Archive for the Performance Category

The Smallest Worthwhile Change

Posted in Health, Nutrition, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2014 by razorsedgeperformance
There is a concept in high performance of the smallest worthwhile change. It is a concept borne out in statistics about what type of intervention is necessary to change your placing in competition. For example, the 100m dash in the Olympics. The SWC is a change necessary to affect your placing in the 100m final. It uses the typical variability in competition within the sport to quantify whether a change in a performance metric is meaningful. I have the good fortune of working in high performance sport and I can say that it is often fascinating to find different ways to create this SWC. It can come from recovery, training, equipment modifications, technique changes, the list goes on and on.
You see, for an athlete who is going to the Olympic games, maybe even for the second or third time, you are turning  over every leaf. At this point in there career, they have likely tried and mastered many things to bring them to the top of their sport, and it gets harder and harder to find more ways to improve performance. If you want to win gold though, sometimes it’s necessary.
The flip side of the coin though, is when this concept arises in developing athletes. You see it all the time. Think about a friend who bought new shoes, or cleats, thinking it will change their performance. The new pre-workout supplement, compression gear, or even workout track. We see it all the time, not even thinking about it, but people love to seek out the SWC at every age.
The only problem is that while it is really sexy to find this secret sauce, for most athletes the focus should be on the Largest Worthwhile Change. You see many of these “elites” that I just spoke of have gone through many yearly training plans, maybe even a quadrennial or two…
The LWC can be thought of as a consistent approach to the basics. It is surprising how many athletes don’t put in a full-year of focused training before going to college. I am referring to an approach to training with full mental engagement and consistent adherence for a yearly plan. Too often athletes think that one workout, or maybe a good 2-3 weeks is enough to create an adaptation. The truth is, most athletes haven’t learned to push themselves hard enough to make that a reality. With our experienced Olympian from the last paragraph, maybe 3 weeks is enough to get a SWC in the middle of a competition period, since they should have technical mastery of the training methods, and the ability to focus all their effort to it’s execution.
The developing athlete though, whether they want to or not, doesn’t have the experience to really push themselves as hard as they need to for that to happen. So true adaptations may take months to achieve. This is nothing to get discouraged about, it is the standard process that everyone must go through.
Let’s take complex training for example. Typically, it is done by pairing an exercise of high load (lets say squat, 1-3RM) with an exercise of high speed (lets say countermovement jump) to elicit a performance improvement. Without going into all of the reasons, the belief is that the exposure to high load will make performance of the high speed activity better. There is research to support this. However, the research also shows that until you have reached a certain training age, and met certain strength criteria, this second exercise may in fact have a reduced performance, the opposite effect. It’s simple really, you are fatigued after a hard set of squats and don’t have the reserves to create the high output jumps…
The complex just serves as an example of a training method, that while effective, doesn’t need to be used with every athlete you train. Taking time to be patient with the basics and develop mastery can go a long way in improving your performance significantly now, and setting you up for more SWCs in the future.
The LWC that I am referring to can appear in a variety of ways including: consistent training throughout the year (even DURING competition periods), focused effort on movement quality, recovery/regeneration methods, sound and consistent nutritional intake, a growth mindset, and deliberate focus and attention to detail.
The most recent example I can think of comes from the platforms at a local weightlifting club. Every week I see athletes come in with the best shoes, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and workout supplements. Then they proceed to underwhelm in their performance. Now I am not saying any of these items are bad, or that every athlete has to be amazing, we all have to start somewhere. I am just saying, before rushing out to buy all the toys (for SWCs) and accessories, spend time working your craft! Most of these lifters aren’t being held back because of the knee sleeves, wrist wraps, or shoes!
Focus on the Largest Worthwhile Changes before you waste money on the smaller details. You will thank me in the end.

 

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LTAD and Going Through Puberty

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2014 by razorsedgeperformance

I see a lot of parents and coaches, who concerned about the safety of ‘strength training’ for their children, choose to wait until after puberty before starting athletic development. Coaches may call this the end of Training to Train and the start of Training to Compete.

While I understand where everyone is coming from, there is a major piece to the puzzle missing. Once a child goes through puberty, coordination usually falls behind, because their limb lengths are now much bigger, and they didn’t know how to control the smaller ones!

Gaining coordination as a young child, whether resisted with external loading or not, is extremely important to avoid this awkward stage that sometimes comes about with puberty. Resistance training is not unsafe for children (assuming you are supervised by a qualified individual…) and athletic development coaches will want to see effective use of body weight first none the less.

If you want to be a well coordinated athlete who can stay injury proof through your teens, learning how to move and control your body before puberty is much more efficient than waiting!

If you want to talk performance, you are able to get strong and powerful SOONER!

Kids are allowed to run and jump all they want in sport without restrictions, so why are we afraid to allow them to learn how to control their bodies under supervision? Something is missing here…

Why Olympic Weightlifting Is Worth It!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on October 27, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

This is a debate I’ve seen going for a while now between strength coaches and personal trainers. Some believe that Olympic Weightlifting (Clean and Jerk and Snatch) is a fantastic tool for developing explosive power in athletes and others believe they’re unnecessary or too complicated to teach to any athletes who are not competing in Olympic lifting. If you’ve read this blog at all then you’ll know that my brother and I are huge fans of Olympic lifting. Not only do I think they have a huge upside and benefit for athletes but I think it would be great to see more individuals get involved in the sport itself, whether it be kids or adults.

First off, I’m only describing the benefits to using Olympic lifts with athletes as long as you’re with them for a decent amount of time and if you have the facility for it. You’d be surprised how well they can learn within only a few sessions so it’s not like you need to be with these athletes for years. I’m also not saying that you definitely HAVE to do Olympic lifting, just that you’d be smart to include them in your programming with most athletes – assuming you’re qualified to coach/teach them.

Amazing Snatch Photo Reel

One of the biggest (and worst) excuses as to why people don’t use the Olympic lifts is that they don’t have the positioning or mobility for it. I can’t stand that one. This should be a gift as a strength coach; it should be an opportunity to identify a weakness and correct it. If you’ve identified poor shoulder range of motion, the inability to hold the bar in the rack position, or God forbid, the inability to get to the bottom of a deep squat position then these athletes would benefit from addressing these things immediately. These things aren’t just benefits for Olympic lifters, these things are weaknesses if you knowingly allow them to plague your athletes. Using the Olympic lifts not only builds explosive power, but also reinforce good mobility and helps build shoulder stability. It’s also a great tool for building up the nervous system and developing coordination, in Olympic lifting you need to turn on that explosive burst at just the right time, not unlike many other sports.

Another common reason to avoid using Olympic lifts is that you don’t “Need” to do them to develop power in athletes. This is true, I can’t argue against that. One could include lots of Plyometrics in their programming and still develop power. The question is more about efficiency, why would you knowingly avoid an exercise when you know that it is one of the BEST ways to develop power. It’s also true that you don’t NEED to squat to develop leg strength, but you won’t see me take them out of my programs anytime soon. If you’ve ever lifted weights then you’ll know how much more work you do just by trying to lift the weights a little faster. Now think of the clean and jerk – I’m going to over simplify it here – you rip the weight off the floor and throw it as high as you can so you can catch it and then accelerate it over your head. How would that NOT develop explosiveness? Here’s a quotation from famous Olympic lifting coach Bob Takano, “Any Athlete or Coach interested in developing optimal power must look to the methods of the weightlifters for the most effective strategies in the training of explosive athleticism” (Takano, Bob, coaching optimal technique in the snatch and clean and jerk Part 1). In fact, many elite athletes do focus on the Olympic lifts for their power development. One of the most pure expressions of power in sport is bobsleigh, 4 (or 2) athletes push a sled as hard and as fast as they can for an extremely short distance. In their training, they incorporate the Olympic lifts quite a bit, just like skiers and sprinters to name a few more (eg., Cody Sorensen below).


You see, just because something is difficult to learn, doesn’t mean it’s not worth teaching. The whole point of teaching athletes the techniques and skills early is so they can progress and use large weights with these lifts. This is where the real benefit comes, moving high weights at high speeds. Any athlete can power clean or power snatch with tens on each side, but true power development comes with large weights – relative to your body mass. If you’ve done physics in high school then you’ll recognize the equation: F=MA (“Force equals Mass times Acceleration”). Let’s do a simple calculation, if you give the mass and acceleration an arbitrary number of 1, F=1×1=1 . If we double the mass and the speed, F=2×2=4, we can see that the force is 4 times higher. Thus, if we can have our athletes comfortable enough with the olympic lifts to really start to progress to heavier weights, we can have our athletes generating incredible forces during training which will then increase their output in competitions.

Let’s be smart coaches and start to utilize the athletic potential with our athletes. If we only do slow strength movements, our strength will increase but it wont necessarily give us more power output, utilizing the olympic lifts will increase power production and teach athletes to generate high forces.

Graham Pitfield 132kg Clean

Candace Crawford 77kg Clean

(Graham and Candace ARE NOT Razor’s Edge Performance supported athletes, but their performances are none the less impressive. They both train at FITS.)

Now let’s get on a platform and go hit some new PRs!

Do you know HOW-TO?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , on June 5, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

How to Guide

 

The problem we sometimes run into as strength coaches is that we’ll program in certain exercises but we don’t always get to see them carried out by our athletes. Not until I can bend space and time at least, but that’s another story. In an ideal world, we would get to see every athlete, every day. Unfortunately, we’re left programming for guys with different schedules or, out of: city, province, country. At least you know that they’ll be giving our program their full effort, however they may have habits we dislike or misconceptions about a given lift.

The benefit nowadays, is that you can upload videos of any lifts to be seen worldwide. What we’re trying to do is create a bit of a library so that our athletes can hop on youtube and pick up some technical cues and get a good idea for the do’s and don’ts of a given lift. If there’s any lift that you need help with, let us know in the comments. In the meantime, here are a few videos to get you started!

 

 

Parts of a Whole

Posted in Performance on March 26, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

This post is also written for Sports Eh!

Perspective is an important thing in training, especially with young athletes. As a former football player I can attest to the draw of the huge physique. Once you start getting a bit of mass from your program, it’s easy to get distracted and think that that is your primary goal – getting HYOOGE! The problem is, besides bodybuilders, that’s never the primary goal. How would you answer this question:

Would you rather get huge or dominate at your sport?
image

If your answer is #2 then you need to make sure you shift your focus. This all comes Back to the Basics.

As great as it is to focus on body parts and improve your aesthetics, you need to keep a focus on compound movements and sport specific movements.
For example, getting a huge chest doesn’t ensure a huge bench, you need to make sure you’re doing lots of compound work first and foremost and then think about body parts as an accessory to those movements.
The same can be said about your sport. Getting a bigger bench and bigger vert doesn’t necessarily make you a better football player, you need to work hard on your skills to be accustomed to your new athleticism. If you’re a receiver, catching the ball becomes much more difficult when either you or the ball move faster.

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers

Here’s the bottom line, if you’re lifting, focus on being better and stronger at foundational movement, pressing, squatting, dead lifting and upper body pulling. In terms of lifting you’ll want to focus on: strength, rate of force development, movement quality and work capacity.
After that, be sure to get speed work in, ball work, positional technique work, conditioning and mobility/flexibility. If you haven’t focused on any of those things, it’s time to skip calf day or even chest day. Don’t be too caught up with aesthetics, if you train like an athlete you’ll look like an athlete.

Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

Respect the Process

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

There’s something exhilarating about setting a PR (personal record) in the gym. The feeling of conquering a lift, showing progress and putting it all together is rewarding. Those are special days. I think young new lifters don’t realize how special those days are and how much they need to be respected.

ryan-bracewell-Deadlift

When I talk about setting PRs I’m referring to some of the more intense and technical lifts, like: Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Clean and Jerk and Snatch. I’m not referring to your bicep curl PR. When I say that they don’t respect the process, I mean that they haven’t yet followed the process of getting ready for it. Too often I’m teaching a lift or at least correcting form and young athletes will push so heavy that they end up breaking form anyway. You’re ambitious, I get it, I was there once. Since I’m here now, I’m telling you to pick your moments. If your technique is spotty, those flaws will be exaggerated at 1RM. Don’t do it. If you haven’t been doing one of these lifts for very long, respect the process! Spend time at a lighter weight and get all the cues down. This means correct posture, full range of motion, ideal activation sequence and great stability. If you can’t master all the little details, you’re not ready for work close to 1RM.

bad-form-deadlift-300x290

If you step in to a gym with great coaching and experienced lifters, you see more consistency; whether it’s a max day or a light day the technique throughout the lifts should remain flawless (or very near).

Besides the technique aspect, programming for max effort days needs to be followed. You can’t just step into the gym every few days and try to do a max lift, your body will not respond. You need to properly program intensities and weights so that when you have scheduled max days, there’s a good chance you’ll hit a PR, otherwise plateaus are way too easy to hit.

Unless your form is flawless, I suggest taking a few weeks to drop the intensity and make sure your loading sequences and range of motion are perfect. That way, when you go back up, you won’t face the same injury risks at higher loads.

Remember,

It’s About Getting Better!

 

The Combine is a Trap!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on March 11, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

Editors Note: This post was orginally written at http://www.fitstoronto.com, but is written by Cory Kennedy, so there is no conflict reprinting it here!

As someone who is in the performance enhancement industry (for sport that is…), combine season is kind of exciting. It’s like the little brother of Track and Field at the Olympics. This is a time for the best football players in the NCAA to take a step back from some of the skills and complexity of football, and get an opportunity to display their athleticism for all of the NFL teams. It also proves to be a money maker for supplement companies, apparel companies (Under Armour sponsors it, but Adidas is trying to get in on the action too!), and of course Athletic Performance facilities. While everyone has their eyes glued to the screen of NFL Network for the 4 days, I ask young football players (and athletes of other sports as well) to heed my warning: Forget about combines!

I know how hard it is though. Everyone wants to be associated with their numbers…I jump this high, run this fast, and change direction in under 4 seconds…It is much simpler than just saying, I am really good at football!

The problem isn’t that the combine is broken, or that athleticism is bad, it’s about priorities! The NFL pays players millions, so players need to prepare specifically for this ‘job interview’ in order to ace it. The key take-home though is that these players spent 4 years of high school DEVELOPING…then 4 years of college DEVELOPING…finally 8 weeks mastering the test. Young athletes need to remember there is more to being a great football player than mastering these tests…

Case in point, Athletes Performance, probably the world’s most popular performance enhancement facility. Every year they represent close to the top 100 athletes in the NCAA to prepare them for the combine. At the same time, they are also working with players from around the NFL and NCAA on their regular off-season development. I can’t say for certain, but I am pretty sure the pros who aren’t at the combine have their own specific program, and rightfully so. All of the combine guys though? They all do the same thing…why? They aren’t developing as football players, they are merely mastering expression  of different tests.

Proper development is about doing the things necessary to prevent injury, prepare the body for movement variability, and to build a foundation that makes it possible to continually improve. Expression on the other hand, is the end stage. This is where you put the finishing touches on a particular quality to make it come to light. Most professional athletes will aim for this expression one or more times per year as their competitive season unfolds. A developing athlete though? It may not happen for the first few years. Why? Development is the most important part.

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(***Case in point…RGIII performing a Vertical or Broad Jump at 2012 Combine…contributing factor to later injury??)

It is easy for an athlete to get frustrated when they want that 4.5s 40 in high school, or a 35” vertical. As a coach, it is important to always make sure the compass is pointed the right way, and sometimes it means holding off on EXPRESSION to really make an impact on an athlete’s overall DEVELOPMENT!

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