Developing Speed, Part 1 – Guidelines for Acceleration.

Maximum speed is reached when we can no longer accelerate. That seems fairly obvious but for many sports maximum speed is rarely reached. Despite maximum speed rarely been reached, it is commonplace to find athletes training for maximum speed. Training for maximum speed may have benefits for acceleration but a more specific programme and deeper understanding on acceleration will inherently bring greater results. This article intends to highlight guidelines which, if incorporated into a training programme, would potentially increase an athletes ability to accelerate.

For example, in elite level football, the average sprint duration is between 2-4seconds in duration and generally between 10-15m (Bangsbo, Norregard & Thorso, 1991; Spencer et al. 2005). tThese bursts of maximal effort tend to be concentrated around crucial match actions such as making a break away from the opposition or a during tackle making the bouts of sprinting crucial for performance. (Reilly, 1996; Rienzi et al., 2000; Meir et al., 2001). During the Beijing Olympics a velocity analysis was carried out on Usain Bolt’s 9.58sec world record 100m sprint. It was found that after10m, Bolt was already at 73% of maximum velocity. That figure rose to 85% after 20m. This highlights the importance of acceleration and understanding the principles of training for acceleration.

It is important to understand that acceleration in team sports differs sightly from sprinting. This is due to the nature of the sport. Sprinters start from the blocks whereas team players are often already moving. However, the basic coaching points and key considerations are the same regardless of the starting position.

  • 45° Drive out on the first step
  • Fast heel recovery
  • Ankle stiffness at ground contact
  • Foot contact behind the centre of mass

In a investigation carried out by  Murphy et al. (2003), twenty field sport athletes were tested for sprint ability over the first three steps of a 15m sprint subjects were then divided into relatively fast (n = 10) and slow (n = 10) groups based on their horizontal velocity. Several lower body kinematics were measured during the test and it was found that the group with the higher horizontal velocity (the fast group) had, significantly lower (~11-13%) foot contact times, increased (~9%) stride frequency. There was also a significant difference in knee extension. No significant difference was found in stride length. The start for this test was a standing start, which, is predominantly the main stance from where sprints are initiated in team sports.

The Murphy study indicates that acceleration training must contain a technical aspect to ensure that stride frequency, knee extension and foot contact time time are trained. Therefore it is important to look into the technical aspect of acceleration.

As well as technique, it is evident  that sprint acceleration time has a strong linear relationship with muscular strength and power (Peterson et al. 2006). Peterson et al. showed that athletes who performed best in a series of tests including a sprint acceleration test had higher levels of strength. The study, more importantly demonstrated that body mass-adjusted muscular strength (power) is more highly related to performance measures than is absolute muscular strength.

So as well as looking at correct technique, training time must be allocated to increasing power. Power is, in essence, explosive strength. Explosive strength like many different types of strength can only be successfully trained once a good strength base has been developed. Without a good strength base the amount of explosive strength would be severely limited thus effecting performance. Assuming a solid strength base has been developed it is important for a coach or athlete to understand how to train to produce the greatest results to promote power development.

There are several considerations to maximise explosive strength (also refered to as speed strength or power). The first is the amount of resistance to use to best develop power. Broken down, speed strength is ability to move a load in the shortest space of time, Mass x Speed. Having a low mass to move would result in a quick movement but very little power would be generated, the opposite is also true. using a load that so heavy that the movement is considerably slower would again result in a poor power output. The key to developing explosive strength is to find the perfect load which does not have a significantly negative impact on movement speed. In a study carried out in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport by Cronin et al. (2001), it was found that using loads of 50%–70% 1RM were found to maximise mean and peak power. This was also backed up by similar results in a study looking at maximal power output on benchpress throws undertaken by Baker et al. (2001). The Baker et al study found that maximal power was greatest at loads representing 55 ±5.3% 1RM.

These studies indicate that peak power is training at intensities 50-70% 1RM. To be able to practically apply these results into a training session it is important to know which muscle are activated during acceleration.

Analysis of biomechanical and electromyographical activity was investigated by Young et al. (2001) and Wiemann and Tidow (1995). These studies showed that as the sprint progressed, starting from still, into accelerationa and finally moving toward maximum speed, the muscles which were dominant changed. During the acceleration phase the quadriceps and gluteus maximus tend to provide most of the work. However, as the athlete’s sped increases and the body becomes more upright, hip extensors, most notably, the hamstrings, become more dominant.

In conclusion, the guidelines for developing acceleration is important for athletes in various sports. It appears that the main factors which should be incorperated into a training plan by a coach can be split into technical and also strength training.

Aron J. Murphy , Robert G. Lockie and Aaron J. Coutts. Kinematic determinants of early acceleration in field sport athletes. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2003) 2, 144-150

Baker, D., S. Nance, and M. Moore. Theload that maximizes the average mechanical poweroutput during explosive bench press throws in highlytrained athletes. J. Strength Cond. Res. 15(1):20–24. 2001.

Cronin J, McNair PJ, Marshall RN. Developing explosive power: a comparison of technique and training. J Sci Med Sport. 4(1):59-70. 2001.

Peterson, M.D., Alvar. B.A., Rhea, M.R. The Contribution of Maximal Force Production To Explosive Movement Among Young Collegiate Athletes. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: (20)4. 2006

Spencer M., Bishop D., Dawson B., and Goodman, C. Physiological and metabolic responses of repeated sprint activities: Specific to field-based team sports. Sports Med., (35):1025-1044, 2005.

Wiemann. K.,Tidow. G.Relative activity of hip and knee extensors in sprinting – implications for training. New Studies in Athletics 1, (10), 29-49. 1995

Young. W.B., McDowell. M.H., Scarlett. B.J.. (2001). Specificity of Sprint and Agility Training Methods. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 15 (3).

Quick Basics of Explosive Strength

Explosive Strength

Explosive strength, also known as speed strength is the ability to move a load (I.E. Bodyweight, arm, shotputt etc.) in the shortest possible time. Explosive strength is extremely important to a wide range of athletes. For example, a shot putter only uses explosive strength during competition. The athlete starts with the shot on their shoulder and explodes using several muscle groups in the shortest amount over time, propelling the shot out of their outstretched arm. For athletes whose sports rely on speed strength generally it is the rate of force development (the speed of the movement) that is more important than the amount of maximal force production. Explosive strength plays an important role in a lot of team sports, in football. The average sprint distance in football is approximately 15m and generally top running speeds occur between 30m-50m it can be argued that acceleration is a more important factor than maximal speed.

Explosive strength like many different types of strength can only be successfully trained once a good strength base has been developed. Without a good strength base the amount of explosive strength would be severely limited thus effecting performance. Assuming a solid strength base has been developed it is important for a coach or athlete to understand both the movement or technique and also how to train to produce the greatest results.

This article is intended to review research relating to the key factors involved in developing explosive strength. However important explosive strength is, performance will always be limited if the correct technique in a given sport or movement is not fully understood and learned.

How best to develop explosive strength.

There are several considerations to maximise explosive strength. The first is the amount of resistance to use to best develop power. Broken down, Speed strength is ability to move a load in the shortest space of time, Mass x Speed. Having a low mass to move would result in a quick movement but very little power would be generated, the opposite is also true. using a load that so heavy that the movement is considerably slower would again result in a poor power output. The key to developing explosive strength is to find the perfect load which does not have a significantly negative impact on movement speed. In a study carried out in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport by Cronin et al. (2001), it was found that using loads of 50%–70% 1RM were found to maximise mean and peak power. This was also backed up by similar results in a study looking at maximal power output on benchpress throws undertaken by Baker et al. (2001). The Baker et al study found that maximal power was greatest at loads representing 55 ±5.3% 1RM.

: Baker, D., S. Nance, and M. Moore. Theload that maximizes the average mechanical poweroutput during explosive bench press throws in highlytrained athletes. J. Strength Cond. Res. 15(1):20–24. 2001.

Tricoli. V., L. Lamas, R. Carnevale, and C. Ugrinowitsch. Short-term effects on lower-body functional power development: Wt’ightlifling VH. vertical jump training programs. Strength Cond. Res. I9(2):433^37. 2005

Basics of Strength – Part 1

Introduction to Strength

Strength; Defined in the dictionary as:

–noun

the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor.

However true this statement may be, it is vitally important that both athletes and coaches understand what strength actually is, the different types of strength, when different types of strength are utilised and how to develop the required strength. Without delving too far into the physiological and biomechanical aspects of strength too much, such as, conditions for inducing hypertrophy, limb length, joint angles etc, this article will look at ways of training and correct identification of strength requirements in sport and also the training and development of these areas.

First, strength is the physical ability, in this case, of an athlete, to exert a force on an object. Kicking a ball, performing a maximal deadlift and performing a standing jump all have components of strength, albeit different forms of strength. Identifying which strength is primarily being used in a given movement, technique or exercise will enable the coach and athlete to make the training more specific to the goals and demands of the sport.

Knowing the different types of strength which may be required is the first stage. The different types of strength may also be able to be broken down even further. There are 3 major forms of strength; maximal strength, explosive strength and strength endurance.

At this point it is apt to highlight absolute and relative strength. Although not strictly speaking a type of strength in the way explosive strength or strength endurance are it is important that they are understood. Absolute strength is the maximum force an athlete can exert with their whole body or part of the body, irrespective of body size or muscle size. Relative strength is maximal force in relation to bodyweight or muscle size

This is the first part of a series of articles which aims to highlight the basics of strength and give a insight into the findings of research and how it relates to practical applications for coaches and athletes. This article focuses on maximal strength as this should be the starting point and the foundations on which other strength types are built upon.

Maximal Strength

Simply, The maximum amount of force that that can be generated in a single contraction. This is probably the most common conception everyone has on the strength. The main athletes requiring training specific for maximal strength would be competitive power lifters, however, this does not not mean that no other athletes should perform maximal strength training. Maximal strength can be thought of as the foundation from which other forms of strength can be developed.

For a very basic example, imagine a shot putter. They first need to build up the required strength to actually be able to move the shot. Not to throw the shot, irrespective of the speed of the movement, just to actually be able to move the shot. This will be maximal strength. As the athlete’s maximal strength increases then the shot becomes easier to move, eventually the maximal strength reaches a level where it can be thrown. Once the athlete has developed a solid strength base then other types of strength can be trained.

Looking at the strength base and building a stronger strength foundation from which to develop other forms of strength is important for almost every sport. Understanding the training methods which best maximise the results without using up a lot of the off season. For the majority of sports, especially sports with a prolonged competitive season such as football or rugby, the off season is a suitable time to focus on building strength as there is less conflict between the training schedule and competition requirements.

There are several studies which have been carried out which look at ways in maximal strength can be increase. A strength coach will be aware that there are several different training factors which need to be considered when focusing on specific strength training. these include, percentage of one rep max (1RM) used, reps per set, number of sets, rest time and even the speed that the repetitions are performed.

In regards to maximal strength training and maximal strength sports, the speed the techniques, such as deadlifts and squats, are performed in powerlifting have no time limit to reach maximum force production. Without looking at the way the body become and muscles becoming stronger in depth, it is important to understand that ways in which the body responds to training stresses and adapts to cope with the stresses of training. Using loads close to an athletes 1RM forces the body to adapt both neurologically and morphologically. Neurological adaptions refer to the the athlete’s learning of technique and also the athlete’s ability to contract the muscles and being able to recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibres during a repetition or movement. The morphological factors refer to hypertrophy (growth) of the muscles themselves. Larger muscles are able to produce greater forces therefore being able to lift more weight or the same weight easier. A study into both neurological changes and the morphological changes was carried out by Folland and Williams (1997). It investigated the both changes in the body when performing strength training.

Using lower 1RM percentages, certainly have benefits for athletes but when looking at training for maximal strength, a study by Moss et al (1997) highlights that using resistance closer to an athletes 1RM is able to increase maximal strength to a greater extent than lower percentages of 1RM. The study used a total of 30 subjects randomly assigned to one of three groups. the groups each performed the same exercise but using either a resistance equal to 90%, 35% or 15% of the subjects 1RM. The results showed that all three groups did significantly (<0.05) increase maximal strength (measured by 1RM) but by different amounts. Results of the 15% and the 35% 1RM groups improved by 6.6% and 10.1% respectively, however the 90% 1RM group improved by 15.2%. The length of the study was 9 weeks. and the training consisted of three to five sets, performed three times a week for 9 weeks. Each set consisted of two, seven and ten repetitions in 90%, 35% and 15%, respectively. The study focused on strength increases in elbow flexors, primarily the biceps.

The study by Moss et al (1997), shows that lower reps using a higher resistance increases strength greater than using a lower resistance with higher reps.

In regards to the amount of sets to perform, Schlumberger et al (2001) compared a single set against a 3 set protocol on maximal strength increases. 27 subjects were randomly assigned to either a group which performed a single set of exercise or performed 3 sets of exercise. Both training groups underwent a whole-body strengthening program, exercising 2 days a week for 6 weeks. Subjects were tested for their 1RM strength on the bilateral leg extension and the seated bench press machine. The results of the study showed both training groups made significant strength improvements in leg extension (multiple-set group, 15%; single-set group, 6%). However, in the seated bench press only the 3-set group showed a significant increase in maximal strength (10%).

In a study by Ben-Sira et al (1995) highlights that it is not just the amount of weight, or reps that can affect strength, but also how the reps are performed. The study compared conventional reps, eccentric contraction (when the muscle is lengthening under tension) only, concentric only (when the muscle contracts and shortens while generating force, supramaximal eccentric training (SMET) (similar to eccentric training training but using a weight between 100 – 130% of 1RM). Subjects trained on a knee extension Schnell machine twice weekly for 8 weeks, performing 3 sets of 10 reps with a starting load of 65% of 1-RM. The SMET group performed a the first half of the repetition in the same manner at the conventional group however the second half of the knee extension was performed with one leg only (effectively turning the load into 130% 1RM. The results of the study showed, that SMET and conventional repetitions significantly (p=<0.05) increased 1RM/bodyweight to greater levels than the other Concentric/eccentric only groups. The investigation did find that these groups did increase strength but to non-significant levels (p=>0.05).

To conclude, research has shown that maximum strength is best trained with multiple sets at higher resistance and lower repetitions, also the addition of advanced techniques like SMET are able to produce significant increases in the strength levels. Adding a maximum strength training period in a training year will enhance the ability to train and improve other types of strength and therefore increasing the performance of the athlete.

References

Ben-Sira. D., Ayalon. A., Tavi. M. (1995). The Effect of Different Types of Strength Training on Concentric Strength in Women. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 9 (3).

Folland. J.P., Williams. A.G. (2007). The Adaptations to Strength Training: Morphological and Neurological Contributions to Increased Strength. Sports Medicine. 37 (2). pp 145-162.

Moss. B.M., Refsnes. P.E., Abildgaard. A., Nicolaysen. K., Jensen. J. (1997). Effects of maximal effort strength training with different loads on dynamic strength, cross-sectional area, load-power and load-velocity relationships. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. 75 (3). P193-199.

Schlumberger. A., Stec. J., Schmidtbleicher. D. (2001). Single-vs. Multiple-Set Strength Training in Women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 15 (3).

What is Strength and Conditioning?

What is the purpose of strength and conditioning? What are the benefits? When should you follow a S&C programme? Who is it for?

These are all fundamental questions that should be understood and answered by both athletes and coaches to improve performance, aid recovery and rehabilitation and prepare for competition.

What is the purpose of Strength and Conditioning ?

It identifies areas such as speed, agility, endurance, strength, stability, flexibility, injury prevention and rehabilitation vital to an athletes performance in a given sport and builds a programme to improve the performance in these key areas. Strength and conditioning starts with identifying the main characteristics of a sport, for example, A strength and conditioning programme for a squash player would differ greatly from that of a powerlifter, due to the sports having their own characteristics and physiological/biomechanical needs to be successful within the sport.

A successful S&C programme should start with building a solid base from which to start. As with learning a technique in any sport, the basics must first be learned and then built upon, this is vital enable a coach and athlete to get the most reward and least risk from a S&C programme.

Once a coach has identified the specific needs of an athlete, a programme can then be built with those needs in mind. A programme is often highly specific to the needs and demands of a sport. A S&C coach is able to further break down the requirements of a sport if necessary, for example if strength is a focus of the athlete a coach will then identify what type of strength is required? is it maximal strength, speed strength, strength endurance etc.

In conclusion the purpose of following a strength and conditioning programme is that it enables the athlete to be correctly training for a given sport enabling a solid base for the demands and technique of that sport to be carried out more effectively. whether it is boxing, rowing, rugby or gymnastics, a strength and conditioning programme can dramatically improve athletic performance and skill.

What are the benefits of following a strength and conditioning programme?

Sport-specific training requires a more specified and thoughtful approach and plan than simply lifting weights and spending the early hours of the morning running. Following a carefully constructed S&C plan means that the time spent wasted on exercise that has no relevance or benefit to an athlete is greatly reduced, time which could be spent focusing on key elements of competition or the chosen sport. Building a solid base is vital in all sports. S&C coaches ensure that an athlete is tuned to the demands of the sport and is fully prepared to cope with the stresses and perform at a higher level.

When should you follow a S&C programme?

Elite athletes should be constantly following an S&C programme. The programme will differ depending on the time of year, competition status, injuries to the athlete but a high level athlete should always be following a programme designed to maximise performance. for example, a football player who may be predominantly working on agility and speed during the season may have a S&C programme designed to increase strength during the off season due to the extra time and lack of constraints imposed by the games during the season.

Who is it for?

An S&C programme can be followed by anyone, but it is generally accepted to be imperative to professional athletes. Amateur and recreational athletes may wish to plan their training to improve performance just as much as elite athletes, a major benefit of  an athlete doing their own strength and conditioning planning is they are able to take a step back and look at the physical demands of the sport, something which is often forgotten by athletes. This often increases motivation during training and makes the athlete think a lot more about the sport and the movements being performed.

Planning an off Season Schedule: A study into Linear vs. Daily Undulating Periodisation

It is important to optimise the sometimes short, off season training period. This period should give a solid foundation and is generally free from in-season competition and restraints. Knowing how to maximise the effects and results of the training during this time will enable the coach/athlete to begin the competitive season at a higher level.

It is almost universally accepted that training should be broken up into individual cycles, ‘periodisation’ does that. Periodisation breaks the training into 3 distinct cycles.  Macrocycles (9–12 months), mesocycles (3–4months), and microcycles (1–4 weeks).

The most commonly used form of periodisation is Linear periodisation. The training performed when following a linear periodisation plan generally involves gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles. I.E. week one of a cycle will have generally have higher volume and lower intensity than week 4 of the cycle. Various studies have shown this to be an effective method of planning an training, resulting in increased performance.

A lesser used form of periodisation is ‘udulating’ perdiodisation. Whereas the linear form increases the intensity and decreases the volume gradually throughout the cycle, undulating periodisation could see an athlete having high intensity low volume in week 1 and the opposite in week 2.

A study by Rhea et al published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compares the effects and results of the two different types of periodisation in relation to one repetition maximum for bench press and leg press. In the study 2 groups consisiting of 10 previously training men performed either a linear or undulating protocol. The linear group performed sets of 8 RM during weeks 1–4, 6 RM during weeks 4–8, and 4 RM during weeks 9–12. The undulating group altered training on a daily basis (Monday, 8 RM; Wednesday,6 RM; Friday, 4 RM) for the length of the study.

The study carried out 3 tests to monitor the effectiveness of both protocols. An initial 1RM test prior to starting the cycles, a test at the mid point and then a final test at the end of the protocol.

As expected, both groups showed a significant increase in performance between the first test and the final test. Directly comparing the results did show that one protocol increased strength to a greater level than the other. The results show that the linear group had a percentage increase of 14.37% and 25.61% for bench press and leg press respectively, compared with 28.78%and 55.78% for the undulating group.

The outcome of the study shows the undulating periodisation training may increase strength in previously trained men more effectively than a linear protocol.

This study was carried out by and can be found in:

Rhea, M.R., S.D. Ball, W.T. Phillips,and L.N. Burkett. A comparison of linear and dailyundulating periodized programs with equated volumeand intensity for strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(2):250–255. 2002

Deadlift, The King of Exercise. . . But which one should you do?

A biomechanical analysis of the deadlift was carried out to explore the muscle activation during popular variations of the standard deadlift. The study looked into 7 different variations of deadlift with particular attention paid to the Romanian Deadlift due to the fact that it is used in the teaching of a power clean.

Original source:

http://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2010/04000/Exploring_the_Deadlift.4.aspx?WT.mc_id=HPxADx20100319xMP

Stretching Before Running?

The effects of static stretching before performing anaerobic exercise have been well documented. This study shows what effect static stretching has when performed before endurance running. The subjects performed either a 16min static stretching protocol or 16min of resting prior to a run which consisted of a 30-minute 65% V̇O2max preload followed by a 30-minute performance run where participants ran as far as possible without viewing distance or speed.

The study found that the group which performed no stretching performed significantly better (p<0.05) than the group which performed a static stretching protocol.

Original Study is found at:

http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/09000/Effects_of_Static_Stretching_on_Energy_Cost_and.2.aspx?WT.mc_id=HPxADx20100319xMP