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

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

Keith Baar

Research Gate

Background: 

Keith Baar

 

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

 

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

 

Discussion topics:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Ligaments

 

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

 

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

 

Tendons

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Top 5 Take Away Points:

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

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

Twitter:

@Musclescience

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 331 Danny Lum

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 331 – Danny Lum

Danny Lum

Research Gate

Background: 

Danny Lum

Danny is Head of Strength & Conditioning at the Singapore Sports Institute for seven years,and also currently doing a PhD with a research focus on Isometric Strength Training for Sports Performance.  Prior to that he was the Strength & Conditioning Officer for the Singapore Armed Forces so was dealing with Military Training.

Danny completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Australia (UWA) prior to doing the role in the Military for two years.

Discussion topics:

What options have we got when it comes to Isometric testing?

”There are single joint testing options as well mainly using the biodex equipment for rotator cuff internal/external rotation of shoulder, knee flexion/extension.  We also have multi-joint isometric testing such as isometric squat, isometric mid-thigh pul (IMTP), isometric bench press and isometric prone bench pull.”

 

Why would we go down that route in the first place with Isometric testing vs. something more dynamic?

”The information we can get from isometric testing includes not just the peak force, but also the rate of force development (RFD) and if we combine the data we get from the counter movement jump (CMJ), and IMTP for example, we can actually calculate the dynamic strength index, which I believe many coaches are using it as an indication of whether they should train their athlete more with plyometrics or with heavy strength training.

Some of the advantages of isometric training is that it is much safer because there is no movement involved you don’t get injured that easily, and it’s pretty quick, 5-seconds and you’re done.  The disadvantage is you can’t really use it for exercise prescription, like a 1-RM strength test.

Quite a lot of studies have shown the peak force and the RFD are significantly correlated to activities like sprinting, jumping and change of direction.  There are also studies that have looked at striking, throwing and recently we did a study with sprint Kayaking.  I want to think that isometric strength assessment data will have a high correlation with activities that has mainly concentric contractions like cycling and sprint Kayaking, but the relationship with dynamic activity that requires the stretch-shortening cycle with the eccentric and concentric phase might not be as great.

If you look at the literature and take IMTP and isometric squat for example, the relationship you get from the peak force with CMJ range from R = 0.30-0.80 so the range is pretty huge.  There could be a lot of reasons for this; it could be because of the familiarization, different athletes with different training experience and different strength levels and also the time of the year and the training phase they are in.

Another thing to look at is the joint position where the test is conducted.  So for example, if you look at the literature you will see that the isometric squat when tested at a 90 degree knee angle vs. 120 degree knee angle; the relationship between the isometric peak force obtained and CMJ jump height will be higher when the peak force was obtained at a 90 degree knee angle, and same for sprint performance.  What we can get from this, is that if you want to conduct the isometric strength test to see if there is any relationship with a certain activity, probably get the person to adopt a joint position whereby the concentric force is initiated at 90 degrees.  This makes sense because the CMJ is usually initiated from a position where the knee is at an angle of about 90 degrees.

But there is something interesting- that works for squat, but IMTP doesn’t work that way!  You can see that a IMTP is usually conducted at a knee angle of around 130-140 degrees, yet the  magnitude of the correlation with the CMJ height is as high as that obtained for the isometric squat at 90 degrees!  This is something I personally do not understand!!”

 

What is the dynamic strength index and why would coaches be interested in it/calculate it?

”First we collect the peak force from IMTP- theoretically that is the highest amount of force your lower limb can produce.  You can also obtain the peak force of the CMJ.  Then you can divide the peak force of the CMJ by the peak force of the IMTP

Dynamic Strength Index = Peak Force IMTP / Peak Force CMJ

The isometric peak force on an IMTP is the maximum amount of force you can produce and how much of this force can you translate into a dynamic movement.  The Dynamic strength index provides you with an indication, so I think if it is below 0.65 this indicates that your athlete might need a little more ballistic training like plyometrics.  But if the dynamic strength index is above 0.80 then the athlete probably needs more heavy strength training.”

 

Isometric training as a training tool- what benefits are people going to get from isometric training?

”First of all, similar to the isometric testing, it is simple, the risk of injury is very low.  You can see that in most of the injury cases, injured athletes will start off with isometric training to get the muscles activated (even when they are in a cast).  The exercise physiologist would advise the patient to perform some form of isometric contractions.

The disadvantage is that people believe that with isometric training you only gain strength in that specific joint angle that you train at, of course when you look at the literature, this is not true.
It really depends on the joint angle.  If I position the knee angle at 90 degree vs. 150 degrees.  At 90 degrees my quadriceps will be stretched more compared to at 150 degrees.  So if I train my quadriceps at a knee angle at 90 degrees where it is stretched a little more then the strength gains will increase across a greater range of motion as compared to a quadriceps at a short length.  So based on literature, if you train your muscles at a longer length using isometric strength training, then the strength gain might range up to about 40 degree from the angle you train at.  But if say, you train at a short muscle length, which is about 150 degree knee angle, then the strength increment might range up to about 15 degree from the angle you train at.

The adaptations from strength training are similar to dynamic strength training.  You still get increased neural firing, neural recruitment and hypertrophy of muscle.  One of the adaptations from isometric training that is superior to dynamic strength training is the increase in tendon stiffness.

This has high implications on RFD, so with greater tendon stiffness the force transmission from the muscle can be more efficient and will improve force production and RFD.”

When creating isometric exercises in some very sport specific positions what kind of creative process are you going through when thinking about integrating some of that into these sports?

”Two things.  First thing is I’m always looking where the concentric action is initiated, and second is the position which reflects the bio-mechanically most disadvantageous position, for example the sticking point of a squat.
With a group of Kayakers I replaced two sets of squats, two sets of bench press and two sets of bench pull with the isometric version of it, and the joint position they adopted was initiated from a similar place where the pull phase of the Kayak stroke was initiated.   What we found was that by replacing two sets with isometric training as compared to a normal traditional strength training programme, the Kayaker’s strength actually increased and performance on the ergometer 200m time trial was improved more than the group that only did the traditional strength training.
What I believe is that by performing the isometric training at the position where the stroke was initiated this increased their ability to overcome the initial drag force they would face as they initiate the pull phase.

I just completed one study with recreational runners where we compared plyometric and isometric training for endurance running performance.   For the isometric training they did a IMTP and an isometric plantar flexed ankle, so the ankle was in a neutral position when they did the plantar flexion.  What we found was that running economy was actually improved with the isometric group as compared to the plyometric group.  One possible reason is because recreational runners tend to avoid heavy strength training so with the isometric exercises as a stimulus that greatly improved their strength.  In that sense, people might ask if that would work with elite runners, and that would need to be researched.”

When it comes to programming isometrics within the wider programme (annual plan) where does it fit?

”That is an interesting question, and honestly, I have no idea at this moment in time.  Personally what I do with my athletes is slot in the isometric training somewhere in the middle of a strength phase, because we know that if you have been training with the same method for a long period of time you tend to plateau.  So with the addition of the isometric training for a few weeks that might help to break the monotony and you might see some improvement.
We don’t know at this point in time that if we continue to get the athlete to perform isometric training, will there be a long term benefit (because all my studies have only been 6 weeks long)?
The next thing I do is as we get closer to important competitions I get my athletes to perform complex training, and I usually use the isometric exercise as the conditioning activity to induce the post activation potentiation (PAP) effect, before they move onto the ballistic exercise
One reason is because they get to perform maximal contractions so that helps to maintain their maximal strength and because it’s an isometric movement we are reducing the risk of injury close to competition.”

Is it possible to manipulate some of the variables within isometric training to target different physical qualities such as hypertrophy etc?

”When you look at the research you can categorize isometric training into two different methods- yielding and overcoming.

Overcoming

Overcoming- is the method I have been researching where you push maximally against something you can’t move.

Yielding 

The yielding or ”holding” method where you lift a weight that you can actually lift around 60% of your 1-RM, get to your sticking point and hold it there for about 10-seconds before you push it concentrically.
When you look at the research on isometric strength training, in order to get maximal strength increases you want to be contracting as near to maximally voluntary contraction (MVC) as possible in a range of 80-100% MVC and each contraction you don’t want to be holding for too long, otherwise you might compromise the adaptation.
When it comes to hypertrophy you want to perform the contraction at a lower intensity and sustain the contraction for a longer period of time, as long as 10-30 seconds in one go.  Recently, there is one study which showed that the inclusion of isometric training might be able to induce a stimulus similar to blood flow restriction training.  So when you are sustaining the isometric contraction you are actually constricting the blood flow.
Another study by Brett Shaunfield showed that performing isometric contractions in between sets increased the hypertrophy training effect.  So during the hypertrophy phase one of the things you could do is perform a lighter load in the final set and doing a long duration isometric contraction at the sticking point to increase the hypertrophy effect.
In terms of other variables, first we need to know what we want to achieve before we start talking manipulating the variables.  Variables we can manipulate include the joint position.  I mentioned earlier that if we train at a joint position that induces a longer muscle length your strength improvement will be greater throughout a greater range of motion.
At different joint positions you might induce hypertrophy at different parts of the muscle.
So for example, if I was sustaining isometric contraction at a long muscle length most of the hypertrophy training effect might take place at the middle of the muscle belly (midsection).  If I perform it at a shorter muscle length, most of the hypertrophy might occur at the proximal or at the distal portion of the muscle, so these are things that people will need to consider.
To increase maximal strength you will need to contract at a high percentage of MVC, and to increase RFD you will need to contract at a high contraction speed, so in sports performance you should always try and contract explosively because we are not just talking about how strong you are but we must also ensure the athlete can produce the force as quickly as possible.”
Are there any gaps we are looking to plug in the research?
”Firstly there is training at long muscle length vs. multiple joint angles.  I mentioned that if you train at long muscle length the strength gains will be higher through a greater range of motion but if we train at multiple angles it might actually be more beneficial.  So if I compare 3 sets of bench press at 90 degrees vs. 1 set of 180 degree, one set at 90 degrees and one set at another angle we could compare multiple joint angles
The other limitation of what we know is how long this beneficial effect can last?
The other one is comparing the training effect of a yielding method (more similar to an eccentric method) to the overcoming method (more similar to a concentric method).  So get someone to push against 80% MVC and the other guy resisting against 80% MVC and comparing the adaptation.
When doing this in training I would probably a certain number of sets so for example if I am going to get the person to do back squats 4 sets I might have them do two sets dynamic and two sets isometric.  The isometric is better at improving the strength at a specific joint angle, but when it comes to a full range of motion, isometric effect is still not as good as dynamic strength training, so I wouldn’t use isometric training as the main bout of the training but I would recommend the isometric training as a supplement to improve the force production at the sticking point or at the bio-mechanically disadvantageous position.
In a complex setting, I would do the isometric exercise as the conditioning tool I would reduce the number of repetitions rather than trying to get them too fatigued.  But at the moment I haven’t done a study to identify the ideal number of sets.”
Can you explain to us what we mean by quasi-isometrics (I know this is something Alex Natera has mentioned?
”Take the hamstring for example, which is a bi-articular muscle so when we are running and the hip is flexing the proximal portion of the hamstring is stretching but when the hip is flexing the knee will be flexing as well.  So the distal portion of the hamstring will be shortening.   So in that sense one portion is lengthening and the other portion is shortening, so that pretty much looks like an isometric contraction, and that is what is meant by a quasi isometric contraction.
So if you take the hip thrust but with the knee in a slightly more extended knee position (around 150 degrees) with the shoulder on the floor, with the hip in the air, the hamstring closer to the knee will be trying to produce a concentric contraction so you can stay up.  But while the hip is heavy gravity will be pulling it down so the proximal portion will be in an eccentric contraction.  So the distal portion will be in the Push isometric contraction while the proximal portion of the hamstring will be performing a yielding contraction.”

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Isometric is a safe and effective way of performing strength testing and training.
  2. Dynamic strength index = Peak Force IMTP / Peak Force CMJ
  3. Importance of range of motion- strength gains will increase across a greater range of motion as compared to a quadriceps at a short length.
  4. Importance of tendon stiffness- one of the adaptations from isometric training that is superior to dynamic strength training is the increase in tendon stiffness.
  5. Considerations when choosing position- the place where the concentric action is initiated, and the position which reflects the bio-mechanically most disadvantageous position.

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

Twitter:

@DannyLum82

You may also like from PPP:

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

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 298 PJ Vazel

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 298 – PJ Vazel

PJ Vazel

YouTube Channel

Background: 

PJ Vazel

PJ started as a sports journalist for the IAAF and began coaching in 2004 in the same year, coaching sprinters from Nigeria, Greece and France, Switzerland and Senegal.  He has most recently been coaching in throwing at World championship and medal level since 2015 when he came back to France.

Discussion topics:

Where did that love of sports history come from?

”I like the search of origins.  From a coaching perspective I had some ideas but I was not sure how to implement them, I was searching for what had been done before so not to replicate the mistakes and to go faster.  I wanted to know how the technical and resistance training had evolved over the decades, including the rules and regulations.”

 

How did you first get into coaching?

”I was asked to help a young sprinter find a coach.  I asked around and actually no one was willing to help him, so some people told me: ‘coach him, go ahead and start!

Working with a young Nigerian sprinter he had never had a coach, and I had never had an athlete, so it worked very well.  He had no bad habits and we were discovering everything and eager to learn together.  He was very motivated as every race he had was a way of living for him.

I was travelling with him and sleeping on the floor, but what I learned is that really you meet some athletes who have extra motivation and they are killers on the track and that’s the kind of people you are going to meet, and you have to prepare athletes for that!

Fortunately a huge part of sports history is the history of training methods so I kind of learned by accident the methodology of training so I integrated it.  The most difficult thing was to gauge the volume of training and basically what I did was cut everything in half from what I was reading in the books.  I kind of felt what he needed and the connection with the athlete.  I needed to trust the athlete and observing him, listening to what he had to say because he had a lot of experience.  Athletes use their body once or twice a day as their main work tool, so they know more more and as coaches we have to listen more to them.”

 

Do you think with your lack of experience you were more willing to listen to your athletes rather than thinking that you know best?

”Not really because we all start from scratch.  The funny thing with my coaching debut was that I was still not fluent in English at all, so I had nothing much to say to them in English.  I was just listening to them, and I think that was better because I think that as a young coach I thought I knew a lot.  I think that if I had started with a French athlete I would have told them everything I knew, which I think is the wrong approach.

If I had something to say I was managing to tell them [in English] but the important thing I was saying was the only thing I was saying.

Because I was a young coach, others were not afraid to tell me their secrets.  I remember going to every athlete/coach who made the final and asked, ‘are you doing weights, and if yes, what weights are you doing?’  I found that everyone who made the final were doing weights.  I then went back to my athlete who was the first out of the semi-final: ‘look you are the only one who is not doing weights, and you are the only one who has not made the final, so maybe we need to do something different next year.”

 

How has the history of sprinting changed in the last twenty or so years?
”I believe that nothing much has changed in the last 20 years or so compared to perhaps the changes that took place in the earliest part of the 21st century and even up to after the war, where science and methods evolved every four years.  In the last 20 years high tech technology yes but the concepts have not evolved.

Take ancient Greece, they weren’t very concerned about times and to record it because they didn’t have a way to measure it with accuracy.  It was only in the late 18th century when we started to do sprint races where we could time it which influenced a lot the training methods of the 19th and 20th century.
Perhaps you could say there is more of a focus on High-intensity now, not only in sprinting but also in weight training and also in team sports.  But it is a throw back to what was done in the early 20th century when athletes started to specialise in certain events (before they were all round athletes in the 19th century) and the physique was not that specialised either where the same person could win the short sprints and the long sprints.  In the 20th century it was deemed that you were either born fast or for endurance, with certain psychological traits associated with those disciplines.  This lead to the idea that in order to get fast you just needed to sprint, and don’t go against your nature.  And I think we see this now, where you are told to sprint with high intensity and low volume, but that’s what they did back then in the early 20th century.

If you look at the results you get from this [specific] approach, you improve very fast in what you are doing because you are mostly doing the same thing but you reach a plateau very soon and you get tired, and you don’t improve anymore and you may even regress.

There are more efficient approaches utilising more general training in the winter because they could see they could improve over a longer time during winter and get ready for summer competitions.  Because if you only sprint fast, within a few weeks you will plateau.  This concept of variability was very well understood in the 1960s.  Maybe now we are very focused on top speed and power, and finding out the exact power output you need to train.”

What about the introduction/use of strength training- what impact has weight training had on the sport? And did it go too far and perhaps become too important and now it has regressed?

”So in the 19th century athletes were lifting weights because they were also throwers, power lifters etc and doing all kinds of training.  When sprinters started to specialise there was this idea that you needed to be light and doing weights you would get big, so weights are wrong.
Now you can still find sprinters doing weights just for conditioning using dumbbells throughout the centuries but what really changed was science tried to prove whether it was meaningful to lift weights or now, so in Eastern Europe a landmark study in 1946 was done, because everything even politics had to have a scientific justification.
They did a study comparing athletes who did weights and athletes who didn’t do weights, and looked at who is improving the most in terms of results.  It was found that throwers and sprinters who added weights to their training had better results in competition in their main event.

However what was interesting, and a point that was lost in this research over the years, was that yes you need to do weights but it should not be at the expense of amplitude and relaxation of movement.

This advice got lost because when they started to quantify this type of training they noticed that the more you train the better the results, which is true.  It is an observation that you cannot deny.  But the experience of coaches in the field, showed them that there was a limit to this.  But far from being unified the research was full of contradiction and controversies and the articles back then showed a big battle between coaches and scientists who disagreed over how much weights to do!”

Why has there been so much more focus on Maximum Power?

”If we think about weight training, they soon discovered that there was an optimal amount and they needed to improve maximum strength as well as speed so they started to record the bar speed, and jump height in the late 1950s as opposed to just the max squat strength (absolute strength).
The only concept that was not really important for the coaches in the 1950s that was not important then but is important now is the concept of max power.  But back then the concept of variability of training meant that to improve your power you needed to improve your max strength and your speed-strength.  But in between just focusing on that max power doesn’t make sense because you need variability.
Using a variation of power athletes in the 1950s were improving more than the athletes using the exact power of their specific event) which is the 7kg implement of the shot put.  Only using the implement is less efficient than changing.  Why? Because of variability.  You are improving your technique because of the feeling of the muscles, small variations makes you a better skilled athlete.  Also the best intensity is not always 100%- at 90-95% you can still work at a high enough intensity to be relevant to your nervous system but you can also do enough volume to get the repetition of practice needed.  If you train 100% every time, you are crushing your nervous system, you can’t train at enough volume and you lose your relaxation!
Most elite athletes who have achieved their best throws will tell you, that it felt easy, and they felt they could have done more!”

What do you think about some of Frans Bosch’s ideas?

”He presented a lot of interesting exercises when I listened to him present.  I think a lot of coaches focus more on the exercises rather than thinking about the philosophy and how to implement/progress them.
With instagram you now have athletes who will say to their coach, ‘I want to do this exercise.’ Usually the exercise is too advanced for the athlete and you have to explain to the athlete that there is a progression.   I think that most of what Frans presents is far too difficult for the athletes, even elite athletes.  Many athletes are great compensators and have developed crazy skills that hide great weaknesses.  And those are the weaknesses you need to address, and sometimes those fancy and complicated exercises are not pointing the finger at the weak part of the chain.”

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Importance of variability- you can improve for longer without crushing your nervous system
  2. Listen to your athletes- Athletes use their body once or twice a day as their main work tool, so they know more more and as coaches we have to listen more to them.
  3. Earn the right! Many athletes are great compensators and have developed crazy skills that hide great weaknesses.  And those are the weaknesses you need to address, and sometimes those fancy and complicated exercises are not pointing the finger at the weak part of the chain
  4. Importance of relaxation- yes you need to do weights but it should not be at the expense of amplitude and relaxation of movement.
  5. Paradox of intensity- alternate days of high intensity with low intensity.

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

Twitter:

@PJVazel

You may also like from PPP:

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

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 297 Cam Josse

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 297 – Cam Josse

Cam Josse

Website

Background: 

Cam Josse

Cam is Performance Coach for American Football Indiana University since March 2020, and spent most of his career in the private sector, most notably at DeFranco’s Training from 2013 to 2020.

Discussion topics:

What are the benefits of Max Speed training for Team sport athletes?

”I will never argue that team sport is acceleration dominant in nature, your bread and butter is going to be your ability to accelerate.  But through the research I have done and talking to researchers like Ken Clarke, who has done a lot of research on top speed, I have the approach to training that I don’t want to leave any stone unturned.

So what are some of the benefits we are seeing from maximal speed training?

  1. It is going to affect your entire speed curve- if you can be faster and hold onto that top speed then you are going to be faster at every segment below that
  2. The biggest game breaking plays are going to involve these explosive longer distance runs over 60 Yards and they are in a high speed environment where often they struggle because they don’t know how to cope with the dynamics in that environment.  Even though they are very rare that doesn’t mean we should neglect them.
  3. It is so neurologically unique there is no other way to really operate and train that. We can’t do much in a weight room setting, or outside of achieving top speed to help the athlete develop in that environment.  It’s a very elastic environment (in contrast to the more muscular actions of acceleration).
  4. Developing ability to active and utilise the elastic components and not just the muscles is going to protect their structures.”

Why do you focus so much on the split times, such as 10 Yard segments?

”When I look at the different segments to me it paints a picture and tells a story, and every 10 Yard segment is going to tell you a different story.  Just looking at the 40 Yard sprint and the total time we see the outcome but we don’t always see the story of how they got there.

  • First 10 Yards – high force production and horizontal orientation (strength-speed)
  • 10 -20 Yards – you will see the pure explosive qualities coming to light there (speed-strength)
  • 20-30 Yards – reactive and elastic ability
  • 30-40 Yards- max speed ability

At a recent study of NFL combine in 2016 everyone was at around 95% of their maximum speed by around 20 Yards and obviously the ones who were faster and had better velocity capability were at a lower percentage of their maximum speed because they could spread it further, but some of the slow or stronger guys like linesmen were almost at 100% by 20 yards.

The only way I think you improve the segment beyond 20 Yards is sprinting at high speed, I don’t think there is much of anything else that is going to help develop that further.

With regard to the exercises that might be associated with different segments Cam used the example of someone dominating the triple broad jump, you are probably someone who is going to be very powerful and have longer coupling capability- meaning you are able to produce power over large ranges of motion with your hip, knee and ankle.  You are probably going to dominate hill sprints, light resistance sprints.  You have a lot of power against lighter resisted activities.

Once you go beyond 20 Yards that’s where the benefit of some of those more general activities start to fizzle out.  I think you have to make it more specific to what is happening on the field.  Some plyometric activities such as long bounds, or dribble runs (A runs) and shorter coupling activities where you are working through shorter ranges of motion and truly elastic, truly plyometric activity, you’re probably still going to be good up to 30 Yards.

Beyond 30 Yards it’s about how well you operate at >95% of your maximal speed capabilities.

 

Do you think there is an overemphasis on ”drilling” of speed in the team sport setting?

”Yes 100% and I have been guilty of that myself, I have learnt a sprint technique and feel like I have this secret sauce, so now I’m going out seeing all these athletes and saying he sprints like shit, and if they were in my programme I would be able to work with them! I think that the problem is, a lot of coaches just want to be heard because we are passionate about what we do, and like to feel like we have some influence over our players.

Know your role! We are facilitators not dictators.

We give them hints and provide them with environments that they can then utilize and develop themselves to realise their own potential; we are not here to just hold their hand.

I can give you an example of some work with an athlete I did a few years back who was getting prepared for their NFL pro day.  I was not able to attend his pro day.  I hand held him through the entire process of training, I over drilled him, I over cued him, I was constantly just like if he made one small error I had to fix it there and then!  Needless to say, he went to his pro day and I was not there to hold his hand and he completely shat the bed!  He needed me to tell him what to do at every segment of the run.  That was where it hit me that I didn’t give him ownership of his own develop!

Look at what are the stable components of movement (attractors)- so for example, how do we get them to understand how to create a positive shin angle in acceleration, maybe it’s not a cue at all from the coach, maybe its to use some resistance so they can feel it.  Or maybe for change of direction, a general principle of movement is to lower your centre of mass (COM) towards your base of support (BOS).

 

What do you think about borrowing the technical model from a sprinter and trying to generalise it to team sports?
”I’m of the opinion that if we are going to borrow from a certain discipline we should try to understand the efficient principles of that discipline.  So if we are going to squat an athlete, let us try and search through the strongest and healthiest power lifters to find out what they are doing right, and borrow that.  Same thing for Olympic weightlifting, to understand how to do it in an efficient manner, and it’s the same for sprinting.

So think about why we would do a linear sprint, it’s not to necessarily to develop game orientated speed because ‘game speed’ is incredibly complex.  It’s because we want to develop the athlete’s SYSTEM to produce very high speeds.  So if we are going to develop the athlete’s central nervous system to produce very high speeds in a safe and efficient manner, maybe they aren’t ever going to hit their top speed in a game, but we are doing it to overload the speed side of things and push that athlete’s speed ceiling a little bit higher.  So that’s where we do look to track & field for that specific context.  It’s not that we think it’s a cure all that if someone just runs the fastest linear sprint possible they will be a great team sport player, because I think we can all agree that is absurb, otherwise we would just try and get Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt to play football!
What are the team sport athletes common faults when sprinting?
”Check out the article on SimpliFaster- Sprinting in Team Sport: The Butt-kicking Epidemic.  Three classic butt kick types are discussed
1Classic Butt-kicker
2.  The Forward-Leaner butt-kicker
3.  The Over-Arching butt-kicker
Are there any general methods you can use to correct these butt-kicking errors?
”Be aware that people with very long limbs might look like they are butt-kicking to the naked eye because the heel is getting close to the butt, but it’s not really where it is in relation to the butt, it’s more where it is in relation to the centre line (the landmark that really matters).  It just looks like butt kicking because the athlete has a really long shin.
Yes there are general-individual methods I have come across (which seems to work for around 80% of people):
  1. Cueing to make them realise where their limbs should do in time and space- but it’s very rare that this would fix it alone as they have been doing something a certain way for so long
  2. Cueing to develop Force application into the ground – getting the athlete to understand a concept using motor term descriptors such as ”pop off the ground” when you are at top speed.  Another cue is imagine that the ground is getting hotter and hotter with every step you take.  I prefer pop to punch, as the athlete can sometimes punch far too hard, and it wasn’t smooth, fluid and graceful.  Punch is a better for acceleration, as it’s more aggressive.
  3. Cueing to think as if you are running upstairs as you move towards the horizon- it seems to promote front side mechanics better as when you run up stairs you have to have great front side mechanics!
  4. Drill/cue-  Med ball punch run (4-6lbs) held in front of their body right around the level of the navel and then I just tell them to run and try and contact your quad to the med ball.  It promotes a cyclical high knee activity which is very similar to top speed sprinting (similar to Altis who use the dribble run).  With the med ball you don’t need to go full speed but it just gets them used feeling what it feels like to achieve that front side lift, and it gives them something to aim for.   They may feel a weakness in an ankle when the limb comes down from that kind of height as they are not used to transmitting that much force through the ankle.

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Importance of speed reserve- increasing top speed is going to affect your entire speed curve- if you can be faster and hold onto that top speed then you are going to be faster at every segment below that
  2. SAID principle- to get faster at top speed  the only way I think you improve beyond 20 Yards is sprinting at high speed, I don’t think there is much of anything else that is going to help develop that further.
  3. Know your role! We are facilitators not dictators- it’s better to say no little than too much.
  4. Top speed isn’t the cure all- we don’t think that if someone just runs the fastest linear sprint possible they will be a great team sport player, because I think we can all agree that is absurb
  5. Find cues that work for your athletes

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

Twitter:

@IUcoachJosse

You may also like from PPP:

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

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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 292 Loren Landow

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 292 – Loren Landow

Loren Landow

Website

Background: 

Loren Landow

As of March 12th,2018 Coach Landow is now the full-time head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Denver Broncos Football Organization. He maintains his ownership/founder of Landow Performance in Centennial, Colorado.

Discussion topics:

Tell us a little bit more about your background and education

”When I came out of school (did a degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Nutrition) I got involved with my first mentor Greg Roskopf who was the developer of the Muscle Activation Techniques.  I took a year long course which was pretty intensive and extensive, and during that time I was still working with and training athletes and used my Middle school athletes as my guinea pigs in 1997-98, and trying to figure this thing out that we call performance training.

I got involved with Velocity Sports Performance through Lorence Seagrave, and around that time I got to know Dan Pfaff, which was followed by the start of Landow Performance, and the vision I had.  This vision involved needing a lot of space to train athletes in, and I wanted to pay people really well, who could make a living in this field and not having to worry about holding down two or three different jobs to pay their bills.   At the time of writing I have 30 staff and around 12 what I would call full-time staff.”

In your UKSCA presentation why did you put so much emphasis on the importance of frontal and tranverse plane drills?

”Steven Plisk, who is another mentor of mine, always said that in periodisation and programming:

to be a better specialist you need to be a better generalist

To be a sniper in our field you need to understand your biomechanics, anatomy, biochemistry, programming and all the different subject matters which make up what we do; you have to be really good at those general subjects to really dive in to be able to give somebody something pretty specific and pretty individual.  When we look at movement, there are infinite movements we can do, but when you really break it down to fundamental quadrants and cardinal directions, what can you really do in those planes?

So I started breaking it down, not reductionist, but a generalist mindset, and say ok, if I can be really good in moving in the sagittal, frontal and transverse plane those are really the crux of how you build change of direction.  At the end of the day I’m going to use a transverse or frontal plane type of movement to bridge two gaps of acceleration.

People talk about reacting to the environment, and the environmental constraints…well we have constraints within our body, and if we are not a good locomotive athlete, not a good mover, we don’t understand fluidity and coordination, you can make the environment as dynamic as you want, I don’t think I am going to be as efficient as I could be, as if I spent a decent chunk of time mastering myself and how I move in space.

When it comes to structure and function you can really narrow all common movements down into four common forces:

  • Shear
  • Distraction
  • Torque
  • Compression

So if I can build closed models where I work on the robustness of the athlete, and marinate in those movements to make you more resistant to the torque and shear forces that take place at the knee joint, I do believe we can teach the body and the neuro-muscular system to be more robust against those types of forces, when we are exposed to them on the field.”

What teaching progressions do you use when you are teaching an athlete from scratch through deceleration?

”I’ll teach them good squat and lunge patterns in the isometric fashion and being able to get into those bent knee positions that ultimately look like deceleration, and I’ll do that even with my elites as they don’t bend and move as well as you would think.  Maybe it’s because of their training age saturation, and maybe they just didn’t seem to care when they were going through these rudimentary stages of learning.  For me, it’s not that I want to make everything closed, because I’m very big into open movement.  But I think early on you have to teach some closed patterns.

I’ll start with different skipping patterns then they’ll have to absorb into a BILATERAL deceleration, they might start with jogging and sitting down into the squat position.  But once they start having better control with that, I’ll take it into a light acceleration and then we are going to decelerate into a split stance.  So those of the kind of things I may pay attention to early.  The thing I love to do, say I’m doing a linear acceleration, is put on the brakes into a good deceleration, then I’ll take them into a back pedal action and have them put on the brakes.  Now I’m getting that good deceleration, eccentric loading in those reverse mechanics and I get great deceleration on the achilles.  Over time there are some good things happening in terms of tissue tolerance and I do these things at low intensity.  Things are progressed over time and that ultimately becomes, okay, you’re going to accelerate for 15 yards and put on the brakes at 7 yards; now you’re going to put on the brakes at 5 yards, now at 3 yards, now you’re going to put the brakes on when I clap.   So there are different ways to make these drills go from closed to open.’

[Daz comment: check out this article ”Taking a step back to reconsider change of direction and its application following ACL Injury]  There was a very interesting reference to research looking at what percentage of maximum speed could be attained prior to changing direction- in this case back pedal].

Eccentric control of pronation/supination

Principles change based on  foot position.  When we are jogging, running and sprinting, there are different elements of stride pattern and positioning.  When I’m in a frontal plane it’s on the edges, I start to use the inversion/eversion qualities of the foot, still pronation/supination of the foot but it’s in a different plane so I’m stressing those structures of the foot differently up the chain.  You don’t want too much of one , or two much of the other so how do I find the ability to manage and mitigate both supination and pronation?  I love the side shuffle drill.  Even though in sporting action it’s usually one step and go, I like to saturate the skill and put them under different forces and different loads so they absorb those forces.

In terms of ongoing assessments during training how are you identifying where people are potentially having energy leaks and where you potentially need to spend more time?

”I used to think that you take someone out of their shoes and you see them squat or lunge and you see this great contoured [high] arch, and you’re like, that’s a strong, stable foot, that’s great.  And it might be, but in many cases we see people who get their dorsi flexion from their phalanges (toes), and what happens is that they actually keep the mid-foot plantar-flexed so the foot still looks like its got that contoured arch, and that’s not a good thing because the talus can’t move and glide.

What I look for now is you need to have stiffness in the foot, but you need to have compliance in the foot.  You need the fore foot, mid foot and rear foot mold and adapt to that flooring, and so you do want that, it’s just a matter of degrees. So now, I actually look for someone who has a little bit more of a flatter foot, a foot that can actually splay (spread) to the ground, not arch up, because that’s when you get those intrinsic stabilising and eccentric control.  When the foot is clawing that’s more of a concentric action, and I want more splay that creates more eccentric control that allows me to have cleaner motion from the rear-foot, mid-foot and fore-foot, not to mention the ability of the talus to glide and the tibia to move forward and back really well.

 

[Daz comment: the muscles in the anterior (aka extensor) compartment are responsible for dorsiflexing or extending the foot.  Extensor digitorum longus extends or lifts the second to fifth toes.  Extensor hallucis longus extends the big toe, aka halux]

So now I ask an athlete to dorsi flex and if they are pulling up more from their extensor digitorum (longus) and extensor hallucis (longus), more than their anterior tibialis, you’ve got to pay attention to that.  Because if you just look at dorsi flexion with shoes on you are going to be biased to what you are seeing.

The problem when people start doing ‘barefoot’ work is that they go for the gusto! It’s not about sprinting in barefoot, it’s about doing these intrinsic movements (such as standing on two feet or one foot and rotating around your feet to feel the eversion/inversion etc) to get you a better foundational stability.  I may squat them and do lunges but I think people are getting a little too carried away doing all their locomotive drills barefoot.  Is the juice worth the squeeze for the risks/benefit?

The knee is the servant of the foot and the hip, emphasizing the importance of what is going on above and below.  The foot has more than three degrees of freedom, so there is a high availability of movement and therefore instability and the hip is the same thing.  The knee doesn’t have that, it is mainly sagittal, it has a little bit of rotation but not much so at the end of the day, if you are unstable through the hip and/or foot that knee becomes the torque converter through what those two joints maybe can’t decelerate, so to me it is really important that you have a programme that looks at the eccentric control of these joints.  People get hyper focused on the knee, especially during injury, and they’re not spending enough time working on the foot and the hip, and the trunk!

What goes through your mind when you’re trying to work out where athletes need to spend their time when you’re trying to fix and improve their deceleration patterns?
”I’ll pay attention to the athlete doing a closed drill in front of me or maybe watch some of their footage on film in their sport, and look what happens when they go to decelerate, is their base really wide, is it really narrow, how unaware are they?  Then, I’ll look at what does their next action look like when they come out of it? Who are the athletes who can decelerate with one foot, with the awareness, strength and mobility to decelerate with one foot and the other one is on the gas, and is already going into acceleration.  Is it a relative strength issue, is it a base issue, is it a lack of locomotion coming out of the deceleration?
Even though I do like closed drills I try not to over coach.  Let them get eight reps in before I say something, then I might say ‘try this.’  I want them to feel it.
If I’m constantly giving you a cue or something to change, you’re never getting a chance to feel something on your own.
How are you identifying from a linear speed perspective how and what the athlete needs to spend time on when time is so precious?
”I think I have to look at the sport, and where it lives, and in most of the sports I work with it lives in acceleration.  So I spend a good amount of time on acceleration, but I still spend time on maximum velocity qualities because I think it’s critical to develop the skill of maximum velocity even though some athletes may never even touch it in their given sport.  But it’s important that when that should happen they have the prerequisite skills so they can pull it right out of their pocket.
I’ll try and build a good understanding of acceleration patterning, how you should punch forward and minimise heel lift up to the rear end and keep a low heel lift as you go through your thigh punching in acceleration; the better I coach that in a team sport, the more the athletes can auto regulate when they go to their change of direction work.  If I’ve done a good job of grooving those patterns in, and then on their change of direction days I’ve shown them, hey the same things we worked on acceleration on the Monday, this is the bridge on your changing direction work.  The better job I have done on a Monday the better it blends into their Tuesday and Friday change of direction days.
I don’t get carried away with a tonne of crazy drills.   These aren’t track & field athletes; I might have some athletes that have genetic potential to be track & field but they don’t play that, so I need to teach off a technical model and I need to have bandwidth off what is acceptable based on what their jobs are.
I look for:
  • Posture
  • Patterning– rhythm
  • Positioning– limb positioning
  • Placement– foot strike (what part and where is it hitting the ground)

The first two are the most important to me, and then what I do is I think what are the three drills I can use that can influence all of those factors. Going back to that generalist specialist idea, if I take care of those four P’s a lot of the rest of it takes care of itself.  I find drills that are marching, skipping and running in nature and will allow me to replicate that.  And then, when they get on the field, they will self organise, do what you do when you play your position.

Tissue tolerance vs Motor Skill

People might get the wrong impression that all I do is closed drills, and that couldn’t be further from the truth! One final thing I want to stress about my philosophy is that it is a periodised view of movement.  Yes early in my off-season we will do more closed drills, more rhythm based, such as shuffles and cross-overs. Then I get into closed drills that have a deceleration emphasis, then I get into open drills, where you don’t know when you’re stopping.

People always talk about motor learning and you should never do the same drill twice.  Well, yeah, that’s great but how do I get stronger on a bench press?  Do I get stronger by doing one rep on a bench press, then go do a rep on a single arm DB press, then do a rep on an incline? No, you have to SATURATE!!  If we talk about the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID principle) I have to impose enough of a response to adapt to.

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Be a Generalist- to be a better specialist you need to be a better generalist
  2. Common forces- you can narrow all common movements down into four common forces: (shear, distraction, torque, compression).
  3. Eccentric control of foot- appropriate dose of barefoot work to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet
  4. Four Ps of Coaching observation- look at posture, patterning, positioning and placement.
  5. Tissue tolerance vs. Motor Learning- you have to ‘saturate’ a drill to impose enough of a demand on the structure to adapt.

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

Twitter:

@LorenLandow

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

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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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 295 – Jonas Dodoo

Jonas Dodoo

Website

Background: 

Jonas Dodoo

Jonas looks after a group of Elite Track and Field Sprinters who have attained success on the Olympic and World stage. He also oversees the Speedworks Charity Program for a fast-evolving Development Group which runs out of the Lee Valley Athletic Centre and is now the Head Coach for a new academy based in the East Midlands.

In addition to this, Jonas has consulted with many many Professional Sports Teams and individual players, including Derby County FC, West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal, Bath RFU, Northampton Saints, Wasps Academy, and Rugby 7’s 

Discussion topics:

Tell us a little bit more about your background and education

”I grew up playing sport, lots of different sport. Was always explosive and elastic, but couldn’t stay in one piece. I’ve got terrible feet, terrible ankles, no movement in my toes. But it sent me down a road to learn, to understand. I think originally it was to go and fix myself, which was my biggest driver. And then I got exposed to great coaches, great therapists. And I did my master’s thesis under Dan Pfaff or studied him as my thesis and had an opportunity to do a PhD in sprinting or to go and try and coach someone to at least be a bit faster. And I went down that route.

So I started in rugby, ended up in athletics and during my athletics coaching career I got exposed back into rugby. And then since that point, maybe over the past eight or nine years, I’ve worked with, you know, various individuals in rehab projects. I’ve worked with various teams in short and long-term projects and really the past three years for me, I’ve been based at Loughborough University with my elite squad of sprinters and then used essentially my down days, so 20% of my week, spent either with Derby County, at one point with West Brom and with England rugby in the build up to the World Cup. So those would be my major projects. And alongside that, I run workshops. I do a lot of coach education and a lot of mentoring.

So it’s been an up and down journey, always driven by my hunger and curiosity about how to make people faster.  I’ve also been very inquisitive for sports science, very inquisitive, probably because I’ve been surrounded in British Athletics by some great biomechanists and great strength and conditioning coaches. And it’s made me question, did my athletes do well because of me or despite? Did I just choose really good athletes who’ve chosen the right parents, who had good genetics?

I’ve got this constant need to reflect and ask myself, could that be better? And so it’s driven me down the road to developing for a labour of love, our binary video analysis app. And basically it’s a poor man and dumb man’s dart fish.

Binary Motion Analysis App

The first thing Dan Pfaff pushed us to learn as apprentices is observation skills.  He would say, leave the programming to me. Here’s a program, carry on with it. Don’t worry because that could rack your brains for hours and hours a day. Instead, watch movement, watch video, watch from upstairs, watch from downstairs, zoom in, zoom out. And when you’ve got this injury problem, understand what you can do from a movement perspective, from a coaching perspective, how you can create an environment that will distract the athlete from that injury or that pain and redirect their focus towards more effective movement and pain-free strategies,

And so coaching eye was something that was really hammered down very early for me. And by accident, I realized that coaching eye was something that everyone wanted to learn from me.

People come and said, okay, what are the cues, what do you see? And so I’m constantly trying to develop my coaching eye but what we’ve done here with binary is we’ve developed an app that allows you to say rather than have a debate about stride length versus stride frequency, what’s more important. What model, what shape is the priority? Is it this big, long shape? Is it a bit of a smaller shape with more frequency in deceleration mechanics? What’s the priority?

There’s so much debate and lack of consensus in sports science, that if you’re an inquisitive coach, you can easily get lost, easily buy into one side of the argument. I’m saying, take a step back. What’s our priority? Velocity, that’s our priority. And what do we want the shape of velocity to look like? We want it to keep getting faster. If we can find a way to make it get faster really steep and keep it continuing to get faster, we have high acceleration and we have high velocity. We have a good RF and we have a great DRF, right? That’s JB Morin’s language.

Daz comment: (definitions explained)

Ratio of Force (RF)– is a ratio of the step-averaged horizontal component of the Ground Reaction Force (GRF) to the corresponding resultant force.

Index of Force Application Technique (DFR)- expresses the athlete’s ability to maintain a net horizontal force production despite increasing velocity throughout accelerated sprinting.

In practical terms RF reflects the ability to project a large amount of your force in the direction you want to go

In practical terms DFR reflects the distance over which athletes are able to accelerate (i.e., distance to peak velocity).

The reality is what binary does for us is it helps us take a step back from our bias and go based on what we’re seeing, what’s happening with the data, what’s really happening. And in elite settings, people have Lasers and speed guns and video analysis, 3D analysis, Opto jump. People have got these tools, 1080, great tool. Dyno speed, very similar tool. They’ve all got these tools that give you some of the information or all of the information. And all I’ve been trying to do is go, okay, this is what I’ve experienced. This has helped me in my journey. How do I simplify it, distill it and make it available to anyone that has an Apple device? Yeah, at least to a more recent one, iPhone 5 not good. Yeah, but I have an iPhone 7, it records at 200 frames per second, it does the job.

My expectations are probably based on my bias. This is what I think good movement looks like and fast speed looks like. And I think over the past five years I’ve been able to take a step back from my bias or at least combine my bias with reality, with real data, with real numbers and actually maybe close the line between what I perceived them to be able to do and what they actually do. A long winded way of describing it.”

Can you tell us more about your reflection process

”So I guess during my degree and doing my masters in coaching science it really wasn’t about the science of sports science or anything like that, but really more about psychology. For me, my learning through my masters specifically, learning from great people I always noticed that no matter what they did, they look back and say, ”it could be better or where could it be better, at least?” They asked that question. So when I think about reflection, I think about reflection in action. You know, some people say I’m a great scrambler, no matter what the session plan is, I’m rarely scared or even intimidated about changing the plan on the go within the set, yeah, within the minute. If I see something and I think it can be better, I’ll make the change within reason. And so there’s this reflection in action and I think I can only do that because I’ve been coaching for so long and I’ve coached so many different types of people and I’ve made enough mistakes and I’ve had enough regret for making those mistakes that it really influences my decision making.

And there’s reflection on action, like reflection in hindsight. My wife was an Olympia, my wife was an elite coach, has coached to really high level and in multi events, in long jump and she was probably the biggest influencer on my coaching philosophy and specifically around training design, session design. And she is an important reflective, almost mirror for me. She knows what to say, when to say it. She really knows what not to say. That’s probably her gift. That’s what I’ve learned from her, is that I give too much information. I’m too honest sometimes. And I’m not just too honest, I’m also a bit black and white. So like I’m a bit too direct sometimes. I’m a bit too frank and she’s almost the opposite.  Reflection for me is a big deal because the better we can reflect, the better we can accelerate our development. And I think maybe that’s always been my issue is that I’m in a rush and not a bad rush, but I don’t like wasting time. I like being efficient with time. So if to apply that to my own philosophy as a coach, it means that whatever I can learn in a year, the question is, can I learn that in six months.

Now, a great coach Mike Afilaka says ”you can’t microwave experience’‘. And it’s true, yeah. Even if you learn every single thing on speed in Wikipedia, everything to do with speed right now over this six weeks, seven weeks of COVID, does that make you a better coach? Actually, you might get worse because you’ve now got more information, you don’t know what to do with it, you know all these new rules, but you don’t know how to apply it into your environment. Some of them seem like they contradict what you’re already thinking. And you now have to practice and make sure that will balance up within like a training scheme.”

In terms of developing your business and having a business head on as well as a coaches head, how difficult has that been?

”That’s been really tough. I’ve always believed coaching should be selfless because athletes generally are selfish, and we need that balance. And so I’ve done that, but people see the website, people see the successes, the consultancies, the athletes’ performances, but they don’t see my bank account. And they don’t see the fact that I spend 80% of my time on the track, but track only brings in 20% of our household income. So I spend all my time chasing consultancies, doing extra work, work until midnight, just so I can coach. That’s the luxury of being an elite coach. Most of us are doing other work or just coaching track and field in general, most people do other work and the passion of the sport is driving them to the track on a daily basis.

That was fine when I was young and dumb and single and no kids. And then I had Logan, so that was five and a half years ago and actually that was all right. But even then that there was a sign. I was burning myself out.  From that point I noticed that the stress and pressure of being a dad and being the main source of income and also being a lead coach in an elite group, where I am their dad as well and trying to run a business or at least keep everything in balance was too difficult.

In my experience, the way I invest my energy into my coaching and to my athletes, I’ve realized that my family, my kids needed that energy as well. And so when I was giving that energy to both parties, I was burning the candle from both ends. So the small things that we’ve done, moving to Loughborough because I was working in Derby County and it was all close, it was real easy. My athletes, all of my consultants had been in one place at least for a year or two made sense.  It was very well balanced. Then I started working for England RFU. So I’m driving back down to London now and even further than London, I’m driving down to Berkshire.

The balance for me has been very difficult and I’m in debt as a result. And would I go back and change it? I really don’t know because also I got to be completely in the deep end, in the deepest ocean of coaching and I’ve been experienced and exposed to amazing opportunities, amazing players and athletes and systems and coaches. , Everyone says high performance sport is not healthy for the athletes, their bodies, for us and our emotional energy and all of those things.

I see many, many coaches who really shoot up to the top of, let’s say of whatever it is. Yeah, they’ve got really high status who follow managers around, maybe where managers are going from club to club or follow athletes around when they’re going from country to country, when they’re relocating who’ve had two marriages, who don’t have kids that really liked them, who have lots of money in their account. But when they go home and sit down and really look around, they, you know, they’ve maybe sacrificed their family for their career. And I was very happy to sacrifice myself for my own energy, my own social time for my career and that’s paid off, but I’m not happy to sacrifice my family for my career. And that’s been an important turning point for me.

If during the most stressful times you don’t feel you can carry on committing to what you’re doing, then you shouldn’t take it on because that’s what you need to be prepared for. When things go smoothly, that’s the easy time. The hardest, most challenging and sometimes the most exciting time is when everything’s going wrong, because that makes you have to adapt. You either adapt or you die. And if you don’t have that adaptive energy, because you’re spending it with your family, then the coaching dies. If you don’t have that energy for your family, because you’re spending it with your athletes, then your family dies essentially. And so the reality is finding that balance has been really important for me. Knowing my worth has been important for me. Showing my work in my unique way, I’m dyslexic. I like to read, but even just yesterday, I did a tweet, spelling mistakes everywhere. So I’m not going to be writing the most informative blogs. But I know my topic, I know my subject, I know coaching, I know people, I have emotional intelligence and I like to summarize and simplify things.

So finding my business side has been difficult because not many people do things the way I do it. And so I didn’t have a model or template to copy. But actually my business and mentoring and consultancy and stuff has happened by accident more than on purpose. People come to me and have come to me and asked me more and more questions, it’s made me go, oh, you’re an expert or you’re an elite person and you’re asking me this question that I think is fundamental. That’s my bias. It’s fundamental to me, but it might not be to you. Maybe there’s a product there. Maybe I can replicate that and share that with more people. Do you think more people be interested? So I’ve gone into business almost not by looking for a product and trying to sell it. I’ve almost been just people come in to take this product and I’ve gone, I should repackage that and make that available for other people.”

It’s what you’re doing already that you’re just modifying and tweaking to make a business out of it.  And that’s not a businessman talking, that’s a coach talking to make a business.  I think that’s really interesting to me.

”For me, it’s love, like I know that if I love something and I might love it because it’s interesting ‘cause it’s a puzzle. I like puzzles, because it’s challenging and forcing me to be outside my comfort zone. But if you love something generally when you’re tired or when you’re pissed off it, you don’t give up. Yeah, and maybe it makes you work harder. And you take a step back from it, maybe you sleep on it and actually you have some deep reflections and you’re better, right. So for me, it’s always been about the love. If I love a topic, if I love a subject, then I’m going to , generally, I’m going to be good at it and I’m going to understand it.

And through that understanding I’m going to pull it apart, like a video machine. I’m going to open it up and look at all the parts and I’m going to put it back together and I’m going to summarize it really simply. And that’s how I like to just live in my world. And it just happens that that’s how people enjoy learning on deep topics. They just want to know to heuristics. They just want to know the rules are and the KPI’s. You know, it’s one thing to know the rules, but if you need to apply those rules in your setting and break those rules, do you just need to know the rules before you break the rules or do you need to know these broken rules too?

So it’s one thing to know basic mechanics and another thing to know what can I do right now, next week to make my players better, to make me better as a coach.”

Let’s talk acceleration principles, what are the principles that you live by when it comes to acceleration?

”If we’re just talking about the basics of acceleration, the goal is to get from A to B. So if we took a hundred metres, the goal is to get from zero to a hundred as fast as possible. And obviously we can break that into phases. And when we’re speaking more specifically about initial acceleration, obviously we can in team sports and even in track and field, we can measure a 10 metre time, right? Five metre or a 10 metre time is traditionally used to get an understanding of someone’s ability to accelerate. But many of my clients and many teams will put down timing gates. You know, if they want to do speed training at their club, they believe that if they put down timing gates and they drive intent, this is an important thing, a lot of people talk about that sometimes the biggest priority in speed training is just getting the players to try hard and actually intent, high intensity in the effort and the speed and the timing gates can help that then they give them a time.

If your goal is your 10 metre time only, then you might be missing a trick because I can run to 10 and you can run to 10 in the same time but I might be at a higher velocity than you.

And all that means is we’ve got to 10 metres at the same time, maybe you’ve been a drag car and you’ve got there by really your first four steps going and then actually your rate of acceleration drops off. So you did most of your work in the front side of the race. And maybe I’m still a drag car, but I’ve got a tiny bit less horsepower, but maybe I’ve got less drag too. Like literally I’ve got less air resistance and so I might get to five metres in 1.0, let’s say you get there 0.90 but we still both get to 10 metres at 1.7. I’m accelerating still. You give me three more steps I’m in front of maybe even one more step I’m in front of you.

 

So when we talk about acceleration, we’ve got to be careful that we’re not setting a goal over a 10 metre time and encouraging a technique and a strategy that gets us there fast, but puts us in a bad position.

And then you think rugby, you think, okay why does it matter? If my aim is to get to the 10 metres, if my aim is to get to my defender or my attacker as quick as possible, and that 10 metres is in front of me, I just need to be there as quick as possible. But actually you look at, you know, you listen to someone like Frans Bosch or John Pryor or Dean Benson and Eddie Jones, they talk a lot about options positions, right? You need to be able to get to 10 fast, but be in a position where you can organize your body to make a decision. And that position is often in a position where you can remain reactive with your feet and you still have control of your center of mass. You’re not over rotating.  You’re in a position with your pelvis and your trunk where you can rotate and you can do other actions where you can scan if you need to, and then use your upper body if you need to, while still using your legs to push you to go faster.

And that position is an efficient position. The reality is by the time I get to 10 metres, I need to be in an efficient position to make a decision in team sports. And I also need to be an efficient position to keep getting faster in a linear sport. So for me, efficient acceleration, no matter where we’re at looks the same. You maintain a frequency and a stiffness that allows you to be energy efficient, but also be in a position to make choices and make decisions. So that would be my first start of acceleration. I haven’t talked about postures. I haven’t talked about shapes. I haven’t talked about what the fundamentals of athletics in 100 metres versus hurdles versus maybe long jump, that’s all a secondary discussion.

Can you produce the right forces and throw yourself where you need to go? That’s again, JB and RF, yeah. What ratio of your forces are you directing forwards? That’s how effective you are and you can be really effective without being efficient. We can both run a 1.70 and we could say 1.70 is the time that we need in our sport, but I might do it in a way that really allows me to one, save energy, two, be in a position to make a decision or three, be in a position to keep getting faster. That might take more stress off of my lower limb and that might just give me a bit of an energy reserve that I can use better to continue going for repetitive actions in the game.”

Coaches are often deciding which metrics such as stride length, stride frequency to focus on etc.  Do you think there is too much focus on that?

”So I think there’s too much focused on it, yes. I think or I know that the effective and efficient strategies are about the best combination of your spacial temporal characteristics. So your ground contact, air time, step length and if you’re going to look at a drive index or you’re going to look at some kind of way of combining those numbers, that is all about combinations. And neither is it about maximizing your stride length, neither it is about maximizing your stride frequency. It’s about finding this optimal because of the fact that our limbs don’t work in isolation, energy transfers through our pelvis to each limb. So it’s not about getting the most out of the pushing leg and getting a massive toe off distance and making a massive shape because if you do that, what you may end up doing is not having any pretension in your swing leg that’s in front.

So if you really think back to what are the biggest priorities in sprinting or in performance it is one to project yourself towards where you want to go from A to B. And it’s another thing to be prepared for the next step.

Those are the two priorities; project and be prepared. And if you over project you’re under-prepared, and if you’re over-prepared, you’re under projected or you under project.

So we’re always looking for this balance and the great thing about binary is that we’ve got all of the spatial temporal numbers. We’ve got all of the angles and orientation numbers. We’ve got everything, most things that you can get, everything that you can get from motion analysis, we can get, but if you’re only going to go for one thing, I’ll go for velocity or go for acceleration. I’ll go for the reality of the fact that we want to be fast, we want to spike our acceleration and maximize our speed, is those two things. So we care about speed and acceleration. Now, acceleration as a number or power as a number normalized, average, horizontal external power, but let’s just call it power, versus acceleration, they kind of give you a similar thing and the great thing about them is they take into context, the velocity you’re moving at and the rate of change as well.

So those would be metrics that I would hang my hat on because they don’t tell a lie. You can make a perfect shape and if your acceleration is less and your velocity is less, it’s not fast. It’s not what you really want. With that you need to take into account that people develop over time. Sometimes when they learn something new, it slows down and it gets faster. So there is a bit of art behind recognizing what you should hang on to and be patient with and what compliments that exercise.

If that’s a shape you want to do, are you complimenting it with some strategies around training it, creating what capacity, increasing the mechanical properties of that muscle group or that system. If you combine teaching and training, then that new movement pattern is more likely to be successful, but regardless, look at velocity, look at acceleration. Rarely is it something we can look at because we don’t have the tools. We don’t have a 3D Vicon system or a pitch or in your clinic and now we do.”

Is it only experience that can allow you to differentiate what you need to change?

”No. I think for me, pretension and preparation for the step are key things to understand (Daz comment: that perhaps doesn’t rely on extensive experience if you know what to look for). We definitely want to project ourselves where we need to go, and we definitely need to be prepared for the step. I’ve said this before. So no matter what change we make, we have to make sure that there’s an acceptable bandwidth of projection and preparation. So let’s say velocity goes down because we’re working on something and we’ve interrupted the habitual flow of the athlete. We’ve maybe given a taboo internal cue, but it was necessary for them to make sense of it. That we’ve played with some drills to give them some context and for them to find a feeling so that internal cue is now poo-pooed because now they understand the feeling of it. And then they’re working on it. Sometimes when you understand a feeling of it, but you’re still working on it, you might decrease maybe your velocity. Your rate of force development might reduce a bit, because you want a bit more control.

So velocity it might go down, but you want to see the classic spatial, temporal variables, ground contact time, step length. You want to see rhythm. That’s what you want to see, even if they get a bit slower and even if you’re coaching something within a session, and you’re having undulations really in how well they’re applying the skill, you want to see flow. You want to see a gradual change. You want to see that if you looked at your step length, that every step is getting a bit longer. If you looked at ground contact time, every ground contact time is reducing. If you’re looking at initial acceleration, you want to see that the ratio of air to ground is changing and that they’re spending less time in the air, more time in the ground in the first step and that this relationship remains at least for your first three to four steps. And then we start to see a break point, which is essentially where they start to spend a bit more time in the air and less time on the ground.

So there are some rhythms that we expect in running smooth flow, like a plane taking off. You want to see a smooth flow. And there are some rhythms that we want to see in velocity, velocity, gradually getting faster. And once you understand those rhythms and we want to stick to those rhythms, we understand that there are also rhythms in all of the other characteristics. Gradual change really is the name of the game and John Keily, and I think maybe Craig Pickering had a paper on smoothness, and it’s the best paper ever for me. I love John Keily’s work because it’s just a great summary of what we want in our data. We talk about smoothness and we know what smooth, silky movement might look like or smell like or sound like, but we don’t know what smooth, silky data should look like, smell like or sound like. And actually it’s very similar. It’s very, very similar. You can look at someone’s data and see their step have gradually changing. And suddenly there’s a bad rhythm. You know, suddenly, you know, it was increasing by 10 centimetres each step and then suddenly it increases or decreases by 20 centimetres. There’s something going on. Or it stays the same when it should have been changing. There’s something going on.

So it’s not just experience. I think if you know what to see in good data and good movement, you can figure out and decipher what you see in your environment.”

Can you comment on team sports versus sprinters?  How can team sports go about trying to best utilise the 20 minutes warm-up time?

Athletic Performance Academy

”I think, this is where like I’ve always talked about projection, switching and reactivity. I’ve always said that these are really important umbrella terms that help me make sense of the world. And I think if I was going to focus on acceleration and I wanted to maximize the learning, as well as the mechanical load or development of specific muscle groups, I’d pull a pulley. I’d pull X-Genies, I’ll pull a sled, I’ll do something resisted, right? And a lot of our clients and teams, especially with this new preparation for preseason, have bought 20 X-Genies. And they’ve linked them all to the walls, players can’t share equipment. If they’ve bought 20 X-Genies, they put them all in a wall and they recognize that the resisted running does lots of the teaching for them.

Projection I really think has orientation. ‘Cause when you say projection, we’re not really saying where, which direction you want to project. I feel like if we’re talking about orientation, we’re talking about some of the summaries from one of the resistance running research, which is RF again, keep coming back to it. Are you able to project a large amount of your force in the direction you want to go? Is that large ratio of force going forward, going horizontal? So for me, that’s one of my first priorities, orientation, and I’m going to use resisted running for it. Another priority is range of motion. If you have a relatively large range of motion on the front and the back side of your running cycle, not just the front side, not just the back side, if you have a relatively large range of motion on both sides of the flexing leg and the extending leg, then that tells me two things:

One. It tells me that you’re extending the leg, you’ve pushed your center of mass outside and away from your center of support. So you’ve had a nice extension of your posterior chain. So great. You’ve got a large range of motion in the backside. Two. On the front side, if at the moment of toe off, when you finish extending your knee is relatively high, even in acceleration (so we’re saying your hip angle is maybe closer to 90 degrees than 110 degrees), then clearly during the step, your thigh has punched forwards. But if at the moment of toe off, when you finish extending your front thigh is actually down here, then clearly during the stride, your thigh didn’t come forward quick enough. So at the moment of toe off is a great time to see, okay, what’s happening with extended leg. What’s happening with a thigh in front?

So finding an effective range of motion in your legs during projection and orienting yourself forwards just describes a lot of things, but for a novice coach, if I just want to make sure all the forces go forward, I’ll use a sled. Are they utilizing their range of motion? If not, then why? Is it because they’re not pushing against the ground or is it because they’re not punching their knee forward? And the nice thing about punching your knee forward whilst pushing against the ground is it pushes your center of mass out in front. It makes it easier to orientate your forces forwards.

So this RF puzzle that’s the all our real goal is, and can be solved by orientating yourself forwards and separating your limbs really well. So once you’ve done that, that’s the projection part done. That’s the pushing part done. Then you got to be prepared for the next step. So then the question is, once they’ve done these actions, and then they swapped their limbs, does their shin land in a position where it’s stiff, the ankle is stiff, the heel doesn’t drop. (Daz comment: this is the reactivity part).  The shin is stiff, is stable and allows the hip to extend early. Or does the shin land vertical, the heel drops, the shin has to roll forwards before the hip can push again. And if you’re in that position, that’s less stiff, that’s less reactive. Do you want some compression, some load before you explode? Yes. As any performance that can have a bigger touchdown distance and during a tiny bit of deceleration on the step and tiny bit of breaking it, they almost use that time to multiply and potentiate extension, right? They’re getting that highest eccentric to then load the concentrate action.

So fine, but there’s a bandwidth. There’s landing too far behind and too stiff and not enough pressure to push and there’s landing too far out in front and almost decelerating too much. So that’s five or six minutes talking about what I would be summarizing for a coach. So I’ll go back to it. If you orientate yourself well and go forward with good range of motion in your legs and then switch your limb so you can be reactive and do it again, then I think nearly all performance can do that. Rugby, football, forwards, backs. There’s a bandwidth to it. Maybe you get a bit less out the back, a bit less out the front. Maybe you’re landing a bit further out in front, a bit further out behind, but I’m talking about centimetres. And, generally the summary is the same for everybody. And so when we look at our teams, well players, if I was in a setting and I had 20 athletes, I would just be getting them to pull heavy things, recognize how to orientate themselves well with a good range of motion. The heavier it is the more horizontal I have to be and actually the better I have to switch because I have no air time.

If more horizontal you are, you don’t have air time. No air time, less time to be prepared. I’ll pull medium things because I still have to orientate myself, but I have a bit more time. I’ll be pulling medium weight because it gives me a bit more velocity. It’s more challenging. I’d be running without any resistance. Same drill, same task and I think that differential loading allows them to explore different strategies to do the same task. So it’s just movement variability. It’s just giving them options.  Are we doing resisted running for the physical, mechanical loading, or are we doing it for the teaching and the differential learning and almost creating a constraint for these guys to make sense of the world and, to explore different strategies?

I think we’re doing both. I think on some days we do minimal amounts of runs and we’re really just using resistance running for teaching and potentiation and on other days do large amounts of resisted running done with variability and combined with plyometrics.  This would allow us to create a massive work capacity to do anything else when it came to speed work, because it meant that we had lots and lots of contacts, high velocity contacts into the ground conditioning the Achilles, conditioning soleus, conditioning foot position, conditioning knee to be stable, the hip to be the prime mover, really locking in lumbar and just making sure these guys push through their bums and stabilized through their feet. And so when we move to either more pre-planned or more rugby related stuff, the guys just seemed to be able to tolerate it more than usual. Lower limb injuries went away, hamstring stuff minimized, and actually we seemed to see that when we dropped some gym work on a specific day and replaced it more with resisted running, that they didn’t just run faster, run PBs and run fast times and GPS. Their next gym session, they also came in and they seem to be wired.

Yeah. So again, long-winded but I think for me the summary is if we clarify that our goal for all our performers is to orientate large forces forwards with a decent range of motion and to make sure we can be prepared for the next step, then our RF will be good, but our DRF will also be good. That’s easy to coach. That’s easy to do in large squad because you’ve really got two goals; if go forwards when you pull something heavy and you don’t orientate yourself forward, you don’t go anywhere. So it’s great for athletes to feel because when they pull something heavy it can suddenly change something about their synchronization of their limbs or sequence of their movement or spine discipline.   Because the priority is really, do you have good spine discipline? Do you have good shin discipline? And the shins would tell you a story about the whole run just by looking at the shins, right.

That’s really easy to teach because if you don’t, if you’re trying to pull something heavy with bad spine discipline and shin discipline, you won’t go anywhere. You just won’t go anywhere. You won’t move anywhere. So the athletes figure it out. And the athlete who don’t figure it out, that’s when you intervene. But if you have tools that teach what you want for you and you just have to provide some feedback, then you can get large changes in acceleration and velocity within large squads. You don’t have to be super coach to make those changes happen.”

Can you finish off by commenting on GAME SPEED, the teaching versus training, and how we ensure transfer from one thing to another?

”I think they’re two different things. Firstly, so ”teaching” and ”training” for me is really down to the fact that just because someone looks pretty doesn’t mean they’re going to actually run fast and then just because they can run fast, it doesn’t mean they’ll do it in a game. So if you want to make sure that technique turns into fast running and physical robustness to do those actions repeatedly, you almost have two tasks there. Can you run fast, great. Can you do that eight times within a eight minute period? Yeah, it’s a different discussion, right? Teaching and training for me is understanding what exercises, what mechanical properties are necessary to run fast.

What does that mean? It means that for me, that if I want to develop someone’s ability to run really, really fast in outright running, I’ve got to make sure they also have the physical tools based on things that I’ve done maybe in the gym with eccentric work, with flywheel work, with isolated versus inter-segmental work. But also I need to probably in team sports, more importantly design running conditioning sessions that develop the technical movements, but under some duress. And you know, everyone’s like if you’re doing speed work and you’re not giving people enough recoveries, then you’re a bad coach. But when you’re training for speed or you’re training speed is two different discussions. If I’m training for speed, I sometimes have incomplete recoveries. When I’m training for speed, I want the movement to look similar, but I also want to create the physical underpinnings, the energy system, the work capacity, the tolerance to essentially mitigate risk when I trained speed.

So that’s a really important concept. Everyone wants to sprint now in sports, but people are now getting more injuries again because they’re doing too much sprinting at the wrong time. They don’t understand phase potentiation. They don’t understand how to drip feed it over time. And when they drip feed it, what else they should be doing on the field with resisted running, with repetitive speed endurance or repeat speed endurance and with your gym work. You do that so that when you need to run really, really fast, you can do it. You can recover from it and it’s got less stress on the body. So movements and muscles or teaching and training, that’s where it comes to.

Game speed is more about once they’re confident and clear and they have repetitiveness, they have the ability to do it almost under fatigue and under some kind of distraction, game speed is more like, can you replicate these movements, high velocity actions whilst being super distracted when you don’t really care about the movement? Where you care only about the outcome. You don’t care as much about thinking about it. You know you need to be in the right position and be there fast but you’ve got a number of distractions. So game speed to me is a big deal. Eddie Jones loves speed work, loves speed training but if it doesn’t finish with some game speed, if it doesn’t look like what they need to know, and if we don’t put them in positions and scenarios and stress test those scenarios for them to be able to run fast and be efficient or and be effective in the skill work, then there is no transfer and he won’t be happy.

I’ve done most of my learning with the great team coaches. Mike Ford, originally at Bath, said it’s great that you do speed work, but firstly, do they stay healthy? Secondly, does it turn into the game? And if is a no to any of those, you failed your task. And so really for team sport coaches, if you do the first stage and you do the right teaching and you underpin it with physical qualities, the likelihood of transfer just increases without even game speed. Yeah, that’s the reality. If your guys have the physical capabilities to repetitively do what you want them to do, and that’s their path of least resistance, that’s probably the most important thing here. That when they’re under stress, that when their body decides I need to get from here to here as soon as possible, the body knows that the most efficient way for me to do is use this movement pattern. That doesn’t happen because they’ve done wickets or pulled the pulley once or twice. That happens because the strongest muscle groups in the most efficient chain for them to use are the ones they choose to use. It’s a chain that you’ve trained. And until it is, then you just have people running fast, running straight lines, running PBs and GPS, great. But then when there’s a break and I have to do a box to box, they completely regress to what is comfortable, what is normal. What is the path of least resistance.

So I think game speed is a complete separate topic. I think game speed, you have to learn and design your game speed from top down. You have to have good skill coaches, good head coaches who are clear about what they want, clear about what their players do or don’t do very well and can teach you. I’ve been taught by some great technical coaches about what they want and I’ve just regressed it, reverse engineered it and gone, oh, that’s just a skips for height. And I was talking about high balls on one of our mentorships the other day about going up for a high ball in rugby and the skill of doing that is just a skip for height. Is really just a skip for height, under lots of pressure on a, maybe an unstable surface because you’re running and jumping but it’s skips for height.

So if you can dissect the perception action from the physical, and you can be clear about the two, you can develop the physical and make sure that they’re clear about the technical as well as have the physical capabilities. And then you put them under more and more stress so that they can connect this new skill under the main skill, then it transfers. Some people, have the perception. So make sure they can perceive it, great. But if they don’t have the wheels or they don’t have the chassis or they don’t have the suspension to do the task, it is great that they make the right decisions, but they’re in a Ford Focus, not in a, I don’t know, Porsche Boxster. I don’t know. I’m not very good with cars. I don’t know why I use this analogy. But hopefully that kind of gives you a flavor of where I would go with things.”

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Coaching eye- one of the most important skills to learn as an apprentice coach is observation skills.
  2. Step back and remember the goal- What’s our priority? Velocity, that’s our priority. And what do we want the shape of velocity to look like? We want it to keep getting faster.
  3. Coaching vs Business- they don’t see the fact that I spend 80% of my time on the track, but track only brings in 20% of our household income
  4. Outcome vs Process- If your goal is your 10 metre time only, then you might be missing a trick because I can run to 10 and you can run to 10 in the same time but I might be at a higher velocity than you.
  5. Projection and Preparation- biggest priorities in sprinting or in performance it is one to project yourself towards where you want to go from A to B. And it’s another thing to be prepared for the next step

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

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You may also like from PPP:

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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Pacey Performance Podcast REVIEW- Episode 272 Hakan Andersson

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 272 – Hakan Andersson

Hakan Andersson

Website

Background: 

Hakan AnderssonSprint coach Sports Performance Consultant and Educator based at Sports Performance Center, Vaxjo, Sweden.  61 years old and 35 years coaching, with keen interest in Athletics and sprinting in particular.  Retired in 2018 after 36 years in Fire Brigade.

 

Discussion topics:

Where would you actually start jump training and plyometrics with young sprinters?

”A  local doctor really opened my eyes to sport science and he really introduced me to some great scientists.  The first scientist I met in the flesh was Carmelo Bosco, and everyone had heard about counter movement jumps, rebound jumps and squat jumps.  He was the Father of that and was doing a lot of pioneering work on the stretch shortening cycle in the mid 80s.

Sprinters have been doing jump training for hundreds of years but it was the Russians and Fins who took it to another level with more science and planning in an organised level.

When we talk about plyometrics what we probably mean is jumping (although there will be throwers that will object to that) so it’s some kind of ballistic movement and a wide spectrum of movement.  Jumping is great for developing general and specific coordination, so it has definite room in the programme for everyone and the earlier you start the better.  Everything you have to learn with coordination is easier if you start at an earlier age.  Plyometric ability jumping seems to be like a natural thing to do growing up.

In a more structured training environment with young sprinters you have to start with building resilience, you can’t start with intensive jump training when you weigh 90 kg and you’re 30 years old.  Before puberty you can start with rope skipping and hopscotch coordination.  Jump training can be very intense, and neuromuscular tension and forces can be very high so you have to be careful and it can easily be overdone.  It has to be individually monitored and progressed.”

 

Training load for plyometrics. How is that something that you moderate for your athletes? Ground contacts?

Ground contacts only say so much.  It is also the height you are jumping from and how much you attack the ground.  It is very easy to produce high ground reaction forces if you attack the ground or you are landing from high, so you can’t start in that way.”

 

Is there a way that you quantify how much plyometric training your individuals are doing?

”You can’t only talk about numbers and intensity.  There is no perfect scheme, you also have to use your gut and see how people are responding to the training.  You can’t say how many contacts you should be doing in a session, in a week in a month.  It only says so much about the load.”

 

What other considerations are there for coaches using plyometrics with team sport athletes?

”Henk Kraaijenhof says Plyometrics is for cats not cows! It all depends what athletes you have.  If you take sprinters you see a wide range of different body types.  You have the greyhound, very light frame elastic type who often respond well to jump training and often respond negatively to heavier resistance training.  Then you have the more muscular types that are usually more stiff, less elastic and usually respond better to heavier resistance.  So it’s the same in the team setting; you have different kinds of players, and you have to treat them as individuals.

It can be very easy to overdo it and lead to injuries because of the intensity that can occur in some of the exercises.  But I think that everyone can benefit from some type of plyometrics.  You also have to take into consideration that it has a diminishing returns.  If you talk about weight training, people may respond to the heavier resistance training and it may transfer to sport fairly well but there is usually a diminishing return where that last 20-30% of strength doesn’t really transfer, and it’s the same with plyometrics.  If jump training was the best solution then jumpers would be the best sprinters but they are not! So there is a diminishing return there too.

If you can jump 16m with standing five jumps and run 10.20 seconds for 100 m does it mean you will run 10.0 seconds because you jump 17m? Not necessarily, but I think that everyone will benefit from jumping to some extent.

Take for example an ice hockey player and their season is over end of May/beginning of June and you start training them and you start with hurdle jumps you are going to run into trouble in a couple of weeks.  You have to be very careful.  He can jump but he can’t land because his feet are fixed in skates for months of the year.  So it will be such a stress on the system, especially if you are on the heavy side.”

 

How would you modify the training for the sort of person you mentioned that may not respond as well to plyometrics?  And what would you put in the programme?

”First of all you have some kind of objective way of judging what kind of athlete you have.  An experienced track coach can see who is elastic and who is not.  You can also test people and use something like the reactive strength index, the relationship between jumping height or flight time and the ground contact.

People who display a high RSI usually are the elastic type, and most of the time you can expect them to respond well to jump training.  If you use subjective means to determine someone’s type you need to have a lot of experience.

We used to test a lot.  Nowadays we measure a lot in training to see how they respond, it doesn’t just have to be a testing session per se.

We used to use a counter movement jump and ask people to jump as high as possible but many times we saw no transfer to sprinting.  When it comes to the RSI it’s a better test in my opinion, and if they score well in the RSI they are usually in good condition to run well.  We have guys who score almost 4.0 with ground contact of 0.150 m/s.  A good RSI is also related to power output, with high RSI you have a high power output and you see numbers exceeding 80 Watts/kg.”

 

How do you incorporate horizontal and vertical emphasis jumping into your training?

”Both horizontal and vertical places an important role in sprinting and I don’t really understand the debate between the vertical camp and the horizontal camp, they are so connected.  Just like contact times versus contact length, people forget about contact length.  We have to move the centre of gravity in stance phase in a certain time.  Remember contact time is the outcome of running velocity.  And the velocity at toe off is the result of the magnitude and direction of force, so they are connected.  So if you try to mimic the ground contact of an elite sprinter at say 80-90 milliseconds then remember they have to move their centre of mass horizontally.  If you try to mimic that by jumping vertically they are a totally different thing!  So both forces play a big role.

In initial acceleration of course you can produce a lot of horizontal force and you can use the knee extensors more, and in top speed of course the vertical force is more significant but if we want to keep accelerating we need to make sure the propulsive forces are exceeding the braking forces.

Unilaterally bounding is more tricky and the forces are high because of the speed so it’s important to do this beyond just vertical jumping which may be good for training stiffness.  The bounding is better for training hip extension.

In team sports I would probably do more horizontal jumping but it all depends on their experience.   You have to respect the landing and the impact forces especially if you are a little heavier or jumping on a hard surface.  You might start on grass or jumping up stairs, and the jumping height.

I would start with a skipping rope and see how they respond and progress it slowly.  If they are coordinated and can learn it they can benefit from it.”

In terms of resisted sprints where would you start someone?

”Resisted sprints are an excellent idea for developing horizontal force capability in a safe way.  We have being doing some form of resisted sprints for a long time such as hill sprints.  In the last couple of years there has been some interesting technology come to the market.  We use the Dynaspeed in Sweden and there is the 1080 motion, and there are lot of resistances that you can programme in and do it a lot more accurately.

Sprinting is all about producing rate of force in a short time in the right direction but it is also about rhythm, and coordination and relaxation.  I find sometimes, and sprinters say it too, that sleds can be very disturbing because you are working with friction and the resisted force oscillate a lot when you are working with sleds.

The new technique using constant pulling force (dynaspeed) can be programmed so you can work in all the different acceleration phases, different loads and so we use it a lot and I think this will be a big part of the future in sprinting when it comes to being more precise and working more specifically, and more important than plyometrics actually.

You want more information than speed, I think.  You want to see what happens to stride length and frequency when you load them with resisted sprints.  Especially with assisted sprinting it is crucial to know, as it is very easy to pull people too hard, and you damage their mechanics.

The way I see it, if we use pretty heavy resistance and I programme the system to use say 30% of body weight equivalent or 60% body weight with a sled, friction dependent, the maximum velocity that you will achieve with a sprinter is roughly around 4-5 m/s which is equivalent to his first or second stride.  So with a heavy sled it is like training their first few strides but for an extended period of time.

If you do lighter resistances you can work on different phases of the acceleration curve, so it’s a very good tool and you can work your way through the whole acceleration period starting your session.  You start with a heavy resistance and the initial acceleration and you end up with the training programme developing the later part of the acceleration.

We usually use assisted sprints in the later part of a preparation period.”

 

When you say heavy resistance sprints what kind of load are we talking about?

”If you refer to the literature they are always referring to sleds.  If you talk about motor resisted sprints like muscle lab or 1080 it’s usually about half the resistance.  So the heaviest resistance we go to is about 30% of body mass, and that slows them down extensively to the speed of the first step. (which is equivalent to 60% on a sled).

We start with heavy sprints for a couple of weeks and then we reduce the load through the training period, and usually mix it too with super heavy, medium heavy and light weight but we emphasis one side of it and always with a combination of unloaded.

Resisted sprinting alters mechanics at the heavy end if you try to run with an erect position! If you stay in the same position as you would in the first couple of strides of acceleration then it obviously doesn’t alter mechanics but if you try to run in an upright position with 30% of your body weight then it would. ”

 

How would that work when you are working with team sports?

”The heavy resisted sprinting would be more considered strength work.  In football, sprinters never start their sprints from the true low acceleration position, they start from a more upright position so they have to accelerate a lot more with hip extension than knee extension, like a sprinter would.

In a game scenario a footballer starts a sprint from a more upright position, or from a moving position, and never from a low stance.

So the heavy resisted work in a low position is beneficial if it is seen as strength training for them.  For people who can’t do a lot of jumping it is a safe way of working even if the resistance is high and the speed is low, it is still much faster than anything you can do in the gym.”

 

What are some of the testing options have we got to help coaches decide where to spend their time?

”I think timing sprints is important to ensure the intensity is where you want it to be.  Hand timing is fine but electronic timing can help further.  It is much easier to monitor.  Electronic timing is a good investment.

We are now using IMUs with Musclelab that can detect ground contacts at touch down and toe off so we can calculate stride frequency, contact time and flight time.  If you can measure speed every time we also have the contact and stride length.  So we can follow the stride kinematics and kinetics as the athlte

We use Ergotest company based in Norway.  Musclelab is the brand and we use 16G IMU can sample up to 1000Hz, wireless and put it on the laces of the shoe.

Force platforms are great for seeing how they produce force eccentrically and concentrically, as jump height is not enough so that is another useful metric to see how athletes produce force.  I’ll use the force plates when doing drop jumps  and counter movements I have replaced the contact mats with force plates as I feel I get more information from that.”

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Start early- everything you have to learn with coordination is easier if you start at an earlier age.  Plyometric ability jumping seems to be like a natural thing to do growing up.
  2. Progress slowly- build resilience and it has to be individually monitored and progressed.
  3. Monitoring jump load- it has to be about more than just ground contacts.  How much you attack the ground and how high you jump must also be taken into account.
  4. Transfer to sprinting- If jump training was the best solution then jumpers would be the best sprinters but they are not! So there is a diminishing return there too.
  5. Direction of force- Both horizontal and vertical places an important role in sprinting

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

Twitter:

@sprintcoachSWE

 

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

Hope you have found this article useful.

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  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
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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 286 Stu McMillan

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

Altis

Website

Background: 

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

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

Dan Pfaff- sprint coach

Andreas Behm- hurdles coach

John Godina- throws coach

 

Discussion topics:

How did ALTIS come about?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Sprinting in warm-ups

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Observe and ask questions

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

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

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

Arcs and fascial chains

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

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

Top 5 Take Away Points:

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

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

Twitter:

@StuartMcMillan1

 

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

Hope you have found this article useful.

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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Hamstring Injuries- Part 2 of 2 [Are We Heading in the Right Direction?]

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 266 – Hamstring Injury 

Jurdan Mendiguchia

Research Gate

Background: 

Jurdan Mendiguchia– Physiotherapist, Researcher and Injury Consultant.  Jurdan is a World expert when it comes to injury prevention and rehabilitation, particularly in hamstrings and ACL.  He has 40+ research papers to his name (see link above to Research Gate).

 

Discussion topics:

JM on the current approach to hamstring injury rehab and prevention and how would you say there is room for improvement in this area

”Good question.  The issue of hamstring injury definitely needs a new boost, a step forward.  I think it has been an injury that contrary to other types of injury such as ACL, has been approached from a very analytical and isolated point of view.  This influences the intervention carried out.

To give a clear and simple example, in the ACL injury, inciting events such as jumping and side cutting were biomechanically analysed to later analyse how the trunk, hip, ankle or even anatomy influence this inciting event providing a multifactorial approach to the problem.  Consequently injury prevention programmes have been directed to correctly and repeatedly perform the movement related to the injury mechanism such as side cutting.  I never see a guy only perform squats to prevent the ACL injury!

Everything was reduced to the action of the hamstring at a specific time of sprinting, the main injury mechanism.  And from there the measurement methods such as isokinetic and eccentric (Nord board) and prevention training arised.  It has been focused at that concrete moment without going too deep into how the trunk, pelvis, the other leg interaction influence that moment.  Unsurprisingly that was extrapolated to the prevention methods, and most of the research methods have focused on improving the specific strength or isolated strength of the knee flexor without knowing which exercises activate one hamstring muscle or the other!” (rather than the correct performance of the movements related to the injury like in the ACL!)

If we go the literature we can see a huge difference between the articles dedicated to the nordic and sprinting, at least in the injury related area.  I wonder myself, since it has been more than 18 years since the first study carried out in the AFL that suggested that eccentrics are effective in reducing this type of injury.  So it is not a new thing, and at least in the major leagues all the football teams I know are doing eccentrics at least weekly.  And what is still the biggest injury problem today? Hamstrings!

We can assure ourselves in the knowledge that the velocity and intensity of the game has increased but then maybe eccentrics are not effective enough to battle against actual player demands.

We cannot ignore what is happening and continue to not listening to the concerns of the coaches of the teams frustrated and under pressure because they continue with the same injuries despite using eccentric exercises. What has been suggested does not solve, at least entirely, the problem.

Without criticising what we have done in the past, we need for sure, something else.  If we can agree that it is a multifactorial injury, and the factors interact with each other the current force or range of motion measurements and isolated measurements are not able to show us these associations.

Therefore everything goes through the development of new ‘contextualised screenings’ that allow us to decipher the primary factors to correct.

When we talk about context we are talking about the main injury mechanism, that is none other than the sprint, and of course it is not the only injury mechanism as there are injury mechanisms related to overstretching, trunk perturbations etc.

If we want to be more close to success and succeed from a injury prevention perspective at least in football, in my opinion we need to perfectly know our sport demands and delivered adaptations and our coaching methods and training.”

JM explaining the role of the trunk and pelvis when it comes to hamstring injuries.

”It has been shown that anterior pelvic tilt is a risk factor for hamstring injury, if we only base it theoretically on elementary anatomy, we know that the hamstrings attach to the pelvis at the ischial tuberosity.  An increase in anterior tilt will increase hamstring length.

Risk Factors

  • Anterior pelvic tilt (related to bicep femoris)
  • Increased Trunk and Hip Flexion (Functional MRI shows it increases bicep femoris signal intensity).  Sprinting with inclined trunk there is more bicep femoris lengthening mostly at the beginning of the acceleration phase
  • Interaction of one leg with the other- the pelvis is the only joint that connects the legs

It has been shown that to run faster you need a deep anterior pelvic tilt.  But the mismatch is that while it could be good to run fast like in track and field and soccer,  but if you go too far it can be dangerous from an injury perspective.”

JM on the focus on knee flexor strength rather than the multifactorial issues around sprinting

”The thinking process is not bad because it was hypothesised that late swing phase is where the injury probably happens.  It is true that it is the moment where the hamstring acts as an absorber doing negative work in order to prevent the tibia going away.  So yes, we focus on that and probably generally speaking it is good.

But at this same moment the anterior pelvic tilt happens, ipsilateral gluteus maximus force happens, contralateral iliopsoas lengthening happens.  So if you look at the entire movement you can see all this happening concomitantly (next to each other!).

I don’t know why we focus only on that (knee flexor strength).  In fact we see that there is no relationship between isolated testing and mechanical properties of sprinting.  That makes sense to me as the function of the biarticular hamstring muscle is totally different to what we are doing when we test in isolation.

If you compare the cross sectional area of a football player’s quadriceps and hamstrings with a non player, the quadriceps are equal but the hamstrings are greater.  But when you normalise with knee extension or knee flexion strength, it is less in football players.  This is probably because we are not testing how this group of muscles are functioning during sprinting.

We know that footballers have greater cross sectional area which means probably they are stronger, but when you normalise and measure knee flexion during isokinetic movement you have less hamstring compared to people who don’t do football.”

JM on injury prevention methods he would use if he was working in a Football club full-time

”This dichotomy of sprint versus nordic that is trending is totally wrong, and also dangerous.

Consider the this case study of an elite coach considering increasing stride length with a sub 10-second 100m sprinter to increase performance.

You need to be structurally prepared for the task that your coach (or the game) demands.

Therefore if his structure is not prepared to run in that way, he can have all of the strength in the world, but if you don’t correct his structural issues sprinting in that new way with the increased stride length for him it would be harmful.  Sprinting is not the new injury recipe either.  If the athlete is not prepared to run properly or does it wrong in terms of shape or volume the sprint will become counter productive 100%.

In fact, in football sprinting has become the new nordic.  If you hear coaches right now, they will tell you that you are old school if your players don’t sprint.  I think that’s not the right way to think.  If from your screening methods you interpret that the cause of your player’s injury is a decrease (lack) of strength, either from the hip or knee, the prescription of a strength programme in the gym will be adequate for sure.

But therefore the answer to your question is almost always, ”it depends.”  Do not apply anything as a recipe or established protocol.  Look what your athlete needs, because if not, as many people do, we can treat people by email or twitter without seeing the patient!”

JM on the use of the nordic in hamstring injuries

”The use of the nordic for more than 20 years has shown positive results, in relation to hamstring injury prevention.  Therefore we can say that as a general measure it seems that it has turned out to be advanced in it’s day.  But I wonder if right now it’s enough, according to the training methodology that is undertaken by most of the football teams that contain eccentric work in their programme and looking at the current epidemiology data showing no injury reduction.

I wonder too, if a single exercise satisfies the individual and multifactorial needs of the individual and the pathology.

Another thing in relation to your question, is the reason why eccentrics and the nordic exercise in particular is effective, because consistently too it has not been proven the prediction ability between eccentric strength level and injuries.

But it is true that there are architectural adaptations to eccentric strength such as:

  • alterations at the aponeurosis level
  • change in extracellular matrix with increasing collagen
  • change in protein isoform
  • dynamic pennation angle increases (to protect fascicle from lengthening)
  • tendon stiffness (increase in tendon compliance during sprinting results in a decrease in musculotendinous length).

A fatigue provoking protocol after eccentric exercise decreased tendon compliance and increased fascicle length and this can be related to different role of the tendon being compliant at low loads and intensities but acting as a force transducer and stiffening structure at high loads and highs.  No one as far as I know has analysed that after an eccentric strength intervention.

It is true that lately much attention has been paid to Fascicle Length as a possible injury protection mechanism to explain the positive effect of the nordics, with respect to hamstrings.  It has been suggested as a risk factor in football despite having a low association.  Theoretically, the idea is based on a hypothetical increase in sarcomerogenesis after eccentric work.  This assumes that the addition of sarcomeres in series in humans after eccentric exercise will protect the muscle from damage.

However, although theoretically supported I think that today with the technological knowledge we have with it is hard to demonstrate the relationship between fascicles and hamstring injury.

There are technical limitations on fascicle measurements.  We know too, that hamstring architecture changes throughout the muscle and only one region is measured. ”

Moreover, the measure is static, so we are assuming that what we are measuring statically will happen dynamically, without considering  muscle tendon interaction and behaviour.

 

JM on role of ‘activation’ work and its role as a risk factor for hamstring injury 

”In one prospective study no association between muscle activity and hamstring injury during isokinetic measuring was found.  But in contrast another study showed prospectively too, doing a prone hip extensor extension manoeuvre, a delayed hamstring recruitment compared to erectors in those players that after suffered an injury, with no difference in EMG amplitude at all.

Another study showed an association between decreased EMG activity of gluteus and trunk muscles and hamstring injury in a prospective study of football players sprinting overground.  (prospective definition- likely to happen at a future date).  But in terms of hamstring activity there was no association between EMG of biceps femoris and hamstring injury during follow up was found.

There is still equivocal data in the research comparing the reduction (or not) of bicep femoris EMG activity when comparing injured to non-injured leg, with some studies showing differences and others not.  But they use different techniques such as functional MRI and EMG, so it is difficult to compare because the physiological processes behind them are completely different.  There are also differences in the type of exercises used.

There could be something there, but we know at this point that EMG has limitations, it neglects regional hamstring activation, it has high variability and there is an inhibition during eccentric contraction and we have to account too for crosstalk.”

Individualisation of Hamstring Recruitment Profile

”Concurrently in hamstring muscles, the distribution of activation and the distribution of torque generating capacities varied greatly between individuals during a maximum knee flexor task on an isokinetic dynamometer.  Moreover, significant negative correlation was observed between the imbalance of hamstring activation muscle and the time to exhaustion.

This individual variability is not in isolation and has been confirmed in other muscle groups.  Regional EMG patterns are highly individual, and each individual maintains similar proximal to distal and inter-muscular EMG patterns across different running speeds.

This confirms the idea that activation sequence and patterns are very very individual  and that has made me wonder if the hamstring pattern is so individual, is there a gold standard?

  • How much can we rely on previously conducted studies knowing the variability between people?
  • Will it be necessary to change the pattern of activation after the injury?
  • Will it be as easy as changing the activation pattern during running and prescribe a hip dominant or knee dominant exercise?

With these questions I don’t mean that EMG pattern is not related to hamstring injury but we have to question things and we have to move further in this field to give more rigorous advice and opinions.

Currently there is not a gold standard, we don’t know if it is good or not to change the patterns of people after the injury has happened.”

JM on use of Isometrics in Hamstring injury reduction training

”I know that there is a debate about the isometric or eccentric behaviour of the fibre at the time of the injury.  It looks clear that towards the end of the swing phase during sprinting the hamstring muscle-tendon unit lengthens and the hamstring forces increase. But what about the muscle fascicle or fibres? Do they increase because the muscle is stretching, or decrease because of the force and activation increase?

I don’t think that anybody knows for sure right now!

Both visions (isometric and eccentric) share the idea of the inability of the fibres to withstand the mechanical forces imposed during sprinting.

If you want to reproduce the injury mechanism and the same behaviour and same adaptation to the muscle tendon and fascicle don’t jump between isometric and eccentric contractions- simply run!

But more relevant and important than the type of contraction is the time and velocity of the contraction depending on the effort that we want to create at the muscle tendon junction.

We will choose different parameters of time by increasing the contraction time or velocity depending on whether we want to reduce or increase stiffness and so on.   Control the time and velocity parameters that will induce different effects on the different structures.

Sometimes with the authors there is a mismatch between performance and injury.  With a more stiff structure that is good for performance but may not be as good from the injury perspective.

Author opinion:

At APA we always promote the use of using a range of methods to develop athleticism.  As Vern Gambetta once said, ‘Assess, Don’t Guess.”  The answer to the question concerning what the athlete needs is almost always, ”it depends.”  Do not apply anything as a recipe or established protocol.  Look what your athlete needs, because if not, as many people do, we can treat people by email or twitter without seeing the patient!”

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Research– injury prevention programmes need to be directed to correctly and repeatedly perform the movement related to the injury mechanism
  2. Risk factors- multifactorial including anterior pelvic tilt, hip and trunk flexion and tendon stiffness
  3. Assessment- currently we assume that what me measure statically will happen dynamically
  4. Activation- patterns and sequence are very, very individual
  5. Velocity vs Contraction type- more important than the type of contraction is the velocity

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

Research Gate:

Jurdan Mendiguchia

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 252 Steve Saunders

Episode 248 Hamstring roundtable

Episode 243 Jack Hickey

 

Hope you have found this article useful.

Where I am next presenting?

 

Speed, Agility & Quickness for Sports Workshop

Date: 22nd Feb 2020, 09:00AM-13:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

 

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Hamstring Injuries- Part 1 of 2

This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 248 – Hamstring Injury 

Australian Catholic University

Website

Background: 

Josh  Ruddy– Running loads and hamstring injury risk.  Two years into PhD embedded with one of the AFL teams.  Looking at hamstring injury prediction.

Ryan Timmins– completed PhD, now supervising Josh- and working with elite soccer programme Melbourne Victory.  Looking at reducing injury risk.

Jack Hickey– clinical exercise physiologist, completed PhD and now sports rehab injury lecturing and research.  Looking at hamstring rehab.

 

Discussion topics:

JR on the contrast between academic research and real life

”The risk of finding nothing.

We try to grow our research projects around what the industry actually requires and what questions that they might have, so that in turn organically grows interest.”

JR on predicting hamstring injuries

”Background was studying high speed running loads and how that influences the risk of hamstring injuries.  High speed running and Workload in general is quite a hot topic.  Large weekly changes in high speed running loads increase the risk of hamstring injury.

Non modifiable

  • History of hamstring injury
  • Increasing age

Modifiable

  • Biceps femoris long head fascicle length
  • Low levels of eccentric hamstring strength
  • Workload (and in particular high speed running volume)

High speed running was considered to be distance covered above 24 km/h.  Approximately anything over in terms of a week to week change.  Doing 200 metres more than the previous week doubled your risk of injury.

It is really important to consider that the numbers and statistics reported in studies are actually really specific to the cohort from what they are derived.

Optimal threshold and optimal cut points are really only optimal from the particular cohort that they are derived.

They are derived from looking at injury rates above and below a specific thresholds and once they are determined you then actually retrospectively apply that threshold to that same cohort.  It might not necessarily be relevant when talking about other cohorts.  Sometimes people get too caught up in those numbers being hard and fast rules.  For example, it is thought that you need to be above 256 Newtons for eccentric hamstring strength at the start of pre-season or you are going to get injured.  When really they are just there to act as a guide.”

JR on predictive modelling

”It’s a pretty broad term, and there are a number of different facets and elements that fit under that umbrella term.  It is taking some data and identifying different patterns that occur within that data, and then applying what you’ve learnt from that initial data and applying it to a new data set.  The aim to predict specific outcomes at an individual level.

This is different to the research that looks at associations at a group level which will not allow us to predict specific outcomes at an individual level.  In practice we don’t really want to predict injuries.  We want to identify risk, mitigate risk and prevent those injuries from ever occurring.

In practice the way predictive modelling should be applied is to identify risk and mitigate risk so you have no injuries to predict!

At this point in time we can’t predict injuries with a degree of certainty.  Furthermore, predictive models and machine learning (computers learn and identify different patterns from a data set) require a large data set.  A couple of seasons of GPS data and injury rates doesn’t necessarily constitute big data.

RT on hamstring architecture overview

”Basis of my PhD the impact that muscle architecture may have in modifying risk of future injury.

Two dimensional ultrasound image of bicep femoris long head

  • Pennation angle– angle at which fibres insert into base of muscle (aponeurosis)
  • Fascicle length– bundle of muscle fibres (estimated from trigonometry)
  • Muscle thickness

We assume that number of sarcomere series could modify the amount of strain we can tolerate.  If we have more sarcomeres in series are we hypothetically able to withstand the effects of large amounts of repetitive damage (such as running, kicking, change of direction).

We assume that by having a longer fascicle we actually have more sarcomeres in series which are our smaller functioning units of muscles.  If we have more sarcomeres in series then in theory we will have better ability to withstand repeated eccentric contractions, or muscle damage.  And as a result have a better buffer against that risk of injury.

Ability to increase the eccentric overload in hamstrings such as exercises below will increase fascicle length by having more sarcomeres in series.

  • Nordics
  • 2 up, 1 down RDL
  • Kbox flywheel (squat to hinge)
  • or even leg curl 2 up, 1 down

RT on hamstring higher and lower volume interventions

How we can implement lower volume interventions and whether there are different adaptations to high volume interventions.  Whilst the nordic is a great exercise and reduces the incidence of injury the volume prescribed is quite high which means not everyone wants to do it.  We have found that with lower volume nordic hamstring training interventions we can promote similar muscle architecture and strength adaptations to that if we did a high volume intervention.  Although we didn’t look at injury risk as part of that study.

Following a decent dose during two-week pre-season (I’m assuming twice a week) those gains can be maintained with one times a week (2 sets of four nordics done at a really high intensity).

RT on hamstring injury risk

”In bigger stronger athletes like in rugby when their hamstring asymmetry is greater than 15% then the risk of injury doubles.

Less well trained athletes first step to improve risk of injury is improve the level of strength first

So its a two-part approach.  If you’re weak get strong.  If you’re strong, stay symmetrical.

Typically see average 305N across 180 athletes in Australian A-league football (soccer).

Very rare to pull below 350N in AFL.  Risk in asymmetry tends to occur around 450N in Rugby.

JH on asymmetries as part of the rehab process.

You have an individual athlete who comes in with an injury and you may not and actually rarely have any previous injury history on that individual.  So to benchmark their rehab we can use the strength of the contralateral non-injured side.  Yes we try to close those gaps but we make it clear to the athlete that we certainly don’t want to make your non-injured leg any weaker.  You want to train both the limbs as they will still be at risk of injury in their non-injured limb.

We can compare at the time of testing or at baseline when they started the rehab.  If it’s a short term hamstring injury of a few weeks that will be quite different to a 12-18 month ACL intervention.   It’s generally advised to use the non-injured limb at baseline as a control.

RT on alternatives to Nordics

”From a practical standpoint it is very hard to get 40 blokes to do a 45 degree roman chair 2-up 1-down on one piece of equipment (longer length hip dominant exercise).  Whereas it is much easier to get 40 blokes to do nordics on the side of the pitch.  So that creates some considerations for a squad wide intervention in terms of what equipment you have available to you to implement that and isn’t going to p@*s off the coach in the mean time.

Other considerations:

Can we make them stronger if we can’t implement a squad wide cohort level?

If guys have some spine issues we might need to find some other variations for them

Maybe some isometric exercise in addition to some really well prescribed high velocity sprinting intervention actually allows you to improve strength and fascicle length.  So 8-10 sprints throughout the week at greater than 95% maximum velocity.”

RT on use of Isometrics

”Both eccentric and isometric methods can live together in harmony. I don’t think you need to be in one camp or the other.

Currently there is no evidence that muscles (fascicles) undergo eccentric lengthening during sprinting.  The theory is that all of the lengthening that we see in the musculotendinous unit is actually just slack being taken out of the tendon and the muscle itself is just contracting isometrically to hold it’s shape.  So everyone in the isometric camp, goes, well that means we should just train isometrically to adapt to that isometric stimulus and as a result have the ability to withstand that risk of injury.  We have no evidence to suggest either way! So why throw it out the bin? It has a place.  The heavy isometric work might condition the tendon.

But there is a lot of research that eccentric training has beneficial adaptations and even injury risk reduction so the nordic has an important place in that programme as well.  So if you do both as well as do a well planned sprinting programme done regularly and you overload the hamstring you will cover most of the bases.”

JH on use of Isometrics

”There is room for both.  I suppose from a rehab point of view in terms of isometric exercise, one of the traditional approaches to acute muscle rehab they generally follow the progression guidelines of:

  • starting with low level isometrics
  • progressing to short length isotonic (concentric-eccentric)
  • introducing longer length and eccentrically biased exercises towards the end of the rehab

This has changed a little in recent times but at this point in time everything is theoretical.  So basing your whole approach of rehab around isometric training is flawed just as is basing your whole approach around eccentric training is probably somewhat flawed as well.

There are certainly some high level variations of isometrics that may have some benefit and certainly some transfer to high speed running.  But the biggest problem we have right now is that we just don’t have the evidence and that’s where we need more research.

To some extent we disagree with the traditional model of rehab just because we don’t believe there is ever a point in time where you should only be doing one type of contraction mode.

It makes more sense to do all types of contraction mode from the start right through the rehab, but just do it at an appropriate intensity.

Ultimately there needs to be more research to shed light on these topics, but it is clear there is benefit from a range of contraction modes.

Author opinion:

At APA we always promote the use of using a range of exercises, that require a mixture of physical capabilities- it’s just the focus and intensity of those exercises that changes at a given point in time.

For this reason APA would agree with the recommendations to include a range of isometric, isotonic and eccentric exercises and maintain an appropriate balance based on the needs of the individual.

 

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. Research– grow research projects around what the industry actually requires and what questions that they might have
  2. High speed running– Large weekly changes in high speed running loads increase the risk of hamstring injury
  3. Numbers– don’t get too caught up in the numbers! Thresholds and cut offs might not necessarily be relevant when talking about other cohorts
  4. Importance of strength- if you’re weak get strong.  If you’re strong, get symmetrical
  5. Variety is the spice of life

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

Twitter:

@joshua_ruddy / joshua.ruddy@acu.edu.au

@jackhickey89 /  jack.hickey@acu.edu.au

@ryan_timminds / ryan.timminds@acu.edu.au

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

Hope you have found this article useful.

Remember:

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

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

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