Sports Performance Part 2: Maximising Recovery and Adaptation

11 Jul

Introduction

The following article will explain the importance of both specific and general adaptations and how they impact performance. Outline methods of recovery and how to address and prioritise each one to maximise the effects of training and reduce the risks associated with over training.

Over training is very common amongst athletes in all age groups and the hardest job for a coach is to design and deliver a training programme that delivers the optimal amount of work load/ volume and intensities.

When working with smaller groups managing these variables becomes easier and adapting the training programme based off feedback is crucial for the athletes success.I regularly stress  to my athletes to record their sessions, their times, the weather and how they feel so I can use their feedback going forward.
This is particularly important for individuals in larger groups as athletes can easily slip through the cracks.

The primary goal to training is adaptation and this occurs between sessions and athletes must be able to tolerate and handle the intensities and volumes if they are expected to adapt. If these variables are too high, it can easily lead to over training.

Identifying Over Training

An effective training programme requires a balance between intense training sessions and periods of rest/recovery. Too much overload and/or not enough recovery can result in both physiological and psychological symptoms that limit performance or attendance.

Identifying over training can be difficult as the scope for measuring over training is very wide. More than 125 signs and symptoms have been identified in published literature which makes a definitive diagnosis very challenging.
However you notice

1. Decreased performance 

2. Increased perceived effort during workouts.

3. Lack of motivation

4. Chronic or nagging injuries

5. Irritability or high temperament

Progressive Overload and Recovery

The legendary Olympic Wrestler, Milo of Croton, was recorded to have carried a new born calf on his shoulders everyday.
Each day he became stronger as the calf grew. Initially people laughed at him but through through this process of progressive overload, he became the strongest wrestler in Ancient Greece.
His process may have seemed very simple but it worked and he avoided over training and allowed his body to adapt to a consistent method with small increments in intensity, which allowed him to regularly load the body until the Ox became too big.

 

Train like Milo

Without sufficient recovery we cannot adapt to the demands of training.

    • Listen to your body and take extra recovery time if needed.
    • Follow a well structured periodised training programme with varying periods of intense/high-volume training with extended periods of rest/recovery.
    • Recovery/rest between intense workouts is critical because this is when muscle tissue repair and growth occur; usually 24 to 72 hours depending on the intensity and volume of the session.

As a coach I take responsibility for my athletes training programmes and when necessary I adapt the sessions to fit their needs but what the athletes do between their sessions is their responsibility.

Prioritising Methods of Recovery.

The updated recovery pyramid created by Nick Grantham.

I am particularly fond of this as it prioritises the methods of recovery and covers almost every method to assist recovery between sessions.
If you’re not addressing level 1 by not consistently getting enough sleep, consuming nutritious food with the caloric demands of your event and needs or addressing proper body management, all the benefits gained from the levels above will negligible.
Today I will cover Level 1.

Sleep for Performance and Minimising Injury Rates

Speaking from experience, the more mature and goal driven the athlete, the more they value the importance of their sleep. There are many distractions and factors that can interrupt or delay sleep which is why it is really important to create and stick to a schedule.

Milewski et al. 2014 found athletes who slept on average less than 8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for more than 8 hours.

A lack of sleep has not only significantly increases your risk of injury but also reduces accuracy and sprint times in basketball players.
Very few athletes will stay up late the day before a competition but wouldn’t think twice about doing it before the night before a training day. If your goal is to run fast, you need to be in a physical and mental state to do so for training, not just competition.

Nutrition

A healthy, balanced, nutritiously dense diet can vary depending on each person metabolic and caloric demands but it is very important serious athletes consume adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats to offset energy expenditure.

Research over the last decade has indicated that athletes engaged in intense training need to ingest about two times the usual recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein in their diet to maintain protein balance.An insufficient amount of protein in the diet leads to the negative nitrogen balance, which can increase protein catabolism and can slow post-workout recovery. This may lead to muscle wasting, training intolerance and, certainly, over training. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3562955/#R04

By consuming carbohydrates with your protein, your body releases insulin. Elevated insulin levels help your muscles absorb amino acids/ Protein.

As exercise increases, muscle glycogen (where we store carbohydrates) becomes used up, which causes a higher need for carbohydrates. For children and teens involved in high intensity athletic activities, eating the right amount of carbohydrates before, during, and after an event is very important! Often teenagers are fooled into thinking low-carb and high protein diets will help them gain significant muscle mass. This is NOT true. A diet low in carbs will not only decrease muscle potential, it will also worsen overall athletic performance.

Recommended Amounts

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training. Protein intake should be spaced throughout the day and after workouts.

Burke et al. Suggest Carbohydrate ranges of 5 to 7 g/kg/day for general training needs and 7 to 10 g/kg/day for the increased needs of endurance athletes. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11310548/

It is recommended that athletes consume a moderate amount of fat (approximately 30% of their daily caloric intake). Higher-fat diets appear to maintain circulating testosterone concentrations better than low-fat diets.

Adequate consumption of essential fatty acids, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids, are of great importance among athletes. The best sources of essential fatty acids are “fatty” fishes (salmon, tuna, mackerel), some seeds (flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts) and olive oils, ideally unheated. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3562955/#R04

Body Management & Tools for Recovery

Can be either passive or active recovery, active recovery implies parting effort to directly assist your body’s mobility, flexibility or muscle tension and can inc. yoga, meditation, prehab/rehab or using tools for myofascial release or receiving a massage.
Passive recovery can be something as simple as enjoying your downtime by going for a walk in nature, or listening to music of relaxing with friends.

Below are a list of tools I recommend my athletes buy to assist their active recovery. If used correctly they can save you a lot of money on Massages or Physiotherapists.

1. Rumble Roller

I’ve used foam rollers for the best part of 15 years when the first ones to reach the market were basic foam. By far my favourite foam rollers are the Rumble Rollers.
The best results from foam rolling come from compression of muscle tissue that carries tension, this could be via knots or calcification and compressing and restricting blood flow to that area and overloading the pressure senses in the neurological system cause a greater relief in tension than the act of physically rolling.T
This method is often referred to as trigger point therapy.

2. The Peanut

I first made my peanut back in 2013 after reading Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. Since then the Peanut can now be bought without taping two hockey or lacrosse balls together.
This tool is especially great for releasing any tension you may carry either side of the spine as the shape fits around the vertebrae nicely.

PROTONE double lacrosse ball for trigger point massage - peanut roller tool for deep muscle massage

3. Lacrosse ball

Brilliant for the glutes as the small surface area can find the spots that a foam roller can’t.

Captain-Lax Lacrosse Ball red - captain-lax.com

5. The Massage Stick

The massage stick can be useful as a substitute for a foam roller if the foam roller is too large, I personally use the stick to roll the outside of the quads. You can also use the handles either side to work up and down the muscle but I’ve never been able to apply enough force to get a good result. This tool is also great for rolling your feet.

 PhysioRoom Trigger Point Massage Stick - Portable Flexible Self Massage Roller - Pre & Post Sport

6. Massage gun 

When the massage guns first hit the market they were incredibly expensive for what they were.
Eventually China started building budget options. I purchased a cheap knock off version about 8 months ago for less than £40.
When I compared my gun to my clients G3 Pro Theragun, pictured below. The matched up fairly well and I didn’t think the £300 price difference was worth it. The Theragun was more powerful, had a longer battery life and looked and felt better but the downside was that it was pretty loud and the cheaper option with the link below was much quieter and still leaves you feeling good afterwards.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/LCD-Therapy-Massage-Gun-Percussive-Vibration-Muscle-Massager-Sports-Recovery-UK/254642694239?hash=item3b49e3285f:g:5n0AAOSwwvNe~vJm

With the percussive/ vibrating tools I came across World Strongest Man warming up for his Ski Erg world record using a car buffer and back in 2018, before the cheaper alternatives hit the market I would use the same. Video shown below.

Cheap alternative.

PRO

Top of the range Theragun.

Practical Applications

It’s one thing to know the information that helps us but to put it into practice is what really matters, below are a few methods I share with my athletes to help them create a structure to help them recover as best as possible between training sessions.

Sleep

  • Get a minimum 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Minimise screen time before bed
  • Have a bed time routine
  • Nap between sessions or in the afternoon if you’re behind on sleep.
  • Use a red light filter on your computer or phone to reduce stimulation
  • Wear a night mask, especially if you have a very light room with light curtains.

Nutrition

  • Eat enough calories and macro nutrients
  • Consume nutrient dense foods
  • Cut down on processed foods & refined sugars
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Nutrition is highly personal and dependant on the demands of the individual

Body Management

  • Passively rest
    – Listen to music
    – Meet with friends
  • Actively rest
    – Massage, foam rolling
    – Go for a walk in the countryside
    – Flexibility & mobility training

Periodisation & Monitoring

  • Plan rest days & recovery sessions
  • Change your training based on performance and fatigue levels
  • Monitor physical and mental readiness by recording in your training diary
  • Avoid over-training

Connell Macquisten

Sports Performance Part 1 – Blood Flow Restriction Training

01 Jul

Background

I first discovered Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training back in 2013 when I was at University and was researching possible methods to increase the stimulation of Type 2b muscle fibres.  However back then I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was very much trial and error and though they have great benefits, which I will discuss in this article, using them alone and without really having a structure I very quickly discarded them and forgot about them until I suffered a very serious knee injury in 2017.
I couldn’t walk and after an MRI scan, I had a bucket handle tear in my meniscus and rather than opt for surgery, I wanted to rehab the injury myself, as research now suggests it’s better in the long run to avoid a meniscectomy as the removal of the cartilage can cause degeneration in the joint and an early onset of osteoarthritis.
In the early stages of the injury I couldn’t bear load but I didn’t want to have to deal with significant muscle wastage so I did bike intervals with BFR bands around my upper thigh. Finally there are three zones to the meniscus, a white zone, with no blood flow, a red white zone with very little blood supply and a red zone which has access to blood, meaning this zone heals the fastest and most efficiently. I have no evidence but my theory was,  if I could occlude the blood in my leg, this may influence the repair deeper in the meniscus and I was going to use the BFR bands to maintain as much muscle mass and fitness anyhow.

I believe it worked, the injury to a long time to repair because I kept doing sports that place a lot of stress on the knees but I maintained a decent amount of muscle mass through the first few stages and it was then I started researching the use of Blood Flow Restriction training and began using them with my athletes and that season had some of their best results and the 2 hamstring injuries that came about had a very fast turn around time.

Introduction and History

Blood Flow Restriction training is becoming more and more popular thanks to social media but this method  was invented in Japan in 1966 and perfected through the 1970’s by Japanese Professor Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. BFR and the KAATSU method is the result of his life work and has had 100’s of studies published around his method https://www.kaatsu.com/index.cfm?Action=Research.Home

KAATSU is a Japanese word and trademarked term where KA (加) means “additional” and ATSU (圧) means “pressure”and uses the moderation of blood flow in the arms and legs in order to exercise effectively and efficiently. Limb blood flow is restricted via the occlusion cuff throughout the contraction cycle and rest period. This results in partial restriction of arterial inflow to muscle, but, most significantly restricts venous outflow from the muscle.


Dr. Yoshiaki Sato first discovered the idea of blood flow moderation training in a Buddhist ceremony  where his legs went numb whilst kneeling on the floor. He could barely stand the pain any longer with his legs bent underneath him. Out of desperation, he began to massage his calves in an attempt to relieve the discomfort during the long ceremony. He realised that his blood circulation was blocked in his calves as he was sitting directly on his feet.
Over the next 7 years he tried and tested various methods and tools to restrict the blood flow to the limbs and by the age of 25, Sato developed the details of Kaatsu as it is currently practiced. At that time, he was a ski trip and fractured his ankle and damaged the ligaments around his knee. The injuries were diagnosed and the doctors told Sato that it would take 6 months to heal. With a plaster cast on, Sato rehabilitated himself with Kaatsu Bands applied to his upper leg.
He repeatedly applied Kaatsu pressure on and off while doing isometric exercises for 30 seconds on and a few seconds off three times per day. The results of his regimen shocked his doctor when his muscles did not atrophy and he fully recovered within 6 weeks.

Physiological Functions & Adaptations

During occlusion training the Type 1 and 2a fibres are starved of oxygen decreasing their work capacity. This increases a neural stimulation to other fibres of the same type that may be inactive and increases motor recruitment. That is to say when we actively contract the muscle we only every activate a percentage of it’s contained fibres. The percentage activated will vary from person to person but will never reach 100% of the muscle without external intervention from devices such as a Compex Muscle Stimulator which uses electrical impulses to stimulate 100% of motor units and in turn muscle fibres. By activating more fibers through occlusion training we are better able to train more of the muscle to the demands of our sports than we would likely be able to through standardized training alone. Once the Type 1 and 2a fibres are depleted and fatigued we recruit Type 2b fibres to continue the exercise in the absence of oxygen.

Muscle contractions under these conditions of restricted and impeded blood flow and congested vascular space, uses up intracellular phosphates energy stores and oxygen at a rate greater than the circulation can replenish them. Metabolic waste products accumulate. Homeostasis in the active muscle is lost. Consequently, as the tissue becomes more hypoxic and energy stores depleted, anaerobic glycolysis attempts to compensate by increasing its rate, which produces some ATP, but also produces a marked disturbance in muscle homeostasis, ultimately raising intracellular, interstitial and blood lactic acid concentrations. Hypoxia, acidosis, lactate ion per se, inorganic phosphate, AMP and many other local factors have been shown to turn on transcription and thus, protein synthesis in muscle cells. This is the so-called “local effect” of KAATSU that results in stimulation of muscle, tendon and vascular growth.

Health Benefits

The majority of the exposure around BFR training has been in the ‘fitness’ / bodybuilding world due to it’s ability to increase muscle mass but these benefits can also crossover to the older population.
One study found that Muscle size and arterial stiffness after blood flow-restricted low-intensity resistance training in older adults as  significant gains were found in a group of healthy adults 61-84 years old.

Researchers observed an 8% increase in MRI cross-sectional area, a 34% increase in leg press strength (1-RM),  an 18% improvement in squat volume exercise, and it has been widely documented that leg and grip strength are great indicators for longevity.

One study from 2000, explored what was happening as a result of KAATSU/ BFR training and found that muscle cross-sectional area and isokinetic strength increased with the experimental group while doing KAATSU and working only with light weights.

But, what really got the attention of researchers was how plasma lactate concentrations were higher in the KAATSU group working with light weights (higher than the KAATSU group working with heavier weights at 80% 1-RM.) Take a look at figure-4 from the study: ‘I would assume this would be due to length of the sets and total time under tension being greater in the lighter load’.

This implies that not only can you increase hormonal responses to metabolic stress with KAATSU, but you may see more of an effect using very light weights versus the heavier weights/resistance. This study really kick-started the global KAATSU movement.

Performance Benefits – Anaerobic Running & 100m Sprint

This study was actually made aware to me by one of old ex athletes (credit to Will Kennedy), we had just been doing a block of high volume BFR step ups in the gym and he had found that these bands could be used for our aerobic tempo sessions, our submaximal conditioning sessions to not only improve the athletes ability to recover between reps and improve contact stiffness but coupled with the BFR bands, we could directly influence 100m sprint times.

Behringer et al. 2016 found that Low-Intensity Sprint Training With Blood Flow Restriction Improves 100-m Dash. The results showed a greater increase of the rectus femoris muscle thickness (a muscle well developed in elite sprinters) and a higher rate of force development and a significant reduction 100m times in the BFR group.

If you’re interested in reading this study in more detail please follow this link. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27941491/

Performance Benefits – Aerobic Running and VO2 Max

As for aerobic running and VO2 Max improvements, which is not my area of expertise, I did come across a study with BFR training VO2 Max and 1.5 mile performance times and I appreciate to many endurance athletes, that isn’t very far.
Interestingly this was measured after participants (well trained males) performed BFR walking and the results showed significant improvements in VO2Max, decreased 1.5mile run times and increases in muscle mass in the thigh.
Having walked up mountains with BFR bands in the past, I can confirm it makes it a lot harder and do believe regular work with the bands could see the benefits for endurance athletes.
You can find the study and abstract below.

Click to access 38.%20The%20Effects%20of%20Blood%20Flow%20Restriction%20Training%20on%20VO2max%20and%201.5%20Mile%20Run%20Performance%20(Air%20Force).pdf

In fact research from (Abe et al., 2006)  on BFR and (AE) Aerobic Exercise that has shown the training effects to take place within 6 weeks of training and that the intensities used during BFR-AE are generally low in nature (45% heart rate reserve or 40% VO2 max).

Safety and Concerns

Wrapping the limbs and performing exercises can seem alarming to many who haven’t looked into the research and for many years I’ve had to support the safety of using tourniquets for exercise and I appreciate seeing veins bulging from the muscles might looking worrying, however I always evaluate the risk to reward ratio and following KAATSU protocol there is a near perfect safety record in patients that were arguable some of the most vulnerable patients in the hospital.

If you still have any doubts, please see the following 32 studies.

  1. Kaatsu Training: Application to Metabolic Syndrome
  2. Effects of Exercise and Anti-Aging
  3. Effect of KAATSU training on a patient with benign fasciculation syndrome
  4. A case of dementia presenting remarkable improvement in activities of daily living through KAATSU training
  5. Effects of low-intensity, elastic band resistance exercise combined with blood flow restriction on muscle activation
  6. Muscle hypertrophy following blood flow-restricted low force isometric electrical stimulation in rat tibialis anterior: Role for muscle hypoxia
  7. Hemodynamic and autonomic nervous responses to the restriction of femoral blood flow by KAATSU
  8. Can KAATSU be used for an orthostatic stress in astronauts?: A case study
  9. Repetitive Restriction of Muscle Blood Flow Enhances mTOR Signaling Pathways in a Rat Model
  10. Resistance exercise combined with KAATSU during simulated weightlessness
  11. Effects of Low-Load, Elastic Band Resistance Training Combined With Blood Flow Restriction on Muscle Size and Arterial Stiffness in Older Adults
  12. Key considerations when conducting KAATSU training
  13. Pentraxin3 and high-sensitive C-reactive protein are independent inflammatory markers released during high-intensity exercise
  14. KAATSU training as a new effective exercise therapy in a case of femoral medial condyle osteonecrosis
  15. Ischemic Circulatory Physiology, Kaatsu Training
  16. Use and safety of KAATSU training: Results of a national survey in 2016
  17. Effects of Low-Intensity KAATSU Resistance Training on Skeletal Muscle Size and Muscle Strength/Endurance Capacity in Patients with Ischemic Heart Diseases
  18. Low-intensity KAATSU resistance exercises using an elastic band enhance muscle activation in patients with cardiovascular diseases
  19. Increases in Thigh Muscle Volume and Strength by Walk Training With Leg Blood Flow Reduction in Older Participants
  20. Effect of knee extension exercise with KAATSU on forehead cutaneous blood flow in healthy young and middle-aged women
  21. Electromyographic responses of arm and chest muscle during bench press exercise with and without KAATSU
  22. Effects of KAATSU training on haemostasis in healthy subjects
  23. Effects of Walking With Blood Flow Restriction on Limb Venous Compliance in Elderly Subjects
  24. KAATSU training® in a case of patients with periventricular leukomalacia(PVL)
  25. Hemodynamic responses to simulated weightlessness of 24-h head-down bed rest and KAATSU blood flow restriction
  26. Effect of Low-Load Resistance Exercise With and Without Blood Flow Restriction to Volitional Fatigue on Muscle Swelling
  27. Hemodynamic and Hormonal Responses to a Short-Term Low-Intensity Resistance Exercise With the Reduction of Muscle Blood Flow
  28. Effect of KAATSU training on thigh muscle size and safety for a patient with knee meniscectomy over 3 years
  29. The effects of low-intensity KAATSU resistance exercise on intracellular neutrophil PTX3 and MPO
  30. Hemodynamic and neurohumoral responses to the restriction of femoral blood flow by KAATSU in healthy subjects
  31. Combination of KAATSU training® and BCAA intake for a patient after aortic valve replacement surgery: A case study
  32. Electromyographic responses of arm and chest muscle during bench press exercise with and without KAATSU

KAATSU training has even been shown to help those suffered with heart attacks and strokes as it can help with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. : Kaatsu Application to Metabolic Syndrome.

Summary

This is positive, however, evidence from Patterson et al. (2017) suggests that practitioners are unclear on how to use and apply BFR in line with current research informed standards.
Inflatable cuffs are commonly used in studies to precisely control the applied pressure for BFR. However, the high costs and limited accessibility, as in case of the original equipment (KAATSU Master; Sato Sports Plaza Ltd., Tokyo, Japan) , provides a significant access barrier to athletes interested in this type of training. Fortunately, recently published studies reported that elastic knee wraps provide a practical alternative for using BFR outside of laboratory settings and these wraps enable a venous pooling without an arterial occlusion.

With the growth of BFR bands in the Strength & Conditioning industry, it is very easy to find wide BFR tourniquets on Amazon at an affordable price.
When applying the bands, the most common measurement for applying pressure is for the athlete to tighten them to a perceived scale of discomfort of  7/10. 10 being uncomfortable and too tight.
I always follow the method from the studies I am wishing to recreate the desired effects from and for more guidelines on how to use BFR I recommend the KAATSU user manual.

https://www.kaatsu-global.com/Assets/Files/Presentations/KAATSU_User_Manual.pdf

What is recommended :

  • KAATSU Clients should never exceed a 15-minute maximum KAATSU session on arms and a 20-minute maximum KAATSU session on legs
  • There should never be any occlusion; KAATSU Clients should always have pink or beefy red palms on arms and flushedlegs.
  • Do KAATSU 3-4 times per week for Injured Individuals
  • Do not lift heavy weights when doing KAATSU (Recommended 30-40% maximum)
  • Release the KAATSU Bands if you feel something is not right. If you feel lightheaded or if you have an unusual pain on one side or the other, stop and continue on another day
  • Do 3-5 different exercises during KAATSU Training (e.g., hand grips, arm curls, tricep extensions). Each exercise should comprise 3 sets of 20-30 repetitions (or until you reach failure), with 20 seconds rest between sets.

If you follow these guidelines and match your training to the methods in the study you wish to recreate in your training you will safely reap the rewards of the BFR / KAATSU training methods.

Connell Macquisten.

Sports Nutrition Part 1 – Supplements, for Health and Performance

25 Jun

Introduction

The following article will attempt to clarify any concerns or doubts surrounding the effectiveness of supplements for performance in sport or health.

  • Highlight how supplements can be used as a great addition to a balanced nutritious diet
  • The plausible reasons as to why the demands of modern day farming might impact the quality and content of vitamins and minerals found in our foods today.
  • List and detail the differences between water and fat soluble vitamins, macro and micro minerals
  • Supplements for performance 
  • How to identify ‘good/ safe’ brands to avoid contamination
  • How elite athletes are tested for banned substances.

My view on supplements has changed a lot over the last 10  years. At one point I was obsessed, then from one extreme to the other, I didn’t take anything and now I take a handful of products for both health and performance that I also recommend to my athletes.

The bottom line is supplements for health can make a big difference if someone has a very poor diet, likewise for performance, I believe supplements can help both motivate athletes and depending on the product, give them a better result from training through physiological benefits, however very few supplements have shown true effectiveness.
There are also stimulants to help intensity which can be useful before a competition. With all this being said, supplements will not make up for poor training, poor diet or poor sleep habit.

Modern Day Farming and Soil Depletion

When stating a claim I like to weigh up both sides and make a decision for myself.
A few studies have shown that due to an increased demand of farming to meet with the demands of an ever growing society, with more frequently farmed patches of land, new fertilisers, the quality of soil becomes less and less nutrient dense overtime and because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today and efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly, but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.

A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal,found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.

These were conclusions from  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/ and they reason that well-conducted comparisons have shown that consistent trends of decrease in content of certain nutrients are mostly seen only when crops are lumped into broad groups of vegetables, fruits, and grains and statistical significance is lost when trying to see historical changes by comparing varieties of a single crop due to a high degree of variability.

The study authors who found statistically significant decreases in the content of particular mineral nutrients per dry weight of fruits, vegetables, or grains all agreed that these changes were not likely to have any significant impact on the nutritional health of consumers, a fact glossed over in some popular press reports citing these studies.

So unless we grow our own crops or move to a rural country (where fruit and veg almost always taste better and are more likely to have nutrient contents) if you are concerned you may not be getting enough from your diet, the next best thing would be to take a supplement.

Water Soluble Vitamins

There are two types of vitamins, water soluble and fat soluble. Most vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water. These include eight B vitamins and vitamin C. Water-soluble vitamins are easy to get from a balanced diet.

However, vitamin B12 is only found in substantial amounts in animal-sourced foods. As a result, vegans are at a high risk of deficiency and will need to take supplements or get regular injections.

It is also important to note that the body generally doesn’t store water-soluble vitamins, except for vitamin B12. Meaning, you should aim to get them from your diet every day.

Every vitamin and mineral has a function within the body. Vitamin C for example is a powerful antioxidant and has an essential role in connective tissue healing, has the potential to accelerate bone healing after a fracture, increase type I collagen synthesis.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

In contrast,  fat-soluble vitamins are similar to oil and do not dissolve in water.  These are vitamin A, D, E and K.

Vitamin A is necessary for cell growth , body growth, hair growth, fetal development and vision and is found in animal-sourced foods. The main natural food sources are liver, fish liver oil and butter.

Vitamin D, Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, is produced by your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. It is best known for its beneficial effects on bone health, and deficiency makes you highly susceptible to bone fractures. Vitamin D is really important because it’s role is regulates so many functions in the body inc hormones, low levels of Vitamin D correlate with low levels of testosterone, which is crucial for performance and recovery.

Vitamin E is a a powerful antioxidant protects your cells against premature aging and damage by free radicals

Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting. Without it, you would run the risk of bleeding to death. “koagulation,” the Danish word for coagulation, which means clotting.

With the exception of Vitamin D, most of these fat soluble vitamins are easy to get from a diverse diet, especially if you eat plenty of nuts, seeds, vegetables, fish and eggs.

Macro Minerals/ Trace Minerals 

The body needs many minerals; these are called essential minerals. Essential minerals are sometimes divided up into macro minerals and trace minerals.
These two groups of minerals are equally important, but trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals. The amounts needed in the body are not an indication of their importance.

A balanced diet usually provides all of the essential minerals, you can also get a decent boost of these minerals from a high quality multi-vitamin if you wish.

Rather than list each mineral extensively, if you would like to learn more about these minerals and what they do, this website has a brilliant graph that explains it all in detail.

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ta3912

Zinc Depletion from Endurance Running and Testosterone

Before I move on, I’m a big fan of taking a Zinc supplement and I believe on top of a nutrient dense diet, many athletes could benefit from taking Zinc and in fact Magnesium too but it has been shown that long term endurance training has been shown to significantly decrease resting serum zinc levels in both male and female athletes compared to sedentary controls. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/014976349500002V

It has also been found that men who received 30 milligrams of zinc per day showed increased levels of free testosterone in their bodies. Because your body can’t store zinc, you need to take it in every day.

https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF

Supplements for Performance

Aside from a balanced, nutritious diet and taking Zinc and Magnesium to assist recovery, there are plenty of supplements on the market that claim to improve performance and I highly recommend checking out https://examine.com/supplements/ for an extensive database on almost every supplement with a study to back it’s claim.

Personally I only recommend what I take myself, one of which is a good quality Whey Protein supplement. There is no denying that, if you want to increase your protein intake, a powder can make your life easier. If daily protein targets are achieved through dietary protein alone, supplementation is unnecessary but for many power/ strength athletes I believe they under eat their daily protein requirements.

Secondly, I recommend taking Creatine, especially for power oriented sports. Creatine has been shown time and time again that it has the ability to rapidly increase strength and power output from training compared to placebo alternatives. It has also been shown to increase muscular endurance and VO2 max in a number of studies, an unwanted side effect could be the retention of water in the muscle cells which can lead to an increase in body weight. So some athletes may wish to come off Creatine before their competition season.

Finding a ‘Good/ Reliable’ brand 

Before I returned to athletics in 2016 I was very much involved in the ‘fitness’ industry, I had attended seminars across the U.K hosted by supplement companies and had presented at national trade show, which was heavily orientated towards selling ‘sports supplements’ and I even had very short term contract with a supplement company, where I had the good fortune of visiting their manufacturing labs to see how their supplements were made and how they  tested their their product for quality.

This is where I learnt first hand that many brands will package a product with really low quality ingredients or under dosing what is recommended by studies showing the effectiveness of the supplement, meaning you’re paying for a product that will likely not do anything.
This happens a lot in proprietary blends, where a product has multiple ingredients and it’s really common for them to under dose.

As for lower quality ingredients, there are usually multiple forms in which minerals can be delivered into the body and generally the more expensive the product the higher the bio availability, or the easier it is for your body to absorb the mineral.
Generally the cheaper the cost, the less available form is within the supplement.
As I only take Zinc and Magnesium as my minerals, I look to try and get these in either citrate, picolinate or oratate as these have been shown have better absorption rates in healthy adults and there is little to no absorption to Zinc oxide which is often also under dosed in my supplements.

If you’re interested in reading more about the differences between Zinc oxide and citrate, check out this study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901420/

General rule of thumb, any product using an oxide would be considered cheap and lower quality and I would look for more well established brands in the sports and health industry rather than the fitness and bodybuilding industry.

Cross Contamination

Tainted supplements are very rare and extremely unlikely to occur if the company provides batch testing and you can even check when their last batch test occurred, this is where they randomly select their product and test them for their ingredients purity. Some companies, such as MyProtein offer batch tested products but not all of their products are batch tested, they have a range of products that generally cost more to off set the cost of testing and for the products to be made in a specific location separate to their other products to avoid cross contamination.

Cross contamination is a grey area and it’s still the athletes fault if they fail a drugs test and this can happen in two ways, either through companies sharing factories which mean the machines used in one product can leave residue for another or if a company deceives their customer base by adding an ingredient that is ‘banned’ in elite sport but wont disclose the ingredient. This is more common in the United States or China.

You might be asking why they would do that. Generally these companies won’t be looking to market to elite athletes but rather the bodybuilding or fitness industry, this industry has no testing protocol and companies want to create a product that produces a better result than their competitors

Though it’s unlikely cross contamination will occur, it’s not unheard of and in some exceptional circumstances WADA or USADA will buy in bulk the product they claim to have taken and do their own testing to see if their claim is legitimate and confirm whether or not they will serve their full ban, in some rare cases they have overruled bans. The only reason this will happen is if the product contains a banned substance not listed in the ingredients.

These are the ones everyone should look out for and in my experience they usually have the most extreme names or images on the packaging and before reading the ingredients you look at it questioning if its safe to take and it is always the responsibility of the athlete to check what they take and if a coach suggests you take something that is banned, you should definitely find another coach!

If you’re unsure about a product and here are the two most important websites to check out to see if your product has them in.

https://www.ukad.org.uk/violations/whats-banned-sport-prohibited-list

https://www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited

Elite Athletes & Drug Testing 

To clear up any misunderstanding, there are two occasions in which an athlete can be ‘drug’ tested, in competition and outside competition. Technically there is a time frame in which someone is classed to be in competition but for this case I will just use post race testing.
Both cases are reserved for exceptional athletes and in my time as a coach, I have only ever had one athlete get tested and that was post race after he ran an incredibly quick time as an under 20.

As for random, out of competition testing.  I have athletes as clients who are ranked within the top 5 in the UK, have competed internationally for Great Britain as a Senior tha are not on the ADAMs/ Whereabouts register.
ADAMS is the Anti-Doping Administration Management System (ADAMS) managed by WADA.

Credit to Dave Taylor-Green as he informed that you also do not have to be on the Whereabouts register to have random drug testers come by and that you do not have to win a medal at Championships to warrant a post race drugs tests and if you are asked, you are allowed a representative (coach or friend) near by if you please.

If you’re curious to learn more about their whereabouts system here is a link https://www.ukad.org.uk/athletes/whereabouts-and-adams

You may have read the recent article in Athletics Weekly on Christian Coleman as he has missed three tests (again) and knowing the testing protocol secondhand as I lived with someone who had random drug testers come to the flat, there is absolutely no reason to miss two tests, let alone three, unless of course, you don’t want to be tested.

Athletes are required to submit their whereabouts for one hour every day, plus overnight accommodation and training information, in case they are needed for out-of-competition testing.

The last quarter of their article summaries it up, and I highly recommend reading it.

Many athletes have reacted to the latest news, with 2011 world 1500m silver medallist Hannah England, who is chair of the UK Athletics Athlete Commission, writing on Twitter: “Whereabouts can feel invasive and be stressful – particularly with travel. But it is ONE HOUR A DAY, not all day every day. An inconvenience that is worth it to protect clean sport. Going shopping during your slot when you are on two missed test is taking a huge risk with your career.”

Britain’s European and Commonwealth long jump medallist Jazmin Sawyers wrote: “As athletes we have few genuine responsibilities. The one biggie we do have is to give the drug testers one hour a day when we’re going to be at an address, and then to be there for that hour. It’s annoying but not difficult. One hour. Choose 6-7 am and make life easy for yourself.”

While Olympic and world medallist Eilidh Doyle wrote: “Even when I was in hospital for three days, having my baby, my first thought was I better update my whereabouts. It’s just what has to be done to ensure credibility within our sport.”

https://www.athleticsweekly.com/athletics-news/christian-coleman-free-to-race-after-missed-tests-case-is-dropped-1039924713/

Summary 

To summarise, I do believe high quality supplements alongside a nutritious diet is the best way forward for both health and performance. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than what you can afford as supplements can get expensive. It’s important to find a reputable brand that is well establish in either the health or sports world and if you’re concerned about any cross contamination or if a product looks suspect, check to see if the ingredients are on the banned substances list.It’s always safer to find a company that does batch testing or has the informed sport logo and if you’re pushing your body to the limits regularly you may notice the benefits of taking supplements more so than the average person.

Connell Macquisten.

Sports Psychology Part 2 – Competition, Performance, Anxiety and Excitement.

18 Jun

Introduction

The following article will identify the similarities between anxiety and excitement, the ‘nerves’ that arise from pressure and competition and the impact they can have on performance, and what methods and tools can be performed in order to produce the best possible results in a competitive environment.

Though I studied modules on Sports Psychology at University,  competed to a decent level in athletics, it was only later, once I left athletics and had the able to observe athletes competing under pressure was I able to notice what and how the best athletes acted and performed under pressure. .

One thing I believe to be important is the frequent exposure to competition. Something I wasn’t exposed to enough myself (starting athletics rather late at 17). Competing back to back every weekend develops the skill of performing under pressure. Exposing young athletes to this earlier will maximise their chances of success on competition day.

Anxiety or Excitement?

You may not currently aware of this, but the feelings of both anxiety and excitement are one and the same.
The difference is in our interpretation.” In other words, if we recognise these feelings as positive, we’ll feel excited. If we see them as negative, we’ll feel anxious. And this has been proven by research too.

When we’re anxious, we may feel tensions, restless and nervous. We may also start sweating, breathing rapidly, have trouble concentrating and have an increased heart rate. And this is similar to how we react when excited. 

Learning this and shifting the feelings of anxiety and relabelling them as excitement has been show to benefit performance.
This is especially important for athletes who train well but perhaps under perform on competition day, or athletes who open their season up really well as their is less pressure on their first competition.

Perception, Pressure and Task Performance

Plenty of studies now support the benefits of performance via the perception of excitement over anxiety.
Alison Wood-Brooks from Harvard Business School tested participants through a karaoke session, one group of participants were told to repeat to themselves “I am anxious” and the other group “I am excited”.

Not only were the “excited” participants more excited, they also sang better according to a computerised measurement of volume and pitch.  Similar results were found when they were asked to deliver a 2-minute speech on camera and complete a maths test.

The most interesting thing noted was that all the participants were equally as anxious- even the ‘excited group’. Simply saying they were excited didn’t change their heart rate. In fact, the only difference was that they thought of their experience as “exciting” rather than stressful.

When we become anxious our bodies create physiological (somatic) and psychological (cognitive) responses which cause the drop in performance, which is why it is really important to be aware of any of these changes and when they occur.

Somatic Responses to Anxiety

Elevated heart rates is just one of a few somatic responses / physical changes the body exhibits under anxiety.

You may also notice, muscular tension and increased respiration rate which all lead to impaired movement and performance. Controlling these responses until the point of competition will help achieve a better result.

Cognitive Responses to Anxiety

Along with these, you may also experience cognitive responses, which can causes apprehension, doubt and negative thoughts because anxiety cause an athlete to reflect worry about their performance in turn resulting in a change of attention which affects information processing, due to symptoms that reflect worry about performance triggers which are worry, stress, mumbling, speechless as well as many more such as hyper ventilating.

It may be hard at first to handle these responses but through exposure to competition and by practice under pressure/ using mindfulness/ awareness and shifting perceptions of being anxious to feeling excited, the athlete is more likely to perform better on the day.

Inverted – U Theory of Arousal

You may already be familiar with the Inverted-U Theory, it does a good job of relating performance and pressure/ arousal. In the Inverted U theory, there is a steady fall-off in performance following over-arousal.

This is because sports psychologists have noted that performance does not always gradually decrease as arousal increases, as shown in the inverted ‘U’ theory.
You will  notice that the curve reveals that performance lags behind when there’s little pressure, and that performance is positively influenced when there’s some more pressure. If even more pressure is added, performance is negatively influenced and efficiency decreases.

If the athlete is too stimulated, on the day or during their warm up they may reach peak arousal too soon, which is something to consider in a pre competition warm up routine.

Being too relaxed during the warm up or on the start line will also bring undesired results, many athletes I’ve met try to play down their arousal levels and stay calm and this doesn’t trigger the intensity needed to compete well.

Catastrophe Theory of Arousal

There is also the Catastrophe theory, which is a development of the Inverted U theory. The Catastrophe theory explains how over arousal predicts a rapid decline in performance resulting from the combination of high cognitive anxiety and increasing somatic anxiety.

If cognitive anxiety is high, the increases in arousal pass a point of optimal arousal and a rapid decline in performance occurs (the catastrophe). It would be very difficult to recover from this point.
Which is why we see  top sports people ‘go to pieces’ in the big event.

Understanding when your body and mind are eliciting these responses, so it is always important to stay mindful and check in from time to time.

Practically Applying this Information

So this is where I summarise, all the information above is useless if an athlete is unaware of the tools available to assist them in overcoming anxiety from pressure.

The best athletes are able to keep their arousal levels under control on competition day, they rise to the occasion by using their ‘nerves’ and not hiding away from them.
If you suffer from performance anxiety, it would be worthwhile reprogramming your perception of these cognitive/ somatic responses as excitement rather than anxiousness/fear.

Reduce as much stress as possible

Do you best to avoid any arguments/ over reactions.

When you’re warming up, focus on yourself
Focus on how your body feels, this is something that I’ve noticed the best athletes do.

Be prepared
Mentally rehearse your race plan or technique
(this is really important) and check which lane you are in as soon as the information is out.

Sign in as early as possible to minimise stress and set up space to remain calm and lose track of time until your warm up starts.
I recommend setting an alarm for when to warm up, that way you won’t be distracted by checking the clock every 10 minutes.

Stay positive and confident
Remind yourself you deserve to be on that start line as much as anyone else.
Find confidence in your race plan.

Be self aware and mindful.

If any physiological or psychological symptoms arise, focus your breath and shift your perception of anxiety to excitement.

 

Interview with Cameron Chalmers, 1/4 of the Great Britain Relay Team at the 2019 World Championships –  5mins

If you’re interested in what a 400m British Champion and 45 second 400m sprinter does during his warm up and how he approaches competition, check out the video below.

 

Connell Macquisten

Bristol & West A.C Performance Advisor.

Sports Psychology Part 1. Awareness, Development, Discipline and Success.

08 Jun

Introduction

This article will aim to explain what is means to be self aware, highlight the difference between motivation and discipline, provide tools to create a self development plan, outline what a structure goal setting process looks like and outline the relationship between ignorance and failure.

Throughout, I will do my best to avoid sounding like a know it all millennial.
I’m aware I have plenty of years ahead to obtain wisdom and experience and none of these ideas are my own, they’re taken from the experts and regurgitated into, what I hope is a useful article for developing athletes and coaches.
With that being said, lets start with self awareness and self development.

Self Awareness 

Self-awareness means knowing your values, personality, needs, habits, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  With a sense of who you are and a vision of the person you want to become, a plan for professional or personal development can be created.

I wasn’t until a while after I finished competing in athletics that I realised, without self awareness, there is no self development.  I remember when I competed well, I had nerves, I had excitement, I had a good plan going into the competition and I executed it as best as I could. However, I didn’t realise the importance of being self aware and it made analysing poor performance very difficult.

I would get frustrated, become overly emotional which would make it very difficult to look at thing pragmatically. There were a couple times, where I would embarrassingly tear my vest in half if I had no height’ed. Being in a stage of denial made it hard to analyse what I went wrong.

Often I would come in at heights that were too high for an opener, it makes sense everyone needs a few warm up jumps, to find their flow and get use to the atmosphere with as little pressure as possible.

Having a sensible plan prior to the competition is just one thing I could have done to avoid failure, and if I had a systematic plan I could have  referred back to the plan which would have helped me detach myself from any emotions at the time. This is a far more professional approach that getting emotional and will reduce the chances of failure occurring again in the future.

If you’re interested, here is an article from Psychology Today on 11 ways to achieve greater self awareness.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/click-here-happiness/201903/what-is-self-awareness-and-how-do-you-get-it

Personally I find journaling, walking and listening helps self awareness. In an age where everywhere is loud on social media, less and less people listen and they just want to be heard.
If you’ve had a bad competition or performance, take some time to distance yourself, take a walk, calm down, practice mindfulness and then listen to your coach for feedback and watch any footage and journal any strengths and weakness.

Self Development

Self development requires both motivation and discipline.

Motivation is the why behind the goal.  It’s your little engine that says you can, when the rest of you says you can’t.
Discipline is hard, the word originates from the Latin, discipulus, meaning  pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple.  Self discipline can be seen as teaching self, control, to fight urges, distractions and other desires that may help you towards your goal.

Self-discipline is the ability to correct your behaviour, it helps you get back on your course when you fall off your path. This could be after an injury, or a poor performance. One of the benefits of seeing a  good sports therapist, is that they help you develop a plan to get back on track.

Only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to mood, appetites and passions. – Stephen Covey, author of  The 7 Habits of highly effective people.

It was the 34th U.S President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. Though this may seem paradoxical at first, plans can change at any moment but planning is essential to organise and structure your path to success.

4 Steps for Developing a good plan

Here are 4 useful steps for creating a development plan, you could use this for your event, studies, a relationship or for finding the perfect job.
I would also like to point out, when I was an athlete, I hadn’t done any of these, it was only when I finished University than learnt the importance of developing a well structured plan.

I appreciate for some you may already be aware of how to create a plan and for others this may be really boring, but those that perhaps don’t know and are highly motivated, this breakdown might help.

Step 1: Clear out your vision

When building a plan, it helps to to start with the end in mind. To build your personal development plan, look at what’s on the other side. Think about your future life. Choose a time frame that makes sense.

It could be until the national indoor championships, English schools, it could even be the competition that you ran your PB at last year.

Step 2: Outline strengths and areas for improvement

First, think about what you already have going for you – what are your strengths, these could be skills, or techniques, physical attributes, like high power output, good acceleration mechanics, the more detailed and more understood your skills, event and sport, the greater your understanding and the better chance you have at executing good technique or the requirements needed to achieve excellence.
Elite athletes are students of their sport.

Then, make a list of skills or attributes etc. you need to develop and projects you can start working on to move you closer to your goals.

Creating a SWOT will help you maintain organisation through this stage.

  • Strengths (what you’re good at)
  • Weaknesses (what you can be better at, or things you don’t enjoy)
  • Opportunities (what sources are available, skills can you learn)
  • Threats (what are you not working on, what can’t you

Step 3: Building a personal development plan

After you have a clear direction of where you want to be and what you have to work on, it , let’s go into detail. The key here is to get down to specific actions for the future.

You start by setting up specific projects. What do you need to get them done?

  • What resources will you need? Books to read, courses to take, website to subscribe to, maybe elitetrack.com or speedendurance.com , I highly recommend using Instagram to follow some elite coaches from across the world.
  • What people can help you do it? Friends, mentors, coaches?
  • What will success look like? Set specific criteria for measuring that, it could a flying 30m pb, or a 300m TT pb, a jump PB, anything specific is great, in my past I would chase numbers in the gym, which may seem obvious but unless that’s your sport, it should not be your key metric.
  • What is the time frame? Either put in a general deadline or milestones for different parts of the project. I would suggest somewhere between 3-4 weeks before your season opens to gauge where you are.

Step 4: Review and adapt

This may seem like the easiest and most obvious step and it is, which is probably why it’s the most overlook step. It’s really important to review each competition and every video to know you executed a particular element of your race/event. But whether you choose to review short term, after each training week, block, competition or season, the more you review, the better your awareness of where you are.
You may need to make subtle changes in your approach leading into a competition or season and without that awareness and reviewing it could be lost.

For example, you may realise that you perform better in the 200m than the 100m and choose to specialise there, you can still aim to achieve a national final or to represent your country, but it may suit you more to switch.  For me, I always wanted to go to an Olympics, a mighty big task, I thought that goal was over when I stopped competing, I considered that a failure, however now I’m coaching, there is a very real chance of going next year , but not as an athlete, as a coach. You may be familiar with, Tony Robbins, he once said, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

Goal setting 

Following that last paragraph, another thing I didn’t get right and what I was fixated on was the end result. I set myself an almost impossible task, which is probably why I couldn’t handle the smallest of failures. I was pretty ignorant with my goals and at one point, I fully believed I would achieve the Olympic standard and really, I was no where near it.

It didn’t help that I had a lot of time out from injuries but the reality was, I was ignorant. You could argue having a strong belief system is a good thing, but really what I should have done, was set more achievable goals, especially at first.

You’re probably all aware of the SMART method for goal setting. If you follow these 4 tips, you will significantly increase the likelihood of achieving goals and reinforcing positive feedback.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound.

Very quickly put, these goals must be specific to the task and clearly defined, you need to measure your progress along the way. Your goals must be attainable, trying to get to the Olympics standard without being in the top 10 of your country, set that as your goal, aim for the top 10 first.  Having more attainable goals means achieving them is more likely, which further adds positive reinforcement and helps strengthen your belief system. Your goals should be relevant to your sport, as I’ve said before, getting really strong won’t help you get faster and faster, this will mean having to understand your sport to greater depths. Finally your goals need a deadline, this will give you the sense of urgency. Just believing something will happen because you’ve been told to believe in yourself, doesn’t work. You need action and intensity and have that urgency will make you realise, you really have to give it your best shot and not just sit by and watch the opportunity pass.

Ignorance & Failure

As I touched on before, I was pretty ignorant as an athlete, and I hadn’t entertained the possibility of not achieving my goals or dreams, which they were really dreams. However, strangely this ignorance gave me a confidence, a false sense of confidence.

Only later did I realise why., from reading  by Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Meaning someone who is ignorant is often far more confident, than the person who has self awareness.
To the more experienced and self aware, it’s likely their lack of confidence comes from the knowing more and realising there’s so much to learn and know, they can’t possible learn everything. Which supports the legendary Greek philosopher,  Aristotle who said- “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

The Dunning-Kruger effect.

A type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. This will ultimately lead to failure.
Dunning & Kruger were both social psychologists, they found that having a lack of self awareness, leads to incompetence in tasks and that not only were incompetence people poor performers, they’re also unable to accurately assess and recognise the quality of their work.
This cognitive bias is incredibly common and in in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious, but like Charles Darwin said, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

So to finish, and it may seem harsh, but Dunning & Kruger found people are not only incompetent; their incompetence robs them of the mental ability to realise just how inept they are. So being honest with yourself can really help you grow and improve.

Thank you for getting this far, I hope this article has been useful for you. I know if I read this as an athlete, I’m very confident I would have applied these methods and tools to have helped me achieve my goals.

Connell Macquisten
Performance Adviser
Bristol & West A.C

Physical development through resistance training and managing body composition through calorie intake for developing athletes and considerations for managing injuries.

26 May

Introduction

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a coach at the club and I would like to share my thoughts, experiences and what current research suggests on the physical development of athletes, the influence calories have on muscular development and body mass and topics surrounding this matter such as resistance training and genetic factors and what method/s and approaches are best to avoid unwanted body mass.

I would argue all specific improvements in performance, that are accompanied by muscle mass are essential.
There is a point when an athlete can get too heavy and also when they get too light.
These often occur around injuries/ inactivity which is where a caloric imbalance occurs over a period of time.

Obviously, I have to have a disclaimer for the following article as I am not a registered dietitian. I am NOT a doctor or a registered dietitian. … I do not provide medical aid or nutrition advice for the purpose of health or disease nor do I claim to be a doctor or dietitian. Any product recommendation is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

However, if you are interested in hearing from a legit doctor with a history of experience in health and nutrition, please check out this video from my good friend Dr. Jean Phillipe Wahlin on staying fit and healthy during the lockdown

Physical development through resistance training.

The conversation I had earlier this week was around how much mass would an athlete build through resistance training and should we be worried about them getting too big. This is something I’ve heard a lot over the years, clients and some athletes would tell me they avoid lifting weights because they get too big too quickly.

This is a great topic because it has affected me in many ways, personally and having had experience working with athletes in sports with weight classes and clients who have worked to cut weight for performances in bodybuilding, as everything there is an optimal weight range for performance.
Many of my clients would cut weight intentionally, either via fat trying to lose as little muscle a possible and sometimes taking even more drastic measures of cutting water which the body really doesn’t enjoy.

Even when I would pole vault, I had experimented with a long term calorie deficits to reduce my body weight so that the stiffness of the pole would give me a greater height. Needless to say I performed fairly well to begin with. Once I had passed that optimal range, I lost a lot of power and my energy levels were, like my food bill, very low. I had dropped from 84kg, to 78kg where I had jumped a PB and then ended up at 74kg about 4-5 months later where I intentionally stopped lifting weights, only did plyometrics, sprinting and fasted throughout the day.

What I have concluded before moving on, is that as long as the training is correct for the athletes goals and their workload is sufficient and they consume their calories as fuel, rather than overfeeding or fasting, I don’t believe they need to worry about their weight.
Generally top athletes in sprinting and running events are aware of their race weight and as they come into season, their programmes shift from the weight room, which causes a small suppression in their appetites and as a result consume less calories as they sharpen up.

The issue of gaining ineffective mass in sprinting, running or jumping comes in two ways. Either the resistance programme happens to have too much volume (sessions, reps, sets) happens to be too great, usually an athlete ends up indirectly bodybuilding causing sarcoplastic hypertrophy and secondly eating too much, which I mentioned before can come from an increased appetite from greater exposure to resistance training or from reduced workload, usually unintentionally via injury, where appetite levels are generally the same, often higher due to the short term stress and depression which causes a calorie surplus, which causes excessive weight gain, which I will explain later, with suggestions for athletes to keep exercises through their injury.

So with that being said if an athlete trains appropriately with evidence based resistance training methods that have rep ranges and sets to promote power and speed along side their track sessions and eats sensibly, the differences in the amount of muscle mass gained from athlete to athlete will vary based on their genetic potential and I wouldn’t attempt to control this factor but rather, control the controllable.

Some athletes are big cats and others are small cats, the big cats will find it easier to grow and be able to move effectively with that mass.
Finally, as distances progress further athletes are collectively lighter and the further or higher an athlete needs to jump, it becomes harder to achieve those distances with additional mass, which is why athlete profiling works very well.
I have known very heavy plyometric track athlete transfer from track and field to bobsleigh with great success.

Fuel/Calories, creating a surplus and deficits.

Our body composition is primarily influenced by the exercise and activity levels we are exposed to throughout our lives and our relationship with calories be it through a source of fuel or storage. Our genetics do play a factor however we can influence our genetics to a degree through these two factors but our underlying genetic code is pretty much set.
Without going into too much detail, because it gets really complicated and I’ve forgotten more than I can remember, calories act as fuel, if the fuel is not burned up by the body, it will be stored as adipose tissue or fat. These calories come in the roles of macronutrients, fats have the highest calories if 9 per gram, then carbohydrates and protein are both 4 calories per gram, but bare in mind this isn’t a reason to avoid fats all together.

So now I have defined calories and the macronutrients that provide fuel for the body, this covers, very briefly the energy intake, now I will breakdown the energy expenditure from the body, which has more categories, but still, to the core just as complex.

Though I studied a module on nutrition and it covered calorie expenditure, my experience in measuring what would be our Total Daily Energy Expenditure really came from taking part in a study that my friend, JP (referenced above) was researching, I have taken part in two of studies he has been involved with and both were feeding studies, one where I was at rest in a bed for 36 hours, having muscle biopsys taken from my quads and another which  was an overfeeding study where I was to consume 50% extra calories over my TDEE,  everyday for a week.
I had previously been in a calorie deficit so my TDEE at the time was nearly 4500kcals, I didn’t drive and I would train for 3 hours most days. This meant I had to consume an extra 2250 calories each day for that week, putting me at 6750 calories. However, I couldn’t fill this super calorie dense foods Coca-Cola or chocolate, it had to be what my normal diet was, but with 50% extra on the plate.

Our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the total amount of calories we burn everyday. This is made up of Physical activity, our BMR (basal metabolic rate), measured through gas analysis, or you can use the RMR (resting metabolic rate) which uses an equation of height age, sex and weight to predict the calories you would burn if you were to lay in all day at rest to maintain basic bodily functions and finally, DIT (dietary induced thermogenisis),  which is the amount of calories burned via digestion, this is not to be confused by the number of calories per gram mentioned above.

If you’re interested in calculated an estimated TDEE out of curiosity here is a pretty good source. https://goodcalculators.com/tdee-bmr-calculator/

Counteracting a calorie surplus

As I mentioned above, if an athlete cannot perform regular exercise/ training, their calorie expenditure drops significantly. Which can cause less than desirable effects for their sport when they return.If you’re interested in reading the study I was a participant in , it was a follow up study funded by a disability research group at the University of Bath, which measured the effects of inactivity in patients with spinal cord injuries to further understand the relationship to weight gain and if there were any successful methods to counteract this problem.

JP. Walhin et al. 2013 found these changes were mostly prevented by the addition of a daily vigorous‐intensity exercise bout even in the face of a standardised energy surplus. Supporting that if you can find a way to maintain intense physical activity whilst you’re forced to do less, perhaps via injury you can overcome the negative effects of the short term calorie surplus.

Calorie deficits and negative effects on performance

As for creating a calorie deficit and the negative effects on performance, I would like to invite you to the story of Mary Cain, if you’re not already familiar with her, she was one of the fastest female runners in America and when she joined Project Oregon,  coached under the infamous Alberto Salazar, she was encouraged to lose more and more weight, entering a calorie deficit and as she kept losing weight, her performance significantly deteriorated.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/opinion/nike-running-mary-cain.html

Summary 

When it comes to developing athletes and getting them stronger, I recommend benchmarks for strength to body weight ratios, which can found in previous article, Strength & Conditioning, what is strong enough? http://www.bristolandwestac.org/2020/04/06/strength-conditioning-part-4-what-is-strong-enough/
If an athletes track/running sessions are progressive and consistent and they consume their calories sensibly, I wouldn’t worry about excessive weight gain, these ‘controllable’ measures of keeping calorie expenditure high would mean that any mass built should be efficient to their event and their sport.

Restricting calories for athletes who are already performing well will very likely end badly and might perhaps give them an unhealthy relationship with food.
As for athlete who are injured,
frequent, intense exercise avoiding damage to the injured site will combat the possible negative effects on body composition and will help them return to their previous state of fitness/ performance faster.
As the majority of injuries in sprinting, jumping occur within the lower extremities, could include stationary bike sessions, isometric holds, core circuits and upper body, but would need to be performed daily at high intensities to burn a decent amount of calories.

Connell Macquisten.

Posture & pain management. 7 Exercises to leave your body feeling great.

14 May

Ahead of the interview with Sports Osteopath James Miles-Christiansen, this article will cover

1. The best stretch for tight hips

2. Upper back/ thoracic spine exercises. and

3. How to not be bored during mobility work.

 

The best stretch for ‘tight hips’

The hip flexors are one of the most common areas of tightness and dysfunction in both high-performance athletes and the general fitness population. Comprised of both superficial and deep layers of musculature—including the rectus femoris quadriceps, the iliacus and the psoas—this group of muscles, responsible for primary hip flexion, often becomes functionally shortened in static positions such as prolonged sitting.

Rear leg lunge stretch
Hip extension, knee flexion, ankle plantar flexion, essentially the opposite angles of the joints that come from sitting in a chair/seat.

 

Though it may seem really easy to set this up. Which it is, there are a few tips to maximise your stretch from the spent in this position.
When you’re in the above position.  The closer your knee is from the wall, the more intense you will find the stretch, to intensify the stretch, which I recommend finding a level of discomfort that isn’t pain, if you tuck your pelvis  by pulling your belly button in and squeezing the glute on the back leg, you will notice the intensity increase as the antagonists of the glutes and transverse abdominis etc contract and shorten, the agonists, psoas, rectus femoris and vastus intermedius relax and lengthen further.

 

Additionally, your tightness may be disguised as weakness. The real problem is likely that your hip flexors are weak, which is causing them to become stiff in an effort to create tension around the hip joint. They may not be very good at it, but they’re going to do their job and support that joint by whatever means necessary.

 

 

2 Exercises for your ‘tight’hips 

 

Psoas march 

Plank or Single Leg Plank

 

Upper back / Thoracic Mobility

It’s common theme flooding social media right now, mobilise your upper back, for many slumping over the desk will take it’s toll on our postures.

Generally we collapse into flexion through our upper back, most videos I’ve seen or blogs are teaching views to extend the thoracic spine to mobilise it, though this may be true, strengthening in extension and mobilising in rotation will have much greater benefits, both immediately and long term.

Purely extension-based mobilisations don’t necessarily fit with what we know about the bony architecture of this region of spine.

Thoracic vertebrae have a unique shape. They’re larger in the back than in the front. This creates a natural wedge that biases the entire region toward rounding forward and acts as a bony block to standing up straight.

Here are two brilliant exercises

The upper body windmill 

The quadruped extension-rotation.

How to not be bored doing mobility.

Generally, mobility is really boring. It requires focus, attention and effort, however at low intensities, making it, for many harder to commit to.
Especially if you’re like me and enjoy hard intense exercise.
So other than building it into your day like my most recent blog.

There are two other methods, incorporating mobility into your warm up, or between exercises.
I personally prefer loaded exercises through a full range of motion.
Since starting Front Foot Elevated Split Squats and Jefferson Curls, my hip mobility and knee health have improved and are far better than they’ve been for many years.
This was after a serious damaged meniscus, where I opted out of surgery and chose to rehab myself, one point I believed I would never be able to sit in a deep squat again without discomfort.
Sure enough, the rehab worked and I would like to share with you these two exercises.

Deep front foot elevated split squat.

Jefferson Curl

 

Mobilise during rest periods.

As I mentioned you can also perform mobility drills as active rest as they are low intensity and can fill your rest periods. I would suggest mobilising alternative joints to those you’re currently training.
Eg. if you’re doing a lower body plyometric circuit, you could mobilise your thoracic/ upper back during your rest period.

About the author 

Connell Macquisten

14 years experience in resistance training and programme design. Fds Sports Performance, BSc Sports Studies. Ex National Pole Vaulter (4.75m) injured frequently. Set up Sports Therapy businiss in 2013  working with Team GB Sprinters & Hurdlers. Now active as UKA sprints coach to elite athletes in Bristol U.K. 

Achievements: 
Assistant coach & S&C coach to 2016 World Championship 60m semi finalist.
2 International representations in 100m, 200m and relay in both Senior and Junior from Great Britain and the British Virgin Islands.
Additional S&C experience inc
3 years shadowing the top British Weightlifting coaches and speed coaching to premiership academy (junior) football players, (Manchester United & West Ham United and Fulham). 

Injury prevention pt 4. Practical solutions for addressing the structure, imbalances and instabilities.

12 May

TLDR:
Posture is dynamic, being static for too long or overloading a particular movement pattern can develop structural imbalances.
Generally a good warm up or conditioning session can override these ‘imbalances’ through variation and loaded ranges of movement.
The more stable a/ the structure, the more forces it can handle before the stress becomes a strain.
Overcoming or avoiding a previous injury requires greater attention to address the imbalances.

Incorporating exercises into a daily routine is the most practical method to do this.
Eg. Single leg balance whilst the kettle boils or bread toasts.

  1. Structural integration
  2. Practical methods for restoring stability and strength
  3. Exercise suggestions  

Introduction.

The following article will do its best to outline the human structure, how we interact with gravity and the ground below us. Deliver practical methods, used by myself and my clients over the past 7 years to help develop stability, strength and balance to reduce the risk of injury.

As you can imagine, pole vaulting, can develop some pretty heavy imbalances. Lumbar disc problems, hamstring tears, shoulder impingement and damaged ligaments in my ankle.
I came off pretty lightly, however I didn’t enjoy being in pain and at the time I was studying sports injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Though many exercises prescribed to me were great and the soft tissue treatment worked great, I often, like many of clients over the years, forgot to continue doing the exercises or build up with progressions to handle more load.

Essentially this had led me down a path of aiming to understand the human structure deep, quite literally.
Many times my weight had fluctuated, aiming to compete at lower body weights, though it seemed great at the time as the immediate benefits were obvious, one point I dropped too much muscle mass, from 84kg down to 74kg. Around 77-78kg was the sweet spot, where my reactivity was high, force to body weight was high and my structural stability had yet to be affected.

Losing that much muscle mass was hard work, I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for a speed/power sport, I had lost significant upper body stability and began having shoulder impingement issues, that I had never had before.

I was on a significant calorie deficit and fasting between sessions, though it seems ridiculous and it totally is, I’d like to note again, to begin with it was working well which was reinforcing the process.


Muscle mass along with strength/ the ability to neurologically stimulate the muscles and articulate the joint through an optimal range of motion are significant factors to keeping a joint healthy.

It’s very likely that if you lack in any of the above categories, the risk of an injury is significantly greater, which is why corrective exercises and soft tissue release work great for rehabilitating an injury.

Now what about prevention?
We all know prevention is better than a cure.

Prevention can and should be directly built into the warm up, it may be extensive but my athletes have 15 exercises to complete before performing their sessions.
It’s almost a session in itself but as the intensity is relatively low it doesn’t negatively impact their session quality.

Stimulating and strengthening the muscles that assist our balance can also be done outside of training to either assist the rehab process or prevent any reoccurring injuries.

 

Structural integration

Each joint has a level of balance and optimal position to maintain throughout the structure, our first line of balance with the ground is out feet and arches, should we stand and shift our weight to one leg this can cause tension further up the chain and cause instability issues at hip and knee. See figure 1 below.

If left untreated for sometime and these imbalances further develop, the weak areas are under greater stress which can lead to injury.
The time where I lost too much muscle mass for the demands of my sport, had caused me greater exposure to injury due to less stability at that joint.

If you’ve read my previous injury prevention and rehabilitation articles, the latest research suggests, if a muscle is short and weak, these muscles are easier to injury.

Our structure does a great job at compensating in order to keep our eye level balanced, which is why you may notice some people with chronic imbalances, subconsciously contort their bodies to maintain this eye level. 


Figure 1. Does a great job at displaying these very common imbalances.

 

But as I said before, you need not worry if your warm up and training programme addresses these imbalances or have a regular routine that you follow to restore balance, eg. yoga.

Although, I always suggest to my athletes to be aware of how they sit and stand, especially if they’re required to be in those positions for a long time, eg. at work or studying.

It’s only when these issues are left unaddressed and overloaded does a problem occur.

What I have also noticed is that during or post injury the muscles that are lacking strength and control to stabilise the joint/s that are weak.
Which is why regular correct exercise works really well.


Once you become stable and strong, the imbalances are less pronounced and as I mentioned before, the risk of injury is reduced and very often, in many cases such as running and sprinting, the more stable and stiff the foot, ankle, hip and knee, the more efficient the energy transfer is on ground contact.
Initially the effects are negligible however overtime, the benefits will appear, either directly or indirectly.
Depending on the region of the injury, there will be overdeveloped (tonic) muscles, that are over working to compensate for either weakness elsewhere (phasic) muscles and the lack of range of motion nearby.


To diagnose any imbalances, I highly suggest booking in with a Sports Osteopath. Ideally one with experience in your sport/event.
My recommendation is always James Miles Christiansen who works out of Oldfield Park in Bath.
Stay tuned as our interview will be out later this week.

 

Practical suggestions for restoring stability and strength

One of the greatest battles to the working athlete, is making the time to train.

Alongside that, it’s fighting the odds against getting injured as we age.

Which is why I have found the best and most practical method for addressing any imbalance is by incorporating them into your daily life.

Setting side extra time to perform exercises is difficult, however, there are moments in our day where we are waiting.
Since the lock down, I’ve been able to focus on own training a lot more and it’s been great and as I’ve introduced new methods and all the contact injuries I’ve sustained over the past two years are feeling great.

It may also be worth considering, is your imbalance caused by a weakness or lack of muscle mass. If so, building muscle occurs through resistance training and also a calorie surplus, specifically protein.
Once I had increased my exposure to resistance training again and increased my protein and calorie intake, the problems I had in the shoulder capsule disappeared.

Here is an example of the exercises I have introduced and when I perform them. (It has helped that I’ve been stuck inside brewing more teas and coffees than I would normally drink)

AM – I am for roughly 1.5-2 mins per exercise

  1. Whilst kettle is boiling – single leg balance left knee up
  2. Whilst coffee is cooling down/ brewing – single leg balance right knee up
  3. Whilst bread is toasting – Double leg calf raise 
  4. Brushing teeth – Tibialis anterior raises against wall 

Midday – aim for 2-mins 

  1. Whilst tea or coffee is brewing – glute bridge hold 

(Alternatives could be waiting for bus and performing straight leg balance hold, which I also do when queuing to enter the super market)

PM aim for 1.5-2 mins

  1. Whilst I’m cooking I will often balance on one leg if I’m not chopping foods etc.
  2. Whilst washing up, I contract my glutes as hard as I can or balance in a calf raise.


Pre bed – 2mins

  1. Brushing teeth – either tibialis anterior raises again or single leg balance knee lifts (1 min per leg)

There are always opportunities to build in corrective exercises, the reason I choose these exercises is that the majority of my injuries have been in the lower body and they’re fairly easy to perform.

I highly recommend trying to incorporate two or three of these exercises, the acute/ immediate benefits are really good.

Picture 2. If you are curious about which joints require either stability or mobility .

Exercises that address multiple imbalances at once are far more time efficient and likely more transferable to sport.

Glute stability:
Before getting out of bed.

  1. Clamshells
  2. Glute bridges

Hips, core/ lower back:

The infamous McGill Big 3

  1. Curl up
  2. Side Plank
  3. Bird Dog

https://squatuniversity.com/2018/06/21/the-mcgill-big-3-for-core-stability/

For more questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Connell.coach@gmail.com

Stay tuned for the next Q&A with the elite.

Connell

Training Programmes for Junior/ Senior 100 ,200 ,400m and Jumps.

30 Apr

Training Programmes for Junior/ Senior 100 ,200 ,400m and Jumps.

 

Good morning all,  

(Please feel free to skip the bulk of the text and view training programmes via attachments if you wish, bulk of content is explaining how athletes can still improve/ maintain if they consistently follow a smart, hard programme, we would like to see all our athletes competing again soon, as best as they can with minimal risk of injuries). Additionally this is for athletes who may not have been given a structured programme from their coaches or are currently not training consistently.

It has come to my attention that there may be some athletes out there in our club who are more inactive than usual. Though times are hard and the promise of competitions coming this summer seem less likely the longer the lockdown continues, I cannot stress how important it is to continue training, hard and smart.

Following the feedback from the videos/ articles over the past month, I’ve had a request to structure a programme for athletes to follow each week to follow.

Rather than develop any specific programmes, I am willing to share what I have provided for my athletes, from 100-400m.

For some, this lockdown period might actually be the best thing for their athletic development, I do genuinely believe you can get faster and fitter without an athletics track or gym, it just requires discipline and consistency, which hopefully these programmes will assist with.
However for a lot of athletes, their calorie expenditure/ activity levels will drop, they will spend more time on their games consoles and their food intake will either stay the same, or increase and as a recipe for athleticism, it’s disastrous.

It’s looking like there may still be competitions towards the end of the outdoor season, which means once the lockdown has been lifted, returning athletes who haven’t trained, will not be in good shape. 

Meaning, the risk of injury will increase, especially if they jump back in doing fast work ahead of racing, and the odds are that with all the de-training over these months, they will run slower times which will only impact their motivation going forward.


To try and combat all these potential threats to performance, Paul Weston and I think it would be a great idea to provide training programmes to any athletes who may not have the structure provided to them.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I do believe, if done correctly, athletes can still progress and get faster without training on a track, I will briefly explain how and what each element will contribute to.

The act of sprinting is a skill and though there isn’t a track to run on, the ability to exert large amounts of force at speed, can still be performed on different surfaces and on different gradients.
As long as an athlete is following a well structured programme, with intensity over a variety of distances, they can still improve their acceleration ability, maximal speed, speed endurance and aerobic fitness.

My job as a coach is pretty simple, besides writing programmes, which is the hardest part, I aim to deliver basic cues and time and record reps and recoveries, this is where the athlete will have to be self aware and accountable.
I will provide technical cues in the programme for each session but it is down to the athlete to time and record their reps to see their progression and stick to intensities and recoveries.

 

Hill sprints
Hill sprints are great for developing both acceleration mechanics, power and for recreating tempo runs at lower intensities.
Tempo runs are great for improving contacts, reactivity and running economy and fitness due to the greater range and loading of the ankle from the gradient of the hill.


Steep slopes are brilliant for developing acceleration power, acceleration occurs until deceleration so the steeper the hill, the shorter it will take before the athlete can no longer decelerate.
I recommend slopes/hills in trainers on a path or empty residential road working from a 3 point stance up to 20-40m depending how steep the gradient is.

Gradual slopes are great for recreating tempo runs, aim to work around 70% of your maximal speed, record the first rep and try to maintain that time off a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio.
Eg. 30 sec run, take between 60-90secs recovery. 

Longer, consistent hills are much better as the focus is to build and maintain a rhythm throughout the session.

Plyometrics up and down hill 

Generally I suggest two footed jumps up and down unless the athlete is very proficient and reactive.
Start with ankle bounces for minimal knee bend and short contact times up the hill and repeated jumps down the hill for height.

Grass work 

If you haven’t access to grass, that’s okay, it’s just more forgiving on ground contact especially for longer sprints.
In an ideal world you would have a flat open surface with short grass.

 

Home strength & conditioning

The hardest thing about working out at home is commitment so if the athlete commits to doing their session at the same time every day this will help them work around that and give them structure to their days.


They are more than welcome to follow any of the videos I have provided on the Bristol & West AC chat if they would rather copy from the screen.

Though methods of training are limited to isometrics or varying tempos with gravity and ranges of motion, athletes can still get great results from manipulating these variables.

Isometrics are where athletes perform a holds and these can be categorised into either overcoming or yielding.


Overcoming isometrics are to be performed with a towel to exert maximal effort – up to 10secs of intensity and help develop maximal force through intense neuromuscular contractions.

Yielding isometrics are performed for longer durations and fatigue the body differently and are great for injury prevention. 

 

Plyometrics and Jumping are also specific methods of training that transfer very well to speed and power events and are brilliant when paired with isometrics.

These are usually performed at high intensities but can vary, athletes looking to develop reactivity must start with low intensities and progress as they improve.

General development I would categorise everything that is not the above as general development, this could be simple bodyweight exercises performed at a regular tempo, generally slow and controlled to help develop the tissue and create a stronger foundation for athleticism and specificity in the future.
Eg. press ups, split squats or squats.

A big part of becoming an elite athlete is gaining a better understanding and awareness of their body and knowing what works for them, either to stay injury free or the sessions that make the biggest differences.
The above headings are to help the athlete learn more about their training should they wish to know.
Now without further ado, the training programmes.

 

Temporary track programme 100-200m


Note:
U13-U15: 

Aim to complete 2 home gym sessions per week and 2 running sessions per week.

U17 – Seniors:  

Aim to complete at least 3 home gym sessions and 3 running sessions each week and look to progress from there.


If you are lucky to have the free time.

2 sessions can be done within 1 day with 4-6 hours apart. 

 

Session  1 – Home gym 1

  1. Single leg balance 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in)
  2. Split squat hold 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in total)
  3. Glute bridge hold, upper back on sofa 1x (accumulate 3mins in total)
  4. Side clams 1x failure both sides slowly
  5. Side plank hold on bottom leg 1x failure both sides
  6. Dish Holds (1x3mins in total)
  7. Laying on back windscreen wipers 3×60 secs w/ 60 sec rest
  8. Reverse crunches 3x 60 secs w/ 60 sec reps 
  9. Single Leg Press Ups 1×20 per leg 
  10. 4x 8 Sprinters Press ups 
  11. Kneeling running arms 6 x30 secs fast w/ 3 secs recovery
  12. Sprinter sit ups w/ hip flexor bands 3×20 secs fast
  13. Single leg RDL’s, 10 slow then 10 fast x2 per leg 
  14. Isometric Calf raise hold (accumulate 3 mins in total)
  15. Front foot elevated calf raises barefoot (3×20 reps w/ 3 sec hold at top)
  16. Toey bounces barefoot 3×60 secs

 

(if you have long bands)

  1. Band around ankle face away from attachment, high knee 4×50 reps fast
  2. Band around ankle, kicks,4×50 fast
  3. Band around ankle, face toward attachment hamstring cycles 4×50 reps
  4. Band around ankle, straight leg pull downs 4×50 reps

If you have pull up bar

  1. Pull up then isometric hold half way on the way down for 3 sec x failure for 5 sets

 

Session 2 – Sprints 1
 Drills and warm up as much as possible

Jumps uphill and downhill

Short sleds or short hill sprints

2x30m 2x50m 4×30, 6x20m 8x10m 


Session 3 – Home gym 2

 

  1. Single leg balance 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in)
  2. Split squat hold 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in total)
  3. Single Leg Glute bridge hold 2×1 min per side
  4. Jump series x 5 sets
  • 10 Slow squats on balls of feet
  • 10 repeated Vertical jumps for maximal height
  • 10 shallow jumps for height 
  1. Side clams 1x failure both sides slowly
  2. Side plank hold on bottom leg 1x failure both sides
  3. Dish Holds (1x3mins in total)
  4. Laying on back windscreen wipers 3×60 secs w/ 60 sec rest
  5. Reverse crunches 3x 60 secs w/ 60 sec reps 
  6. Press ups 4x failure w/ isometric hold of 3 secs half way on way down
  7. Standing single leg, draw alphabet A-Z w/ the knee on free leg x 1 per

If you have pull up bar

Pull ups 4x failure 

  1. Toey bounces barefoot 3×60 secs
  2. Single leg pistol squats 3×12 reps per leg

 

Session 4 Sprints 2


Sleds & jumps uphill 

Longer sprints on 

Flat, on grass w/ spikes or trainers on asphalt

 

Session 5 – Home gym  1

 

Session 6 Sprints 3

Longer Sleds
Hill jumps
12×30 sec Tempo Runs off 90 sec recovery


Session 7 – Home gym 2

 

400m temporary track programme

 

Day 1 – Hill session short sprints

Find steep hill if grass use spikes

If road use trainers

Basic drills up the hill & progressive stride outs up to 85%

Sprints

8×20-30m – 4-5min recovery

Explosive, drive hard.


Jumps

2 foot bounces fast contacts up x6 sets -20m

2 footed broad jumps x5 jumps and 6 sets

1 foot Hops for distance up 20m hill x4 per side

 

Day 2 – Home gym 1 (and Endurance work if you would like the following day off)


Day 3  -Endurance work  (or rest if two sessions yesterday)

1x 20-30m run per week 

Find a route or two routes you enjoy.

Steadily increase the pace every 5mins.
Keep a weekly record of your route pb and weather and if slippy take note.

Target to run a PB by every 3rd or 4th week. 

 

Day 4 Home gym 2

 

Day 5 –  Long Hill Sprints

Sprints 

120-150m of very gradual hill 

6-8 sets off 5min recovery in trainers.
Record time for reps 

Jumps

Repeated vertical jumps down the hill for height 5 sets of 10 jumps off 3 mins recovery

Day 6 – Flat Runs  

Flat work in trainers 

30 sec x 4 

Stride out at 90%, hold that pace for 20secs, kick for the last 10 secs.
6-8mins rest. 

 

Jumps – Written by Paul Weston

For aspiring horizontal jumpers who might be struggling to organise their weekly training plan, this might provide an element of guidance.

It assumes the willingness to work hard on your own and make the best of what is available- Any training needs to be undertaken with a serious minded approach if it is to be of any use.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and for the outdoor units to be possible to complete within the space of about 50 mins- so ought to be within 5-10 mins of where you live-perhaps warming up at home- preferably on grass, but can be done on a stretch of tarmac. I would suggest getting out as early as possible in order to avoid any contact with the public.

I would suggest arranging the week along the following lines- or something similar, according to individual circumstances:

 

Day 1- speed

6x40m- 3 min rest

skips- 3 for height, 3 for speed, 3 for distance- walk back recovery

At home: press ups with hold-4×15

tricep dips-4×20

chinnies- 25 into V sits (15)-x4

arm running action-3×40 seconds

side raises-4×25 each side

side leg raises- 4×30 each side

back leg extensions (20) into dips (20)

side leg extensions (15) into dips (15)

dorsal raises-4×30

 

Day 2- jumping strength circuit ( for more senior athletes)

for youngsters- rest day

tuck jumps- 5×12

squat thrusts- 5×25

quarter squat jumps with block landing-5×20

knee-reach- 5×40 each leg

alternate split squat jumps with block landing- 5×14

double foot spring jumps-8×8

leg cadence drill (fast ankle rolls)- 10x10m (slow travel)

fast leg running cycles- 10x10m- slow travel

 

Day 3 – rest day

 

Day 4- speed endurance 

 4 sets of 4x35m with 30 sec recovery, 3 mins between sets

or- if on the road- 10x20m uphill with walk back recovery

skips- 6x50m uphill- walk back recovery

or for triple jumpers (grass)- 4x40m bounds and 4x40m repetition hop, step,step off a few strides

 

Day 5 hip circuit– can illustrate the exercises if required:- all ages

knee dips- 6×30 each leg

reach dips- 6×30 each leg

knee-reach- 6×30 each leg

side raises- 6×25 each leg

side leg raise-6×30 each leg

back leg extensions (30) into dips (30) each leg (x6)

side leg extensions (15-20) into dips (15-20) each leg (x6)

 

Day 6- smooth runs

2 sets of 4x80m runs with walk back recovery- 5 mins between sets.- field if possible

or- a 25 minute fartlek (mixed pace run)

 

Day 7- rest day

This is really just so that you can see the overall level of work you should be striving to maintain. If you are strictly housebound, replace the running with repetitions of the drills which you no doubt do in training- eg- 15 sets of 10m spring jumps, 15 sets of 10m running cycles etc.. Use your imagination and be creative within the constraints you are under.

It is important that if you choose to train, you do so with intent- so that you are not left wanting when the lockdown is lifted. It is your own responsibility to keep yourself in shape if you have the drive and interest- so try to do whatever you possibly can.

Paul Weston

 

 

Finally, If you’ve made it this far, I have some exciting news for the coming weeks. I will be interviewing 1 of the men’s Great Britain 400m relay team, Cameron Chalmers, the very highly experienced Osteopath James Miles Christensen, who has worked in athletics for the past 5 years with international sprinters from Great Britain, New Zealand’s 400mH record holder Cameron French and maybe another special guest who has competed amongst the best in the world.


As always, if you have any questions or request, feel free to contact me via connell.coach@gmail.com

Connell

Strength & Conditioning pt. 5 French Contrast Training

16 Apr

Introduction

Following up on the past two articles that covered velocity based training and plyometrics, I would like to share with you, perhaps the best method of training that develops an athletes rate / speed of force production and athleticism.

French contrast training is a brilliant method that can be applied to almost every movement pattern in order to increase force out through the desired vector you wish to train.
Meaning it’s specificity can be very high, with that the transferability, especially within elite athletes.

Developed by Track & Field coach Gilles Cometti.
The concept of French Contrast training is based on a combination of complex and contrast methods. The idea is to use four exercises to induce physiological responses of the athlete and train along the force – velocity curve.

French Contrast Training (FCT) is more complex than potentiation clusters, though they can also have their place within a programme, however in my elite athletes and within my own training, I like the bulk of it to be FCT and to deload on potentiation clusters.

Potentiation Clusters (PC) are two exercises in the style of a superset, one that forces the body to producing large amounts of force, generally through the strength speed %’s on the force velocity curve, for 1-3 reps which supposedly has a potentiating effect, an effect that stimuates the neuromuscular system but doesn’t fatigue it, creating an effect of readiness to then 20-30secs later performing a high intensity, fast plyometric/ jumping activity and repeating this over with 3-4minutes in between.

However, what I had noticed in the 7-8 years of performing potentiation clusters, was that it became very difficult to overload this process effectively, meaning I was fairly athletic, getting stronger slowly but I never felt I was loading my body enough to provide a stimulus to adapt.
It was about 2-3 years ago I came across French Contrast Training (FCT) on Instagram and it made complete sense, a method of training with high intensities/ velocities and at varying %’s on the Force Velocity curve. 

I do however switch back to PC during the competition season as a method to stimulate but not fatigue.

Methods of French Contrast Training

Depending on the athlete or the element you wish to develop, you can be flexible with the exercise selection but I believe the order should remain strict.

Each set would have 4-5 mins recovery, ensuring the athlete is fresh and each exercise between 20-30 seconds.

Exercise 1.

Heavy lift 80-90% max for 1-4 reps

eg. Front Squat

Rest 20-30 secs

Exercise 2.

High Force/ Reactive Plyometric exercise 3-4 reps

eg. Depth Jumps for Height

Rest 20-30 secs

Exercise 3.

Speed- Strength oriented lift

eg. DB jumps for fast contact times and height w/ 20% of Bodyweight 3-4 reps

Rest 20-30 secs

Exercise 4.

Speed oriented plyometric jumps 4-8 jumps

eg. Band assisted plyometric jumps or repeated vertical jumps

Rest 4-5 mins and repeat 3-4 sets.

This method would focus on developing vertical force production.

Below is a video with a slightly different variation, focusing on the posterior chain.

 

Results of FCT in Elite Athletes

The most common question I hear amongst coaches in the sport science world is, how does *it* effect elite athletes?
Many studies, if not most, are tested on untrained subjects, which has many drawbacks and can’t easily be applied to well trained individuals.
Fortunately, along with all the anecdotal evidence from coaches on the web, Elbadry et al. 2019 studied the effect of the French Contrast Method on Explosive Strength and Kinematic Parameters of the Triple Jump Among Female College Athletes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6815088/

The following paragraphs is cut from their abstract.

‘The primary purpose of the study was to investigate the impact of the French Contrast Method on explosive strength and kinematic parameters of the triple jump among female college athletes. Ten female college athletes from the Helwan University’s track and field team participated in this study. Participants were assessed before and after an 8-week training program for upper and lower body explosive strength. No significant differences were observed in anthropometric characteristics’.

‘Explosive strength variables (Sargent jump test, countermovement jump, and seated medicine ball throw) increased significantly and kinematic parameters of the triple jump improved’.

The results indicated that eight weeks of the French Contrast training can improve both explosive strength and kinematic parameters of the triple jump.’

French Contrast Method for Beginners and Youth Athletes

Many of you may under the impression that this method may only be used for experienced athletes and elements of it should be, but the general approach of high intensity work at contrasted speeds need not be limited to the elite.
I’ve had success with young athletes applying the same principles.
The guys at Juggernaught Training Systems summarise it nicely if you have any doubts.

While the FCM is simply one method that is utilized by Cal Dietz (1), it is also a neuromuscular driver toward improvement in qualities for any given athlete. This holds water, especially if the athlete is at a young training age. While they may not provide the intensity seen in a maximal strength deadlift, motor units will be firing, and good movement is reinforced.

For starters, the FCM can be utilized by using a loaded movement pattern, plyometric, weighted plyometric, and an assisted plyometric.

How you go about loading these movement patterns is your discretion but the safest way to use heavy loads would be using a sled or prowler.

For great detailed breakdown of FCT with Juggernaught Training Systems follow the link.

Get Stronger and Faster with the French Contrast Method

Specificity in Sprinting 

As an increase in explosive strength and rate of force development can directly influence sprint speed and acceleration.
The physiological benefits are specific and movement patterns are pretty close to specific too. However if you have a sled and a variety of weights you can apply the same principles, with great results.
However with these, I would suggest doing them prior to the competition season and introduce clusters between competitions to reduce fatigue.
As the nature of accelerating requires the athlete to get faster on each step, the distance travelled with the sled, I suggest the distance of the sled to go from short to long as the weight goes from heavy to light.

For example.

  1. 80% of bodyweight on sled  for roughly 4-6 steps.
  2. Block start to 20m
  3. 20% of bodyweight on sled for roughly 20m
  4. Block start to 40m.

I suggest a walk back recovery and then 5-6 minutes before starting the next set and the number of sets is usually dictated by the athletes.

Summary 

There any many benefits to FCT and very little drawdowns if they’re performed correctly during the training programme.
One thing I would suggest is to monito fatigue or have the athlete understand that the exericse stops when the fatigue and performance drops.
I only suggest working up to heavier weights if the athlete feels fresh and has an easy week of training ahead.

For example, the first 2 sets, post warm up for exercise 1, using the front squat could be on 100kg for 4 reps, then for set 3 105kg and set 4 110kg.
As long as the athlete is working within the Max Strength % of the force velocity curve, they will continually develop their maximum strength.
They need not chase PB’s in training in order get stronger, very often this leads to burn out and if an athlete has lifted too heavy in their gym programme, I will be obvious during the next track session.

It’s also important to bare in mind that structurally athletes are built and develop differently, if they’re incredibly quad dominant and their top speed is their limting factor, they may benefit more from a posterior chain focused FCT programme.

If you have any questions regarding your training and athletic develop, I’m more than happy to offer advice.

Connell.