decrement in velocity we want to observe.”

      JB on how resisted sprints can effect athletes mechanically in terms of what their actual sprinting will look like

      ”We need to be very careful between acute changes, which means how they run while pulling that resistance, and obviously some things change.  Yes of course the running pattern will change when you pull a heavy load.  But the big question is not acute changes.  It’s chronic changes. And to date there has been no study on heavy loads and how the sprint pattern changes.  How do the acute changes interact with sprint performance?  What do we want? We want people to run fast, okay? We have to put that as a balance between changes in sprint kinematics and changes in sprint performance”

      Author opinion:

      I’ll break scientific convention here for once and speak in first person!

      I have personally listened to JB Morin speak in the UK on three separate occasions and I have used the Force-Velocity profile with one of my athletes. Even after listening to the presentations, this podcast and reading the journal articles I’m still not 100% clear but one of the key concepts I have needed to get my head around is what JB means by ‘optimal.’

      Where I think we have got things confused (or at least I have), is in terms of where certain types of activities fit on a Force-Velocity curve,  Below is an example of one of the more accurate interpretations in my opinion.  I say this because it puts jumps closer to the middle of the curve.  If you’re not convinced just look at the velocities of sprinting versus jumps.  Jumping take off velocity is much slower than sprinting velocity.

       

      My understanding is that we can assume that for most athletes doing a squat jump or countermovement jump, the ‘optimal’ jump performance should occur at their own body mass.  If it doesn’t it’s because they don’t have the optimum balance between force and velocity qualities.  In my head I am visualizing a body mass squat jump as being roughly in the middle of the F-V spectrum and so intuitively it requires a balance of force and velocity to perform it well (otherwise it wouldn’t be in the middle)!

      Furthermore, the relative difference between actual and optimal represents the magnitude and the direction of the unfavorable balance between force and velocity qualities.  The goal of training therefore is to identify the imbalance (Force Deficit or Velocity Deficit or Well-Balanced) and then carry out an individualised training programme that will target different parts of the F-V curve.

      A word of caution: A Case Study

      I wanted to give you a bit of real world feedback on my experiences of using the spreadsheet that JB has made available on his website.  A bit of background, I asked my athlete who is a 60kg female elite athlete to do this test early in her winter training and again towards the end of it.  During the same week she did a 1-RM prediction of back squat using a Gym aware with submaximal loads up to 85% 1RM.

      I also used a Carmelo Bosco formula (which was inspired by my reading of Jeremy Sheppard’s work) to determine what percentage of her body mass squat jump height she could reach with 50% (speed-strength) and 100% (strength-speed) of her body mass loaded on her back.

      Initial findings:

      Initial feedback from the squat, the Carmelo Bosco formula and the F-V profile (34% of the optimal) was that she was Force Deficit. So I spent the winter period making sure there was a strong emphasis on maximal strength.

      When I did my analysis of the training block I was delighted that she had gone from 107kg to 141kg back squat, her speed-strength percentage had shifted from 57% to 61% (65% was the target) and the strength-speed percentage had shifted from 13 to 23% (35% is the target).  We still have a way to go but a 10% improvement of strength-speed was great in my book.

      When I did the F-V profile re-test it only went from 34% optimal to 38%.  I was perplexed!!!!

      Thankfully JB was kind enough to take a look at my spreadsheet and the first thing he said was- ”Daz- you cannot use this data unless the R2 value is at least 0.95.”  All the validation studies required this level of correlation.  JB said that in the piloting period he found that in less well trained athletes such as some of the youth volleyball players he worked with they also had lower R2 values and a lot of this was to do with poor technique.

      Looking back, my athlete was not doing lots of heavy squat jumps in the training so her main exposure to the task was during the actual testing.  JB said he was confident that without looking at the video he would imagine that she did not perform the exercise well with loads.  So it didn’t allow you to see the improvement in her F0 that was probably there.

      He also highlighted that she didn’t have a nice enough spread of loads.  In one instance where she attempted four loads, the final load was too close to the penultimate load so this creates a bit of noise.  In the case of the re-test, she did attempt 100% body mass but because her technique wasn’t great, the extra spread in data was most probably offset by poor mechanics!

      So the lesson is check your R2 values and to ensure they are very high, make sure the athlete is very competent in the task, and the loading is spread evenly across a range of loads.

       

      Top 5 Take Away Points: 

      1. Individualisation– new approaches to academic data analysis should consider the group response and also the individual response
      2. Build a profile of the athlete– don’t just look at split times and jump height, look at how they sprint and jump and use a F-V profile to see the imbalances!
      3. Resisted sprints– set the load as a function of the decrement in velocity you want to observe
      4. Valid data is key– the correlation R2 value needs to be 0.95 for meaningful interpretation of the F-V profile
      5. Decide what’s important– Do you want technically perfect athletes with a consistent sprint technique or faster athletes? Any acute disturbances in mechanics from resisted loads must be balanced with long term improvement in sprint times!

      Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?  Be sure to visit:

      Email: jean-benoit.morin@unice.fr

      You may also like from PPP:

      Episode 55 JB Morin

      Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

      Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

      Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

      Episode 204, 64 James Wild

      Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

      Episode 183 Derek Hansen

      Episode 175 Jason Hettler

      Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

      Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

      Episode 15 Carl Valle

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      APA Are Recruiting!

      I have a few important announcements today!!!

      APA Are Recruiting!

      APA have a number of vacancies within the APA network.  If you would like to be considered for a role with APA then please send a covering letter and CV to APA Owner, Daz Drake at daz@apacoaching.co.uk with email title APA.01

      For Full Details Download the PDF by clicking HERE

      Gosling Tennis Academy

      There are a number of roles at Gosling Tennis Academy.

      We are looking for part-time strength & conditioning coaches who have a passion for working with youth athletes and would be available to lead on the Mini Academy (5-10yrs) and Junior Academy (10-12yrs) programmes.

      These squads run in the evenings from 4-6pm Monday to Friday and would be suitable for a coach who is looking to gain experience of a high performance training environment.

      Gosling Tennis Academy is based at Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City and is operated by Better

      New Hall School

      The role at New Hall School is for a part-time strength & conditioning coach who has a passion for working with youth athletes and would be available to lead on one to one lessons and small group training sessions with senior school students aged 11-18yrs.

      These sessions run in the lunchtime and after school periods at 1-2pm and 4:30-5:30pm and would be suitable for a coach who is looking to gain experience of a high performance training environment.  Priority days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  This role would most likely start in September 2019 however there are two weeks of cover needed for a coach in the final weeks of term week beginning June 17th and June 24th, which the successful candidate could do if they have a DBS and are on the update service.

      David Turfrey Tennis Academy

      The role at David Turfrey Tennis Academy is for a part-time strength & conditioning coach who has a passion for working with youth athletes and would be available to lead on one to one lessons and large group training sessions with tennis players aged 11-18yrs.

      The group sessions run after school periods at 5-6pm Monday, and 7-8pm on Monday and Wednesday.  There are also opportunities to do one to one sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening, with opportunities to grow the role further.

       

      So what are you waiting for?

      If you are interested in applying for any of these roles then send an email to APA Owner, Daz Drake at daz@apacoaching.co.uk

      Remember to indicate your preferred location if you have one.

      Free Training Reminder

      If you have signed up for the FREE Webinar ”How To Get Buy In That Lifting Weights Is Safe For Children” then click the link below to sign up!

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      Where I am next presenting?

      Speed, Agility & Quickness for Sports Workshop

      Date: 2nd June 2019, 09:00AM-13:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

      Book your spot HERE

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      Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 204 James Wild

      This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 204 – James Wild

       

      James Wild

      Background: 

      James is the Technical Lead for Performance at Surrey Sports Park.  He is also contracted to work with Harlequins to run their speed and agility programme for their first team squad.  He teaches at the University of Surrey, heads up the athletic development for England Women’s Lacrosse and is also completing a PhD in Biomechanics and motor control of accelerative sprint running.

      Discussion topics:

      James on his approach to training in terms of speed for sprinters versus team sports.

      ”Ultimately sprint performance is determined by optimising our ground reaction forces.  Ground reaction force production during stances is pretty complex and it’s influenced by multiple physical qualities and coordination.

      There might be a little bit more of an individualised approach that can be taken to impact team athlete’s sprint performance.  This is especially true as the positive effects of a more general strength programme diminishes as the athlete grows in terms of their training age and level of expertise and their strength levels.  I think there’s more scope within a team sport setting to impact on an athlete’s speed compared to a sprinter who that’s all they’re training for.  I think it’s a little bit more untapped.”

      James on the four main areas he is most concerned with to help him build up a profile of the athlete and their sprint performance

      1. Current sprint strategy
      2. Injury history
      3. Strength related qualities
      4. Actual sprint performance- split times

      ”In terms of the sprint strategy this concerns some of the key technical markers and higher order kinematic variables such as step velocity, step length, step rate, contact time and flight time and how these variables change across the acceleration phase.

      You can have different ways of being fast over the first 10 metres.  It will probably be achieved in about seven steps, and you would expect to see that contact times will reduce with each step and the flight times will increase with each step.  In the initial steps the contact times will remain longer than the flight times.  This makes sense because we know that we need to generate large amounts of horizontal ground reactions forces to produce the horizontal impulse necessary to accelerate in those initial steps, and we can’t produce that force whilst in the air.  Because of its importance it is possible that someone with shorter contact times (which could increase the number of steps) and someone with longer push-offs could achieve the same overall net horizontal impulse and therefore both be equally effective strategies.

      It becomes a problem when it is too extreme, so if someone is really chopping their stride and producing really short contacts at the start, and they’re not going to be spending enough time generating that horizontal impulse on the ground.

      In terms of strength related qualities there are three main assessments I use.

      • Hip extensor torque assessment
      • Squat jump Force-Velocity profile
      • Repeated jump assessment

      The hip extensor contribution to the horizontal ground reaction force production is pretty well recognised now largely thanks to the work of J.B.Morin. It plays quite a key role in accelerating the centre of mass forward during the first stance phase.  I look at peak torque and also the rate of that production.  It helps me to identify whether we might need to slant the training more towards max force type work or more rate force type work with regards to the hip extensors. I’ll also look at two angles around the hip; a more extended hip position for the more later stages of acceleration and top end speed, and then I’ll have a much more flexed hip where less emphasis is hamstring driven, it’s more towards the glutes related to the earlier stages of acceleration.

      The squat jump force-velocity profile follows the methods of Samozino and his crew.  We can work out peak power of the leg extensors, and it’s a bit more biased towards the knee extensors.  We can look at the optimal levels of force and velocity that might be required at a given peak power to maximise that push-off performance that might be related to those initial steps.

      This allows us to then tailor our squat-based pattern work to be more max force orientated, more force at higher velocity or concurrent  development of both.

      The third strength quality assessment I use is like a repeated in-place jump test for RSI. This allows us to get an idea of how they’re able to limit the amount of leg definition, so stiffness but also looking at how they’re able to store and release the elastic energy effectively.  Once they’ve reached a certain strength level I feel like it’s quite important to become a little bit more specific with the approach taken.”

      James on how he designs a training session using the profile information

      I divide my speed sessions into five different sections

      Drills:

      • Low intensity activities
      • Cyclic in nature
      • Aimed at reinforcing favourable body position, rhythm and timing

      Drills for me can be a really useful coaching tool, in my opinion, because they allow you to almost over-emphasis an aspect or body or limb position you’re hoping the athlete will find when they sprint.  And the athlete can then ”hold onto” what that over-emphasis feels like.

      Jumps:

      • Selection decided based on theme
      • Usually more horizontally dominant for acceleration
      • More vertically dominant for max velocity
      • Continuum for regression/progression

      Priming activities:

      • Pretty much sprinting
      • Resistance sprint work (acceleration focused)
      • Running over small hurdles (max velocity focused)

      Free Sprinting or change of direction:

      • Close to maximum capabilities
      • Gradual increase to the distances covered and speed reached over time
      • Athlete ideally needs to be fresh

      Sport specific speed:

      • Match conditions with constraints
      • Gradual increase to the distances covered and speed reached over time

      ”The stage of the season or the logistics of that week, and individual needs of the players, will determine how many of those five components will be in an individual training session.  In a typical 45-minute session I’ll usually cover four to five of those components.  Whereas if less time is afforded such as towards the season, we might need to pick and choose from those five components which we feel are the most important at that time.”

      James on protecting hamstrings

      ”I think one of the things to consider is that sometimes a hamstring injury just happens!  And we can over analyse it and pull things apart programme wise.  I think gradual exposure and progressive exposure to sprinting distances and speeds is important.  Tied in with that is the technical focus of how they sprint.  Then I think inevitably there needs to be some strength-based work for the hamstrings, eccentric and isometric and I have no problem whatsoever with nordics.

      I think it’s really quite important to consider the strength qualities around the ankle.  Do they have the reactive strength type qualities, the stiffness with the right level of compliance at the ankle joint? Because, if they don’t, then they most certainly are going to over stride when they sprint, and over utilise the hamstrings.  Their strategy to run fast is going to be to over utilise the hip extensors to pull them through the start phase, rather than striking closer to their centre of mass and being able to spring off quicker as a result of a stiffer and tight ankle.

      Also what’s their lumbar and pelvic control like? Are they weak through certain areas? Are they just lacking coordination? Can they not stabilise their pelvis because of, it might be simple things like the hip flexors want to take over everything, are they not able to counter that through their abdominals?”

      James on coaching cues for improving sprinting performance

      ”Often for each individual they might need a combination of different cues that work for them. A lot of S&C coaches fall into the trap of seeing that their sprint technique has ”improved” and automatically think that they’re running faster.  I can tell you that 99 out of 100 times, in that acute setting , if you cue someone and they change their technique from how they normally sprint, they will be running slower.

      Now that’s absolutely fine if that’s part of a longer term strategy to try and shift them towards a certain technique.  But I think we just need to be a little bit cautious in that they will be running slower in that acure situation.  I think that sometimes it’s necessary to explain to the athlete that during a match or during testing or whatever, at a key time where they have to run as fast as possible, don’t think necessarily about changing your technique.

      Now there might be a flipside to that, that if someone’s a real injury risk waiting to happen, then obviously you might want to adapt it.”

      James on why S&C coaches are not as comfortable coaching speed as they are strength

      ”It completely makes sense, because if you think all those individuals, the amount of time they’ve spent training would have been more in the gym than it would have been out doing speed-related stuff. Then you consider that not all but a lot of educational programmes, degrees, courses out there, there’s probably a lot more emphasis on strength training as there is to speed.”

      Author opinion:

      Assess don’t guess!

      It is clear that James has developed a very comprehensive assessment battery and has a very high knowledge of the sprinting technical model and the various components of an optimal sprint strategy.  What was most interesting to me was the idea that in some cases it might be more optimal for an athlete to take more steps than the typically reported seven steps over 10 metres -provided an athlete can achieve the overall net horizontal impulse required.

      Clearly in order to know this for sure James is able to measure specific variables such as step velocity, step length, step rate, contact time and flight time and build up a profile that isn’t just based on outcome measures of split times.  He also uses a comprehensive strength assessment of not just leg extensor strength but hip extensor and ankle stiffness.

      Top 5 Take Away Points: 

      1. Individualisation– the higher the level of the athlete the more important it becomes to have an individualised approach to improving sprint performance
      2. Build a profile of the athlete– don’t just look at split times, look at how they sprint!
      3. Little by little– gradual increase to the distances covered and speed reached over tim
      4. Technique timing– if you cue someone and they change their technique from how they normally sprint, they will be running slower
      5. Understand Key Technical aspects of Sprinting– in order to get more comfortable coaching speed then get out on the field more and actually coach it, train it yourself and understand the technical model.

      Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?  Be sure to visit:

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      You may also like from PPP:

      Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

      Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

      Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

      Episode 64 James Wild

      Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

      Episode 183 Derek Hansen

      Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

      Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

      Episode 15 Carl Valle

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