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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 348 Keith Baar – PART 1

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 348 – Keith Baar

Keith Baar

Research Gate

Background: 

Keith Baar

 

Keith is a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology at the University of California Davis, and Head of the Functional Molecular Biology Lab.  The goal of the laboratory is to understand the molecular determinants of musculoskeletal development and the role of exercise in improving health and performance.

 

Keith completed his PhD at the University of Illinois looking at the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) in the maintenance of muscle mass.

 

Discussion topics:

 

So in terms of injury rates, why are injury rates still on the rise?

 

”Well, the first reason is that because we get paid on performance (athletic trainers, strength coaches, all of these performance people). And a lot of performance is down to maximizing properties of the musculoskeletal system that actually puts you at an increased risk for injury.

 

And so what is the delicacy and what’s the real art of performance science is to balance performance against injury rate. Because as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to shift more towards injury rate. I’m going to decrease injury rate because if I decrease injury rate, my athletes are going to have more time in practice. They’re going to be able to have more sessions. They’re going to be trained more frequently. And over time they will progressively get better.

 

The problem is many coaches and performance directors don’t have that long view because their job is going to be determined in the next six months. So if they don’t win it now, they’re not going to be there long enough to have the opportunity to see the benefits of what they put in place. And so a lot of times what we’re doing is we’re making short-term decisions when we really need to look at long-term progression.

 

While we still have this system where everybody is judged and the coach is going to bring in his own performance team and all of these things, we’re going to still have this cycle.

 

Could you give us a overview about the role of the tendon, the function and how they actually adapt, if that’s alright?

 

”Sure. So I think the best thing to do is to start off by looking at tendons and ligaments, because these two things are often grouped together. And the reason that they’re grouped together is they’re structurally very similar. They’re at least 70% type I collagen and that collagen is supposed to be aligned along the line of force. In a ligament, you’ve got more than one direction of force sometimes, so you get maybe a little bit different alignment than you would do in a tendon.

 

And what we’ve got in these structures are collagen protein, and that collagen protein is cross-linked together. And that cross-linking is going to alter the stiffness of the structure. So the stiffness of your tendons and ligaments is down to how much collagen you have, what direction the collagen is going and how cross-linked the collagen is.

 

 

 

Ligaments

 

And so when you have a ligament, what a ligament’s job is to do is to keep a joint from being lax. So is to keep a joint really sturdy. And so the stiffer your ligaments are the better because you don’t want movement within the joint. An example is if we increase the laxity of the knee joint so that there’s 1.3 millimeters of extra give in the ACL, we have a fourfold increase in the rate of ACL rupture.

 

So anything that’s going to give us small changes in ligament stiffness, or laxity of the joint is going to be bad. And so a ligament, we want it to be as stiff as possible. And that’s because it’s going to connect two bones together and the two bones are going to be super stiff.

 

Tendons

 

If we look at a tendon, the real difference between a tendon and a ligament is  a very basic property. A tendon is attaching a muscle to a bone. And so that means on one end, it’s attaching to something very compliant or stretchy. And on the other end, it’s got something stiff. And if you were to give an engineer a job of attaching something that’s really stretchy to something that’s really stiff and hard, they would have night sweats because this is the exact thing that is the most difficult thing to do as far as engineering that structure. And so the tendon is  a unique tissue in the fact that on one end it’s stretchy and on the other end, it’s stiff. And so it’s a variable mechanical tissue. That means that the stiffer your tendon is not always the best option, whereas in the stiffer the ligament, the best option, always stiffer; stiffness is better.

 

Tendon, it’s a little bit different because it has to connect to a compliant muscle.

 

If it’s too stiff, if it’s stiffer than the muscle is strong, that’s when we get non-contact muscle pulls.

 

If we just compare female athletes to male athletes, because we said that as stiff as possible is great for the ligament. Well, we know that women playing the same sport have a four to eight times higher rate of ACL rupture. That’s telling us something about the laxity of the ligaments, that they’re less stiff than the men. But they also have 80% fewer non-contact muscle pulls. So what that’s telling us is that when the stiffness is low, we get ACL ruptures. When the stiffness is low, we get fewer muscle pulls.

 

In contrast, when the stiffness is high, fewer ACL, fewer ligament problems and more muscle pulls. And obviously as a strength or a performance person or a manager, you want to have muscle pulls over ACLs every day. But at the same time, you don’t, you also want to try and eliminate those muscle pulls as much as you can. And that’s where the intricacies of tendons and ligaments and this muscle tendon unit science really take off because to train such that you’ve got stiff tissues for your ligaments, but you can modulate the tendon’s stiffness by using your exercise. That’s really where  you’re making your living if you’re a performance or a strength coach.”

 

What’s the role of the tendon in dynamic performance such as sprinting and jumping?

 

”My definition of a tendon is it’s something that’s there to protect the muscle from injury. From a standpoint of a performance person, it’s there to transmit force as quickly as possible. Okay, so the stiffer a tendon is, the faster I can transmit the force being produced by the muscle to the bone, and that’s going to increase performance.

 

So really what I want to do with my tendons for performance is I want to have them as stiff as possible. And the reason for that is that if you think of a weight on your desk and you attach a rubber band or elastic band or a stretchy band, and you pull on the stretchy band, what’s going to happen is it’s going to stretch and the weight’s not going to move. And that’s really what would happen if you have hyper-laxity. If you have really stretchy tendons, you pull on that tendon and the bone, which is our weight on our desk, doesn’t move.

 

 

If you now switch that to a rope that’s a braided material, as you pull on it, it’s still going to stretch a little bit, but because it’s a lot stiffer than the stretchy band, now as you pull on it, it stretches a little bit, and then the weight moves. But if I instead have a steel rod there, as soon as I pull on the steel rod, now that bone or that weight on my desk is going to move immediately. That’s basically what we talk about when we talk about rate of force development. When we talk about rate of force development, what we’re saying is how quickly can we get from the message from your brain, to the contraction of the muscle, to the movement of the bone. And that last bit, the contraction of the muscle to the movement of the bone, that’s where your tendon stiffness comes in.

 

If you want to perform at your best, ideally, you want that tendon to be as stiff as possible. But again, the way that you do that is you’re going to increase stiffness. And then the stiffness of the tendon, if it gets stiffer than the muscle is strong you’re going to have muscle injury. So this is where we’re trying to balance these two things out. We’re trying to balance the performance side, where the higher the stiffness, the better for performance with the potential for injury side, which is if my tendon is stiffer than my muscle is strong, I’m going to get a non-contact muscle pull. And so that’s really where our performance people or performance scientists are earning their money.

 

So how do we know as sports performance practitioners, if we’re getting that balance right or is it before we get the injury idea?

 

”So again, what you would do is if you’re at a max performance sport, like you’re a track and field, and you can do everything where you just have to be your best for, you know, for that one event, then what you do is you practice that. And that means in a non world championship, non Olympic championship year, you actually push yourself to the point where you get a non-contact muscle pull. Because that what that’s done is that’s told you, okay, in this individual, what is my ratio of fast movements to slow movements or heavy movements that is going to optimize their performance? And then where am I going to get to that point where if I pushed it too far, I’m going to get a pull? Now, once I know that, I can go back and I can program knowing that in the past, this is where we’ve been. Once we get up towards that level, now I can manipulate training to keep us as close to that without overcoming that.

 

In a situation like a team sport, where you’ve got a whole bunch of people, what you’re going to find is that’s going to be extraordinarily difficult because each individual has a different set point. And so if you’ve got a whole team, first of all, they don’t have all the same training load because everybody’s going to have positional differences. Second of all, they’ve got different genetics, which makes them either more prone or less prone to injury. And so what you’ve got is you’ve got to really break it down to individualize the training and the performance based work for each individual athlete, if possible.”

 

How stiff is stiff enough? And I’d like to get you up your thoughts on that as well.

 

”Again, this comes down to what’s your performance? So if you’re in Rugby Union and you’re one of the big guys, and you just have to absorb a lot of force you don’t need to be extraordinarily stiff.  If you’ve got the big, huge guys, so in American football, it’s the lineman. So they’re big, huge linemen, these guys are like 6’6 about 110, 120 kilos. So they’re big. And what they’re doing is they’re absorbing force. I don’t need much stiffness in that athlete.

 

I like to talk to manual therapists, physical therapists, athletic therapists, who are hands-on, they’ll tell you that there’s two types of athletes. There’s the muscular athlete and then there’s the stiff athlete. And just by touching them they know what type of athlete.

 

I need stiffness for the people who are going to have high end speed, have to jump super high. Any of these ballistic movement performances, that’s where I need stiffness. And in that situation, what you want is you want the stiffness that’s necessary to perform the movement, but no more. It’s just like flexibility. I don’t want somebody to be so flexible that they’re now hyper lax, and they’re going to increase the risk for injury again. So injury rate and stiffness is a U shaped curve. So if you are very inflexible, there’s a high injury rate. If you are very, very flexible, there’s a high injury rate. And in between, you’re going to get into this kind of shallow area where you’re at the optimal flexibility or at the optimal stiffness, your injury rate is relatively low, your performance is relatively high.

 

How do I have a quantitative way to say this is it? What I would do, the best thing that we have found so far is to use stuff like counter movement jumps or other things, and look at the slopes of the eccentric impulse. So this is the rate of force development eccentrically. And if you’re going down and up and you can look and you’re seeing big changes in that slope, what that’s telling you is that if you’re increasing the slope, that means you’re getting stiffer. And as you get stiffer, you’re going to find that you’re going to get to a point where you’re going to get a non-contact muscle pull. That for you is now going to tell you where you should be. Again, what we don’t have yet in elite athletics, or especially in non elite athletics, is any type of quantitative measures that say, here’s us tracking it over time. Oh, look, you picked up an injury when you got to this point, this other athlete picked up an injury when they got even less of a slope change. So that means you’re more resilient. You can do more high stiffness work. This person’s less resilient. You can do less.

 

So what we do is we use injury history a lot of times. And when I get an athlete who’s got an injury history that’s very long, that’s got lots of non-contact muscle pulls, now what that’s going to do is that’s going to change how I’m going to train them. Because I don’t want you to be the fastest player on the team and play two matches over a season. I want you to be the top five fastest players on the team and play every match in the season. And so that’s where I’m going to shift the way that I’m going to train to try and maximize or optimize your performance.”

 

So in terms of individual differences, is there, is it a huge range?

 

”There’s a massive range. There’s going to be those two or three guys who’ve pulled their muscle every year. It’s like, oh my God. Yep, he yawned, he pulled a muscle, you know, it’s that kind of thing every time. And then there’s going to be people who they’re a little bit slower. They actually can accelerate a little bit better. So they’re better able to decelerate accelerate, but they’re really bad at their high end speed. Those people tend to be more resilient as far as these non-contact muscle pulls, because their muscle is going to overcome inertia. So your acceleration deceleration, that’s your muscle base. The people who are the fastest people at the top end speed, those are the ones and they have a really hard time slowing down and speeding up.

So, it’s your connective tissue that is going to allow you to continue and to move as high a speed as possible. So if you’re really good at high end speed, but not so good at acceleration deceleration, that’s going to tell me that you’re going to be much more likely to get a non-contact muscle pull. If you’re really good at acceleration deceleration, I’m going to guess that you’ve not had a lot of non-contact muscle pulls.”

 

A minute ago, you talked about flexibility and this U shaped curve. If people want to be at the bottom and want to make sure that they stay there in terms of building that flexibility, but not becoming hypermobile, what would be your recommendations?

 

”Yeah, so what we do is, for our flexibility, for our range of motion type of work, what we’re doing is we’re not doing any kind of static based stretching because that’s not ideal as far as how we’re activating the system.  There’s a bunch of physical properties that these tissues have, that tendon has specifically, but that matrix has in general. And those are these viscoelastic properties. So that means that the tendon is going to behave both like a liquid and like an elastic solid. And that’s really important for us as a performance measure, because the faster you move, the stiffer of viscoelastic surface becomes.

 

So if I’ve got a viscoelastic tissue, if I go fast, it becomes stiffer. So we can do these tests in our laboratory where we’ve got a machine that’s just going to pull and it can pull at different rates.  And what you can do is you can watch it and it pulls super fast. It’s going to break earlier, but it’s going to have really good stiffness in the tissue. If I pull it really slowly, it’s going to stretch a lot further and it’s not going to take as much force and it’s going to be much less stiff. So if I pull and I hold on a tissue, like a tendon, you get creep, which means I’ve pulled it and then it’s going to slowly come back down. And that’s fine and that’s what you get with static stretching. What we want to do that slightly different is we want to actually continue to maintain the load on the tendon while we’re getting this kind of creep. And that’s called stress relaxation instead of creep. The difference is that when we do stress relaxation, we’re using muscle contraction to continuously load the tendon.

 

When we’re doing creep, we just go into a position where the muscle tendon unit is longer, or we just hold it there. And eventually it slowly relaxes, but there’s no tension across it. And so the tension of the whole system goes down together. When you use a muscle contraction to do that, now what you’re doing is you’re allowing the tendon to continue to get a load across it. But because the tendon is slowly relaxing, the strong parts of the collagen are relaxing, now what you’re getting is you’re getting a signal from the muscle and a signal from the tendon that correspond to each other. The tendon feels load, the muscle is creating load. When we do a static stretch, what we’re getting is we’re getting a disparate signal from the two tissues. One, the tendon is under load but the muscle’s not under load. There’s no contractility, and so what you get is you get this almost counter-intuitive to the two sensors within our musculoskeletal system, the Golgi tendon organ, and the muscle spindle, those are changing in two different ways.

 

And so that’s potentially giving us mixed signals that could potentially increase injury rate. And the example I give is our NCAA athletes. So the athletes where you think, okay, if you were to think of an athlete who should have really stretchy tendons, you would think probably of gymnasts. And you would think that these gymnasts are really super flexible. Well, two years ago, 17 NCAA gymnast ruptured their Achilles tendon. And so it’s not about, and so they’ve done lots and lots of passive stretching. They’ve done lots of holds. A lot of coaches actually have them sleep in those little devices that hold the toe back so that they get more flexibility in the Achilles. And yet here they are rupturing their Achilles faster than any, or more than any other athlete group. And it’s likely because they’re doing that passive movement and that passive movement isn’t increasing flexibility. What it’s doing is it’s changing the Golgi tendon organ reflex. And so slowly over time, the Golgi tendon says, oh yeah, this kind of stretch on the tendon or this kind of load on the tendon is normal. So it doesn’t have that really quick reflex that’s going to assist you at protecting your musculoskeletal system.”

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Risk: reward – a lot of performance is down to maximizing properties of the musculoskeletal system that actually puts you at an increased risk for injury
  2. Ligaments vs. Tendon – the stiffer your ligaments are the better; tendon is a variable mechanical tissue. That means that the stiffer your tendon is not always the best option
  3. Role of tendon- to protect the muscle from injury. From a standpoint of a performance person, it’s there to transmit force as quickly as possible
  4. Know your limits – you actually need to push yourself to the point where you get a non-contact muscle pull.
  5. Static vs Dynamic stretching- dynamic stretching is better as it applies a stretch to the tendon and continues to apply a load on the tendon.

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

Twitter:

@Musclescience

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 331 Danny Lum

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.

 

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The Language of Coaching

With the end of a third lock down in the UK behind us, we haven’t slowed down in our vision to be the Best Tennis S&C Team in the World.  We are committed to a weekly CPD session and last week Konrad gave us an exceptional presentation, the content of which we wanted to share with you! We welcome back APA coach Konrad McKenzie with a weekly guest post.

 

The Language of Coaching

 

Today, I wanted to talk about a book I read by Nick Winkleman. “The language of Coaching”. This book was great as I wanted to seek ways to “Lean out” coaching cues. This blog will in no way “scratch the surface” of the complexity around topics of attentional focus, skill acquisition and neuroscience. I will highlight areas which I thought were pertinent but I implore you to read the book. The areas I will dive into today will be:

  • 3P performance profile
  • Motor learning vs Motor Performance
  • Coaching and attentional focus
  • Analogies, Internal and External cueing
  • Constraints based/Tactile cues

 

The 3P Performance profile

 

3P performance profile are a series of questions, practitioners would ask when seeking to solve a movement issue. Position, Power and Pattern. Positional questions includes asking whether the subject has the prerequisite mobility and stability to perform the movement. Power is related to the required the strength and power capabilities. Pattern refers to the coordinative and skill acquisition. If you imagine our position and power relate to the car whereas the “Pattern refers to the driver.”

Before I start the blog I want to highlight a few key terms to get us all familiar with motor skill learning:

 

Motor skill learning refers to an adaptive process whereby short term changes in behaviour can be measured and observed during or immediately after a session.

 

Acquisition phase– The acquisition phase is the initial period of improvement. It covers the period of time from when the learner is unable to respond correctly without assistance through to when they are able to respond correctly without assistance. This can be broken down further into stages.

 

Retention Phase- is the Ultimate assessment of motor learning which takes place in the future and athlete is able to demonstrate a skill void of any coaching influence.

 

Motor learning vs Motor performance

 

I presented on this topic at work as I felt it was important. But I asked this question to my colleagues,

How many times have you witnessed an athlete’s temporary change in behaviour? Only to come back next week and feel like they have forgotten everything?

I received a few blank looks but after a warm smile, I knew we all have experienced this. It was a question asked in the book. This uncovers a disparity between Motor performance and motor learning.

Sometimes we pride ourselves on acute changes of behaviour (Behaviour in a skill acquisition sense). However, this is not always indicative of genuine motor learning. This is significant because a regression in motor performance is a sign that the athlete is either dependent on our coaching tactics or isn’t adapting to the learning environment that we have created.  So then begs the question, how do we know that learning is taking place? Well, one of the methods is “Silent Sets.” Put simply a coach may employ silence in the athlete’s sets and gauge whether learning has taken place.

 

Coaching and attentional focus

 

“Attention is the currency of learning where mental investments determine motor returns”

 

When cueing athletes or explaining drills we aim to capture, keep and direct attention. The effectiveness of a cue is anchored to the accuracy and vividness of the imagery it provokes. Accuracy in this case requires the cue to capture the most relevant features of the movement an accurate representation of the desired outcome. I personally think of this as a difference between a Shotgun and a Sniper. Really good coaches seem to be snipers. This then moves on to where we direct our attention. If we notice a technical error, logic would tell us (coach and athlete) to zoom in on that problem. However, this creates a “Zoom fallacy”. Where the more our cues zoom into the technical error, the harder it is to change. “The closer you get to an elephant, the harder it is to know you are looking at an elephant”

 

 

Analogies

 

An analogy is a comparison between one thing and another, typically used for the purposes of explaining, it does have an interesting effect on the brain. Evidence suggests that language can literally put motion on the mind, providing support that analogies may help an athlete understand an unfamiliar pattern by learning it in terms of a familiar one. As you will see, an analogy is a sort of mental molecule that helps us make meaning. Analogies power our minds, allowing us to use association and comparison to expand and refine both our knowledge of the world and the way we move through it. Take these two for example, in relation to acceleration.

 

(Accelerate like a plane taking off)                          

 

Internal/External cueing

Now, we understand the power of analogies we can move nicely to internal and external cueing. Internally focused cues draw attention to muscles and body parts. For example, extending a knee, firing a quad or squeezing a glute. Externally focused cues, on the other hand, draw attention to the environment around the body. For example, pushing the ground away or driving the body off the line. Look below for some examples of internal and external cues.

 

Internally focused cues
DB Bench press – “Extend your elbows faster”
Leg action acceleration- “punch your knees up & Forward”
Hip Hinge lowering phase- “Keep the bar close to your thighs”
Pull up “At the top of the pull, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back”
Externally focused cues
“Drive upward as if to shatter a pane of glass”
“Blast toward the finish”
“Hide your front pockets”
“At the top, bend the bar like an old school strong man”

 

From this we can see a nice differentiation, with the same exercises. Nick is in favour of externally Focussed cues, he believes they are “Stickier” (Sticks in the athlete’s mind).

Constraints based cues

 

This wasn’t mentioned so much in the book, however, I found it had relevance. Constraints based cues. I was searching online to find a “Sniper” definition and here is what I found:

The CLA articulates that through the interaction of different constraints – task, environment, and performer – a learner will self-organise in attempts to generate effective movement solutions. (Renshaw, Ian, Keith Davids, Elissa Phillips, and Hugo Kerherve, 2011).

So by changing parameters such as the task or environment we can find effective movement solutions with minimal talking. A slight caveat to this (and some anecdotal experiences) is that the body will ALWAYS solve a movement issue however:

“The assumption that the body will figure out the best way to do something is a big jump to make.”  – Chass pipit (Professional Baseball coach)

Often this is through compensatory mechanisms which are sometimes maladaptive. Just remember the good old strength and conditioning saying “Context is king.” However, it is safe to surmise that using a constraints led approach coupled with appropriately timed (and amount!) cueing could lead to optimal results.

Terminal vs Concurrent Feedback

 

Again, this did not have a major spotlight in the book but it has relevance. Terminal feedback refers to the feedback received after a movement is completed. Tasks which are acyclical in nature will lean towards terminal feedback. Concurrent feedback is experienced by the performer whilst completing the action, anyone wanting to know more on this should watch the video below.

 

 

This blog is in no way meant to replicate any parts of the book, for that matter is doesn’t even do it justice, full credit goes to Nick Winkleman for a stunning read. I wanted to conclude this blog by relaying the questions I ask myself when coaching athletes or anyone for that matter.

 

Could I of said it differently?

How can I have a leaner approach to cueing?

How do I assess genuine motor learning has taken place, in this instance?

 

Thanks for reading guys,

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning coach.

Liked This Blog?

You might like other blogs on this topic from APA:

APA review of the Middlesex Students S&C conference 2014

The Dubious Rise of the Corrective Exercise ”Pseudo-Physio” Posing as a Trainer- My thoughts

as well as two recommended articles:

This article on weak Glutes during Squatting

And this one on Exercise Modifications 

 

Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

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Are You Planning Your Rest Days?

It’s tournament season for a lot of junior tennis players.

That can only mean one thing….lots of competitions.

It’s not uncommon for junior tennis players to compete throughout the five weeks of the British summer.

As the owner of an S&C coaching company it is my job to make sure our most committed players are planning sensible tournament schedules which include:

✅ Rest days following tournaments

✅ A week off for a complete rest

✅ Training days or weeks to top up physical qualities

It’s a balance that needs input from all the team (player, parents, tennis coach and s&c coach).

As a general rule, I encourage players to have:

➡️ a “half day” off every week

➡️ a “full day” off every week

➡️ three to five days mini break every 6 weeks

➡️ complete week off every 12 weeks.

It isn’t always possible to do it by the book….but the further away you get from the textbook rules, the more at risk the player is from mental burnout, fatigue and injury.

To see the full post on this topic visit the Instagram carousel.

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Need some advice on how to schedule your summer tournament/training block?

We offer Training Packages which include a 4 week programme and individual S&C sessions (face to face or online).

If you would like a 4 week programme without coaching we can offer this for a one off payment of £45.

Note – 3 month packages can be purchased on the website.  For those wishing to purchase 1 month only, please contact APA owner Daz Drake to arrange invoicing.

Email me at daz@apacoaching.co.uk and let us help you get started.

 

Growth Mindset: Do you have it?

I’ve had the book ”Mindset” on my book shelf for a few years but I hadn’t got to it until now.

For those of you who know me, it might not come as a surprise to you that I’m passionate about Psychology.

A couple of books that I keep coming back to are:

  • The Chimp Paradox – Dr Steve Peters
  • The 5AM Club – Robin Shaarma
  • The Power of Now- Eckhart Tolle
  • The Motivation Manifesto – Brendon Burchard

I think I’ll be adding ”Mindset” by Carol Dweck to my go to list.

 

The Brain

For simplicity, we like to compartmentalize the brain into the ‘Ego’ and the ‘Human.’ In Carol’s book she never refers to the brain in this way, but rather refers to two different mindsets, ‘Growth’ and ‘Fixed.’  So I wouldn’t want to misunderstand her and go as far as to say that your Ego is your fixed mindset and the Human is the growth mindset, because this is neither implied or specifically stated.

 

I’d encourage you to do your own reading but if we do use these terms interchangeably we might find it helpful to compare the EGO DRIVES (Fixed) versus HUMAN DRIVES (Growth).

 

EGO DRIVES

  • Feel safe
  • Feel accepted
  • Feel comfortable (convenient)

 

HUMAN DRIVES

  • Personal freedom and independence
  • Self-direction
  • Growth (our potential, our highest self)

 

Your Ego is about our survival instincts, looking for threats and signs of danger, and taking every opportunity to keep us safe and secure.  In the modern world this can be seen as ‘rationalising’ when we justify inaction or poor performance with excuses to ‘protect ourselves,’ from reality.  Some of that security could come from the perception of having an ability in something that is seen as desirable by others (acceptance).

 

Carol describes a Fixed mindset as ”a belief in an ability or quality that cannot be increased, it’s a fixed prior ability.” (Nature).

 

Growth mindset ‘is a belief in the capacity for lifelong learning and brain development, and can be increased with purposeful engagement.” (Nurture).

 

People may start with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear that experience, training and personal effort take them the rest of the way.

 

The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.

 

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.  If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character – well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them.  It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic qualities.  Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality or character.

 

 

But with the Growth Mindset- the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development.  This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies and help from others.

 

How Do We Develop a Fixed Mindset? 

 

When people hold onto a fixed mindset, it is often for a reason.  At some point in their lives it served a good purpose for them.

 

The idea that they are worthy and will be loved is crucial for children, and – if a child is unsure about being valued or being loved- the fixed mindset appears to offer a simple, straightforward route to it.

 

 

When young children feel insecure about being accepted by their parents it causes them great anxiety.  They feel lost and alone in a complicated world.  Since they are a only a few years old, they cannot simply reject their parents and say, ”I think I’ll go it alone.”  They have to find a way to feel safe and to win their parents over.

 

Children do this by creating or imagining other ”selves.” ones that their parents might like better.  These new selves are what they think their parents are looking for and what may win them their parents’ acceptance.

The Problem with the Fixed Mindset

 

The problem is that this new self – this all-competent, strong, good self that they now try to be – is likely to be a fixed mindset self.  Over time, the fixed traits may come to be the person’s sense of who they are, and validating these traits may come to be the main source of their self-esteem.

 

What’s the Solution?

 

Mindset changes asks people to give this up.  It’s not easy to replace your fixed mindset with a mindset that tells you to embrace all the things that have felt threatening: challenge, struggle, criticism, setbacks.

 

 

There’s the concern you won’t be yourself anymore.  It my feel as though the fixed mindset gave you the ambition, your edge, your individuality.  Maybe you fear you’ll become a bland cog in the wheel like everyone else.  Ordinary.

 

But opening yourself up to growth makes you MORE yourself, not less.

 

Confidence & Expectations

 

When I took my qualification with the Academy of Peak Performance to become a Certified Peak Performance Coach  I learnt about expectations and confidence.

 

If someone has high expectations about their performance, you will likely hear them say things like ”I should have” e.g. I should beat this person, I should of passed that test.  There is a difference between wanting something to happen and expecting it to- it’s okay to want to win, but it’s more important to be able to deal with the fact that it might not happen.

 

If a person has an expectation and they fail to achieve the standard, they are likely to feel a negative emotional state (disappointment, frustration etc).

 

Negative emotional states will negatively impact performance, e.g., through poor concentration and increase in muscle tension.  Performing without expectations relies on the person not assigning a JUDGEMENT to the performance (it was good or bad).  By not assigning a judgment to the performance a negative emotion can be avoided.

 

Not having expectations does NOT mean that you don’t care, nor does it mean you are not trying.  It keeps you focused on the present.  It also helps with maintaining confidence as you are not beating yourself up for messing up, or not achieving something.

 

Now there are some aspects of performance where you can have expectations of yourself based on non negotiable aspects of performance such as being respectful to opponents, arriving on time, giving high effort.  But having high expectation of the performance OUTCOME is an unrealistic expectation.

 

As humans we aren’t designed to perform high level sports under pressure.  Under pressure a natural response for a human is for us to:

  • narrow our attention on danger
  • higher tension / less movement
  • increased heart rate

So don’t judge or beat yourself up when you respond in a ”normal” way….that’s the way we are made!

And on the flip side be really proud of yourself when you respond in an ”extraordinary” or more effective way.  It’s a very satisfying feeling to feel the fear and do it any way.

 

Any performance objectives need to be tough enough to challenge the person but not too tough to depress their motivation.  Emphasis on winning is okay when that is the objective, but if it is the focus of every session it can influence learning and motivation.

 

In terms of confidence, you should practice in a way that engenders confidence in the person.  A definition of self-confidence is how strongly you believe in your ability to do something.  The person needs to focus on (remember) good performances.  Some people allow the perceptions (and even their thoughts of how others think of them) to influence their confidence.  This is not helpful and they need to learn to make their own judgments about their ability and let go of unhelpful comments from significant others.

 

The following undermine confidence:

  • Doubts
  • Indecision
  • Lack of trust
  • Fear of failure
  • Impatience
  • Expectations
  • Frustrations and other negative emotions
  • Negative self talk
  • Personalising faults

We often hear coaches talk about the power of positive thinking.  POSITIVE THINKING is different from expectations!

Be positive in your ability, learn from mistakes and other opportunities that present themselves and don’t expect or be critical = higher self confidence.

On a final note, the person is not their performance – if self esteem shifts up with success and down with failure this is unhealthy and undermines more than just self confidence.

 

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Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In

Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In

For someone who considers myself a great learner, and a passionate coach, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that up until now I knew little of Sir Alex Ferguson’s past.   As an Arsenal fan in the 1990s I watched with envy how Manchester United would more often than not take the upper hand in the big games, and created somewhat of a fortress at Old Trafford.  There was an intimidation factor that you saw in the players (Roy Keane comes to mind) and it started with the Manager.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find out that a new documentary was recently released about Sir Alex Ferguson.  While recovering from a brain haemorrhage, Ferguson recounts details of his life and career to his son, including his legendary 26-year tenure as manager of Manchester United. This is a moving story about the bond between father and son, an exploration of leadership and mental toughness, and a celebration of one of football’s greatest careers.

Here was the dynamic young Glasgow socialist, who led a shipyard apprentices’ strike on Clydeside in 1961, then went into football, scored an unprecedented hat-trick for St Johnstone against Rangers at Ibrox, wound up playing for Rangers, then managing Aberdeen, then in 1986 was appointed manager of Manchester United and after a tricky start led them to all-conquering glory.

 

We are offered an intriguing “Rosebud” theory for the rage and passion that drove him. Ferguson was raised Protestant and his wife Cathy was Catholic; and on joining Glasgow’s famously Protestant Rangers FC as a player, Ferguson was sternly asked by one of the directors if he had got married in chapel. Meek for the one and only time in his life, Ferguson replied that it was in a register office – instead of telling him to mind his own business.
The
Rangers bigwig declared himself satisfied.

 

But in that grim sectarian atmosphere, an unpleasant atmosphere persisted around the question of loyalty, and Ferguson clearly never forgot the angry humiliation of appearing to be blamed for Rangers’ loss against Celtic in the 1969 Scottish Cup final. His anger resurfaces to almost Brian Clough levels as Aberdeen manager, when his team won what he saw as an undeserved victory in the 1983 Scottish Cup final against an under-par Rangers, and he let rip with a bizarre live TV touchline rant against his own side at the moment of victory.

Below are a few passages I took from the documentary.

It is clear that his mentality came from his working class background.  He lived in the shadow of the ship yard.  His father worked there for over 40 years.

”Me as a manager, I used to lie in bed thinking about themes that I could address the players with, that would make an impact on them.  I would talk about miners, ship yard workers, welders, tool makers, people who have come from poor backgrounds, and I used to ask them, what did your grandfather do? What about your Dad?  To get the feeling inside of them of what their grandfathers worked for, it’s part of them and they have to display that meaning.”

Taking away all the trophies I’ve won and all the great players I have worked with, it’s a fact of life that where we come from is important.  You come out with an identity, I came from Govan, I’m a Govan boy.

”Everyone has their own personality, some walk away from things, and some say ‘No, I’m not going to accept this.’  When you grow up in a place like Govan most people were fighting to get out of there.  Govan had the capitalist attitude to the working class, keep them down there, and I was lucky because the football was the saviour.  Through that I got all the breaks.  I progressed.  My Dad played a part in that.  He followed us everywhere and always encouraged us.  Clubs approached my Dad.  I wanted to play for Rangers FC but it was St Johnstone that signed me first.  My Dad wouldn’t let me play full-time, I had to finish my apprenticeship first.’

I served an apprenticeship as a tool maker in case I didn’t make it as a footballer.  I don’t think it did me any harm.  It helped me in understanding people.  The community.  The apprenticeship strike was great for me.  It wasn’t about you, it was about us, being part of a team.  Nothing is more important than someone who has had hard times but is prepared to not give into it.”

 

Sir Alex’s wife: ”He was upset and angry that Rangers turned their back on him.  But it made him determined as well, that he would go on and prove himself.”

”The thing that drove me was leaving Rangers, that spurred me.  I started to question the managers, their way of managing.  It gave me that impetus that I can do this job, I know I can do this job, simply because that’s my upbringing.  Don’t give in.”

”Regarding my health I’m not actually in control.  In the football world and at United I am in control of the situation.  It is vital because a player can’t do it himself, a player is only part of a team.  The manager is in control of all that destiny.  Dealing with the press, referees, rivals, I have to make decisions that are correct.  I was never a failure, I never looked back, because there was always tomorrow whether you lose or win.”

At Aberdeen, when interviewed by the press, ”Obviously I have my own ideas on standards, and through time this will come through to the players, fingers crossed.”

”Success was winning the league cup or the FA cup every six years.  The problem was a lot of those players couldn’t dream of winning the league.” (implying when Sir Alex started working with them they didn’t have the belief in themselves they could beat Rangers and Celtic).

Alex was desperate to beat Rangers and Celtic.  And Rangers was the first target.  ”The first time we played at Rangers we scrambled a draw in the last minute.  After the game all the players were all celebrating jumping up and down.  And I’m saying, wait a minute, what you all celebrating for, you’ve only drawn?!”

Gordan Strachan said after the match, ”We’ve all had bollockings off managers at previous clubs but this was an intensity that was not just about that game, it was everything, where do you want to go what do you want to do with your life.”

Alex said, ”Forget all the work we’ve been doing on passing the ball, and technical ability, if they’re not winners, it’s a waste of time anyway.  You’re trying to get that character instilled in the human beings you’re working with.  When you go on that pitch you can’t leave your personality in the dressing room.”

Gordan said ”there is something up here, not right, there is something inside this fella that is making him angry and driving him and, looking back, it’s like I’ve bumped into a wounded animal.”

”Rather than explain how you can bring a winning mentality to people, you have to produce a project that is working.  You have to earn the right to be an Aberdeen player.”

Gordan said, ”He put people under so much pressure to be successful.  Deep down inside of us there is a devil that drives us on.  For whatever reason, Alex could make that devil materialise for a game of football.  He brought the devil out of me.”

”If you get them young enough and breed the important values of what you are trying to achieve with them they will become that particular person that you were looking for.”

Asked by a broadcaster about the class of 1992 (Beckham, Giggs, Scoles, Nevilles, Butt), ”Do you have to treat them differently to the established stars? ”

”Absolutely, you have to be harder on them because they are facing for the first time in their lives media attention, and you don’t get any criticism from journalists when you are young, it’s all praise.  I think they realise that being strict on them is for their own good.”

 

”That fearsome character has been portrayed throughout my career, and absolutely, I may have gone a bit too far on some occasions but I don’t think there is anything wrong in losing your temper for the right reasons, if they didn’t meet your expectations in a game, because everything is built around the standards in training and the ambitions of the football club. Because my experience of human beings is they like to do things the easiest way.  The minute you accept a bad performance or a bad aspect of their technical training they will do it again.”

 

Ryan Giggs, ”He was always in control, you were never in any doubt who was the boss.”

Alex said, ”I could be ferocious in terms of my criticism after the games, sometimes I would gather them altogether or sometimes I wouldn’t say a word to them.  I would never make myself predictable.”

It wasn’t as if I was their best pal, but they always knew I would find a way to help them.  You have to know them all, all these different people, with all these different stories.”

”When I met Eric [Cantona] I said to myself, right, I am going to forget his past, I’m not going to mention any of his behaviour.  It didn’t matter, what mattered to me was what we could do to bring him into our fold and give him the opportunity to be himself.”

Ryan said, ”Eric was just treated differently.”

Cantona said, ”More than a manager he was somebody strong enough to deal with any kind of personality.  But, when somebody like Sir Alex Ferguson gives you the freedom you need to express yourself you have to deserve it and you know how lucky you are to have this freedom and it’s why I worked so hard and I tried so hard and give everything to him.

Sir Alex had this to say,”Psychology is someone else’s word, I call it management.”

Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

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The Future of Physical Conditioning for Tennis

A few weeks ago I took part in another webinar around physical conditioning for Tennis players – ”The Golden Circle of Physical Development- The Why, How & what.” The webinar was hosted by Dario Novak, and featured Ruben Neyens who spoke about young athletes at the U14 level.  The webinar explored ways to bridge the gap between sports science (Why & How) and the practical on-court implementation (What) of physical training.

 

–>Follow @darionovak_ph.d   (Dr. Dario Novak)

–>Follow @ruben.neyens        (Ruben Neyens)

 

I was interested to hear this coach speak as I was always interested in his exercise selection, and the drills he uses with his tennis players. Today I wanted to share a few of his insights that resonated with me from the talk and perhaps share some other pieces of information.

 

Firstly, this talk was intended for the development of 14U players, however, other age groups would benefit from these pearls of wisdom.

The talk built a case for the Golden circle, I believe the book it came from was “Start with why” In this case;

 

  1. Why = Reason and value of physical conditioning
  2. How = Method and plan
  3. What = Activity and coaching

 

Broken escalator problem

 

Unfortunately, I could not find the commercial on the internet. But, I was shown a clip of two people on an escalator, the escalator stopped working and rather than just walking the remainder of the journey, the users stood there in confusion. This led to some provocative and open ended questioning by Ruben.

 

“Do you the see the problem?”

 

“When you do find the problem, are you going to be the one that solves it?”

 

This boils down to a couple of key things. Understanding the demands of Tennis and the individual in front of you. With regards to the demands a colleague of mine referred to something called “performance backwards” which seemed to stick. This will lead us nicely on to the next topic.

 

 

Demands of Tennis (Reason & Value)

 

I am going to split this section up into two sections as the first section was interesting.

  1. General demands

Tennis (unless playing doubles) is an individual sport and also a fairly silent game. Well, what does this mean? It means that not only do players have to demonstrate problem solving abilities, they have to demonstrate high energy/intensity without the quarrying motivation from their coaches. Ruben honourably said as a young coach “He would shout at the players to augment energy within a session.”

 

This was interesting and reading some of Dan John’s work showing the importance of creating the right synergy between Physical tension, Heart rate and arousal level, an imbalance of this synergy can throw off performance.

 

The length of a Tennis game is often dictated by the score, highlighting its unpredictability. It was mentioned that Ruben tends to try and replicate this by creating some unpredictability in the length of his training sessions. I was scratching my head around this, in the real world this sounds like a logistical nightmare. However, I also know some coaches like to use “Trading conditioning”. This is creating a scenario where there is unpredictability how many repetitions are performed of a particular conditioning drill, athletes remain clueless and you keep performing the task until told to stop.

 

From a perception-action standpoint players are reacting to “visual cues” which I see Ruben complimenting, by using lights and various visual aids for his reactive based speed work.

 

  1. Physical demands

In this section I am not going to mention all of the physical demands I currently know, just the ones that stood out to me. Last year I wrote an article on “demands of the game” but I wanted to add to it by mentioning a few key points.

 

  • Average 3-5 changes of direction per point
  • Average 800 changes of direction per match

 

What I admired about this talk is Ruben is so honest with his mistakes, he mentioned that when he reflected on his programming he was training his players for long rallies (not the intention) which was not reflective of the game.

 

 

Stop start cycle

Tennis is characterised by what he called a “stop start cycle”. Where players have to start, move, hit & recover. Along with the locomotive demands players have to be able to orient their bodies well whilst maintaining balance, highlighting the need to control their bodies in order to hit the ball effectively.

 

 

Why do we need physical training?

 

So a question was asked. “Why do we need physical training on top of tennis training?” These four overarching topics were brought forward.

 

  • Fundamentals – Teaching fundamentals of good movement
  • Performance – Enhancing performance
  • Prevention – Injury prevention/keeping athletes healthy
  • Variation– Keeping training interesting and varied.

 

I don’t think I need to go into any of these topics in too much detail however, I quite liked the point he made about variation and providing a nice change (from tennis training) for young athletes.

How do you implement physical training

 

Building the Layers

 

Firstly, it’s determining what you want to work on, “what is my goal?” I particularly enjoyed this section because it succinctly connects the training puzzle. I have always believed that the art of programming is not the individual training units, rather how it fits together in the big picture you are trying to paint.

 

Coordination Speed Strength Endurance Mobility

 

At APA we refer to these fitness components as the 5 S’s- skill, speed, strength, stamina and suppleness.

 

It was mentioned that you may work on a number of these in a session however this is best delivered as a “starter” & a “main dish” where the main dish is the prolific quality and the “starter” may include other training qualities in smaller amounts. For example, the use of “Movement breaks” within a session.

 

From the qualities we are trying to develop, comes the delivery and the organisation of exercises, “Are we trying to learn, develop or perform the skill?”

 

Learn
Develop
Perform

 

This just follows a systematic progression of exercises. When we learn an exercise/skill we slow it down and reduce its complexity. As we develop a skill we may increase spatial and temporal pressure. Finally, there is performing the skill with added pressure, complexity and competition. But, the question is; “Does the skill survive?”

 

Types of physical training 

 

I am paraphrasing here but Ruben suggests that “The role of the physical trainer is to develop the physical qualities, not correct technique around tennis skills.”

 

This section refers to the degree of specificity. Is training, general, orientated, integrated or specific? Where orientated training may look like a footwork drill using a tennis ball “bounce and catch” to mimic the stop-start cycle or specific training where there is the use of a Racket and Tennis ball. An example of integrated training is using medicine balls throws preceding hitting ground strokes.

 

General
Orientated
Integrated
Specific

 

The 3-D model

 

 

This creates a 3-D model of training, and it is something I am going to reflect on in my training. Having drills where there is clearer system and intention on the type and intensity of exercises/drills, these can then be selected at certain times.

 

Learn Develop Perform
General Integrated Specific
Coordination Mobility Strength Endurance Speed

 

This was a great presentation with many more points however, I wanted to highlight the aforementioned points in particular. I hope you learn from the work of Ruben, I certainly did.

 

Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

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Should We Treat All Children the Same?- Part 2

Hey Everyone.  My name is Daz, owner of Athletic Performance Academy and chances are you are reading this blog because you have an interest in the question, ‘should we treat all children the same?’

Please read Part 1 if you haven’t already.

One Size Fits All

 

In Part 1 I asked the question whether the mechanical model which ‘treats all children the same’ is part of the reason why some children seemingly fail in a system that is based on a ‘one size fits all approach.’  Do we just give our energy to the children who thrive in this environment, or do we need to change the environment, or at least give more opportunities to experience different environments, ones where more children actually want to learn in?

 

 

To answer this, this blog will firstly look at the CULTURE of our Academic institutions referring to what High Performance Systems in the world do, and also look at ‘Alternative Education programmes.’

 

I will then discuss COMMUNICATION methods to ensure that your coaching/teaching methods engage as many learners as possible by looking at Motivation and Skill variances in mixed ability groups and their individual needs.

Reforming Public Education

 

This section will propose some key ingredients to ensure the future success of Public Education in the 21 st century, based on some of the great work of the late Sir Ken Robinson, an international education advisor in the Arts who championed education reform.  He was passionate about creative and cultural education, with the goal to unlock and ignite the creative energy of people and organisations, which he felt was sadly lacking in the current education system.

 

 

Sir Ken has compelled us to think differently about capacity of the human mind- intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinct.   Please watch How To Escape Education’s Death Valley which talks about the three features of High Performance Systems and thoughts on Alternative Education programmes.

 

Sir Ken highlighted that what all the high performing systems in the world do is currently what is not evident, sadly, across the systems in America:

 

  • They INDIVIDUALISE teaching and learning-  This system has to engage the student’s individuality, curiosity and creativity.  That’s how you get them to learn.
  • Attribute a very HIGH STATUS to the teaching profession.  You can’t improve education if you don’t pick GREAT people to teach and keep giving them constant support and professional development.
  • They DEVOLVE RESPONSIBILITY to the school level for getting the job done vs. command and control, and telling teachers and students what do to.  If you remove their discretion it stops working.

 

Education has been increasingly based on conformity and standardisation- and instead Sir Ken believes we need to go in the opposite direction, what Sir Ken means by changing paradigms!

 

One place to see evidence of this is in the ‘Alternative Education programmes’ that are designed to get kids back into education. They have certain common features.

 

  • They are very PERSONALISED
  • They have STRONG SUPPORT for the teachers
  • They have CLOSE LINKS WITH THE COMMUNITY and a broad and DIVERSE CURRICULUM
  • They often include programmes which involve students OUTSIDE SCHOOL as well as inside school

 

And they work! What’s interesting to Sir Ken is that these are called ‘alternative education,’ programmes. All the evidence from around the world is that if we all did that, there’d be no need for an alternative!

 

Daz comment: I can immediately see the value of applying those six principles into my APA company culture.

 

I have always recreated for CHARACTER first and credentials second.  It’s very important to recruit coaches who embody the APA values of Courage, Honesty, Respect, Enjoyment and Competitive Spirit.

I am often asked what I do for a living, I mostly say I’m a professional fitness trainer (to which the most common reply is, ‘you mean like a Personal Trainer?”) I personally don’t get offended by this but I know other professional coaches do.  Don’t get me wrong there are many exceptional Personal Trainers, but the simple reality is I know I have been to University for 5 years to get degrees in Exercise Science- this can’t be compared to a 12 week online course.  Having Professional status means I get paid to do this full-time for a living, something I never take for granted, since the vast majority of coaches are part-time or volunteers.

 

As far as my expectations of my coaches go, I agree with them what level of guidance they need.  APA can provide DONE FOR YOU templates when needed.  But to be honest, the roles I give them are largely self determined by their experience.  If they lack experience they will assist on sessions where someone else will be responsible for writing the programme.  By its very nature, the premise of the Lead coach is that I have determined that they have enough experience so I can ‘devolve responsibility.’  All my coaches tell me that they really enjoy this opportunity to have some autonomy over their training plans.

 

 

It goes without saying that the training plans are individualised, which I know a lot of people role their eyes at as everyone says their programmes are individualised.  In everyday life this simply means that I give the coach the license to adapt according to the needs of the individual or group, as long as it respects the principles of the APA method- a holistic approach to maximising athletic potential using the 5 S’s and 6 Stages of development.

Culture Reform

 

Up to 60% of children drop out of High school and up to 80% of native Americans (in some parts of the country in the USA).

 

But the drop out crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.  What it doesn’t count is the number of children who are in school, BUT ARE DISENGAGED from it, who DON’T ENJOY IT, who don’t get any real benefit from it.

 

Some people want to learn, and some don’t.  Every student who drops out of school has a reason for it which is rooted in their own biography.  They may find it boring, irrelevant, at odds with the life they are living outside of school/University.  These are trends but the stories are always unique.

 

It could be argued that education fails many people because it dislocates very many people from their natural talents.  Human resources or ‘talents’ are like natural resources- they don’t show up on the surface, they’re buried deep, you have to go looking for them and and CREATE THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THEY SHOW THEMSELVES.

 

It’s about PASSION.  Passion is what excites our spirit and our energy.  And if you’re doing the thing that you love to do, that you’re good at, time takes a different course entirely, an hour feels like 5 minutes.  The reason so many people are opting out of education is because it doesn’t feed their energy, spirit or passion.

Create the Environment

 

In any environment, right beneath the surface are these seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions to come about, and if the conditions are right, life is inevitable.

 

Take an area, a district, a school, you change the conditions, give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities, you cherish and value the relationship between teachers and learners, you offer people the discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do, and schools that were once bereft, spring to life!

 

Great Leaders know that leadership should not be about command and control.  The real role of leadership is CLIMATE control, creating a climate of possibility.  And if you do that, people will rise to it.

 

A case study: Sutton Tennis Academy

 

From February 2017 to Dec 2018 I was personally asked to go into Sutton Tennis Academy (STA) as part of APA’s contract with GLL which also owned Gosling Tennis Academy.  This has been one of the highlight’s of my professional career as a business owner and Head coach.

At the time I arrived, there was a culture change,  GLL had recently taken over, a national leisure centre operator.  The previous S&C department recently departed leaving behind an intern that wasn’t equipped to lead, and was being supported by the Gym Personal trainer at the time, who wasn’t previously involved in the S&C department.

 

I decided to make the intern and the PT interview for the S&C coach role, and I would bring in some additional interns.  It was a challenging process but in the end I had to let the intern go, and I chose the PT who I felt embodied the APA values most, and was going to be the best person for the job.

 

The greatest attribute I brought to the programme was a sense of possibility, a set of expectations based on the training plans I had been successfully implementing at other APA sites and supporting the coaches to be creative and innovative.  The environment changed, there was a sense of purpose, stability and energy.   I brought in another part-time coach and gave him and the PT a clear role so devolved responsibility which they both enjoyed.

 

It Matters How You Say It

 

Great coaching is as much about how you say it, as it is about what to say.  I have included an extract from two great blog posts written by former CEO of the IYCA, Brian Grasso, ”Cook Young Athletes Slow,” and ”How To Shape Speed Training- Part 2.”

”The ‘Lombardi-style’ coaching system doesn’t work. You can’t just bark orders and think that every young athlete you train is going to be listening. With coaching, one-size DOES NOT fit all. Just like physical ability, size, relative strength and potential, they way a young athlete needs to be communicated with is specific to that child or teen.  You cannot assume nor expect a given group of athletes, with their varying personalities and temperaments, to relate and respond to a singular style of coaching.

 

The aristocratic and authoritarian coaching style, long considered the most effective means of handling a group of athletes, is in actuality, a surefire way to negate the potential benefits of a lesson or training session.

 

From an ease of coaching perspective, it would be a wonderful scenario for us to only to work with those athletes whom were supremely motivated and exceptionally gifted, but in reality, this is seldom the case.

 

Now, I’m no fool. I’ve spent nearly 15 years in the trenches and know full well that when you have a group of kids (say 20 6 year olds) getting to know them well enough and being able to provide individual attention to them is challenging to say the least. But that doesn’t mean individualized communication isn’t possible. It just takes a system.

 

In any given group setting you have to accept the notion that your athletes will be divided in terms of both ability and motivation, and represent an eclectic cross-section of potential personalities. Over my years working with kids, I have found that every one of the young athletes I’ve trained fits somewhere into the following category:

 

1. High Motivation/High Skill
2. High Motivation/Low Skill
3. Low Motivation/High Skill
4. Low Motivation/Low Skill

 

Each one of the sub-classifications above represents an athlete in need of a particular coaching style in order to gain and retain your speed and movement shaping lessons optimally.

 

A brief overview of the template that shows how to communicate with each of these young athletes is as follows:

 

1. Delegate – Look to get this young athlete involved in the training and planning process. Have them lead warm-ups for the group. Have them create the warm-up within the boundaries of your system. If they are older, have them help you co-coach your younger groups. Keeping this young athlete engaged is a critical part of keeping them excited about the training process and provide a perfect communication scenario.

 

2. Guide – This young athlete doesn’t require more motivation – they need to enhance their skill. Rather than trying to incite them positively (because they’re already incited!) slow them down and guide them through the process of skill increase slowly. Breakdown complex exercises into specific stages and teach them in a whole-part-whole method. Communication will be automatically improved.

 

3. Inspire – This young athlete is great at everything, but lacks the necessary motivation to produce consistent effort (likely due to pressure from other coaches or their parents). Don’t ‘ride’ them or even ask them to work harder – they will tune you out quicker than you can say TRX! Instead, talk with them about what inspires them. What gets them excited? We all have a switch on the inside that can turn on when the situation is a quality and inspiring one for us. Find where there switch is and help them turn it on.

 

4. Direct – Don’t put this young athlete on the spot – even in a positive manner. They crave autonomy and the ability to just ‘blend in’. So give it to them. Provide instructions for the group at large and then quietly be sure that they know what is expected of them in the up-coming exercise or drill. Once they realize that your communication with them will be non-threatening, they will deem your training environment a ‘safe’ one and start to open up. That’s where the fun will start!”

 

Your first order of business then, is to adopt a dynamic coaching style which has wide spread appeal and attractiveness to any athlete – regardless of ability or disposition.

 

In doing so, your common denominator for coaching a diverse group of athletes must stem from use of the Pygmalion effect (often called the “teacher-expectancy effect”).

 

The Pygmalion effect infers that athletes will respond positively to the expectations placed upon them. This is a place in which may coaches and trainers fail to glean a positive response or change in there athletes when applying exercise stimulus alone as the sole variable used to elicit change or improvement.

 

You must quantify to your athletes what you expect their roles to be in the process of shaping there speed and movement skills. More over, your must consistently assert the specific skills you require them to develop at both the onset and conclusion of a given training session.

 

Herein lies the long-term approach to shaping movement and athleticism.

 

Each and every training session must have a plan for both execution, but be part of a long-range and dynamically conceived vision as to where you want your athletes to be at a certain point in time.

 

It is also critical that coaches and trainers assess the most viable ways of evoking an expectations-based philosophy with each group, in keeping with the varying personality, skill level and disposition of the individuals within that group.

 

It is equally important to understand the value of multidimensional instruction. Some athletes learn visually, some via verbal interaction and others still through kinesthetic means.

 

Each of these instruction strategies must be equated into the coaching puzzle in training sessions for true and lasting habitual change to occur in the quest to have your athletes maximise their potential.

 

In recap, the global behavior standards that must first be developed are as follows:

 

Understand that athletes have varying skills and motivations, and develop dynamic coaching strategies that will influence all of them.

 

Incorporate an expectation principle into each training session so as to have a measurable and tangible objective for your athletes to aspire.

 

Use verbal, visual and kinesthetic means of instruction to promote complete and full adherence.

 

Conclusions

 

Education is not a mechanical system.  It’s a human system.  It’s about people who either do want to learn, or don’t want to learn.  We need to find ways to unlock each individual’s natural talents and allow them to flourish.

 

One of the challenges is to innovate is hard because it means doing something that people don’t find easy; it means challenging what we take for granted.

 

Human communities depend on our diversity of talent, not a singular concept of ability.  And at the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and intelligence.  It’s about passion to feed their energy, and spirit.

 

We have to go from an industrial mechanical method of education, which is based on linearity, and conformity and batching people.  We have to move to a model that is based on principles of agriculture.  We have to recognise that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process and you cannot predict the outcome of human development.  All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they begin to flourish.

 

It’s about customising your teaching/coaching to you circumstances and personalising education to the people you’re actually teaching.  Doing that is the answer to the future.

 

It’s about creating a movement in education in which people develop their own solutions, but with external support based on personalised curriculums.

 

Follow Daz on instagram @apacoachdaz

 

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Should We Treat All Children the Same?

Hey Everyone.  My name is Daz, owner of Athletic Performance Academy and chances are you are reading this blog because you have an interest in the question, ‘should we treat all children the same?’

Let me start off by saying that this is not a post examining some of the prominent issues of the day around gender equality, race hate or any other important issues of social inequality that plagues our world.  I certainly don’t feel I’m qualified in my coaching role to discuss these topics and I would respectfully say that this blog does not address these issues directly.  However, in my role as a coach which I define as ”someone who facilitates learning,” I feel that the notion of treating all children the same from a learning perspective warrants further inspection.

Role of the Coach

 

If you’re reading this blog as a coach, you may not identify yourself as a ‘facilitator of learning’ (which may sound more like a teacher) but I would encourage you to reflect on this. Ultimately whether you are helping athletes achieve championship winning performances on the sports field, or achieving Academic excellence in the classroom, the objective is the same- facilitate learning.

As I approach my 40th birthday and celebrate 20 years as a professional coach I’m reflecting on the apparent paradox that my coaching philosophy has been built on the idea of ‘conformity,’ which while it gives each child the exact same education and opportunity, may not actually be the best way to help my athletes learn!

Conformity is based on an industrial or mechanical model of education- a ‘fast food’ model where everything is standardised-  based on linearity, and gives every child the same educational experience.  This leads to a degree of certainty of what will come out at the other end (children educated to fulfill their role in the workplace). I too have largely coached this way for most of my career with a command and control style and a ‘mechanical formula’ for building athletes on my APA production line.  Like many things in life, this formulaic approach works better for some and less so for others.  But I’ve always tried to make it work for everyone, even if it sometimes feels like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

I recently spoke to two noteworthy teachers who I respect, one was one of my University Professors, who has recently retired and another is a former teacher of History in a well respected London independent school.  Both teachers shared the belief that you ‘can’t save all the whales,’ which basically means that there are some children/students who want to learn, and others who don’t.  Put your time into the ones who want to be there (and forget about the rest).  You can’t help them all.  I have always struggled with this concept, it just doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do.  I will acknowledge that teaching 30 children in a classroom will probably give you a different perspective, but I still feel that every child needs to be given an opportunity to realise their potential, even if it isn’t outwardly showing itself now. (For what it’s worth I did teach in Further Education for two years, teaching ”boring stuff” to 16-18 year olds, many who didn’t want to be there, so I do have some experience to base my comments on.)

My question is whether the mechanical model which ‘treats all children the same’ is part of the reason why some children seemingly fail in a system that is based on a ‘one size fits all approach.’  Do we just give our energy to the children who thrive in this environment, or do we need to change the environment, or at least give more opportunities to experience different environments, ones where more children actually want to learn in?

My definition of an APA coach is a ‘inspirational, honest, professional and courageous coach who is self-aware and coaches unconditionally to help their athletes maximise their potential.”

Many of my coaches have struggled with this concept of unconditional coaching; ”You mean you want me to give as much time and energy to the children who don’t want to be there, as the ones who do?” they would say.  ”You mean I need to spend as much time writing a plan for the children who have no talent, as the ones who clearly have a much better chance of making it?”

My concept of coaching unconditionally largely revolves around the concept that ‘no child gets left behind.’  You must meet them where they are at, maybe they are NOT READY to learn NOW, or perhaps they will never be ready to learn in the way you are presenting the information.  But never give up on them before they give up on themselves and always search for ways to ignite their fire for something.  Just find what they are currently willing/able to do and move them to the next step.  It may not be where they ‘need’ to be based on some expected or desired level of achievement, but if it is progress it still needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.

Reforming Public Education

 

In many conversations I have with parents I often draw parallels with the Academic journey to explain long-term athletic development.  Maybe you have too.  Furthermore, I certainly draw on my knowledge of teaching methods in the classroom to inform my coaching methods.  What is interesting is that there has been a call for education reform for many years now- the way we educate children in the classroom served us economically and culturally at the time of it’s creation- the mid 19th century.  But it no longer serves the children of the 21st century.

This blog will examine the current state of the education system, and some of the great work of the late Sir Ken Robinson, an international education advisor in the Arts who championed education reform.  He was passionate about creative and cultural education, with the goal to unlock and ignite the creative energy of people and organisations, which he felt was sadly lacking in the current education system.

My coaching philosophy has clearly been influenced by my understanding of how we learn in school, so I’d like to look at this first and then in a follow up blog, highlight some practical considerations for coaching practices I can employ in the next 20 years of my career.

Please stick with me, I hope you will see that much of what is good (and bad) in the classroom could be applied to the sports field.  Part 1 of this blog will address the challenges.  My follow up blog will address the possible solutions.

The Modern Challenge of Public Education

 

What follows is an overview of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson- Changing Education Paradigms

According to Sir Ken there are two reasons why we need to reform public education:

  1. ECONOMIC – how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?
  2. CULTURAL – how do we educate our children so they have a sense of cultural identity, so we can pass on the ‘cultural genes’ of our communities, while we become part of the process of globalisation.

The problem is we are trying to meet the ‘future’ with what we did in the ‘past,’ and along the way we are alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school.  In the past, we were kept there with a story that if you worked hard and did well and got a college degree you would get a job.  Our kids don’t believe that (now)!  You’re better having a degree than not, but it’s not a guarantee anymore.  And particularly not if the route to it marginalises most of the things you think are important about YOURSELF.

The problem is the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age.  It was conceived in the INTELLECTUAL CULTURE of the ENLIGHTENMENT, and in the ECONOMIC circumstances of the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

At the time it was a revolutionary idea to provide formal public education that was:

  • Paid for by taxation
  • Compulsory to everyone
  • Free at the point of delivery

People at the time could not conceive that the working class were capable of learning to read and write but it was seen as necessary to insure the future growth of the industrial revolution.

[Unfortunately] the view of intelligence at the time was based on the enlightenment view of intelligence known as DEDUCTIVE REASONING– or ‘top-down logic’ which contrasts with inductive reasoning (“bottom-up logic”): in deductive reasoning, a conclusion is reached reductively by applying general rules which hold over the entirety of a range of topics, narrowing the range under consideration until only the conclusion(s) remains. In deductive reasoning there is no uncertainty.

In inductive reasoning, the conclusion is reached by generalizing or extrapolating from specific cases to general rules resulting in a conclusion that has uncertainty.

People who were good at deductive reasoning were come to be thought of as having Academic ability.  People who were not good at this were thought of as non Academic, or not smart!  The consequence of this way of thinking that runs deep in the gene pool of education (even until this day in my opinion) is that many brilliant people think they are not smart, because they’ve been judged against this particular view of the mind.

Don’t get me wrong- this approach has been great for some, who have wonderfully benefited from it but many have not.

I am a case in point.  I wasn’t really sure of what I was good at until I arrived at University.  My entire formal education at University was based on deductive reasoning and I learned fast that I was extremely good at it- synthesising large volumes of academic research into a succinct conclusion based on the available evidence.  There was something very predictable about this method of learning and I lapped it up- gaining almost exclusively A grades for the majority of my time there.  It gave me an enormous sense of confidence but was also in my opinion one of the main reasons I went on to have some of the most severe and almost life ending depression one can experience, something that I have been very public about, and occurred when I left the relative safety of the Academic environment.

In my opinion modern education still serves people who ultimately aspire to be guess what?   A University professor!  It’s designed for people who ‘LIVE IN THEIR HEAD.’   For as good as it was for my development as an Academic I felt completely unprepared for a life outside Academia, and I often wondered if the depression I felt once I left Academia was comparable to how many students feel when they are inside it and are trying to force themselves to endure a system rather than enjoy it.

Our children now are living in the most INTENSELY STIMULATING period in the history of the Earth.  They are being besieged with information that pulls their attention from every platform- computers, Iphones, TV channels and advertising; and we’re penalising them for getting distracted- from what? Boring stuff! (at school, for the most part!).

Perhaps there is a place for more AESTHETIC experiences within schools.  This is known as DIVERGENT thinking.

Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, “non-linear” manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion.

 

Education has been increasingly based on conformity and standardisation- and instead Sir Ken believes we need to go in the opposite direction, what Sir Ken means by changing paradigms!

One of the things that Sir Ken concluded was that most great learning happens in groups- collaboration is the stuff of growth.  I had to have a chuckle as being an academic type myself, I absolutely hated group work at University.   I knew that the conclusions to be drawn were self-evident in the research and having more people (who I perceived to be less capable than myself at deductive reasoning) would just slow the process down. I didn’t need to share ideas, the Academics of the time had already presented the most noteworthy findings and our job was simply to present them in a logical way to draw a natural conclusion.  Having someone repeatedly ask, ‘but what if?’ wasn’t going to get me a better grade!

But for many, let’s say, more creative divergent thinkers, group work is at the heart of human spirit.  Please watch How To Escape Education’s Death Valley which talks about the drop out crisis in USA and the three conditions in which humans flourish.

I’ll wrap up this blog with a summary of some of the points made.

Drop Out Crisis

 

Up to 60% of children drop out of High school and up to 80% of native Americans (in some parts of the country in the USA).

But the drop out crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.  What it doesn’t count is the number of children who are in school, BUT ARE DISENGAGED from it, who DON’T ENJOY IT, who don’t get any real benefit from it.

Some people want to learn, and some don’t.  Every student who drops out of school has a reason for it which is rooted in their own biography.  They may find it boring, irrelevant, at odds with the life they are living outside of school/University.  These are trends but the stories are always unique.

It could be argued that education fails many people because it dislocates very many people from their natural talents.  Human resources or ‘talents’ are like natural resources- they don’t show up on the surface, they’re buried deep, you have to go looking for them and and CREATE THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THEY SHOW THEMSELVES.

It’s about PASSION.  Passion is what excites our spirit and our energy.  And if you’re doing the thing that you love to do, that you’re good at, time takes a different course entirely, an hour feels like 5 minutes.  The reason so many people are opting out of education is because it doesn’t feed their energy, spirit or passion.

 

There are three principles on which HUMAN LIFE FLOURISHES, and they are contradicted by the culture of education, under which most teachers have to labour and most students have to endure.  Sir Ken Robinson

 

These are:

  • Human beings are naturally DIVERSE– school system is not based on diversity but on conformity.  Teachers are asked to find out what kids can do across a very narrow spectrum of achievement (and mostly through standardisation and testing).  Kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents, not just a small range of them.

 

  • Humans are CURIOUS– if you can light the spark of curiosity of a child, they will learn without any further assistance very often.  Curiosity is the engine of achievement.  Teaching is a creative profession; teaching properly conceived, is not a DELIVERY SYSTEM.  You’re not there just to pass on received information.  Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke and engage.

 

  • Human life is inherently CREATIVE– we create our lives by the restless process of imagining alternatives and possibilities, and one of the roles of education is to awaken and develop these powers of creativity.

 

Instead, what we have is a culture of standardisation.  Part of the problem is that the dominant culture of education has come to focus on, not teaching and learning, but testing.  Now testing is important, but they should not be the dominant culture.  They should be diagnostic.  They should help and support learning.  It shouldn’t obstruct it, which of course it often does.  So in place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance.

Conclusions

 

Education is not a mechanical system.  It’s a human system.  It’s about people who either do want to learn, or don’t want to learn.

Our education system has mined our minds in the same way we strip-mine the Earth for a particular commodity.  And for the future, it won’t serve us.

In the follow up part 2 I will outline how we can go from an industrial mechanical manufacturing model of education, based on linearity and conformity to a model that is based on principles of agriculture. We have to recognise that human flourishing is not a mechanical process, and you cannot predict the outcome of human development.  All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they begin to flourish.

 

Follow Daz on instagram @apacoachdaz

 

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Some clarity around Trunk training

With the initiation of a third lock down in the UK we thought it would be a great idea to engage our readers in some motivating posts to help keep you motivated.  We welcome back APA coach Konrad McKenzie with a weekly guest post.

This blog will be a follow on from my initial blog around training the core, it was inspired by a webinar I had listened to on “Trunk Training” kindly put together by Alex Wolf. I wanted to write about what I learnt on this talk in order to spread the word and create some real clarity on training the mid-section. I will mention some of the pertinent topics that Alex discusses and would like to stress that the issues discussed are from his presentation rather than my own. This blog, as the presentation was outlined, will be divided into several parts;

  • Functional anatomy
  • Trunk Function
  • Why we need to consider the hip when talking about the Trunk
  • Exercise classifications
  • Exercise functionality and coordinative demands

Consider for a moment this picture of a bonnet. How much faith would you have in a car mechanic who did not know the parts of a car, could not identify what the problems were or the tasks that could be done to solve the problem? Funnily enough, not too long ago I broke down and had to rely on a car mechanic to solve an issue with my car. He did so meticulously.

Some questions that arose from the presentation were;

What does the trunk actually do when completing a task?

What do we have available to optimize trunk function?

When we can define the function of the trunk, we are able to align the most appropriate training methods we can to create real clarity of outcomes. This is something I believe the best practitioners out there have, clarity.

 

Functional anatomy

Similar to my blog around shoulder health I will break this blog down into two parts the Local and Global system. In the case of the trunk, both systems help to stabilise the trunk.

Local system

Local system is mostly made up of deep intrinsic musculature, which are attached closer to the vertebrae and are attached onto the spinal processes feeding into the ribs. The total volume of these muscles is small and (in terms of muscle architecture) are vertically orientated along the spine which highlights how the muscles operate and their force production capabilities. Muscles of the local system typically support spinal segmental control, are highly resistant to fatigue and anticipatory in nature (Feed forward mechanism). These muscles (to name a few) include the multifidus, Diaphragm and Pelvic floor and deeper fibres of the Erector Spinae. Structurally, the ligamentous (non- contractile) structures also provide segmental control and spinal stability. Historically, the term ‘Core stability’ came from spinal segmental control and the deeper intrinsic musculature.

Global system

The Global system has larger more superficial musculature, which span many joint segments. Unlike the local system these muscles are more obliquely orientated thus, high force production capabilities and they initiate gross movement. Comparatively, the global system has lower fatigue resistance but this particular system provides stability and mobility to the spine. These muscles include the external/internal oliques, superficial fibres of the Erector Spinae and Rectus Abdominis.

Trunk Function

Muscles of the Trunk produce force to serve a few roles. Particularly in Generation, Transfer and Control. I will briefly highlight these in more detail

 

Generation

Transfer

Control

·         Rotation

·         Block Rotation

·         Flexion and Extension

·         Lateral flexion and extension

·         Proximal to distal

·         Lower to upper body

·         Posterior to Anterior

·         Medial to Lateral

·         Postural control

·         Resist deformation to external and  internal forces

 

Generation

This refers to the force generation capabilities, a recent topic of conversation in strength and conditioning is whether the trunk is designed to create/block rotation or both. Supporters of Block rotation suggest that the stiffening of trunk allows the arms and legs to work against it, rather than having a continuation of the movement which may dampen performance outcomes.

Transfer

Quite a common conclusion in strength and conditioning circles is that the trunk acts to transfer forces in athletic movements, through different planes of motion.

Control

Resisting deformation by external and internal forces, a useful example of external forces was a scrum in Rugby union as players have to manage external forces from the opposition. Internal forces refers to force that we ourselves generate.

 

Why we need to consider the hip when talking about the Trunk

Some may have heard the term “Regional interdependence” the notion that all systems of the body are interconnected meaning that we cannot ignore the fact that large amount of abdominal muscles attach to the hip and pelvis. Therefore, dysfunction in the hips can lead to problems in the spine. Two notorious mal-alignments mentioned were posterior and anterior pelvic tilt. I will briefly describe anterior pelvic tilt as it’s the most prevalent issue I see.

Anterior Pelvic tilt (APT)

APT or lower crossed syndrome is characterised by a rolling forward of the pelvis due to shortening of the hip rectus femoris, Iliopsoas and the weaknesses of the deep abdominal musculature causing issues in the spine at the L4-L5 level.

 

Exercise classifications

In this particular section I will not deep dive into everything that was mentioned, this blog would simply be too long. However, I am quite open to having conversations on this. What I liked about this presentation and paper is the clarity on the intention of each exercise classification, something I am going to use in my programming to add the extra layers of detail. The “what and the how”.

Function is defined by its intended outcome, it is not how an exercise looks in relation to the performance task

Alex has a great paper Spinal-Exercise Prescription in Sport: Classifying Physical Training and Rehabilitation by Intention and Outcome. The physical outcomes presented in his research were split up into four overarching qualities with further sub-classifications, which I will touch upon.

Just for the benefit of the reader the exercises were also further sub-classified described as functional and non-functional (NF). Functional (F) being exercises which allow their athletes to move in all planes of movement, for example a Squat. Non-functional exercises (example a side plank) are typically performed in partial weight bearing positions (single, lying kneeling etc) and across a single plane of movement (Spencer et al, 2016).

 

A)  Mobility (F) and (NF)Exercises used to develop, maintain, or restore global spine range of movement.

 

B)  Motor control- referred to as the maintenance of spinal integrity during a skill movement task. This is not only a result of the capacity of muscles but also on the ability to process sensory input.

This was further subdivided into;

1)  Segmental stabilisation (NF)

2)  Spinal disassociation (NF)

3)  Spinal disassociation (F)

4)  Segmental movement control (NF)

 

C)  Work capacity- The same as local muscular endurance, defined as the ability to tolerate varying intensities and durations of work.

This was further subdivided into;

  • Pillar conditioning (NF)
  • Pillar conditioning (F)
  • Segmental conditioning (F)
  • Segmental conditioning (F)

 

D) Strength- The ability for muscles to produce force.

    This was further subdivided into;

    • Pillar Strength development
    • Stiffness development
    • Power development

     

    As mentioned going into each sub-classification would be too lengthy and I will reference the article. However, I thought this was useful to organise exercise prescription by working backwards from the outcome!

     

    Exercise functionality and co-ordinative demands

    As part of Alex’s reflections on this paper he highlights an important topic “coordination” this is not going to be the usual way of thinking about coordination, but to describe it as truly functional to an athletic movement the muscle-tendon interaction of both tasks need to be identical, down to the;

    • Magnitude of contraction (How much)
    • Rate of contraction (How quick)
    • Timing of interaction (When)
    • Timing of interaction and contraction (How)

     

    “Unless there is a real identical muscle-tendon interaction (coordination) between tasks, it cannot and never will be functional. Therefore functional, within the article should be redefined as F= Multi-jointed & NF = isolated”.

     

    Interestingly, a point was made that the “Greatest success of achieving intended outcomes has been through NF exercises modalities”. Why? Because isolated exercises target specific tissues that need to be trained i.e. we are going directly to the horse’s mouth.

    Thanks for reading this article, it was not intended to give you specific exercises rather an explicit framework for you to build your exercise program on.

    Konrad McKenzie

    Strength and Conditioning coach.

     

    Reference:

    Research Gate. 2021. (PDF) Spinal-Exercise Prescription in Sport: Classifying Physical Training and Rehabilitation by Intention and Outcome. [online]

    Available at:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308533366_Spinal_Exercise_Prescription_in_Sport_Classifying_Physical_Training_and_Rehabilitation_by_Intention_and_Outcome> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

    Liked This Blog?

    You might like other blogs on this topic from APA:

    APA review of the Middlesex Students S&C conference 2014

    The Dubious Rise of the Corrective Exercise ”Pseudo-Physio” Posing as a Trainer- My thoughts

    as well as two recommended articles:

    This article on weak Glutes during Squatting

    And this one on Exercise Modifications 

    Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

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    The Load Management Puzzle

    With the initiation of a third lock down in the UK we thought it would be a great idea to engage our readers in some motivating posts to help keep you motivated.  We welcome back APA coach Konrad McKenzie with a weekly guest post.

     

    This lockdown 3.0 I have been fortunate to gain some more knowledge from leading practitioners in strength and conditioning & sport science.  A few weeks ago I took part in webinar on load management by Dario Novak. This webinar series had interesting speakers on it including professor Ales Filipcic and Matt Little who currently leads Andy Murray’s strength and conditioning programme. This series inspired me to share the information and perhaps create more conversations around monitoring using some of my own thoughts.

    I will be first to admit that this was something I struggled with in the first years of coaching. Not so much the theory behind it, rather the implementation in highly dynamic environments. Usually, it is much easier to monitor this if you have  large sports science departments who can meticulously monitor training readiness, volume, quality & intensity of training. As mentioned in my previous blog (Keeping athletes shoulder healthy) training volume is a large stakeholder when trying to reduce injury.

    This blog will not go into all the different monitoring methods but will discuss the following:

    • Why do we want to collect data on player’s health and performance?
    • Painting the picture
    • Do we need to look at session content?
    • What we can start off by doing
    • Practical implications

     

    What and why do we want to collect data on player’s health and performance?

    I am going to split this into two sections to make it more reader friendly.

    What do we want to collect on player’s data health and performance?

    A range of metrics can be collected in my opinion, the higher the level of the athlete the more in depth analysis needs to be. Metrics include (not an exhaustive list):

    Player’s physiological and anthropometric  data

    Other metrics include time characteristics, in the case of Tennis these are:

    Time characteristics

    • Start time
    • Session time
    • Active time
    • Average rally time
    • Average real time

    Why do we want to collect data on player’s health and performance?

    Measuring a player’s health is important for longevity and injury prevention. We are all aware that high performance sports is brutal on the body.  If we think about the game of tennis for example, a high level junior player rapidly putting the brakes on when travelling at 6m/s is experiencing 3-6 times their bodyweight on each leg. Not only does this place structural and neurological stress on the body, training and competition can take a psychological toll on the human body. Additionally, those who work with growing athletes will also know the physiological stress around growth and maturation. In simpler terms we want to use data to:

    • Keep players healthier
    • Prevent OT & Burnout
    • Aim to Reduce Injuries

    Painting the picture

    “It is better to measure something than nothing”

    This was a quote that stood out to me from the webinar. I wanted to further add that it is also important to know what you are measuring and more importantly how you are going to use the data. Sounds obvious I know but it’s easy to get lost in a sea of data collection that will have no actionable consequences on day to day practices.  It is important that we use loading data to paint the picture of the athletes we are working with. Pertinent questions from the webinar regarding data collection were:

    1. What kind of data/info do we use for planning?
    2. How do we treat and approach our players?
    3. How do we collect and store player’s data?
    4. How many different aspects of training do we work in the training process?
    5. What is the role of players in the training process?
    6. How are the players responding to load?

    Do we need to look at the session content? Some food for thought

    Although when they spoke about session content it wasn’t focused on youth athlete training, it is a passion point of mine and definitely created some food for thought around this area. It was highlighted that a typical academy tennis session would be very high in volume and not high enough in terms of intensity.  The current training volumes may not be tolerable for a growing athlete. Also, if 60-80% of the average rally is over in 4-5 shots, are the current training volumes reflective of the game? This is an interesting question. My personal thoughts are, is there a period where we overload the volume? A period where we intensify in skill training load?  So, on different training days and/or phases we emphasize volume or intensity.

    A primary question from the webinar was do we know what types of load we are exposing our players to? Is this reflected in the session? Some humbling questions.

    It is quite common to see a session start with high volume drilling and end with high intensity match play. This webinar was in Tennis, however I see this across the board in a lot of field and court sports. Perhaps, flipping this structure will allow for a more optimal session, makes sense from a scientific point of view. Something for the skills and strength and conditioning coaches to converse over.

    What we can start off by doing

    Using Minutes alone, is not a good indicator of session load, without content of the session e.g. (Volume, intensity, quality)

    There are countless articles and papers by people who are much smarter than me on this topic so I am not going to dive into any monitoring tools. I will link the reader to this article which I found informative.  But I wanted to highlight an idea which may be overlooked and that is categorising sessions. I have tried to do this over the years working with technical coaches to identify different types of sessions. For example, high and low intensity days. But we can go even deeper and distinguish between high intensity match play and high volume drilling. Furthermore, we could pair this with conditioning sessions which complement the type of loading from skill work. Vertical integration is popular in the domain of Rugby union and football and I am a firm believer in learning from different sports.

    Practical recommendations

    After hearing the webinar I wanted to offer some practical recommendations from the talk and some of my own. Firstly, I want to stress that this is by no means an easy task. Especially, if you are working alone without a team of sports scientists. I want to start off by saying first;

    • Do the best you can.
    • Figure out what is important to measure and how it will affect your decision making, for example, peak height and weight velocity in youth athletes.
    • Build buy-in by educating coaches and athletes as to why you are collecting data.
    • The higher the level of the athlete, the more in depth the analysis.
    • Once you find out what you want to measure, find out the most cost effective way of doing this. There are a wide array of wearables that athletes can purchase which are fairly inexpensive. For example, Heart rate monitors for objective measurements.
    • Once you have the collection method for example HR monitoring, paint the picture by working out the intensity of matches and seeing how that compares to training for planning purposes. Are we wanting to work at or below match intensity?
    • Work with the technical coaches using your understanding of scientific underpinning of training and their knowledge of skill development to come up with an agreed monthly/yearly schedule.

     

     

    Thanks for reading guys,

    Konrad McKenzie

    Strength and Conditioning coach.

    Liked This Blog?

    You might like other blogs on this topic from APA:

    APA review of the Middlesex Students S&C conference 2014

    The Dubious Rise of the Corrective Exercise ”Pseudo-Physio” Posing as a Trainer- My thoughts

    as well as two recommended articles:

    This article on weak Glutes during Squatting

    And this one on Exercise Modifications 

    Do you feel that this would be a perfect time to work on the weak links that you have been avoiding? The things that you know you should be doing that you keep putting off? Would you like us to help you with movement screening and an injury prevention program? Then click on the link below and let us help you!

    👇 TRAIN WITH APA 👇

    Aspiring Pro Training Support Packages

     

     

    Follow me on instagram @konrad_mcken

    Follow Daz on instagram @apacoachdaz

     

    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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