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The Conundrum of Sport-Specificity…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2014 by razorsedgeperformance
(This article was partly motivated by the story out of the NHL combine about the top-ranked prospect being unable to complete a pull-up in testing…)
 
This one is a doozie. There is no right answer, just multiple perspectives to consider. 
Sport-specificity creates an interesting dynamic for sport scientists and coaches because it can be ALL THAT MATTERS or very restrictive at the same time.
The first thing to mention is that as a sport scientist (or performance coach, or strength coach, or physiologist, biomechanist, athletic therapist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, or anyone that works in sport regarding athletic performance and injury prevention) all of your efforts are measured by the goal of the athlete in their sport. Improving speed, power, strength, flexibility, etc. are all great but at the end of the day people want to be more successful tomorrow than they were today. The attraction to sport specificity is around being as efficient as possible, to affect those things that can translate directly to sport. It is the reason you see so many training tools on the market that simulate many sporting activities. If you can create overload on the exact same move you do in sport, then you should improve and succeed. Or so the belief goes.
 
This can lead down a very closed-minded path though. Some people will believe that you can’t predict or correlate performance with metrics in the gym, because the sport is more complicated that that. Or other people will say that attempting large-scale changes in the weight room via weightlifting for example are a waste of time because the given athlete doesn’t compete in weightlifting, therefore there is no need to develop the skill.
 
The truth is sport is so dynamic and unpredictable that we constantly need new ways of inching closer to our goal when we are limited in what we can measure or impact. Let’s look at the weightlifting example. There is only one sport that uses these lifts officially and we will leave that out of the discussion, because it is the definition of sport specificity. Then there are secondary sports i’ll call them, where a sport skill is directly reflected in the performance of weightlifting exercises. For example, athletes who perform jumping in their sport would likely benefit directly from the triple extension that occurs. What is sometimes lost though, is the specificity of neural recruitment. The nervous system can behave similarly anytime you want to do something explosively, or at high velocities. Think about changing the speed that your watch keeps time. If you tried to do your daily activities in the same amount of time as usual, but your clock moved twice as fast, you would be running all over the place trying to be super-productive. Your ‘normal’ pace would now likely be twice as fast. On the other hand, if you slowed the clock down to take twice as long, your behaviour would likely slow down as well. (This has never been proven, but the concept just came to me, and seemed to validate my point…so take it with an open-mind!) When performing activities at high velocity then, like weightlifting, we serve to increase the rate that we do most of our work at. So any sport that involves movements of high velocity then could see potential benefit of weightlifting exercises. Yet how often do you hear coaches say, “This sport is different, we don’t need that stuff”, or some version of that.
 
When it comes to predicting performance improvements then, sometimes we need to think outside the box in order to work through a possible checklist. If your sport involves an opponent and weather conditions, you can never be truly sure of performance outcomes. However, we can’t let that hold us back from finding ways to measure progress toward mastery. Going back to our weightlifting example, if after a given mesocycle we can say that athlete X has higher power and rate of force development, then we can probably assume an improvement in the sport. If we have an energetic test (or conditioning test, or whatever you want to call it), and we determine an athlete to be more fit, then that will likely confer a competitive advantage. What about mindset and sport psychology principles. Often in sports, coaches and commentators will call them the intangibles, or people will say “he/she has that something you can’t teach”. Over time, research has looked at talent identification and development, and you know what, there are many times where these things are measurable. So how many people are doing questionnaires and profiles to measure these so-called things that can’t be measured? (Maybe another story for another day!)
 
One thing that has always resonated with me form my time at Edith Cowan University with Dr. Haff and Dr. Nimphius, is the concept of building capacities. Every time you improve on one of these outcomes, you expand an athlete’s physical capacity for competition, which is rarely ever a bad thing! Sometimes just because you can’t see how a specific metric or test fits into actual gameplay, doesn’t mean it’s improvement won’t somehow impact performance. When we open our mind to the possibilities that many roads lead to Rome, we can usually find that improving physical and mental capacities give athletes a better chance when going for gold!
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The Last 0.01

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

This post was originally written by Cory Kennedy for http://www.fitstoronto.com

 

I don’t know if i’m crazy, or if most athletic development coaches should think like me, but I always look to track and field for answers. I know that other sports have certain components that track doesn’t take into account, but track is all about developing pure athleticism so I feel there is a lot to be learned from this group of coaches and athletes. So I am going to use a track metaphor to talk about grit, commitment, and dedication. Olympic medals are sometimes decided by hundredths of a second, or centimetres in jumps and throws. The average athlete might not even be within a few tenths of a second if they ran the 100m final multiple times (not in a row of course…haha). This makes these hundredths of a second crucial for a sprinter.

 

In one of my favourite movies, Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino has a riveting speech about football being a game of inches. This is the exact same metaphor. Time is distance, distance is time, when talking about sprinting or sport in general.

When you really sit down and think about the value of these inches, or hundredths of a second, you realize that Al Pacino was right, and they really are everywhere. Right now you are just thinking of each stride, or each change-of-direction, but it’s about more than that. It’s the habits you keep. The decisions you make on a daily basis that make up those inches. My favourite comparison for this concept is with supplementation and muscle protein synthesis. Beginners will have these grand illusions that supplements will dramatically change you, that you can feel the difference right after taking them (stimulants can do this but…). Yet the veteran athletes or lifters out there understand it’s the opposite, that the effect is subtle. They are still the ones though that won’t be caught without a post-workout shake. Why is that? If the effect is so small, why are they so fastidious about the habit? The answer is in that hundredth of a second. If you knew that your post=workout nutrition contributed a 0.01% to your performance, that may seem small, but over your 200+ training sessions a year, thats an extra 2%. If you can find another 2% from not drinking alcohol, or maintaining tissue health, keeping regular communication with a sport medicine professional, following your training plan, eating properly, we just found 10% or more. This is the power of habit, the power of numbers, and the power of the last hundredth.

 

If you knew that your next sporting event would be decided by 0.01 seconds how would it affect your behaviours over the next week?

The People Demand Answers!!! March 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 8, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

Hey Guys,

Sorry for the delay but here’s some recent questions answered!! As usual, feel free to email info@razorsedgeperformance.ca or leave a comment on our facebook page if you have a question that needs to be answered!!

stupid-question

Paleo…Is it necessary for results?  

With Crossfit taking over the world, and paleo being the nutritional approach to Crossfit, it is really easy to feel the need to go paleo.

There is a famous saying in the health/fitness world…what is the best program? The one you follow. Well nutrition is not a lot different…the key to getting success from all your hard work comes from an equally strong focus on your nutrition. As long as you can stick to strong principles, you will do well. For example, I have a friend who is more shredded than most human beings, he goes by timbahwolf on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. If you follow any of his accounts, you’ll see that he eats whatever he wants…junk food, fast food, etc. It would seem unlikely that he is so shredded. The key is though, that he has been tracking his nutritional intake for the last decade or so. He makes random food choices, but always sticks to pre-determined macronutrient intakes. Follow principles, whether its good ingredients, no processed food, specific macronutrient ratios, or whatever you wish, but that is the key to success… Now to clarify, if you do eat of lot of the quesitonable foods, it’s extremely important not to overdo it, that’s why you need to focus on your food diary.

Do Supplements Really Matter?

The truth is the mind is much more powerful than any supplement. I have seen people get hyooge with a full-cupboard of supplements, and I’ve also seen people get jacked on water (and food of course). If you push yourself and truly believe that you are capable of great things, your body will continue to build. Having said that, supplements are heavily researched and a number of them are VERY likely to have a positive effect. Whether it is by increasing muscle protein synthesis, decreasing muscle breakdown or improving work capacity, there are a number of supplements that improve physiological adaptations. The big thing is that they are small percentages. Will you feel the difference tomorrow? No. Add up all those little tiny gains over a long consistent journey of good health/training and you end up with big results! Point is, when you are working with a budget, start with the essentials (we have addressed those here) and when you find some products you like, or great deals, make supplementation a critical part of your process.

What is the Best Program??

Play sports, and master the basics. Every athlete has a different set of experiences that forms how they perform today. With that in mind, every athlete has specific needs to ENSURE that they are developing optimally, and taking care of the important details that prevent injury. If we were to put a mask over that (which I don’t suggest…) then the most appropriate program for any athlete is to build the basics in the weight room and practice your sport. There are so many skills involved with sport that you can always be working on your game. The weight room is intended to build the capacities of force and power (strength) to support your sport. With the appropriate time and energy, a coach can build a very comprehensive program to help you be the best athlete you can be, but on a time/energy/cost budget, it’s important to just MASTER the basics first. Squat, bench, clean and snatch!

Two Determinants of Speed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 22, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

One of my big pet peeves is when I hear people talking about speed and the conversation typically starts with ‘there are two ways to improve speed: stride length and stride frequency’. The thing that bothers me the most is that these aren’t truly determinants, but simply characteristics. If you take an athlete out onto the track and ask them to increase their frequency or increase their stride length, do you expect to get immediate improvements? Mathematically you can describe the results of a 100m sprint through these two variables but it doesn’t give us much to go on as coaches. Whether looking at linear speed or change of direction speed (COD for our purposes) there are really just two determinants. These are OUTPUT and POSITION.

OUTPUT This is the favourite of the strength and conditioning coach because it is more or less the horsepower that the athlete has. Two of the more important outputs are overall force production (strength) and rate of force development. Each one of these can have a major impact on stride length and stride frequency. If you produce more ground reaction force than you can probably create a longer stride. If you can reach that max force quicker, you can spend less time on the ground and thus stride more frequently. So for the intent of improving speed or COD our output becomes a very trainable factor. With the right tests, we can easily monitor how well we are able to change these. Using force plates you can look at countermovement jump data, maximum force production through an isometric mid-thigh pull, or look at different aspects of the profile during a weightlifting movement like the snatch or clean. Tracking things like maximal force and rate of force development (and if you wanted, the marriage of the two via power measures) can tell you exactly how much your outputs have changed. We know if all else is equal, improving these outputs should improve speed and COD. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and that brings us to our second determinant.

POSITION This is the second major determinant and just as important as the first. Position can be thought of as the skill component or technique of a given task. Let’s think about sprinters for example. We have seen sprinters that look absolutely perfect when they run but don’t win…we have also see some that run ‘crazy’ with limbs flying around still end up on a podium. Then the world record holders seem to have the best of both worlds. The runner with technique who doesn’t win is likely lacking in output, while the runner who looks lost but does well is producing plenty of output but in the wrong position. The same thing can be noticed in the sport of weightlifting. The snatch, or clean and jerk, are both very technical lifts. At the same time, they are still very different from darts or golf in that they require the most weight to be lifted as possible. With this combination you see the interplay of output and position displayed very strongly. It is believed that the chinese lifters are currently the best because their technique (position) is almost flawless, so they can complete lifts to the absolute maximum of their output. Some other countries use different methods, and although they get lifters very strong, possibly stronger, they cannot complete lifts as close to their maximum output levels, making their totals lower. So how does position come into play for a strength and conditioning coach? Well, it really depends on the situation you have and the time you have with your athletes. At FITS we prefer the term athletic develoment specialist for a few reasons. First, we are about all-around athleticism so we want out job description to reflect that. The second part is that we truly embrace the term development when it comes to our athletes. We understand that for every bit of output you add in the gym, position needs to be taught and solidified on the court, field, ice, or snow. When a field sport athlete wants to get faster, building output is definitely a great place to start. Once a sufficient amount of strength and RFD has been developed it is important that it is utilized in a way that maximizes speed in the appropriate direction. This means force application has to be as efficient as possible, and this is dictated by angles. Angles of joint position, body lean, and foot strike. At FITS, we use a variety of tools to ensure we are coaching athletes to be better, not just stronger. We have a comprehensive approach to development that is second to none and I am so proud to be part of the team!

Holidays, resolutions and commitments

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

It’s that time of year again; I’ve already heard friends and clients tell me about how much they ate and how out of shape they got over the holidays. I’m partially sympathetic, we all have these holiday parties and commitments. The fact that I’m a trainer doesn’t make me immune to this stuff, I just make fitness a priority in my life. That’s the real lesson. Nothing will come until you make it a priority. Many of you out there are going to make resolutions to lose weight, or get fit, or just “tone up”, but a number of you won’t actually achieve your goals. It doesn’t make me happy, it’s just a realization of having worked in the industry for years. I really do want to see people achieve their goals and hopefully some words of advice will help.
I’ve had a number of clients who have achieved great results and I’ve had other clients who barely changed at all, and it’s all in their control. Heck, some of the ones who had great results didn’t get them right away. You need to buy into what you want. Do you really want to lose weight/body fat? Then you need to be taking that into consideration with everything you do. Until your goal becomes one of the most important things in your life (even just temporarily) then you’ll constantly be avoiding the sacrifices you need to make to get those results. Are you going out with friends? Are you drinking when you shouldn’t be? Are you ordering something bad when there’s something better for you on the menu? These are the times when tough decisions need to be made. The question is, are you strong enough to make those tough decision?
You can. We all can.
You need to stand up to peer pressure, you need to second guess your choices and decide what’s really important. If this is truly something you want then let’s go and get it.
Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

Choosing the Right Protein Powder, pt 1

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

As evidenced by the success of the supplement industry, protein powders seem to be gaining popularity; if you’re one of the people taking one, I’ll give you a brief description of what is available to you.

I know some of you will say that you don’t need protein powder, and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it. As a trainer and strength coach I have to say that first and for most you should focus on food to meet your dietary requirements. However, if you’re training and really looking to make body composition changes, meeting protein requirements can be really tough with a hectic schedule. Also, taking nutrients in liquid form speeds up absorption, so having a shake immediately post-workout is a great strategy to get optimal results. Protein powders are made from natural sources, are easy to consume and are fairly cost effective. So with that being said, let us begin!

The first thing you need to know before you step into your local supplement store is what categories you will find. This will help you narrow down what you’re looking for. Part 2 will go a little further into the types of protein in the powders.

Straight Protein Powder – This is best for most people and general day to day use. This is JUST PROTEIN. You will generally see things on the label like “low carb” and “low fat” which is not especially surprising since you’re buying protein powder. Most popular sources are Whey, Whey isolate, Casein, Egg, and soy, although if you look hard enough you can find vegan sources like brown rice or pea protein as well as beef protein for meat eaters. What’s important to know is that every protein source has a different amino acid profile, meaning that they all contain different amino acids in different amounts. For those that are looking for natural, they also sell them with natural sweeteners like stevia.

Meal Replacement – This is where you will find things like Myoplex, Muscle Milk and the like. These are meant to fit a nutrient profile to allow you to have as a complete meal. They generally contain protein, carbs, fats and have a number of vitamins. This can also be used as a post workout shake as it gives you both protein and carbs.

yum, muscle milk

Weight Gainer – This is essentially whey protein plus a TON of simple carbs. This should only be taken unless it’s directly after your workout and even still you probably don’t need a full serving. Taking this at any other point in the day will simply result in body fat gain. This isn’t the best source of carbs and protein but can be very effective for getting a lot of calories right after your workout.

Post Workout Mix – This will be similar in breakdown to the meal replacement or weight gainer but will usually contain more performance enhancing supplements like creatine, glutamine or beta alanine. Generally over priced in my opinion but many brands have done a very good job of giving you exactly what you need in one easy drink.

If you’re just looking for something to help supplement your diet to get more protein then the simple protein powder is best for you. It can be taken before or after workouts, as a snack with some vegetables or nuts or even added to baking. Realistically, you can make any of the other categories by yourself since the protein powder is the base for all. A smoothie with fruit, vegetables and healthy fats (nut butter, oil, avocado) can be a much better meal replacement at home or on the go.

So whether you’re looking to get more protein in your diet, a meal on the go, or an optimal post-workout shake, use this guide to help you find what you’re looking for!

Remember,

It’s About Getting Better!

What do you want to see?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Hey everyone!
We’ve been posting articles for a while now but we usually post on things we see, things we read about, or maybe something we’re focusing on with our athletes. Let’s change it up and post some of the things you’d like to hear about. So send us an email or comment below and give us some ideas of things you’re looking for! It could be nutrition, training or anything else based on performance. Let’s get the ideas coming so we can research a few good articles for you guys!
K

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