Ace up your sleeve

Training in general and specifically, Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) could be compared to a game of poker… you need to know when to play the right card. It’s a game of risk and reward. You need to know the ‘numbers or percentages of win/loss’ when you play the card, to determine if the payoff is worth the investment.

The cards are metaphors for training methods and/or training principles and knowing when to play or use each card is theĀ art of coaching. Playing too many hands too frequently and not thinking two or three steps ahead is foolhardy, whatever the short-term windfall or result. This would be seen practically as poor programming and not showing seamless integration between micro, meso and macrocycles.

The most effective coaches understand the cards they are dealt, the best combination of these cards, when to play each one and the adaptation which occurs from playing them. AND, the elite coaches know when to keep that ‘ace’ up their sleeve to elicit a championship performance when needed.

In the end, Kenny Rogers was right!

Top 10 Strength & Conditioning Infographics

Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know all about the fantastic infographics produced by YLM – French Sport Scientist, Yann Le Meur, PhD. He has literally created 100s of infographics focussing on research in sport science, strength & conditioning and sports medicine, to provide a short-cut to the ‘nuts & bolts’ of the research, in a visually attractive and easy-to-follow image. Which is what all good infographics should do right?

Yann has also recently launched his own app which provides some of the most up-to-date sport science infographics and best of all, the first month is FREE!

Below is my Top 10 list of YLM infographics with a brief explanation of why I think it’s important. Excuse the bias to my interest in sprinting and profiling!

Number 10

Olympic lifting and their derivatives can be as polarizing as Nordics. Some coaches love them, some hate them, some think the time investment is too much. If you’re a coach who uses them, understanding where each exercise fits on the force-velocity spectrum is essential information. Throughout the season, athletes will likely ‘surf the curve’ and used derivatives from all parts of the spectrum but understanding when to move from one part of the curve to the other is the real key. If you are unsure, keep some component of high force (clean from floor), high velocity (hang high pull) and power (power clean from knee) in the programme.

Number 9

Resisted Sprint Training is another one of those training methods where anecdotal evidence often overrides the research. If you asked 8 out of 10 coaches how to prescribe sleds, most would mention something like, 10% of bodyweight. This might be a good guide at the fundamental level but it is subject to so many factors. Petrakos et al. have done a great job analyzing the differences in sled load and how it affects the acceleration curve. Sled loads <10% BW appear to enhance late acceleration, whereas loads >20% BW appear to assist early acceleration, or overcoming inertia. JB Morin et al. has also published a study using loads up to 80% BW, which appears to enhance the lower limb musculature necessary for effective acceleration.

Number 8

Peak power, or optimal load, is a research topic which guides much of the literature on power training. With new technology such as the 1080Sprint and DynaSpeed, quantification of optimal load while sprinting is now more accessible. Cross et al. identified that the loads which achieved peak power were far greater than the anecdotal findings of 10% BW, see Number 7. Therefore, this may be a more task specific training method to overload, develop and enhance linear speed, compared to unresisted or free sprinting. More interventional studies are needed here but in my opinion, this type of loading will become more common with visible results.

Number 7

All track coaches know, there is no substitute for fast running. No gym exercise is going to even get you in the ball-park of moving near 10m/s or replicating the ground reaction forces of sprinting. Although exercises like the squat, hip thrust, power clean and plyometrics may assist athletes in force application and force absorption, the intramuscular coordination and limb velocities required to sprint are specific to themselves, see Tony Holler’s ‘feed the cats’ approach. If you want to run fast, then SPRINT.

Number 6

For sports performance changes, the force-vector or training axis matters. If the sport is largely vertical, basketball/volleyball, then the training interventions should focus on exercises which occur in this plane of movement. If the sport is mainly horizontal, rugby league/American football, then interventions should includes exercises which target the hip extensors, see Number 5.  There are no absolutes, see Number 3, but see specificity, transfer of training and dynamic correspondence.

Number 5

Sprint mechanics are universal for individual and team sport. Orientation of force application (horizontal), in favour of magnitude of force, is one of the limiting factors to sprint performance, particularly at the elite level. Although more horsepower from the lower limbs may be a vital component, focussing on the hip extensors in the gym and improving kinematics might provide a greater return. Limiting energy leaks or force dissipation at the ankle/foot, the transmission point of force, is important.

Number 4

Squat technique can be polarizing. There’s always someone who can offer advice to the kinematics of a squat pattern, or provide constructive criticism like ‘that’s not ass to grass’! When upright sprinting, yielding at the key joint angles (hip, knee and ankle) needs to be limited. Although a full squat might improve early acceleration, a 1/4 squat could be a useful alternative to provide a specific level of strength for upright sprinting.

Number 3

The performance-fitness-nutrition-health ‘industry/profession’ demonstrates perhaps the worst case of the ‘Dunning-Kruger Effect’. Social media has given everyone a platform to voice their opinion, thoughts and absolutes on anything and everything. The good coaches know where to go to seek guidance. The bad coaches think they know it all already; or that everyone else is wrong. The experienced coaches know how little they know. As Vern Gambetta says ‘you don’t enlist in the army as a general’.

Number 2

Determining where to place the focus once the mechanical determinants of the force-velocity profile is known is the real key to training. JB Morin and co have shown there is limited transfer between force at high and low velocities, therefore a high level of thought must go into developing a training intervention which will affect the profile in that training axis, see number 6.

Number 1  

Although not new, Force-velocity-power profiling is getting a lot of attention recently due to the work of JB Morin and Pierre Samozino (this is my thesis focus for my PhD). The ability to be guided by neuromuscular deficits, whether force or velocity (for vertical or horizontal profile), and then direct the training to this area, rather than guessing or using a traditional approach, may be a more appropriate method to improve neuromuscular output. More interventional and longitudinal studies are needed in this area, for both individual and team sports.

P.S This is an infographic i did a few years ago after reading Frans Bosch latest text. Let me know what you think!

 

 

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