Russian Special Strength Training (SST) – Part 3

This is the last blog post to round off my series on ”Power” development as it relates to jumping.  There will definitely be a follow up on other concepts such as rotational power and upper body power, but I’ll save that for another day.

 

Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches – Vuri & Natalia Verkhoshansky (2011) has been a go to text for me over the years, and each time I read it I take another gem away.  It’s certainly not an easy read, even with the good translation it’s still written in a pretty complex writing style so it can be hard to get through in parts.

 

 

In this Part 3 I will look at the remaining forms of combined methods of Special strength training (SST).  Please take a look at Part 1 for more info on the Loading schemes recommended, and Part 2 for the first set of combined methods .

 

Combined Methods used in SST

 

The ultimate goal is to increase the level of maximal explosive force effort of similar movements using highly specific explosive strength exercises (jumps).  Before the use of these highly specific explosive strength exercises, it is necessary to enforce the main muscle synergies (coordination), which ensure improvements in the CAPACITY TO OPPOSE THE FORCE OF GRAVITY: barbell squats, standing calf raises and more specifically, the seated calf raise.

 

Chapter 4 of the book features further information on the combined methods of SST which consist of combinations of different SST means in order to ensure a determined cumulative training effect.  I will also refer back to Chapter 2 where Yuri talks about Isometric exercises (pg 81) and then gives examples of Combined Regimes (pg 83-85).

 

Depending on what means are used, how they are performed, and how they are temporarily combined, it is possible to differentiate the following Combined Methods:

 

  • Complex Method
  • Stimulation Method
  • Contrast Method
  • Circuit Method
  • Strength-Aerobic Method

 

I will check back through the Triphasic Method book as I know that the use of the terms ”complexes” and ”contrasts” can mean different things to different coaches, but for the purposes of this blog the use of the word complex and contrast will be as used in the Book chapters, and according to their descriptions below.

 

For this blog I will focus on the final three : Contrast Method, Circuit Method and Strength-Aerobic Method.

Contrast Method

 

The Contrast Method is used mainly for increasing High-Speed strength (aka ballistic strength #APAMETHOD).  This goal is achieved by creating a contrast of the kinesthetic sensations, performing, at maximum power output, a complex movement in alternating conditions, more or less difficult in comparison to the normal.

 

The physiological mechanism that explains how this works is based on ”motor engrams” which are the possible ways to accomplish a motor action stored and memorized in the brain.   The higher the motor experience of the athlete, the more precise and unambiguous these instructions are.   However, on the flip side, when the correct motor pattern has already been acquired, it’s difficult to obtain adjustments which could ensure a further improvement in the motor action.

 

 

If the athlete repetitively performs the same sport exercise, with the aim of executing it at the higher power output, their motor control system always uses the same engram.  The kinesthetic sensations of the needed magnitude of force and speed of movement are FIXED IN THE BRAIN and become an ”archetype.”

 

Because of this archetype the athlete encounters great difficulty in changing the bio-dynamic structure of exercise when they repetitively strives to increase their power output.  In addition, the same training stimuli, repeated consecutively, provokes a sensory adaptation and a desensitization (decrease in the sensitivity) of the nervous system to these stimuli, ceasing to produce the same training effect.

 

If the athlete executes the exercise with the same goal (maximal power output) but in DIFFERENT EXTERNAL CONDITIONS, the kinesthetic feedback adapts the motor structure to these conditions and the new motor engrams remains in the brain.

 

The new condition could be made MORE DIFFICULT when the athlete has a higher level of external resistance to overcome, or EASIER, when the level of resistance is less and the athlete can execute the movements with a higher speed.

 

Coaching application:  the athlete performs the movement in the ”new” condition, and then immediately performs the ”normal” conditions, applying the new motor engram.  This may allow the athlete to perform the exercise in the normal conditions with a higher force effort and/or with a higher speed.

 

There are many ways to vary the conditions of the competition exercise’s execution. 

 

  • Track & Field throwers – executing the final movement of the competition exercise or the competition exercises as a whole, with different weights of the sport device (using heavier and lighter weights to overload with a higher force effort and movement speed, respectively.

 

  • Combat Sports – wrestlers use specific exercises performed with heavier or less heavy sacks (to imitate the opponent’s body) or with actual partners of higher or lower weights categories.

 

  • Cyclic Sports – In a rower’s training a brake can be used to alternate between difficult and easier conditions.  In a cyclist’s training, athletes alternate tracks with different speeds (on the road and on the track) and tracks (uphill/downhill) with different gears.  In a swimmer’s training an elastic rope can be towed (see below), with 10-15 resisted strokes followed by short swim of 10-15 m under normal conditions, repeating 6-10 times.  Track & field sprinters can execute over-speed running on a track of 30-40 m with a slight downward slope, followed by a flat run.

 

 

In field sports including Tennis creating more difficult or easier conditions is also a matter of experience and the power of imagination.

 

 

One common technique uses a quick release belt, which involves releasing the belt following a period of resistance from the partner who is being towed, or even a weighted sled.

 

 

Circuit Method

 

The Circuit Method is well known in sport practice.  In this method the exercises, affecting different muscular groups, are carried out sequentially (circuit) and the sequence is repeated several times.

 

E.g., Shoulder press –> Back squat –> Hanging Leg raise –> Press-ups –> RDL –> Good mornings

 

The interval between exercises is usually of a short duration in order to execute the exercises of the training seance in an aerobic regime, think 60-sec on and 60-sec off.  In this way both muscular system and cardiovascular system are stimulated.  This method mainly helps to increase the capacity of the energy systems to perfect the functional capacities of various muscle groups.

 

VARIANT 1 – Eight stations of exercises are performed in which the work interval is 60 seconds and the rest interval is 60 seconds:

 

  1.  Squats with 20 kg barbell
  2.  Jumps in place
  3.  Push ups
  4.  Shoulder press
  5.  Russian twists with 20 kg plate
  6.  Jumps in place
  7.  Power clean
  8.  Shuttles

 

VARIANT 2 – Six stations of exercises are performed in which the work interval is 20 seconds and the rest interval is 10 seconds:

 

  1.  Power cleans with 40 kg barbell
  2.  Jumps in place
  3.  Tricep extensions with 20 kg barbell
  4.  Push jerk with 40 kg barbell
  5.  Jumps onto a box 60 cm high
  6.  Power snatch with 40 kg barbell

 

VARIANT 3 – Six stations of exercises are performed in which there is no rest between exercises and the rate of execution is maximal:

 

  1.  Press ups – 20 reps
  2.  Jumps over 10 low barriers
  3.  Overhead med ball throws – 10 throws
  4.  Leg scissors – 10 reps each side
  5.  Single leg jumps over 10 low barriers – 2 reps on each leg
  6.  Acrobatic exercise – 3 forward rolls

 

Strength-Aerobic Method

 

The main characteristic of the strength-aerobic method lies in the strength development of both the fast and the slow muscle fibres.

 

VARIANT 1 – is similar to the Complex Method.  It includes two resistance exercises executed with the same muscle groups, but using different methods.

 

Combinations Variant First Exercise Rest between exercises Second Exercise Number of sets of combination Rest between sets
OPTION 1 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 80-90%

 

3 sets of 2-3 reps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-4 min Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 40-50%

 

3 sets of 15 reps

 

Rest between sets 2-4 min

2-3 8-10 min
OPTION 2 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 80-90%

 

3 sets of 2-3 reps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-4 min Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 40-50%

 

3 sets of 15-20 seconds

 

Rest between sets 2-4 min

2-3 8-10 min

 

VARIANT 2 – is similar to the Circuit Method but includes more specific exercises executed in a more intensive interval regime, which further induces accentuated stimulation of the aerobic mechanism.

 

  • The duration of the work is 20 minutes
  • 8-10 specific resistance exercises
  • Two consecutive exercises must NOT be executed by the same muscle groups.
  • For each exercise the weight of overload is selected in such a way that permits execution of a set of 30-60 seconds duration without evident fatigue
  • The rest between exercises is 1 minute.
  • Heart rate during the work must not surpass 120-140 beats per minute.

 

  1.  Squats with barbell
  2.  Barbell bench press
  3.  Sit ups
  4.  Chest flyes with dumbbells
  5.  Romanian deadlift with barbell
  6.  Side bends with barbell
  7.  Pullovers with barbell
  8.  Barbell bicep curls
  9.  Bent over row with barbell
  10.  Overhead press with barbell

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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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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Russian Special Strength Training (SST) – Part 2

This is the last blog post to round off my series on ”Power” development as it relates to jumping.  There will definitely be a follow up on other concepts such as rotational power and upper body power, but I’ll save that for another day.

 

Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches – Vuri & Natalia Verkhoshansky (2011) has been a go to text for me over the years, and each time I read it I take another gem away.  It’s certainly not an easy read, even with the good translation it’s still written in a pretty complex writing style so it can be hard to get through in parts.

 

 

In this Part 2 I will look at combined methods of Special strength training (SST).  Please take a look at Part 1 for more info on the Loading schemes recommended.

 

Combined Methods used in SST

 

The ultimate goal is to increase the level of maximal explosive force effort of similar movements using highly specific explosive strength exercises (jumps).  Before the use of these highly specific explosive strength exercises, it is necessary to enforce the main muscle synergies (coordination), which ensure improvements in the CAPACITY TO OPPOSE THE FORCE OF GRAVITY: barbell squats, standing calf raises and more specifically, the seated calf raise.

 

Chapter 4 of the book features further information on the combined methods of SST which consist of combinations of different SST means in order to ensure a determined cumulative training effect.  I will also refer back to Chapter 2 where Yuri talks about Isometric exercises (pg 81) and then gives examples of Combined Regimes (pg 83-85).

 

Depending on what means are used, how they are performed, and how they are temporarily combined, it is possible to differentiate the following Combined Methods:

 

  • Complex Method
  • Stimulation Method
  • Contrast Method
  • Circuit Method
  • Strength-Aerobic Method

 

I will check back through the Triphasic Method book as I know that the use of the terms ”complexes” and ”contrasts” can mean different things to different coaches, but for the purposes of this blog the use of the word complex and contrast will be as used in the Book chapters, and according to their descriptions below.

 

For this blog I will focus on the first two: Complex Method and Stimulation Method.

Complex Method

 

”The Complex Method consists of a combination of SST means having the same primary emphasis but different characteristics of their training effect.”

 

The important point here is that different means can be used not only in the same training session, but also in conjunction with other training sessions in adjoined training sessions. 

 

In Chapter 2 Yuri gives examples of research study (Lelikov experiment) which showed that a complex method using dynamic resistance exercises with different movement speeds were carried out (combined in equal proportion- presumably over the course of the week) to increase Maximal Strength to a greater degree than the training groups that only trained at one movement speed.  The movement rates were high, low, middle rates or combined).

 

 

He also described the experiment of B. Pletnev who showed that the 4th group who performed a complex method using resistance exercises in overcoming, yielding and isometric regimes, combined in equal proportion, reached the highest increase in Maximal strength in comparison with the results reached by the other three groups. which performed the same exercises, only in overcoming, yielding and isometric regimes.

 

Therefore it is possible to assert that the Complex Method utilises the body’s capacity to utilise the adaptive reactions of different training stimuli in the resultant training effect, which is greater than the sum of the training effects of each exercise.  This means you mean that the result is better than you would expect from the individual parts, because the way they combine adds a different quality.

 

 

Another example could be combining in the same week the Refusal Method (essentially doing moderate reps to failure- think 10 reps at a 10 RM) and the Circuit Method (think 10 reps – not to failure- but with only short rest between exercises of say 30 -seconds to work in an aerobic and muscular endurance regime).

 

The results were better with a group of cross-country skiers who combined the methods rather than only doing the Refusal Method or the Circuit Method.

 

Finally, this could also include combinations of similar means with similar training directions such as:

 

  • Barbell Squat Jumps with Kettlebell Squat Jumps
  • Depth jumps from different heights;
  • Jump exercises with a take-off on one or both legs
  • Short bounds and long bounds

 

Stimulation Method

 

”The Stimulation Method can be illustrated by an experiment conducted by V. Nedobivailo.  Three groups of athletes used three different resistance training programmes aimed at increasing the power output in the vertical jump.”

 

  • the first group carried out slow Barbell squats with a weight equal to 90% of 1 RM
  • the second group carried out Barbell Vertical Jumps with a weight equal to 50% of 1 RM
  • the third group carried out a combination of the two exercises used by the 1st and 2nd group; in the SAME TRAINING SESSION with the following sequence 1) slow movements with a weight of 90% 1 RM 2) Barbell Vertical Jumps with a weight of 50% of 1 RM

 

The highest increase in power output was obtained by the third group (20%), compared to 8% for group 1 and 15% for group 2.

 

In a classic experiment (which I believe was reproduced many times over with Western researchers) it was shown that executing the Barbell squat ensures a notable increase around 6%  (and up to 7.8%) in the subsequent vertical jump height if the time interval is between 3 and 6 minutes, with 4 minutes being optimum.

 

 

”These experiments concluded that the Stimulation Method maximises the training effect of a speed-strength exercise using a CNS stimulating effect produced by the previous tonic exercise.”

 

Usually resistance exercises are used as tonic (stimulating) exercises executed via the Maximal Effort Method (see part 1 for more info).  If the athlete is still not able to execute the Barbell Squat using the Maximal Effort Method, he may use the Kettlebell Squat Jump as a tonic exercise.

 

Increasing Explosive Strength in the take-off movements, for example (jump force), five combinations of two exercises are listed below.  These variants of the Stimulation Method have different training potentials, increasing from variant 1 to variant 5Only one of these variants may be used in a training session.

 

Combination Method – Explosive Strength

 

Stimulation Method Variant First Exercise Rest between exercises Second Exercise Number of sets of combination Rest between sets
1 Kettlebell Squat jumps

Weight = 6-24 kg

2 sets of 6-8 jumps

Rest between sets 3-4 min

3-4 min Leg to Leg bounce

6-8 take offs

2 sets of 5-6 bounces

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-3 6-8 min
2 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 70-80%

2 sets of 5-6 reps

 

Rest between sets 2-4 min

4-6 min Standing Triple Jump

 

2-3 sets of 6-8 jumps

Rest between sets 4-6 min

2-3 6-8 min
3 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 80-85%

2 sets of 2-3 reps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

4-6 min Kettlebell Squat jumps

Weight = 16-32 kg

2-3 sets of 4-6 jumps

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-3 6-8 min
4 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 90%

2 sets of 2-3 reps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

4-6 min Vertical Jump with Barbell

Weight = 30%

3 sets of 6-8 jumps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-3 8-10 min
5 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 90-95%

2 sets of 2 reps

 

Rest between sets 2-4 min

4-6 min Depth Jump

 

Height = 0.75 m

2 sets of 6-8 jumps

 

Rest between sets 4-6 min

2-3 8-10 min

 

A Word on Isometrics

 

One other option is to use ISOMETRIC EXERCISES which may also be used as a tonic exercise.

 

  • pushing against an immobilized object

 

  • holding a weight in a fixed position

 

The second variant of isometric tension is very effective when it is performed with a forced lengthening of the contracted muscles.

 

Exercises are performed involving isometric tensions lasting from 6 to 8 seconds of 2-3 reps holding a weight equal to 80% of maximal paired with an explosive strength exercise of 4-6 reps with a weight of 40-60% of maximal.

 

Isometrics grew in popularity in the 1950 s after T. Hettinger and E. Muller (1953, 1955) established that 10 weeks of daily execution of isometric tension at 2/3 of the maximum level for a length of 6 seconds, leads to a weekly increase of 5% in muscular strength.

 

Isometric training can be more effective than dynamic training particularly for those sport disciplines in which the external opposition in the competition exercise is high.

 

In sports that require high speed movements against low external opposition, isometric training is less effective than dynamic training.  The use of isometrics leads to increases in muscle stiffness, that is, decreases the muscle’s elasticity (flexibility).  This is why in disciplines involving high velocity dynamic muscle work, prolonged use of isometric overloads is not suitable.

 

Whats more, isometric exercises provide better visual and kinesthetic memorization of movement images than the dynamic regime of muscular work.  This is why the isometric method is very useful in teaching and correcting mistakes.

 

 

There are two types of isometric regimes:

 

  • Explosive Strength Regime

 

  • Non Explosive Isometric Regime

 

 

Explosive Strength Regime

 

This isometric muscular contraction has an explosive character; it is carried out by emphasising the speed of tension developed up to a maximum of 80-90%.  This ensures the development of Explosive and Starting Strength (aka Ballistic strength #APAMETHOD).   Duration of isometric is typically 3-8 seconds.

 

Non- Explosive Strength Regime

 

This isometric muscular contraction is performed in order to achieve a given magnitude of strength effort without time limits and maintaining the level of tension as long as possible.  This promotes the development of Maximal Strength and Static Strength Endurance.  Duration of isometric is typically 20-30 seconds.

 

In non explosive isometric exercises, it is necessary to:

 

  • gradually develop the strength engagement applied to a motionless object
  • use 5-10 seconds rest between repetitions
  • limit the duration of isometric training to 10 minutes per workout
  • finish the isometric training with relaxation exercises

 

The problem with isometric exercises is that the magnitude of the strength effort can only be determined subjectively.  To solve this problem, non explosive isometric exercises should be executed holding a determined weight for a given period of time.

 

 

Quasi-Isometric Regime

 

Another solution is to use the combined regime (QUASI-ISOMETRIC) which involves lifting of a weight (dynamic strength effort) and then pushing or holding the weight for a given period of time (static strength effort).

 

Pushing Version

 

The pushing version of the quasi-isometric exercise is known as Hoffmann’s method.  It consists of lifting the weight, followed by a push against a permanent support with an isometric contraction (think- doing a back squat to raise the weight before pushing up against the safety squat pins, and push against it to create the isometric tension.

 

 

The overload can be lifted more than once in the space before the pins (although the pins would need to be placed higher than in the photo above), and after completing the last lift, an isometric tension can be used for as long as required.

 

Holding Version

 

The holding version of the quasi-isometric exercise consists of lifting a heavy weight a long trajectory (such as a Clean from the floor to start of the second pull), with stops of 5-6 seconds of isometric tension, such as at the end of the first pull and also at the start of the second pull.

 

Raise the weight slowly along the vertical trajectory, interrupting the movement at set intervals of the range of motion.  This allows tension to act on the muscles along the whole trajectory and to assess the strength increase based on the increases in the overload.

 

 

Combination Method- High Speed Strength

 

Stimulation Method Variant First Exercise Rest between exercises Second Exercise Number of sets of combination Rest between sets
1 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 50-75%

2 sets of 3-4 reps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

4-6 min Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 30%

3 sets of 6-8 jumps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-3 8-10 min
2 Barbell Squat

 

Weight = 50-70%

2 sets of 3-4 reps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

4-6 min Barbell Squat

Weight = 15%

2-3 sets of 8-10 jumps

 

Rest between sets 3-4 min

2-3 8-10 min

 

For Variant 1 the 30% 1 RM is performed with maximum speed and muscular relaxation between repetitions.

 

For Variant 2 the 15% 1 RM is performed either by increasing the speed of movement in the overcoming phase with moderate yielding tempo and relaxation between sets, or by increasing the frequency of movements with maximum tempo.

 

For further info on the Explosive and High speed strength (aka Ballistic Strength) protocols you may also want to read the blogs on Triphasic Method and the training mesocycles for Power and Speed.

 

Considerations For Use

 

Since the Stimulation Method has a very strong effect on the body, especially on the musculo-skeletal system, close attention must be paid to its use in training.  More specifically:

 

  • To apply the Stimulation Method, it is necessary to prepare the leg muscles by using barbell and jump exercises during the PRECEDING training stage.

 

  • The training effect of the Stimulation Method is reduced considerably if it is carried out while fatigued

 

  • Since the Stimulation Method utilises much energy, it should not be used before a workout which requires precise coordination of effort, high movement speed, and display of Explosive Strength or endurance.

 

Hope you have found this article useful.  Stand by for the final installment Part 3 of this SST series where we look at the Contrast Method, Circuit Method and Strength-Aerobic Method.

 

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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Russian Special Strength Training (SST) – Part 1

This is the last blog post to round off my series on ”Power” development as it relates to jumping.  There will definitely be a follow up on other concepts such as rotational power and upper body power, but I’ll save that for another day.

 

Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches – Vuri & Natalia Verkhoshansky (2011) has been a go to text for me over the years, and each time I read it I take another gem away.  It’s certainly not an easy read, even with the good translation it’s still written in a pretty complex writing style so it can be hard to get through in parts.

 

 

In this Part 1 I’m going to summarise the main loading schemes used for resistance training.  Part 2 will look at combined methods of Special strength training (SST).

 

Loading Schemes used in SST

 

The ultimate goal is to increase the level of maximal explosive force effort of similar movements using highly specific explosive strength exercises (jumps).  Before the use of these highly specific explosive strength exercises, it is necessary to enforce the main muscle synergies (coordination), which ensure improvements in the CAPACITY TO OPPOSE THE FORCE OF GRAVITY: barbell squats, standing calf raises and more specifically, the seated calf raise.

 

These preliminary (General Preparatory) exercises are aimed at increasing maximum strength; they should be executed slowly with high overload ranging from 80 to 93% 1RM.  In order to safely execute these exercises with high overload, it is necessary to carry them out starting from a lower load and gradually increasing it.

 

Maximum Effort Method

 

This allows an athlete to perform the exercise at a high level with one or another characteristic of movement i.e., speed or power.    This method is used for development of Maximal, Explosive, Starting (Ballistic) and Reactive Strength.  The rest periods between sets should be of sufficient duration to restore the body back to ‘optimal’ condition.

 

The main variant of the Maximum Effort Method is 2-3 repetitions with 90-95% of 1RM with obligatory muscle relaxation between repetitions.  This involves racking the bar in between reps, known as a cluster set. Training sessions consist of 2-4 sets with 4-6 minutes rest periods.

 

Periodically, once every 2-3 weeks during the off-season and once every 1-2 weeks during the pre-season, a different method can be used.

 

 

Refusal Method

 

If the resistance exercise allows one to execute a specific number of repetitions in the form of a repetition maximum, until failure, it is recognised as the Refusal Method.

 

This uses a resistance that allows one to execute a specific number of repetitions in the form of a repetition maximum e.g., a 10 RM prevents an 11th rep.  This method is used mainly for Strength Endurance The work is performed, for example, in 4 to 6 sets with rest between varying from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.  If the ‘work to failure’ method is executed with more sets, the amount of resistance must be reduced, in order that only 10 repetitions are executed each set.

 

This method is characterised by sub-maximal work intensity and volume, and a load slightly lower than the Maximal Effort Method.

 

Rest Periods

 

Depending on the length of the rest periods between each set, two different methods may be classified: Repeat Method and Interval Method.

 

If the rest period between sets of exercises is of sufficient duration for the restoration of the body back to an optimal condition it is recognised as the Repeat Method.  The repeat method is used for the development of Maximal Explosive, Starting (Ballistic) and Reactive Strength.

 

If the rest period between sets is not of sufficient duration for the restoration of the body back to an optimal condition it is recognised as the Interval Method.  The interval method is used for the development of Strength Endurance.

 

Repeat Method Examples

 

VARIANT 1 – Increasing Maximal Strength with muscle hypertrophy

 

  • Resistance 75-80% 1 RM
  • Execute slow movements until desired fatigue is reached
  • Perform 2 sets with 2 minutes rest periods for 2 to 3 muscle groups

 

This method is not effective for improving speed, but it is useful at the beginning of the off-season training to prepare the muscles for heavier workload.

 

VARIANT 2 – Increasing Maximal Strength with minor muscle hypertrophy

 

  • Complete 3 sets: 80% 1 RM, 90% 1 RM and 93% 1 RM
  • 2-4 minute rest periods between sets

 

In each of the variants, the muscles must not be relaxed between the movements (repetitions).  Unlike the Maximal Effort Method, all repetitions of a single set are performed continuously.

 

VARIANT 3 – Increasing High-Speed Strength

 

  • The overload weight is limited to 30-70% 1 RM
  • Perform 6 to 8 reps with maximum velocity in the miometric (overcoming) regime and moderate tempo in the pliometric (yielding) regime, relaxing muscles in the most advantageous mechanical position after each repetition.

 

I would also add here ”Vertical jumps with a barbell” (for starting strength aka ballistic strength) with loads of 30-60% 1 RM and 4-6 reps.    They must not be executed as consecutive jumps, but as a ‘set’ of single jumps, where you stop and relax (shake) the legs, one after the other (the athlete can also rack the barbell).  Verkhoshansky refers to this loading as Explosive strength, but at APA 30-60% would fall in the Ballistic strength category.

 

 

When the athlete already has a high level of Explosive Strength but needs to further increase it, they should use the Vertical Jump with a barbell with 4-6 reps with an overload of 50-60%, executed with relaxation of the legs between each jump.

 

VARIANT 4 – Increasing speed and frequency of unloaded movements

 

  • Resistance 15-20% 1 RM
  • Perform 8 to 10 reps with maximum movement tempo to emphasise frequency of movement.  If emphasising speed then frequency has to be moderate and muscle relaxation movements are to be performed in between repetitions.

 

Interval Method Examples

 

This method uses repeated sub-maximal intensity exercises with shorter rest period than in the Repeat Method.  This method increases the power and capacity of energy supplying mechanisms.

 

VARIANT 1 – Increasing Maximal Anaerobic Power and the capacity of Creatine phosphate (CP) mechanisms:

 

  • Resistance  is limited to 30-40% 1 RM
  • The work must not lead to fatigue, evident when the speed and frequency of movement decrease
  • Work for 10 seconds with maximal effort.
  • Tempo is one movement per second.
  • Rest periods are 30 seconds initially, but with an athlete’s improvement in performing the exercise, it should gradually be decreased to 10 seconds.
  • At the beginning of the workout, only 5-6 reps should be performed.  Over the course of continued training sessions the number of repetitions has to be gradually increased until 8-10 repetitions.

 

VARIANT 2 – Increasing Power and the capacity of glycolytic mechanisms:

 

  • Resistance is limited to 30-40% 1 RM (same as variant 1)
  • The work must not lead to fatigue, evident when the speed and frequency of movement decrease
  • Work for 30 seconds with moderate effort.
  • Tempo is one movement per second.
  • Rest periods are 60 seconds.
  • 6-8 reps should be performed.

 

In both variants, the training effect of exercises has to be increased by:

 

  • Increasing external resistance while preserving the same tempo of repetitions;

 

  • Increasing the temp of repetitions using a constant resistance.

 

*It is not entirely clear what the optimum loads are for the ”jump exercises with overload,” as a few different loading schemes are mentioned.   Consecutive Barbell jumps consist of completing 10-20 of one of the following jumps:

 

  • Barbell Squat jumps – also termed parallel squat jumps with the barbell on the shoulders, executed by bending the knees at least until the thighs are parallel to the floor, and then jumping upwards.

 

  • Barbell Scissor-lunge jumps – jump out from a lunge (stride) position with a switch in the legs during flight, alternating them on every rep.

 

Now, it was recommended to perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions at a 20 RM in a Preparatory block used in Tennis, which equates to 60% 1RM.  I personally wouldn’t want to do consecutive parallel barbell squat jumps at that load but that is just my personal opinion, so I think the 30-40% 1 RM is more realistic.

 

With 10-20 repetitions performed in an aerobic regime are used to improve local muscular endurance; they may also be used as a means of developing Explosive strength for athletes with:

 

  • a low level of special strength preparedness

 

  • a high level of special strength preparedness, at the beginning of a preparation period.

 

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 373 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar-Newman

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 373 – Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar-Newman

 

Jeremy Sheppard

Jeremy is a strength conditioning coach with Canada Snowboard, previously having also worked with the Canadian Sport Institute.

Twitter

Dana Agar-Newman

Dana is a senior practitioner at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, and a head strength conditioning coordinator at the University of Victoria.  He has also worked in rowing and rugby, including with the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team at Rio 2016.

Twitter

 

The duo have recently written the jumping and landing training chapter in High Performance Training for Sports (second edition).

 

 

🎧 Listen to the full episode with Jeremy & Dana here

 

Discussion topics:

 

When it comes to jumping testing and analysis what options have we got?

 

”Thinking about how we’re testing jumping is more important now than ever as technology is expanding rapidly.  There are a number of tools out there that can give you a number for jump height but it may not actually be how high that athlete has truly jumped- their centre of mass, it may not even be a valid number.  So it’s really important to know how jump height is being calculated with the tool that we choose.

 

Even if we are using something like a force plate our choice of software can also impact whether we go with one company or another.

 

Flight time Method

 

  • My Jump – iPhone App – through frame rate of your camera
  • Opto jump
  • Jump matt

 

Another tool is something like a Vertec, and now a lot of us are using force plates using single or multiple force plates so you measure asymmetries and that uses the impulse-momentum method.  That;s important to know because all those tools give us a slightly different measure, so you’ll jump higher using the flight time method often than you will using the impulse-momentum method using the force plates.  The reason why is because the flight time method assumes you take off and land in the exact same position when in actual fact most athletes are going to land with a slight flexion of the hips and knees, and slight dorsi flexion in the ankle so it will inflate the jump heights slightly.

 

 

Each tool has advantages and also cons.”

 

Measure What Matters

 

When it comes to identifying the metrics we want to analyse how does that conversation differ between sports?

 

@Dana: ”You should always take your testing and try and compare it to the KPIs or your sport because there are so many metrics that come out of a force plate; I think in our script right now there are 90 metrics maybe even more, but you should really be trying to narrow those down because a lot of those metrics may be telling you the same story and a lot of them may not actually be that reliable.

 

So start with that, and the with the metrics that are reliable then you want to be comparing them to the key actions and KPIs within the game, so when this metric moves, that metric moves in the game as well.

 

You can look at different levels of athlete, that would be your basic level of analysis, so are these metrics different in lower level athletes compared to say higher level athletes.  Then you could look at a regression approach where you are predicting performance on the y axis and the force plate metric on the x axis; if the force place metric moves I know that I can expect to see a certain movement in this performance metric.  And probably a more advanced way of doing it is to look at the individual level so you’re saying with this individual athlete, when this metric moves I expect to see this metric to move over here in this KPI.”

 

@Jeremy: ”Take volleyball for example, there are some sports where the KPI is the outcome of the jump, and the outcome of the jump is how high you jump.  That’s really important not to forget, and the variables we look at can help us to differentiate individualised training but there may be variables within a jump or even a something like a style of jump or a context that rarely or never or rarely occurs in the sport but it has a relationship to a component, and that component relates to the KPI skill.

 

 

So if I think of the spike jump in volleyball, where you have an approach, well you might say there is no depth jump involved.  But what we found, and what we have repeatedly found over and over again, is that depth jump performance is related to your ability to attenuate those forces in your approach and convert from horizontal to vertical.

 

If you’re looking at measuring the spike jump performance in context there is so much noise, but if you take a depth jump that’s very repeatable, and that depth jump relates to that transition ability of horizontal to vertical.  So the influence of the depth jump and its unique way of developing or in this case testing the stretch shortening cycle relates to your ability to take those steps and then transition in the penultimate step to convert into a vertical displacement.  It’s not cause and effect but it has a high influence on that.  So then you connect those dots to the actual performance.”

 

@Dana: ”there is a big push to make testing super super sport specific, but we already have a sport specific test and that’s watching the game!  The question really comes well why is this athlete not able to jump as high as possible above the blocker (to use Jeremy volleyball example).  You need to take the test and make it more general.  Another example would be a lot of these aerobic tests that have become super sport specific.  Well if the athlete tests poorly on it, well was it because they had a poor vVO2, poor change of direction ability, their anaerobic speed reserve wasn’t that big?  You’ll still left with the question, what was the limiting factor with this athlete, and there is a place for making the test more general.”

 

Are there any considerations for individualising training for youths versus seniors or males versus females etc?

 

Youth vs Adults

 

@Jeremy: ”You need to learn your context, which is not a quick fix if you are new to the sport.  You might do your neuromuscular profiling but with children you might identify some really great things to do but I’m still not going to do them because of a myriad of other reasons, because of their biological ability to tolerate that load, because they might be growing fast, and because we want to be here for a good time and a long time, so you might subordinate the ”correct thing” muscularly in the hierarchy of training needs because they have so much gain to make elsewhere.

 

The analogy I make with this, is similar to nutritional supplementation – I do not like to buy nutritional supplements for athletes who cannot drive past a McDonalds because what’s the point? You have to earn the right to be in the penthouse suite and you have to have a foundation.  So that 15 year old might need a lot of other things first, and it’s not that the cool neuromuscular stuff is not important, but they are getting a lot of jump volume from playing the sport, and maybe I don’t want to add to it until their movement is better, their knowledge of recovery and regeneration is better.  If I keep adding highly individualised neuromuscular training just because I can, and my ego says that that makes me feel better at the end of the day, I may be creating a false economy and a false message.   So what me measure matters as it communicates to our athletes what we think is important.

 

You train a dog, you coach people.  So it’s about the bigger picture of education.

 

Men and Women

 

One of the challenges is if you have a sport where they depth and participation is really low it can actually be difficult to make well intended differentiation between men and women.  Whereas a sport like volleyball is wonderful because the participation is high and the depth is tremendous.  And so I find myself looking at trends in stature and strength levels and looking at ”people who present this way, rather than men who and women who,” as the top level of men and women because the participation in both sexes is really high.

 

@Dana: ”As athletes move up in sport, the top level can be quite homogenous, so a variable that could separate high and low level performers may no longer separate elite performers and the metric you look at maybe slightly different depending on your population.

 

The analogy I like to give is that if you’re going to a dance to find your life partner, the metric you need that $15 to get your ticket to the dance.  But once you get into that dance, your dancing skill begin to matter.  Can you dance?  So money matters initially, but later on it’s something else, can you dance?  It’s the same thing with testing athletes.  Certain things may be important when testing low level athletes, and may no longer separate the population with higher level athletes.”

 

I’d love to get some insights and your process you go through when choosing exercises for jump training?

 

@Dana: ”In diving the youngest divers I get in the weight room are 12/13 years old and the oldest diver at the Toyko Olympic games is 27 years old.  So a very different thought Initially it is all about teaching them a wide variety of movements in the gym, teaching them to land properly and teaching those skills and maximising training days.  With the higher level athlete it comes down to the assessment driving the exercise selection.

 

  • Loaded Jump profile – squat jump
  • Isometric mid-thigh pull (IMTP)
  • Counter movement jump (CMJ)
  • Depth jump profile

 

From those tests there I’ll choose my variety of exercises along with a conversation with the coach to see what they are seeing technically.  So there are some things that are really hard to measure if you get stuck using that single tool.  It gives you nice easy numbers to interpret but I think its really important to go back and observe that athlete qualitatively [performing their skill].

 

 

Initially I was really big in doing the Force-Velocity (F-V) profile with my higher level athletes and training off the F-V profile.  I was finding results exactly you find in the research, where everyone’s jump heights improved initially, but after a while, once they are optimal (and the divers got to optimal really quickly because they were doing a tonne of jumping every day and training consistent in the weight room).  So what I ended up doing is biasing them to more Force dominant in the off-season and then I would try to shift them to optimal (doing more velocity work) and sharpen the knife leading into competition.  What I found is that if I was trying to keep them at optimal I wasn’t moving the needle at all.

 

The Depth Jump Profile

 

If you find that you need to work on the more elasticity and stretch tolerance of the athlete something I would also recommend is to jump off a series of increasing heights and the key thing to note is that athletes should be experienced at depth jumps.  If they are, what you will find is that athlete’s jump height will continue to increase as they drop from increasing height up until a certain point and then it will start decreasing again.

 

So the question myself and Jeremy discuss often is, should we train at the optimal height where they jump highest or are we better to train slightly at the deflection point where they are starting to come down again?

 

For me in the off-season I will train at the deflection point and then leading into season I’ll train at the optimal where they are jumping the highest.  I don’t have any research to back that up but it seems to be working.

 

@Jeremy: ”I’ll do jumps above that deflection point and some times much higher but they just land- because landing is so critical to snowboarding.  I’ll also do jumps below optimal but it’s a different style/skill, where I don’t instruct them to jump as high as possible.  Having them do these lower heights where the point is not necessarily to optimise the impulse, it’s to basically get off the ground as quickly as possible, so it’s a different style and when I write that in the programme its a drop jump, not a depth jump.

 

Is programming for a sport that has one big jump different from a sport where you have to jump hundreds of times a game?

 

@Dana: ”I think that comes down to conditioning.  You need to train what you do, so you need to increase your capacity of movements, as well as how high you can jump, and both of those things are important.  In a sport like volleyball to bud that repeatedly I probably wouldn’t be doing that much stuff at body weight, I’d probably doing a few things to stimulate qualities such as doing heavier and lighter than bodyweight as they are already doing so much jumping at bodyweight.  I’d probably also be looking to implement a few worse case scenarios in training, and looking if they are already getting that in the training.  If they are then I wouldn’t be doing that outside of the training session in the weight room.  But if for certain athletes who aren’t getting enough game time to stimulate those physical qualities you may need to pull it out to a more general setting to stimulate certain qualities.  So you have to look at what they are getting out of the sport and then fill in the pieces.

 

@Jeremy: ”What happens when you working in a sport like Volleyball where there is so much jumping you’re going to have the good fortune of meeting a freak, who has an extraordinary physical quality or skill and in volleyball that shows up often because you’re testing jumping all the time.  Your outlier in the vertical jump can often be your least well rounded strength trained athlete.  In the gym setting and any other strength assessments you do, they are not the impressive one and they often one of the ones you are most concerned about and don’t test well.

 

Where that will manifest is that they will have the largest drop in their jump sustainability in say their 1st set to their 5th set, or over the course of a tournament.  Now you could argue that that’s okay because even at the end of the match or the tournament they are still jumping better than other people, but it still leaves clues what you’re looking at.

 

Leave your ego at home thinking you’re going to part of a project to take a 100 cm vertical jumper and take his vertical jump and make it 105 cm because really the work that is punching you in the face, is if someone is dropping that much over the course or a match or tournament, that opens up a big window of probability of injury because they are playing until tremendous fatigue and literally speaking they cannot handle the rigours of the sport.

 

And if they are this alpha that is a major athletic quality on the team then the success of the team is related to their ability to stay in the match, and so the work might actually be the boring stuff, and the actual job to be done is movement quality and making them neuromuscularly stronger that’s going to make each landing less fatigue inducing.  So you don’t change the game but the game is now relatively less fatiguing for the athlete.  So what you have to put your ego around is the fact that you’re going to make your 5th set performance much better!

 

@Dana: ”In terms of landing during jump assessments, how the athlete lands can influence the metrics you are seeing.  For example, if you absorb the force over a greater time you are going to find lower peak force and that comes down to impulse (which is Force x time) which is essentially your change in momentum.  But absorbing force over greater time may not be applicable depending on the sport you may be working with, and so you may have to absorb that force quicker so there will be a higher peak force to get that same area under the curve.   So the jump strategy should be sport dependent and the strategy will influence what metrics you are doing to look at.”

 

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Sport KPIs- You should always take your testing and try and compare it to the KPIs or your sport
  2. Indirect KPIs – something that rarely or never or rarely occurs in the sport but it has a relationship to a component, and that component relates to the KPI skill (e.g depth jump vs. approach spike jump in volleyball)
  3. Signal vs the Noise – there is a place for general tests to best identify limiting factors in athletes.
  4. Training at the optimal jump height – case for training at the deflection point and then leading into season I’ll train at the optimal where they are jumping the highest.
  5. Jump sustainability – athlete with largest drop in jump sustainability is often biggest injury risk.

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 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.

 

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

 

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…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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Does the Jump Squat Fail to Deliver?

As part of APA’s goal to be the Best Tennis S&C Team in the World I am reviewing the #APA Method and have been identifying and questioning my assumptions about various aspects of the method.  This is one of several posts looking at the concept of ”Power.”  It started with my review of Triphasic Method by Cal Dietz – Part 1 and Part 2.  I then wrote a series on the Force-Velocity curve for Tennis- Part 1 and Part 2.

 

In between those I wrote a specific blog – Is There Any Evidence That Surfing the Curve is Important?

 

This was in response to an instagram discussion lead by @jump.science who was calling into question the middle of the curve.

 

If I’m training for speed/jumping I should definitely sprint and jump.  These are already the ultimate explosive training stimulus.  Compared to these, exercises like loaded jumps and Olympic lifts are relatively slow with long time frames for force production.  Thus they have no explosive benefits to offer.  They can only serve as strength training.

 

So if we skip cleans and just deadlift or skip loaded jumps and just squat, do we sacrifice much of anything? Do we need to break our lifting into 4 categories and make sure we hit each one? I would argue No.

 

I should stress that strength and power work as it relates to various versions of squats – including heavy squats (>85% 1RM), explosive squats (60-80% 1RM), ballistic jump squats (30-60% 1RM) and unloaded jump squats are all general and specific preparatory means of training.    So don’t think that my proliferation of posts and blogs in recent weeks has made me lose perspective – squatting is one of many means to prepare the athlete for enhanced performance in their sport.

 

There are No Magic Bullets

 

To this end, before I get to my comments on Ballistic strength I also want to include some wisdom from Carl Valle who is one of the main contributors on the Simplifaster blog.  In his blog – Why Force-Velocity Training Concepts Fail to Deliver – he states:

 

Coaches are scrambling to find the latest formula or training method to merge sport science and practice with athlete development. It seems everyone in sports performance is dissecting the data from force plates or looking at the velocities of player tracking information to see if their sled training is working. Without a framework on how to construct a training program to improve the force-velocity relationship and athlete training, the science is just not useful.

 

I believe in force-velocity analysis, but believing that training is about a load or a speed profile isn’t new, and the approach doesn’t work as well as it’s claimed. Don’t dismiss force-velocity research or training ideas, just ask how much of it works and what needs to change in training, as 3- to 4-week pre-seasons are not enough to make a real difference in games.

 

 

He also points out the limtations of the Force-Velocity relationship – something I also did in my review of the Triphasic method.

 

The force-velocity curve is misleading, as sprinting’s high velocity does not mean the forces involved are low. How does an athlete run with forces higher than several times their body weight and do it quickly with amazing amounts of coordination? Shouldn’t the force output of running at maximal speed be very, very low due to the high velocity? Concept diagrams are interesting theories, but abstract ideas are not facts.

 

The X-Y graph of the force-velocity curve does not represent athletic or human performance. Rather, it’s an early attempt to explain muscle physiology. The curve may not be an accurate illustration—it’s meant to explain a concept rather than represent a true working model. Several researchers have noted that the true shape of the chart is neither linear nor hyperbolic, and the contractile properties do not fit into a simple line plot- for example, eccentric actions may change the architecture of propulsive muscle groups due to the plasticity of the tissues from adaptation responses. This will change muscle contraction without increasing neuromuscular force or power from conventional sources.

 

Simplified charts help take people from ignorance to awareness; it’s up to coaches and the sport science community to go beyond the hype. An athlete can improve their ability to apply more force faster and see an improvement in their jump testing data. But trying to transfer that physiological change to ice hockey speed on a rink may be disappointing.”

 

Recap on Explosive Strength

 

 

I feel I already made a pretty good argument for the inclusion of cleans (and other Olympic weightlifting derivatives) for the benefit of Explosive strength- in the blog Is There Any Evidence That Surfing the Curve is Important?

 

The inherent high force, high velocity nature of weightlifting exercises creates the potential for these exercises to produce large power outputs across a variety of loading conditions.  They significantly improve not only maximal power output but, more specifically, power output against heavy loads.  Thus, the use of these movements in training is ideal for athletes who are required to generate high velocities against heavy loads including wrestlers, rugby union front rowers and American football linemen.

 

So this blog is going to focus on Ballistic strength and make an argument for the benefit of including lightly loaded jumps into our programming.

 

Training for RFD – Ballistic Strength

 

 

Ballistic strength is the category of strength training that @jump.science feels is most pointless which is commonly known as speed-strength, and includes lightly loaded jumps.  

 

At APA we use 30-60% 1RM for the Jump squat as a go to loading scheme for Ballistic strength.  Full disclosure; the science I referred to in the last blog didn’t make a clear case for doing loaded jumps in favour of say plyometrics.

 

That’s because the power group did bodyweight jumps and jump squats with 30% 1RM.  This means we can’t separate their effects.

 

[The power training only group did two sessions per week using body mass jump squats (7 sets x6 reps) and one session per week where they performed 5 sets x 5 reps of maximal effort jump squats with 30% 1RM].

 

What Does The Research Say?

 

In terms of peak power we can’t really make an argument for loaded jumps over unloaded jumps- peak power is always highest at body weight.

 

I wanted to focus in on a comparison of the Back squat versus the Jump squat in the study of the Optimal Loading for Maximal Power Output during Lower-Body Resistance Exercises – Cormie et al (2007).

 

 

Now just for context I have already mentioned in the previous blog the data they provided in the study on isometric peak force, but I’l give it again below:

 

Peak Force- Isometric squat 4250 N; Isometric Mid-thigh Pull (IMTP) – 3900 N.

 

At APA we use loads of 30-60% 1 RM for jump squats.  There are a few reasons for this.  Reason number 1 is because (in all honesty) that’s what Yuri Verkhoshansky’s research was recommending.  Reason number 2 is that this load seems favourable from a cost-to-benefit ratio point of view.  Doing jumps with heavy-ish loads on the back is a consideration for safety- it’s a lot of vertical spinal compression to have to absorb.

 

If you look at the peak force for jump squat at 27-56% of 1RM in the research study (which roughly corresponds to the 30-60% range) it’s about 2250 N to 2750 N.  If you compare that to the back squat at 85% of 1RM (thought to be the threshold for maximal strength) the peak force looks to be around 2750 NSo the peak forces are actually comparably at 56% 1RM in the jump squat and 85% 1RM in the squat.

 

The benefit of doing the loaded jumps is that not only do you get great peak forces at take off, you also get the added benefit of eccentric landing forces that need to be absorbed, which is the same benefit for weightlifting.

 

Loaded Jumps as a Means To Gradually Increase the Training Stimuli

 

One thing that doesn’t get discussed as much as I think it should do – is exercise selection – for the purposes of teaching developmental athletes how to progressively prepare for higher forms of training intensity.

 

For example in Yuri Verkhoshansky’s book ” Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches (2011)- Rule one for applying special strength training (SST) means in the training process is – choosing the exercise (what he calls formulating the motor task).

 

The methods used in SST can be divided as either ‘intensive’ or ‘extensive’:

 

  • Intensive methods – are characterised by maximum power and a small amount of work.

 

  • Extensive methods – are characterised by moderate (sub-maximal) power and an optimal amount of work.

 

Rule four is to enhance the training potential of SST means.  The SST means having a high training potential must be gradually introduced into the training process after training means with a lower training potential.

 

Athletes with a low level of motor function require a training means with low training potential.  The organism is not ready from a functional point of view, to give an adequate adaptive response to their use.  We need to constantly and gradually increase the training stimuli.

 

It is important to increase/enhance the training potential of SST means when the training means cease to ensure the increase parameters of the special work capacity (in other words keep using an exercise until it stops working- and by that I mean it is enhancing the power output in the competitive exercise, whatever that may be).

 

Since power is determined by two components, force and velocity, the training means included in the SST means system must be able to emphasise:

 

  • the MAGNITUDE of the force-effort in specific movements

 

  • the VELOCITY of the force effort

 

In SST the shock method and depth jumps as a means of increasing both the force and speed components of the take-off power output is seen as the highest intensity of training stimuli.  Barbell and Kettlebell jumps are the bridge between the squat and the depth jump.

 

 

Now I’ve said several times already, the body weight version of the jump squat is clearly optimal for maximising power output in the concentric portion of the movement, where peak power occurs at take-off.  However, clearly if the most potent stimuli is the depth jump, we know that this has a huge eccentric component.  The way I see it, the loaded jump squat is a bridge in eccentric overload between a depth jump (from a box) and a bodyweight jump from the floor.

 

I’ll take a look at the research for information on the eccentric landing forces for loaded jump squats.  Let me get back to you on that!!

 

Coaching Application

 

One last thing I wanted to share was an example of the kind of ”shop talk” that goes on on social media.  It is great way to see how coaches are applying the science.  Let’s start with @jump.science thoughts on it:

 

Barbell rhythmic jumps. A speed strength (I think? 🤷🏻‍♂️) exercise in which I would say the upward part is insignificant. Slower than a regular jump, too light to build strength, not much value.
———

However the eccentric component is notable. The downward velocity magnifies the influence of the relatively light load and elicits some pretty high muscular forces during deceleration and reversal. One could still argue that if I’m doing dunk sessions and squatting then this is redundant, but one could also argue this is a distinct stimulus that has value. I certainly wouldn’t criticize its use as part of a strength training plan, but I still don’t care what “strength quality” we assign to it.

 

I could use this to maintain strength if I’m minimizing heavy stuff. Or with a young untrained person, this might actually increase strength a lot.”

 

@Mike_whiteman77:Would agree eccentric overload most beneficial but I personally wouldn’t undervalue the starting strength/ speed strength quality developed and subtlety that is necessary to keep CNS guessing. Also, VmaxPro VBT gives eccentric velocity and bar trajectory to measure your deceleration capabilities and movement efficiency.”

 

Finally, a really good back and forth between @jump.science and @videnform

 

@videnform: ”Which type of strength is the loaded, continuous CMJs too light to build and how does that specific strength correlate to performance among elite sprinters and jumpers?

 

Is performance in the conventional, heavy, full ROM squat which you seem to be biased towards (correct me if I’m wrong) a KPI for sprinting and jumping among a homogenous group of elite athletes?

 

@jump.science Reply: Too light to improve maximum strength.  The observation that increasing squat strength increases athletic performance in many cases. I’m well aware of the gap between the two (sprinting and squatting heavy).  The context of that statement [too light to build strength] is that jumping and squatting are already in place. In that case, the upward part of the loaded jump doesn’t develop any type of strength.

 

@videnform: ”Do you consider resisted sprinting redundant if you are already doing accelerations and classic maximal strength exercises?”

 

@jump.science reply: ”Resisted sprinting is analogous, yes, and I do think it should only be a small piece of the puzzle. However it’s different because by slowing down a sprint you’re actually just getting more exposure to the specific speed of the early part of the sprint.

 

@videnform: ”If that argumentation is followed stringently then slowing down the SSC of a standing CMJ by adding external load will also give you more exposure to specific jumping thus making the exercise relevant. 

 

@jump.science reply: ”that’s non-specific jumping.  Because sprinting is multiple steps in a row with changing velocity and contact time. If I do a 20 m resisted sprint, I get more exposure to the EXACT velocities and contact times that occur within the first 5-10 m of a regular sprint, depending how heavy the resistance is. I already explained this.”

 

What Does The Research Say?

 

I really like the discussion about what happens if you slow down a sprint with a sled resistance- you are left with speeds and mechanics that approximate the mechanics of acceleration.  So what do you get if you add some load on your back when you jump?  In terms of peak velocity we can’t really make an argument for loaded jumps over unloaded jumps- peak velocity is always highest at body weight.

 

Most elite athletes can perform a standing unloaded vertical jump at a peak velocity of 3.5-4.0 m/s.  If we compare these peak velocities to those we see at the take off of various competitive jumps it is clear that the take off vertical velocities are all at least 2-3 m/s (see triple jump).

 

 

So what happens to peak velocity if you add some weight on your back?

 

Let’s revisit the comparison of the Back squat versus the Jump squat in the study of the Optimal Loading for Maximal Power Output during Lower-Body Resistance Exercises – Cormie et al (2007).

 

 

If you look at the peak velocity for jump squat at 27-56% of 1RM in the research study (which roughly corresponds to the 30-60% range) it’s about 2.0 to 2.75 m/s.  Jumping with 27% 1RM still produces more vertical velocity than doing an explosive bodyweight squat (without leaving the ground).  More crucially it is still not that far off the take off velocities of the competitive jumping events.

 

The last question I need to ask myself, which is the most important one as it relates to my sport of tennis, is what are the take off velocities during some of the most important competitive actions in tennis?

 

 

Once I answer this I can be truly sure about how closely the jump squat correlates with the speeds experienced in tennis actions.

 

In my previous blog I wrote:  ”In the sport of tennis there are various actions that place high requirements on ballistic strength. Acceleration phase on serves, and ground strokes, as well as most tennis movements within a few metres (see below).  Think loaded jump squats (30-60% 1RM), med balls and slow SSC plyos.”

 

So now I need to test this hypothesis 🙂

 

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The Force-Velocity Curve for Tennis – Part 2

In today’s blog I’m going to follow up the first blog- The Force-Velocity Curve for Tennis- Part 1

 

As stated in the first blog, one way to conceptualise the forces acting on the body is by using the F-V curve and placing various tennis actions on the curve.   I ask my coaches to do this exercise when they first work in Tennis with APA and so in Part 2 of this blog I will present an example from one of my coaches.

 

Most strength and conditioning professionals are familiar with the physical representation of the inverse relationship between both force and velocity, otherwise known as the ‘force-velocity curve’. The charted area includes a y-axis representing force measured in newtons (N), as well as an x-axis representing velocity measured in meters per second (m/s).

 

Movements such as a one-repetition max (1RM) back squat are a high force at low velocity, whereas a countermovement jump is high velocity with relatively low force. Somewhere in between these two areas is the ”sweet spot,” otherwise known as peak power, which can vary in percent of 1RM depending on the exercise selected. Additionally, scattered both above and below the peak power zone are strength speed and speed-strength zones, respectively, depicted in the graph above.

 

I put sweet spot in inverted commas because it refers to the load that optimises power output for a particular exercise- such as a squat, power clean, jump squat to name but a few popular ones.  The perceived wisdom around training at the optimal load is a hotly debated topic- which I will park for now, as I’ll write a separate blog on the topic.

 

For now I want to give some practical examples of Tennis actions that occur and make a case for their place on various points on the F-V curve.

Explosive Actions in Tennis

 

As promised, first off, here is the example one of my coaches created- which I have to give credit to Matt Kuzdub for- because the coach admitted he had read his blog!

 

 

At APA I have simplified the F-V curve into 4 main categories.  This forms the basis of the APA Method for Strength.  Although I go into great detail in this blog to highlight the relevance of these categories to Tennis, I would regard this strength continuum and the methods chosen to train them as more ‘general’ in nature.  This is because the majority of exercises are based on loaded and unloaded jumps that could be applicable to many sports.  If we were to use Bondarchuk’s terminology most of the exercises would be General preparatory, and Specific preparatory.

 

 

An important consideration to keep in mind is that sports movements are usually executed in a mixed regime of muscular contraction.  For example, during a single explosive movement in which the athlete has to displace a heavy load from a standing position, before initiating the movement, the muscles work in an isometric regime. As soon as the developing isometric force-effort achieves the level of the opposite resistance force, the movement starts and the muscles begin to work in the dynamic regime.

 

Maximum Strength

 

In the sport of tennis there are various actions that place high requirements on maximal strength.  We can break this down into Force Absorption and Force Production.  Think heavy back squat above 85% 1RMEach set typically includes 1-5 reps depending on the load chosen, as well as full recovery between each set.

 

Force Absorption

 

Force absorption demands are highest during deceleration from high-speed actions including the landing from the serve and the last few steps of deceleration to a wide ball (i.e., penultimate step).

 

Force production

 

Force production demands are highest during the initiation of movement (after the serve and after the change of direction from a wide ball), as well as when the player is wrong footed (see below).

 

  • These are known as the so-called ”starting movements‟ executed without ”counter-movement‟ against heavy resistance (for example: the body’s static inertia), and the major role is played by Maximal Strength and the Explosive Strength, expressed in an isometric regime.

 

  • After being wrong footedrecall that max strength helps improve our force generating abilities – when movement velocity is zero, which is the case during the very initial movement after being ‘wrong footed.’  In the example below, Rafa Nadal has expected to move to his left and has been wrong footed, so he needs to stop his motion and then sprint off in the opposite direction from a stationary position.  Maximal Strength and the Explosive Strength, expressed in isometric regime will be a key physical quality.

 

 

Explosive Strength

 

In the sport of tennis there are various actions that place high requirements on explosive strength. Leg drive on serves, and the take off phase of big ground strokes, as well as the initial acceleration to the ball, to propel the body in the direction of the ball over the first 10 yards (see below).

 

This zone is a step away from maximum strength, employing the use of maximum to moderate muscle contractions with a secondary focus on velocity. While much greater power outputs are seen in this range than max strength alone, strength still remains the primary emphasis. Moderate to high loads should be used.  Think Olympic Lifts (80-90% 1RM) and Back squats 60-80% 1RM with 2-5 reps occurring within a given set and complete rest being achieved after each set.

 

  • When the explosive movement is executed with ”counter-movement‟, i.e., in the reversal yielding-overcoming (“eccentric-concentric”) regime, the major role is played by the Explosive Strength expressed in the overcoming (“concentric”) regime.

 

  • Acceleration to the ball – when first moving to the ball following the split step we’re actually not moving fast at all, but we are generating high forces.  The initial acceleration to the ball requires explosive strength.  Those first several strides are characterised by longer ground contact times. The more force we can develop in these first few steps, the faster we can displace ourselves.  Explosive Strength expressed in the overcoming (“concentric”) regime will be a key physical quality.

 

Ballistic Strength

 

In the sport of tennis there are various actions that place high requirements on ballistic strength. Acceleration phase on serves, and ground strokes, as well as most tennis movements within a few metres (see below).  Think loaded jump squats (30-60% 1RM), med balls and slow SSC plyos.

 

This zone is the inverse of explosive strength; in that velocity takes the primary emphasis, and force becomes secondary.  As with all of the other previously mentioned qualities, complete rest should be sought between sets, and a target rep range of 3-6 reps per set is optimal. Speed is the primary emphasis in this zone.

 

  • Ballistic exercises including the jump squat and bench throw circumvent any deceleration phase by requiring athletes to accelerate throughout the entire range of motion to the point of projection (i.e., take off or release).

 

    • The majority of tennis movements are performed using ”footwork” patterns such as side shuffles and cross-over steps as well as steps towards the ball where there is more hip and knee flexion- and more time in contact with the ground.  Therefore slow SSC plyometrics fit well here- with emphasis on hip based jumping exercises.

     

    Reactive Strength

     

    In the sport of tennis there are various actions that place high requirements on reactive strength. Racket head speed on serves, and ground strokes, as well as tennis split steps (see below) and most movements that don’t require you to move much at all.  Think fast SSC plyos as well as top speed sprinting (although top speed is not specific to tennis).

     

    In this zone, the single most important variable is the velocity with the greatest degree of elastic/reactive strength, one can execute a movement at. Very low loads are used to train this method and, in some instances, no load at all. No more than 20-30% 1RM should be used when training reactive strength with plyometric movements being highly beneficial. Anywhere from 5-12 repetitions can be executed within a given set, but it is imperative that coaches discontinue the set when any decrease in velocity occurs because absolute speed is then no longer being trained. It then makes clear sense too that maximum recovery should be given between each set of exercises in order to ensure maximum velocity.

     

    • In reversal movements, executed in the rapid transition from the yielding (“eccentric”) to the overcoming (“concentric”) regime, two other functional characteristics of the neuro-muscular system are used: the Reactive Ability of neuro-muscular system ( the capacity to develop the highest value of force in the overcoming phase due the stimulation of muscle proprioceptors during the yielding phase) and the Elastic properties (potential) of muscles (which provides an extra source of energy assuring the enhancement of the subsequent muscular contraction).

       

      • Split step –  most tennis movements don’t require you to move much at all. This is where the split-step comes into play. If you time it right and push off in the correct direction it will catapult you in the direction of the ball. In his blog Matt mentions that the split-step requires reactive strength. This quality doesn’t necessarily require high force but rather the ability to generate ENOUGH force, extremely rapidly.  Most tennis movements fall into this category.   In this case Reactive ability will be a key physical quality.

       

       

      Wrap Up

       

      Shifting the force-velocity curve to the right, or in other words, increasing the rate of force development, is essential for developing successful strength-power athletes. Athletes are at a major advantage over their opponents when they’ve developed greater explosiveness and the ability to display high levels of power. Coaches must ensure that they not only understand the force-velocity curve but also how to practically train each zone within it relative to their athlete’s needs.

       

      Below is a Table of the recommended training prescription taken from the article ”How The Force Velocity Curve Relates to Sports Performance.”  I will be creating an updated APA Version replacing the terms with Max Strength, Explosive Strength, Ballistic Strength and Reactive Strength.

       

       

      I hope you found this article useful.

       

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      Is there any Evidence that Surfing the Curve is Important?

      In my last blog I talked about conceptualising the forces acting on the body by using the F-V curve and placing various tennis actions on the curve.   I ask my coaches to do this exercise when they first work in Tennis with APA and so in Part 2 of this blog I will present an example from one of my coaches.

       

       

      Before we get to the F-V curve in Part 2 I wanted to comment on an instagram post that @jump.science has wrote:

       

       

      For reference in the blog I will refer to the following by number – Maximal strength (1), Strength-speed (2), Power (3), Speed-strength (4), and Speed (5). 

       

      First of all I’d like to give a definition for all these terms in case you missed my Force-Velocity Curve for Tennis – Part 1

       

      Strength

       

      Maximal strength (1) – Maximum voluntary strength is the maximum amount of strength that can be produced voluntarily without electrical augmentation. For the purposes of simplicity I will refer to this as ‘Maximum strength’ and practically speaking this is usually obtained in a laboratory as peak force during a single joint movement and isolated muscle.

       

      Just to give you some indications of peak force, I’ve pulled some numbers from a research study- Cormie et al (2007) – Optimal loading for Maximal Power Output during Lower-Body Resistance Exercises.

       

      Peak Force- Isometric squat 4250 N; Isometric Mid-thigh Pull (IMTP) – 3900 N; 1RM Back squat (BS)- around 3000 N.  Peak force on 90% Power clean is about the same as an 85% BS- around 2750 N

       

      What’s worth noting is that at 60% 1RM on BS you already hit about 80% of 1RM peak force.  This means you can work in a sweet spot of 60% 1RM which is the load that optimises maximal power for the BS but also achieves a high percentage of peak force.

       

      Rate of Force Development

       

      Rate of Force Development (RFD) = is the change in force divided by change in time and is directly related to the rate of increase in muscle activation by the nervous system.  Although force is directly responsible for the acceleration of an object, one may argue that the faster a given force is attained, the more rapid the corresponding acceleration of a mass.  Thus, RFD can be associated with the ability to accelerate objects.  Therefore, attaining a high average or peak RFD (explosive strength) is associated with high acceleration capabilities.

       

      Explosive strength (2) = the peak RFD has been termed explosive strength (PRFD), or stated another way it’s the athlete’s capacity to achieve the peak force in the shortest time.  Some coaches refer to this as ‘strength-speed.’  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise moderate to heavy loads (e.g., 80-90% 1RM for Olympic lifts).

       

      Starting strength (4) = the force generated in the first 30 ms has been termed starting strength and is related to the initial rate of force development. Some coaches refer to this as high speed-strength (e.g., Verkhoshansky).  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise moderate to lighter loads (30-60% 1RM) and Slow SSC plyometrics (more on this later).

       

       

       

      Speed (5) = speed is a scalar quantity and is the magnitude component for the vector termed velocity.  Velocity has both a magnitude (speed) and a direction.  Velocity  = distance / time.  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise light loads (<30% 1RM) and sprinting and Fast SSC plyometrics (more on this later).

       

      Power (3)  = work is an expression of force acting on an object through a DISTANCE and is independent of time or velocity.  In simple terms, a strength measurement of external CONCENTRIC work can be measured using the weight of the bar and the vertical displacement.  Power is essentially a ”work rate,” and can be described by the equation:

       

      P = W / T,  since Work = Force x distance –> P = F x d / t but since Velocity = d /t

       

      P = F x V

       

      Or if you rearrange the equation differently, (F/t x d) = RFD x d

       

      When in contact with the ground, the athlete generates power by developing high levels of force in short duration (RFD) and displacing his/her center of mass through an appropriate range.

       

      For any given athlete performing a dynamic movement where the center of mass is being displaced, these terms may be used interchangeably. However, in isometric contractions where there is no displacement then there will be high levels of RFD but zero power.

       

      This is worth bearing in mind when considering different types of muscle contraction and various training modalities with respect to force application and movement velocity.

      What’s his point?

       

      Jump.science is calling into question the middle of the curve.

       

      ”If I’m training for speed/jumping I should definitely sprint and jump.  These are already the ultimate explosive training stimulus.  Compared to these, exercises like loaded jumps and Olympic lifts are relatively slow with long time frames for force production.  Thus they have no explosive benefits to offer.  They can only serve as strength training.

       

      Now historically I myself have used explosive lifting to contribute  to overall STRENGTH training volume, and I do not intend to criticise that practice, but obviously heavier lifting is more influential on strength.

       

      So if we skip cleans and just deadlift or skip loaded jumps and just squat, do we sacrifice much of anything? Do we need to break our lifting into 4 categories and make sure we hit each one? I would argue No.”

       

      So, what he is saying is just skip (2), (3) and (4).  To be fair, from looking at the comments and his reply, he seems to point the finger more at speed-strength (4), especially if you are talking about squatting with less than 30% 1RM as speed-strength.

       

      What does the Research Say?

       

      In my previous blog I made the point that for untrained athletes Maximum Strength has the effect of developing peak force and also peak RFD at the same time.  So initially I’d agree to focus on that (the F end of the F-V curve).

       

      Therefore, once someone has squeezed the juice out of Max strength training we need to look at further ways to get more explosive (increase RFD).

       

       

      Training at the Optimal Load

       

      One approach to improve power/RFD is to train at the intensity that optimises power output for that movement.  Let’s look at three classic movements- the squat (S), jump squat (JS) and power clean (PC).

       

      The Geeky Science on Power OutputCormie et al (2007) – Optimal loading for Maximal Power Output during Lower-Body Resistance Exercises

       

      The JS, similar in nature to the bench throw, is considered a ‘’ballistic’’ exercise in that the deceleration phase is much smaller in comparison with the standard squat movement, where the bar is not released or thrown.

       

      Peak power typically occurs just before take-off.  The optimal load for the JS was 0% of 1RM- 6437 W.  Peak velocity 3.66 m/s

       

      The 0% 1RM load was light enough for athletes to generate very high velocities (peak velocity: 3.66 m/s) and the body mass provided enough resistance to produce substantial force output (peak force 1990 N). Therefore, this load permitted the most favourable combination of force and velocity.

       

      Peak Power in the BS was maximised at 56% 1RM-3250 W; however, power was not significantly different across the loading spectrum.  Peak velocity 1.5 m/s

       

      It is speculated that the deceleration phase of the PC would fall somewhere between the JS and S.  The optimal load in the PC occurred at 80% 1RM- 4786 W.  Peak velocity 2.0 m/s (this also corresponds with the peak velocity of a 20% 1RM BS).

       

      The mid-thigh pull is a modified version of the hang PC, without the catch that involves the segment of the PC, in which peak power typically occurs (i.e., during the second pull phase before the catch phase).

       

      If you think about the vertical velocities in the gym and how they compare to athletic movements such as the jumping events in track & field we have velocities at optimal loading for peak power of 1.5, 2.0 and 3.66 m/s for the BS, PC and JS, respectively.  This compares to 2-5 m/s for the jumping events.

       

      Beyond the Force Velocity Curve with Assisted Jumps Training

       

       

      I definitely think it is important to train at around 80% for PC and 60% 1RM for BS as it’s the load that maximises power output in these lifts.  These loads correspond with loads recommended in classic protocols used to target RFD (explosive and starting strength) through Max Load Method and Max velocity Method, respectively (see below).

       

       

      It just so happens that these loads correspond to the ‘optimal’ load for developing peak power in the back squat and Olympic lifts, respectively.

       

      ⭐️ Daz comment: However, I’d like to state that just because I think it is important to train at these loads to develop explosive strength I am not suggesting to train exclusively at the load that optimises power output for a particular exercise.    For example, with the BS I would favour training at intensities above and below 60% 1RM, and place particular emphasis on training above 60% 1RM to develop maximum strength.

      A Word on Olympic Weightlifting

       

      Similar to ballistic exercises (which we will come on to next!), weightlifting exercises require athletes to accelerate throughout the entire propulsive phase or second pull, causing the projection of the barbell and often the body in the air.

       

      However, they differ from ballistic exercises in that they require the athlete to actively decelerate their body mass in order to catch the barbell.  As we have just seen, the inherent high force, high velocity nature of weightlifting exercises creates the potential for these exercises to produce large power outputs across a variety of loading conditions.  They significantly improve not only maximal power output but, more specifically, power output against heavy loads.  Thus, the use of these movements in training is ideal for athletes who are required to generate high velocities against heavy loads including wrestlers, rugby union front rowers and American football linemen.

       

      The Geeky Science on Olympic Lifts- Garhammer et al (1993)

       

      Analysis of the Clean- The total average power of the athlete while lifting the barbell from the floor to maximum vertical velocity position was 4191 W, equaling 33.5 W/kg.  Corresponding value for elite women is 21.8 W/kg.  The weight lifted in a snatch is about 80% of that lifted in a clean but total average power output values, however, tend to be very similar- [presumably due to a greater average and peak velocity during the pulling motion].

       

      In weightlifting it is of value to determine the power output during the second pull for snatch and clean lifts.  This is a very high-power phase of the pull for a clean or snatch lift and relates well biomechanically to the jerk lift and to vertical jumping.

       

      Second pulls begin after the bar has cleared knee height and the lifter has shifted his or her hips forward to keep the bar as close to the body as possible.  Second pulls are of very short duration, typically between 0.10 and 0.20 seconds.

       

      The average power output of the athlete during a second pull was 6981 W equaling 55.8 W/kg.

       

      Compare these to average power outputs for squats/deadlifts (12.7 W/kg) and bench press (4.6 W/kg).

       

      A typical maximum vertical velocity during a clean or snatch pull would be 1.6 m/s and 2.0 m/s respectively, while for a deadlift it would be about 0.6 m/s.  Consider that a deadlift takes 2.0 s from lift-off until finish and the barbell is elevated 0.6 m.  The main reason that the deadlift power output is about one-third of the clean pull is that the deadlift (2.0 s) lasts about three times as long as the clean pull (0.72 s)

       

      Because Olympic lifts are so fast for such a large amount of load lifted, the average power and peak power outputs are similar.  But peak power during a lifting movement is higher.  The average power output values are average values over time intervals ranging from 0.1 s to 0.8 s.

       

      Garhammer calculated ‘instantaneous’ power outputs for 0.02 s intervals and found values higher than 60 W/kg, which were found for some male weightlifters during entire second pulls and jerk thrusts.  If film analyses were conducted at 0.01 s intervals ‘’instantaneous values of 70-80 W/kg would be likely.  This is comparable to instantaneous power output values of 60 to 75 W/kg reported for vertical jumps.

       

      But even though the optimal load in the PC occurred at 80% 1RM which is a common load used in training of Olifts are don’t just train at the optimal load for maximal power output!

       

      The use of the optimal load for power development results in a muted ability to improve strength levels which can have significant ramifications when working with athletes who must express high power outputs under loaded conditions. (especially if you are mainly doing unloaded JS!)  Furthermore, training at the optimal load has the inherent limitation of only maximising power output at or near the load that is being trained.

      Wrap up on Explosive Strength

       

      Although some coaches have questioned the merits of training exclusively at the optimal load, there can be no doubt that there is a place for performing exercises which require higher levels of external opposition.  The optimal load – the load that maximises peak power –  is 60% 1RM for back squat and 80% 1RM for the power clean- loads that can be considered suitable for developing ”explosive strength.”

       

      ”In achieving the maximum speed of explosive movements, the relevance of maximal strength depends on the level of the external opposition to be overcome: the higher the external opposition, the higher the level of Maximal Strength necessary to ensure the maximal speed of movement.” pg 43, Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches (Verkhoshansky, 2011).

       

      Loaded conditions may involve activities such as a collision in contact sports such as American football, rugby and wrestling

       

      OR

       

      An athlete changing direction where they must apply even greater forces to change the momentum of the system (mass x velocity).  This last point is important because it would be incorrect to assume that the only athletes who need explosive strength are those that have to work against another human being.

       

      Tennis example- recall that max strength helps improve our force generating abilities – when movement velocity is zero, which is the case during the very initial movement after being ‘wrong footed.’  In the example below, Rafa Nadal has expected to move to his left and has been wrong footed, so he needs to stop his motion and then sprint off in the opposite direction from a stationary position.  Maximal Strength and the Explosive Strength, expressed in isometric regime will be a key physical quality

       

       

      So, the question one always has to ask oneself is, what is the level of opposition to be overcome in your sport? Now by ‘opposition’ I don’t just mean your opponent (as in American Football, Rugby or Wrestling).  Your own inertia is something that needs to be opposed and overcome, and from a static start it requires Maximal Strength and Explosive strength from an isometric position to initiate movement.

       

      In a lot of sports movements however, we need to overcome a lower level of opposition- Acceleration phase of tennis serve and ground strokes and most tennis movements within a few metres comes to mind.  This is where ballistic method comes into play.

       

      Training for RFD- Ballistic Method

       

      Ballistic exercises including the jump squat and bench throw circumvent any deceleration phase by requiring athletes to accelerate throughout the entire range of motion to the point of projection (i.e., take off or release).

       

      Typically these exercises are performed across a variety of loading conditions from 10-50% of the 1RM to enable selective recruitment of fast twist muscles fibers and enhanced muscular firing rates. Exercises including weighted jumps, Olympic weightlifting movements, and implement throwing (such as medicine balls) are excellent methods of developing specific strength with a velocity focus.

       

       

      This is the category of strength training that @jump.science feels is most pointless.  For completeness, at APA we use 30-60% 1RM for the Jump squat as a go to loading scheme for Ballistic strength.  Full disclosure; the science below doesn’t make a clear case for doing lightly loaded jumps in favour of say plyometrics, so I’ll be coming back to this specific comment from @jump.science in a follow up blog as I don’t want to dodge the question.  But for now let’s look at the overall benefits of ballistic strength training.

       

      What does the Research Say?

       

      Previous literature has shown significant performance improvements after jump squat training with 30% 1RM (McBride et al, 2002; Wilson et al, 1993) featured in Cormie et al (2010).

       

      The reader is also directed to an excellent review paper by Cormie et al (2011)- Developing Maximal Neuromuscular Power- Part 2

       

      ‘’The use of light loading conditions equivalent to 0-60% of 1RM in conjunction with plyometrics permits individuals to train at velocities similar to those encountered in actual on-field movements.

       

      Furthermore, light loads are recommended due to the high RFD requirements and the high power outputs associated with such resistances.  Therefore, ballistics with light load and/or plyometrics are recommended for athletes who are required to generate high power outputs during fast movements against low external loads such as in sprinting, jumping, throwing and striking tasks.

       

      It is important to note, however, that these findings are only relevant when light loads are utilised with ballistic and plyometric exercise.  The use of light loads with traditional resistance training exercises is not recommend because such training would not provide an adequate stimulus for adaptation in either force or velocity requirements of such exercises.”

       

      Cormie et al (2010)- Adaptations in Athletic Performance after Ballistic Power versus Strength Training

       

      Usually ballistics and plyometrics get heaped in one category so it’s difficult to separate their effects.  However, this was one such study that at least had a strength training only and a power training only group, which lifted no more than 30% 1RM, so you can at least delineate high load from low load derived adaptations.

       

      The strength training group followed a programme involving the back squat exclusively.  Session 1 – 3×3 at 90% 1RM; Session 2- 3×6 at 75% 1RM and Session 3- 3×4 at 80% 1RM.

       

      The power training only group did two sessions per week using body mass jump squats (7 sets x6 reps) and one session per week where they performed 5 sets x 5 reps of maximal effort jump squats with 30% 1RM.

       

      It’s a pity they didn’t have a design with three groups- one that did strength, one that did 30% loaded jumps and one that did unloaded jumps.

       

      Anyway, in the group of ‘’relatively weak men’’ in the study (1RM around 1.3 x body mass), both experimental groups showed significant improvements in jump and sprint performance with no significant between group differences in either jump (peak power: ST = 17.7%, PT = 17.6%, around 10 W/kg) or sprint performance (40-m sprint: ST = 2.2%, PT 3.6%).   ST also displayed a significant increase in maximal strength that was significantly greater than the PT group (squat 1RM: ST = 31.2%, PT = 4.5%).

       

      It was concluded that the ability of strength training to render similar short-term improvements in athletic performance as ballistic power training, coupled with the potential long-term benefits of improved maximal strength, makes strength training a more effective training modality for relatively weak individuals.

       

      It is worth pointing out that the power group significantly increased the rate of rise in EMG of the vastus medialus during the 0% 1RM JS test and RFD during isometric squat test.  This was associated with slight modifications in jump mechanics (i.e., a marginally shorter but faster countermovement) and a significant decrease in time to take off specific to ballistic power training with jump squats.

      A word on Plyometrics

       

      Just so we are clear, plyometrics are ballistic in nature, but they are delineated from specific ballistic exercises within the APA method due to the way these exercises are overloaded.  Typically, they are performed with little to no external resistance, such as with body mass only or light medicine ball, and overload is applied by increasing the stretch rate by minimising the duration of the SSC and/or stretch load by, for example, increasing the height of the drop during drop jumps.

       

      Plyometrics can be tailored to train either short SSC movements characterised by a 100-250 ms duration (i.e., ground contact in sprinting, long or high jump), or long SSC movements characterised by duration greater than 250 ms (i.e., countermovement jump [CMJ] or throw).

       

      I hope you found this article useful.

       

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      The Force-Velocity Curve for Tennis – Part 1

      In today’s blog I’m going to introduce an important concept- the Force-Velocity (F-V) Curve and how we can use it to write better S&C programmes for Tennis performance.   A lot of us (myself included) have at one point probably blindly followed a model for improving ‘performance’ without really taking time to understand how certain types of strength and power exercises might relate to the actions in the sport- in this case Tennis.

       

      One way to conceptualise the forces acting on the body is by using the F-V curve and placing various tennis actions on the curve.   I ask my coaches to do this exercise when they first work in Tennis with APA and so in Part 2 of this blog I will present an example from one of my coaches.

       

       

      Before we get to the F-V curve in Part 2 I wanted to establish some definitions in Part 1, as this is where we can get a lot of confusion.  I must give credit to Matt Kuzdub who has written a lot of fantastic blogs on the topic of tennis science, and he talks extensively about strength and power- giving examples of how this relates to tennis.

       

      Check out this article from Mattspoint.com who does a great job of outlining how max strength development can impact movement characteristics – including explosiveness, first step ability and acceleration.  He mentions that: ”tennis is characterized mainly by explosive (speed-strength) actions. This basically means that the majority of movements in tennis are quite ballistic and fast – and I strongly believe training should reflect this (both on and off the tennis court). That being said, there’s a place for maximum strength training in the overall program (and development) of an elite tennis player.”

       

      I have heard so many coaches talk about this term ”explosiveness” as a bit of a catch all term that I thought it warranted a Part 1 to present some terms definitions first.  To set the scene, I’m going to quote another section of Matt’s blog where he talks about ‘explosiveness’ from his point of view. 👇

      What’s Explosiveness Anyway?

       

      Explosiveness – what sport scientists refer to as explosive strength or rate of force development (RFD) – differs from maximal strength. Explosive strength is related to how quickly a muscle or muscle group can develop force to produce a desired movement. In this context, achieving max force is not a requirement.

       

      As you would probably suspect, this quality is quite important for tennis players – every time a player initiates movement, they are attempting to be explosive. Explosive strength is generally trained using lighter resistances (barbell jump squats, power snatch/clean etc.) or via traditional plyometric activities (jumps, bounds, sprints etc.). Many would argue that explosive strength is more important than maximum strength in tennis (myself included).”

       

      ⭐️ Daz comment: I’d now like to offer my own definition of Explosiveness, as there are lots of terms such as maximum strength, explosive strength, power, acceleration strength, strength-speed, speed-strength, starting strength, reactive strength that all get referred to.   Needless to say it can get very confusing!  I don’t necessarily disagree with what Matt has said above, BUT if I’m going to be picky I’d say that explosiveness as it is defined as a strength quality is a little different.  The challenge we have is that typically explosiveness and ‘power’ are words that used interchangeably. which isn’t strictly correct.

      Terminology

       

      I’ll offer definitions for Maximum strength, RFD, Power and Speed as a start point.  Everything else that gets referred to is in someway connected to the above mentioned terms.  If you aren’t a science geek and just want some practical take aways, you’re probably best to skip to Part 2, where I give you an example of tennis movements that rely on various amounts of Force and Velocity.

       

      A lot of the definitions are based on a chapter I read in:

       

       

      Strength

       

      Strength = the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce force against an external resistance.

       

      Absolute maximum strength (AMS) = the greatest amount of strength that a muscle or one or more groups of muscles are capable of producing, and can be determined isometrically or dynamically.

       

      👆 superimposing an electrical stimulation on a maximum voluntary contraction, thus augmenting motor unit recruitment, can produce AMS.  Maximum voluntary strength is the maximum amount of strength that can be produced voluntarily without electrical augmentation.  For the purposes of simplicity I will refer to this as ‘Maximum strength’ and practically speaking this is usually obtained in a laboratory as peak force during a single joint movement and isolated muscle.  Training for this quality is most typically associated with heavy resistance training exercises above 85% of 1RM.

       

      This will likely not relate well to the complex use of muscles during multi-joint movements.    As it relates to sport, one can argue the importance of strength (force) by considering Newton’s second Law of Motion, F = ma.  Thus increasing the level of acceleration requires a greater force production; and because acceleration results in some velocity, greater forces will produce higher velocities.  Therefore achieving high velocities is dependent on high force production (strength).

       

       

      Therefore, one may argue that in some sports, perhaps most sports, RATE OF FORCE DEVELOPMENT is as important, or more important, than maximum force production (maximum strength).

       

      Force production characteristics, including the rate at which force is produced, and related variables such as power production, can be as important as, or even more important than, the maximum level of force production.

       

      Rate of Force Development

       

      Rate of Force Development (RFD) = is the change in force divided by change in time and is directly related to the rate of increase in muscle activation by the nervous system.  Although force is directly responsible for the acceleration of an object, one may argue that the faster a given force is attained, the more rapid the corresponding acceleration of a mass.  Thus, RFD can be associated with the ability to accelerate objects.  Therefore, attaining a high average or peak RFD (explosive strength) is associated with high acceleration capabilities.

       

       

      Measurement of RFD requires special equipment, usually a force plate is used for RFD measures of athletic movements.  For example, an athlete could perform an isometric squat or static (no counter-movement) or dynamic (counter-movement) jumps from a force plate, and one or more force-time curves could be generated.

       

      Explosive strength = the peak RFD has been termed explosive strength (PRFD), or stated anther way it’s the athlete’s capacity to achieve the peak force in the shortest time.  Some coaches refer to this as ‘strength-speed.’  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise moderate to heavy loads (e.g., 80-90% 1RM for Olympic lifts).

       

      Starting strength = the force generated in the first 30 ms has been termed starting strength and is related to the initial rate of force development. Some coaches refer to this as high speed-strength (e.g., Verkhoshansky).  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise moderate to lighter loads (30-60% 1RM) and Slow SSC plyometrics (more on this later).

       

       

       

       

      What does the Research Say?

       

      It appears that a high starting strength and a high isometric and dynamic PRFD are necessary for optimal performance in sports in which light loads are moved very fast, for example fencing and boxing.

       

      Support for this comes from Yuri Verkhonshasky who performed an experiment with athletes who did a Leg Press and a Seated calf raise under an isometric regime (without a time limitation) and a dynamic regime (where athletes had to perform a maximal explosive effort in the shortest time overcoming five different levels of resistance: 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100% of their maximum isometric strength).

       

      In explosive movements executed with low resistance, it was found that starting strength is of primary importance.  As resistance increases, explosive strength becomes more important.

       

      To achieve the maximum speed of explosive movements, the relevance of maximum strength (measured as isometric strength in this example) depends on the level of external opposition to be overcome; the higher the external opposition, the higher the level of maximum strength necessary to ensure the maximal speed of movement.

       

      In practical terms, the PRFD (or explosive strength) becomes increasingly important as the load increases (e.g., shot putt) and as the load approaches maximum, maximum strength predominates (e.g., powerlifting).

       

      We would expect lighter loads to produce higher RPFD than heavier loads but it is also interesting to note that maximum strength and PFRD may be enhanced simultaneously with appropriate strength training.  How could this be?

       

      It comes down to the physiological potentiation effect of maximum strength training on explosive strength.  Maximum strength training recruits high threshold motor units and increases the frequency of firing.  To illustrate this lets look at an experiment by Natalia Verkhoshansky who followed up her father’s experiment with a similar one of her own as part of her PhD.  This involved working with the former Soviet Union National tennis team.

       

       

      In the table above we can see that the higher the level of explosive strength of the tennis player, the higher is their capacity to run rapidly on the court (r values approximately -0.5).   The results also showed that the athletes who expressed a higher value of maximum strength and starting strength in the seated calf raise (BUT NOT LEG PRESS) showed a higher level of speed ability (r values -0.436 to 0.503 and -0.437 to -0.446 respectively).

       

      So as we can see the results of specific running tests are NOT correlated directly with maximal strength as expressed in the Leg press.  However, the correlations between the parameters of strength capabilities show that the higher the level of maximum strength, the higher is the level of explosive strength (see below r = 0.803).

       

       

      This means that to increase the level of explosive strength in the leg press (a key quality to improve tennis running test performance), it’s first necessary to increase the maximum strength expressed in the leg press, such as using a barbell squat.

       

      ⭐️ Daz comment: I often get coaches ask, ‘well if explosive strength clearly has the greatest benefit to tennis running performance why not start there?’

       

      First and foremost, it is not appropriate to use high intensity training stimuli (training means having high training potential) at the beginning of the training process (either the beginning of a training cycle for a more advanced athlete or when new to training such as a beginner) because the ORGANISM IS NOT YET READY, from a functional point of view, to give an adequate adaptive response to their use.

       

      Training means that have a high training potential (such as explosive training) must be gradually introduced into the training process after training means with a lower training potential.  Athletes with a low level of motor function require a training means with low training potential.   A back squat has a lower training potential than a jump squat.

       

      Learn to develop high forces first, then you can learn to develop high forces quickly.

       

      [And before someone rightly points out that the athletes are already doing these things on the court, that isn’t justification in my book for their inclusion in the training programme to PREPARE the body to meet the DEMANDS of sport.  Many people are exposing their bodies to high stresses from playing sport and do not have the physical qualities to tolerate them for extended periods.  In many cases the only thing stopping them from breaking is that they are not doing the sport enough to get to that point.]

       

      Speed & Power

       

      This leads on to the topic of speed and power- qualities seen as being further down the concentric F-V curve.  From a purely muscle concentric point of view I’ll go along with that but remember that the F-V curve has some flaws as it doesn’t explain dynamic movements comprehensively.  Some of the fastest movements we know such as sprinting and take offs from high jumps and so on produce huge forces, even if the muscle itself is not capable of producing high force at high shortening velocities the overall movement produces high force (as we have seen in sprinting).  We will cover this later when we look at plyometrics.

       

      Speed = speed is a scalar quantity and is the magnitude component for the vector termed velocity.  Velocity has both a magnitude (speed) and a direction.  Velocity  = distance / time.  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise light loads (<30% 1RM) and sprinting and Fast SSC plyometrics (more on this later).

       

      Power  = work is an expression of force acting on an object through a DISTANCE and is independent of time or velocity.  In simple terms, a strength measurement of external CONCENTRIC work can be measured using the weight of the bar and the vertical displacement.  Power is essentially a ”work rate,” and can be described by the equation:

       

      P = W / T,  since Work = Force x distance –> P = F x d / t but since Velocity = d /t

       

      P = F x V

       

      Power can be calculated as an average over a large range of displacement or as an instantaneous peak value occurring at a specific brief moment during the displacement of an object.

       

      Or if you rearrange the equation differently, (F/t x d) = RFD x d

       

      When in contact with the ground, the athlete generates power by developing high levels of force in short duration (RFD) and displacing his/her center of mass through an appropriate range.

       

      For any given athlete performing a dynamic movement where the center of mass is being displaced, these terms may be used interchangeably. However, in isometric contractions where there is no displacement then there will be high levels of RFD but zero power.

       

      This is worth bearing in mind when considering different types of muscle contraction and various training modalities with respect to force application and movement velocity.

       

      Schmidtbleicher (1992) has presented a theoretical framework indicating that maximum strength is the basic quality that affects power output.  He further suggests that maximum strength affects power in a hierarchical manner, with diminishing influence as the load decreases, to a point at which other factors such as RFD may become more important.

       

      Power output (or work rate) is likely the most important factor in separating sport performances (i.e., who wins and who loses).  The athlete getting work accomplished at the fastest rate wins! Thus, as a training goal, the appropriate development of power can be paramount.  While average power output (change in work rate over time = total work / total time) may be more associated with performance in endurance events, for maximum effort single movement activities such as jumping, sprinting and weightlifting movements, peak power is typically strongly related to success.

       

      Average power output referred to in this context is something like a ‘multiple maximum effort test’ like a 30-sec Bike Wingate test or a Margaria-Kalamen stair test (see below).

       

      How Do We Measure Power?

       

      When measuring power during a single effort movement we can measure average power over a large range of displacement or as an instantaneous peak value occurring at a specific brief moment, as previously mentioned.  So that this is not confused with average power output above, I will refer to this as mean power.

       

      Below are some vertical jump power calculators – go to topendsports.com for the comprehensive list.

       

      Lewis Formula – mean power calculation

       

      The Lewis formula or nomogram (Fox & Mathews, 1974) is a commonly used formula (found in many high school text books). This formula only estimates mean (average) power, and is based on a modified falling body equation. The original formula used the units of kg·m·sec.-1. To convert it to Watts, the standard unit for Power, the factor of 9.81 has been added.  Example is for a 75 kg athlete jumping 60 cm.

       

      Average Power (Watts) = √ 4.9 x body mass (kg)  x √ jump-reach score (m) x 9.81

      Example

      • Average Power = (square root of 4.9) x body mass(kg) x (square root of jump distance(m)) x 9.81
      • Average Power = 2.2136 x 75 x 0.7746 x 9.81
      • Average Power = 1261.6 Watts

       

      Slightly easier way to state the calculation to measure peak power (watts) =  √jump height (metres) x body mass x 2.21 x 9.8 m.s.2 =  0.7746 x 75 x 2.21 x 9.8

       

      Sayers Formula – peak power calculation

       

      The Sayers Equation (Sayers et al. 1999) also estimates peak power output (Peak Anaerobic Power output or PAPw) from the vertical jump.

       

      PAPw (Watts) = 60.7 · jump height(cm) + 45.3 · body mass(kg) – 2055

      Example

      • PAPw = (60.7 x jump height(cm)) + (45.3 x body mass(kg)) – 2055
      • PAPw = (60.7 x 60) + (45.3 x 75) – 2055
      • PAPw = 3642 + 3397.5 – 2055
      • PAPw = 4984.5 Watts

       

      Highest values for Peak power will always occur in bodyweight unloaded jumps.  Highest values for Mean power will usually occur in 2nd pull variations of Olympic lifts, and loaded jumps and throws.  This has lead to a range of training methods which utilise moderate loads (30-80% 1RM) to maximise (mean) power output.

       

      Vertical jump height is a good indirect measure of leg power, hence why we will often use a lot of jumps (loaded and unloaded) as a training method to develop power.  It’s easy to see when athletes are getting off the ground quickly and/or jumping high.

       

      Plyometrics and Plyometric muscle actions = a plyometric muscle action simply means a concentric action is immediately preceded by an eccentric action (i.e., a stretch-shortening cycle).  This type of muscle action can be applied in a variety of movement patterns and at different speeds and power outputs.

       

      The extreme example of this is a 1RM parallel squat test for measurement of maximum strength.  While is a slow movement it is still a plyometric muscle action.  Plyometric testing in the form of weightlifting, throws and jumps  is also valuable for evaluating explosive strength and power!

       

      This is partly where confusion lies as coaches typically think of ‘plyometrics’ as synonymous with ‘jump training.’    Plyometric is just a description of the muscle action; the fast reversal of the eccentric to concentric muscle action was then made synonymous with certain types of ‘plyometric jumps,’ and this later became a catch all term for any form of jump training- which is incorrect.  This is a misnomer because some types of jump training can be performed without a plyometric muscle action- such as a concentric focused squat jump.

       

      For ease of explanation- at APA I like to refer to ”Ballistics” and ”Plyometrics,” and as it relates the plyometrics we can break it down into Slow SSC and Fast SSC.

       

      Ballistics – ballistic training involves explosive activities such as throwing, jumping and striking, in order to project an object and accelerate through the entire concentric phase.  Think medicine ball throw, slams, BB bench throw (Smith Machine) as well as box jump, standing long jump, hex bar jump, bounding etc for the lower body.

       

      The intention of ballistic training is to maximise the acceleration phase of an object’s movement without having to decelerate and eccentrically load.  The emphasis is on CONCENTRIC force production.

       

      It differs slightly from Plyometric Training which incorporates the phenomenon known as the stretch-shortening cycle.

       

      Plyometrics– can be divided into Fast SSC (<0.25 ms) think drop jump and Slow SSC (>0.25 ms) think counter-movement jump.

       

      This is where an eccentric pre-stretch of the muscles and/or tendons allows enhanced power output and explosiveness due to stored elastic energy utilised during a rebound or counter-movement action.  Some coaches go a stage further and describe Fast SSC plyometrics as reactive strength.

       

      In tennis things like low box drop jumps and pogo jumps are suitable.  The highest form of this type of Fast SSC plyometrics is the ”shock method” using depth jumps from high boxes.  This has been shown to recreate the extremely high impact forces seen in top speed sprinting and maximum take off jumps in high/long jump, for example.

       

      A typical sprinter will experience an average GRF of 2 x bodyweight forces through a single leg at 125-140 degrees at the knee, with a peak GRF more like 4 x bodyweight.  Clearly with a ground contact time of 0.08 ms these forces are not produced through a typical concentric muscle contraction alone but with the use of the SSC.

       

      Phew! That was a A LOT of definitions to get through and you can see why coaches including myself can get so confused!!

       

      I hope you 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.
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