Home Posts tagged "Energy Systems"

8 Takeaways From Complete Sports Conditioning

I've spent the early part of the week working my way through Mike Boyle's new resource, Complete Sports Conditioning. To say that I've been impressed has been an understatement, as it's a fantastic resource that offers a nice blend of research, anecdotal observations, actual programming recommendations for those who need to manage energy systems development in athletes. It's on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Friday.

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That said, Mike's presentations got me thinking about a variety of conditioning-related topics, so I figure I'd do a bit of a brain dump here to highlight some of my favorite take-home points from this resource. 

1. This quote kicked off Mike's initial presentation on the right foot! 

Using extra conditioning to try to enhance "mental toughness" might yield some benefits in young athletes who have larger windows of adaptation in work capacity - and because just about anything works for untrained athletes. In more experienced athletes, however, throwing in a bunch of extra conditioning usually just leads to increased injury rates - and the realization that it's super challenging to try to take the spots off a leopard.

2. You don't have to be an aerobic rock star; you just have to be good enough.

I deal with a lot of baseball players, and it's important that they have a solid aerobic base. This allows them to bounce back faster between bouts of intense exercise (i.e., throwing 95mph or running to first base) and training sessions. They don't have to have elite aerobic capacity, though.

We've always used a resting heart rate below 60 as our standard for a "sufficient" aerobic base with the baseball guys, and it was good to hear Mike reaffirm this (referencing Dave Tenney of the Seattle Sounders).

Honestly, most guys show up at the start of the offseason with a sufficient aerobic base (via this measure) because it's something that is relatively easy to maintain once established. As Mike noted, “You can get ten minutes of aerobic work with a good warm-up.”

And, as I noted in Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits, we will do exactly that (albeit with extended warm-ups) with our guys in the first month of the offseason.

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There has definitely been an industry-wide trend of heavily emphasizing aerobic base work - and that's a good thing - but we have to be careful about taking it too far with athletes who have other important qualities they need to train. That said, remember that very low intensity work (below 70% of max heart rate) affords "easy gains" that can promote recovery and help with long-term adaptations to training, so if folks have the time for it, adding a little bit in won't hurt (assuming the modality is appropriate).

3. Appreciate the interaction between biomechanics and physiology.

It's our natural tendency to get "boxed in" based on our specialty. As an example, I'm a shoulder and elbow guy, so I'm naturally going to be drawn to learning more about those joints as opposed to seeking out continuing education on the foot and ankle, even though that's my biggest weakness. It's just like training athletes; they like to do what they're already good at, and as coaches, we need to be cognizant of giving them what they need.

This has parallels in the conditioning discussion. Many coaches will be incredibly physiology driven, meaning they understand the cardiovascular and (possibly) endocrine responses to a given training protocol. However, in my experience, these folks are often the most likely to overlook the biomechanical side of things, and that has an even larger contribution to injury risk in athletes. Mike demonstrated that he's a guy who understands both sides of the equation well. A few key points that stood out:

a. With treadmills, the athlete isn’t creating hip extension. Rather, the belt moving is creating hip extension.

b. Most "traditional" conditioning - all cardio equipment and straight-ahead sprinting - occurs almost exclusively in the sagittal plane, but most sports injuries involve frontal and transverse plane challenges that go uncontrolled. Incorporating slideboards and change-of-direction work like shuttle runs to conditioning programs is imperative to check both the biomechanics and physiology boxes.

c. Rowing might be blast heart rate up, but from a biomechanical standpoint, it can irritate a lot of lower backs and hips. I've even seen folks deal with forearm/elbow overuse issues from adding in extra gripping with rowing on top of their normal lifting programs. It's probably not an awesome conditioning option for team sports athletes.

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d. Shuttle runs are far more intensive than tempo runs because of the deceleration/acceleration components involved with changing direction - but they also allow you to train to prevent injuries better than straight-ahead running (even if heart rates are matched to the tempo approach).

This leads to...

4. Year-round competitive play may have eliminated the need for "conditioning."

When athletes is playing hockey, soccer, basketball, or some other conditioning-heavy sport, they are stressing both the same movement patterns/muscles and the same energy systems. And, if you think extra conditioning is going to help a basketball player who is already playing five games per week, you're sorely mistaken. If you add more in, you're likely going to increase injury risk and lose valuable training time that would be better focused on enhancing other athletic qualities like strength and power. 

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5. Heart rate based training is superior to time-based interval training.

Time-based interval training prescription is very arbitrary, and Mike demonstrated it in real-time with a collection of athletes from different backgrounds performing conditioning on heart rate monitors. When time during the "hard" portion of the interval is matched, athletes will have a lot of variability in how quickly their heart rates recover. A 15s: 45s work: rest ratio might be a piece of cake for one athlete, but absolutely crush another one. 

Cardiac drift - a phenomenon where heart rate will gradually trend upward as a training session progresses - will likely exaggerate this even further. The further up it goes during the "work" period, the further down it'll have to come during the "rest" portion.

The take-home point is that monitoring heart rate allows you to individual conditioning in a way that promotes faster adaptation - and gives you peace of mind that you're actually training what you want to train.

6. Maximum heart rate is highly variable.

At Cressey Sports Performance - Florida, we have a 57-year-old client who is a competitive skisurf (ocean paddling) racer. His max heart rate is 180 beats per minute, which effectively blows the "220 minus age" model for predicting max heart rate out of the water. Mike Boyle is about the same age, and he mentioned that he, too, can get up to the 180bpm mark. 

Conversely, I'm sure there are other folks who can't come close to their age-predicted max heart rate. I'm 35 years old, and I'm not sure that I could touch 185bpm, as I always seem to be an "under responder" when it comes to monitoring heart rate.

The point is that you never know unless you measure it and plan accordingly. Having an idea of both resting and max heart rate is really helpful for planning things out.

7. "If I have young kids, the last thing I am going to be worried about is fitness, and the first thing I’m going to be worried about is fastness."

I loved this quote and absolutely plan to steal it (thanks, Mike). If we are talking about SPORTS conditioning, the faster athlete should theoretically always win, and that's why it's so important to start with speed development. This comes through getting stronger and training power.

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Starting with speed is also particularly important because fatigue is the enemy of motor learning. If we want young athletes to pick up new skills, we can't introduce these challenges with a huge conditioning element that may impede that development. Sure, aerobic exercise offers benefits for motor learning, but as we noted earlier, most young athletes are already getting an "accidental" aerobic stimulus with some of their other training. As the saying goes:

[bctt tweet="Move well before you move a lot."]

If I had to ballpark an age, I'd say that it would be a bad idea to do targeted aerobic work with anyone under 15 years old. Free play and multiple sports is the name of the game up through age 12, and then the 13-15 year-old athlete has remarkable windows of adaptation for strength and power, making this a perfect time to initiate more targeted strength and conditioning work. Specific low-intensity steady state work just gets pushed out because athletes have to be athletic and work on the most pressing growth areas.

Apologies to all the middle school cross country coaches who are reading this!

8. Good conditioning programming is heavily based on common sense.

If you're ever struggling to really appreciate what athletes need, sit back and watch the sport. Appreciate how much ground an athlete covers, how much time is spent at maximum speed, how many changes of direction take place, and how much time he/she spends with the ball/puck. These observations will tell you just as much as researching the energy systems demands.

These are really just a very small tip of the iceberg with respect to what this excellent resource contains, so I'd definitely recommend you check it out for yourself, especially since it's on sale for $100 off through tomorrow (Friday) at midnight. You can check it out HERE

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5 Mistakes Beginner Lifters Make

A lot has been made of how easily one can make progress in the first year of strength training programs.  It’s possible for beginner lifters to drop body fat and gain muscle mass at rates faster than these individuals will ever experience again during their training careers.

However, very little attention is paid to how much can also go wrong during this initial period.

Beginner lifters can pick up on bad technique that leads them down bad “movement paths” that lead to injuries down the road.  As Gray Cook has noted, you never want to lay fitness on top of dysfunction.

Additionally, these beginner strength training participants can gain a false sense of what effective programming really is.  If the basic muscle magazine garbage plan worked, then why allow your training program to evolve from there? You got strong on sets of 8-15 reps and used the Smith machine a ton, so why would you ever want to lower the number of reps per set or head over to the free weight area?

The point is that we’ve measured progress too much in terms of how people look and too little in terms of how people feel and move.  The truth is that it’s possible for beginner lifters to improve in all three areas with quality programming from the get-go.  With that in mind, I thought I’d outline five mistakes beginners commonly make in their quest to make serious fitness gains.  The timing of the post is actually quite fitting, as Mike Robertson introduced his awesome new Bulletproof Athlete resource.  I think this program has instantly set the new standard for an ideal beginner template.

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Anyway, without further ado, here are those five mistakes:

1. Overlooking the Value of Quality Nutrition

Let’s face it: there are a lot of frat boys out there who start lifting in college, and make ridiculous progress in spite of the fact that they crush beer, nachos, and chicken wings for about 75% of their total caloric intake.  That doesn’t mean optimal nutrition can’t expedite process and – just as importantly – set the stage for a better internal environment for long-term progress.  Just remember that even if you just want to “bulk like crazy” to start up, those fat cells are with you for life once you’ve made them.

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2. Not Building Work Capacity

Most beginners will build work capacity just by continuing to show up for training sessions and “surviving” the workouts.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re adapting optimally to set the stage for long-term progress.

That said, in light of the “interval training is awesome and steady-state cardio is useless” propaganda of the past few years, there are a lot of people who completely omit steady-state cardio form their training programs – opting either for no supplemental conditioning or for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) only.  While some HIIT is certainly appropriate and acceptable, it’s not a good idea to completely overlook the value of building an aerobic base.

This aerobic component early on helps to optimize during- and between-session recovery – which, in turn, enables a trainee to get in more quality work over the long-term.  In fact, some of my best gains came during my “intermediate” lifting career when I was doing low-intensity cardio twice a week for 20-30 minutes.  As I wrote all the way back in 2005 in Cardio Confusion, as long as the intensity is low enough, it won’t interfere with strength or muscle mass gains.

3. Not Appreciating Soft Tissue and Mobility Work

When you’re a gung-ho beginner, nothing can stop you.  You feel great for every training session and just want to keep working harder and harder when the mirror gives you great feedback.  The problem, however, is that it’s hard to see the forest through the trees.  In this case, your abs or biceps are the trees, and the forest is how you’ll feel in ten years if you don’t go down a path that includes foam rolling and mobility work.  Rolling around on the floor on a stupid cylinder isn’t sexy, and doing side-lying windmills really isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, but trust me when I say that it makes a difference over the long haul.  And, the people who have the most continuity in their training career are the ones who make the best long-term process. 

I attribute a lot of my success in the weight room to the fact that I rarely get sick, and haven’t had any significant injuries over the year. In fact, at one point, I went eight years without missing a planned training session.  It took a storm with 38” of snow to get me to push a lift back a day!  I’m not saying you have to be this neurotic, but at the very least, set aside 8-10 minutes before you train to take care of your body.

4. Training Through or Around Injuries Instead of Fixing Them

Everyone has rolled an ankle at some point of another.  And, most people have had a cranky shoulder after a few hours of painting or playing catch.  There are obviously a lot of other examples of old “wear and tear” we might discount as normal and non-problematic.

There’s a problem, though: adding external load often brings these issues to threshold. A bum shoulder might not bother you grabbing a glass on the top shelf, but it’ll start to bark when you’re military pressing a significant amount of weight.  Don’t ignore these issues!

You see, we’re all resilient when we’re in our teens and early 20s, but things get a lot tougher as we get older for two main reasons.  First, we acquire structural abnormalities – bone spurs, rotator cuff tears, disc hernations, even fractures – that we never perceive until it’s too late.  Second, as we get older, degenerative changes kick in much faster, as tissues just can’t handle the same loading they once did. 

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The more proactive you can be with addressing old aches and pains at the start of a training career, the more likely you are to avoid missing significant training time for one of those issues down the road.

5. Getting Away from Compound Exercises Too Quickly

There’s nothing wrong with direct arm work if you want big arms.  However, early on in a training program, chin-ups and bench presses are going to give you a more impressive gun show than you’d get from curls and pressdowns.  Down the road, these isolation exercises may serve a valuable role, but build a solid foundation before you cross that road.  And, make sure the compound exercises remain the central focus all along.

These five mistakes are just a small sample of some of the flawed approaches a lot of beginners take; I'd love to hear your thoughts on the many more you've witnessed - or made yourself!  In the meantime, I'd highly recommend checking out Robertson's Bulletproof Athlete program if you're a beginning lifter or you work with those just getting into the "iron game."  It's a professionally organized, well written presentation of the right way to start people up with a comprehensive fitness program, from strength training, to mobility work, to energy systems development, to recovery/regeneration and nutrition. You can check it out HERE.

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Energy Systems Development: A Presentation You Need to Watch

You know how everyone has that one friend who is just absurdly smart?  You know, the kind of person who could hear something once, instantly remember it, and then instantly apply it in a productive manner?

Unfortunately, not all these people are all that motivated, so they may take their impressive ability to learn and leverage it to the max by studying everything they can get their hands on.  However, when you do find one of them who is ultra motivated, you wind up with game changers.  In our industry, guys like Bill Hartman and Charlie Weingroff are two that come to mind: quick learners who love to learn and apply.

That said, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I realized that I had one of these in the making as an intern at Cressey Performance in the summer of 2011.  You may have even heard of him by now: Eric Oetter.  And, as this somewhat recent photo demonstrates, he's only 13 years old.

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Okay, the age was a joke, but the brain power isn't. In addition to interning at CP, he's also spent a lot of quality time at Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman's facility in Indianapolis, and undertaken a bunch of continuing education coursework (PRI, DNS, and several other schools of thought).

That said, to make a very long story short, Eric's making a name for himself in the industry - and as a little example of it, I'd strongly encourage you to check out this free video on Energy Systems Development he did as part of the pre-launch for Robertson's Bulletproof Athlete resource.  You'll need to opt in to view it, but I guarantee you'll find it to be well worth it. 

In this presentation, Eric discusses a lot of the myths surrounding aerobic exercise and energy systems development.  Most importantly, though, he provides practical recommendations to help you put this knowledge into action to improve your training programs, regardless of whether your goal (or your athletes' goals).  I learned some good stuff, and I'm sure you will, too.  Here is the link to check it out.

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