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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 286 Stu McMillan

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 286 – ALTIS




Stu McMillan– Coach and CEO at ALTIS. Formerly based in Calgary, Canada coaching winter sport athletes from 1998-2010.  Became sprint coach with GB Track & Field athletes in 2010 until end of London games 2012.  Moved to Phoenix, Arizona and started Altis 2013.

Kevin Tyler- Altis President (and former Head of Coaching at UK Athletics)

Dan Pfaff- sprint coach

Andreas Behm- hurdles coach

John Godina- throws coach


Discussion topics:

How did ALTIS come about?

”John Godina had set up the World Throws Center, with a vision of setting up a training centre but also he saw this big gap in the profession, especially in North America of coaching track & field events.  So he started his company World Throws Center as a vehicle to educate throws coaches but also as a training centre to coach elite throwers.

But his vision was always to expand that out into all of the other event groups within track & field.  Within an hour of their first meeting John had offered Stu a job to help him build what they were going to call the World Athletics Center, which was rebranded as ALTIS in 2015.

The vision was to offer a more professional track & field coaching service and second to that was to offer a professional coach education service to other track and field coaches.  So from the get go we have always believed in the co development of coaches and athletes.

In the first year we had 7 athletes on board, the second year we have 23 athletes, the following year we had 65 and the year after that we had 108 and by that time it was getting a little bit too chaotic.  So from an operations stand point so we reached out to Kevin Tyler who at that point was lead sprint coach for University of Oklama, to help us with the day to day operations.”


What is the vision for ALTIS over the next 5-10 years?

”We started off as a track & field company that wanted to do some education.  Now we are an education company that also does some track & field.  When we started off we had this in house coaching programme, the Apprentice coach programme, that we are probably best known for, where every month that we are coaching people we are visited by 10-15 professionals from all over the world.

Now when we started that programme in 2013 80% of the people than came to visit us were from track & field, and now every month we have 20-30 people come visit us and 80-85% of them are from other sports, so it is less and less track & field, and that has been part of our strategy moving forward.  The reality is that track & field is a difficult sport from which to try and operate and sustain a for-profit business within.  There just is not the money in these some of these smaller amateur sports.

I don’t know what the next 5-10 years will look like but we are trying to lead some of the change and doing a better job of helping educate the younger coaches coming through navigate their way through the chaos of the coaching profession.”


Where do you look for inspiration from the education side of the business to have more impact on the industry?

”With age, often, but not always, comes wisdom, so you are better able to synthesis your way through all the disparate and conflicting information so we see our role as trying to make sense of it all.  So first and foremost we see our role as taking these perhaps 100 conflicting ideas and synthesis it into what is truly important.

Where we get the inspiration for that I think is maybe two or threefold.  First and foremost is my primary mentor Dan Pfaff who can take really complex information and reduce it to a sentence or two that makes sense for a person who doesn’t have the wisdom that he has.

Second a great friend of mine Jon Beradi who build Precision Nutrition who saw the noise in the nutrition space and didn’t want to be a part of it, so he started an online digital nutrition education curriculum.  So I take a lot of inspiration from what he built and how he built it, communicating it in a way that made sense to everyone in the space whether they are just starting or whether they’ve been in the space for 10 years plus.

Third is EXOS, which is the building in which we house ourselves, and we are so lucky to have this relationship with Mark Vestegen, and how they have built their system.


Do the underpinning characteristics of speed differ between track & field and other sports?

”Backing up a little bit, the question to ask yourself is, is speed a primary limiting factor in the sport you coach? If the answer is yes, then where is it within the hierarchy of KPIs (key performance indicators) within that?

If it is one of the top ones, and you determine that it is an important factor in your sport then it is contingent upon you to understand that.  A decade ago it was all about the strength part of strength & conditioning, and very little about conditioning.  And within strength it was really only about what happened in the weight room, just around Olympic lifts or Power lifts, and it was very reduced and it didn’t have a great transfer over to what the sport is.

The role of an S&C coach was really about getting an athlete in front of me more stronger and more powerful, and if I do that then I’ve done my job.  But over the course of the last 5-10 years we have begun to think a lot more about ‘transference‘ and is the work I’m doing transferring over to the sport in which they are performing?  So then that becomes the objective.

It is pretty evident that most S&C coaches don’t know a tonne about speed development, or mechanics or any of those things around speed.  It is changing, and there is a greater respect for it and I think it stems from a better understanding of the role of the S&C coach and knowing it is more than getting them bigger, faster stronger in the gym.  The strength components are much easier to measure, and therefore much easier to justify our positions or roles within the performance team.

But to answer your original question, I don’t really see much of a difference.  The underpinning things that are important to getting athletes fast are important whether you are getting them prepared to run a 100m or whether you are preparing them to play rugby, basketball, or American football.  It’s just where in that hierarchy of KPIs do those speed qualities exist? So in track & field for example, the mechanics of how an athlete moves down the track is really important.  It’s a primary factor and it is one of the most important factors in determining whether that athlete succeeds. Is it as important for let’s say as important for an offensive lineman in American football, no! But it is more important for a wide receiver to move mechanically sound, then yes!  For an offensive lineman I wouldn’t spend a tonne of time teaching him how to upright sprint but I’d coach them enough so that he doesn’t hurt himself when he has to do these stupid NFL combine tests!

At what point do you move away from isolated sprinting to a more contextual environment for a team sport player?

Well that’s the big question obviously, and it just goes back to that question about transference.  It’s no different from what we are doing in the weight room.  What are we doing in the weight room by doing a power clean, or a squat or a reverse hyper?  Do we do any of those things out on the field, no we don’t do any of them, so they are so many generations away from from the athlete actually does on the field.

It’s very funny to me and curious to me the argument from technical coaches who tell me, ‘well my athlete doesn’t get upright, he only accelerates so why are you teaching them to upright sprint?’  So I say, ‘well does your athlete clean 60kg on the bar and put it on their shoulders on the field? So why are you getting them to do that as well?’

That being said, it’s still a very valid question.  Working back from the sport we need to be able to justify every piece of the preparation programme whether it is sprinting, lifting weights, jumping or throwing.  We need to be able to justify it.  Going back to the previous example, if you are a premier league footballer or a wider receiver in American football then the need to teach someone how to sprint properly becomes more important.

Then the question becomes content versus context.  You’re probably not going to be thinking about your technique while you are actually moving around the field.  You might be subconsciously aware of it, but you’re definitely not consciously thinking about driving your knees up or using your arms etc.  But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be working on that from a less contextualized standpoint away from the confines of the game.

What I say, and what my argument is, probably the more experienced you are the longer you’ve been in a sport, the longer you’ve been moving a certain way, the less time that we as professionals should spend trying to change that way of moving or improve/perfect that way of moving.  But if you’re a 12 yr old soccer player and you can barely move your limbs with any efficiency or force then it is part of our role to try to teach you how to move properly.


Are you thinking about sprinting when you are playing a team sport?

”I always share the story of me playing soccer and I remember vividly having a one on one with the defender.  Now this was my second stint playing soccer as a 30 yr old having retired from the game at 24 yr.  I hadn’t changed anything else in those six years apart from spending a lot of time learning how to run faster and more efficiently.  As I push the ball past him, my brain just goes somewhere else for a split second and I lock into my sprint technique thinking about leaning forward, head down, pump my arms, then as soon as I get by him, my brain locks back into the sport and off I go again.

Now the ecological dynamics people say it is always an interaction between the task and the environment.  Well, it’s not always.  Sometimes we use these fundamental skills that we develop in other areas of the physical preparation, whether that’s jumping, or running or squatting.  Sometimes we use them as metaphors within the confines of the game, and you refer back to all the training you have done and for a split second your brain goes back into a fundamental skill before you lock back into the game.


When, where and how do you incorporate speed sessions into Youth athlete programmes?

”Firstly, it depends on what you mean by youth? Are you talking about an 8 yr old or perhaps a 15-16 yr old?  Have they started to specialise in their sport? Generally what you will see if you look at a playground with a group of 8-10 yr olds running around, most of them run a lot, sprint a lot and they are pretty efficient in how they move.  It is probably getting a little bit worse as they play less but generally it’s pretty good.  If you look again at that same group 5-6 years later, most of them are no longer moving well.

If they are 8-12 yr old you are probably doing enough sprinting within their play already, now you may have a few that are not great movers who you might want to say okay, twice a week for 10 minutes we are going to work on making you a little more efficient in the way in which you move.  But the training may be enough if they are running around and sprinting.

Now when they are 15-16 yrs the technical demands are playing a much greater importance than the relevance of some of these other things like sprinting, such as doing small sided games and having less and less opportunities to open up and run.  So I would encourage coaches, for whom this is your case, to provide your athletes with opportunities to open up and running and sprinting.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, just work it into your warm ups and do 5-10 mins sprinting, say three times a week.

Sprinting in warm-ups

On a related issue of warm-ups I find it totally baffling having watched some Premier league soccer warm-ups that the players will not do any sprinting during the warm-up.  Sure they’ll do 4-5 step bursts or some really sloppy strides but not once do they do any actual sprinting!!

And as far as planning it into training days, look at what the technical plan is for the training session.  If the plan is going to do a lot of sprinting, we’re not doing any small sided games (SSG), okay well then I’ll just put 3-4 x 20-30m sprints at the end of the warm-up.  Or if we are doing mostly SSG today then we won’t open up a lot so I’ll have to work more sprinting into the warm-up and do 5-6 x 20-30m.  The take home is not so much how we do it, but that we do it! We’ve gone too deep into the specialisation of the sport and the technical demands of the sport, and started to ignore the capacity demands and the strength, power and speed and how people move!

At Altis we look at three different speeds, slow, medium and fast velocity.  We have three planes of movement- forwards, sideways and backwards.  And we look at three arcs- short- medium and long arc (with a long arc being the entire body is working fully).  When we get together as a group we will do something to hit all nine components over the course of a session.


What is your philosophy of what goes on in the weight room (both for track athletes and then secondly as team sports)?

First and foremost, we always start with the sport and the athlete as individuals. So understanding the athlete is primary.

So the first question I ask is, why is this athlete in front of me good at what they do?

I then design my programme towards whatever is it that makes them good at what they do (strengthen strengths).  So if they are good at what they do because they have got really good force producing capabilities, then I’m going to spend more time doing, relative to other things closer to when they need to compete well, on force producing abilities.  So I will train them towards that kind of work.  Now that’s for elite sprinters.

But if I’m working with a 14-15yr old I’ll still ask the same question, why is this athlete in front of me really good at what they do, but I’ll spend more relative time filling in the gaps at what they are not good at.

They are super strong- so I’ll do stuff in the weight room to make them super stronger.  And when they are competing I want them feeling good about themselves- doing things they are confident in and comfortable with.

Philosophically as a coach, we tend to see a weakness in an athlete and they say, ‘if only I could improve this weakness, this athlete would be so much better.’  I worked with a speed skater in Canada who for almost four years leading into the Winter Games 2010 was one of the best sprint skaters at the time, he had the World record, he had won a number of world cups.

In the year leading up to the 2006 Winter Olympics the coaches and physiologists decided there was a gap here, I think we can make this athlete better if we spend more time on building his strength endurance. Now he was really pretty dominant on the first lap, and he was even pretty dominant on the second lap but tended to drop off a little in the second lap.  So in the Olympic season, you can guess what happened? he lost his mojo, he lost his top end speed because we only have finite amount of stuff we can fit into the envelope, so by working on more strength endurance stuff around the second lap, that took away from what actually made him, him, what made him good! And because you took away stuff that made him feel really good about himself he started losing his confidence and started competing less well.  Now I think he went into the games and didn’t even medal, maybe 5th or 6th where he went into the games and the previous quadrennial period as the dominant skater!  So this is a little lesson to think about when to work on strengths and when to work on weaknesses.  We need to be really careful on where we spend time working on things where athletes aren’t very good at.  How does that make you feel psychologically if you just go into every training session doing things that are hard and you feel you suck at?  You can just become a totally different person.


What is your process in determining the exercises in the weight room that have the biggest transference into sprinting?

Part of that is just experience, having access to literally hundreds of athletes in Calgary and put them into little boxes and try stuff out and over the course of that time we figured out so much of what can transfer and what can’t.  But now that I’m working with 10 athletes who are all hoping to go to the Olympic games it doesn’t give me much opportunity to trial and error.

We know that for example, there isn’t a high degree of transference between say a heavy back squat and running fast.  That may be surprising to some of your listeners.  If you look at the eight finalists in the 100 m sprint and you ask yourself how much these guys can back squat.   Now some strength coaches will look at the story of Ben Johnson who apparently did a 600 lb back squat the day before the 1988 Final and that’s kind of become the bedrock of their understanding of the relationship between strength and speed.  Where he was an anomaly.  If you look at the the eight sprinters at the final in Rio (2016) there wasn’t one of them who could of full back squatted over 150 kg.  I had one of them (the Bronze medalist) and he couldn’t back squat 60 kg!!

So strength as we typically define it in the weight room as ‘load’ is not transferable to speed.  Now some governing strength abilities within that do, so eccentric RFD is very important, so can you find some exercises within the weight room to develop that ability within strength that transfers a lot better!

Werner Gunther was in the Swiss bob sled teams and I got the chance to watch this guy train over the course of a winter.  Around the same time in 2001 I watched a guy called Adam Archuleta who lit up the NFL combine that year, and his metrics tested out of the roof!  Now his trainer at the time Jay Shrayder did a lot of drop catch work with a really overloaded fast eccentric component as a part of his strength.   I also listened to D Schmidtbleicher who found within his research it was that the stretch was the most important part not the shortening, it was the first ‘s’ in the SSC (stretch-shortening cycle).  What I took from that was that we have a finite amount of energy available to us so we can choose to say do hurdle hops or depth landings.  We can probably do more depth landings if we don’t have to worry about the concentric component (the second ‘s’), than we can full hurdle hops so it is a little bit more efficient.

So taking what I learnt from these three athletes around 20 years ago I started working with my athletes what I eventually called reflexive eccentrics (Reflexive Eccentrics. Term used to describe low-load, high-velocity eccentric (yielding) exercises)

which is taking a weight 40-70% 1RM and then dropping explosively into a catch position. So for a squat, if you’ve got an athlete that does 200 kg for 3 reps then we put a 100kg on them at drop into a half squat explosively for 3-5 reps.  Be as quick through that eccentric portion as you can.  This is the part of the work that we do in the weight room that has the most transference and then what we do is try to identify the specific exercise that that type of work transfers over the most for each individual athlete.  So we category athletes upon the way in which they move, are they double leg or single leg dominant, or are they push dominant or pull dominant?  So if we have an athlete that is a double leg push athlete we will do a lot more double leg squat movements.  Whereas if you have an athlete who is a single leg puller then the exercise we would be doing more in the weight room would be say for example, a single leg RDL.


How do you categorize the athletes into the full buckets (double, single, push or puller)?

Observe and ask questions

I watch them!  Now that is not a good answer for a young coach because a young coach doesn’t have the experience or the eye to see that this is how the athlete moves, but I actually challenge coaches to do this.

The easier one to observe is if they are anterior chain or posterior chain dominant.  If the sprinter has big glutes, big hamstrings, big calves, long Achilles, he/she is almost certainly going to be a puller.  They pull themselves down the track.  On the other side of the equation, if you have someone who has big quads, chest, shoulders, triceps, and a little bent over the waist chances are they are a pusher.

Also, ask an athlete which athlete they prefer. If they prefer a squat they are probably a pusher, and if they say Dead lift chances are they are a puller.  Also then ask them if they would prefer to do it on leg or two legs? They are always going to choose the one they are best at, because that’s their bias.  If they are not sure, you can get them to try and see what movement they are more comfortable with, and use our philosophy of moving towards their strengths.

Arcs and fascial chains

This goes back to what I said about asking the question about why are they good at what they do?

  • Are they super stable in performing BIG OPEN SHAPES? Big arc person vs. small arc person? Big arc is perhaps more fascially dominant and small arc is perhaps more muscularly dominant
  • Snatch is full chain arc (foot to overhead), clean is medium chain arc (foot to shoulder)
  • Super tall really skinny fascial dominant athlete might be good at overhead back MB heaves but not so much at underhand forward heaves

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Identify limiting factors – is speed a primary limiting factor in the sport you coach? If the answer is yes, then where is it within the hierarchy of KPIs
  2. Content vs. Context-  how much impact can you make on sprint technique out of context from the game?
  3. Opportunities– give athletes opportunities to open up and sprint as part of their weekly training
  4. Importance of eccentric strength- this is the type of strength that has higher transfer to sprinting
  5. Observation skills- watch them move and ask questions.  What they like is what they are good at!

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




You may also like from PPP:

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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Eight Practical Thoughts on Youth Athletic Development

Today, I wanted to share with you some personal thoughts regarding youth athletic development. Youth athletic development fundamentals. I was inspired by a podcast on Upside Strength and it nudged me to think about the things I feel are pertinent to youth athletic development. There is a myriad of insightful and educative content online but today, I wanted to convey what is important to me, at this present moment, and share this with you. So, before I dive into this I want to remind you of a fable.

‘There was once a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run, tired of hearing him boast, slow and steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then paused to rest. He looked back at the tortoise and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along your slow, slow pace?”

The Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking “There is plenty of time to relax”.

Next thing you know, the crowd roared and cheered the tortoise, which woke up the Hare. Alarmed at this, the Hare made a desperate attempt to run toward the finish line, but it was too late, he had lost. Slow and steady wins the race.’ Take this story as you will but it will flow nicely into my first point.”

Long term athletic development – A process not a sprint to the finish line.

What is our overarching goal? What is our endpoint and how do we assess the success of our program?

Start with the end in mind. For me, a number one overarching goal is making sure youth athletes are enjoying the training process. There is probably not going to be any sort of Long term development if the kids are dropping out due to burnout or lack of interest in furthering their training. This does not mean you have to come into training dressed like a clown, nor does it mean that we go so far along this spectrum that it turns into a holiday camp. But the idea of ‘slow cooking’ your youngsters reducing the risk of burnout and increasing engagement, could be down to the environment you create and how you are delivering sessions.

Those who work in the field of athletic development will have heard the terms “repetition without repetition” or “design the task, not the solution” once youngsters learn the skill, the subsequent intent through a game or challenge can facilitate the key adaptations we seek.

Education- ‘give a man a fish you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’

If you have ever witnessed athletes executing their sessions with autonomy and minimal input from the coach, you will realise how rewarding it is. Additionally, it also gratifying when you see youngsters assisting each other by correcting technique or by encouraging each other through a tougher workout. This generally comes from a young athlete learning the training process and taking ownership. I have seen great success with this through guided discovery and questioning, for example asking young athletes ‘why are we doing this particular drill?’ and ‘What benefits will we derive from it?’. Ideally, I would love to reach a point where an athlete can start to design their own programs for themselves, and ask us what we think!

Give them what they are not getting- ‘more of the same isn’t necessarily a good thing’

I am quite passionate about this particular point. Give them what they are not getting. I have witnessed youth sports in a variety of environments. I have noticed a trend. They will typically spend the majority of their day in a classroom, then be expected to play highly dynamic and chaotic sports without any real physical preparation, sometimes, not even an adequate warm up. Now your argument may be “this is what schools and sporting organisations have been doing for years!” This doesn’t mean that it is the right thing and it can accompany unnecessary injuries. As a former school strength and conditioning coach, a goal was to give the kids missing parts of the development puzzle. “Where can I have the most impact?” Typically, this was in the form of quality strength, speed and corrective work, due to my limited contact time. I regarded these as a high priority with respect to physical preparation.

Bouncy athletes- Restoring the bounce’

Playing football in the street or running around in asymmetric environments, is no longer a commonality. A time where kids used to jump fences, climb walls and crawl under objects is now being replaced by Xbox live. Now, no need to be overly dramatic. But, we need to recognise this and think about ways which we can replicate that in some form, within our own training environments. All the aforementioned activities enhanced the kids physiologic springs in the musculotendinous units that enabled children to clear the fences or leap from one rock to the other. If we think of sports performance, tendon and muscle stiffness are hugely important for force transfer. Therefore, I love low amplitude, extensive plyometric exercises, such as pogo jumps or hops in a variety of planes to allow them to express this potential.

Get them strong- Injury occurs when the load exceeds the capacity at that particular time’- Keir Wenham Flatt

A rather obvious maxim but this doesn’t always mean just adding more plates to the barbell in the sagittal plane. I also mean exposure to a mix of strength exercises in a variety of ranges and planes of motion that they may need to utilise in their sport, in the case of tennis strength in the frontal plane is vital. Moreover, I think it’s prudent to expose kids to a wide variation of movement skills to add to their movement toolbox.

Peak height velocity- ‘A period of accelerated growth’

Peak height provides a unique challenge to young athletes with a good proportion of them experiencing adolescent awkwardness, symptoms can include aches and pains, and a big one is a loss of coordination. This can be very frustrating for a young athlete. Personally, I find it important to measure growth and adapt the program where a rapid increase in height and subsequent symptoms are evident. Adaptations to the program could be more variation, reduced loading and increased complexity to the exercise selection.

Nutrition and recovery principles‘you wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari and expect to go anywhere’

I’m going to split this section into two parts and distinctly talk about each;


I usually start small with this, as you will be surprised at how many do not know how good quality nutrition is helpful to their performance (and life!). In order to avoid paralysis by analysis try to reinforce small daily habits. A quote from the 5am club “small daily habits, lead to long lasting change”. Many do not eat breakfast or drink enough water, that’s a good start point. I have had great success through ‘snap and send’. They will take pictures of their breakfast, then they are given feedback. Create a sense of community around this, encourage the youngsters to share their breakfasts with each other and collaborate some ideas!


Many struggle with the concept of recovery, I think this is a societal issue after all the “Grind never stops” right?  But, when we are concerned with peak performance this type of mind-set is unsustainable and quickly ends in a train wreck. The stimulus- fatigue- recovery- adaptation model, in short, states that training stimuli produced is influenced by the magnitude of the training stressor. The more fatigue accumulated the longer delay before complete recovery and adaptation can occur. As the athlete recovers from and adapts to the training stimulus, fatigue will dissipate and preparedness and performance increases. Now, we take models with a pinch of salt but many nuances to stress-response theory have a similar message, recovery is hugely important! Pulling athletes back can be one of the most difficult things but this links to my point about education.

Make them better for their sport- ‘How is this helping me?’

Finally, I want to finish by making this point. I believe, that as a strength and conditioners we are offering a service and supporting the athlete. We are employed by parents and sporting organisations to provide holistic physical development so athletes are healthy, robust and can express their peak performance in their relevant sport. I find that the language and communication that we use, to describe what we do, creates a better buy in from athletes and stakeholders when we link it to the sport in question. How is this helping me? You may find two athletes, who play different sports, completing a similar exercise however, this exercise may carry benefits which are relevant for both narratives. The language you use is key!

Thanks for reading Guys!

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and conditioning coach


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How Isometrics Can Enhance Physical Potential

Hi guys,

Welcome back to the APA blog. We took a short break last week and today we are going to immerse ourselves in a topic which I have recently found interesting over the past few months. Training using isometrics. What is it and how can it be programmed. I will talk about:

What is an isometric contraction?

Why may you use isometrics?

Training transfer

How may this look like in a program?

What is an isometric contraction?

As we know muscles have three primary actions eccentric, isometric and concentric contractions. Physiologically, an isometric contraction occurs when there is no movement or change in length of the muscle itself, for example pushing against pins in a quarter squat position. Check out the video below to view this in action! Here we see the muscles working maximally but notice how there is no change in movement.

Alex Natara also mentions “Quasi-isometric contractions” which is defined as a short isometric burst in order to perform a sports specific task. A quasi-isometric or dynamic isometric occurs when rapid ‘stiffness’ is needed to produce a sports specific action, for example planting the leg during an outside cut. This differs to traditional methods of isometrics for example holding a wall sit for a set period of time.

Interesting point: Whilst the old adage suggests an isometric contraction is characterised by no change in muscle length, Jay Schoder indicates that the muscle is actually slowly shortening and the tendons lengthen resulting in no net movement.

“In this scenario where the joint of the athlete is not moving, the muscle is actually slowly shortening, while the tendon is slowly lengthening, and the total net movement is zero since the joint doesn’t go anywhere.  This is the reason that in the Jay Schoeder system, isometric exercises are often referred to as “extreme slows” (although there is another form of extreme slow exercise here, but I won’t expand on it now for the sake of simplicity).”


What are the various Isometric themes?

To my knowledge, there are four types of isometric themes or exercise types, I will briefly explain each.

  • Overcoming isometrics are attempting to move an immovable object by pushing or pulling on it.

  • Yielding isometrics can be defined as the attempt to hold a weight or position without succumbing to the forces of gravity.

  • Extreme isometrics are characterized by very long duration holds (up to 5 minutes), at large joint angles. Importantly, there is not only a large demand placed on an athlete’s physiology but also mental and emotional integrity!
  • Oscillatory isometrics have received meteoric popularity. They are characterized by a contract-relax cycle. The ability to rapidly relax and contract a muscle. Practically, this requires the athlete to tense the prime mover responsible for concentric movement and then release it as fast as possible. This will look like a bouncing motion.

“Faster athletes are fast, not only because of fast-twitch muscle, but because of the relaxation ability of muscle.  Slower athletes cannot “turn off” muscles fast enough!”  Joel smith



Why you may consider using isometrics?


There are a number of reported benefits of using isometric exercises, you may even use them already without realising the specific rationales, but I have learnt that it takes skill; to purposefully apply a particular training method with an understanding of its intention.

The benefits are well reported in literature but I would like to outline a few in this blog:

  • Improved tendon and joint health
  • Minimal muscle soreness
  • Increased neural drive and efficiency
  • Increased work capacity
  • Can aid in training recovery
  • Strength through sticking points
  • Strength in ranges of motion particular to your sport

Now, what I particularly like about isometrics is the diversity of benefits from increased neural drive to enhancing training recovery. If we work in a team sport setting and we have tight game day turnarounds we want to limit soreness where we can whilst reaching similar weekly training volumes. The beauty of isometrics is also their strategic implementation in a training year. We can also use sensory isometrics as an ‘activation’ part of the warm up to enhance neural drive to key muscle groups, I personally have seen a lot of benefit in this. Arguably, we can reach new heights in sport specificity, with isometric training, for example intramuscular and intermuscular coordination through oscillatory isometrics, in similar joint angles seen in the context of the sport.

Training transfer?


We can all agree that we are interested in the training that make our athletes better in their sport. ‘No fluff’. There are a few blogs that have been written about training transfer but I think isometrics, if used intelligently, can transfer to the sport. I will suggest only a few reasons, as this will warrant a blog of its own. Firstly, specificity is subjective to many coaches, I believe that it operates on a continuum and you have to figure out what is appropriate for the athlete at that particular time. Check out my blog on ‘training the youth athlete, how specific to the sport do we have to be’.

If we look at the physiology of many sports, particularly team and court based sports, it requires short isometric bursts at various joint angles, in sprinting, jumping and change of direction. We see this through quasi-isometric contractions (stiffness) mentioned above. Additionally, athletes need to maintain their shapes, whilst overcoming the forces such as gravity. In sprinting if the athlete does not possess enough stiffness at the ankle joint then they will be unable to transfer and absorb force to and from the ground, another example may be in Rugby Union where a prop forward needs to maintain their shape in a scrum.

How may this look in a training program?


This is the question that I have always asked myself, so I researched it. Many roads lead to Rome, but I would like to give you a few scenarios where you may use this sort of training. A concise blog I have based this article on gives a few examples of how to incorporate isometrics into a program. I will outline some of their ideas and perhaps, you can get creative in your own environment and sports which will require a needs analysis.


Extreme isometrics

A good start point seems to incorporating some extreme isometrics using bodyweight variations. Some coaches call these “burners” but these particular type of isometrics increase the work capacity of the muscle, some coaches like to work up to five minutes but this will depend on the individual. The article advises two to three minutes broken up into smaller chunks of time.


  1. 10 seconds on, 10 seconds break
  2. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds break
  3. 30 seconds on, 10 seconds break
  4. 40 seconds on, done

Due to the reported reduced muscle soreness with this type of training it is possible to increase training frequency!


Overcoming isometrics

True overcoming isometrics require maximal voluntary contraction, as a result a participant will experience high levels of motor unit recruitment, making this a perfect modality for contrast training. Additionally, coaches have used it in programs alone in specific joint angles for the sports they’re working with for example, ankle and hip extension in the top end of sprint performance.  Some elite coaches have suggested that they have seen immediate improvements in their flying 10m sprint speed as a result of using specific isometric work.

“An example of how you might incorporate this type of work into a weekly session if having 2 intense training days in a week would be:

  • Day 1: 30m acceleration starts, standing triple jump, hex bar deadlift
  • Day 2: Flying 10m sprints superset/coupled with overcoming plantar flexion ISO or overcoming hip extension ISO, hurdle hops.”


Oscillatory isometrics

The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble Harrington Emerson

You can implement this type of method for any exercise, the skill is knowing how and when. In well adapted athletes there seems to be debate as to the transfer of traditional barbell exercises to athletic performance. These are probably best reserved for the “specific” phase of the training year. Also known as “reflexive power” these exercises can be used on dynamic effort days or again, contrasted with more traditional barbell lifts.

Unlock your athletes potential and thanks for reading guys!

Konrad Mckenzie

Strength and conditioning coach


Follow me on instagram @konrad_mcken


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Long term speed progressions for the youth athlete

Hi Guys,

I hope we are all doing well and wishing everybody a safe return back into sport. Today’s blog is about a topic which I think over frequently, speed training! How do we get our young athletes faster? So they can dominate their opponents and what are the different ways we can achieve this? Speed kills and today I wanted to share a few insights into the long term speed progressions for the youth athlete. The way speed is expressed will vary in different sports a needs analysis will determine this. Today I will cover long term speed progressions in more general sense. Topics today will include:


What do we mean by the term ‘speed’?

Factors affecting speed?

Trainability of Speed?

Strength and its relation to speed in youth

Practical implications for training speed in the youth athlete


What do we mean by the term speed?


In physics Speed is a scalar quantity of time between two points. Speed can be further broken down into the three components that place varying demands on central nervous and muscular system.

  • Reaction time, which is the speed that the athlete responds to an external stimulus
  • Ground contact time, amount of time foot spends in contact with the floor
  • Cyclic movement frequency, the number of repetitions in a given time frame


Noticeably, Reaction time is an expression of the nervous system, whilst ground contact time and cyclic movement frequency is expressed through the muscular system. Often, young athletes will try to express their speed through cyclic movement frequency i.e. moving their feet faster, to them it feels faster due to more frequent leg turnover. However, this does not mean they are covering more distance.

Trainability of speed?


Nurture or nature? An archaic argument amongst people. Is Speed a trainable quality? Or are certain individuals just gifted? Speed is considered the least trainable in relation to endurance or strength qualities however, this does not mean it is untrainable. In addition ingraining the foundations and optimal speed mechanics, will enable young athletes to realise their speed potential into their adulthood. Top athletes seem to utilise their speed potential better as they become experts in qualities such as coordination, strength and endurance. Now I am not saying everyone has the ability to become elite level sprinters! But, we can certainly unveil individual speed potential by teaching relevant speed mechanics and consistently running fast!

Factors influencing speed


Developing speed solely through physical means is debatable. Whilst the physical development of speed has huge importance, the question can remain whether it is a speed, movement issue or technical issue.  For example reading the game well, anticipating the opponent’s shot or accelerating efficiently in awkward positions.  Although, what I am about to set out next is mainly in relation to footwork patterns in tennis, I quite like the four performance factors, in developing speed by APA. I think we can apply some of the subcomponents when describing factors influencing speed, I have written these in the forms of questions I ask myself:

  • Technical– Do they possess the intermuscular coordination to move efficiently, and the ability to position themselves on the pitch/court optimally to execute their action?
  • Tactical– Are they in the right position? In team sports this could be the right position on the pitch or court?
  • Physical– Do they have enough explosive strength to produce high levels of force quickly? Do they have sufficient fitness levels to reproduce this?
  • Mental– Are they mentally focussed? Reading the game well?

Although this may seem like a puzzle to solve it allows us, as a team, to figure out what the issue is and provide potential solutions. It takes skill to really understand the problem, before implementing an intervention.

Strength and its relationship to speed in youth


How strong is strong enough? Whilst a lot of coaches have their own ideas on what the numbers dictate, I would argue that this number is very individual and depends on the athlete’s level. With regard to developing athletes, strength training can have a large, positive influence on speed due to factors such as increased stiffness and force output.  Here is an interesting quote from the guys at ALTIS:

Strength improvements occur naturally in the general population at a high rate up to their late teens to early 20s. Hence, from a long-term development perspective it is wise to start strength training (maximum strength development) when the rate of natural strength improvement begins to slow down and stagnate. Using this strategy offers the opportunity to continue to improve the sprint performance through new training means, and beat the natural stagnation of speed that occurs in late teen”.

Interesting insight, however it is acknowledged that lighter loads at a younger age is beneficial for technique development and working on the speed end of the force-velocity curve. Importantly, teaching the developing athlete to produce force quickly (explosive strength) and intent, carries significance when considering a long term progression. Moreover, the word intent is key, if an individual is simply not trying hard enough, we may not get the physical and psychomotor adaptations we desire.

Practical implications for training speed in the youth athlete



I want to finish this short blog by suggesting six of my practical ideas when considering long-term speed progressions for the youth athlete.

  • I would suggest that in the early stages, a large proportion of time is spent on acceleration.
  • Keep coaching cues simple, try not to overload the youngster with too much information, I like to use the power of three, no more than three work-ons at a time.
  • Using a game based model is great for that particular theme, creating competition and the subsequent intent. Using games/activity scenarios also develops optical and acoustic reaction ability.
  • Sprinting in multi-directions from a variety of start positions to give the young athlete variety and the tools to react and execute to their sports varying demands.
  • Use a variety of drills to reduce repetitive strain injuries particularly with athletes reaching peak height velocity
  • In developing athletes strength training can develop characteristics including technique development, intent and intramuscular coordination.

Thanks for reading!

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning Coach

P.s. We are taking a short break next week. We will be back the week after and look forward to supplying you with more useful content! Thank you, for your continued support of this blog.


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Fundamentals underpinning a physical development strength program for the youth athlete

Hi everyone!

Firstly, a big thank you to those who continue to support this blog. I have received messages from people around the UK and overseas and it is truly rewarding. Today I wanted to give my take on the fundamentals on creating a strength program for the youth athlete. Program writing is a process which I really enjoy, especially when you see it unfold and see your athletes engaging in it and getting positive results. One of my best memories was in a high school gym witnessing 15 young athletes executing their programs with intent and energy! The topics in this blog will include:

The audit

Principles of effective programming

Exercise selection

Good quality movement

Earning the right to Progress!

The audit

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of programming principles, a good start point is understanding the sport we are working in. The audit is our ‘needs analysis’ and essentially it is where we figure out the demands of the game. If you would like an example see my blog on the physical attributes of a youth tennis player.

The game itself is the only true test of player and team performance, and it’s also a measuring stick for the game plan. So centre everything on the game, then work backward from it when planning preparation.” – Fergus Connolly, 2016

In developing athletes first and foremost we have to consider fundamental movements, can they emulate the basic shapes and postures? Do they move efficiently without any outstanding compensations? And do they possess the basic level of strength to produce what you ask them too? But, I do like this quote because it’s zooming us out and highlighting another big picture, helping them to prepare for their sport.

What goes into an audit or needs analysis?

Personally, I look at the sport specific demands then I will look at what is appropriate for the individual. Here are some things for you to consider when developing your needs analysis.

Sport Specific demands

Individual needs

Energy system requirements Training age
Muscle strength/power requirements Biological/chronological age
Movement demands Peak Height Velocity 
Injury prevalence Injury/illness
Technical/tactical demands Anatomy


FITT Principles of effective programming   

I discovered that the art of programming does not necessarily come from the individual training units, rather how you sequence these together in a week, month or year given the constraints of your environment. I will briefly explain some of the FITT principles.

Frequency- the Frequency of strength training sessions depends on the interaction of strength training stimulus with the other training modalities, competition schedule and recovery status of the young athlete, recovery being key in youth athletes due to biological and environmental factors.

Intensity- Campos et al, 2002 suggests that the primary driver of strength training intensity is the repetition scheme and the corresponding load. Traditionally, in the gym when prescribing intensity we frequently use the terms repetition maximum or the maximum number of repetitions that can be performed at a given load with good technique. Heavier loads e.g. 5RM would be considered more intense than a 12RM. interestingly, a consideration worth mentioning is that reaching muscular failure, with a relatively light load may be perceived as more demanding and intense than a heavier 3RM load therefore it’s useful to account for the interaction by using RPE alongside the prescribed intensity. Personally, I think with youth athletes a sensible and appropriate method to measure intensity, when they are ready to start loading, is prescribing off a percentage of their bodyweight, using this as a start point. Additionally, using a repetition in reserve system can be used to prescribe intensity and can serve as a learning tool in regard to quality and fatigue management.

Time- Time could be further separated into two areas. Time could be the duration of the workout, the time of each set and the time under tension (TUT). Time under tension is determined by the duration of each repetition (eccentric, isometric, concentric phases) and then multiplying that by the total number of repetitions per set. If you seek more research on this you should check out Nicholas Burd’s work.

Type- The exercise type is selected based on the desired adaptation you are seeking, good examples of this include selecting whole body multi-joint movements for developing strength, power & size and single joint isolatory exercises for developing structural tolerance and integrity. I am not only an advocate for multi-joint movements for developing youth athletes, I think a healthy amount of structural and corrective exercises are also important to facilitate efficient movement and injury prevention.


Exercise selection

Photo credit: ALTIS & Dr Bondarchuk’s exercise classification

Recently, I have discovered Dr Bondarchuks exercise classification, this classification system is prominent as it allows us to organize our exercises more efficiently, into what we as a team deem a specific and general exercises. As we know, not all exercises are created equally therefore it is great to create a categories of movements which are based on transfer, intensity and specificity. If you want to read more about specificity in relation to youth training take a read of my previous article ‘Training the youth athlete: How specific do we need to be?’

Good quality movement

We could argue about methods of specificity all day long but at the end of the day, if young athletes cannot produce the basic shapes or movements (Squat, hinge, push, pull etc) asked for, this would be our logical start point ‘A house is not built on shaky foundations’. When I started an S&C program at a high school, I completely changed my goals for the year when I realised very few people could walk correctly let alone perform coordinated multi-joint movements. I am sure we have all heard the number one rule of youth physical preparation, ‘Do not load dysfunction!’ This brings me on to my other point.

Earning the right to progress!

The motto a lot of coaches are familiar with! In my experiences, athletes will display varying physical competencies. The questions are; how do we progress individuals safely to more complex exercises? How do we keep them engaged when they see their friends progressing faster than they are? What do we want them to be able to do at each stage of their S&C journey? There are many roads that lead to Rome but, I wanted to share an example of a plyometric progression that I use with my youngsters.







Drop Squat 18 inch Landing 30 inch landing
Jumping (Concentric) CMJ to 18 inch box CMJ to 24 inch Box CMJ to 30 inch box
Hopping (Concentric: eccentric) Hurdle hop & Stick Hurdle rebound & Stick Single leg variations (increase distance/rebounds)
Depth-Jump (isometric: eccentric) N/A Depth jump to 18 inch box High hurdle rebounds

Here we are working through a continuum of complexity and intensity. The levels detail what I would like to see at each stage of a young athlete’s development. Although it is not heavily prescriptive it gives us a signpost and a direction of travel.

Hopefully, we have a few more things to think about when developing a strength program for the youth athlete. I think some of the aforementioned principles can be used for working with people outside of the sporting realm, by establishing our end goal and figuring out how we get there in our own environments.

Thanks for reading guys!

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning Coach.



Campos, G., Luecke, T., Wendeln, H., Toma, K., Hagerman, F., Murray, T., Ragg, K., Ratamess, N., Kraemer, W. and Staron, R., 2002. Muscular Adaptations In Response To Three Different Resistance-Training Regimens: Specificity Of Repetition Maximum Training Zones.


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How To Manage the Individual in a Group

Hey Everyone!

Today I want to talk about an area which I am always trying to optimise, management; both on an individual and a group scale. Today’s blog will stem from another great course from the guys at ALTIS and some of my own personal thoughts, and I am excited to share this with you and I hope you benefit from it! Recently, my blog posts haven’t been so centred on the hard science, as there are tons of information out there on this, but rather the art of delivery, my interest has been around the art of coaching as I not only want to improve these areas myself, I believe that these are the fundamental skills to a successful program. Today’s topics are;

The importance of the right environment

Group dynamics

Managing conflict 

Practical thoughts around creating an environment our young athletes can thrive in


What is an environment and how can it affect culture?

So, first comes the question what is our environment? This can be defined as the surroundings or conditions we live and operate in and this can include schools, gym, field & stadiums.  A great deal of power lies in the environment, whilst a negative environment could ruin culture a positive environment can greatly enhance culture, individual behaviours & performance. People are highly adaptable and, over time, will acclimatize to their environment. In her book ‘thinking in systems’ Donella Meadows states “The behaviour of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.” Also you probably could not blame individual poor behaviours and performances without first assessing the current environment.

Dealing with external influences on environment

The reality is that youth athletes will spend a larger proportion of time away from you, so this means that they will experience a number of external environments and influences. This could be school, family, friends, social media you name it! For example, I think coaches who are working with developing athletes can agree that social media is becoming an increasing external influence on them. Not only this, but Social media has impact on their psyche, state and behaviours whether they realize it or not. Moreover, in some scenarios, we may be battling with their mental and attentional focus having previously worked in a school, I can tell you that this was not a rarity! The picture below shows us different factors influencing consumer behaviour however, there are some factors we can take from it when discussing the causes of certain individual behaviours.

Photo credit:


Group dynamics

What can we learn from the corporate world?

I think when it comes to management, we can learn a lot from the corporate world. Management consultants are increasingly popular, these consultants help organizations improve their performance by objectively analysing the current state of the organization and solving problems such as communication and the synergy between different departments. After all, are we not all; striving for the same goals?

“For coaches working in team sports, the impact of positive group dynamics and culture is one of the most overlooked performance enhancers in existence” ALTIS

Managing conflict and the different personality types

Working in team sports in a range of environments you will experience some sort of conflicts, this could be between parents, staff, athletes, stakeholders etc. It is important to have the tough conversations to carry on steering the ship in the right direction but conflict is never really progressive. The book ‘how to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie does an excellent job, in how to effectively communicate, lead and influence people without treading down the path of conflict. Managing conflict leads us nicely to knowing your team or the young athletes you are working with. What are the different type of personalities within this group? How do you connect with them? If any of you know who Brett Bartholomew is you would know that he specialises in the art of coaching. In his book ‘Conscious coaching’ he mentions the various fluid archetypes in team sports, I have mentioned fluid archetypes as we know human personalities are rarely set in stone. Some of the archetypes you may have met, taken from the book and the course, in developing athletes include;

The self-sabotager

This athlete will tend to possess the physical gifts to play the sport but ruminating destructive thoughts tends to throw them off the cliff. These destructive thoughts could be things like overthinking, self-doubt especially during competitions or moments of rapid successes.

The joker

Altis suggests this is the ‘Bart Simpson of the group’ the class clown (I know because I used to be one) this particular archetype may not have malicious intentions but they want to be the centre of attention therefore, will make out of turn jokes and is never really a serious candidate.

The novice

This is the wide-eyed, over eager athlete who is still fairly raw with regards to their physical development.  This could be due to the fact that they got into sports late, had a late growth spurt or not had proper coaching.

The non-responder

Typically a quiet member of the group, puts in half-hearted effort and seek minimal engagement. This archetype is where you have to figure out ‘why’ they are the way they are, gain their trust and look for ways to engage them.

This blog would be a dissertation if I wrote out all the different archetypes and how you connect with them using Brett’s book or the course I undertook however examples could include placing kids such as the non-responder in a position of leadership or creating a competition. Other ways to connect are to demonstrate patience in the case of the novice or firmly, and politely, challenge the joker when all their peers have left.

Managing conflict

A little bit of healthy friction, is important in a group training setting, it gives a certain edge and gets the best out of all the athletes involved but the balance has to be right. But, another question then arises what drives these human behaviours?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a scalable vector illustration on white background

Photo credit:

This picture depicts Maslow’s Hierarchy, and represents the five levels of human needs. The idea here, is that needs lower down on the hierarchy need to be fulfilled from the bottom up. Without going to deep into human psychology, human behaviour arises from an array of needs. When these needs are challenged it could spur individuals to protect these. A person normally finds it difficult when their needs are challenged.   In fact contesting other people’s bias is not an unusual catalyst of conflict. From the book thinking fast and thinking slow;

“One of the best studies of availability suggests that awareness of your own biases can contribute to peace in marriages and probably in other joint projects”



This is something that was quite new to me in fact, I never heard of it until recently.

“In psychological literature transference describes the tendency of a group not to see others for who they are but rather distort them into who they represent, or who we expect them to be based on our past experiences”- ALTIS

This resonates with me. This means that team members/leaders often do not relate to people in reality but rather internal ideas and fantasies of what that person represents. Understanding the background of the individual is crucial to understanding them and the potential reasons for their behaviours.

Practical thoughts around creating an environment our young athletes can thrive in


Finally, I wanted to give some insight and my ideas in creating an environment where our athletes can thrive in:

  • Creating clear expectations from the start, detailing the direction you want to go with your program
  • Goal setting, setting agreed goals with each individual athlete, finding out a start and endpoint, which will also create the athletes accountability.
  • Training progress reports, I have seen that great programs have training progress reports or personal best sections, which the athlete can visibly see every time they look at their program cards. I think this is a powerful tool.
  • Instilling good habits, with your players and rewarding them for doing so this could be making sure the kids tidy their weights away to taking ownership of their corrective exercise plans.
  • Creating leaders within the group or ‘group captains’ these captains are responsible for making sure their groups program cards are filled accurately to ensuring their group remains focussed on the task.
  • Grouping or pairing individuals who will get the most out of each other, this could be pairing athletes who have a healthy competitive edge to pairing older athletes with younger athletes as part of a ‘buddy’ scheme.
  • Competition, what are the things that are measurable in your program? How can use this to create competition amongst the players you are working with? What challenges can be put into place?
  • Feedback, I wrote two previous blogs on this but timing and type of feedback is something to consider when getting an athlete from A to B.
  • Creating self-organizing athletes, this has always been a big goal for me. I want all my athletes, by the time they finish with me, to self-sufficient. This could be from taking their own warm-ups to developing their own programs and discussing what they think is appropriate to them.

Thanks for reading guys,

Konrad McKenzie,

Strength and Conditioning Coach.


Follow Konrad: @konrad_mcken

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Coaching Feedback: Are We Talking Too Much?

A word from APA owner, Daz Drake.

This week’s blog comes from APA coach Konrad McKenzie.

Konrad has done a terrific job of summarising his thoughts on feedback and also leaves a few of his own thoughts on how this could relate to youth athletes.  This is a two part blog.  In case you missed his Part 1 you can read it HERE

Part 2- Coaching Feedback: Are We Talking Too Much?

Hi guys,

In part 1 I mentioned the different types of feedback and mentioned some methods to get the most out of our athletes. A few weeks back I took an informative course by ALTIS and one of the topics they discussed was feedback and how we can maximise our efficiency when providing it, I want to share this with you. This week, I want to talk about the different types of feedback, what type of feedback do we give? When do we give our feedback and how do we do it? This week’s blog will look into the following topics:

  • The different forms of feedback
  • Feedback timing and scheduling
  • A constraints based approach
  • Feedback and learning


The what: A brief overview of the Different forms of feedback


Positive feedback

This is used to reinforce a positive outcome and behaviour. Additionally, it can be used as a motivational tool; as mentioned in the previous blog, building self-efficacy in youth athletes. For example, instead of ‘great squat’ try ‘Great squat! You achieved the appropriate depth with a neutral spine’.

Negative feedback

Although it may be tempted to lump this in with punishment, it is not the same. Negative feedback raises the awareness to the athlete that movement/behaviours do not coincide with goals or key performance indicators. Similar to Positive feedback, prescriptive feedback is more beneficial to the athlete. For example instead of “that was a bad squat” try “next time, let’s work on hitting the agreed depth, with your chest up & out”. ALTIS explains that “this is useful for the cognitive and associative stages of learning where formative programs are being developed and refined”.

Extrinsic feedback

Extrinsic feedback also known as augmented feedback is emerging as one of the most powerful forms of feedback.

It forms into two groups ‘Knowledge of results’ and ‘Knowledge of performance’. Knowledge of results refers to feedback related to performance outcome for example, time and height. Interestingly, Winstein & Schmidt (1990) found that learning a new skill and providing feedback 50% of the time was more effective than providing feedback 100% of the time, the maxim ‘less is more comes to mind here’ also, I am starting to notice that elite level coaches do not waste their words or talk too much.

Knowledge of performance (KOP): This is the one that I find really interesting. KOP refers to feedback toward the quality of the movement/technique or process. This could take many forms such as video review, physical gestures or tapping a part of the body to create awareness. Guided questioning can also support guided discovery, this involves asking the athlete a series of questions to achieve a solution, for example; where should my head be gazing in the squat? Or where does the bar sit when performing a back squat?” Now, the guys at ALTIS do a very good job in explaining guided questioning is useful when trying to develop analytical abilities and independence, by thinking about their response.

Intrinsic feedback

Intrinsic feedback refers to a person’s own sensory-perceptual information as a result of the movement being performed. Intrinsic feedback occurs during the movement itself. Sensory processes include proprioception, touch pressure, and audition. Coaches who have been in the game a long time note the effectiveness of auditory cueing for example clapping, tapping, creating a rhythm to solidify the connection between desired rhythm and execution especially when it is tougher to describe it verbally.

The when: Feedback timing and scheduling

Timing be split into two groups concurrent and terminal. Timing is very important to prevent paralysis by analysis and a repetitive white noise. Timing can also be relevant to the complexity of the task, with more complex tasks benefiting a more terminal approach, to prevent a worsening of the movement.

  • Concurrent feedback occurs during the movement/task itself
  • Terminal feedback is often delivered after the attempt and used with more complex movement puzzles for example in the clean or Squat exercise.


When would you use concurrent or terminal feedback?

Some coaches do not agree with using concurrent feedback as they feel it’s a distraction. On the other hand coaches like Nick Winkelmann, suggest that the continuous movement lends itself to repetitive external feedback such as “push, push, push!!” if we are looking at the rhythm and frequency aspect of sprinting. I agree with ALTIS’s view that modes of feedback lie on a spectrum and is dependent on the athlete you are working with. Some athletes work well with concurrent feedback others find this inhibiting.  I also feel that we have to consider the session or exercise type as previously alluded to.


A constraints based approach

I used to head the strength and conditioning at a high school and I found that the P.E teachers did this very well. A Constraint places a limit or a restriction on a task this includes spatial or a time constraints. A gym based example would be placing a mini-band around a knee if the athlete is displaying knee valgus.  A sport based Rugby example would include awarding extra points for scoring a try through getting the ball to the wide channel, using the width. The first example will encourage the athlete to push out against the mini-band for optimal knee alignment, whilst the second example will encourage a team to utilise their faster wingers whilst spreading the opposing defence thin.


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Feedback and learning

The course at ALTIS did a good job in suggesting that the effectiveness of feedback we provide as coaches can be optimised by matching the stage of learning a performer is in’. They break the stages of learning into 3 stages, the cognitive, associative and finally the autonomous phases of learning. An in depth description of these different stages of learning will fall outside the scope of this blog but I still want to provide you with some information around this, in relation to feedback.

  • Cognitive phase: at this stage mistakes will be frequent. It is important to keep up the positivity but also, to correct the outstanding errors on your KPI hierarchy. This is to limit the information overload and frustration.
  • Associative stage: This level sees an athlete developing their internal feedback loops, cognitive understanding and kinaesthetic control to name a few. At this stage verbal feedback can be used, along with other methods. This stage sees a more prescriptive feedback to facilitate an understanding.
  • Autonomous Stage: This is the final stage of our continuum, here the feedback is minimal and the focus is shifted to refinement of the movement skill. In this part something as subtle as pulling an odd face as a feedback loop may be all that’s warranted to create a behavioural change. By the time an athlete gets into the autonomous stage they will tend to feedback how they are feeling back to you.

My opinion: Are we talking too much?

This is something I am becoming increasingly conscious of, in my coaching. It’s very easy to get wrapped into giving feedback in an essay format, perhaps it is to appear smarter than we are or it’s simply a case of trying to correct too much at once. Or, we have someone overlooking our session and we want to appear as though we are doing our job. But, let’s try and look at it through the eyes of the athlete, we all have a cognitive bandwidth which is essentially a limited mental space, if we provide too much information at once, all the time, it can lead to frustration, low self-esteem and a potential strained relationship between the coach and athlete. In my humble opinion we should look to keep the feedback constructive and effective, using cues that are appropriate to the athlete and their stages of learning. Finally, a question that we could all ask ourselves is “What types of feedback can we use that has maximum impact and subsequent behaviour change?”

Thanks for reading guys,

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning coach.


Follow Konrad: @konrad_mcken

Follow Daz: @apacoachdaz



  • Sparrow, W., 1995. Acquisition and retention effects of reduced relative frequency of knowledge of results. Australian Journal of Psychology, 47(2), pp.97-104.
  • Winstein CJ, Schmidt RA. Reduced frequency of knowledge of results enhances motor skill learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 1990;16:677–691.
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Show me, tell me, and encourage me: The effect of different types of feedback on resistance training performance

Today’s blog comes from APA coach Konrad McKenzie

Hi Everyone,

Today I wanted to review a paper by some great lecturers at Leeds Beckett University, who consistently produce practical research around the area of strength and conditioning and in particular youth athlete development.  I am going to split this topic into two parts, Part 1 will look at the role of feedback and getting the most out of our young athletes. Part2, will discuss the types of feedback. Part 2 will be out next week.

Today’s article title is “Show me, tell me, and encourage me: The effect of different types of feedback on resistance training performance”.

This paper mentions the importance of high quality resistance training sessions in promoting positive adaptations for sports performance. However, for these sessions to be of a good quality athletes will need to express high levels of kinematic outputs, for example in power and velocity (Pareja‐Blanco et al, 2017). Fatigue, low levels of motivation and external factors could reduce intent subsequently reducing performance outcomes. Those who work with youth can attest that a significant part of the program is keeping the athlete engaged and motivated to deliver the best possible outcomes. This is not always easy but delivery is our bread and butter, something which I am constantly learning.

Is there a significant difference between feedback methods?


The article compared four different feedback mechanisms, these included no feedback, verbal, encouragement and kinematic feedback on back squat performance in semi- professional rugby union players. The paper was interesting and has speculated that high levels of verbal encouragement and especially, kinematic feedback improved acute physical performance in speed of the movement particularly with players who display low levels of conscientiousness. A good example of kinematic feedback would be devices that measure barbell velocity during certain lifts.

Studies in youth?

The paper then, made me explore this further in the area of youth athletic development. I found another paper by the same authors discussing how visual feedback improves physical performances, motivation, competitive and perceived workload in adolescent male Rugby union players. There were significant differences in Barbell velocity between feedback and non-feedback control groups. This particular cohort responded well to kinematic visual feedback. Now, if we are all interested in how to get the most out of our young athletes these results are interesting, especially as the gym is not every athlete’s favourite place to be (believe me).


How do we get the most of our young athletes?


It may seem obvious that verbal encouragement and visual feedback provide superior results, when improving sports related tasks, but a question that has always been at the forefront of my mind is how do we get the most of our young athletes? I want to share my thoughts with you:



An old mentor of mine took pride in delivering his sessions with energy, I will never forget the intensity of those sessions. Delivering the sessions with passion, enthusiasm and flair makes even the mundane tasks exciting. Not only is it delivering with energy it is also getting the athletes on your level by first matching their energy and taking them to your desired destination (something he always told me). A good example of this could be bringing your athletes energy up when they seem a bit flat or bringing it down, when they seem a little too excitable. This a skill that takes time to develop but I believe it’s a skill worth practicing especially with the session you are trying to deliver. An example of this, may be high energy consistent verbal encouragement for a hard fitness conditioning session vs a grounded energy for more technical tasks that require higher levels of skill execution.


I believe that type and timing of feedback is vital for youth athletic development and the types of feedback will be discussed further in part two. I previously alluded to ‘specific feedback’ in building self-efficacy in youth, what did they do well? In this section I wanted to talk about timing of feedback concurrent vs terminal, or in simpler terms, feedback during or after the task. Dr Mike young does a great job in giving his thoughts on the timing of feedback, particularly in relation to the complexity of the task. He suggests that ”concurrent” feedback is best reserved for tasks that are simpler to execute, and ”terminal” feedback for more complex activities, to prevent worsening the movement or paralysis by analysis. I know my former self would try to correct everything all at once but this isn’t always favourable practice. With this in mind, excellent coaches will achieve desired outcomes with a constraints based approach and concise instruction.


A question I always ask myself is ‘How do we go about creating competition within our environments where young athletes display high levels of intent?’ and a further question is how do we get our athletes to display high levels of intent without digressing to far from the target task?’. This is always a fun topic to discuss as we try to strike the balance between stimulating competitions without losing sight of the main session focus. Athletes love to compete, it’s in their nature, why would we want to tame that? For me now, it’s finding tasks that we can measure and compare, creating games that challenge different qualities and making sure our language and the way we sell these activities to the players, always links back to our main session focus and their sport. For example, using the ‘acceleration noughts and crosses’ games in Tennis to reinforce appropriate levels of projection and drive enabling players to get to the ball quicker. So, with that game we get high levels of intent and relevance to the focus of the session, and their sport with the way it is fed back to the athlete.

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Final thoughts


I think we all attest that the longer we are in the area of youth physical development, we understand that the delivery of the program is a key component to its success. A great program will undoubtedly fail if it’s delivery is poor. At university, back then, Sports science/Strength and conditioning was focused around the granularity of programming rather than the art of coaching, which is primary but what if that individual is not putting in their true efforts, or they are lacking motivation? How then do we go about creating the desire to perform in that individual? These are just a few of my thoughts around this area would love to hear yours.

Show me, tell me, encourage me!


Thanks for reading guys,

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning coach.


Follow Konrad: @konrad_mcken

Follow Daz: @apacoachdaz



  • Pareja‐Blanco F, Rodríguez‐Rosell D, Sánchez‐Medina L, Sanchis‐Moysi J, Dorado C, Mora‐Custodio R, Yáñez‐García J, Morales‐Alamo D, Pérez‐Suárez I, and Calbet J. Effects of velocity loss during resistance training on athletic performance, strength gains and muscle adaptations. Scand J Med Sci Sports 27: 724-735, 2017.
  • Weakley, J and Wilson, K and Till, K and Banyard, H and Dyson, J and Phibbs, P and Read, D and Jones, B (2018) Show me, Tell me, Encourage me: The Effect of Different Forms of Feedback on Resistance Training Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. ISSN 1064-8011 DOI:
  • Weakley, J., Wilson, K., Till, K., Read, D., Darrall-Jones, J., Roe, G., Phibbs, P. and Jones, B., 2019. Visual Feedback Attenuates Mean Concentric Barbell Velocity Loss and Improves Motivation, Competitiveness, and Perceived Workload in Male Adolescent Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(9), pp.2420-2425.
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Nailing the Basics – Nutrition for the Youth Athlete

Nailing the basics: Youth athlete nutrition


Young athlete nutrition is vital due to the sheer volume of work they may be exposed to. Some young athletes take part in numerous training sessions and games per week as a result of school and external club sports. Additionally, growth and maturation add in another energy demand. I was doing talk at a strength and conditioning seminar, with high school athletes, and I asked a question to the group, “How many calories a day do you think  you need to consume?” I was inundated with blank faces until someone put up their hand and replied “1000 calories”… The reason I wanted to write about this topic is to give the reader a chance to learn the basics when it comes to youth athlete nutrition and perhaps, if you are a parent, this will encourage you to do further reading around this important topic. The topics I want to cover today are:


  • Why should a youth athlete focus on their energy consumption?
  • What types of foods should an athlete be consuming?
  • My views on supplementation in this population
  • Fluids and hydration?
  • My Practical recommendations


Why should a youth athlete focus on their energy consumption?


Normally, my favourite answer to this question is “What will happen if you place the wrong type/amount of fuel in your car?” you probably will not get very far. The point here is that the amount and type of nutrition is essential for the average athlete, participating in the numerous activities in a week. Research has pointed out that the balance between energy expenditure and intake is crucial to prevent energy deficit or excess (Purcell, 2013). In other words, it is important to get the balance between input and output in order to avoid the negative effects of excess body fat accumulation or on the other side of the spectrum, fatigue or injury due to insufficient calorie intake.

Also, the unique challenges youth athletes face with growth and maturation also pose another dimension. During accelerated periods of growth extra calories are needed to replenish the energy expended during athletic activities (Litt A, 2004).


What types of foods should youth athletes be consuming?


Before we dive into what types of foods our young athletes should consume, I thought it would be useful to give you a brief background on the macro and micronutrients.


Despite the negative press they seem to get in the fitness world, carbohydrates are a vital fuel source for athletes as they provide glucose. This glucose is used for energy and is stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver. Carbohydrates are a primary fuel source due to how quickly they can be released compared to other energy sources (Hoch, 2008). Research has suggested that carbohydrates should make up the majority of a diet, for 4-18 year olds (45-65%) (Otten, 2006). Useful sources of carbohydrate include wholegrains, vegetables and fruits.


Proteins builds and repairs muscles, hair nails and skin. Protein are organic molecules made up of amino acids, these amino acids can be subdivided into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential amino acids.  Non-essential amino acids are produced within the body. Protein has many functions in the human body but to name a few, it is needed to coordinate cell activity, transport various substances around the body, defending the immune system and aids in the growth and repair of the muscle cells. Ideally, athletes will want to remain in positive protein balance throughout the day in order to maximise protein synthesis. Finally, there are reported benefits of consuming protein with carbohydrates to enhance recovery. Lean sources of protein include poultry, fish and eggs.


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Fat is important for a number of reasons including absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) insulation, and protection of vital organs. Healthy fats can increase levels of satiety, it is an energy dense source of energy (1 gram provides 9 calories) but unlike carbohydrates it is harder to use (Purcell, 2013). It is suggested that saturated fats should compromise no more than 10% of total energy intake (Meyer, 2007). Good sources of fat come from food sources such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Whilst it is probably tempting to read this section and stock up on oven chips, sweets and cakes these sources of fat should be minimised.


There are a multitude of vitamins and minerals that can be discussed but to keep this blog from becoming a dissertation, the main micronutrients I want to discuss for youth athletes are Calcium, Vitamin D and Iron.

Calcium is important for bone health, normal enzyme activity and muscle contraction (Purcell, 2013). It can be found in foods and beverages such as milk, yoghurt, spinach & cheese. In Britain we can all assent that sunshine is not a regular occurrence (it is also a leading topic of conversation in the UK) particularly in the winter periods. Vitamin D deficiency is actually quite common (approximately 30-40% of general population amongst all age groups) with factors such as location, skin colour, lifestyle and weather all affecting serum Vitamin D levels (More, 2020).

Vitamin D is particularly important for youth with regard to bone development and immunity. Additionally, sufficient levels of vitamin D are needed for the uptake and absorption of calcium (Purcell, 2013). Vitamin D can be sourced from fortified foods, milk and sun exposure. In some cases, Vitamin D is be supplemented in high doses when blood tests show a large deficiency. Lastly, the next micronutrient that is going to be discussed briefly is Iron. During adolescence iron is needed to support growth, increases in blood volume and lean muscle mass (Hoch, 2008).  Iron deficiencies typically stem from a diets lacking in poultry, meat or fish.  Additional factors include iron lost in sweat and menstrual blood (Winter, 2000). Therefore, some authors suggest that female athletes, long distance runners and vegetarians should be periodically screened for iron deficiencies (Winter, 2000). Iron dense foods include green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, eggs and lean meat.


Athletes who train and compete, particularly in hot environments will experience significant levels of sweat and subsequent fluid loss. Large levels of dehydration not only reduces performance but it could place young athletes at risk of heat exhaustion (Rowland, 2011).  Moreover, the role of fluid balance is vital with regards to maintaining optimal fluid levels and regulating body temperature. How much fluid an athlete will need will depend on a number of factors such as body mass, age (Rowland, 2011) and individual sweat rates. As well as the fluid lost through sweat, we also know that a degree of electrolytes are lost too, particularly sodium. Appropriate levels of sodium are needed to stimulate thirst and contribute towards fluid retention (Hoch, 2008). So whilst it is important to make sure children are suitably hydrated, we also want them to consume drinks with added electrolytes particularly for events lasting longer than 60 minutes (Rowland, 2011).


My views on supplements?


Supplements can be a great addition to our nutritional needs. However, I want us to revert to the title ‘Nail the basics’. Supplements are there to support a healthy diet, not replace it. I get a lot of questions from my athletes regarding, what the best protein powder is. My answer is always as follows ‘a sturdy house is never built on shaky foundations’ ironically this is what a PE teacher had once told me back in high school, regarding the same issue. Nail the basics,

Make sure your diet has the correct macro and micronutrients, make sure you are hydrated! With this piece of knowledge I want to give you some practical recommendations

Practical recommendations


Before you read this section, I want to share that these are very general recommendations. Each individual will have unique requirements but I hope this will give you some basic principles around youth athlete nutrition.

  • Ensure the young athlete has 3 main meals a day with nutritious snacks in between.
  • Meals should include a healthy balance of carbohydrates fats, and proteins.
  • Carbohydrates should be present in all meals, with starchy carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes and pasta throughout the day, and a focus on consuming carbohydrates from vegetables during the evening.
  • Timing of training/competitions will dictate what food you will consume throughout the day. The closer the athlete is to competition, the more focus should be on easily absorbed, higher glycaemic carbohydrates.
  • Protein consumption is vital for a developing athlete therefore it should be consumed throughout the day, with special attention post training. Players should look to consume protein within 30-60 minutes post training.
  • Protein consumed with carbohydrates improves recovery, therefore individuals should look to consume these together. How much protein and carbohydrate will depend on the intensity and duration of the training session and could range anywhere between 20-25g and 30-100g respectively.
  • Consume 5-10 portion of fruit and vegetables per day. A good rule of thumb: The wider the variety of colours the increased variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Ensure your players carry a water bottle, drinking little and often.
  • If a sporting event lasts more than 60 mins consider consuming drinks with added electrolytes, particularly if they are heavy sweaters.
  • Urine colour is a fast effective gauge of hydration levels and should be pale/clear colour. If urine is a yellow/dark colour it is a good indication of dehydration.

As with training, consistency is key. However, it doesn’t have to be dull either. After all, they are kids so the odd piece of chocolate is not going to do harm. Additionally getting creative/learning to cook with different recipes may also be great for their development! The point of this article was to give the reader the fundamentals around nutrition to keep their growing youngsters healthy. I want to further reiterate that these are just generic guidelines and those needing specialist advice should go and seek a registered nutritionist.


Thanks for reading guys, nail the basics.

Konrad McKenzie

Strength and Conditioning coach.


Follow Konrad: @konrad_mcken

Follow Daz: @apacoachdaz



  • Dietitians of Canada, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine Joint position statement: Nutrition and athletic performance. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2000;61(14):176–92
  • Hoch AZ, Goossen K, Kretschmer TPhys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2008 May; 19(2):373-98,J Sports Sci. 2007; 25 Suppl 1():S73-82.
  • Litt A. Fuel for young athletes: Essential foods and fluids for future champions.Windsor: Human Kinetics; 2004.
  • Meyer F, O’Connor H, Shirreffs SM, International Association of Athletics Federations.
  • More, J., 2020. Prevention Of Vitamin D Deficiency | BJFM. [online] BJFM. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 June 2020].
  • Otten JJ, Hellwig JP, Meyers LD, editors. Dietary reference intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements.National Academies Press; 2006.
  • Rowland, T., 2011. Fluid Replacement Requirements for Child Athletes. Sports Medicine, 41(4), pp.279-288.
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          • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
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          Training the youth athlete: How specific to the sport do we need to be?

          A word from APA owner, Daz Drake.

          This week’s blog comes from APA coach Konrad McKenzie.  In my last two blogs I wrote about the topic ”There is no such thing as a sport specific strength exercise.”  In case you missed it you can read Part 1, and Part 2.

          These two blogs were inspired but a great discussion I was having on a Tennis forum.  Off the back of that Konrad recommended I read an article written in the NSCA Strength & Conditioning journal.

          Konrad has done a terrific job of summarising the article and leaves a few of his own thoughts on how this could relate to youth athletes.  Enjoy!

          Training the youth athlete: How specific to the sport do we need to be?

          I recently read an article by the NSCA titled: Transfer of Training: How Specific Should We Be? This is an area which has always interested me as there has always been discussions around this topic. I wanted to review this article and also create some discussion around the implications for youth athletic development, relating to this article. Generally speaking, the authors suggest coaches have varying ideas on how much specificity is required to transfer to better sports performance. The definition of transfer they have used, refers to the degree of crossover from a training means to a desired outcome or task, for example, this could be the degree to which a jump squat transfers into improved jump performances in Volley ball players. Whilst some coaches advocate using exercises which are highly specific to the target task, others believe that training the general physiological capacities will transfer to sporting skill this operates on a spectrum. The questions are:

          • If we are so focussed on specificity are we missing out on overload?
          • What are the different types of overload outside of traditional methods and how can these be specific?
          • What is the best approach when training youth athletes?

          Firstly, I want to outline that the paper does a great job in describing the different types of overload, with relation to specificity. I’ll explain each very briefly to give the reader an understanding around this principle, but I do suggest going over to heading over to the paper and giving it a read!

          • Coordinative Overload
          • Mixed-methods
          • Traditional Methods (Specific)
          • Traditional Methods (General)

          Coordinative Overload

          This is a bias towards developing the skill element and motor learning over developing the physiological capacities of the athlete.

          This method requires the reader to redefine the definition of overload beyond Newtonian and physiological ideas of progressively adding weight to the barbell. But imposing overload through variation; by creating subtle changes in the target task, which are familiar to the athlete (Bosch, 2016). The paper uses a nice example of high speed running and creating variation by imposing new coordinative challenges such as creating instability through uneven surfaces or gradient. It is important to remember that in order to do this successfully, variations of the required movement need to be small to create the desired adaptation- intermuscular coordination.


          Mixed Methods

          This approach uses a mixture of traditional and specific training methods, typically with this method a coach decides when it is right to apply very specific and general principles within a training program. The idea here is that an athlete needs to the capacity to produce force but needs to be skilful enough to direct this force optimally. For example, in sprinting where the importance on the rate and magnitude of force produced, express a clear relationship between capacity and skill. Furthermore, this approach makes it difficult to completely separate coordinative and traditional overload. For example, if I want to work on acceleration using a sled is this considered overload through traditional or coordinative means? Probably both. Also, the author suggests that this type of training is likely to allow the athlete to apply the gym based strength gains to the associated intermuscular coordination of the sporting task.

          Traditional Overload (Specific)

          This is the idea of mechanically overloading a part of the target movement pattern. This particular type of overload looks at specificity at the muscular recruitment level, sharing similarities to the intermuscular, intramuscular and velocity of the task.

          Intramuscular coordination– referred to as “Specificity on the inside” This is to the type of muscular contraction (eccentric, isometric, concentric) of the sports movement. Bosch suggests that the similarity of the specific muscle activity is the first step of ensuring specificity (Bosch, 2016). The author states that, with this type of specificity, musculotendinous behaviour is more important for transfer to the sporting task, than the visual resemblance.

          Intermuscular coordination –Intramuscular describes the activity within a muscle, intermuscular coordination, also referred to as force- couple relationship, looks at the synergy between different muscles for efficient movement within the human movement system. As described by the author the idea here, is that realization of new found gym strength is limited unless, the coordinative intermuscular relationships are practiced, therefore increasing transfer and specificity.


          Traditional Overload (General)

          Traditional overload is probably the most familiar with a lot of coaches and is the methodology of developing the general physiological capacities with the belief, that these will be enough to transfer to the sporting skill. It is apparent that structural, neural and muscle fibre transformation makes up the majority of the support for this type of specificity. A great example they use is the positive correlation between maximal isometric strength and measures of agility (Bazyler et al, 2015; Dos’Santos et al 2017).

          So where does this lead, with youth training?

          An extensive argument will fall outside the realms of this blog. But, I hope it will stimulate some discussion.

          Before we nosedive into this question, it’s important to appreciate that context is king. This could be down to the environment you are operating in to the demands of the sport in question. Additionally, it is knowing the athlete and understanding their strengths, limitations and current stage of development. It is also going to be dependent on your coaching philosophy, what you think specific training looks like and how you go about achieving this. Finally, when dealing with youth, it is recognising the complexities of training this special population for example, the period of growth and maturation may temporarily alter some of their physical qualities, particularly coordination. There will be a time and place for every method mentioned.

          The more experience I gain in the industry and the more I learn, I would argue that my approach now, will lean toward the mixed methods approach. Utilising both a general and a specific approach for increasing transfer to the sporting task. Surfing the spectrum between traditional and coordinative overload.  Some will argue that a traditional overload model is all that’s warranted for a developing athlete but I do believe that there are limitations to this.

          Would a coach who cements his philosophy solely on traditional principles of overload be missing out on a whole array of opportunity to develop important qualities such as skill acquisition? Would a young athlete who is capable of producing large amounts of force be able to express it in varying environments? Is a correlation between traditional methods of training and sporting skill also a causation?

          These are just questions which I have asked myself especially in a sport like Tennis which requires excellent rhythm, timing and readjustment. Alternatively, developing structural and neural qualities are vital to athletic development, particularly if thinking about enhancing output, robustness and injury prevention. Ideally, I would like an athlete to possess the capacity to withstand the rigors of competition/tournaments whilst being able to express suitable levels force in unpredictable environments, with precision, finesse and efficiency. These, in my personal opinion, will warrant a mixed methods approach.


          Thanks for reading!


          Konrad McKenzie

          Strength and Conditioning Coach


          Follow Konrad: @konrad_mcken

          Follow Daz: @apacoachdaz



          • Bazyler CD, Beckham GK, Sato K, Bazyler C. The use of the isometric squat as a measure of strength and explosiveness. J Strength Cond Res 29: 1386–1392, 2015.
          • Brearley, S. and Bishop, C., 2019. Transfer of Training. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 41(3), pp.97-109.
          • Bosch F. Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach. Rotterdam, the Netherlands: 2010 uitgevers, 2016.
          • Dos’Santos T, Thomas C, Comfort P, Jones P. Relationships between isometric force-time characteristics and dynamic performance. Sports 5: 1–12, 2017.
          • Wang R, Hoffman JR, Tanigawa S, Miramonti AA, La Monica MB, Beyer KS, Church DD, Fukuda DH, Stout JR. Isometric mid-thigh pull correlates with strength, sprint, and agility performance in collegiate rugby union players. J Strength Cond Res 30: 3051–3056, 2016.
          • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
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