Archive for performance

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!
Advertisements

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.

 

Building That Squat

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , on May 9, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

Image

I’ve decided that my squat isn’t near strong enough. I need to do something about it.

There is an old Russian coach who had a ‘foolproof’ (except the soreness and discomfort) way to build your squat by up to 100lbs in a short period of time (13 weeks to be exact). His name was Smolov, and his squat protocol is now famous in the training world.

If you want to try it, google Smolov Squat Program and go to the link from stronglifts.com, they give you a spreadsheet all setup with the weights you’ll need based on your 1 rep maximum.

I have hit 365lbs before on a full-squat, but haven’t done anything heavy lately due to training ADD…so I decided to go conservative and set my max at 335lbs to start. Half way into the program you retest your max to adjust the weights for the 2nd half, so if I was way off, it will be corrected there.

Basically, you start with 3 straight days of high volume squatting, then a few heavy singles and doubles the following week before hitting the grind. This is 3 straight weeks of squatting 4x per week.

Saying i’ll be a little stiff and sore is an understatement but I think it’s the price to pay to really boost up my lift.

Strength truly is the gateway to higher levels of athleticism, so I want to be well over a 2x bodyweight squat.

I am done the first two days, starting the 3rd day tomorrow.

I will try to keep you guys updated to my progress regularly.

At the same time, I am trying to build the strength of my bench up as well…I’m using my own programming for the bench portion though, so we’ll see how it goes…good results so far starting this week off…

 

 

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

Fuel Your Workout!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

The supplement industry gets a lot of buzz…and why wouldn’t it? Millions of athletes and recreational lifters are doing what they can everyday to get their best body and best performance. For most, there are definitely some things they could do better with their nutrition and things they could do better with their workouts. For some, the blueprint is right, but patience is hard to come by. Either way, the supplement industry is finding its way into billions of dollars annually. I am not opposed to the use of supplements, I just think that most of the time it is not done effectively to get the results people are looking for.

I am NOT going to list all of the supplements that I think work and what they do, I am only going to discuss the importance, and simple protocols of peri-workout nutrition. Many people maintain that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you have some serious performance goals, I don’t think this is true. Breakfast is important, as are all the other meals of the day. However, what is often overlooked is the time before, during, and after your workout, when your body is most receptive to many nutrients.

Pre-Workout

The most important thing here is to eat something about 1 hour before your workout. Avoid fibre, as it will just slow down digestion. If you don’t have food, a meal-replacement type shake is a good idea here. You want a little bit of everything for your workout. Add in a scoop of creatine monohydrate here.

Intra-Workout

If you are training for more than an hour, it is important to hydrate regularly, and add a carbohydrate/electrolyte mix to your water. This goes a long way toward enhancing endurance, blunting the release of cortisol, and maintaining strength and power. Adding branched-chain amino acids to this mix, or essential amino acids, will decrease the catabolism of muscle and turn on the mechanisms for protein synthesis as soon as possible. The research is mixed as to whether supplementing during your workout or after your workout is more important.

Post-Workout

Since a lot of people either are unprepared to take in all of their nutrients during the workout, or just don’t like it, post-workout is the most common time for the main shake. The important thing to realize here is that a scoop or two of whey protein isn’t the most ideal post-workout shake. Drinking a shake with carbohydrates in it is extremely important for replenishing muscle glycogen, improving rehydration, and adding lean body mass. A combination of carbohydrate and protein is more effective than either on their own for almost all measures of recovery and performance. Add in some creatine monohydrate and you can ensure that you are increasing lean body mass/improving body composition. For protein requirements, you want either 30g of protein or roughly 10g of BCAA or EAAs, both are effective at these doses. More may help, but taking 5 times as much is probably a waste. As for carbohydrates, if you are looking to build muscle or just recover optimally, you want about 3x or 4x as much carbohydrate as protein. So if you have 30g of protein you are going to want to be around 100g of carbohydrate. If your primary goal is fat loss, there is no need to eliminate the carbs around your workout, but instead just lower them. Bring the ratio down to about 2:1.

Personally, I am a big fan of Cytosport’s line of products, so I like to mix about 60g of Cytomax and 15g of Monster Amino post-workout with about 5-10g of creatine monohydrate. I also sip on some Cytomax just before, or during the start of my workouts.

To finish this up…proper workout nutrition is absolutely HUGE for reaching any aesthetic or performance goals, and it starts with a properly formulated post-workout shake. Depending on your last meal, look at adding something before or during to maintain energy and performance levels. Having a mixed beverage is way more effective than a high dose of protein only.

Drink up that post-workout shake!!

It’s About Getting Better!

Want Free Physio?

Posted in Health with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

How many times have you heard a friend or training partner complain about some body issues? Tightness, Soreness, numbness, weakness, you name it; I hear it all the time. But the problem is, who is qualified to fix it? Of course you’ll run to the physio or a well qualified personal trainer, but what if I told you that you can fix many problems yourself or at least reduce the risk of further injury? Well you definitely can. As long as you’re willing to spend 10-20 minutes, multiple times a week maintaining your body, many little problems can be avoided. Think that’s tough? Think about how much time you’ll waste later when you’re walking with a cane or needing to replace important parts of your body! Not only that but most of these things can be done in front of the tv.

Didn't Maintain

So now to the good stuff, what exactly are you supposed to be doing? First of all, you need to go to an amazing website put on by physio guru Kelly Starrett, HERE named mobilitywod. Not only is Kelly a genius, but he’s down with all that crazy stuff that us athletes and weekend warriors put ourselves through. His site, MobilityWOD is a site where he posts a video and/or blog post every day with a daily maintenance task we’ll call it. It’s generally a new body part or movement pattern each day and comprises of foam/ball rolling, stretching, band resisted activation or stretching and various other techniques. If you don’t have a strong grasp of anatomy and physiology, he may talk over your head a little bit but there is so much to learn nonetheless.

A few things you’ll probably need. First, a small collection of tools will help you do most of these things. You’ll need a small ball, preferably solid. Start with something like a tennis ball and work up in stiffness to a lacrosse ball. Then you’ll need a foam roller if you don’t already have one. Also, for many of these things he uses certain bands. I will leave links below where you can find all of these things. For now, start watching and learning! There are over 280 videos already and I’m sure something will fit in with one of your issues. Make sure to follow his timing guidelines and test/retest everything to make sure you’re doing it right and it’s working. Remember, if you’re not getting better, you’re probably getting worse!

NOTE: Keep in mind that this site is not a substitute for a trained physiotherapist for serious physical issues. If you have significant issues that need help, be sure to contact a sports doctor or physiotherapist.  Also, if you do not feel comfortable doing things on your own be sure to seek help.

It’s about Getting Better.

Superbands

The Grid-

These are two products that I like specifically, but other foam rollers and bands will do the trick. You can check out perform better for all kinds of fitness products!

Strength or Hypertrophy, Pick One!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , on May 16, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

You’ve heard it time and time again; set goals to achieve results. Everyone talks about it, but rarely do people actually do it. Working at a gym, you get to observe peoples training over months or even years. There’s something that most trainees share, they have no true direction. I see some people who have been working out for a year and have achieved neither a major increase in strength, or a major increase in size. The truth is you have to pick one!

Hypertrophy and strength take substantially different approaches to effectively achieve success. To make significant increases in strength or muscle mass,  one must program for such a goal.  Too many people come in without a plan and end up in limbo for years, not quite “ripped” or “jacked” and not really strong either.

ripped?

In order to get the most out of your training programs, you need to have a specific plan for what you wish to achieve with that program. Looking for strength? Whether it’s an increased bench, squat or deadlift, lifting near maximal weights is the most effective way of gaining strength. If you’re new to heavy lifting, try doing 3-4 sets of 3 reps on one of your compound lifts 2 times per week on your next program. This will allow you to be in much more control than doing max lifts (1 rep max). As long as your are progressing and adding weight each week, a substantial increase after your 4-6 week program can be expected in your 1RM. Keep in mind that this is only for compound movements, this rep scheme should not be applied to single joint movements (curls, calf raises, etc.).

Hypertrophy can be achieved while training for strength with a proper diet, but training can be adjusted for more effective results. The trick to hypertrophy is maximizing time under tension. This is the amount of time that your muscle fibres are activated either resisting or contracting. A set of 12 repetitions done extremely quickly has many reps but does not actually contain a high time under tension. Try changing the tempo of your reps in order to maximize your hypertrophy. Try the 4010 tempo on some of your lifts of your next program in order to increase TUT. The numbers refer to the speed at which you move the weight. The 4, is the eccentric portion, the 0 is the transition from eccentric to concentric, the 1 is for the concentric portion and the final 0 is the transition back to eccentric. If we use bench press as an example, you would lower the weight for 4 seconds, 0 seconds at the bottom, 1 second to raise the weight and then 0 seconds again at the top. As a note, muscle soreness will increase with more time under tension.

Having a general program will produce general results. If you’re looking for awesome results, put in awesome effort. Try narrowing your focus on your next program and see what kind of changes you can accomplish!!

%d bloggers like this: