This blog is a review of the Pacey Performance Podcast Episode 362 – Matt Van Dyke
Matt Van Dyke
Director of Sports Science for the Houston Texans
Matt Van Dyke
As the Director of Sports Science for the Houston Texans, Matt is responsible for the management of training loads and other performance aspects implemented to each individual athlete in order to maximise performance and readiness. Prior to this, Matt has worked at the University of Texas and University of Denver, designing and implementing speed, strength, conditioning, and mobility training programs for men’s lacrosse, alpine ski, baseball, tennis, swimming and track and field.
Tell me a bit about your background
While I was getting my Masters I did two summer internships and six months full time working for Cal Dietz at University of Minnesota. Then I moved to University of Denver as Head of Strength & Conditioning for 2.5 years, where I also met Dr Nick Studholme (he runs a system called FNOR – Functional Neural Orthopaedic Rehabilitation). I transitioned to more of a sports science role at University of Texas looking at the athlete through a holistic lens.
I now work in an NFL setting and being part of a sports performance team where I sit in the middle of Strength & Conditioning staff, Sports Medicine Staff and Nutrition & Wellness, and from my perspective providing the best insight that we have available from the testing and monitoring into athlete availability for our coaches and management.
How do you decide what to test, and what metrics to evaluate within those tests?
You first have to evaluate what you as an individual or you as a staff VALUE, because you need to have a system and process of testing sports performance. Understand that the context of it is king, as we all understand that an athlete isn’t great because their jump metric is ‘X’ and there is way more that goes into it.
- What aspects do we feel are valuable linked to on field performance?
- Link between positional demands and physical preparation
- What is our end goal of change and did we create that change?
- In season is really about fatigue management, and that’s where auto-regulation comes into play
- We have to be able to have actionable data- we don’t just want to collect data
- Create buy in, which ensure that the athlete gives effort in their testing.
- How can we help them recover more and create that unbreakable athlete?
Would you mind taking us through the six pillars of athletic performance?
”I would say that those six pillars in some combination or other create every single athlete movement goal or process that an athlete can produce on the field.
(taken from article: Athlete assessments: evaluation of more than just athletes)
Now it’s all about fitting the training programme that you are going to implement based on the context that you have available; so if you talk to Cal he is going to use block periodisation for all of these; well he is going to have his athletes for 40 something weeks of the year potentially so that’s going to be a different model than a group that potentially has 8-10 weeks with their athletes out of the year, and obviously as you progress through different levels of sport the availability to them changes pretty drastically.
Repeat sprint ability is truly your end goal for the majority of team sports.
This would look different for a cyclical sport like track & field or swimming etc. The speed component is ultimately what we are chasing after but if we are only going to see our athletes at certain times throughout a year and they are get a lot of that from on field then we are going to focus on the pieces that will move the needle that they are probably not getting. But again, it entirely depends on the context of the situation that you are in, of how you would programme to achieve each of those.
In terms of the energy system work for repeat sprint ability the oxidative system is not going to be specifically trained like it would in a block periodisation system, but it’s going to be more like a repeat sprint ability, we’re not going to go out and train the glycolytic system and run 300 yard shuttles because that’s not beneficial to them. They need to produce intense amounts of force and energy in a matter of 4-6 seconds, sometimes as short as 2-5 seconds, and then recover from that. So in the couple of weeks we have with them we are going to make sure that we are preparing them for those demands and not just necessarily the long slow aerobic work.”
How would you programme for those demands of the key 3-4 second bursts before the sub when you have those constraints?
”The more I look at it, the more I’m going to err on the side of quality training. If I’m looking at velocity drop off in the gym or the field we don’t want to see ever greater than a 10% drop, then we are training in a fatigued state. There are times in a game when you are going to need to do that, but if you use the analogy of the heavy slow back squat versus the drop jump, the impulse is going to be significantly higher in the drop jump even though the total force over the two jumps may be similar. So we want to look at the impulse and the quality of that foot strike with limited time, and once they can do it once, can we get them to do it repeatedly.
Early on in the off-season will have days designed specifically for acceleration, change of direction, some type of volume training so it’s going to be a little bit more the conditioning side of things and then as we gear towards the season it’s going to be more of a repeat sprint ability. It’s almost like a high to low approach but then as you get closer to the season it’s going to be more like a high to moderate approach as the lows aren’t really lows anymore, as if you are going to practice for 3-4 days in a row the athletes have to be prepared for that.”
Let’s dive into the strength pillar. Tell us a little bit more about the triphasic method and your take on it
”The big pieces of it are the 6 physical components that we have spoken about already, but then really it’s about how can we take the work that Cal has done and then restructure it slightly to fit into the context that we were in at Denver.
The most important take away is that people want to talk about just the eccentric, the isometric and the concentric and say okay well that’s the triphasic system, but the way I look at it is, yes the muscle action is a component of the triphasic system but when you really get into it there is also that modified undulated block within the week that he is going to do, and the block periodisation. Cal has undulated the programme in order to ensure that there are never too many training qualities trained in the same block. And so that block periodisation piece is going to break up each of those physical performance qualities and train them based on how long they are retained within the athlete’s body.
The eccentric, isometric and concentric pieces are obviously key and people understand that and implement that the most. Realistically it is shifting into that power and speed, creating more of an elastic tensile system and now can I do that under high velocity conditions which are going to be required in sport. Now the majority of time is going to be spent in that strength component because you never really know what an athlete has done when they come to you, and the motor learning from eccentric and isometric is going to play a key role as well.”
Daz comment- Matt wrote a fascinating article as a guest post on Max Schmarzo Blog ‘Programming Application to Match Desired Adaptations, (October 2017).’
He talks about how he integrates the Joe Kenn Tier System to improve basic strength and then uses the Triphasic system to peak his athletes and improve reactive strength (what Matt calls his ”Tierphasic” system).
- Increase fitness and function
- Improve basic strength (Tier system)
- Improve reactive strength (Triphasic system)
- Increase power and speed
- Maintain physical attributes throughout competitive season
The Triphasic system takes the newly developed force producing capabilities and increases the use of that strength in a reactive manner. It is in this phase the three muscle action phases are individually trained as this continues to allow adaptation to both the nervous system, muscle tissue as well the biomechanical efficiency of that movement. The stretch-shortening cycle is the focus of Triphasic training, and the goal of triphasic training is to train and optimise each component of the stretch-shortening cycle separately. In the final concentric phase timed sets become particularly important (around 55-80% 1RM, mean bar velocity 0.67-1.0 m/s).
The final off-season primary goal consists of training that improves the athlete’s power and speed. I believe this is the most critical aspect for the transfer of training onto the competitive field in many sports as they are completed at the highest velocities (around 55% 1RM or less, mean bar velocity 1.0 m/s). This is known as the ‘below 55’ method. It can use light weights, at body weight, and accelerated speeds.
Oscillatory training is utilised in this block to prepare your muscles to fire as rapidly as possible, and also train your antagonist to relax more quickly, allowing an even faster contraction.
French contrast training is utilised throughout all of the triphasic blocks. These series of styles of plyometrics, including weighted, body weight and accelerated, prepare them for the below 55 training block.
How did you programme oscillatory training into the triphasic method?
Oscillatory (OC) training is implemented throughout the Triphasic Training Method. To the untrained eye, these brief, 3-4 inch movements applied with well trained athletes can appear gimmicky and useless, this could not be further from the truth. The OC methods utilised are able to improve strength within specific movement ranges, and involve a rapid ‘push-pull’ motion in an attempt to maximise the ability of an athlete to reverse the muscle action phase at high velocity.
When we actually get into the strength it does depend on how many days you have to train but typically about 2 days or so of eccentric training is going to give you a good stimulus, and same for isometrics. Based on the context of how you are implementing it whether you have 3 or more days training, if you had three days then we would typically implement it in the strength block. So if you have 3 days of training, days 1 (medium intensity-medium volume) and 3 (lower intensity and high volume) would be whatever muscle action you are in (eccentric, isometric, concentric), and then that middle one would be the reactive day (high intensity low volume) so we are going to potentially do timed sets there to match the weight room to the demands (such as 5 seconds get as many reps as you can).
Tissue tolerance using OC
Tissue tolerance is created through the use of 30 second OC work in the general preparation training block. In this phase the athlete is introduced to the OC methods through a moderate intensity and increased volume. It is through the increased volume that strength and skill learning within specific ranges of motion take place, while also maximising the metabolic requirements of the general preparation block.
Strength and power blocks
You are typically going to train that in a disadvantageous position so you are going to train that in your weakest range of motion with high loads above 80%. Bear in mind 80% 1RM is only 80% of your strength at your weakest position, and so that oscillatory method puts you at that sticking point for the entire 5 seconds so now you are talking about training strength at their weakest position.
As you progress through the blocks you can switch that oscillatory into more of an advantageous position now its about more about speed, or a critical joint angle that you might be in during acceleration or top speed. With the goal of maximising neural drive in the speed phase the advantageous position can be utilised, with moderate loads of 45-55% 1RM.
The ultimate goal of the entire system is this thought process of contraction and relaxation agonist and antagonist working together, and there is a huge component of motor learning.
That’s why eccentric to isometric to concentric (reactive), and then power and speed (which are commonly left off because we are focused on the strength component) is important to remember that the firing patterns are most changed by the high velocity movements.
So with this skill learning of this speed training programme did we create a change in that relaxation- as the only difference between Matveyev’s fourth and fifth level classification of athlete was how fast they can relax their antagonist.
Progress throughout the Annual Cycle
As increased data is collected within the annual cycle, the time of year also becomes important in the evaluation process. With the understanding of athlete progression from general to specific throughout the annual process, it should be accepted they will not perform at the highest level on all testing metrics throughout the entire year. Rather, there should be key milestones within the annual training process that an athlete should aim for based on their individual results from the previous year and the positional baseline requirements.
If each group (sports coaches, medical team and S&C team) has a different goal for an athlete that does not work in synchronisation, the athlete will not experience the full benefits of the program being implemented. This misalignment could happen anywhere in the organisation and create a situation that could have easily been avoiding with communication.
This becomes particularly important in transition periods within the annual cycle. All groups must understand the goal and outputs required of athletes when a new phase begins. The example in the Figure below represents those phases and how the consistent building for “what is next?” is critical for athlete performance and reduced injury risk. When this pattern is understood by everyone involved, athlete assessments and progress become increasingly important as the ultimate question is asked “is this athlete prepared to tolerate this new training/practice/competition phase?”
Top 5 Take Away Points:
- Testing/metrics- You first have to evaluate what you as an individual or you as a staff VALUE.
- Repeat sprint ability is truly your end goal for the majority of team sports.
- The stretch-shortening cycle is the focus of Triphasic training.
- Oscillatory training is utilised to prepare your muscles to fire as rapidly as possible, and also train your antagonist to relax more quickly.
- In annual planning the ultimate question to ask is “is this athlete prepared to tolerate this new training/practice/competition phase?”
Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about? Be sure to visit:
You may also like from PPP:
Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely
Episode 207, 3 Mike Young
Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass
Episode 87 Dan Pfaff
Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo
Episode 15 Carl Valle
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