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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

      Hope you have found this article useful.

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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!

      SIGN UP HERE

      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

      Hope you have found this article useful.

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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:

      Email: 

      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

      Hope you have found this article useful.

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      Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

      This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 212 – Boo Schexnayder

      Boo Schexnayder

      Website: www.sacspeed.com

      Background: 

      Boo began his career as a high school mathematics teacher as well as the American football and track coach.  He eventually gravitated into collegiate track and field, and upon his first retirement in 2007 began Schexnayder Athletic Consulting.  He recently returned to LSU as the strength coach for the track and field programme.

      Discussion topics:

      Boo on how being a school teacher set him up well to be in front of a group.

      ”Ultimately the most important coaching skill is communication.  I think having an education background is a bit of an advantage in that regard.”

      Boo on whether you can teach communication or it’s something that comes naturally

      ”I think both. I think most teachers have an aptitude and personalities that enable them to gravitate towards success in those areas, but I do think it can be developed  And I think probably the single most important thing is confidence. Once you become confident in what you say, then you become comfortable in front of people.  So my advice is to really learn your stuff, and the confidence that you get from that will definitely improve your ability to communicate with athletes.

      Boo on his philosophy related to plyometrics

      ”They are very important as far as the skill teaching as well as the power and elastic strength development that they produce.  Plyometric training should be of very high quality, not a quantity base but a quality-based approach.  Every different type of plyometric has a unique purpose.

      Plyometrics are tremendous motor educators in that they teach you how to apply forces to the ground in certain and very precise planes of movement.  If you hit the correct ratios of horizontal to vertical types of work, I think that you see not only strength and speed and power levels increase, but I think that you also see general movement quality increase.”

      In Place Jumps:

      • Typically done in circuit form
      • Three or four different circuits that are used depending on level of athlete/time of year
      • Best way to establish your plyometric volume

      A good circuit might have 10-12 different exercises (note that his jump circuits tend to have 6-7 exercises in whereas his medicine ball circuits have 10-12).  Each of those exercises is stressing the hip, knee, and ankle in a different way.  Since the number one cause of injury, typically, is repetitive movement, because of the fact that you are picking all of these different exercises, you have zero chance of repetitive movement injuries when you use in-place jumps to build your volumes.

      Short bounds:

      • High technical demand
      • Can be horizontal or vertical
      • Primary purpose are skill producers
      • 70-120 contacts

      ”In addition to the power and elasticity that they develop, these are the jumps that actually teach athletes how to apply forces to the ground correctly.

      ”They teach the correct timing of the ground contact forces that are involved in jumping activities.  Therefore they have the most carryover, in my opinion, to skill, more transfer to sports skills than any of the others that we see.”

      Extended bounds (Advanced):

      • Very similar to short bounds
      • But done over greater distances, 30-40 metres or so
      • 250-450m total volume
      • These are about power sustenance
      • Applicable to sports with  high power output but also a pseudo endurance demand

      ”They fit really well into the middle distances in track and field, and sports like basketball where you have these two minute spurts of play.”

      Depth jumps (Very Advanced):

      • Very high intensity training for athletes that are prepared for it
      • Bouncing on and off boxes doesn’t necessarily make it  a depth jump!
      • Boxes need to be very high to create a high enough impact level
      • Very short and sweet

      Boo on the ratio of vertical to horizontal jump training

      ”I try very hard to maintain certain ratios of vertical to horizontal work.  I typically find that athletes gravitate toward more effective movement patterns if you work vertical to horizontal at a ratio of about 2 to 1.

      ”I can’t really explain why that is. I think it has a lot to do with just human anatomy, and we’re kind of horizontally orientated creatures, I guess.  if you look at animals who run around on all fours and you look at the human hip, there are still some vestiges there, similarity in the anatomy.

      Anecdotally I found that it’s much more difficult and takes more effort to develop the vertical qualities as opposed to the horizontal qualities.  If you’re accelerating there’s a very large horizontal component therefore horizontal multi-jump type activities are advised.  On the other hand if you look at maximal velocity sprinting, the forces are more vertically orientated.”

      Boo on the use of Plyometrics in Team Sports

      ”I typically don’t drop below my 2 to 1 marker even in team sports because I feel vertical plyometric activities are really helpful when it comes to change of direction.  I know they don’t really look like it, but I think that the muscle groups that are responsible and effective in change of direction are similar to those we see used in single-leg vertical jumping.  I always see change of direction as a yielding type of activity.

      If you’re doing a box drop jump or a rebound jump off a box, well, you’re changing direction from down to up.  At the tissue level, there’s really no difference in changing direction from down to up or left to right.  It’s about yielding, and vertical plyometrics seem to be the environment where we can teach yielding best”

      Boo on his principles around programming of plyometrics in the week

      ”You handle things very differently in-season versus out of season.”

      Out of season– I like to include some type of plyometric component every time they do a speed power-based type of workout, which will be around two to three times per week.  Early off-season you will establish your volumes with in place jumps, then you have your short bounds and finally you move to your advanced forms of plyometrics like the extended bounds or possibly the depth jumps.

      In-season– Once you move to in season all rules are off and nobody is smart anymore.  Once athletes start travelling and they have aches that come from competition you never know quite what you’re going to get.  The competition season produces a very unpredictable environment and I think a good strength coach becomes more reactive at that particular time of year.

      I would (ideally) like to have them perform high intensity plyometrics in-season every 10-14 days.  There is no sense in doing low-end stuff if you’ve already prepared them to do the high-end stuff.  But at the same time, I know that sometimes the demands of competition, that might not be realistic.  Of course, the sport itself has something to do with it.  If you’re a basketball or volleyball player and all you ever do is jump, well, how many plyometrics do you really need?

      Boo on some of the technical trends in coaching maximal velocity including where he thinks people are spending a lot of time where they shouldn’t be!

      Arm action– ”In sprinting coaching you’re basically teaching people how to push against the ground correctly.  The upper body counters and balances the movements of the lower body.  I think that generally speaking in coaching we do not trust the body’s movement organisation processes enough. A lot of our sprint movements are organised subconsciously, they come from the spinal cord, not from the brain.  when you cut the chicken’s head off, it continues to run around the yard. So obviously you don’t have to THINK of everything!”

      Because of the fact the arms are very visible, I think that they’re favourites to coach.  But the arm movements evolve as the leg movements evolve, going from long arms pushing back during acceleration to short arms pushing down during top speed.  There is also rotational components in sprinting, and when the hand moves back they should widen a little bit if the hips are oscillating and turning the way they should do

      Core Training– ”When you’re sprinting at maximal velocity, the demands on the core are so much greater than what you experience in a sit-up or a crunch or one of those simple exercises that is not really core training.  When we examine what the core does in sprinting, we see that the shoulders and hips operate in opposition.  You see a winding and unwinding action in the core, so our training needs to be rotational in nature, and specifically anti-rotational strength.  This is where medicine ball catch toss stuff and things of that nature forces you to stabilise elastically in the core and it’s a very specific type of movement.”

      Coaching the Knee lift– ”Knee lift is undoubtedly necessary in sprinting.  When you lift the knee you place a pre-stretch on the hip extensors, and that enables a more forceful push against the ground.  But we’ve got to remember the other side of it as well, once you push against the ground completely, you’re putting a pre-stretch on the hip flexors, and that helps to pump the knee.

      In some sprint coaching cultures it’s gotten to the point where we are overdoing knee lifts so we’re forgetting about the pushing side of things.  Sprinting is about pushing down, and I don’t want to base my basic sprint training or teaching model upon picking the feet up.”

      Boo on his principles around use of circuit training for recovery

      ”For restoration purposes with almost all speed power athletes I use circuit training, basically body weight circuits, med ball circuits, and also some weight training circuits.  Mild to moderate levels of lactate produce growth hormone responses that are very positive and assist in restoration.  These circuits are typically about 12 minutes in length.  I put the circuits together in ways where I’m trying to hit a perfect balance between really fatiguing them , but also allowing them to be powerful throughout the entire circuit.

      I like the circuits much more so than (tempo) running.  Some coaches like to use tempo running in search of restoration and view that they can achieve the lactate levels the same way with tempo training.  It’s unquestionable, you can’t!  But I’m going back to what I said earlier about repetitive movement.  And if you do running workouts for your restoration, that’s just right, left, right, left, and that’s a lot of repetitive tissue assault.”

      Author opinion:

      Boo has extensive experience in the area of track & field and strength & conditioning, and it all started in the classroom as an educator which really helped with his teaching ability!

      One thing that was interesting from listening back to the podcast, was his comment about confidence that you gain from really ‘knowing your stuff.’  The industry can do a better job in my opinion of ensuring that communication skills (and business skills) are put higher on the coach education agenda.  Brett Bartholomew who has featured several times on the Pacey Performance is a coach who is blazing the trail here- with his Bought In and ValueED online training programmes.

      It was also interesting to hear Boo’s take on circuits for restoration.  In the Blog Review with Derek Hansen he talked about the benefits of tempo running done daily as a form of micro-dosing.  So I guess you need to read both of their rationals and do what makes most sense for you.  Who says you couldn’t do both? But I hear what Boo says about the repetitiveness of running! Some times if my Tennis athletes have had a hard day of tennis drilling the day before, the last thing they want to do is more running on their feet the next day!

      Top 5 Take Away Points: 

      1. Learn Your Stuff– really learn your stuff, and the confidence that you get from that will definitely improve your ability to communicate
      2. Have a Classification System– Boo uses four main categories of plyometrics (in-place jumps, short bounds, extensive bounds and depth jumps)
      3. Maintain a 2 to 1 ratio– of vertical to horizontal plyometric work in your programme
      4. In-Season Programming– perform high intensity plyometrics in-season every 10-14 days
      5. Understand Key Technical aspects of Sprinting– Arm action, core training and Knee lift should be coached according to their intuitive function in sprinting.

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

      www.www.sacspeed.com

      You may also like from PPP:

      Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

      Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

      Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

      Episode 204, 64 James Wild

      Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

      Episode 183 Derek Hansen

      Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

      Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

      Episode 15 Carl Valle

      Hope you have found this article useful.

      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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      Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 175 Jason Hettler

      This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 175 – Jason Hettler.

      Jason Hettler

      Website: www.simplifaster.com

      Background: 

      Jason was born and raised in Michigan, and completed his degree in exercise science there.  He then came out to what was at the time World Athletic Center for an internship, and was offered a position after that.  They rebranded and changed the name to ALTIS (approximately August 2015).

      Discussion topics:

      Jason on ALTIS, it’s visibility on social media and the aims as a business.

      ”A big objective of ours is to professionalise amateur sport, with focus on track and field, reactionary in nature to the sport performance world.  It’s all about being transparent and putting it out there and giving future generations a better idea of what high performance sport does or can look like.  We are trying different avenues to reach the masses, including the foundation course, the 360 Library subscription based content, apprentice coach programme

      Jason on how you sort the signal from the noise in terms of what is the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of information on social media

      ”Try and find individuals who have some trends and some patterns of success, rather than one-offs.  A big part of it as well is having a philosophy as a coach and a practitioner and understanding what it is that you stand for.  A quote from Alexander Hamilton is, if you don’t have that philosophy then if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for everything.”

      Jason on periodisation and the philosophy at ALTIS

      ”We’re still trying to work through it all and see what really does periodisation means and where it fits.  But for now we look at periodisation and how we operate at ALTIS through what we term a complex parallel lens.  For us all that really means is that we have three major objectives on the track, and we have three major objectives in the weight room.”

      Track:

      • Acceleration
      • Speed
      • Speed Endurance

      Weight Room:

      • Dynamic Effort
      • Max Effort
      • Repetitive Effort

       

      ”If we look at acceleration development, we’re looking at shorter reps, anywhere from 10 metres up to possibly 40 metres.  Our speed work builds off of that from 60 to 90 metres, and our speed endurance will come from typically 120 metres up to 250 metres.  At least that’s with the short sprinters.

      We’re going to take a gradual progression from the grass and flats onto the track with spikes, with blocks, solo runs, then running next to somebody, and slowly building from there.  Then as far as the weight room, our Zone 1 (Dynamic effort) use long range of motion exercises such as a clean grip snatch, which allows a lot of time to generate velocity on the bar.  Our max strength Zone 3 uses compound lifts at intensities of 85% and up, higher rest, three to five minutes, lower reps anywhere from 1-5 reps typically.  Then in the more work capacity type sessions it’s really limiting the rest, higher reps, 10-12 possibly, and then we’ll use a lot of unilateral work there just as an avenue to increase some time under tension.  We are very particular and quite careful with the prescription on the work capacity (due to hypertrophy being contraindicated).  That’s one of the zones that comes out pretty early in the year.  For some individuals they may never even see that type of loading parameter but it really just comes down to an individual basis after that.”

      Jason on the common threads that run through the programme at ALTIS not dependant on the individual

      ”For the athletes with high training age a lot of them have pretty high strength levels.  At this level for them, the big difference maker typically is not going to be the development of maximum strength, whereas a youth athlete or somebody a little bit less developed will see a lot of increase in speed and in acceleration through training that ability.

      Some of the females for instance may have a little bit more of that work capacity because they’re not going to put on size quite the same way that a lot of men do.  So they may have a higher density of it and/or may carry it longer throughout the training year.  For most of them we’ll take max strength through the competitive season and bring that down to once every 10 or so days, just enough of a stimulus for them to feel that tension and to feel strong.

      In terms of supplementary work we’ll do a lot of posterior chain work, a lot of work for the hamstrings especially.  That usually starts isometrically and/or eccentrically and then progressing into what we refer to as reflexive eccentric, which are really fast, light loads, really trying to get a quick eccentric contraction out of it and in some ways trying to replicate what they’re going to experience when they’re sprinting.

      The other avenue for supplementary work is a lot of the Bosch type stuff that’s coming out and being quite popular.  For us, we’re still figuring out exactly where it fits within our methodology and our philosophy, but for now, it almost serves as a bridge so to speak, between the warm up that we’ll do in the weight room and the main pieces of a session.  There is a lot of context and stability around the high knee or A position, I think Bosh refers to as a hip lock position.  For us it’s definitely clear that there’s benefit to it and that it fits somewhere, so I think the next step is how much, and where.”

      Jason on the use of Velocity Based Training (VBT) at ALTIS

      ”We’ve played with it a little bit with our Dynamic Effort day. From the athlete’s perspective, all we want them thinking on those days is to move the bar as fast as they can, and ideally we’re going to see some progressing of overload and it’s going to get faster each time, but we realised that’s not always the case, especially when they’re coming off track and all the different factors and variables that come into play.  They may not be feeling the same that they felt the last time they did the session.  And so really our programming numbers and loads are based more off a Perceived Exertion of Intensity. In addition we don’t go off a percentage of 1RM.

      Everything we do is supplementary to what we’re doing on the track, and so in a lot of ways we’re trying to safeguard and manage fatigue to allow the execution and the quality and the intensity that we like to see on the track to occur.”

      Jason on his principles around acceleration

      ”Stuart McMillan really turned me on to this idea of projection, rhythm, and rise.

      Projection– angular projection of shank relative to the ground during the initial impulse, as well as the hips projecting horizontally.  Some people get caught p in the trap of this idea that a 45 degree angle is optimal for everybody.  It’s really finding where an athlete fits based on their abilities and limb length.

      A big myth I think around acceleration is the short choppy steps and possibly an issue with speed ladders, and speed ladders may have a time and space for some people, or for some objective, but in terms of accelerating and accelerating properly, I think the potential for some negative carryover for that, because we want longer strides, hip projecting forward.

      Rhythm – If we think of a clap being ground contact, it’s going to start slow and slowly increase with each step, so as velocity increases we’re going to need to see a change in that ground contact and in that frequency.

      Rise – as the velocity is increasing, we need to see a gradual rise of the centre of mass.

      Jason on the differences in programming for speed between track and field athletes and team sports

      Not a lot really in a lot of ways it follows a similar pattern and for a lot of that it’s when we introduce variability, and how we do that.  At the start of the year, or the start if a training camp for team sports athletes, we’re not going to throw a lot of variability at them.  They’ll already have a lot of variability, after taking two months off or six weeks at the end of the season, and not look the greatest, and lose some of the mechanics and some of the understanding.

      As they begin to develop that understanding and lose some of that more innate or natural variability that they have in their movement, then we’ll start to pile some things on and so complexes of different drills, using different sprint drills in between the accelerations.  One thing I have found a lot of success with just holding a dowel on your shoulders, taking the arms out of it, really seems to take projection quite well.  It’s implemented more through the middle of the phase, whether it’s mid season, or it’s the middle couple of weeks of a six week training camp.  That’s when we start to insert it and really begin to challenge the stability of those movement patterns and see how deep we can get that those attractor wells to build.

      Towards the end of a training camp we want to pull that away so that they can really try to round things out and leave that camp with a better understanding, take out some of that noise and variability, and just execute properly with very specific technical feedback.

      Author opinion:

      ALTIS have a compelling mission to give future generations a better idea of what high performance does or can look like. If you are interested in ALTIS and specifically the training theory related to the weight room, I’d also encourage you to check out Stu MacMillan’s website and his ”Coaches’ Guide to Strength Development” blog series.  It is clear that Stu (Head Coach at ALTIS) has a strong desire to simplify the complexity and with this blog series including guest posts from the likes of Matt Jordan and Derek Evely he really delivers on their mission to be transparent and put it all out there.  It is one of the most comprehensive guides you’ll ever read on a leading organisation’s training principles and methodology.

      Check it out at: www.mcmillanspeed.com

       

      One thing that was interesting from listening back to the podcast, was that a the beginning of the chat Jason seemed unclear where the ”Bosch type stuff” fits and then at the end of the podcast he was quite clear that he would programme in ”variability” into the training block towards the mid phase of the training block.  So it would be worth following up with Jason on how the Bosch type stuff has evolved in the training at ALTIS in the weight room. To me it seemed like he almost answered his own question by suggesting (at least for the track work) he would bring in more variability towards the middle of a training period (which could include Bosch type exercises)

      Top 5 Take Away Points: 

       

      1. Have a Mission–  ALTIS mission is to professionalise amateur sport and give future generations a better idea of what high performance sport does or can look like
      2. Have a Philosophy– ALTIS have three major objectives on the track (Acceleration, Speed and Speed Endurance) and three in the weights room (Max Effort, Dynamic Effort and Repetition Effort)
      3. Understand Importance of Maximum Strength– for an athlete with a high training age the big difference maker typically is not going to be the development of maximum strength
      4. Understand Importance of S&C– Everything we do is [only ever] supplementary to what we’re doing on the track
      5. Understand Key Technical aspects of Acceleration– Projection, Rhythm and Rise

       

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

      www.altis.world

      www.simplifaster.com

       

      You may also like from PPP:

      Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

      Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

      Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

      Episode 204, 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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      Giving Feedback – Why Less is More- Part 3

      In this final part of the three-part blog series I will look at implicit feedback, which is feedback that you get from your interaction with the environment.  This is a way of getting feedback without conscious awareness of technique.

      Implicit learning

      One thing that Matt didn’t refer to is this concept of Explicit versus Implicit feedback.  If we talk about a speed task for example, when a coach is giving you feedback the coach will either tell you how fast you moved (KR) or tell you ‘how’ you moved (KP).   The moment the coach takes responsibility for telling you how you did something- good or bad- they are being ‘explicit’ with you because they are raising your awareness to how you are getting your results.  They are talking to you about technique!  Whenever we use KP we are doing this!

      But what if there was an alternative way to improve technique without conscious awareness of it?………..  This is more related to KR.  This is where you don’t provide any feedback on technique as you want full focus on the target.

      I think this is the area that has received quite a bit of discussion on in recent years.  I will refer back to Part 1 where we were introduced to the idea of the Performance Playground.  You don’t always need the spoken words (feedback) about technique from an actual ‘Teacher’ or coach to learn something.  Sometimes the environment can be its own teacher.

      In a presentation on the APA Philosophy one of the questions I asked was ”How Do We Learn New Skills?”  I gave the example of a baby learning to walk and speak, and a young child learning how to ride a bike.

      Movement shapes vs. Movement problem

      There seems to be an agreement that many of the most important skills we acquire as babies and young children are ‘reflex driven’ meaning the body responds to the environment through perception-action coupling.  You learn through trial and error, and slowly getting better.

      Experts identify, filter & attend to sensory information quicker as well as have more elaborate skills & greater understanding of strategy to make more effective responses

      You could consider these as ‘movement problems’- how to walk or ride a bike without falling over.  As parents we don’t tend to get overly concerned with the movement shape- exactly how they should move their arms and legs (knowledge of performance).  The achievement of walking or riding a bike a certain distance without assistance would constitute knowledge of results.  We give them the outcome but we don’t coach them how to achieve it.

      Yet I know myself, that once I have an athlete in a more organised coaching session to develop more advanced skills like sprinting and cutting, I have a habit of making myself central to the coaching experience and want to rush in and correct errors far too soon.  I get wrapped up in the perfect movement shape or ‘technical model.’  So suddenly the coaching approach shifts.

      Constraints based coaching

      One concept that comes up in the literature is constraints based coaching referring to the three main things you can manipulate or constrain in your coaching.

      • Athlete
      • Task
      • Environment

      The idea of using ‘constraints’ is to  allow more attention to be put on the external environment rather than the internal movement.  If you change the task or you manipulate the environment it will promote the desired skill without you necessarily having to raise their awareness to the technique you want.  In theory the body will self-organise and figure it out.  For example if you play tag in a small space the body is more likely to adopt a shuffle step, and if you make it a constraint that it’s ‘knee tag’ then they are more likely to use their legs to get lower.  If you manipulate the task to make the grid bigger and call it shoulder tag you will get more running type movements.

      This type of coaching is also referred to as ‘Discovery Learning.’  This creates an ‘Psychophysical’ environment which provides a setting to exploit movement variability as a mechanism to enhance an athlete’s adaptability.  Features of coaching in this environment include:

      *Movements must be practised

      *Adopt non awareness strategy

      *Can involve relevant external cues

      *Must be sports ‘related’

      *Involve problem solving

      *Can be reactive

       

      Children do Not learn automatically in FMS

      One cautionary point to make in case you have the impression I am suggesting coaches stop giving feedback- using constraints to create a discovery learning based environment doesn’t mean children don’t benefit from receiving feedback on performance!!

      Children do not develop automatically in FMS.  They need to learn and practice.

      Yes skilled movers need to be able to adjust their movements to the changing environment- but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them how!

      Selectively introduce the novice to the right aspects of the environment.  This is known as ‘Education of Attention.’

      Show landmarks that orientate his or her activities. Learn what to notice and do, through the imitation of others.

      Learning how to deal with very specific settings in which their training has taken place. I liken this to a young boy going out hunting with his Father in the jungle and learning how to notice things to help him hunt.

       

      MultiskillZ Programme

      One programme which I think really embraces these concepts of Implicit coaching and Discovery Learning is ”Multi SkillZ” programme-which I feel creates the template for movement exploration for others to follow.  In their description of their philosophy they say:

      MOTOR COMPETENCE is foundation for SPORT SKILL

      The goal is NOT to improve certain movement patterns or movement techniques.  We emphasis motor abilities referred to as the sub factors of the different development domains.  We do not stick to specific drills or exercises.  On the contrary we would like to expose the children to continuously changing situations and movement tasks.  In this way we believe we accelerate motor learning and motor abilities.

      FUN and stimulating

      A Multi SkillZ drill meets 5 standards. The i5-approved drills:

      • Invite participants to play or move
      • Intensive
      • Intriguing as it takes the attention of each participant constantly
      • Implicit learning
      • Interactive as participants are challenged to work together

       

      Play

      I’ve already mentioned before my reluctance in the past to create a play environment, which is partly because of my fear of how parents will perceive this type of activity.  This kind of links with my next point which is where I feel it may be viewed as lazy coaching- because it looks like the coach is doing more observing than giving feedback. I have to say I was guilty of making this judgement in my early career.  I personally saw the more experienced coaches talking less and watching more and thought they had become ‘complacent.’  As a inexperienced coach I wanted to say more.

      It’s also because I want to overload certain types of movement and have come to value blocked practice highly in early stages of learning.  But lately I am questioning how impactful this type of drilling is, and also how fun it is!  My reflection is that I wanted to focus more on the movement problem and a little less on the movement shape- the technical model.  This essentially means I am tending to reverse engineer from the actual movement and regress to a more simple drill when the athlete is having difficulties executing the skill.

       

      Hope you have found this article useful.

       

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      Giving Feedback- Why Less is More- Part 2

      In this second part to my blog series on Feedback we are still looking at the feedback from the coach known as external feedback.  Here we get into the detail a little more and look at what to say and perhap also what NOT to say!

      For an excellent review of the literature on feedback check out Mattspoint latest blogs on the topic.  Part 1 and Part 2. Below are some extracts from Part 2 where he talks about Feedback Timing and feedback Frequency.

      Feedback Timing

      Overall, coaches and researchers caution against the over-reliance of concurrent -meaning during the skill- (and constant) feedback as it often turns into ‘white noise’, not benefitting the athlete in any meaningful way. From a player and parents perspective, this may sometimes be a challenge – “the coach doesn’t say much”. Truth is, the coach is likely purposely holding back their feedback, allowing the player to ‘figure it out’ before attempting to intervene.

      Now of course there’s a difference between an absent-minded coach, one that just isn’t in tune with what’s going on, and one that’s withholding feedback for the player’s sake. But those of you reading this post are likely part of the latter, rather than the former.

      Key pointwait until you see a consistent error before jumping in and correcting! Don’t create athletes that can’t operate without your feedback. Allow them space to develop their problem solving ability – this actually builds confidence.”

      Feedback Frequency

      Interestingly enough, research has indicated that when athletes are given the choice, they prefer to receive feedback about 30% of the time. In many tennis settings, however, the reverse (or worse) is true – coaches are giving feedback 70% of the time or more!

      It does depend on the athlete you’re working with and where your skills as a coach lie. Younger coaches tend to say a lot to prove that ‘they know what they’re talking about’. Experienced coaches have ‘been there and done that’ and don’t need that validation.

      For instance, ever seen a practice session with two pro players and an experienced coach? Very little is said during the actual session. When I work alongside elite coaches, we purposely set objectives before practice, provide minor cues during breaks/changeovers and a more in-depth debrief at the end of a session. This is even more true as we approach competition periods – I should reiterate, players need space to problem solve on their terms.

      Faded Feedback

      With faded feedback, a coach will initially provide feedback on every (or almost every) attempt. Research suggests that this helps accelerate the learner’s path towards the movement goal. As the movement becomes more proficient, feedback is provided less frequently – in effect, fading out. The ultimate goal being that the learner can achieve the intended movement without a dependence on the coach and/or the feedback.

      The beauty here is that feedback can also be faded back in – in case the movement has regressed in some way. Once it’s back on track, the feedback again is withdrawn.

      Bandwidth Feedback

      With this form of feedback, a preset ‘degree of acceptability’ is established – with no feedback given when performance falls within the bandwidth and feedback given when it falls outside of the band of acceptability. The key here is that the learner is aware, before the fact, that if nothing is said, the movement is basically ‘correct’.

      Research (Sherwood 1988) found that when the band was larger (~10%) compared to the target goal, it was more effective than smaller bands (1-5%). The theory being that less feedback (because of a larger bandwidth) will produce stable and consistent actions over time.

      Summary Feedback

      Here, feedback is given after a series of attempts – like 5 or 10, for instance. Interestingly enough, this feedback type has been shown to be more effective than trial-to-trial feedback – even though mistakes can be higher during practice, with this approach.

      Interestingly enough, researchers found that getting feedback after every attempt promoted too much dependence. At the same time, feedback that was too infrequent (say, after 100 trials), didn’t guide the learner efficiently enough. Based on several experiments, feedback post about 5 trials seems to be most optimal when it comes to longer-term learning.

      Tip: If you’re basket-feeding, try for multiple series of about 5 attempts, before intervening with feedback (even if you detect an error beforehand). This approach might have several benefits – first, the player has freedom to self-correct. Second, 5 attempts is still relatively low, so they won’t ingrain a bad habit. And lastly, from a physical standpoint it’s more specific to the demands of actual tennis-play (i.e. work:rest ratios).

      Learner-Determined Feedback

      This is pretty self-explanatory – feedback is only given when the learner requests it. I’ve encountered this on many occasions when working with elite players. But is it effective?

      According to a throwing task study, participants that self-directed feedback, had better throwing accuracies compared to a group that was given faded feedback (feedback frequencies and types were matched). How can this be? Wulf and others in this field of study found that when feedback is learner-determined, it tends to be requested more following successful/correct attempts, compared to poor ones. Isn’t that interesting?

      [Daz comment] As a coach I have to say I still feel like I need to be saying things more often and giving feedback and tips to correct their errors as soon as I see them.  It’s partly because I feel parents expect it and it’s partly because I am in the habit of wanting to correct an error as soon as I see one- rather than giving them a few reps to figure it out!  Wait until you see a consistent error before jumping in and correcting!

      How I feel when I see a technical error- I need to stop myself from wanting to get involved and ‘tell’ them how to solve the problem!

       

      Hope you have found this article useful.

       

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      Giving Feedback- Why Less is More- Part 1

      In recent months the Tennis Academy where I am based have been challenging the coaches (including S&C coaches) to coach less explicitly.  This got me thinking, what types of feedback am I providing as a coach, and as the leader of my company?  Is my feedback impactful? Is it driving the quality of movement and athleticism that ‘transfers’ onto the tennis court under time and fatigue pressure? Or am I just fixing a skill that looks good in a drill?

      In this three part blog I will first look at explicit feedback, this is the feedback given by the coach. I’ll talk about the difference between Knowledge of Results (KR) versus Knowledge of Performance (KP).

      In the second part I will look at the different types of external feedback form the coach.  In the third blog I will look at implicit feedback, which is feedback that you get from your interaction with the environment.  This is a way of getting feedback without conscious awareness of technique.

      Part 1- Performance Playground

      I must have written at least 10 blogs on how to create an optimum learning environment.  Only recently did I listen back to Craig Harrison speak on the Pacey Performance Podcast about what we can learn from the skate parks that kids love to spend hours at.  For one, it’s a place where there is no formal coaching taking place!  yet they will happily spend hours and hours there just trying out new tricks with their mates.

      Craig spoke about + – = coaching

      + These are the children who are older and/or slightly more advanced than you- so you have someone to reach for

      These are the children who are younger and/or slightly less advanced than you- so you have someone to help

      = These are your peers and/or children of the same level as you who you can really compete with!

       

      Feedback

      In a skate park you will naturally see all of these children exploring together- and not one adult telling them how to skate!  I thought this was a nice analogy and I have previously heard both Nick Grantham and Darren Roberts talk about the ‘Performance Playground.’  I have to say I have struggled to fully embrace the concept of giving children a space to play in with obstacles that either I have created or ones that they have created…..and let them play and explore.  I think partly I have wanted to control the environment a bit more so there is more intentional OVERLOAD via repetition of a particular movement I want to develop- through ‘drilling the skill.’

      I also think it is partly the curse of the parent! I often feel parents expect the children to be busy, and the time it takes to set up an obstacle course (which is part of the fun!) might be seen outwardly as a ‘waste of time’ if they are paying for ‘coaching!’  I somehow feel the need to appear ‘busy.’  This extends to me feeling like I need to be saying things more often and giving feedback and tips to correct their errors as soon as I see them.

      For an excellent review of the literature on feedback check out Mattspoint latest blogs on the topic.  Part 1 and Part 2. Below are some extracts:

      In Part 1 Matt talks about feedback types.

      Feedback Types

      When it comes to feedback types, at the core, there are 2:

      1. Knowledge of results (KR): this feedback type is related to the outcome.
      2. Knowledge of performance (KP): this feedback type is related to the quality of the movement, mechanics or process that produced the outcome.

      In tennis, KR could be related to where the ball lands, how fast the ball is travelling, how much spin was generated etc. In the gym, it could be feedback on the amount of weight lifted, how far/high someone jumped, how fast they performed an agility task and so on.  Overall, KR is more number driven.  I often don’t provide any feedback on stroke mechanics as I want full focus on the target.

      Knowledge of Performance

      In contrast to KR, KP feedback relates to the movement that produced the outcome. KP feedback is a bit more complex as it’s less objective and thus can be more open to interpretation.  For instance, because KP deals with how a player executed a certain movement or action, we can use different forms of feedback to reinforce good mechanics or to correct a technical flaw.

      • Tell the player what they did or didn’t do well
      • I can show the player by demonstrating the movement
      • I can show the player by using video or still photos
      • I can guide the player to feel it by moving their racket
      • I can use a sound to let the player hear it such as clapping or making sound effects

      Most experienced coaches will intuitively provide either KR or KP feedback, depending on the aim of the session/drill. Other times, however, it might be appropriate to combine the two types of feedback: “That ball landed short of the target line (KR), because you didn’t accelerate your hand/wrist through contact (KP)”.  

      The issue as I see it, however, is that players are getting this type of feedback too often – sometimes after every single shot! This is the frequency part of the equation (which we’ll explore in next week’s post). But there’s one important factor we must consider in all this; whether a player knows it or not, there is always an internal dialogue in their heads – i.e. self-feedback.

      This self-feedback is called intrinsic feedback; while KR and KP feedback (which is provided by the coach or could be by some other observer/training partner etc) is referred to as extrinsic (or augmented) feedback. Here is Reid et al’s (2007) take on this:

      “The provision of too much extrinsic feedback is suggested to breed an over-reliance on the coach, and impair an individual’s ability to independently process and evaluate information. This may manifest on-court with some players becoming anxious at the prospect of having to problem-solve without direct, extrinsic feedback or guidance.”

      As coaches, we all want what’s best for our players – at times, however, that might mean to let them be. I’ve dealt with this situation many times; a player constantly looking towards me after every lost point in a practice set. While my instinct is to provide them with the solution, I try to bite my tongue and give them the platform to ‘figure it out on their own’. In the moment, they aren’t always happy, but after the fact, they realize the benefit of this coaching strategy.

      A lot of this is dependant on the level of the player, and their subsequent stage of learning. Motor learning literature (Reid et al 2007), does suggest that as player’s skill develops/augments, there should be less and less reliance on extrinsic feedback, allowing intrinsic self-talk to carry the brunt of the work.

      [Daz comment]  I always say to my coaches that every drill should have a clear outcome (KR) and process (KP).  I also say that with naturally competitive people you need to ‘keep score‘ to keep them engaged.  Naturally, KR lends itself to this so you can do a speed drill and time them or simply see who crosses the finish line (target) first!  But I also like to keep score with ‘how well’ someone performed the exercises (KP) and award points for the best performed movement even if it wasn’t the fastest.  Obviously ideally we need both- fast and high quality movements!

      As a coach I have to say I know I have a tendency to give quite a bit of KP feedback, perhaps too much! With poor moving athletes I have a tendency to start with a high level skill and then try and correct all the errors that I see with KP every rep! What I am experimenting with is starting with a more simple skill and then adding progressions so that they maintain the basic skills without too many errors and have time to make corrections themselves as the level of difficulty increases.

      For example:

      Level 1- Sidesteps across court

      Level 2- Sidesteps from middle of court out to one side and back to middle

      Level 3- Sidesteps to Left or Right according to coach signal

      Level 4- Sidesteps to Left or Right but you start from a standing on one leg position

      Level 4- Sidesteps to Left or Right AND when you get back stand on one leg

       

      If I let them perform several reps at each level this will allow for a range of abilities.  It does mean the most capable athletes will be waiting for a few reps before the task gets more challenging, but in the meantime they can still stay motivated by having a race with their peers!

       

      Hope you have found this article useful.

       

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