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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW – Episode 385 Paul Comfort – Part 2

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 385 – Paul Comfort

 

The majority of the episode focuses on isometric training.   Due to the amount and quality of information the full podcast review will be split up into two parts.  This is a Part 2 of 2, which will focus on practical applications of isometric training and eccentric training.   Click here to read Part 1.

Paul Comfort

 

Paul Comfort is a Reader in Strength and Conditioning and programme leader for the MSc Strength and Conditioning at the University of Salford, and is this week’s guest on the Pacey Performance Podcast. He’s here to talk to Rob about isometric testing and training, and why there has been a recent resurgence in its popularity.

 

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🔊 Listen to the full episode here

 

Discussion topics:

 

Isometric Testing & dynamic performance

 

”Just try to make this transition over into the isometric training side of things. And I probably should have mentioned this at the start actually, what are the links to dynamic performance when doing isometric testing? How is that link made?”

 

”So if you look at something like the isometric mid thigh pull or the isometric squat, there’s a huge number of studies out there that show strong correlations between your ability to produce very high forces, so the peak force or peak force relative to mass, and performance in other dynamic strength tests or tasks. So 1RM squat, 1RM deadlift, snatch, power snatch, clean, power clean performance, etc. And in weightlifters, they’re almost perfect correlations, which isn’t surprising because they’re so used to getting into those positions for the isometric mid thigh pull.  But even if we look at how they relate to things like sprint performance, jump performance, there are still strong correlations there. Now correlation doesn’t mean cause and effect just because there’s a strong correlation. It doesn’t mean if we increase peak force in an isometric mid thigh pull, you will increase your 1RM performance or your sprint performance.

 

However, there are a few studies out there that do indicate that as your peak force increases, your ability to accelerate increases. Or as force at a specific time point increases, your ability to accelerate during a sprint or a jump, etc increases. Now that makes sense if we go back to your basic biomechanics, because we know that it’s your relative net impulse, with impulse being force x time and relative meaning dividing it by your body mass. As long as your body mass stays the same, if you can increase the amount of force you produce in the same given time point, your ability to accelerate will have increased.

 

 

Now when we evaluate it in a isometric task, then we’ve got to hope that the athlete can actually use that force and still produce a higher force in the same time frame when they perform their dynamic task. But if you’ve got the right balance between what you’re doing in the weight room, and their skill specific training, the sprint drills you might do, the jump training, the bounding and plyometrics. If you’ve got the right balance there, you should get that transference. No amount of work in the weight room will immediately transfer to a really highly skilled task. But even just on observation, if you get somebody much stronger and their peak force goes up and then their force at 150 milliseconds goes up, their ability to accelerate when they’re sprinting, jumping, does start to improve.

 

There is sometimes a lag time. So the problem with some of the research is that you do a four week or a six week block of training. You get to the end of that block and you retest them [without doing a deload first]. Well, actually, if you’ve used progressive overload, which we should all be doing, you’ve had a progressive increase in possibly load or intensity, definitely in volume. And therefore we’ve added fatigue across that few weeks of training, whether it’s four or six weeks. And you look at some studies, there’s not an unloading week, there’s not a deload week, but that’s what we do when we train people normally. You have an accumulation of fatigue during that three, four, five, six week buildup. And then we have a week where we back off, we deload, we taper, whatever term you want to use for it, then retest them when fatigue is dissipated.

 

 

And the reason I mention that is if you look at a lot Dr. Andy Fries early work on overreaching, over training, they really battered people. Some of their training programmes, you look at them and think how the hell did people get through that? And you find that peak force or their maximum strength is pretty stable. It doesn’t decrease dramatically. You can push people really hard and maximum force production doesn’t go down. But their ability to produce force rapidly decreases. So if we’ve got a similar approach where we’ve got a progressive increase in volume and we then test them right at the end of that block, it’s not surprising that you’re going to see a slight decrease in their ability to produce force rapidly because they’re fatigued. So we need that appropriate deload or taper before we retest.

 

And it doesn’t always happen within the research. Partly due to time constraints, partly due to them getting the athletes to actually take a bit of time off. And sometimes because people just don’t know any better, which is problematic in itself. So, there is that strong correlation, but it all comes down to your ability to produce force, high forces in a short duration, which is why it’s so important to have that. If we do an isometric testing to really try and quantify how much force they can produce in a certain time point, because that will indicate that they can generate a greater impulse and therefore if they can apply that greater impulse during sports specific tasks, we will get greater acceleration, whether that’s of their mass or whether that’s of an object they’re throwing or whatever it might be.”

 

Isometric Training

 

”Transitioning to the isometric training side. So as you’ve said right at the start, this is a complementary method of training to your traditional strength training, but just taking it back again, what are the benefits of isometric training and what areas does it plug that traditional strength training maybe doesn’t?”

 

”Well, I think one of the things that’s really useful is it’s minimally fatiguing. So because you are actually not moving through a large range of motion and you can easily control the duration of each isometric muscle action, you can minimize fatigue. It doesn’t have the eccentric component in there, which we get with traditional strength training, which while really beneficial, actually, if you are using an unfamiliar task may cause muscle damage, may cause DOMS, pain, inhibition and that’s one of the concerns with athletes when you introduce a new stimulus is if they come back in a day or two later complaining to the medical staff that they’re really sore. Some of them, if they’re not used to that type of training, we’ll be saying they’ve pulled the hamstring or they’ve pulled the groin or whatever.  No, you are just sore because you don’t train hard enough.  That’s what happens most of the time. It’s unlikely they’ll have pulled something in a structured weight training programme or resistance training programme if you’ve been appropriately progressive in nature. So it’s not as fatiguing.

 

And then the other benefit is everyone has sticking points during certain exercises. You start trying to do a squat, a deadlift, if you fail, there’s always a specific point you’ll fail at, normally somewhere midpoint through the range of motion, depending on where your weakness is. So you can train people in those weak positions and that can help them get through those sticking points.

 

 

And you can do that without adding a huge amount of extra volume. But as I mentioned earlier, and as you’ve just restated, it isn’t a substitute for your standard resistance training. Otherwise you’d have to train at so many different joint angles to get that transference throughout that full range of motion that you’d end up with all sorts of issues in terms of time.  For example, I’ve been trying to do an isometric squat. It’s taken me an hour to get all these different positions for enough repetitions with enough force while that was really counterproductive because I could have done that just with a few sets of squats doing a dynamic squatting type task.

 

So, you know, there are some benefits, but you’ve also got to take a step back and think, what do I really need from this?”

 

”What does the research say around that transference of specific positions? So if I’m training at a particular angle, what’s the transference?”

 

”Well, a lot of the early research seems to indicate that you’re looking at plus or minus 15 degrees from the joint angle you were training at. And that seems to be correct if you are just doing isometric training. Some of the more recent studies that have been published seem to show a slightly greater range, but that is when they’re combined with dynamic heavy strength training. So that probably helps with that transference, because you’re still doing other training and that’s the problem you get sometimes when we’ve got to do really well controlled studies in very controlled environments so that we know that whatever our intervention is, is what’s had the effect.

 

But then we also have to do those studies where they’re more ecologically valid. They are what we would do in an applied environment. So they are what we’re going to do with our football team, with our rugby team, with whatever that sport is. And then that’s when we seem to find that either what was done in that control lab environment doesn’t work or it doesn’t work as well; or sometimes, oh my God, this works much better because it’s in addition to other types of training. Some of the early studies on isometric training showed an increase in rate force development, but a decrease in jump performance. Well, how does that work? You would assume that if your rate force development increases, your jump performance should increase, but actually they were assessing rate of force development during a single joint isometric task. And then comparing that to jump performance where you’ve been training at zero velocity for the last six weeks.

 

So, and your jump height is determined by your velocity at takeoff and you are used to training at zero velocity. So is that really surprising when we think about specificity of training that your jump height decreased? No, it’s probably not. But again, look at the studies where it’s combined as an addition to your normal training and we tend to get beneficial adaptations. And it’s not just about the performance side of things, there’s a lot of research showing the benefits for isometric type training. As an analgesic, if you’ve got tendon pain before training in competition, actually to create adaptations in your tendons to make them stiffer, to increase the amount of collagen, etc. So they’re more resilient to stress strain and therefore injury.

 

However, bear in mind a tendon doesn’t know what type of muscle actions are occurring. It’s just got stress and strain applied to it.  But the benefit is it’s very, very controlled when it’s isometric. And if somebody has got a bit of pain, you can ramp that up progressively. Whereas it’s not quite the same because you suddenly throw them into a plyometric task.”

 

”In terms of the manipulating the variables when it comes to isometrics and potential recommendations, how can we manipulate isometric to get what we want? And if there’s any recommendations out there, that would be great?”

 

”If you look across the research, it’s pretty varied. I don’t think there is a true consensus because the studies are set up to get different results. Some are tendon related, some are for performance. If you think about it practically, if you identify where someone’s weak point is, that point that they slow down,  unintentionally during an exercise. So if you are going to use an isometric squat to supplement your dynamic squat training, find what that sticking point is. Find the point that they’re really having to grind through and you don’t need to assess velocity of the movement. That point with a heavy load where they really start struggling, we can all see that. They can tell you that posture. They know it because they thought they were going to fail at that point.

 

That’s the point that their face goes purple as well. So it’s really easy to spot. So actually doing some repetitions, not necessarily for a prolonged duration because you still want a really high effort. And again, the problem is if we do a really prolonged duration and a near maximal effort, we will induce fatigue. So you’re looking at your three to five second efforts, we know that you should be able to achieve peak isometric force in under two seconds. And from looking at all the forced time data that I’ve collected with isometric squats and mid thigh pulls, within five seconds, everyone’s force production starts to go down. So if you’re looking at a three to five second effort near maximum, I personally find that to be one of the most effective ways of getting people to get through sticking points. And we also want to train our athletes to express force rapidly.

 

So actually doing really prolonged holds may be grate for rehabilitation purposes. And if somebody’s had a niggling injury and that’s continued, that might be really, really beneficial, but from a performance point of view, doing three to five repetitions, three to five seconds per effort. And if you can assess that with a strain gauge or with a force plate setup, that will give you some additional feedback, but even without that you can tell if they’re working hard or not.  Watch an athletes’ face, are they holding their breath? Are they gasping for breath when they finished a repetition? Are they shaking during the task? Most people will. So you can see most of that without the strain gauge or without an isometric mid thigh pull. But actually if you’ve got the force plate to do this type of testing during their training you can also get people really competitive.

 

So if you and I were training, we can both, if we’re sort of a similar stature, we can both get onto a force plate, and do an isometric squat. I do a five second effort. Step away, you do a five second effort and we compete against each other. You’re really going to get maximal buy-in and maximum intent then. And you might not need to do it with your whole squad. There may be some athletes you think, right, this will be really useful for them. And again, a good way of sort of judging those joint angles based on where you perceive their weaknesses to be. And that’s easy during some of those dynamic strength exercises. You’ll really see that.”

 

Eccentric Training

 

”I’m just conscious that we’ve talked about isometrics been supplementary and not to miss out eccentric and concentric contractions, which you’ve mentioned as well. So where does eccentric focus training fit into this and what are the benefits? What we can gain from eccentric training?”

 

”So with eccentric we can again get really, really high forces being produced. We’ve got to implement that eccentric load appropriately though. And I’ll come to that in a moment. We know that if you’ve got a high eccentric load, which is greater than the load during a concentric task, that we can increase fascicle lengths. And if we can increase muscle fascicle lengths, we increase the potential for those fascicles to shorten at higher velocity. So I’ll try not to go off topic here, but if you look at the force velocity relationship, the majority of people get that wrong and I’ll hold my hands up. I’ve probably made that worse with some figures I’ve put in publications, textbooks, etc, but the force velocity relationship comes from fascicle shortening velocity and individual fascicles and the amount of force they can generate.

 

It’s not movement velocity, which is how most people interpret it. So it’s how quickly your fascicle can shorten. Now if your fascicles shorten more rapidly because they’re longer and you’ve got the optimal pennation angle for that, you will undoubtedly get a higher movement velocity from those individuals.  Eccentric training increases fascicle length because you are getting the muscles being stretched while it’s producing a high force. And that’s the key. You need a high force, so you can do tempo type eccentric training. We can get people lowering down over a prolonged period of time. That increases time under tension that may create a hypertrophic stimulus where we get more muscle mass. But it’s not truly eccentric training.  You’re moving at a really low velocity. 

 

[Personal communication with Paul: ”it’s not truly eccentric training because as was stated earlier, a high eccentric load has to be one which is greater than the load during a concentric task, in order to increase increase fascicle lengths.  tempo training prescriptions are usually around 80-85% 1RM for 3-5 seconds lower and you the lift it back up concentrically.  This is a good introduction to the controlled tempos but the load is insufficient to overload the eccentric component.] 

 

The goal of eccentrics is to get a higher force at a higher velocity but how you train that in the weight room is focus on the higher focus component. Imagine trying to squat down quickly with a high load.  That doesn’t happen if you are squatting and you put extra weight on the bar. If you want to move at high velocity, you relax and gravity accelerates you down. You can’t move any quicker than just relaxing and letting gravity push you to the floor. With safety bars and stuff like that in your power rack, obviously you don’t want to get squashed or crush your athlete.  So the key thing is if you are trying to apply really high force or using a high load, the eccentrics in that situation with multi-joint movements need to be slow and controlled.

 

Personally, if I’m doing it and I’m trying to use an eccentric overload, I’ll do a front squat because it’s so easy to drop the bar rather than a back squat. You’ve got to be good at jumping out from under that bar if you start to move too fast or have it set up inside a rack with the safety bar set just around your minimum squat, your maximum squat depth, the minimum height you’re going to achieve.

 

They’re really, really beneficial, but again, as an addition to your normal training. Now, if you’ve got no equipment and I’ll just stick with a squat as an example, because it’s probably the easiest one. If we want to create eccentric overload, go above your 1RM, set those safety pins. Go to about your maximum squat depth and do a very slow controlled squat. Probably going to take three to five seconds to get down there. If you think about when you’re going for a 1RM anyway, you squat down slowly. You don’t go down rapidly, because you’re going to get squashed. So you go down slow. If you’ve gone 10% above that (concentric 1RM), you’ll go down slower. The only problem is then you need a couple of strong people to lift that bar back up or you need to unload it and then lift it backup.

 

So it’s not always practical. There are some commercial devices on the market where you can do that and it’ll winch it back for you. But most people won’t have those. The other option is to use weight releasers, the j hooks that hang on the end of the bar, you can put weight on it. You get to the floor, they’ve got an angle on them, so they’ll actually flip off when you get to the bottom. Just make sure you set the height of those weight releasers, five to eight centimetres longer than you need so that when you get to the bottom of your squat or whatever lift you are doing, that they do release and make sure you’re symmetrical when you squat down because if one comes off one side and not the other, you’re in a whole world of trouble there.

 

 

So practice it with the warm-up weights and slowly build up. And you’ve got a whole range of things you can do with that. You can do it to almost try and potentiate or enhance your propulsive phase. So you could put 80% of your 1RM on the bar, 30% of your concentric or your traditional 1RM on the weight releases, you’ve got 110% 1RM. Squat down, then release, and then you come up as explosively or fast as you can. You can use it for hypertrophy as well. So we get that increased time under tension on the way down and we can use it for actually just getting that higher eccentric stimulus. As long as you squat, you get back to the top and then two people hook the weights back on for you.

 

The nice thing is for that you can end up doing that as a cluster set. Somebody put the weights on, you then pick the bar back up, step back, squat again. It takes a little bit longer, but actually you do less volume if you’re doing that high loads eccentric type training because it does create some muscle damage.

 

Now the other thing to bear in mind with this is that muscle damage is not a bad thing because it gives you the repeated bout effect. And it’s not just from eccentric training. You get that just from a novel stimulus. So if you’ve been focusing bilateral training, front squat, back squats, deadlifts, and you suddenly throw in a load of split squats, lunges, rear elevated split squats, you’ll ache in different places. The next day you’ll feel it more in your glutes and you groin, etc, because you’re stabilizing.

 

That’s not because it was a much higher load. It might have been a lower load overall. If you work out the total load lifted, it might be a lower volume. But it’s a novel stimulus. So when you introduce a novel stimulus, whether eccentric or whether they’re just going from bilateral dominant to unilateral, ideally build it in progressively because you will get a little bit sore, but that initial bout of, especially if it’s eccentric training, protects you against some of that muscle damage and the soreness and the inhibition during the subsequent bout. So your first bout, do a really low volume. If you’re doing it with squats, maybe do it on your first repetition of a squat or weight releasers. So if you’re training at 80% of 1RM, you put that extra 30% on, so you lower 110% your 1RM.

 

Do do it for one rep. Your first rep of a set and do it on the first rep, maybe the three or four sets. That is likely to give you a protective effect. Next time you can do it within the set. You know, you can cluster your set. If you’re doing sets of six, rep one as the weight releases on, then you do two and three normally, rank the bar, put the weight releases back on, do rep four with the weight releases five and six or without you’ve doubled the volume of eccentric training. So build it up progressively, because the last thing you want is your athletes coming back in telling you how much they’re aching the next day, turning around to the coach saying that they’re in bits, turning around to the medical staff because they won’t want you doing that type of training again, but it can be really beneficial.

 

And the few studies that are out there that there’s one by Mellissa Harden, where she used a control group trained athletes and some very well trained athletes. It was some GB cyclists, and they showed within a four week period substantial improvements in maximum and rapid force production from doing that type of training, using an eccentric leg press. Now there is an issue with that. No one else has access to that eccentric leg press apart from British cycling, but hey it worked. It shows, you know, the theory holds true. There’s a couple of studies by Simon Walker, which I think both Rob Newton, Keijo Häkkinen and Gregory Haff were part of that research group at that point, looking at different types of eccentric training in a more applied environment, more ecologically valid. So not just isolated, single joint eccentric training. And again, they’ve shown big increases in a short duration.

 

But again with a relatively conservative loading paradigm that they’ve used and I think that’s the key thing is you have to do a small amount because we know it will create some muscle damage. So be conservative with it. A lot of the research, researchers will say, we need to get this stimulus. We need to make sure it has a positive effect, but you know, if you turn around, look at some of the early studies on Nordics where they were doing 50 plus repetitions in a week, or sets of 10. I know after three, my subsequent reps are pretty poor because it feels like everything’s going to cramp up. And we now know that those lower volumes are maybe not quite as effective, but you get much better adherence and longer term, they will be more effective.

 

So you’ve really got to be conservative with how you apply that eccentric load. There’s lots of different ways to do it. But there are some pretty simple and easy to apply options in a normal setting if you haven’t got specialist equipment. And the weight releasers you can buy those for probably 200 pounds or if you know anybody that’s good with metal work, they can probably make some for you.”

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1.  Isometric training/testing – use it for maintenance of strength during periods of fixture congestion.
  2.  KPIs for isometrics – Peak Force (relative to body mass)and Rate of Force Development (RFD)
  3.  Validity/Reliability – be aware of different time points used for testing and also the different tests (isometric squat vs IMTP, and 50, 100, 50 ms etc).
  4.  Time period of isometric – for peak force perform 3-5 trials of up to 4-5 seconds and for RFD use a 1-second explosive effort.
  5.  Strain gauges could be a less expensive alternative to force plates, but will be less reliable.  Likewise single joint tests will be more useful than multi-joint isometric assessments.

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

Paul Comfort Research Gate

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 383 James Moore

Episode 380 Alastair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

 

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Task based drills vs Game based skills- why it matters

This year one of my friends and colleagues Sergio Gomez-Cuesta (who is the Head of Performance, Science and Medicine Support and 10U Player Development Lead at Gosling Tennis Academy) has been running some coach education for Gosling coaches on coaching frameworks designed to maximise skill acquisition and development in Tennis players.

 

 

Despite constraints based coaching being a rapidly evolving part of skill acquisition theory and practice it is certainly not new.

 

I can’t believe that it is 2014 when I first wrote about the influence of cognitive factors on physiological performance.  How time flies!

 

Truth be told, at that point in time, I wrote about it but didn’t make any real changes in my coaching framework, and from speaking to coaches I get the sense I wasn’t alone.  A lot of coaches seem to be aware of these new coaching terms such as ecological dynamic systems, constraint based coaching, implicit versus explicit coaching etc.  But for whatever reason are not necessarily incorporating them into their current coaching practices.

 

This was me in 2014.  It’s less me now in 2022.  So what changed? Well, first of all I have a coach to thank, Gabe Fishlock, who was a breath of fresh air.  He had just joined the team and started working with the existing syllabus at APA for 12-under and 10-under players for one term (April-July), and asked if he could re-vamp it for September, and put his mark on it.

 

Having the Courage to Change

 

This was a break through moment for both of our coach development- for Gabe- because he was a new kid on the block and showed tremendous courage to ask if he could tinker with something that he knew full well was personally written by me and at the time I was pretty happy with.  A break through for me, because I had to have the courage to let go of any attachment to something, acknowledge there were better ways to do things, and hear it from/trust someone with much less experience to show me how to do it!

 

To summarise the change in curriculum, it went from task-based drills to game-based skills

 

Now before I go any further with this blog, I want to discourage any coach from seeing this in black & white- I’m not here to tell you that drills are bad and you should never use drills to enhance technique, and neither am I here to tell you that you should only use games.

 

Instead, I just want to share with you a clear ”shift” in my approach with an ”emphasis” on a few key principles.  I’ll talk about some of them below and try and illustrate them with examples.

 

Coaching Principles

 

Technique

 

  • Perception- shapes our actions (not instructions from coaches)

 

  • Self organisation – leads to individualised optimal technique

 

  • Optimal technique – leads to adaptability

 

The first time I learnt about the difference between ‘technique’ and ‘skill’ was on by Football Association (FA) Level 2 Certificate in Football coaching in 2000.

 

Technique – the action without the context

 

Skill – the technique in context

 

Style – the individual adaptability of technique

 

 

”Expert tennis players apply the same biomechanical principles and technique BUT with DIFFERENT individual styles.”

 

 

👆 This photo went viral on social media showing Daniel Medvedev (current World Number 1 ATP Tour) getting into a ‘sub-optimal’ position.  Strength & conditioning coaches were cuing up to comment on this.  Okay, so it doesn’t look great, right?

 

You wouldn’t want to use this as the ‘technical model’ of movement to a running backhand.  But I’m guessing you wouldn’t mind being World Number 1 in one of the most brutally demanding sports on the planet (my opinion)?  Now, I’m not going to get too side tracked and make this a post about Medvedev’s technique but it is a good illustration of technique versus style.

 

For the record, I can’t remember what the outcome was of the point- I don’t know if he made the ball, he played a winning shot or he stayed in the rally, so someone please feel free to let me know!  But what I can say is that several tennis coaches have already done various commentaries of his ‘technique,’ and found that although it doesn’t look easy on the eye, it apparently conforms to the most important biomechanical principles (which I’m guessing are things like contact point of racket in relation to body etc).  It’s not just about how you get there, it’s about where you get to.

 

As I said in my 2014 post,

 

It is only the level of performing skill based tasks under pressure that creates the ranking in terms of the best performers.’

 

This doesn’t mean I no longer pay attention to the textbook technical model, or have a preference for one way of executing a task over or another.  Neither does it mean that I no longer guide beginners towards this technical model.  But, as we will see below, it’s about how you guide the learner with your coaching.  This is what I mean by the coaching framework.

 

So, moving onto the topic of coaching framework, let’s say we now have some understanding of the difference between technique and skill, how do you actually coach that?

 

 

Coaching Framework

 

I’ll break this down into the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW

 

The WHAT

 

Below is an adapted version of a slide Sergio shared with us.  An example of information led coaching would be a tennis coach standing next to the player (BOTH ON BASELINE) while dropping a ball for the player to hit, while they are standing still.

 

An example of context and constraints led coaching would be a tennis coach feeding the ball to a player across the net.

 

 

Information Led Approach

 

I was educated in the 1990s and 2000s so a lot of my knowledge and education in skill acquisition was based on the traditional motor learning theory of skill acquisition, which basically says that the ‘motor programme’ is the key thing.  Essentially it views skill learning as a software programme (or technique) that we need to upload to the hardware- and our bodies are like robots that learn by MEMORISING techniques in isolation as the most effective way to ‘upload the programme.’

 

Learning is DONE TO THE PLAYER-  learning is about the player practicing and repeating solutions GIVEN TO THE PLAYER by the coach.

 

Constraints Led Approach

 

In this approach the perception-action coupling is the key thing.   The context in which the skills are learnt is the most important thing.

 

Learning is DONE BY THE PLAYER-  learning is about practicing and repeating the process of finding the solutions BY THE PLAYER.

 

The WHY

 

What [information] the player PERCEIVES shapes their ACTIONS (this is referred to in the scientific literature as ACTION-PERCEPTION coupling).

 

What the player perceives shapes their actions MORE OPTIMALLY and without consciously thinking than instructions.

 

Example – a player has an elbow too close to their body when hitting a forehand.  The coach can ‘instruct’ them to straighten their arm, or the coach can create a physical barrier to increase the height of the net, which affords the player the opportunity to solve the problem by perceiving what happens to the ball when they explore different ways to get the ball over the net.

 

This leads nicely to the last point of today’s post- the HOW.

 

The HOW

 

Create a boundary within a competitive GAME-LIKE SITUATION that requires the technical/tactical skills instead of giving explicit detailed solutions and instruction.  This brings us back to where we started which is the title of the blog – Task based drills vs Game based skills- why it matters.

 

I still don’t feel I’ve done a good enough job of going over the WHY – yes I’ve mentioned that what the player perceives shapes their actions MORE OPTIMALLY than instructions.

 

But just to add to that, we as coaches can all probably agree we want LONG-TERM transfer to performance.  We want the skills to stick under high pressure, this is something we call ‘self-organisation.’  This is the natural ability that humans have to find solutions under constraints and without micromanaging and instructions.

 

”The technical skill blueprint that emerges is the most individualised, stable, flexible, context dependent and rapidly available movement solution to deal with pressure situations and super-fast sports.”

(S Gomez-Cuesta)

 

Now before all the purists jump in and say that beginners need to be instructed first, and they don’t have the tools to get to the ‘correct’ or ‘optimal’ solution on their own, can I first please refer you back to my 2014 blog.  In it I talk about working with beginners.  I totally hear you, you’re worried that athletes may learn poor movements and adopt bad habits.  This would only happen if you did the equivalent or throwing someone who couldn’t swim into the deep end and watch them drown.  Of course you have to guide them, and choosing where they need to spend their time so that they can safely progress.

 

 

To use the swimming analogy, they still get in the water, and you might even have them get their feet off the floor (even if it means wearing arm bands or using other flotation devices) but they are still swimming.   No swimming teacher would expect a child to learn to swim if they just stood still in the shallow end up to their waist in water swinging their arms backwards and forwards- yet this is what we do every week on the tennis court!

 

Working with Beginners

 

In the case of working with beginners or any situation when we are introducing a new skill to an athlete we could look at giving minimal coaching technical feedback and simply letting the athlete come up with the solution.   They will bring their own inherent variability to the party because they are learning to coordinate their body.
Ives and Shelvey (2003) say:

 

”To illustrate for functional training, we suggest that athletes not be told to perform weight training exercises with specific techniques. The athlete, within the bounds of safety, should be free to explore the exercises and become aware of their own movement effects and perceptual outcomes.  Rigorously defining ‘proper’ form and the use of mechanical stabilization and anti cheating aids excessively constrain athletes’ exploration and problem-solving movements, and bear little resemblance to that which occurs during athletic performances. With no instruction, however, the athlete may search endlessly for a proper movement solution.

 

Athletes may learn poor movements and adopt bad habits. The coach or trainer can guide the athlete by providing purposeful intent, ideas about where to focus attention, and clues to key perceptual cues. In this fashion, athletes are able to resolve problems and begin to understand the nature of movement on their own, and determine optimal solutions for themselves.”

 

In summary we can view the role of the coach as guiding the athlete to optimal performance through giving them a clear instruction on the intent we are looking for, and a few attentional cues BUT letting them solve the movement problem!

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW – Episode 385 Paul Comfort – Part 1

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 385 – Paul Comfort

 

The majority of the episode focuses on isometric training.   Due to the amount and quality of information the full podcast review will be split up into two parts.  This is a Part 1 of 2, which will focus on isometric testing.  The second part will focus on practical applications of isometric training and eccentric training.

 

Paul Comfort

 

Paul Comfort is a Reader in Strength and Conditioning and programme leader for the MSc Strength and Conditioning at the University of Salford, and is this week’s guest on the Pacey Performance Podcast. He’s here to talk to Rob about isometric testing and training, and why there has been a recent resurgence in its popularity.

 

Twitter

 

🔊 Listen to the full episode here

 

Discussion topics:

 

”It comes up all the time that people like yourself or even those in very much applied positions in professional and collegiate sport have come through having done personal training. How important is that being throughout your career to have that grounding of, like you say, just hours and hours of coaching and hours and hours of convincing this person to come back and pay you?”

 

”I think it’s huge. It’s having the right communications skills and being able to build the right rapport with people quite quickly as well. But it is different on an individual level to when you’ve got a group of athletes and also different than when you’ve got a group of different athletes. You know, even if you look at Rugby League and Rugby Union, they come from totally different demographics. And then if you look at football, they generally don’t want to do much to stuff in the weight room. So you’ve got to get buy-in really quickly. So the ability to communicate and get some relatively complex concepts across to them but in really simple terms initially is really, really important. We see that with university students all the time that those that have done some personal training, while their knowledge may be lacking in some areas based on whatever course they’ve done, you know, they can be a weekend call sometimes, which really isn’t going to qualify you.

 

Athletic Performance Academy

 

But if they’ve got the experience of coaching, whether that’s as a personal trainer, whether it’s as a sport coach, you know, a technical coach, whatever that is because they’re used to communicating, they actually pick things up so much better and they can get that information across the people so much in a much more user friendly way. And it comes across fluid and fluent rather than almost stage. You know, we teach students how to do this and you sort of give them a recipe of this is how you should approach it. And you can see them thinking, you know, almost that tick box approach, but it has to be natural otherwise it just looks forced.

 

So having develop those sort of skills to communicate effectively, whether it’s as a personal trainer or as a coach is really, really important. But also identifying that, you know, that there is a notable difference between what personal trainers normally do and what strength coaches normally do. There are some distinctions between them.

 

Get Relevant Experience

 

It’s definitely a big thing that we try and emphasize to our students from the first day they turn up, go out and get experience coaching.  Yes, you may need to work in a bar or whatever to earn some money as a student, but go out and get some relevant experience which will develop those skills.

 

Unfortunately, as with every university, those students ignore that for the first two years, get to the third year and start panicking. They’ve got no experience in the areas when they look at what is required to get a job, or to get an interview for a job. But you know, some of them do go out there and do it and the students that I’ve seen, certainly over the last 13 years at the University of Salford have done that from day one and gone over and above with things like placement hours, etc, in their final year.   They’re the ones that get the jobs at the end of it. And they’re the ones who we see develop that ability and their ability to communicate. Because I think sometimes if you’ve been through a university education, you forget how much you’ve learned and you forget all the technical terms you’re using, because everyone you’re around is using them. And then you say something to an athlete of any age and sometimes you just get a blank look and think, okay, that didn’t work and is being able to realize that they just didn’t understand at all what you’ve just said.

 

So yes, it’s definitely a really important skill for people to develop and you continually develop that over time. You know, even watching other people coach or train an individual and see how they cue them and they cue them in a different way and think, oh, brilliant, I’m stealing that, I’m using that next time.”

 

”In terms of hot topics on the podcast, one thing in particular is isometric testing and training, which is why I want to speak to you.  If you combine it with speed the interest off the charts. People love speed. People love isometrics. So why do you think there’s been such a resurgence in the last couple of years of interest?”

 

”Well, I think you can look at it from two perspectives. One is the isometric assessments and now force plates are so much more available than they were. They’re so much cheaper to conduct those isometric assessments. And obviously you’ve got strain gauges, etc, that you can use for it as well.

 

But it means that that equipment is much more accessible. If you go into the majority of sports teams that I can think of, I think in fact, all of the ones at the higher levels that we work with through the university or that I consult with separately, they’ve all got force plates. And actually a lot of them invite you in not to discuss the training aspects, but right, we’re collecting all this data. We’ve got X number of metrics coming out. What the hell do they all mean? Which do I need to use because I want to try and inform my practice on a daily basis. But if I’ve got a hundred plus variables, which ones do I choose? So how do I rationalize that?

 

 

So I think that’s one reason that the testing has become far more popular and it’s been used more in the research and obviously as people read more research, then they start thinking, maybe I should use this method of isometric testing. And then with the isometric training, I think there’s a few things, you know, Alex Natera has done a fantastic job of making this popular and some of the information easily accessible. Danny Lum more recently as well, but actually there’s still that culture of avoiding heavy lifting which is a problem in itself. But at least if you have a strength type stimulus during isometric training it’s better than nothing. In my opinion, it should be used in addition to that sort of normal traditional training and still make sure you get progressive overload, but it definitely makes it more attractive in some situations.

 

And especially if you can try and use it for maintenance of strength during periods of fixture congestion, maybe you can just about give enough stimulus so the athletes don’t start to detrain over a short period of time. So I think that, they’re probably the two main things: it’s become more popular in terms of people promoting it on social media, and it’s something which people don’t fear like they do with heavy lifting. And there is still that culture at a whole range of different sports. And then the testing side, I think it’s just the fact that force plates are so much more accessible now.”

 

”In terms of the testing, so you’ve mentioned force plates, hundreds, and hundreds of metrics that are going to pop out. How do we distill that, understand what we need to use, what we want to use in our specific settings, what will be your process to try to understand that and the right end point?”

 

Peak Force and RFD

 

”Certainly with the isometric testing, it’s relatively straightforward from my point of view. People can disagree with me, but you need to know their maximum force production capability. We need to know what the highest force is that that individual can generate. So we need peak force and ideally you need relative peak force. We need to be able to scale that and divide that by their body weight, to make sure that it takes body mass into account, especially with youth athletes.

 

You can see this in all the research where people have assessed force production capability in youth soccer players or youth football players, indicating that they get stronger with age. Well, of course they do. They’re getting bigger, they’re getting heavier. Ratio scale it divided by body weight and it’s very, very rare you find anything in the literature in youth athletes that they get stronger. Which for me is a massive problem, because that tells me actually your strength training programs probably haven’t done anything. They’ve just maintained and allowed them to continue their ability to generate force relative to their mass.

 

If they didn’t do that training, maybe they would actually be relatively weaker. We don’t know, but it tells me that the strength training practices are far from optimal or far from ideal because they should be getting much stronger. And you can see that if you look at some of the work that Dan Baker has published in the past, where he’s looked at people over a 10 year period, and you might not only have small increases in strength, it wasn’t isometric strength, but only small increases in strength per year. But let’s say for example, you put 10 kilos on your back squat every year for five years. That’s a pretty impressive back squat. Put five kilos on body mass on every year for five years, you are going to look like a different person. You know, you’re going to look pretty impressive physically.  Your increase in strength is outweighed by your increase in mass. So that’s a positive adaptation. 

 

So we need those increases in peak force and we know that there’s a strong relationship between peak isometric force and rapid force development or rate of force development (RFD). So it’s definitely important to push that ceiling up. And then the other thing we need to look at is rapid force production. So how much force we can produce in certain time periods. So then you’re looking at anything from 50 milliseconds up to maybe 250 milliseconds and you can either just use force at those specific time points (so force at 150, 200, 250 milliseconds), or you can calculate rate of force development.

 

The only issue you have with rate of force development, because you are running additional calculations, you can introduce additional error to that. And there are loads of different ways of calculating rate of force development.  It’s  force divided by time, but is it from the onset of your force production to the peak? Is it from 100 milliseconds to 150? Is it the average across that time? There’s a really good study by Professor Greg Haff published back in 2015, where he looked at a whole range of different methods and recommend using a 20 second moving average window across the time points of zero to 150, 0 to 250, etc.

 

But not all software packages do that for you. So from my point of view, rather having to try and unpick exactly what your software package is or try and set up an Excel spreadsheet, which will look at the average across a moving average window of 20 milliseconds within 250 milliseconds, which even as I say it that sounds complex. If you just look at force at 100, 200, 250, whatever time points, if force increased at that point, your rate of force development at that time point must have increased over that duration because it goes up as almost a straight line.

 

It’s not like when we look at more dynamic tasks where that force-time curve can fluctuate. So if you just then look at force at specific time points, the other thing we can then do is identify if you’ve got an increase in strength, has your force production at certain time points increased in proportion to that? So if you look at the force at let’s say 250 milliseconds as a percentage of your peak force, how much of your peak force can you express in 250 milliseconds? If it’s currently 75% and we do a more plyometric, ballistic type of training and you find that goes up to 85% brilliant. That’s probably the desired adaptation you wanted.

 

If we do maximum strength training and you find that that force at 250 milliseconds drops from 75% down to 60%, we then need to take into account both what that peak force has gone up to and what your force at 250 milliseconds is. Because if you force at 250 has still increased, that’s fantastic. And that can still increase, but it’s just not to the same magnitude as your peak force. In which case then that tells us our max strength training was really effective. We haven’t suffered issues in terms of the ability to produce force rapidly, which some people worry about. That’s normally when you have a really high volume of training, but you would know that was about to happen because you’d plan to increase volume over time. And then what we look at is if that force is now 65% and it was 75%, well, the force at 250 was 75% of your peak force. Now it’s 65%, we’ve got to focus on the ability to express that force rapidly.

 

And as I said earlier, your maximum force generating capacity does have a strong relationship to your ability to produce force rapidly, but only if you’re not fatigued at that point. So if you’ve done a high volume of training, you need to back off a little bit. So that might tell us we need to focus on the more ballistic and plyometric training, not completely exclude heavy resistance training, but focus more on the ballistic and plyometric to shift that percentage up.

 

So sometimes what we’ve got to do is move that percentage, the ability to express force rapidly is got to move up in terms of the percentage of peak force you can generate. Other times if you’re up at 85% of your peak force being expressed in 250 milliseconds, your athlete’s ability to express that force in ballistic dynamic task is fantastic. And actually just chasing after that extra few percent, you’re not going to get anything. You’ve probably hit a threshold. Now, I don’t know what that exact threshold is, so don’t take me on 85% but if you find that that’s not improving dramatically, then you need to increase that ceiling. You need to increase your threshold. You need to get that maximum force production capability up.

 

Rugby versus Football

 

And as to give two examples, I’ve regularly seen when people have done sort of this type of testing with football players, that their ability to express force rapidly is good because of the nature of the sport and the type of training they do. But their ability to express a maximum force that we would consider to be high is pretty poor. So they need to emphasize more strength development in most cases, not all, but in most.

 

Athletic Performance Academy

 

Whereas is if you look at rugby players, it tends to be more of the reverse, especially with Rugby Union forwards, their peak force is phenomenal. Their ability to express it rapidly is not as good as it could be, but actually if they’re your front row forwards and they’re always in scrums, and they’re a wrecking ball, they probably don’t need to express that force quite as quickly as some of the backs would do.

 

 

So you’ve also got to get the context on this. What do we really need from our athlete? And sometimes go back to the coach and say, how are you going to play this athlete? Are they just going to be that destructive person on the pitch, but they never run more than 20 metres so their contact times are still relatively long compared to if you get to top speed.

 

Isometric squat versus Isometric Mid thigh pull (IMTP)

 

So I think the key thing is if we go with peak force relative to body weight, and if we also express their force at different time points, probably 150, 200, 250 milliseconds, look at those alone, but also look at those as a percentage of your peak force and see how they change over the time. That’s giving you a really holistic picture from one test, but at the same time, those values and those variables will change depending on the test you do. So if you do an isometric squat, the forces are consistently higher than you get from an isometric mid thigh pull. So you need to bear that in mind. Some people don’t like the isometric squat because of the compression when you’re trying to push rapidly. So with some individuals, there’s a lot of familiarization then required.

 

You get the same with people with the isometric mid thigh pull because of the lifting straps, which you must use, otherwise grip strength will mean that you don’t get a maximum force production. If they’re not used to lifting straps and they dig into their wrists, that pain creates inhibition. They won’t push as hard and fast as they can. So that in itself is a bit of an issue.

 

And then if you look at most of the research it’s been done so far, it’s just looking at ”push as hard and fast as you can.” But we can improve the reliability of the rapid force development if we adopt the strategy that’s done with single joint isometrics, when you tell them to kick out as fast as possible, to be explosive, to be ballistic. Now that might seem strange (and I am a bit of a stickler for using the correct terminology and the semantics) to say that as it can’t be explosive. It can’t be ballistic, it’s isometric, but that’s your cue to the athlete! So they know they’re aiming to explode. Nothing explodes, we know that, but they’re aiming to be explosive. They’ll understand that term.

 

So you can actually do two different protocols. And David Drakes published this a few years ago on the isometric squat and Stuart Guppy one of Greg Haff’s PhD students has just had something accepted in, I can’t remember now whether it’s sports, biomechanics or journal strength and conditioning research, it’s one of them which will be out soon, looking at the isometric mid thigh pull. And if you use that approach, so you do an impulsive effort, an explosive effort of only one second, you get much higher rates of force development, much higher forces at different time points. And it dramatically improves the reliability of those rapid production capabilities. But your peak force comes down because you’re only pushing explosively for one second. Your focus is fast force production, not maximum force production.

 

So in that situation, you probably need to do your three to five maximum efforts for peak force. So four to five -second efforts and if you can see the force trace on the screen and it starts to come down, let them stop at that point. They’re not going to get any higher. They’ve already started to fatigue. Do those three to five trials (for peak force). And then at the end of that, get them to do some one second efforts to get that rapid force production (for RFD). One second effort, 30 seconds to a minute rest and repeat. It adds two or three minutes onto your testing, but you’ll get much better data out of that in terms of your rapid force production.

 

Now, a word of caution with that though, there’s minimal data out there published on those forces at different time points or rate of force development using that explosive ballistic or impulsive protocol. So you can’t then compare that to most of the other published literature. But if you are a practitioner using this to monitor your athlete’s performance, it’s a more stable measure when you use that sort of ballistic or explosive approach.”

 

”Would the time points that we’re interested in differ based on the type of athlete that we’ve got or the type of sport that we’re working in, or would that be pretty consistent?”

 

”I’d say for most people probably stick pretty consistent with 150, 200, 250 milliseconds, but there are some examples when you might want to increase or decrease that. And if you are looking at the shorter time points a hundred milliseconds and 50 milliseconds, the only issue with that is sometimes the data isn’t reliable. So for practitioners, if they’re going to do that, they need to try and establish reliability between sessions because we’re not worried about a change in a session. We’re looking at change between sessions.

 

So if they come in fresh on a Monday morning, establish the reliability of your athletes, performing the test and exactly the same way while they’re fresh, ideally pre-season so you haven’t got a game at some point over the weekend, so you can figure out what your measurement error is. And if that’s large, if you are getting a measurement error of greater than sort of 10, 15%, at force at 50 and a 100 milliseconds, it don’t bother because it’s not going to tell you anything and then go with those longer time points.

 

Sometimes you might want to go with a longer durations, longer than 250 milliseconds depending on the sport. If you have longer contact times, if you are really interested in your initial few strides starting to accelerate, or if you’re looking at other sports where maybe they have longer contact times involved, that might be important. But actually if you’re using 150, 200, 250, we know that that’s a pretty much a linear increase. It’s less stable at the bottom. It’s got a bit of a curve to it, which is why that 50 and 150 milliseconds can be problematic with reliability. But beyond 250, it pretty much just keeps going up at the same angle it was before. Without wanting to introduce a lot of extra variables, it’s probably easiest to stick most of the time without 100, 150, 200, 250 millisecond sort of frame because they come out as the most reliable as well.”

 

”If there’s practitioners out there who haven’t got access to force place, which there may be many, what other options have we got? What other options have they got?”

 

”Well, you’ve got a couple of options. One is try and get access that doesn’t necessarily mean buy the equipment. Contact your local university, if you know they’ve got a decent sports science department there and see if you can either go in and do the testing, or if they’ve got portable force plates, they can come out and assist you. Most universities will be willing to collaborate with you, because it’ll give them data. It makes their staff more credible and you can also give great opportunities for the students to be part of that testing, for them to gain additional experience. And the amount of jobs out there at the moment where people require the applicant to have an understanding of how to use that equipment, that’s essential. So that’s one way you can get access.

 

The other thing you can do is there’s quite a few strain gauges on the market which you can purchase relatively cheap. Probably not quite as reliable because you can get additional movement (anterior, posterior, mediolateral) and it’s not quite as stable as what you get when you set up an isometric mid thigh pull normally. But you can do that and Lachlan James has published a paper on the reliability of using a strain gauge instead and I think Anthony Turner and maybe Chris Bishop down at Middlesex University have published something similar as well. So you can get reliable force data out of it.

 

 

The biggest issue is if you are looking at force at different time points, is trying to really understand what sampling frequency is required. So if you are looking, just to make the math easier, if you had a strain gauge, which only samples at a hundred Hertz, and you are looking at force at a hundred milliseconds, you’re going to get 10 samples. You’re going to miss a load of information. So unless you’ve got a sample and frequency of thousand Hertz, you’re probably not going to be able to look at that rapid force production capability with anywhere near as much reliability. But that’s the same with the force plate. Ideally you want force plates where you can sample at thousand Hertz for assessing these isometric variables when you’re looking at those shorter time points.”

 

”What are your thoughts on using things like strain gauges in more sport specific positions?”

 

”Well, it depends what you mean about sport specific positions.  (@Rob: I’m just thinking of like a for potential for sprinting mechanics, looking at the horizontal one, two boxes and looking at the strength and them kind of positions).

 

If you’re looking at single joint isometric type testing with a strain gauge when you look at the huge amount of research that’s been done in that area, as long as you standardize everything about their position and their posture and everything else is fixed, it’s really reliable.

 

If you’re looking at trying to get multi-joint in a sports specific type task, because your posture in your position will vary, it tends to be very, very variable. The other issue is if you find that somebody’s not producing a huge amount of force, then you’ve got to try and figure out why. And if it is a multi-joint whole body type movement if it’s something through the upper body, are you looking at how effectively they apply force to the ground, how effectively they transfer that through the trunk, how it comes through the shoulder joint etc.  So as soon as you start trying to go to sport specific, we actually generally make the testing methods so unreliable that it’s not really telling us anything, or even if we can get them reliable, we don’t know where the weak link is. We just know, actually there’s a deficit here and then we’d have to scratch our heads and think, well, how do we find out what the problem is within this?

 

So the standard sort of testing with multi-joint, which relates back to performance and athletic tasks is probably your best place to start. If there is an issue with your athlete, they’ve been injured, they keep picking up injuries, you probably need to go to the single joint stuff to evaluate that and identify if there are any discrepancies between limbs or between agonists and antagonists. But the really sport specific stuff starts getting a bit tricky unless you can actually fix the lower body, for example. And if you are then looking at the lower body contribution, then it starts getting really tricky.

 

If you start trying to look through the entire kinetic chain, then we get all sort of issues. And that’s whether it’s a strain gauge or most isokinetic devices will have a weird and wonderful array of attachments, golf handles, baseball bat handles, all these sorts of things. But from my experience, because there are limited standardized protocols for them, and it varies dramatically between people testing, you just don’t end up with any reliable results when you try and go sport specific with it. For that you probably need to wait until good, markerless motion capture systems can do your 3D motion capture when you can then model exactly what’s happening in detail.

 

That’s far beyond my understanding in how you use them. But that’s certainly an area that people can look at if they want to go really sport specific, because then you are not constrained with your movement patterns or being in a lab environment. If you’ve got a good markerless motion capture system, you can really evaluate the quality of movement and potentially then approximate the forces that are being generated, etc.”

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1.  Isometric training/testing – use it for maintenance of strength during periods of fixture congestion.
  2.  KPIs for isometrics – Peak Force (relative to body mass)and Rate of Force Development (RFD)
  3.  Validity/Reliability – be aware of different time points used for testing and also the different tests (isometric squat vs IMTP, and 50, 100, 50 ms etc).
  4.  Time period of isometric – for peak force perform 3-5 trials of up to 4-5 seconds and for RFD use a 1-second explosive effort.
  5.  Strain gauges could be a less expensive alternative to force plates, but will be less reliable.  Likewise single joint tests will be more useful than multi-joint isometric assessments.

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

Paul Comfort Research Gate

 

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 383 James Moore

Episode 380 Alastair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

Remember:

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

 

Since you’re here…

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Book Review: Winning – Tim S. Grover – Part 1

I read a lot of books on professional development, and love to get insights from coaches so I was fascinated to hear from Tim Grover, who was the strength & conditioning coach for most of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls NBA basketball career, which included 6 NBA Finals.

 

Tim Grover

 

 

This book looks at the concept of ”Winning” and thirteen rules for chasing it, and Tim talks about the prices some of his clients have had to pay to try and catch it.

 

 

I’ll go through a few rules at a time by highlighting a few passages that captured my imagination so we all have time to digest them and apply them.  I’ll share a few more rules in a follow up blog series.  Here goes Part 1.

 

Chapter – The Chase

 

”Winning is everywhere.  Every minute, you have the potential to recognise an opportunity, push yourself harder, let go of the insecurity and fear, stop listening to what others tell you, and decide to own that moment.  And not just that one single moment, but the next one, and the next.  And before long, you’ve owned the hour, and the day, and then the month.  Again.  Again.  That’s how you win.

 

It doesn’t happen all at once.  But if you can stay with it, if you can survive the battle-field in your mind, if you can tolerate fear and doubt and loneliness… winning would like a word with you.

 

Winning is the ultimate gamble on yourself.  Winning drives you forward.

 

Sometimes you take those steps one at a time, sometimes two at a time.  Some days, you’ll feel so good you’ll want to sprint, other days you’re crawling on your hands and knees, gasping for breath and wishing you’d never started this race.

 

Winners don’t need to be told how.  They figure it out and EXECUTE.  REPEATEDLY.

 

All my clients chased something.  A record.  A paycheck.  A legacy.  A ghost.

 

Because if you’re comfortable with sacrifice and pressure and criticism and pain, if you can learn to focus on THE RESULT instead of always focusing on the difficulty….you can chase winning, fight for it, and defend your right to catch it.

 

There is no map, no light, no pavement.  It’s the road to paradise, and it starts in hell.”

 

Chapter – Winning Makes You Different, and Different Scares People

 

”Crazy – combined with the willingness to take a chance – is the secret weapon of Winning.

 

It was about understanding the difference between knowing how to think, and being told what to think.

 

 

They (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk) weren’t afraid to think originally, they weren’t worried about what others would think about their ‘crazy’ ideas.  That whole BS about thinking outside the box is just that: BS.  Winners don’t see the box.  They see possibilities.

 

Every great creation and invention started with people who knew how to think and didn’t allow themselves to be told what to think.

 

If you always do it the ‘normal’ way, you can be very good at what you do.  But if you’re confident and bold enough to believe that ”different” isn’t wrong it’s the difference between lighting your own fire and waiting for someone to light it for you.  To me CURIOSITY is the spark that lights the fire.

 

When you know what do think, you’re ready to compete.  When you know HOW to think, you’re ready to win.  Coaches and bosses tell you what to think.  Doing the work tells you how to think.  Your parents show you what to think.  Adulthood shows you how to think.

 

Thinking for yourself creates INDEPENDENCE.  If you can’t make a decision without consulting mentors and masterminds…..you’re being told what to think.  You may be getting a lot of great guidance and knowledge, until you question it, adapt it, and find out for yourself if it works for you.  Knowledge is power, but only if you use it.”

 

Chapter – Winning Wages War on the Battlefield in Your Mind

 

”When you’re in the race to win, you spend every night sleeping with the enemy.  And that enemy is YOU: the one person who knows all your weaknesses and fears.

Your THOUGHTS keep fighting even when you’re asleep, preparing for the threat of imagined battles that haven’t happened yet.  They might happen.  They might not.

 

 

Stress.  Insecurity.  Doubt.  Envy.

 

Sometimes it’s a stranger who puts them there.  Sometimes it’s someone close to you.  Sometimes it’s you.  Most of the time, it’s you.  Winners can detect these ticking thought bombs and defuse them before they can do any damage.

 

If you’re procrastinating, you’re DISTRACTED by your own thoughtsWe all have some kind of ”To Do” list, Winners have a ”Done” List.

 

If you want to manage distractions and get control of that battle, you need to put some ROUTINES in place.  I don’t want to see you just sleepwalking through your life, just getting by.  Blow up that (old) routine, and replace it with something that ENGAGES you mentally and helps you create new challenges and results.

 

A word on routines – a routine may allow you to set a portion of your journey on autopilot, but to get to your ultimate destination, you’re going to need total control over the outcome.  If you’re flying a fighter jet, you can’t leave complete control to the autopilot, you must be ready at all times to override the system and handle the unexpected.

 

Every routine has to factor in the possibility of UNCERTAINTY.  If you prepare only for one scenario, you have no chance of surviving the volatility of real-game conditions.

 

That’s all for now.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

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…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

 

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW – Episode 383 James Moore

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 383 – James Moore

James Moore

 

James is the leader of the specialist physiotherapy team at the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP) in Harley Street.  James has 25 years of experience in physio, graduating with an honours degree in physiotherapy from Kings College London. He was Clinical Lead Physiotherapist to the English Institute of Sport, with a special affiliation to UK Athletics. He spent a period of time working as Head of Medicine for Saracens RFC, before moving on to manage the intensive rehabilitation unit (IRU) at Bisham Abbey for British Olympic Association and was Head of Performance Services for the British Olympic Association and Deputy Chef de Mission for the Rio 2016 Olympics and beyond. He is currently in clinic two days a week and also has a number of consultancies including with Andy Murray.

Twitter

 

? Listen to the full episode here

 

Discussion topics:

 

”Would you be able to talk to us about Andy Murray’s progress, is he on track for where he wants to be at this point in the rehab and the return to performance journey?

 

”From a physical point of view we are in a really really good place.  He played nearly 12-13 weeks in a row last year at the end of the season off the back of having some pretty major niggles and came through that without any issues.  He has come through the Australian Open including a 4 hour match.  Andy’s expectation is super super high and rightly so – he’s still got the talent, he’s still got the skills, he’s still got the tennis IQ to play at the highest level.

 

There is no substitute for what is in essence four years of competitive play, if you go back to 2016 I think he played 87 matches when he was world number 1 and last year we played about 40, so we are at about 50% and so you need to build that tolerance up and that 10% top end fitness.

 

 

His V02max is low 60s which is great, but at his best he was low 70s (ml/kg/min).  He’s strong, he’s deadlifting 270 kg, quarter squatting 260 kg at 84 kg and can produce 1500 W on a Watt bike so physically we are in a good place and what we need to do now is transfer that into the consistency on the tennis court.  That just takes time, good coaching and continuity from the rest of the team to help him deliver.”

 

”Why do athletes get hip and groin pain in the first place?”

 

”I don’t know that we have all of the answers yet.  Do we have the exact aetiology?  [MEDICINE- the cause, set of causes, or manner of causation of a disease or condition.]  I don’t think we do.  I think we have strong indicators, for example, we know that if you play a kicking sport (football, rugby, Aussie rules, Gaelic etc) you have a much higher percentage chance (you’re probably 3 x more likely to overload your pubic joint and your adductors) than you are in any other sport.

 

However, when you start to shift from a kicking sport to twisting/turning sports (non primary based running sports so badminton, squash, tennis, ice hockey, short track speed skating), yes you might run as part of your conditioning to supplement the sport but it’s not a primary requirement of what you have to do in the sport.  Yes, you’re sprinting on the Tennis court but you may be covering 3 km in a two-three hour match, and we know that when you twist you increase your risk of hip related injuries.

 

We also know that if you run in a straight line you also really increase your risk of hip related injuries and a lot of that comes down to the cumulative repetitive force within the joint and what we know is that bones don’t like reciprocal movement- the same movement over and over again, so running in a straight line is generally one of the worse things you can do for bones.

 

We also know that women as a rule will have a lot higher risk of running related injuries in the hip and men as a rule will have a much higher risk of groin related injuries.  So when you put all that together, I think it’s really hard to find a place to hide on the sports field.

 

The lumbo-pelvic-hip complex as a unit is the hub for power creation in speed and power based athletes.  Yes, the soleus might be one of the strongest muscles in the body, if not the strongest, but when you’re really looking at peak torque in high level sprinting and running and kicking, you’re talking way over 9 x bodyweight of impact loading and in the triple jump it is 15 x bodyweight going through the hip!  So the forces are just huge and then it just comes down to capacity, tolerance and how much you can build up.  I would just call it supply and demand – there is a huge demand from the sport, and then you have got to build up the supply for the individual.

 

 

If you don’t get that right, in terms of training capacity and/or individual capacity, that’s when you’re potentially going to get an overload and injury.”

 

”So why are the sites of injury for males and females different, it is purely anatomical?”

 

”No, I don’t think it is, for a number of different reasons, although the reason why I hesitate is because there is more evidence coming out more recently starting to look at that (anatomical differences).  Around 15-20 years ago we were talking about width of pelvis and angles of muscles going into the groin, like you would talk about the Q angle of the knee and patella-femoral load, and really there was no evidence around it. So the morphological (structure of the body) may not make a difference.  Certainly the muscle mass and the forces being produced may make a difference.

 

There are also a number of other factors such as line of force (males tend to be more straight down and females tend to be more diagonal), angles at the pubic joint, and the anterior pubic ligaments being significantly stronger in the female, as well as hormonal profile and elasticity of ligaments in females.”

 

”How can we differentiate who needs surgery and who doesn’t’?’

 

”The decision making process around surgery becomes multi-factorial, and we certainly have advised surgery for a number of different reasons.  Certainly from a clinical point of view, there has been a anecdotal significant reduction in groin surgeries as there has been an improvement in core stability in terms of the functional load transfer across the anterior pelvis.

 

In football we typically see 15-20% of footballers having a groin related injury, so 1 in every 5.  The game is faster, the players are bigger, stronger, the ball is moving faster on the pitch, and it’s in play for longer, which increases your exposure.  So while we are seeing this transition we are still playing catch up with the demands of the sport.

 

The key really is that the physical signs should match up with the subjective complaint of pain.

 

If the pain is disproportionate to the physical signs then you have probably got tissue damage beyond the point of repair.  When we start to look at groin surgery, whether we are talking about abdominal or adductor surgery, with abdominals they can produce force but it’s painful and you’ve got palpable gaps or issues with the inguinal canal, and they fail a period of rehab (2-6 weeks) where there they just can’t put enough load the tissues without provoking symptoms.

 

You’ll genuinely know whether they are going to succeed in a programme of rehab.  We’ve looked at them and we’ve said ”this is surgery,” but they want to go down a conservative route but at 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks they fail their markers, and so you then go through that.  That’s a really good process psychologically to let the player adapt as well as tick the box in terms of doing your strength work before you go down that route; and then there’ll be certain people who will have been told that they need surgery, but there will be some obvious deficits and when they start to load the pain subsides but the pain is usually fairly consistent with their physical signs.”

 

”Do athletes have to stop playing in order to recover from these kind of injuries?”

 

”Most groin overload injuries don’t stop you from playing but they just limit your performance.  So we will have lots of people who will just feel like they are at 60 or 80%, I can pass the ball, I can run but I can’t put some shape on the ball, and put my foot through the ball.  Everything has to be controlled, and if I do try and push it I get sharp pain, I’m a bit incapacitated for a few minutes but then it settles and I’m able to go again.

 

It’s very easy to manage people and keep them ticking over and then it comes to the bigger question of the relevance to the individual- if they are 80% fit are they better than the next individual coming in?

 

As a medic part of our job is to protect the athlete from themselves and protect them generally, but then also as a performance scientist is to push them to that red line and get them as close to that red line as possible and keep them there for as long as possible.  It’s easy to stop injuries, you just don’t train very hard, but if I want to win stuff I need to go right to that top end and push my body and that’s a difficult balance to strike.

 

With overload load related injuries, if we want to strip that back we need the reduce the load and then build it back up in a progressive overload manner and then you can build capacity.  So it would mean dropping them out of training, whether that means complete reduction of training or modified training (allow them to run but don’t allow them to kick) to reduce some of the markers.  So they can do part of the training but not all of the training, and it depends on the demands of the training.”

 

”How do we decide how to structure the rehab programme, are there some key approaches that need to go in no matter what?”

 

”Does the tissue that is the source of pain need to be loaded or unloaded?  I get a lot of people coming in with adductor related groin problems, and they’ve been loaded but the adductors are the strongest part of the chain when you assess it, and their abdominals and/or hamstrings are not functioning well.  So in that case, you want to reduce the adductor/adduction load and increase the abdominal/hip flexor load and maybe hamstring.  A lot of that comes down to asking where are we from a capacity and/or strength point of view which requires a little bit more investigation away from just the pathology point of view.  And that’s part of the trick of examining the individual from a pathology/pain source point of view and also examining them from a function perspective.

 

The adductors bring the leg across your body but they are also a significant hip flexor- and there is an argument that the adductor longus is the second most important hip flexor behind iliopsoas but they are also significant hip extensor, so once you go above 45 degrees of hip flexion they become your most significant hip extensors (and adductor longus decelerates hip extension in running mechanics).

 

The adductors are the main muscles that bring you out of a deep squat and they the are the main muscles of hip flexion and the adductor magnus off loads the hamstring, so maybe the adductors are over working because the hip flexor complex is not good enough, so maybe we need to bring up iliopsoas (which has an adduction moment arm).  Or maybe the hamstring and the glutes are not doing their jobs properly so we need to increase the hip extension function to take some pressure off the adductors.

 

So what makes it a little more complex is that your abdominals also aid in hip flexion and control hip extension moment arm, and your obliques also control side flexion which your psoas also controls, so my right side psoas is a controller of left side flexion.  So that becomes quite critical in terms of how the adductors, abdominals and hip flexors work as a unit to get a balance across the anterior pelvis.”

 

For every adductor load you give someone, you should give them an abdominal load to balance the pelvis.

 

For every abdominal and adductor load you give someone, you should give them a glute load to balance the pelvis.

 

  1.  Hamstrings first – as they produce extension moment and adduction moment at the hip and help to control the pelvis, and if the hamstrings are inefficient the adductor load will go up.
  2.  Abdominal load – in particular oblique bias including CSA of tissue not just control
  3.  Hip flexor load
  4.  Muscle capacity of running muscles – calves, quads and glute function as it relates to muscle capacity, and what does normal running look like technically, as if we can’t run then we are always going to struggle to kick or twist on the run?

 

 

It’s all about quads and calves

 

”So it’s about addressing the whole kinetic chain.  Also be cautious about having the philosophy of it’s all about posterior chain and hamstrings and glutes and a posterior bias.  If you just look at elite track & field athletes they have huge quads!  So the first point is you have to produce vertical force in order to start running and that’s all quads and calves which you need to get that right first to produce your stride length.  Then once you’ve got your stride length, it’s all about hip torque to produce your stride frequency.    Stride length gets you up to 7 m/s and hip torque gets you beyond that!”

 

”Would attention on running mechanics help with this return to performance following groin injuries?”

 

”I think we need to start with what do we think is the minimal dose that we need to apply to the individual to try and reduce the risk, and if that comes in the form of a running mechanics or another stimulus.  If the goal of a running stimulus is to improve the running mechanics and get them to move more like a sprinter I think that is really really difficult.

 

An elite 400 m sprinter will probably do near enough 2000 m of high quality speed work three times a week plus of all the drills which will probably be about 500-1000 m of work at the beginning of every session.   So we are then talking about 7,500-9000 m per week of high quality speed work and that’s done week in week out for about 9 months before you get to race season.  So the dosage to really get good mechanics and to really condition the tissues to that kind of load are really really high.

 

So maybe a footballer or rugby player is doing 1000 m of high quality speed work per match so I’m not sure you’ll necessarily see them get the same amount of dosage.  But with that being said, if our goal is to condition the tissues to increase limb speed, shorter foot contact and a cognitive stimulus to get the patterning from a central nervous system or Frans Bosch decentralised spinal reflex point of view, that is reasonable.  We’re not trying to turn them into runners, we are just trying to condition the tissue and not necessarily trying to hit the ”right positions’ from an elite sprinting point of view, but we are trying to get quick limb movement and short foot contact, where the outcome and the coaching cues will look different which is a very different coaching approach to coaching an elite sprinter on a track with spikes where you want a high knee, I want you to increase your stride length and that sort of thing.”

 

”Are there any key positions that you are looking for when you are observing a change of direction?”

 

”Different sports will have different strategies- e’g a rugby player may use muscle forces (concentric/eccentric) vs a basketball player using elastic/reactive (isometric forces).  A change of direction also looks very different if you are moving over 5-10 m and getting up to 6 m/s versus a winger bombing down the pitch at 9-10 m/s.

 

Look at it with a coaching eye.  Does it look efficient? Does it look effortless and free and I’d almost go back to coaching the individual and the way the individual moves and what feels right rather than getting into a very specific criteria for this is how you change direction.”

 

”Are there are any particular markers that you would look at as part of this return to performance following groin injuries?”

 

”We have different markers for different stages of rehab.

 

Early stage – start with clinical markers and reduction of pain such as squeeze test, abdominal load test and then can I get the abdominal to adductor ratios right (see next stage)?  Markers need to move away from pain/pathology to function around the groin so 20 kg HHD or 2 Newtons/kg force across the groin and progressing to 25 kg HHD.

 

Next stage – progress to running specific markers, and balancing the pelvis, looking at ratios of adductor/abdominal and adductor/hip flexor and hamstring/hip flexor ratio, so you can start to see where the weak link is.  Most elite level athletes get injured where they are strongest not where they are weakest, because they compensate to their strongest area which is the path of least resistance.    Most of the aspiring athletes get injured where they are weak because they are trying to produce force and they just don’t have the capacity to do it and don’t have the compensatory strategies.

 

We might also have a functional test such as split squat for indication of capacity across the pelvis.  When we get to return to running we can look at vertical force qualities, what’s their isometric squat like, peak plantar flexion force like, have they got some RSI markers we can look at?  As well as looking at the balance between flexion/extension ratios.”

 

Key ratios:

 

ADDUCTORS – 30-35 kg, and should be 60% of hip flexion, and 80% of extension.

 

ABDUCTORS – a little bit less than adductors- 20% behind adduction, and 60% of extension.

 

EXTENSION – should be primary torque producing force and FLEXION should be about 10% behind extension.  Adduction should be 20% behind extension.  You should be 40% stronger into extension than you are into abduction as a general ratio across the hip.

 

Look at those numbers relative to performance.  In order for the way you run and/or kick, what do we know is your norm or what is the ideal we need to get you to?  It’s about ratios around the hip rather than absolute numbers and it’s about the relative number relative to the numbers the athlete can produce in the demands of their sport demands.

 

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

 

  1.  Surgery decision process – The key really is that the physical signs should match up with the subjective complaint of pain.
  2.  Rehab process – Does the tissue that is the source of pain need to be loaded or unloaded?
  3.  Muscle balance – For every abdominal and adductor load you give someone, you should give them a glute load to balance the pelvis.
  4.  It’s not all about posterior chain – you have to produce vertical force in order to start running and that’s all quads and calves which you need to get that right first to produce your stride length.
  5.  Use your coaching eye -Does it look efficient? Does it look effortless and free and I’d almost go back to coaching the individual and the way the individual moves

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

CHHP specialist physiotherapy clinic

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 380 Alastair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

Remember:

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  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

 

Since you’re here…

 

…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

 

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Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes

Eric Cressey delivered a presentation in 2012- originally delivered at the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Convention – to 4500 coaches in attendance- called ‘Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes.’

 

He has now made it available for FREE if you sign up to his newsletter so if you want to see it is full then go ahead and sign up.

 

This blog is a summary of the three topics discussed in the 45 minute presentation.   For the most part the information is directly quoted from Eric’s presentation.

Our Heaviest Influence is the Weather

 

We deal with terrible weather and as a result you don’t associate baseball with where we operate our CSP fitness facility in Massachusetts.  This forced me to do a lot more listening and ask a lot more questions as I didn’t have a lot of the experiences growing up in the North east that come from being in a baseball hot bed.

 

 

Massachusetts (highlighted in red) is the 7th-smallest state in the United States. It is located in the New England region of the Northeastern United States.

 

”Do you see a lot of ice hockey players coming out of the state of Alabama, what do you guys know about the state of New Mexico’s lacrosse programme?  It doesn’t happen, right? So we have these sports up in the Northeastern area that really aren’t that prevalent in the south, where all these big time prospects are coming from.

 

We know that statistically speaking, if you have a surgery in the minor leagues, it cuts your chances of making it in the big leagues in half

 

Now, to add to that, it’s about a 1 in 50 success rate, with 2% of players that are drafted ever make it to the big leagues, so if you become the 2 in a 100 that makes it, you become the 1 in a 100 all of a sudden if you have a surgery.  So it’s very important we work with the talent we have and keep it healthy.”

 

Eric spoke about a draft pick where major league teams liked the fact that the prospect had never thrown more than 80 innings in year.  You see a lot of these colleges now recruiting more and more from the north east.  Why? These guys don’t have the same level of accumulated wear and tear that everybody else has.

 

”You get an arm from Georgia and then you compare it to an arm from Massachusetts, and you compare the number of innings they both have; if I have two guys and they are both pitching at 90-92 mph, I’ll take the Massachusetts guy any day of the week.  He’s got a bigger window of adaptation, he probably has less calcification on his ulnar collateral ligament, he knows how to roll in different social circles from playing hockey, so there’s lots of benefits to playing multiple sports.  So one thing we have working in our favour here, is that the weather kind of forces that.”

 

Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum

 

On one end we have absolute speed where we are focused on Velocity and on the other end we have absolute strength continuum where we are focused on Force.

 

 

”If you look at how a typical young sprinter is built and what they come with naturally, very reactive, reasonably fast and can put the force into the ground reasonably quickly but what can you do to improve them – you’ve got to get them stronger right?  So you’re going to take them from all the way over on the left and train them more on the right.  Same story for a basketball player.

 

Once we get them over that original hurdle of that foundation strength, we realise that hey there’s some stuff that we can do in the middle that will help them get to where they want to be, such as loaded Jump squats and Olympic lifts.

 

So maybe my best move is not just throwing on a weighted vest and doing plyos with a kid who has always done sprinting and plyos, I need to get them strong first, and then I can start to look in the middle.

 

Bear in mind that this might be more relevant to off-season and that if someone is in-season and is very strong, are you going to say you’re going to do a tonne of sprinting and plyos when you come in to train with me? No, he’s probably getting a lot of that in-season in matches already.

 

So what does that look like in the context of pitching in baseball?

 

 

Talk about being all the way on the left; if I’m a pitcher I’ve thrown a 5 ounce baseball my entire life, it’s what I’ve done since little league.  Now, what we realised is that strength training improves throwing velocity.  They’ll be some pitching coaches that will tell you that strength training is bad for pitching (who apparently don’t know how to read the scientific literature).  Bad weight training is bad for anybody!  Good weight training can certainly help in the quest to throw a baseball harder.

 

So we need to take these guys who have a base of absolute speed and take them over to the absolute strength end, which is a basis for a lot of things.  It’s not just a basis for power output, it’s also a basis for joint stability.

 

What do we know about throwers? They have a lot more laxity in general, both congenital (so the way they were made) and acquired.  Now once we have built that foundation of strength and we’ve got to take them more to the middle.

 

So understand where you are on with respect to long term power development and appreciate that that will change over the course of a season and career.”

 

Getting Outside the Sagittal Plane

 

”Rotational sports aren’t like sprinting.  They take place in multiple planes of motion and yet most of the traditional gym strength clean, squat and bench programmes are very sagittal plane dominant.

 

 

So what I see in most college athletes who come to me when they’ve made it to pro ball and they look back on their college weight training experience.  They have been in large group settings, they’ve all done the same programme, so they’ve all learnt to squat, bench, deadlift etc.  So when I get them in many cases they may be strong enough, they may have plenty of arm speed but they’ve never really done anything in the middle.

 

In many cases this is the same for the training out of the sagittal plane; you just don’t see many guys training outside that sagittal plane at the level they need to.  We also know that there is something called the ‘delayed transmutation affect,’ which a famous Russian scientist Zatziosky referred to as the time it takes to be able to transfer or realise the general strength improvements into sport specific actions.

 

So if I gain 50 pounds on my squat in the off-season when does it carry over to me throwing the baseball harder?  What I can tell you is that, that period is going to be a lot longer in a baseball player because of the rotational component, than in a football player who just wants to run faster in a straight line or jump high.

 

 

What do we see?  This is a 14, 16, 18 and a 22 year old.  They all have an adducted right hip.  They all have low right shoulders, horizontal clavicle (we like to see a 6-20 degree up slope), and as they get older they tend to re-engrain these compensatory patterns.  If I just do bilateral exercise, is that going to get better? No!  They need to be doing left hand throwing, some rotational med ball work in the other direction and we need to learn how to get back to neutral and then train in neutral.”

 

Hip and Shoulder Separation

 

Just before we get into the specifics of how the body moves in a baseball pitch, just a quick recap on Anatomy of the Pelvis.

 

 

The Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) is a bony prominance on the front of your pelvis.    The Posterior Superior Iliac Spine (PSIS) is a bony prominance on the back of your pelvis.  When you tilt your pelvis forward or back it will affect the position of the ASIS and PSIS.

 

The research group below basically looked at what happens to your pelvis and thorax (basically the area your ribs occupy) when you throw.

 

 

”All you need to focus on is the far left column (above) where it says Foot Contact, and that’s stride foot contact so it’s what happens when I set my front foot down.  What you have to appreciate is, if I look at my pelvis and my right Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) what you’ll see is they have already started to orientate towards the plate.

 

So as my hips are moving towards the plate, my torso is still moving in the opposite direction

 

 

So am I going to be able to prepare for this level ? of hip-thorax separation angle by just doing squats, bench, and cleans in the gym? No!  It’s not going to get the job done.  I need to train a little bit more rotationally to prepare for those demands that might be taking place.”

 

The demands are equally high on hitting.

 

 

This is something that is happening at crazy high velocities through an extreme range of motion so we are pushing the limits of hip mobility, hip stability and core stability simultaneously.

 

Specificity of Power Development

 

”Remember also that power development is plane specific.  Just because I get good at doing vertical jumps or broad jumps, I don’t know that that is going to carry over to rotational medicine ball throws and things like that.  On the flip side I’ve just seen way too many guys with bad bodies come in and jump an 18 inch jump and yet go out and throw 95 mph – so power in the gym wasn’t correlating with pitching velocity.

 

So if we’re talking about predictive value, the more specific you get with the context of power the better off you’re going to be, so things like skaters, lateral hop and rotational throw for distance etc will be good options.

 

”Get into that hip, then get out of that hip – it’s all about weight transfer.”

 

The ‘hip’ being the back hip.  But as well as power development which comes from the back hip, but you also need to learn to transfer force and accept force with the lower half especially on the front leg, as you can only speed up what you can slow down.”

 

 

Understanding and Individualising Deceleration

 

It’s a great picture because it shows where everything ends.

 

 

”When we talk about deceleration we often want to work back from what we see and build up from what started it all.  So what’s controlling a throw?  We have supinators at our forearm we are needed to control the pronators when you pitch a ball.  We have to have strength at our forearm which helps to decelerate the pronation.  We also have our elbow flexors with about 2400-2600 degrees per second of elbow extension when you throw a baseball, so something crossing your elbow has to help to slow that down.

 

At the glenohumeral joint, when we throw we go through 7000 degrees per second of shoulder internal rotation, it’s the fastest motion in all of sport and it’s the equivalent of making 20 full revolutions of the ball on the socket every second.  Furthermore, when we get out in front and we release that ball that’s about 1.5 times bodyweight in distraction forces.  So you have that humeral head swiveling and also being pulled out of that socket so your posterior cuff is going to take a beating and you need to make sure it is really strong.”

 

Summary

 

”At the end of the day lower body strength really matters for these guys, and building some general foundational strength will be really important.  But try to think about the three areas discussed above as these will be actionable areas you can look at to make further gains in their baseball development.”

 

Hope you have found this article useful.  Thanks to Eric Cressey for the great insights.

 

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Should Tennis Players Train Overhead?

Hi everyone!  In today’s post I’m going to speak about a topic which has been really important for me to get my head around over the years as a coach working almost exclusively in Tennis  – and that’s training overhead.

 

Shoulder related injuries account for a large percentage of repetitive injuries in Tennis along with lower back issues and ankle sprains.  So given that the shoulder area already has to deal with a huge amount of stress just from playing the sport we do need to tread carefully with our programming, as it relates to training overhead.

 

 

In a recent discussion with one of my coaches I was pretty upfront in saying, ”I’m not a fan of programming Barbell overhead presses and Barbell bench presses.”  His reaction was a lot like many I had seen before, bewilderment, because perhaps it was taken as if I was saying I’m against getting strong at pushing in the horizontal and vertical plane!

 

Quite the opposite – I think it’s really important to get stronger at pushing in the vertical and horizontal plane but I don’t think the bench press and overhead press are the best options for a tennis player, and certainly not a barbell version.

 

In this blog I’ll address why I think that way, and I’ll also pay respect to a couple of practitioners who have inspired a lot of my thinking in the past and continue to lead the way in strength & conditioning applied to baseball – Eric Cressey, of Cressey Performance and Ben Brewster, of Tread Athletics.

 

I did write an article Why Our Tennis Players Aren’t using Olympic Lifts – which is a topic for another day but it goes along the same lines – it’s about the cost-to-benefit ratio of these types of exercises in a special population of athletes.

 

One of my favourite comments from Eric Cressey goes like this ?

 

Many of you are going to hate me for what I’m about to say. I don’t let my overhead throwing athletes overhead press or bench press with a straight bar.

 

There. I said it. Call me all the names you’d like but ask yourself this:

 

Am I cursing Eric’s name because I think that the cost-to-benefit ratio of overhead pressing and straight bar bench pressing justifies their use, or is it because I feel naked without these options? I have to bench press. I can’t start an upper body day with any other exercise.”

 

Early in my coaching career I literally read every article from Eric’s blog, I’ve also personally purchased most of his products and most of what I know about the shoulder I have Eric to thank for.

 

 

This post won’t go into the functional anatomy of the shoulder joint so if you want to do a deep dive on this I highly recommend you check out Sturdy Shoulders or Optimal Shoulder Performance.  With that been said, let’s get into today’s topic and kick off with the Bench press!

 

Why I don’t like the Barbell Bench Press

 

Reason #1 – It doesn’t train scapular movement effectively

 

I read an article by Eric in 2010 – Should Pitchers Bench Press?

 

In it Eric says ”As it relates to pitching, the fundamental problem with the conventional barbell bench press (as performed correctly, which it normally isn’t) is that it doesn’t really train scapular movement effectively.  When we do push-up variations, the scapulae are free to glide – just as they do when we pitch.  When we bench, though, we cue athletes to lock the shoulder blades down and back to create a great foundation from which to press.  It’s considerably different, as we essentially take away most (if not all) of scapular protraction.”

 

With dumbbell benching, we recognize that we get better range-of-motion, freer movement of the humerus (instead of being locked into internal rotation), and increased core activation – particularly if we’re doing alternating DB presses or 1-arm db presses.  There is even a bit more scapular movement in these variations (even if we don’t actually coach it).

 

Reason #2 – It adds non functional mass and potentially reduces functional flexibility

 

The range of motion is a little bit less with a barbell version but athletes like it because that allows them to increase the load on the bar and potentially add on some muscle mass.  The issue is that this muscle mass could lead to restrictions in shoulder and scapular movement – which won’t carry over to throwing the way the muscle mass in the lower half and upper back will.

 

 

This is probably why we don’t see an abundance of literature pointing to the correlation between bench pressing strength and pitching velocity (in the same way we might see between Rugby players with bench press strength and bench throw power output and playing level).

 

We want athletes with good range of motion in external rotation at the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder and horizontal abduction.  This generally means exercises which promote length of the pec and lat muscles are favourable.

 

As Eric says, ‘what you do in the weight room has to be highly effective to justify its inclusion.  I just struggle to consider bench pressing “highly effective” for pitchers.

 

Eric Cressey has a free presentation – Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes – which I’ll briefly highlight some of the key take home points in another blog.  But if you want to see the whole thing sign up to his newsletter on his home page.

 

 

Why I don’t like the Overhead Press

 

My thoughts on this are similar to the bench press argument.  Despite my years in Tennis I have to be honest and say that more of my focus (at least in my blog) has been on lower body strength/power.

 

So if you want a good series to read check out on Eric’s blog check out:

 

The Issue with Most Powerlifting-Specific Programs

 

Should We Really Contradict All Overhead Lifting

 

How To Build Back to Overhead Pressing

 

The main summary is that overhead pressing using a barbell or dumbbells allow a lifter to take on the most load, and in the case of the barbell, they have the least freedom of movement (especially if we’re talking about a Smith machine press). Moreover, they generally lead to the most significant compensatory movement, particularly at the lower back. I don’t love these for tennis players.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reason #1 – Throwing athletes are already predisposed to shoulder injuries

 

Overhead throwing athletes (and pitchers in particular) demonstrate significantly less scapular upward rotation at 60+ degrees of abduction.

 

Laudner KG, Stanek JM, Meister K. Differences in Scapular Upward Rotation Between Baseball Pitchers and Position Players. Am J Sports Med. 2007 Dec;35(12):2091-5.

 

From that study: “CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This decrease in scapular upward rotation may compromise the integrity of the glenohumeral joint and place pitchers at an increased risk of developing shoulder injuries compared with position players. As such, pitchers may benefit from periscapular stretching and strengthening exercises to assist with increasing scapular upward rotation.”

 

So if we know they are already at increased risk of developing shoulder injuries shouldn’t we be searching for the least stressful forms of overhead exercise?  For the record, I don’t consider the overhead press to be one such exercise.  I explain more below.

 

 

Reason #2 – Overhead pressing doesn’t train scapular movement effectively

 

Impingement of the shoulder happens when we close down the space between the humerus and acromion.  This usually happens when we get more rounded in our posture, causing our shoulders to internally rotate more.  More external rotation = more sub-acromial space. How much internal or external rotation we get is going to be affected by the position of the bar (front vs. back vs. dumbbells) and the chosen grip (neutral corresponds to more external rotation- of humerus). Certain exercises will require more internal rotation and when used in excess – something like a barbell overhead press is typically going to make impingement worse, and a large percentage of the population really can’t do it safely. 

 

Subacromial impingement syndrome refers to the inflammation and irritation of the shoulder tendons (rotator cuff tendons) as they pass through the subacromial space. This can result in pain, weakness, and reduced range of motion within the shoulder.

 

 

 

 

Reason #3 – We want more Traction and less Approximation

 

Additionally, comparing most overhead weight training movements (lower velocity, higher load) to throwing a baseball (or serving in Tennis) is like comparing apples and oranges.  Throwing a baseball is a significant traction (humerus pulled away from the glenoid fossa), whereas overhead pressing is approximation (humerus pushed into the glenoid fossa).  The former is markedly less stressful on the shoulder – and why chin-ups are easier on the joint than shoulder pressing.

 

 

Reason #4 – Overhead Pressing requires adequate shoulder flexion range

 

As a final plea, if you really are dead set on doing overhead pressing (with a barbell particularly) I’d just caution you to do some form of clearing test to check the athlete has adequate overhead range of motion.

 

 

The fist to fist test is just a start point to highlight that there may be a restriction – although it is supposed to encapsulate external shoulder range of motion, shoulder flexion and horizontal abduction (of top hand) and the opposite in the bottom hand- it’s not a complete picture.  So in order to know exactly where the restriction is you would need to do a follow up assessment of things like T-spine (lumbar locked test or seated rotation), scapular (shoulder flexion and abduction) and humerus (total arc of motion in external and internal range combined).

 

As shoulder flexion is a pretty key driver of overhead movement it’s generally a good idea to assess that in isolation.  There are many versions you can do – seated, standing and lying down.  If the only way you can drive overhead motion is with compensatory lumbar extension then you know that there is no sense in doing loaded overhead pressing (especially with a barbell!)

 

 

So what are the Alternatives?

 

Below is a great visualisation of the spectrum of overhead exercises.   At the most aggressive end of the spectrum, we have overhead pressing with a barbell or dumbbells. They allow a lifter to take on the most load, and in the case of the barbell, they have the least freedom of movement.

 

 

At the other end we have some options as more shoulder friendly exercises that can deliver a great training effect in more at-risk populations (i.e., tennis players).  The bottoms-up kettlebell military press delivers a slightly different training effect more safely because more of the work is devoted to joint stability. And, the bottoms-up set-up helps the lifter to engage serratus anterior more to get the scapula “around” the rib cage

 

Also check out this brilliant video from Ben Brewster of Tread Athletics

 

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

Remember:

 

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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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Since you’re here…

 

…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

 

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW – Episode 381 Alistair & Tom Part 3

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 381 – Alistair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

 

Alistair and Tom are interviewed in a two part series (Episode 380 and 381).  Episode 380 focused more on Deceleration ability.  Episode 381 focuses on change of direction ability.

 

I’ve created a three part blog series out of it.  In Part 1 and Part 2 the full script of the podcast was included for Episode 380.  In this Part 3 blog an edited version is included with the key take home points from Episode 381.

 

Alistair McBurnie

 

Alistair is a sports science analyst for Manchester United’s first team, having worked his way up from coaching at academy level.

 

Twitter

 

 

Tom Dos’Santo

 

Tom is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches strength conditioning and sports biomechanics. Previously, he’s worked at the University of Salford, and England Northwest and Manchester Thunder netball squads.

 

Twitter

 

? Listen to the full episode here

 

Discussion topics:

 

”Would you be able to talk to us about the key positions we should be worried about when it comes to effective change of direction and how we train those?

 

”@Tom: there is a whole range of definitions in terms of if we are just talking about a change in path of travel or reorientation of our centre of mass.  I’ll break down change of direction (COD) into four phases.

 

  1. Initial Acceleration – to initiate the movement
  2. Preliminary Deceleration – depending on the angle (particularly for more aggressive COD anything 60 degrees and above)
  3. Preparatory postural adjustments – stride length and preparatory positions to optimise final foot plant (there will be some potential braking over the penultimate step and prior steps
  4. Execution phase – final foot plant – then re-accelerate

 

There are probably five or six different change of direction actions during the execution phase.

 

  1. sidestep cutting action – involves lateral foot plant abducting at the hip and pushing off towards the opposite direction
  2. cross-over cut – medial foot placement on the same limb and push off in the same direction
  3. shuffle step – a series of lateral foot plants – we see that from an evasive perspective (rug
  4. split step (jump cut) – jump into the cut and push off that one limb, or land bilaterally and then push off one limb
  5. spin maneuver– typically a 270 degrees blind side turn- popular in ball carrying sports to avoid being tackled
  6. Pivot – turn to 110-120 degrees or more performed bilaterally or unilaterally
  7. Deceleration – which is an agility action in its own right

 

Performance-Injury Trade Off

 

Some of the technical characteristics that are required for faster performance could be at odds with potential increased knee joint loading.

 

There is always going to be some injury risk with changing direction.

 

The faster we run the greater the knee joint load so typically we need to reduce our momentum into that, so the penultimate foot contact is key.  I believe that a lot of the poor postures adopted in that final foot contact are a by product of sub-optimal positioning on those preparatory steps, particularly in the penultimate foot contact.  I think it’s a really important step to put you in the optimal position to execute an optimal final foot contact.

 

Penultimate Foot Contact

 

We encourage EARLIER BRAKING particularly with these sharper COD as it’s a safer strategy with the penultimate foot contact because we decelerate in the sagittal plane, the knee joint is in a stronger position, GRF vectors are aligned with the knee joint centre, and we go through substantially greater range of motion (typically you go through double the amount of knee flexion, around 10-120 with the penultimate foot contact- PFC 100–120° versus FFC 20–60°) which equals greater angular displacement. Thus, based on the work-energy principle, ↑ work = greater reduction in kinetic energy and ↓ velocity.

 

Figure 1. The image on the left illustrates final foot contact (FFC), and the image on the right illustrates penultimate foot contact (PFC).

 

Final Foot Contact

 

If we think about the Final Foot Contact (FFC) you are asking the limb to go from a rapid braking phase to a rapid transition into a propulsive phase, so asking it to do two things during ground contact, whereas the PFC can focus purely on braking, and it goes through increased range of motion which is a safer strategy.

 

For a sharper turn (180 degree) we encourage to decelerate more in the anti-penultimate step, start rotating in the PFC to start lining you up in the correct position.

 

Brake early and lower your centre of mass

 

That’s going to put you in the optimal position to create that perpendicular force with a wide lateral foot plant in order to change inertia and accelerate laterally or medially in this sense.  By having a wide lateral foot plant we need to acknowledge we are going to increase the moment arm in the frontal plane, so that’s going to increase knee valgus loading, so there is probably this Goldilocks affect- not too wide but not too narrow.

 

 

Frontal Trunk control

 

Another performance-injury trade off.  If your objective is to have the greatest exit Velocity we should be encouraging medial trunk lean.  However, this is the argument that we need to ”drop the shoulder” which is a deceitful maneuver to unbalance and fool your opponent however we do get increased moment arm in the frontal plane and that is going to increase the knee valgus

 

If the objective is to complete the task as fast as possible we try and rotate early towards the direction of travel.

 

Hip Extension and Knee Flexion Paradox

 

If we want to decrease the risk of injury we just need to ask the athlete to run slow and land really softly.

 

Slower athletes display lower knee joint loads and go through greater knee and hip flexion, they distribute the load further up the chain.  Faster athletes, make ground contact/land in initial hip flexion, they don’t go through any further hip flexion so maintain the isometric and go purely into hip extension- so possibly resisted hip and knee flexion could be a strong performance indicator, while also acknowledging the greater knee joint load of this strategy.

 

Foot Position

 

We encourage a neutral foot position.  If you are excessive internally rotated this will increase the susceptibility to knee abduction moments and having excessively rotated outwards can lead to pronation and lead to tibial rotation.

 

A big debate is if we heel strike or not?  I wouldn’t want to change direction just on the ball of my foot.  I assume I am going to increase the loading and susceptibility to ankle injuries and we need that firm base of support.

 

Optimal Technical Model

 

I don’t think it exists but we do need to acknowledge the Performance-Injury trade offs and address the technical deficits that aren’t going to offer any performance advantages.”

 

”@Alistair: I think that enhancing an athlete’s physical capacity is probably the most effective way to mitigate injury risks and develop their strength/power qualities to enhance performance.

 

Control to Chaos Continuum

 

I also like the Control to Chaos Continuum.  During a session I always start with pre-planned drills to begin with.  This allows you to make sure that you execute a certain volume of left and right change of directions, so you know how much work you did in the session, and it’s way of making sure you are getting the required dosage that you can build on.

 

 

Within more of an agility based drill you do forsake that element of control because it does become more chaotic.  But these are really important for game performance and this would be a good segway into the technical session.”

 

”Is COD testing losing its place in an applied setting?”

 

”@Tom:  I suppose it is, but I don’t think it should be.  I still think there is a time and place for it.

 

COD Testing

 

Pre-planned COD testing and training seems to be getting bashed at the moment as it’s not sport specific and it doesn’t involve perception-action coupling.  However, we test and train sprinting in a pre-planned environment.  Everyone is okay addressing sprint mechanics in a pre-planned environment, everyone is okay addressing jump mechanics in a pre-planned environment.  But as soon as we want to do a COD drill we immediately must throw a ball and a defender in, when in fact most athletes don’t warrant the right for that because they can’t MASTER THE MECHANICS in the pre-planned.

 

We don’t programme our plyometrics by going to a 50 cm box and thinking about an overhead target.  We do it in a controlled manner.  We still want those pre-planned elements in our training, we are not saying completely remove the unplanned elements, just think about the volumes and dosages.

 

I’d argue that in most sports our coaching philosophy is we want robust 360 degree athletes who are proficient at changing direction off left and right limbs from low, medium and high velocities

 

If we start breaking it down into our tests and we say we want our athlete to sidestep cut off 45 degrees, 90 degrees, do some aggressive pivots.  But then we also need to make sure they are equally proficient off both limbs.  So from a timing gate perspective, that means they need to do at least two trials on the left, two trials on the right, at 45, 90 and 180 degrees.  But that’s 5 metres, which shows that they are good at decelerating and changing direction from a low entry velocity.  So do I do repeat the same thing at a high entry velocity? Before you know it, we probably need 30 trials to build up this multi-directional speed profile and that’s just for one sidestep cutting action.

 

The other issue with timing gates is we are getting no insight into movement strategy, we are just getting an indication of how quickly they are getting from A to B (which is fine when the objective is in most sports is to get from A to B).  Particularly we want to know how are they entering, how are they changing direction and how are they exiting?  With the advancement of wearable non invasive technologies we are starting to get more insights into this.  We can mask our deficiencies in COD with superior acceleration and linear speed capabilities.

 

Change of Direction Angle Profile

 

We do Force (Load)-Velocity load profiling with our jump squats which takes 45 minutes so why can’t we do the same thing on the pitch and view this testing session as an isolated training session to elicit a training stimulus.

 

We can build a picture of 45 degree, a 90 degree and 180 cut for each isolated COD cutting task such as a sidestep cut.

 

Agility Assessments

 

I don’t think there will ever be a perfect agility assessment because sport is chaotic.  I am not a fan of one versus one testing, looking at how successful one is at evading an opponent.   I think it’s quite floored because we are still not getting an insight into perceptual-cognitive speed.  How do we standardise that defender for the attacker, how do we standardise the starting position? We can’t use a generic stimulus such as flashing light or arrow because they don’t differentiate skill level.  You need a sport specific stimulus and I don’t think you can complete that on the pitch.

 

To evaluate we should be looking at the movement quality and not just completion time or COD deficit, which are floored in my opinion.   We should be filming our athletes completing COD tasks to see how they are executing them – are seeing if they are adopting double foot contact or predominantly loading on one limb, and look at their trunk position etc (whether it’s during a testing session or during field based conditioning sessions).

 

The reason why I’m still a big advocate of these pre-planned tests is because we are focusing on that perception-action coupling (with agility drills).  What we are interested in is the mechanical ability to perform that task irrespective if we add some externally directed attention or agility stimulus.

 

If an athlete is poor at performing that task, it is only going to be amplified and worsened in an unplanned environment

 

I still think that a lot of athletes don’t really excel at these pre-planned tasks where we are evaluating the physical and mechanical ability to perform the COD task.

 

COD Deficit

 

The COD deficit is really popular as a way of getting an isolated measure of COD ability by subtracting a linear sprint time of equivalent distance from the COD test time such as the 5-0-5.

 

505 completion time – 10-meter sprint time

 

But it seems to be maybe potentially biased to slower athletes.  If you are ‘slower’ (but achieve the same 5-0-5 time) you’ll arguably going to have a ‘better’ COD deficit but the athlete is slower!

 

If you think of a test like a 5-0-5 a faster athlete is actually at a disadvantage because they have greater horizontal momentum and they are going to have to apply a greater braking force in order to decelerate and perform that task.  So something we have to factor in with the COD deficit is the athlete’s entry speed.

 

A better option might be to break the COD completion time down into three phases we can assess:

 

  1. Entry time– point they enter COD to FFC
  2. COD time – initial contact to toe off of main foot contact (FFC)
  3. Exit time

 

 

If you’d like to read more about this, see Tom’s article on Simplifaster for more information.

 

Also pay attention to the pacing strategy (which might be indicated by entry time).  When you do a 5-0-5 you might see some athletes start decelerating prior to the entry gate (so they want to decelerate over 6 metres- 1 metre before the gate) which is a self regulatory effect where faster athletes potentially don’t want to utilize their full speed because of this braking load tolerance, and want to make the task easier.  It seems to be the same for weaker athletes as well.  It seems to be a physical capacity issue; eccentrically strong athletes can approach faster and decelerate quicker.”

 

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

 

  1.  Performance-Injury Trade off – Some of the technical characteristics that are required for faster performance could be at odds with potential increased knee joint loading.
  2.  Optimal technical model – I don’t think it exists!
  3.  Pre-planned COD tasks – we want those pre-planned elements in our training, we are not saying completely remove the unplanned elements, just think about the volumes and dosages.
  4.  Assessing movement – we should be looking at the movement quality and not just completion time.
  5.  COD deficit – could potentially be biased to slower athletes.

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

Science of Multi-Directional Speed

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 380 Alastair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

Remember:

 

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
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Since you’re here…

 

…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

 

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 380 Alistair & Tom Part 2

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 380 – Alistair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

 

Alistair McBurnie

 

Alistair is a sports science analyst for Manchester United’s first team, having worked his way up from coaching at academy level.

 

Twitter

 

Tom Dos’Santo

 

Tom is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches strength conditioning and sports biomechanics. Previously, he’s worked at the University of Salford, and England Northwest and Manchester Thunder netball squads.

 

Twitter

 

? Listen to the full episode here

 

Discussion topics:

 

Do we think the boot worn sensors are going to be the next thing to integrate within performance departments?

 

”@Alastair: I think so. I think it’s just the next level really, isn’t it? We talk about whole body loading and evaluating the key performance metrics we currently have which might include total distance, high speed running, sprinting distance, accelerations, and decelerations. I’m not telling you things that are reinventing the wheel there. I think everyone are using them as the key monitoring metrics, in particular in football.

 

 

Individualising Training

 

We want to make athletes better at performing these high intensity actions and to just have an insight into the volume. This player performs, you know, 200 metres of sprinting distance in a game. That’s great from a volume perspective and programming of weekly and monthly training volumes.

 

But in terms of how are we actually programming how are they achieving that movement (volume) and information about the movement strategies and the special temporal variables that you get from these kind of technologies I think will give us more insights into the specific drills that can target them because if we’re looking at horizontal deceleration and we uncover that a player’s ground contact time may be a bit too elongated, we’re then stripping that back and going, right, what can we do in the gym to make sure that we’re actually increasing elements that are going to improve ground contact time or stiffness if you’ll like?

 

 

So I think when we get to a point where we can move a lot of the stuff that is typically done in a lab and moving it to the field and almost ”testing without testing” players within their athletic development training programs these technologies are able to pick up every single action that they’re doing. So it becomes a point where we don’t have to worry about getting athletes in for a testing battery. It can almost be done as part of the day-to-day practices, as part of the warm-ups, etc.”

 

In terms of developing the qualities needed for good deceleration ability in the gym, when people look towards that, what should people be focusing on based on what we’ve just spoken about for the last 45 minutes?

 

”@Tom: So I think it’ll be very similar to change of direction, especially when we think about that angle-velocity trade off again. So we think the shallow change of directions, being more velocity dominant, more concentric and reactive strength dominant, whereas particularly anything 60 degrees, 90 degrees and above are probably a bit more of eccentric strength training focused.

 

So in terms of physically preparing athletes, we like to think about specific musculature and segments that we want to target. And then maybe think about the underlying physical qualities and strength qualities. Let’s discuss the musculature first, and then some particular physical qualities and training methods.  It should be a mixed multi-component and a multi-segmental model and It’s not just one specific area, or one training modality that is going to bulletproof our athletes.

 

Trunk Control

 

And I think the kind of the training recommendations that myself and Alistair will go through are probably applicable not only for deceleration, but change of direction, curvi-linear speeds, accelerations and high speed running. So trunk control, if we work our way down, trunk control is going to be a massive. Trunk contains approximately half of the body’s mass and that needs to be supported typically on one limb where we’re doing these deceleration and change of direction actions. And we need good control in the frontal plane and the sagittal plane.

 

So there’s a lot of evidence showing that from a change of direction perspective anyway, lateral trunk flexion is going to increase our knee valgus moments because we get laterally directed ground reaction force vector that increases the moment arm and subsequently increases loading.  So frontal plane trunk control is going to be massive.

 

Technique modification training so basically good cuing and good coaches are telling athletes to adopt a bit more of a neutral trunk posture, and make sure they are in their correct alignment. I know some people have used medicine balls to try and reinforce optimal trunk alignment. I think Enda King and the Sport Surgery Clinic have shown it to be quite effective.

 

Our dynamic trunk stability exercises and balance training has also been shown to be quite effective at improving frontal plane and transverse plane trunk control. In terms of correcting sagittal plane and avoiding anterior trunk displacement, probably in the opposing muscle groups and the posterior aspect especially erector spinae and glute max exercises target that trunk control and reinforce that bracing and again, instructing our athletes to try and avoid excessive forward trunk lean when we’re decelerating and performing these change of direction actions.

 

And there’s also evidence showing these deficits in trunk control can increase ACL injury risk and have been prospectively shown to increase ACL injury risk. So with that multi segmental model focusing on correcting that anterior pelvic tilt, getting that dynamic trunk stability in the sagittal and frontal plane seems to be key.

 

Hip Complex

 

Then, because from the biomechanical aspect during these decels and change of directions we create these large hip flexor moments and more externally applied knee flexor and hip flexor moments. So they need to be supported and counteracted with an internal hip extensor and knee extensor. So again, the musculature around the glutes, and external hip rotator strengthening is going to be key to tolerate those large hip flexor moments, trying to resist that change in hip flexion essentially. But also it’s going to be key in terms of frontal plane control particularly the femur. So again, there’s evidence showing that a knee valgus can increase knee valgus loading, like a two degree difference can increase the torque by around about 40 Newton metres.

 

 

And by having high levels of glute activation it can resist and oppose and support that potential knee valgus loading and preventing that knee valgus position. So that would be key from that perspective, but it’s also key for facilitating braking.

 

Anterior Aspect

 

If we start going onto the anterior aspect, so the quadricep strengthening is going to be key, particularly for those eccentric muscle actions and to support those large external knee flexor moments. So we’re getting internal knee extensor moment. So we have high levels of quadricep activation, but we have this kind of performance-injury trade-off. So we need the quadriceps for the braking aspect and we need them for the propulsive aspect if we want to go and re-accelerate and perform a change the direction.

 

However, if we don’t have high levels of co-activation of the hamstrings, this can increase our anterior tibial shear. So again, I’m going to focus on ACL injuries because I love ACL injuries, but it’s kind of like a multi-planar mechanism. So we get our anterior tibial shear, which can result in this anterior tibial translation of the tibia relative to the femur. That seems to be one of the primary contributors of ACL loading.

 

If we get these aggressive quadricep activation at these extended knee postures, typically within 0-40 degrees where the quadriceps insert, we can get this anterior tibial translation. So although we do need, I’m not saying we avoid high levels of quadricep activation, we do need it, but we need to make sure we get high levels of co-activation of the hamstrings as well. Hamstrings are bi-articular, originating in the pelvis and insert into aspects of the tibia and the fibular, but their role is to prevent that anterior tibial translation to try and oppose and create a posterior shear force. And again, there’s lots of evidence showing that having weaker hamstrings and fatigued hamstrings can increase ACL loading, and there are some musculoskeletal modeling showing that.

 

So although we do need high levels of quadricep activation, we need to make sure we get the high levels of co-activation of the hamstrings as well. And that could be a whole range of different fast eccentric velocity exercises, slow velocity exercises, isometric, eccentric, and even potentially some concentric strengthening exercises as well.

 

Lower Limb

 

If we move down the limbs, we’ve focused on the knee and the hip there and the trunk. There is a whole debate around the gastrocnemius, but the gastrocnemius is a kind of antagonist to the ACL and can increase ACL loading. There’s some evidence showing that we need to increase soleus activation, particularly around the ankle, the ankle acts like a kind of dampener and a shock absorber for deceleration and our change directions. So although we need that quadriceps, some people argue that soleus activation is key.

 

How you go about isolating soleus without getting gastrocnemius would be quite difficult. I probably don’t have the answers there. Probably some more intelligent people might be able to answer that. And then we also have a kind of like our intrinsic foot stabilizer muscles and that kind of perennial muscles as well to try and prevent those excessive inversion angle of velocities because lateral ankle sprains are a common injury mechanism during these decel and change direction actions. So specific exercises to target ankle stability and foot stability.

 

So they’re the key muscles and musculature that we want to target. I’m not saying that this is the right or only way to go about it. It’s a whole different range of methods. My whole philosophy about transfer of training is focused on the adaptation that we’re trying to elicit. I’m not going to say we must do Olympic lifts or must do this as long as you’ve got a rationale behind your exercise and we’re trying to elicit some sort of musculoskeletal or mechanical biological adaptation, that’s key.

 

Physical Robustness

 

So in terms of reducing risk, we’re trying to reduce those high risk deficits that are linked to the potential to generate multiple planer knee joint loads. So any frontal plane deficits, such as knee valgus, tibia rotation, lateral and frontal plane trunk control. So again, this is quite a performance-injury trade off. We need athletes to generate high impact ground reaction forces, but they need to be able to tolerate them. So having athletes physically robust enough, there seems to be this emphasis now and shifting away from kind of injury prevention, but more focus on physical robustness to tolerate these loads.

 

So again, to tolerate these potentially hazardous knee joint loads in particular, is increase muscular support round about the knee span and non knee spanning muscles around glutes, around about the hip, around the knee as well, the quadriceps and the hamstrings and the lower limb as well and they can support in some of that loading. By mechanically loading these structures, we are stimulating some musculoskeletal adaptations to hopefully strengthen those tissues, so they’re more robust to tolerate them.

 

And what Alistair alluded to before in terms of reducing injury risk, is that careful monitoring and sequencing in periodisation of these high impact activities. So getting into these advancements in technology, we’re monitoring a number of accels and high speed running. There seems to be this sweet spot, not too much, not too little in terms of high speed running, I think was it Malone who identified maybe six to seven sprints of 95% and above. We just don’t know from a change of direction and deceleration perspective, but we encourage practitioners to monitor hopefully these proxies of ACL and lower limb loading, and probably try to avoid these rapid spikes, maybe 10 to 20% on a week to week.

 

And then you’ve got the development of the kind of perceptual cognitive abilities as well. So if we can start identifying some of these cues a bit earlier, so we can make some anticipatory posture adjustments and get these high levels of pre-activation. This again should hopefully dissipate some of the loads. Probably a debatable area, whether it’s in strength and conditioning coaches’ job to work on perceptual cognitive speed, I would encourage people to work with a motor skill expert, but I suppose it comes down to working with a skills coach, motor skills experts to try and identify working on perceptual cognitive speed. So we can identify these cues earlier, put us in a position to make these anticipatory posture adjustments earlier. Give us the physical affordances to hopefully adopt these safer, and more mechanically robust strategies to reduce loading and optimize performance.

 

Multi-Component Training Model

 

Damien Harper’s has been calling it the dynamic braking performance framework we are a big believer of a multi-component model. So not a one size fits all, but including some trunk stabilization, balance, plyometric training is a very good transferable exercise for not only for improving performance, but improving lower limb control and neuromuscular activity patterns, but also get some eccentric strength development in the weight room. I encourage a multitude of different exercises that focus on all aspects of the force velocity curve. So having some fast eccentric velocity exercises, whether that’s through plyometric training, maybe some ISO inertial training or some kind of more coordination overload. Some more slower eccentric velocity exercises, whether that’s more AEL, (accentuated eccentrics loading), or I don’t know, maybe some Nordic curls, for example, or just increasing time under a tension and tempo training.

 

I probably encourage people to read the work of Tim Sycamore, he did a two part review. Not my area of expertise, but I know you’ve interviewed Alex Natera and Daniel Lum, big emphasis on isometric training at the moment, particularly if we could try and mimic some of the postures and deceleration and change of direction. However, we probably do need to target particularly that kind of triple flexion position in a range of different postures, because the greater the angle of change direction, you typically go to greater range of hip and knee flexion as well. So you probably need maybe a 140 degree angle, maybe a 120 degree and a, maybe an 90 degree angle with different postures. And I know there are advocates of yielding and pushing isometrics. I don’t know too much about that.

 

 

I think you can elicit some very good tendon adaptations and get something hopefully quite non-fatiguing positive tissue adaptations as well as those sports specific postures, whether it’s unilateral or split position. And then the reactive strength qualities that we could target in the weight room, our typical ballistic training, our Olympic lifts, not only during the propulsive phase, but whenever we decelerate the barbell, not getting into a debate whether we need to catch or just do the pull of variations. However, if you just do the pull of variations, arguably you get a nice fast eccentric loading, when we decelerate the bar, so that could be a really good method as well. And just your generic tissue conditioning and your general resistance training your back squats, deadlifts targeting those key segments that are target before.

 

And there’s finally, and I’ve talked for ages about this focus on movement quality. Essentially movement is a skill. These injuries occur due to some sort of biomechanical limitation that’s increased load into that specific joint or structure. So trying to optimize the technical characteristics and maximize performance, but also potentially mitigate injury risk. There is a performance-injury trade-off associated with some of the techniques, but we’ve shown that in as little as six weeks, we can modify athlete’s technique during cutting and turning by giving some externally directed verbal cues and introducing these in the field, as part of a field based warm-up.  I don’t buy that athletes and coach said they haven’t got time to throw this type of training into their training programs  before every technical tactical session.

 

From a deceleration training perspective, I do think we do need some interventions looking at enforced stopping as a fast eccentric velocity training method, but also as a strategy to reinforce these optimal mechanics. If we want our athletes to move well, we need to practice the skill of decelerating and change of direction in pre-planned environments, but we can get onto later if you want.”

 

”@Alastair:  I think you emphasized a great deal that we really believe that the fast eccentric loading component of specific horizontal decelerations in the field is a really key and potentially potent stimulus. And I think we can talk about the, the gym based strategies, which obviously should work in harmony with the field based athletic development strategies.

 

So I think you can’t just decide, right, I’m going to focus on all these eccentric training methods in the gym, and that will create super robust resilient athletes. I think you also need to make sure that they are specifically applying all these elements in field based drills. We’ve got a library of different drill examples that we can provide obviously targeting in multiple planes as well, because we’re not just decelerating in the sagittal plane, change of direction maneuvers occur in the sagittal plane, the frontal plane and the transverse plane.

 

You’ve got this point where it’s almost a harmony of the gym based programming and the field based programming to get the adaptations that you want. Chris Bellon talks about using the short to long approach of acceleration development with the pioneer of that is being Charlie Francis, but talking about seamless sequential integration, whereby we are developing shorter acceleration distances first and foremost in the training cycle, and working a lot alongside that or the gym based methods that actually provide the foundation for the subsequent phase.

 

So as an athlete is then starting to be exposed to greater acceleration distances, they have the prerequisite physical strength and power qualities to almost harness that to optimum effect. And I think you can see how that would theoretically apply to horizontal deceleration training. So if we were to develop the foundational eccentric strength qualities alongside the pitch based stuff which might be at this point a bit more of a technical focus, making sure that we’re getting the right positions in both the sagittal and frontal plane. So we start with methods such as flywheel training or tempo eccentric training, but then developing those foundational eccentric strength qualities for the subsequent phase to which then you might actually open up the distances.

 

We use deceleration runways a lot, which is where you can almost increase the drill distance or the approach velocity before actually making a more intense, horizontal deceleration. And by having the prerequisite eccentric strength qualities that you’ve developed in the previous phase, you should be in a better position to tolerate the deceleration demands there. So I think it’s always about using both gym-based and field-based athletic development exercises to create these athletes or to promote these characteristics that we want to see from both performance and injury risk perspective.”

 

”@Tom: Sorry Alistair, just one point. I suppose it comes down to your point about the monitoring. Like we said before, we can easily integrate these kind of field-based runways and decelerations into our field-based training. We don’t know too much about the optimal dosages. So we encourage a conservative approach, with careful periodisation. I probably would say maybe only theoretically maybe 100 to 200 metres of enforced stopping probably only that’s needed because we need to be monitoring the technical tactical base sessions as well. We don’t want to overexpose athletes, but I think we certainly need more research in that area about the optimal dosages and whether that differentiates between athletes, whether they’ve got high levels of physical capacity. I’d imagine athletes with great physical capacities are able to tolerate greater dosages of this enforced deceleration training, but a kind of a careful conservative approach is what we’d recommend.

 

But if you’re not monitoring, you’re just guessing, so that’s why we would come back to if you’re at least getting some monitoring of the frequency and potential deceleration distances, in addition to whether you are prescribing five or 10 metre decelerations, I think that’s a really big thing to think about.

 

I would also just say going back onto what we know about horizontal decelerations and the unique, physiological and biomechanical characteristics that might separate them from other potential multidirectional speed elements that you’ll be exposing your athletes to. So almost looking at it from a macroscopic perspective and going right, what training sessions are we carrying out this week, the next week, over six weeks and going, right?

 

Can we sequence these in different ways? Because we know that the recovery timelines of these more biomechanically focused elements with eccentric loading might be quite different to what an acceleration focused session might be.  So almost looking at it over a six week cycle and actually sequencing your accelerations, your high speed running, which are maybe more of a concentric focus with less muscle damage than a horizontal deceleration would impart. And actually making sure that you’re sequencing them differently rather than just going right, I’m going to deload on week five.  You actually might want to look into it and go, I’m going to deload these accelerations and high speed running in week four, and then pick it back up in week six, and actually you might want to give a bit more time for that adaptation to happen with the horizontal decelerations. In that way we can actually harmonise and sequence different variables at different times.  You might be deloading and not targeting a specific multi-directional speed quality in one week but it doesn’t mean that you can’t target another element.”

 

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

 

  1. Boot worn sensors – might be the next development to measure inter-limb differences
  2. There are a number of muscles that need to be conditioning for deceleration including trunk, hip complex, quadriceps and hamstrings and calves.
  3.  Training for deceleration needs to be a multi-factorial approach including an emphasis on eccentric training, as well as isometric, reactive strength and technique/movement quality.
  4.  Integration – the gym based strategies, should work in harmony with the field based athletic development strategies.
  5.  More research is required – we don’t know the optimal dose of enforced stopping but conservatively we suggest no more than 100-200m and this work should be considered to have different timelines of adaptation and recoverability due to more biomechanical loading (than acceleration).

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

Science of Multi-Directional Speed

 

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

 

Remember:

 

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

 

Since you’re here…

 

…we have a small favor to ask.  APA aim to bring you compelling content from the world of sports science and coaching.  We are devoted to making athletes fitter, faster and stronger so they can excel in sport. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — APA TEAM

 

=> Follow us on Facebook

=> Follow us on Instagram

=> Follow us on Twitter

Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 380 Alistair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 380 – Alistair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

 

Alistair McBurnie

 

Alistair is a sports science analyst for Manchester United’s first team, having worked his way up from coaching at academy level.

 

Twitter

 

Tom Dos’Santo

 

Tom is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches strength conditioning and sports biomechanics. Previously, he’s worked at the University of Salford, and England Northwest and Manchester Thunder netball squads.

 

Twitter

 

? Listen to the full episode here

 

Discussion topics:

 

Why is it so important that we do focus on both performance and injury risk and what’s your thoughts on the importance of training deceleration for both of those aspects?

 

”@Alastair: I think when we talk about deceleration we’re either referring to it as an action immediately preceding a sprint or the penultimate steps before a change of direction maneuver. So it’s almost like a prerequisite for a lot of actions or high intensity actions that are going on in match play across all team sports.

 

Performance Perspective

 

And I think from a performance perspective, a lot of Tom’s works looked into the penultimate steps preceding a change of direction maneuver. And we know that within that effective deceleration underpins effective change of direction performance. And that is simply because in order to reduce horizontal momentum and reduce the  requirements of the final change of direction foot plant, as a braking requirement, we almost want that final change of direction foot plant to be more of a propulsive element to which that deceleration and application of high deceleration braking force underpins that.

 

So from a performance perspective, I think being able to slam on the brakes both quickly and effectively will be conducive to change of direction performance, but also being able to react to situations in game play.  When players are trying to evade opponents, being able to create that separation from the opponent and exploiting the space is really important.

 

Injury Risk

 

From a more injury risk side of things, there’s a lot of things going on in terms of what are the implications from both a biomechanical and physiological perspective. We touched on this a lot in our recent review that was published in Sports Medicine. But essentially what we’re trying to discuss with respect to horizontal deceleration is that they are unique actions in comparison to other high intensity key performance indicators. We talk about acceleration and high speed running, being a very important thing to both expose athletes to, and prepare them for and monitor during the weekly training cycle.

 

But I think deceleration needs to have the same focus. And from a biomechanical perspective, you’ll see that, and this is the work done by Damian Harper. He likes to see a higher impact peak and loading rate from a deceleration, so that higher spike in ground reaction force you’ll typically see versus an acceleration which can be down to the rapidly imposed nature of horizontal decelerations, but also the movement strategy performed as well. So that heel foot contact and that stiffness in comparison to a more mid to forefoot striking strategy for your acceleration.

 

 

Then from a more physiological perspective, horizontal deceleration obviously have that really strong eccentric element to them which can impart muscle damage. And this is going to have acute implications as well as chronic implications because we also know that the high eccentric force requirements of horizontal decelerations can  disrupt the structural integrity of the muscle cells.  Over the course of a long competitive season, under fatigue conditions, that may actually exceed the muscles’ capacity to tolerate those high eccentric loads. And it could cause these acute muscle strain injuries we see.

 

But then probably from more a chronic perspective, we’re again talking about these team sport athletes who are required to repeat these high intensity performance over multiple matches, high fixture densities and repeating these high intensity actions may cause a sub maximal repetitive loading consequence, which may surpass the remodeling rate of the biological tissue because of the limited recovery timelines.

 

So in essence, we’ve got this athlete who if they aren’t physically prepared enough or don’t have the physical capacity to tolerate the high braking demands, as well as the technical proficiency to dissipate or attenuate the braking loads, coupled with the fact that they are required to repeat these high intensity actions multiple times within a training week or within a cycle, they may be susceptible to injury due to the elements that we’ve just discussed in terms of the biomechanics and physiology of decelerations.

 

So we want to understand that horizontal decelerations have these unique elements, which if we can understand and highlight, we can sequence them appropriately within a training cycle and hopefully reduce the relative risk of injury that athletes may be susceptible to, but also improve the performance as well, which I’m sure Tom can talk about a little bit more with his work.”

 

”@Tom:  As Alistair was stating before we can treat deceleration from a performance aspect from two perspectives; treating it as an isolated agility action. So if we consider Warren Young or Shepherd Young’s definition from 2006, a rapid whole body movement with a change of direction or velocity in response to stimulus. So deceleration in its own right is its own unique agility action, as Alistair was saying before.

 

Performance Perspective

 

We typically see it with our wingers potentially in rugby, American football, even soccer, doing those enforced decelerations from an attacking perspective to try and create that separation in order to maybe re-accelerate again or catch a ball or receive a pass.

 

Then from a change direction perspective, we’ve discussed something known as the kind of angle-velocity trade off. So typically as the angle increases, we need to reduce our horizontal momentum in order to perform that intended angle or change of direction. And typically, as angle increases our momentum muscle reduce and normally the ground contact time will increase in proportion to that angle.

 

Based on the biomechanical literature, it seems to be that in terms of the preliminary deceleration, there’s probably a minimal requirement to decelerate prior to, or for change of directions around about 45 degrees and below from a pre-planned perspective. Obviously there’ll be scenarios in multi-directional speed sports, where if you are having to perform a shallow change of direction where we only need to slam on the brake slightly for an acute angle change of direction, but typically in terms of the foot contact the second to last foot contact that we’re interested in (penultimate step), it seems to be 60 degrees and above, and we’ve even shown some evidence that even the anti-penultimate foot contact has a significant role in deceleration.

 

Figure- example of 180 degree cut

 

And again, some of the evidence seems to show that deceleration distances for these sharper change of directions can range from anywhere from about four to seven metres. So it highlights a multi-step nature of change of direction to reduce that momentum in order to deflect our center of mass.

 

So that’s key for performance. You’ve probably seen yourself as a practitioner athletes run too quickly and they can’t perform that intended angle of directional change, which probably affects their ability to deflect the centre of mass and makes them more susceptible to being tackled if it’s a invasion sport where we’re trying to evade our opponents. So it’s kind of like a speed accuracy trade off.

 

Injury Risk

 

Then from the injury risk perspective, deceleration actions are associated with injury inciting events. As Alistair has said before, we can get round about six times body weight of impact ground reaction forces within 50 milliseconds. So my background is ACL injuries. That seems to be the kind of window when these ACL injuries occur, these ACL injuries and other tissue injuries occur when we experience a mechanical load that exceeds its ultimate tensile strength.

 

So that could just be one single catastrophic load, the body’s load, and we can be referring to torques or knee moments in particular, which is just ground action force multiplied by the moment arm. So if you are landing stiffly and have a high impact ground reaction force, we’re potentially going to increase our knee joint loads and that could potentially increase load into the ACL and the other tissues and structures in the knee in particular. And over time if that single loads is high enough, that could result in a rupture, but as Alistair described really well before, potentially there’s this mechanism of a fatigue failure.

 

So we see athletes performing hundreds of decelerations, hundreds of change of directions without getting injured. So why is it that one time they do get injured? Is it because of a fatigue failure mechanism where we gradually get this reduction in structural integrity and the low tolerance of that tissue? If we experience chronic exposure to these sub maximal loads, which gradually weaken the knee ligament or the other tissues and without adequate rest and preparation, that sub maximal load now becomes a load that it can no longer tolerate, which therefore results potentially in a rupture or strain or whatever, the injury mechanism there is potentially there.

 

So they are associated with ACL injuries, other soft tissue injuries, ankle injuries in particular, if we experience some high inversion angular velocities, during decelerations. Jordan Mendiguchia, has been discussing this and another is JB Morin, if you’re talking about anterior pelvic tilt, and although knee injuries seem to be the predominant injuries associated with decels and change of directions, there’s also the potential to generate potentially some hamstring strain injuries as well. Particularly if we get rapid trunk flexion with an extended knee posture which we need when we’re decelerating.

 

And I think they’ve described it really well, particularly with an anterior pelvic tilt with this rapid trunk flexion, we’re going to get a lot of extreme lengthening and loading at the proximal portion of the hamstring. So in addition to knee injury risk from a knee ligament and a quadricep tendon and patellar tendon perspective, we’ve also got to be thinking on the posterior aspect and the proximal portion of our hamstrings as well.”

 

So with the importance of this based on what you’ve both said, let’s talk about monitoring and testing, so maybe come to you Tom, on testing, and then the monitoring side of thing day-to-day, come to you Alistair on that. Is that alright, Tom?

 

Testing

 

”@Tom: Yeah. So I suppose we’ll go from like bronze standard completely field based to the gold standard methods in terms of testing deceleration. So from a basic perspective, I think coaches need to start appreciating, maybe just using the coach’s eye and start evaluating the technical aspect in terms of deceleration and potentially using high speed cameras. We’ve all got smartphones. Generally, they all can record 120 frames per second or above. So there’s nothing to prevent us now from doing some enforced deceleration with athletes filming predominantly from the sagittal plane from the side and observing some of the technical characteristics.

 

Bronze Standard ?

 

If you have got the ability to observe in a frontal plane, we’ve experienced it before at Salford City, some of our players during just a simple linear deceleration task, will display high levels of knee valgus. So from a movement and quality perspective for every task, I know Kinogram is a very popular for acceleration. I think we should be doing the same deceleration from a movement quality perspective.

 

With the simple way of measuring deceleration, we need to be thinking about what the KPIs are, what are our key metrics that indicate an athlete who’s very successful and very competent at deceleration. So probably the key thing that we’re after is time to stop a deceleration or distance to stop. We want athletes to be able to brake very quickly over a short amount of time and over a short distance.

 

So one crude way of doing it is just simply with a tape measure. There have been some research studies that have used a tape measure. Now one way is to run and once they get to the cone and the tape measures, they slam on the brakes. Not the best way of doing it. A lot of athletes will probably adopt a kind of pace strategy or start decelerating prior.

 

The next step I’ll probably recommend is probably again using high speed cameras.  There’s probably two ways of assessing deceleration, which Damien Harper speaks about and I think Phil Graham Smith has done before.  We have decelerating to a predefined point. So maybe that’s 15 or 20 metres, or you sprint to a certain distance and once you reach that marker, then you slam on the brakes. So Damien Harper’s a big advocate for that one. Phil Graham Smith has done the former where you actually decelerate to a predetermined point.

 

So what we could do with our cameras, we could position the camera probably about five to 10 metres away in the sagittal plane from the marker. And what Damien Harper did is he examined the approach velocity from 19 to 20 metres just before they had to slam on the brakes and then using your cameras, you can identify a tracking marker potentially on the pelvis or use the whole body if you wanted to. And then you would measure the distance it’s taken them to decelerate from that marker, past that point. And you could work out the time to stop. So we get a distance to stop and a time to stop.

 

But what we need to factor in is the athlete’s approach velocity as well, because it’s going to be bias towards lower momentum athletes. If you are a larger momentum athlete so heavier and faster, you’re at a disadvantage, because you’re going to require greater braking or net, horizontal braking impulse to decelerate and reduce your momentum.

 

The issue with those tasks is that it does require 2D analysis. So it can be a bit more time consuming and based on some of Damien Harper’s or Phil and Paul Jones’s research, athletes tend to start decelerating before that 20 metre mark. So they were reporting deceleration distances of three to four meters, when in fact they actually started decelerating potentially one to three metres before that point. So that’s something that we need to bear in mind if you are just measuring distance to stop from that predefined point.

 

Silver Standard ?

 

Probably the next step or the best way to go is potentially using like a radar or a laser device. So we have Stalker speed guns. So that’s what Damien Harper’s used. That samples at 47 Hertz, so we get an instantaneous velocity profile for our athletes. I know Paul Jones or Phil Graham Smith have used LabX which I think sample at 100 Hertz, so we get a bit more data. With deceleration we’re interested in meters per second squared and some people are interested in peak deceleration values. However, that only represents one data point and that could just be a freak or random part of data.

 

 

So I know Damien’s a big advocate of measuring average deceleration drawing the deceleration task and he started breaking it down into early and late deceleration. And the beauty with that device is we’re able to identify when they’ve started decelerating. So even if you are putting that 20 metre checkpoint, you can identify if they’re decelerating, maybe two to three metres earlier. And that’s what Damien Harper seems to be finding. Maybe around about the 17 and a half metre marker point, they seem to be putting on the brakes, which is fine as long as you are monitoring. He identifies deceleration distance as the distance from when they’ve achieved peak velocity to going towards that back pedal. So zero meters per second, and then in a negative direction.

 

So we can get those metrics from that. And in terms of the potential metrics that we want to examine, we can get our deceleration distance.  They seem to be our two KPIs that we’re interested in. So getting the distance to stop and time to stop with appreciation of that athlete’s entry velocity. So I don’t think it’s one single metric, we have discussed a possibility of maybe creating a ratio. So take the athlete’s initial entry velocity, and then maybe looking at the ratio of that entry velocity or peak speed and their distance and time to stop.

 

I believe the Ergo Test is another device that’s around about 5,000-10,000 Euros. Stalker speed gun is a bit more affordable, about $2,500 and LabX, I think a bit more difficult to hold of. I believe companies such as Playermaker, which is wearable for the foot, are working on the device potentially to start monitoring it in the field. And then the unique aspect of that is we’ll start to be able to monitor foot to foot and load distribution between left and right limbs to see if there’s any asymmetries.

 

LED React, another company are using radar and they’re creating kind of like a 25 metre radius dome, and they’re potentially working on a deceleration test using that same similar bit of technology.

 

Gold Standard ?

 

Probably the gold standard, but probably very difficult to implement in a field would be 3D motion analysis where we can get that instantaneous assessment of centre of mass velocity, but that requires Qualisys or Vicon, very difficult to implement in the field. Although there are now the advancements in marker-less technology as well and I know Jonas Dodoo has started using Binary sports app where identify the marker, and then they automatically track them. Not too sure on the validity of that approach.

 

But again, a bit more insight into not only just a kind of the instantaneous velocity, but we’ll get a bit more insight into how they’re performing the deceleration, so you can get some insights into some of the spatial temporal characteristics, limb velocities, step length, step frequencies, etc. So that’s a really good, I think there’s a lot of potential there. And I think over the next three to five years, I think marker-less technology will be amazing and probably bridging the gap, getting more insights to practitioners in the field.”

 

From a day-to-day monitoring point of view, Alistair, when it comes to deceleration, what kind of things are you doing? Is it like deceleration count? Is it deceleration intensity using player tracking etc?

 

Monitoring

 

”@Alistair: I think Tom’s alluded to a lot of potential technologies down the line are going to be very useful and give us a lot more insights to assessing and monitoring these actions. But I think based on current technologies (and I think pretty much every top club are using them now) is usually through GPS tracking. It is obviously very useful and it tells you a lot of information in relation to  the volume and also the intensity of whole body movements.

 

I’d like to underline that it is just whole body movement and for us to really understand what’s going on in terms of what is the actual movement strategy of the athlete, we currently won’t get that. We’re able to more deeply analyze supposed centre of mass velocity with these units. But I think even that will take a lot of extra work within the day-to-day practices. So like you said, we’re using count currently. I think it’s over three meters per second squared where we are classifying them as high intensity actions. And that’s the same for accelerations as well.

 

I’d like to highlight that there are differences between the demands of a high intensity acceleration versus a high intensity deceleration, which currently just use the same arbitrary cut off value, whether it’s three metres per second or 2.5 metres per second or whatever. But in actual fact the actual maximum rates of deceleration are much higher than acceleration. We also know about the biomechanical requirements of decelerations versus accelerations being very different. There may be a bit more of a metabolic cost to accelerations versus greater biomechanical loading of decelerations.

 

So I think we probably need to look into it a little bit more to see how we’re actually evaluating the different actions instead of using these arbitrary thresholds. I know that there’s been recent work, I think Damien was involved again to do with individualizing a high intensity locomotive profile using both acceleration and deceleration, but also your max aerobic speed and max velocity. And I think they’re the key things really going forwards because if we move away from horizontal decelerations just for a second, high speed running at the moment, we’re all using this arbitrary cut off, whether it’s 19.8 kilometres an hour or 20 kilometres per hour to assign the absolute volume of running that they’re doing at that intensity.

 

I think if we really want to individualize it, you want to be using that max aerobic speed versus the maximum sprint speed and getting that anaerobic speed reserve. And I think the same can be said for horizontal decelerations as well. So unfortunately I don’t have the answers to what potentially can be the next movement for the centre of mass velocity elements but I think realistically, we want to be getting the inter-limb differences, which these more foot based accelerometer technologies are going to be offering just to get a bit more insight into what are the asymmetrical loading patterns between limbs.

 

And obviously there’s going to be position elements to that position specific elements to that and just more simply individual elements to that. You know, some players might prefer to use or have a dominant leg to turn off or to decelerate off. And if we’re able to monitor that at both the acute chronic level, we will be able to uncover the trends in relation to if one specific limb is getting overloaded versus another one potentially getting under-loaded? So is there going to be spikes in workload between the limbs in that sense?

 

So I think until we have these technologies validated and more use in research going forwards, we’re at a point where we’re going to have to make do with what we’ve got currently. And I mean, there’s still valuable insights to be made from GPS.

 

And I think if we’re to focus on horizontal deceleration as a key performance indicator within a weekly micro cycle, we’re looking at it from these two acquisition days. So on a day-to-day; we’re looking at two acquisition days, maybe potentially being a G -4 and a G -3, that being the days before a game, as these are windows of opportunity to  train horizontal decelerations.  From a monitoring perspective, you might get that using just simply counts of horizontal decelerations, you can get an indication as to the volume that has been carried out in a training session, whether that is through athletic development training or the sport specific practice through manipulation of drill parameters.

 

You could maybe see typically on an intensive day where the pitch areas are a bit smaller and you’ll see a larger volume of accelerations and deceleration and change of directions being performed. And then that will give us an indication of the volume of deceleration work that these players have been exposed to during training day or this intensive theme day. And I think that is more your volume element and I think Damien Harper discusses this kind of deceleration endurance aspect if we’re looking at it from a more physical rationale.

 

However, then I’d also highlight that in a typically more, what we call extensive training theme where you open up the pitch areas and typically, this is where you get the exposures to maximum velocity, and there’s higher volumes of high speed running, which is obviously a key training theme within the week. If you’ve got one match at the end of the weekend and on these extensive training days, we’re going for that high intensity movement speed. But you’d probably also see these high intensity decelerations be performed there. So with the greater distances that you typically get in from opening up the pitch areas, this enables higher movement speeds, which require more intense braking to slow the athletes down.

 

So I think if we’re looking at volume on an intensive training day and looking at the volume of high intensity deceleration actions on a more of a extensive training focus day, you might want to look at the intensity of the high intensity deceleration. And I know Tom’s criticized that potentially maximal deceleration doesn’t tell you a great deal because it can actually be just an erroneous movement action. And obviously the kind of unit error involved in that as well from a technology sampling rate perspective, it’s difficult to uncover. But maybe it’s just a way of informing are we actually exposing our athletes to high intensity or very high intensity deceleration actions that potentially offers a bit of insight, and opportunity to track that over time to see when our athletes, when our players have been exposed to above 90 to 95% of their maximum sprinting speed. And if they’ve not done that in the last few weeks, that’s something that we need to sit down and go, right, we need these players to be exposed to that stimulus.

 

And I think the same can be true for horizontal decelerations. I think if a player’s not being exposed to maximal intensity decelerations, it’s something that we need to sit down and go, right, well, we need to make sure that we’re preparing these athletes because this is going to be happening in competition.

 

I think currently based on the technologies that we have available to us at the moment, talking more about these whole body measures of exercise volume and intensity with GPS tracking, I think they’re probably our best bets to give us insights into the volume and intensity of actions. And there’s obviously frequency and density and all that kind of thing that needs to go on as well. But I think moving forwards, we really want to have a bit more insight into the interim differences between what potential deceleration loading is occurring which these kind of accelerometers like Playmaker or the IMUs and maybe give us a bit more insights into all the spatial temporal factors, such as ground contact times, stride rate, stride frequency.

 

We don’t actually know what athletes are exposed to during competition and training. Hopefully we can end up using these technologies in a bit more of our day to day practice to actually uncover the trends on an individual basis to see what is normal for an athlete and go, right, okay. So this player performs a significant amount of turns or deceleration on their left limb. Why is that? Is that a positional requirement? But then to go, is that normal for them? And actually, you know, they might turn a lot more off their left limb and they might actually have a lot more loading going on through their left limb. Just trying to find a bandwidth of what is normal, what is a spike, what is an under-loading to inform more individualized training strategies or interventions as a consequence of that monitoring.”

 

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

 

  1. Horizontal decelerations are unique actions in comparison to other high intensity key performance indicators
  2. There are several testing options ranging from smart phone recordings, to radar guns to motion tracking.
  3. Currently GPS tracking is the main way of monitoring decelerations in professional sport
  4. There are key differences between the demands of a high intensity acceleration versus a high intensity deceleration with more of a metabolic cost to accelerations versus greater biomechanical loading of decelerations.
  5.  Future research – measurement of inter-limb differences using foot based accelerometer technologies

 

Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

 

Science of Multi-Directional Speed

 

You may also like from PPP:

 

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

 

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