Thursday, December 30, 2010

Block Periodization Slides

Just found this interesting slides from the lecture by Vladimir Issurin. Worth checking out. Here is it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Keep it simple stupid (and short)

Going along with my recent rants regarding planning strategies I wanted to give you a nice example of an error from my side. Last year (season 2009/2010) when I was involved in a women volleyball club from the First National League I started planning annual cycle based on the info I got from the head coach regarding the goals and competition schedule. 

Well, the plan can be seen on the following picture and the general loading parameters for each "block" can be seen in the table next to it. If you want to see a bigger picture, just click on it.

Don't get into details of the plan too much, since I didn't manage to put it into use. Why? Because I haven't seen the athletes before making it, who were young girls that did not need such an "advanced" and complex planning at the first place. They needed to learn how to move, sprint, squat, lunge. You know - the basics. On the other side the communication with the head coach failed because he was a "one man band" and we couldn't find a "common language". You know, shit happens. 

This is why I mentioned the "physical preparation coach curse" in interview by Robbie Bourke - we are always "second" and we need a good and supportive environment (training facilities included) and coaching staff to do our best in the first place. Here in Serbia clubs don't have (strength) facilities, so we use, make and order what we can and what we have budget for, which is usually low to none. I had a real pain in the arse that season while trying to get couple of medicine balls for the girls since the factory was closed and they were not available anywhere. A lot of trouble and pain during that season. A lot of modifications of the plan. We could have played play-off easily, but some weird shit happened. You can't control everything.

Anyway, what is the point of this short blog (thank you Lyle for making me write short blog entries, you lazy dog lover)? Well, couple of them. Let me just list them.

1. Making a nice graphs and annual plan doesn't make you a great coach - it makes you nice graph developer

2. This one is my short rant from an email correspondence with my fellow coach Nick Monastiriotis who was at that time (end of June) beginning to work as physical preparation coach in one soccer club in Greece:

It is difficult to fit all the things together if the head coach is not so co-operative (and they are usually not, because in most cases s/c coaches are more educated) so you can’t ‘integrate’ your work with his work without interference. You know what I am talking about: you want an easy day b/c you will do speed work tomorrow and then he goes outside and kill the players because they were lazy/tired and makes them do shuttles. Been there, done that.

I guess you need to create ‘idiot proof system’, that is not perfect, but will work and it will bring you results. Also, you must take into account that you don’t know players and you don’t know head coach and your two philosophies are not yet ‘merged’. So, IMHO, the key is to create ‘idiot proof’ system that has lot of compromise until you ‘fit together’ and that usually happens in couple of months.

The problem in our sport is that they change coaching staff every year when the staff starts to ‘play in’. So, your first prep period in one club is only a ‘warm-up’ for a real work (if you find common language with players, management and most important head coach).

My tip to you is the KISS and use concurrent scheme that is flexible enough so you can adopt it if the head coach fuck you up. At least for this period of your job. KISS. Do the basics first. Most of the players don’t need the advanced stuff, block periodization etc, etc. Be simple, be consistent. Trust me… I have made mistakes. I keep making them, but this is really from my short experience.

3. As I mentioned in the post from the letter above, KISS. Keep it simple stupid (and short). Lyle made a great post regarding fundamental principles vs. minor details . We don’t need to act like experts and plan every single detail. Look at the big picture. Start with the basics first. “Athletes don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – which would mean before making a extremely complex training plan and program, build the rapport, build the team culture and trust. Start with the “idiot proof system”. Start with the basics. KISS.

Well, another point I wanted to make with this blog post is that I don’t want to be proclaimed internet expert. I make mistakes in planning. I have injured an athlete or two with stupid shit in the past. But I am learning and I am open for constructive criticism and knowledge sharing and discussion. We are all in this “game” (I won’t use the term industry because it makes me want to puke, but since I am on intermittent fasting I wonder what will go out) and as my college professor Vladimir Koprivica use to say, we are more similar in what we DON’T know than we are different in what we know. It amazes me how much late Charlie Francis was humble, willing to share, open for constructive criticism and simple. I admire that type of coaches. Are there any more of them out there?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Analysis of Reactive Training System

Although I have promised in Periodization confusion article that I am going to make a real-world practical example on planning the preparatory period for 8-weeks long pause between two halves of the soccer season, I am first going to make another example by 'disecting' Reactive Training System (RTS) by MikeTuchscherer based on the slides and material from Progressive Powerlifting Seminar which was held in 2008. Mike certainly evolved his really good system even more, thus take a look at this only as an example of what I talked in Periodization confusion article.  Please note that RTS is aimed at ADVANCED powerlifters. I am going to repeat that one more time: ADVANCED POWERLIFTERS.

The crux of RTS is autoregulation of training load based on RPE (how hard does the set feels, or proximity of failure) and fatigue percents (the way to regulate training stress). I am not going to expand on this further since I covered that in Planning the Strength Training series of articles, and Tuchscherer covered it extensively in Reactive Training Manual (which I am going to re-read) and in free articles on his website.   It could be said that autoregulations and fatigue percents are the training principles utilized in Third Level of planning strategy.  

One interesting concept is RPE chart which should be custom tailored and provides an insight into correlations between RPEs and reps at certain percentage of 1RM.  This chart is 'consulte' when programming your workouts in a certain phases that demands certain intensity percentage and/or certain RPE zone. 

The system also revolves around weekly template which can be flexible based on your obligations and needs, and can also be modified whether you are in Frequency or Fatigue cycle (more on this in already mentioned sources).

The basic template includes

(Raw Bench)
(shirt bench)
1. Equipped Squat Variation (ex, Suit Squat, Bands, Chains, etc)

2. Deadlift Assistance (ex, Reverse Band DL, Pause DL, alternate stance, etc)

3. Squat Supplement (ex, SSB Squats, Hi-Bar Oly Squats, Pause squats, etc)

 4. Abs
1. Main Raw Press (Raw Bench, Ply Press, Pause Bench, etc)

2. Raw Assistance (Close Grip, Moderate chain usage, long pauses, etc)

3. Shoulders (Incline, Military, etc)

4. Lats
1. Main Deadlift Variation (Deadlift, Chains, Bands, Gear, etc)

2. Raw Squat Variation (Box Squat, varied depths, moderate chain usage, Squat, etc)

3.Deadlift Supplement (SLDL, GM, RDL, etc)

4. Abs
1. Main Lockout Variation (Shirt Bench, Bands, Chains, Full ROM, etc)

2. Lockout Assistance (Bands, Chains, some partial ROM)

3. Lockout Supplement (Partial ROM for higher reps)

4. Lats

It is important to stress that in the days between, the lifter is doing GPP work that includes single leg lifts, upper body pulling and pre-hab work, stretching and conditioning.

Tuchscherer uses it's own classification of exercises which he adapted to sport of powerlifting:

Shirted Bench
Raw Bench
Equipped Squat variation

 Raw Squat variation

 Squat Supplement
Primary Deadlift

 Secondary Deadlift

 Deadlift Supplement
Shirt Bench Main

 Shirt Bench Assist

Raw Bench Main

 Raw Bench Assist


It is clear that Tuchscherer utilize certain exercise classification system based on the similarity with the competition lifts-, and since I wanted to give an example for Periodization Confusion article, I will need to bastardize this a little bit to fit it into Bondarchuk's classification system (I probably did make some errors, and I will accept recommendations for this classification):

Specialized Developmental
Specialized Preparatory
General Preparatory
Geared squat, deadlift and bench press
Squat Assistance

Deadlift Assistance

Equiped squat variation

Equiped deadlift

Equiped bench press variations
Raw Bench Press

Raw Bench Assistance



Lockout Supplement

Raw Squat  variations

Deadlift supplement

Squat supplement


GPP work

CEs are the competitive movements with full gear and competitive ROM. SDEs are slight variations of CEs to emphasize certain performance aspect and weakness (based on the analysis). SPEs are movements that hit same muscles in similar function. GPEs are general exercises targeting neglected muscle groups and aimed at rising of general physical preparedness.

You will see soon why this classification is important.

To further explain RTS we will need to take a real world situation. Mike Tuchscherer calls this Cycle Design.  Similar to First Level of planning, one needs to chart down meet dates, travel, vacation and other things that are fixed and which provide constraints for further planning. Based on this basic Annual Plan,  further macrocycles are designed. Each macrocycle is a time period between two (major) meets.

For each macroycle there should be S.M.A.R.T. goals set for total and each individual lift, also based on strengths~weaknesses analysis (which is similar to SWOT analysis in strategic planning) and time and environmental constraints (context). After this process, each macrocycle is further split into training phases.

In European terminology, training phases are usually (1) preparatory period, (2) competition period and (3) transition period and in American terminology they are (1) off-season, (2) pre-season and (3) in-season. This is not set in stone and it is based on the situation at hand. Mike Tuchscherer utilized his own names for training phases based on the sport of powerlifting and individual characteristic of each phase.

Each phases has its own characteristics (and goals) and thus can be considered a blend between Second and Third level of planning.

Off-season phase is used following a major competition and it is usually 1-3 weeks long. The goal of this phase is recovery, promoting overall health and setting up for real gains in later phases, along with rehabbing injuries and tweaks. It could be said that off-season phase  is “training to train”, or a training phase aimed at bringing up the factors that allow injury-free, serious training afterwards. This includes a lot of GPE exercises/methods, like single leg movements, abs, rowing, overhead pressing, aerobic training. Thus the content of off-season phases is as follows:

In-season phases is “Bread and Butter”  training phases. It mostly consist of non-CE lifts (SDE, SPE) whose relationship and exercise selection is determined by the strengths~weaknesses analysis and goal settings.  GPE are also presented but in non-lifting days as GPP work. The duration of this phases is variable.

Peaking phase is aimed at entering into the state of sport form in CE and turning potential that is developed into contest results. It can last from 4 to 12 weeks. The exercise content of this phase is mostly specific exercises (CEs), although others are also presented (SDE, SPE, and GPE). For the sake of illustrating the differences between phases I’ve kicked out SPEs, although they might be presented and SDE being kicked out. Please note that this is only for the sake of an example and doesn’t represent the real content of peaking phase in RTS.   

So, from the sport form point of view, these stages fit nicely into the idea of break-up, build-up and maintenance of sport form.  

Next smaller level than training phase is a training block. They are somehow independent of training phases and used to help out load planning for advanced lifters (Third level of planning).
There are four training blocks:

Re-training block is characteristic for the off-season phase and it characterized by low training load (stress) and training intensity (% of 1RM) and intensiveness (RPE, proximity of failure).

Accumulation block is “volume oriented” and it aimed at preparing the lifter for higher intensity work to follow. It lasts 3-5 weeks. The load mainly compromise of higher number of sets, lower intensity (% of 1RM) and lower intensiveness (RPE, proximity of failure) and maybe a slightly higher number of reps per set. The example for accumulation phase is 6 sets of 3 reps @8-9 RPE (the weight you can lift for 4-5 reps, or around 80-85% 1RM).

Transmutation block is “intensity oriented” aimed at bringing up (expressing) the potential developed by accumulation phase. It lasts 2-4 weeks.  The example for transmutation phase is 3 sets of 3 reps @9-10 RPE (the weight you can lift for 3-4 reps, or around 85-90% 1RM).
In the Planning the Strength Training series you can find more info regarding Volume/Intensity phases.

Realization block  is very similar to transmutation block. It is used in the final stages of the peaking phase. The difference is that “intensity oriented” loading is only applied to CEs, while other exercise categories are receiving lowered loading to allow fatigue to dissipate and for real gains to be expressed in CEs. It lasts usually 2-3 weeks.

Next smaller level than the training block is a training microcycle. There are no any different types of microcycles in RTS. Microcycles provide a certain stress level (loading) and average intensity for a certain training block and are usually planned in wave-like manner for each block, to provide for variations and fatigue management. During the accumulation block, microcycles can have low, medium and high stress (based on fatigue percents) and low and medium intensity (averaging around 80-85% for the top set of the day). In transmutation block, microcycles can have medium to high stress and medium to high intensity (averaging around 85-95% for the top set of the day), while in realization block they can have low to medium stress and medium overall intensity. In the Progressive Powerlifting seminar Mike Tuchscherer didn’t go into a further discussion why he uses a certain progression of microcylces in a given block, thus I cannot provide any more info on this topic.  

Now you see how does the cycle planning goes from First level (which includes planning of the sport form development based on competition schedule, analyzing strengths~weaknesses of the athlete and developing SMART goals taking into consideration time constraints and other factors outside of training (context)) to Second Level (planning of the development/reaching of the goals and addressing strengths~weaknesses) and finally to Third Level (planning loading strategies, auto-regulation, specificity of exercises, microcycle planning, etc).

It is hard to make clear cut boundaries between “Planning Levels” and they usually blend into each other. This is why “Tool of Three Levels” is only used as a tool and not something written in a stone.

I will also use  a hypothetical example Mike Tuchscherer presented in Progressive Powerlifting seminar  for a lifter who has 18 weeks between major meets to “summarize” everything written here.

Putting this more into a table where weeks are listed from top to bottom would provide better readings for practical purposes, but graphically this looks better (I hope Carl Valle will agree with this since he is big into design).

The question is now whether the RTS is block training, complex training, stage, mixed-parallel or whatever? Hopefully by now you can see the ‘stupidity’ and ‘purposeless’ of that kind of discussion, since RTS is based on sound training principles for training ADVANCED powerlifters (some of those principles are covered in Planning the Strength training articles).

Hopefully this provides a neat example of real world training system and in this case it is Mike Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training System. Please note that I based my analysis on the information from Progressive Powerlifting Seminar held in 2008., and from talking to Mike over email he did evolve his system over the last two years. For this sole reason, please look at this analysis only as an example and if you are more interested into RTS I highly suggest that you contact Mike Tuchscherer himself. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Periodization Confusion?

I have recently been reading Transfer of Training  (Volume 2) by Dr Anatoly Bondarchuk and watching  video(s) by  Derek Evely. To understand their classification of training systems it is necessary to understand the classification of the exercises based on the specificity criteria. Thus, Bondarchuk identified four groups of exercises/methods:

Name of exercise/method
Competitive (CE)
Exercises that are identical or almost identical to competition event
developmental (SDE)
Exercise that repeat the competitive event in training but in its separate parts
preparatory (SPE)
Exercises that do not imitate the competitive event, but train the major muscle groups and physiological systems
preparatory (GPE)
Exercises that do not imitate the competitive event and do not train the specific systems.
Exercise classification based on work of Dr Anatoly Bondarchuk and UKA Exercise Classification Hierarchy

Based on the work of Christian Thibaudeau and Joe Kenn I have presented similar classification of the exercises in Concurrent strategies in Strength training article. The logic is similar, yet Bondarchuk classified based on exercise specificity, and Thibaudeau and Kenn classified based on importance of the exercises and this can be compatible in most cases. The logic behind it what it is important. Now let’s get back to training systems.

Based on the usage organization of the mentioned types of exercises/methods during the training process, Bondarchuk identified three basic training systems:  (1)stage system, (2) block system and (3) complex system. 

On the following picture stage training system is depicted. 

Some of the variations of this system include changing the complex of exercises for each group every 2-4 weeks. For example, exercises uses in SPE group might rotate every 2-4 weeks.

Based on the work by Anatoly Bondarchuk and Derek Evely block training system can be depicted by following two pictures: 

Same as with stage system, different variations could be applied by rotating complex of exercises for each group.  For example, in Bondarchuk version on block training, exercise complex for GPE and SPE groups might rotate every 2-4 weeks, while for SDE and CE same complex of exercises is used thorough preparatory period. Variations in complex of exercises influence the phases of sport form development and sport form maintenance, by prolonging or speeding up each.

Based on some theoretical info, the achievement of sport form is manipulated by the ratio between different groups of exercises, most notably with relative volume of CE group. During the sport form maintenance the performance results are ‘kinda’ stable and to further improve the performance one need to ‘break’ or ruin the state of sport form and to rebuild it again into the higher level of sport performance. More on the theory of sport form could be found here.  Thus during the phase of sport form development athlete’s performance might be variable (and progressive) while he increases the underlying factors and while ‘tuning’ all the sub-systems, but once he achieves the state of sport form his performance will be more stable at the certain (higher) level of performance.  I am not expert on this subject and I guess we need more info regarding this ‘phenomena’.

On the following picture the complex system is depicted: 

In complex training system all groups of exercises/methods are presented from the day one. As with other two training systems, variations of complex training might be induced by changing complex of exercises for each group every 2-4 weeks.

Each of the mentioned training system has pro’s and con’s based on the overall stress levels, injuries potential and sport form manipulations (based on competition schedule).  These training systems developed over the years as the both coaches and scientists identified their weak points.

Based on the video by Derek Evely, “traditional periodization” could be considered stage training system. Soon, certain problems with it were identified and new models were seeking, along with changes in competitions calendar and thus preparation needs. More interested readers could get a thorough analysis in late Charlie Francis’ Key Concepts e-book. 

Block training tried to utilize concentrated loading in each block so does residual training effects stays elevated during the next blocks. Again, certain problems were identified like great injury possibility by sudden switch in training emphasis. Carl Valle explained the concept of ‘adaptive stiffness’ (originally coined by late Charlie Francis) in his blog. Because of this we can identify smooth and sharp variations of block transitions.

Complex system is now the most utilized training system in track and field at the moment. One of the biggest shortcomings is the constant need for restorative means due high volume of training. Because of that during certain phases there is a different emphasis on certain groups of exercises/methods.

The point being taken here is that this classification system is based on the organization of the mentioned four groups of exercises/methods. As I always say in my articles training stimulus is compromised of (1) exercises (or means), (2) methods and (3) loads (or stress). Because of this, in my opinion grouping training systems based on the organization of exercises/methods based on the specificity criteria is too simplistic, due the fact that we don’t know the performance goals of each period and loads used.  There might be different emphasis on each group of exercise over the training period and that might be more important than simple presence of the exercises in the training program.

Overall preparation process could be split into the following components:
1.            Technical preparation
2.            Tactical preparation  and decision making
3.            Physical preparation
4.            Psychological preparation and mental toughness
5.            Athlete character, communicational skills and team building
6.            Strategy and game plan

Each sport demand different ratios between the mentioned components and the ratios between subcomponents. For example in physical preparation certain sport might demand more speed or strength, while other might demand more aerobic endurance. The goal setting is based on sport demands and weak and strong characteristic of the athlete.

But for each component of preparation process,  different methods, exercises and loads could be used during certain parts of the training stage. For example, to develop aerobic power in soccer, one can use intervals on bike, 4x4mins at 90-95% HRmax intervals with 3mins recovery or 15/15 intervals at vVO2max (Billat method), running, 4vs4 on 40X40m small sided games, etc. Thus to achieve a certain goal for certain training component all mentioned groups by Bondarchuk could be used (CE, SDE, SPE, GPE). Now the question is how to organize this.

As I mentioned in Planning the Strength Training , What the heck is periodization articles and what Carlo Buzzichelli outlined in Fix Your Periodization Knowledge  (which is maybe the best short article on periodization ever written) certain structure in planning and organizing training could be identified.

First level is periodization of the annual plan into smaller periods for easier management based on competition calendar, sport form concepts (peaking), weather and climatic, facilities available, opponents, training camps, etc. Another task could be said to be  defining/listing training goals based on the sport analysis and athletes evaluation and thus creating a strengths~weaknesses  analysis .

Second level compromises of organization of  development/reaching of the defined goals by the first level.  Carlo Buzzichelli calls this Motor Capacities Integration, but I just call it Second Level or Planning level since goals might be more than bio-motor abilities (see mentioned six training components). There is continuum of solutions how to approach organization of the goals development and  two extremes are parallel and serial. I expanded more on this in mentioned articles. For the sake of giving examples I have created the following graphs of some common solutions.

Traditional approach is to utilize complex-parallel approach to goal development. 

The problem with this approach is great volume of training and non-compatible mixing of certain goals which can decrease the training effects especially with advanced athletes.

The next option is sequential system, where goals are achieved in sequence.

Certain problems can be identified with this sequential approach, like loosing of the achieved training effects (since there is no maintenance loads for goals that are not developed in certain blocks), ‘adaptational stiffness’, monotony, etc.

Recently it is very popular block training concept by Vladimir Issurin where small amount of compatible training goals ( 1-3 goals) are being developed in small number of training blocks (accumulation, transmutation and realization). 

Certainly there are some pro’s and con’s of this system too, based on the sport and the context. Between these three examples there is a whole continuum of the solution which might include gradation of how much certain training goal is emphasized rather than yes-or-no logic (developed or not), which includes maintenance loads but this goes into the third level to a certain degree.

Third level describes how each goal is being developed (along with its sub-goals, for example in strength training how much do we do concentrics, eccentrics, isometrics) , specificity of the means (exercises) and methods used and load progression.  Like I have already mentioned, to develop aerobic power one may use different exercises and methods along with different loads and load progressions (increasing duration of the intervals or number of sets over time, increasing the intensity, frequency, decreasing rest periods, auto-regulating. Etc)
In the following table I provided a short summary of three levels of planning and programming.

First Level
Periodizing annual training plan based on context,  competition schedule and laws of sport form development

Defining/listing training goals based on the sport analysis and athletes evaluation and thus creating a strengths~weaknesses  analysis

Second Level
Organization of  development/reaching of the defined goals
Third Level
Development of sub-goals
Specificity of exercises/methods used
Load progressions and planning (concentrated~distributed)
Microcycle planning (fatigue management)
Tool of Three Levels ™ developed by yours truly, as a analyzing and planning/programming tool

On the following picture I tried to edit Carlo Buzzichelli’s classification chart from mentioned excellent article:

Based on the solutions in each mentioned level, different ‘periodization’ systems can be identified and analyzed. I have purposely bolded the “Specificity of exercises/methods used” in Third level since this is where Bondarchuk classification fits in.

How can we connect these “two worlds” of classifications? Bondarchuk’s classification based on the organization of four groups of exercises and classification based on the organization of goals development? Exercises/method vs. goals. What is first? Chicken or the egg?

In some weird situation, Bondarchuk classification might include training goals too (since certain goals are developed by certain set of exercises and methods), and thus provides a full classification system, but without that feature, it is only the way of classifying training systems based on exercises used and sport form development.

Take a look at ‘traditional system’: based on Bondarchuk it is a stage system, but based on organization of goals development it is complex-parallel. Is this compatible? IMHO, yes it is.
I may be wrong, but with my current knowledge both classifications are important and basically they should be used together. Classification based on the exercises used can tell us how the sport form is planned in the training stage and when  the athlete is peaking in Competition Exercises. Classification based on organization of goals development can tell us how we approached the development of the goals based on the level of the athlete and context.

I would need to agree with Derek Evely that periodization is a BAD word and I think we need to ditch it. Planning strategies is much better explanation of the overall process.

Anyway, the problem is that people are using names along with being dogmatic. Recently, we have been overloaded with words such as: linear periodization, non-linear periodization, daily undulating periodization, undulating periodization, block training, traditional, sequential, pendular, concurrent, conjugate, complex-parallel, Bompa, Matveyev, Verkhoshansky, Westside, Sheiko. What the hell do they all mean? Then we dig even bigger hole by trying to analyze them  without seeing the big picture, without using the Tool of Three Levels ™, without understanding the planning strategies. Most of the mentioned ‘periodizations’ are different types of organizing one or two level of planning.

The problem is that we cannot utilize them as a given pattern/template. We need to understand the problem we have, what we are trying to develop, with who we are working, what context at hand we have.  This is why planning and programming of training is a specific coaching skill, not just a copy-paste action. “Yes, we are using block system”, “and “No, I don’t believe in Westside, I use Sheiko”. Each system is built with specific problem at hand, and that doesn’t necessary need to be the same problem we have at hand.

I consider my approach, along with the approach of Carlo Buzzichelli to be “organic” approach to planning, rather than “mechanistic”.

What we need to do is to understand the concepts and principles of training planning and programming (and training theory in general) and find the pragmatic solution for our own problems and analysis of that problem. What is the competition demanding? What is the level of the athlete, his strong and weak points? How much time do we have? When is the competition? Are the goals of training compatible? What does it take to reach/develop certain goals? How can we maximize the training transfer? Etc, etc.

I am not here to proclaim myself as the training expert, yet rather as the student of training. I might be wrong in some cases here in this blog entry and I admit that I am still researching training theory, sport form phenomena, motor control and learning, physiology, psychology.  By putting this thoughts on “paper” I hope I steered further discussions into new questions and pragmatic solutions, along with providing an “organic” (ecological) viewpoint to training planning and programming. Critiques are welcomed.

Since I don’t want to finish this with pure theory, in the next couple of days I will provide a possible solution to a common preparation problem we have in soccer here in Serbia. Then I guess the info in this article (blog entry) will look more practical. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. 

Merry Christmas folks!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Frame of reference

Take an acceleration phase in sprinting  for an example. Ground reaction force passes through body's center of mass (or slightly outside of it causing certain torque around body's sagital axis) and certain component of it provides the propulsion force. The bigger the propulsion force, the greater the acceleration. The body inclination can affect this, but to get into more incline position some pre-requests needs to be  in place first.

Anyway, recently there are some opinions regarding how to improve this propulsive force which is horizontal to the ground. Most (if not all) of the strength training force vectors are vertical (since the gravity is vertical), thus is is questionable whether strength training improves the ability of the athlete to provide propulsive force which extremely important in acceleration phase.

This is why there is a recent trend toward sled pushes, car pushes and some new exercises (or old, but brought to life one more time) that supposedly work the muscles that are responsible for propulsive force generation.

Did you noticed that we utilized ground as a reference system? What happens if we take the body as a reference system? Just rotate the picture

What happened now? What  does the posture of the athlete look like, and where is the ground reaction force passing through in relation to the athlete's body? Does it looks something like:

Another paralysis by analysis example? Since the body is built to function in a gravity world, the best force capabilities are vertical (to fight gravity) or should I say axial. Let's do a simple experiment. Go to a parking lot, put your car in neutral. First try to maintain erect position of the body and try to push (accelerate) the car. Then incline as much as you can and try to push. Where did you generated the most propulsive force to accelerate the car?

This is exactly why the body goes for an inclined position in acceleration phase. The distinction of vertical and propulsive forces are the results of the analysis (which is constrained by frame of reference we use) and NOT the „real“ forces that the body can differentiate per se and use them accordingly. That's why you incline during the acceleration phases so that the force producing capabilities of the body are oriented toward the task goal of increasing the horizontal acceleration and speed. 

The point being taken here is that you cannot 'train' the propulsive force since the propulsive force is the result of the analysis.  So stop fantasizing about special exercises that target propulsive forces and start doing squats. 

Other 'internal' factors might explain why some athletes are good jumpers and poor sprinters (what distance we are talking about?) and vice versa. I can be wrong, but I can bet that the athletes with the greatest relative squat, squat jump will also have the best speed in first 5 meters out of the blocks. 

If we talk about other types of jumps (reactive, single leg, running, etc) and sprinting distances (5m, 10m, 20m, 40m, 60m, etc) the correlation might be different and the training transfer might be lower due different factors involved. Kelly Baggett wrote an excellent article on Running vs. Jumping and Bret Contreras wrote Load Vector Training article which I suggest as a must read. Am I on the same page with them? I guess I am, still we need to avoid paralysis by analysis by defining the frame of reference. There are research papers that show high correlation and low correlation between jump and sprint performance. With this blog entry I am only putting some more oil in the fire, but I guess I also warn against using/classifying force vectors without taking frame of reference into account.