Archive for strength

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!

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.

 

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!

 

 

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!

Got Snatch? – An Easy Progression

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

When it comes to olympic lifting, the hardest part is getting direction. It looks like an awesome lift but if you try for the first time, or any time without having been coached, you could be totally lost or just horribly wrong. Even when you think you know what you’re doing, you may be missing certain key steps which will show themselves once you get to a much heavier load. You wouldn’t want to find out your technique is flawed because then you’d have a tough road of backtracking and damage control.

Lu

In the video below, you’ll see a very simple snatch progression. It includes: Snatch from the pocket, Snatch from mid thigh position and Snatch from below the knee position. The only other position after this is right off the floor and if you’ve gotten the technique down until that point you should have no trouble at all. If you’re a true beginner and have just begun to dabble in the olympic lifts then this video should be broken up. Spend lots of time being comfortable catching from the pocket and getting  a full depth overhead squat. Then, in subsequent weeks you can progress through the other positions.

If you’re a seasoned vet, or at least an intermediate, then this is a great warm up progression to make sure you’re moving well and catching well before moving up to higher loads.

As is always the case, if you’ve never done any olympic lifting then I suggest you hire a professional for guidance.

Without further ado, happy snatching!

 

Progress Update

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , on May 29, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

So last time I posted, I mentioned that I was trying an aggressive approach to building up my squat to new strength levels.

The truth is, I am doing it because the squat is the ultimate foundation lift for all things strength and power. Being strong doesn’t guarantee you speed and power but you can’t expect those things if you are weak.

So i’ve just started my 4th week of Smolov Squat Program, an old russian formula for aggressively improving your strength. Week 1 was three days in a row, week 2 was another 3 days of squatting but with very little volume and high intensity. Think singles, triples, doubles, and a five rep set.  Each day I basically worked up to 1 working set. So it was about staying familiar with the squat and heavy weight, but giving the body a bit of a rest. I’ll talk some more about that in a bit.

 

Week 3 is when the fun starts, because there is 4 squat workouts. Since I was coming off the Victoria Day weekend, that put me at Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. So I didn’t get a full weekend off to rest up for Week 4. It’s the same protocol, same 4 workouts with the same rep scheme but with 20lbs added to each day. So in week 3 I lifted 235 day 1, 250 day 2, 270 day 3 and 285 day 4.

So far this week i’ve done 4×9 at 255, and 5×7 at 270. I get a rest day tomorrow (where i’ll focus on bringing my max bench up, which i hit a PR of 285 last week) and then the heavy days are Thursday and Friday.

Here are the videos from the last two workouts.

 

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

The key to bringing up a key lift, or really accomplishing anything related to your body is to do it often. Frequency is key. Adjust the volume and intensity when you need to in order to stay healthy, but you need to constantly remind your body of something if you want it to adapt. If you want to lose fat, do SOMETHING everyday…if you want to get huge, lift SOMETHING everyday. Even if it’s just pushups. If you want to improve a lift, practice it at every workout.

Hope this helps keep you going in the right direction for your current goals!

 

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

%d bloggers like this: