BC Coaches Blog – Coaches meetings and AGM Summary

We had some interesting and informative educational sessions this past weekend at the 2014 BCA Fall coaches meetings and AGM in Kelowna. Dr Donna Mockler (Fortius Health) has provided Performance Vision Services to Alpine Canada for 25+ years and is the country’s resident expert on diagnostic and performance enhancement vision for sport. She gave our coaches and general membership a talk on sports vision and concussion management. In her presentation she talked about the importance of assessing various parameters of vision for both health and the potential for vision training and diet to enhance performance.
I presented the topic ‘developing power in alpine ski racing’. Specifically, I presented the coaches with information regarding injury reduction training methodology and how to progress strength and plyometric training with development level athletes. I included a number of videos showing these progressions.
All of these presentations can be viewed by going to www.bcalpine.com; resources; forms and files; general meeting; 2014.
The CSCF has now released the Development Level Physical Conditioning Concepts module. This has been a 3 year collaboration between the CSCF and FITSolutions. It is available by following this link http://www.canskicoach.org/en/professional-development/on-line-modules/quick-links-to-modules If you are interested in looking at the material, but do not want to take the course or pay fees, click on demo mode. The Physical Conditioning Concepts module is required for Development Level coaches to become certified.
Finally, as I mentioned in a previous blog, the BCA Fitness testing protocols have been updated. In many ways, the protocol has been simplified to allow coaches to conduct testing with minimal equipment. The assessments are now congruent with the AIM2WIN LTAD document. An addition is the recommendation for coaches to include a basic medical and movement screen as part of their assessment.
All for now,
Andrew.

 

 

Coaches Blog – Warm Up

Last month  I was at the Okanagan Sports Leadership Conference and we had some great workshops, including a presentation from Carmen Bott on strength training and screening developing athletes.  Then  I read an informative article by Eric Cressey on dynamic warm up.  Check out the video here Dynamic Warm up.

This made me reflect a bit on my warm up practises with the various age groups I work with (from 11 to 21 years) and what is appropriate.  I won’t talk here about the ‘physiological’ reasons for a good warm up, but rather focus on the general principles and what goals they may achieve:

  1. Warm up prepares you mentally for your workout.  If you just went in the gym and straight into max squats, I doubt that would go well from either a physical OR mental perspective.
  2. Warm up will reduce the risk of injury in either in the gym or in your sport.
  3. Warm up is an opportunity to work on some of your weaknesses – whether they are issues of stability or mobility, warm up allows you to mobilize certain joints while stabilizing other joints.
  4. Warm up is an opportunity to ‘groove’ movement patterns.  By this I mean we first work on more isolated, controlled movements to mobilize / stabilize certain joints and then progress to more dynamic movements (e.g a ‘lunge’ pattern).  By increasing mobility and /or stability in particular joints that need improvement, we then see reduced compensation patterns in full body movements.
  5. Warm up can contribute to conditioning.  Warm up can last from anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the training phase and the goal.  I change my warm up routines regularly for 2 reasons 1) it is more interesting for the athlete 2) after 3-4 weeks neural adaptations have occurred and so a new stimulus is required.

Here’s my ‘general’ process for a good warm up that I follow in a team setting.  I will have a more specific, individual process in many cases:

  • If time and facilities allow, there is normally an activity at the start to get blood flow going.  This may be biking, treadmill or low intensity skipping for 5-10 mins.
  • Rolling.  Take 5 minutes to work on areas of tightness (self-myofascial release).
  • Corrective exercises (if you have been prescribed these).  These may be in the form of rolling, mobility or stability work.
  • Floor work (rolling, planking, quadruped, crawling etc).  Working joint-by-joint to mobilize.
  • Controlled dynamic.  Athletes work through a series of closed-chain movements (lunge, squats, hip hinge, push).
  • Athletic dynamic.  Typically I’ll do some running-type drills or lateral drills (A-step, lateral shuffles etc).  In the phase, the velocity of movement is increased.
  • Explosive dynamic.  As the first part of the main training segment usually involves some sort of explosive movement (e.g. jumps, Olympic lifts) the final portion should prepare you for this.

If the athletes are going into Olympic lifts, they will then work on ‘movement prep sequences’ which prepare them for that.  For example, if they are doing a clean they might do 4 reps each of front squat, RDL and high pulls at a sub-max weight.

Of course, the warm up must prepare you for the demands of your workout.  So, my warm up will be different depending on what stressors the athletes will encounter in their workout.  Warming up specifically for your sport may look very different from this.  As an example, skiers may work through the first 4 phases of warm up at their hotel/home first thing in the morning.  However, given that there is usually significant lag time between finishing this portion of warm up and then getting to the top of the ski hill (can be 1-2 hrs) much of the warm up needs to be conducted at the top of the hill.  However, the early morning work should not be neglected.

One last thought – I follow this process with athletes regardless of age.  With the young ‘uns, engagement is usually an issue and so I often incorporate some games that work on this stuff while keeping their attention.

All for now,

Andrew

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BC Coaches Blog – Field Testing Protocols Revised

Coaches:
Hope you are all having a great early summer! I have been doing some work on the fitness field testing protocols which were updated a few years back. Of course, we are not reinventing the wheel and so there are only minor changes so this does not reek havoc with your testing. The major changes to the last revised protocol are:

1. Some refinement of testing protocols/procedures
2. Recommendation to include a basic movement screen OR hire a professional to do a standard one such as the FMS (I can go through a basic screen at the fall meetings.)
3. Recommendation to include a basic, standard medical screen.
4. The countermovement jump is now a squat jump from a static position. This was tested at the 2014 TID camp and so I have a lot of data from the HPP/BCST athletes for you to make comparisons (it was done using the ‘just jump’ jump mat system). Rather than asking you to calculate power yourselves through the equation provided, I will work on an excel which does it for you.
5. The Pentajump involves 2 trials on both legs and 2 trials single leg. The previous protocol was just 2 legs. This is particularly important as single leg strength / stability / explosiveness have become a much greater factor with the new skis being introduced.
6. The balance test is out. This is a good training tool. However, it is important to realise the difference between an exercise and a test. A test is easily standardized therefore increasing reliability.
7. I kept the push up test in, despite it being difficult to standardized due to the loss of low back (lumbar) control seen in many athletes. I believe the push up is a fundamental body weight strength exercise that all young athletes should master.
8. I put in some new guidelines for the box test in terms of what is appropriate for the age groups. Most will use reebok step box as standard because it reduces the risk of injury and is found in most gyms. They don’t exactly meet the specs required, however, I believe this is an important safety intervention to avoid skinned shins which frequently occur using a wooden box. There is a note in there which encourages the coach to use discretion when deciding which box height to use. There are some small, immature kids who may dominate the box test, while older athletes will really struggle with 90 seconds. Use your judgement.
9. I have taken the 40 m sprint out. The T-Test has a greater specificity for alpine skiing and requires greater coordination / athleticism. This is not a knock on sprinting for alpine skiers– running / sprinting are fundamental skills which all young athletes should master.

Many of you have access to testing through either the CSI or Pacific Sport. They will provide you with equipment (jump mat; brower timing system) and perhaps administrative support. I recommend connecting with your local sports centre in the lower mainland, Whistler, Okanagan, Kamloops, and PG. Hot off the press – the CSI/Viasport just announced that that will be opening a regional sports centre in the Kooteneys, hopefully in the near future. Location I do not know, but at least there will be more support for programs east of Vernon.

When you have completed your testing, pls send the results to myself and Gordie. We are working on normative data so we can give you an accurate idea of the average and target for each age group and each test. I can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the principle of reliability discussed on P1. Failure to do this affects the results and can then in turn will affect normative data for the province.

Both the testing protocol and a recording form will be uploaded to www.bcalpine.com in the coming days.

I’ll be blogging again more through the summer and fall starting next month. If you have questions regarding testing or dryland, pls don’t hesitate to call.

Thanks to Sead and Tamara for their feedback on testing the development level and helping me with the revisions.

In-season fitness maintenance – Strength or Endurance…or both?

Alpine Skiing In-season Fitness Maintenance – Strength or Endurance…..or both?

 Hi everyone – here’s a summary of my thoughts on endurance training for alpine skiers.  I’d been meaning to write this one for a while as I think it is a hot topic and is relevant whatever the time of year or season we are in.  SummaryBoth strength and endurance are important qualities for alpine ski racers.  Maintaining both of these qualities through the winter is important for consistency of performance.  The research suggests that IT IS possible to train these components of fitness simultaneously.  Power output has been shown to be diminished as a result of combining strength and endurance training, although mode, frequency and duration are key factors.  In one study, those who combined strength training with cycling actually experienced superior gains when compared with athletes who just did strength training (Wilson, 2012).  Therefore, it is recommended that alpine ski racers spend more time cycling to improve/maintain endurance and less time running. However, it is imperative that young athletes are exposed to a variety of endurance training methods, including running, as this is an important component of physical literacy.

For the complete article, please click on the link below.

http://www.fitsolutions-online.com/blog/

Thank you,

Andrew

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BCA Coaches Blog: Injury Reduction Methods 1 – Pump up the Hams!

Injuries Reduction Methods 1 – Pump up the Hams!

In this series of short articles, I’ll give you a few tips on how you can minimize (reduce) the risk of injury through an effective conditioning program.  The knee is a common site of injury for ski racers.  When an athlete encounters high forces which their body is not prepared for, the knee can be placed in a compromised position and injury may result.  There are a variety of areas of conditioning which may be lacking.  Fatigue resulting from poor ‘fitness’ (low cardiovascular conditioning combined with a higher body mass index), a lack of fundamental motor skills, muscle-group asymmetries, poor trunk stabilization and poor core stability are all factors which place the athlete at greater risk.  Of course, the risk is dependent on the demands being placed on an athlete.  Coaches should always provide athletes with an appropriate progression (terrain, snow conditions, speed, forces encountered).  By following a progression in difficulty, the athlete receives neural feedback which will allow them to respond and adapt accordingly. A thorough, progressive warm up should be conducted before every session on and off snow to prepare the athlete for the demands of their sport.

The hamstring muscle group (semitendinosus, semimembranosis and biceps femoris) plays a key role in protecting the knee from injury.  The hamstrings cross both the hip and knee joint and are therefore involved in hip extension and knee flexion, as well as internal and external rotation.  As the knee flexes during a ski turn, the hamstring works to decelerate forces.  I often refer to this as the ‘brakes’.  Here are a few hamstring deficits I often see in young athletes which I aim to correct:

1.            Quad-Dominance:  In this case, the quadriceps group is relatively string and the hamstrings are undeveloped.  A strong hamstring allows the knee to decelerate under force which is highly important for skiers.  I see quad dominance especially in young female athletes.

2.            Ligament dominance:  In this case, the athlete shows a tendency to stress the ligament prior to muscle activation to absorb ground forces.  Again, quad-dominance and poor neuromuscular control of hamstrings are implicated in ligament dominance.

3.            Poor motor control:  A strong hamstring is not much use unless it can be activated in a wide variety of unpredictable situations (e.g. pretty much any sport!).  This is one reason why I include a lot of jumping, agility and balance in my training programs.  I use of a combination of both predictable and unpredictable drills – movement in sport is rarely predictable. Check out an unpredictable agility drill here!

4.            Poor flexibility – I see this particularly in growing males.  As a coach, you have to be patient during this time and encourage your athletes to engage in activities such as mobility training, yoga, stretching and rolling.  Eventually their muscles will increase in the length to an acceptable level but it takes time.

 

What can I do to train the hamstrings in my programs?

 I recommend that on a weekly basis, you include agility training, balance training, jump training and strength training.  In a strength program I always include a hamstring exercise if I have a quad exercise.  In the winter I may focus more on the hamstrings as the quads get plenty of action from skiing.  Here are a few examples of hammy exercises I use periodically:

•             Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

•             Swiss ball roll ins

•             Hip Hikers

•             Face Plants

•             Hamstring curls (on machine)

•             Any movement pattern where you go BACKWARDS.  E.g. backward lunging, backwards hopping, backwards running.

Most interestingly, a recent study concluded that the Romanian deadlift  and Glute-Ham raise movements resulted in the greatest hamstring activity (measured through EMG) when compared with the leg curl and good morning exercises (Graziano et al, 2013).  Personally, I use a wide variety of hamstring exercises periodized in different volumes and intensities through the year.  Bear in mind that only a limited number of exercises were used in the study and there are many exercises that can be effective to strengthen and improve proprioception of hamstrings.

It is important to note that, as a coach, you cannot prevent injuries from happening.  Sometimes bad luck and/or poor decision making are factors.  However, by implementing some basic techniques in your program, you may be able to reduce the risk of injury to your athletes.  Stay posted for the next blog on injury reduction!

 

Sources:

Graziano et al (2013).      Anterior Cruciate Ligament Prevention in the Young Athlete:  Evidence Based Application.  Strength and Conditioning Journal.  25 (3) NSCA.

McAllister et al (2013).    Muscle Activation during various hamstring exercises.  Journal of Strength and Conditoning Research. (release prior to publish).

 

All for now!

Andrew.

 

Disclaimer:  The advice given in this communication is in no way intended as an exercise/nutrition prescription.  Each individual coach/athlete is responsible to decide which training/nutrition methods are appropriate for their athletes based on their assessment.  FITSolutions takes no responsibility for injury or health issues arising from inappropriate use of the methodologies and/or training exercises shared in this email.

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BCA Condiitoning Blog – Concussion Risk Reducation, Recognition and Management

Hi Everyone,

Today’s topic is concussion recognition and management.  Dealing with a concussion can be extremely challenging and frustrating for the athlete, coach and parent.  However, if you follow the simple guidelines set by Think First, you can create a safer training environment and also minimise the risk of further injury to the athlete.  The new concussion Making Head Way eLearning series  is free to coaches for 2 more days, until October 27. These NCCP Professional Development modules will teach coaches the knowledge and skills required to reduce risk and provide appropriate management.  I took the course today – it takes around 1 hr and I found it very beneficial.  In particular, having a clear policy set up at your club included in your code of conduct I think is crucial.  Often concussions can occur around major events and the coach may feel under pressure to put the athlete back in competition.  Having a clear process and guidelines which you can refer to when things get emotional is a key step in dealing with concussions.

FYI – there is a generic module you can take and also some sport specific ones.  I took the generic one as there was not one available for alpine skiing.  However, there was one available for snowboarding which is a similar environment so you may choose to take that option.

Visit the Coaching Association of Canada’s website for more information. While you may already have a clear policy and procedures in place at your club,  I recommend that all our coaches take the time to go through this module.

Andrew

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BCA Conditioning Blog – Dietary Supplements video

Hi Everyone,

I was sent this video today on a topic which I think is highly relevant to your age groups as it was presented at the IYCA (International Youth Conditioning Associations) latest conference.  I did write a blog on this topic earlier this year and this is a good supplement to that (forgive the pun).  It is quite long (1hr) but is a great resource for both you and your parents if they have questions on supplement use with young athletes (<18 years).

A basic summary?  Prior to adulthood and sub-elite/elite level, the focus should be on developing sound nutritional habits with young athletes.  Some supplements can provide an ergogenic benefit to athletes, but only when they are used on the foundation of sound nutrition.

http://www.athletesacceleration.com/series/supplements/

All for now,

Andrew.

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BCA Dryland Blog – Warm Up Part 2: The Benefits of Myofascial Release (Foam Rolling)

Self Myofascial Release – The Benefits of Foam Rolling as Part of Warm Up Routine

Today’s topic is the science behind foam rolling as part of your warm up.  This is a technique I have used for several years with my athletes/clients.  The benefits are fairly obvious when you perform foam rolling regularly.  Personally, I notice significant reductions in pain and stiffness the day after a rolling session.  I have been able to alleviate long term issues I have in my shoulders and hips when I included foam rolling in addition to other corrective exercise. With clients, I have also noticed that when performing rolling exercises on key muscle groups, they are able to achieve better range of motion early in their workout.

Myofascial release is a technique which has been used by therapists for years to improve muscle elasticity and reduce inflammation.  If you are lucky enough to have a full time therapist who works with you daily, good for you.  The vast majority of athletes do not.  Self-Myofascial release (e.g. rolling) is a practical alternative which individuals can use at low cost.  It is portable and is easy to instruct.

I will not attempt an in depth description of how to conduct a rolling session.  In short, the roller should be placed at the point of the muscle nearest to the midline of the body (proximal).  The person then rolls in an undulating, back and forth fashion along the muscle, pausing on more sensitive areas, towards the end of the muscle (distal point).  The person’s body mass will be sufficient to provide the force required.  The friction produced during this motion produces heat and allows the fascia to transform to a more fluid state while also reducing fibrous adhesions or ‘hot spots’.

 

A Little Physiology…..

 The fascia is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles and groups of muscles, blood vessels and nerves, adhering some structures together, while allowing others to slide smoothly over each other (see pic below).  A healthy, hydrated fascia is essential for athletes to maintain a full, pain free range of motion.  For athletes, fascial restrictions may occur following a variety of situations including periods of inactivity (travel, illness, injury) and following intense training sessions when both muscle fiber damage and inflammation occur.  The fascia may become dehydrated and lose elasticity which in turn results in its binding to areas where the trauma occurred.  So-called fascial adhesions, or ‘hot spots’, can affect performance in a number of different ways.  Muscle length is hard to restore due to fascial restriction and as a result, range of motion (ROM) is negatively impacted.  ‘Hot spots’ can be painful and sensitive – this may adversely affect motor control and the autonomic nervous system (e.g. sympathetic vs parasympathetic dominance).  Both strength and endurance may be reduced as a result of fascial tightness (MacDonald et al, 2013).andrew 2

What is the science behind rolling?

 Establishing range of motion (ROM) prior to a training session is an integral part of the warm up.  The primary method which athletes use to improve ROM is through a variety of stretching methods.  However, significant research exists (for example, Behm et al, 2011) suggesting that prolonged static stretching directly before training results in a loss of both strength and power.  I will discuss the role of static stretching in warm up later in this article.

In recent study (MacDonald et al, 2013), it was reported that 2 minutes of quadriceps/IT band rolling exercise led to an increased range of motion around the knee joint without any loss of strength and power.  The practical implication of this is that, by including foam rolling in the warm up, athletes can enjoy the benefits of improved ROM without decreasing strength.  Very few studies have been conducted to fully support this finding, but the results are promising.

Evidence suggests a loss of strength occurs following a prolonged period (40 mins) of massage therapy (Arroyo-Morales et al, 2008).  Therefore, long periods of massage therapy, including rolling,  are not recommended prior to a workout to improve range of motion.  The loss of strength is perhaps due to the duration of massage or rolling, as suggested by MacDonald et al (2013).  When preparing for a training session, spending more than 2 minutes rolling each muscle group may have deleterious effects.

 

Foam Rolling in Practise:

 Self-Myofascial release can take a number of forms, but I would like to highlight the primary techniques I use:

•             The Foam Roller:  If you have ever had a proper sports massage, you will know that these can be highly painful as the masseuse is performing myofascial release and needs to exert significant pressure to achieve this.  Research demonstrated that a PVC roller surrounded by a foam layer increased pressure to soft tissue and was more effective in terms of isolating muscle ‘hot spots’ when compared with a soft, polystyrene roller (Curran et al, 2008).  Some brands of foam roller can cost $50+ as so it is easy to construct you own.  In fact, an investment of $30 (3 ft length of PVC piping, cheap yoga mat and glue) will allow you to construct 1 large or 2 small rollers.  I use the foam roller on some of my bigger muscle groups including the IT bands, the quadriceps, the glutes, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles.  If something is very tender, I switch to the softer roller.  Foam rollers are great because you use your own body weight to exert the pressure required.

•             The Rolling Stick:  The stick can be a great tool, however, the disadvantage is that it is often hard to exert enough pressure.  I use the stick on my lower leg (anterior tibialis, gastroc, soleus).  I have frequent tightness through my lats and traps and so I find that having a partner exert downward force on these areas is very effective in dealing with my ‘hotspots’.

•             A variety of balls:  While you can go and buy self-massage balls at any fitness store, I simply use a tennis ball, or 2 tennis balls taped together, which I find especially useful to find hotspots and massage my upper back (middle, low traps, rhomboids, lats).

 

How should I structure the warm up?

In practise, I frequently have athlete showing up for training tight and sore.   ROM should be restored as much as possible before attempting any performance elements of the workout.  This may reduce the risk of injury and will allow proper movement mechanics.  There are many different regimens for warm up – this is the protocol I follow with my athletes/clients:

Phase #1:             10-15 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise (e.g. stationery bike).  This phase is important to increase muscle blood flow/temperature.  I also find it helps the athlete tune into their workout.

Phase#2:              2 mins rolling each tight / sore area.

Phase#3:              Specific static stretching.  Research has clearly shown that static stretching, as a stand-alone activity prior to a workout, can be detrimental to performance (Behm et al 2011).  However, Taylor et al (2008) demonstrated that if a sports specific warm up is conducted following static stretching, the negative effects of static stretching are eliminated (e.g. explosiveness and strength are restored).  I argue that the workout quality will be significantly reduced in the presence of tightness/restrictions.  Therefore, in warm up, my athletes will stretch individual areas of tightness following rolling to further restore ROM.

Phase#4:              Specific warm up 10 mins.  This warm up begins with controlled ballistic (dynamic) type stretches and progresses into a specific warm up. For example, if the athlete is doing a max strength session, the warm up prepares them for that.  If they have an on-hill ski session, the warm up will look different to a weights workout.  Whatever, the desired outcome, the specific warm up will be progress towards high intensity movements which prepare them to be athletic.  For example, if your warm up is preparation for a soccer game, the specific component should involve short sprints, jumps and rapid direction change.  The goal is not to induce fatigue that will negatively impact the workout or activity so keep the intense part of your warm up fairly short and specific.

 

Over the years, I have noticed that a greater attention to warm up has both reduced the prevalence of injury among the athletes I work with as well as increasing their functionality during workouts.  Foam rolling is now an integral element in warm up for my athletes, as well as a therapy to maintain pain-free range of motion.

All for now,

Andrew.

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Disclaimer:  The advice given in this communication is in no way intended as an exercise/nutrition prescription.  Each individual coach/athlete is responsible to decide which training/nutrition methods are appropriate for their athletes based on their assessment.  FITSolutions takes no responsibility for injury or health issues arising from inappropriate use of the methodologies and/or training exercises shared in this email.

BC Dryland Blog – Warm Up Part 1: The Benefits of Static Stretching

Hello,

Over the last couple of years, I have integrated the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and corrective strategies into many of my athletes/teams programs.  This system led me to some different methodologies and new research regarding the subject of static stretching before a workout.  Static stretches involve holding a body part in a fixed position for a period of time, with the goal of lengthening muscles, thereby improving flexibility.  In the past, it was common to see static stretching routines conducted before a workout or sports practise.  However, in recent years (the last 10-15 or so….), the paradigm has shifted towards using only dynamic and ballistic type stretches prior to intense activity.  This shift was based on the finding that static stretching prior to intense activity had little impact on injury reduction and was of detriment to physical performance as it reduced the ability to produce force (Swanson, 2006).  In this article, I will challenge the notion that static stretching should be completely omitted from a warm up and share what I currently do with my athletes.

Why do we do a warm up?

On a general level, the goal of warm up is to reduce the risk of injury, improve performance and prepare the athlete psychologically for their training or competition..  On a more specific level, the physiological outcomes of warm up should be:

·        Increase muscle temperature (increases muscle elasticity)

·        Increase joint viscosity (joints can move feely)

·        Increase oxygen availability

·        Increase neural activity

A generally accepted method of warm up, which I have used until quite recently, would involve the following approach:

·        Phase 1 – Increase blood flow to the periphery (muscles).  Usually, this involves 10-15 minutes of low intensity aerobic activity.

·        Phase 2 – Mobility work.  In this phase, the focus is on range of motion (ROM) throughout all joints and segments.  Here, the focus is on dynamic stretches emphasizing mobility through the ankle, knee, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder.

·        Phase 3 – Central Nervous System (CNS) priming.  In this phase, the focus moves to specifically preparing for whatever workout or practise is planned.  Examples of CNS priming include low-intensity plyos, sport specific drills and/or warm up sets for weight lifting.

 

This warm up would last anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the nature of the workout main segment.  Over the years, I would say that this method has been quite successful, and so at first I was a little reluctant to change my approach.  As a rule, I saved static stretches to be used in focused flexibility sessions.

A number of studies have concluded that dynamic type movements are most appropriate to improve performance.  McMillian, Moore, Hatler and Taylor (2006) suggested that one possible mechanism performance improves is through post-activation-potentiation (PAP), or an increase in rate of force development and twitch force which occurs after dynamic movements.  This study found that subjects produced higher scores in tests of power and agility when they performed dynamic exercises only, when compared with subjects who completed static stretches only or no warm up.  This study is one of many which demonstrates that using only static stretching before a workout is detrimental to performance.

A study by Taylor, Sheppard, Lee and Plummer (2008) aimed to assess the effectiveness of a warm up protocol which combined static stretching followed by a dynamic, sport specific warm up.  Following this warm up, athletes completed a number of tests stressing speed and strength.  Their findings were compelling.  When the athlete followed a sport specific (dynamic) routine after 15 minutes of static stretching, no performance decrements were found when compared with dynamic stretching only.

The big question is, why would static stretching be necessary prior to a workout?  A primary goal of the warm up is to increase mobility around joints so they can move more freely.  Many athletes have tight or inhibited areas in their body which limit movement.  Before attempting high intensity exercises (e.g. a heavy squat or plyometric), mobility must be established.  If the athlete has poor mobility and/or muscle activation caused by poor mobility, then compensatory strategies will be used to produce high force.  Gray Cook (2010) called this the ‘over-powered athlete’ on his performance pyramid.  Such athletes are able to produce high levels of force/velocity but have poor mobility which forces compensation elsewhere.  Poor squat mechanics (e.g. excessive torso lean) are an example of how poor mobility  results in a compensation strategy.  Even worse, often you see an athlete increasing load to a squat in this position.  This type of athlete is setting themselves up for future injury.  A tip for coaches – if your athlete repeatedly can’t to a back squat with perfect mechanics, then switch to front squat.  Most athletes can do this properly with coaching and as a result load the spine safely.

Static stretching can be used prior to dynamic/sports specific drills as a corrective strategy.  Athletes should work on lengthening tight/short muscles early in their warm up reduce inhibition and improve overall quality of movement.  Following static stretching, a dynamic warm up can be used to increase blood flow, mobility and CNS activation.   There are many different static or ‘corrective’ exercises which can be prescribed.  Gray Cook has written 2 great books (see reference list) which demonstrate corrective exercise.  I use the Functional Movement Screen, developed by Gray Cook and his colleagues, to assess both mobility and stability and identify weak links www.functionalmovement.com  However, there are many other ways to assess athletes.  The sit n’ reach test, I have to say, is a bit primitive.  Every athlete, particularly a growing athlete, has a different anthropometric profile (longer arms, long legs, short torso) and this influences the test results.  Plus there is no transfer to real athletic situations.  I use the FMS because all the screens used are relevant to athletic movement and the screen is objective.  You get a score out of 21.  Athletes with a score lower than 14 are statistically more likely to get injured.  From the results, you find the weakest link and apply corrective exercise to improve this.  Success is measured by your score increasing.

New research is there to be applied so, in response, here is the protocol I now follow with my athletes before an intense strength training session:

·        Stage 1 – 5-10 minutes light aerobic exercise (increase muscle temp).  Many coaches have omitted this phase, but I personally like to be warm before I start doing anything else.

·        Stage 2 – Reduce fascial tightness.  Foam rolling ‘sensitive’ areas.

·        Stage 3 – ‘Corrective exercise’.  Work on weaknesses we identified in the FMS, or simply stretch areas that feel tight.  Here is where I use static stretching or isolated stretches.

·        Stage 4 – Dynamic mobility (e.g. lunge step, overhead squat w/ dowel, squat patterns)

·        Stage 5 – CNS priming (low-intensity plyos, shuffles, sprint components).

I should point out that the final phase is always specific to whatever workout, practise or competition is planned.  Specific drills should prepare the athlete for better performance while reducing injury risk.  In the weights room, if we are doing heavy lifts, these are preceded by a few reps with a sub-maximal weight.

There are a vast range of methodologies and approaches to develop your own warm up routine other than what I have presented here.  This is simply how I think warm up is most effective based on the most up to date information I have.  The take home message is that a comprehensive warm up is crucial to both reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance.

All for now,

Andrew.

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References:

Cook, G. (2010). Movement. On Target Publications, Aptos, CA.

Cook, G. (2003). Athletic Body in Balance. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.

McMillian, D.J., Moore, J.H., Hatler, B.S., Taylor, D.C. (2006). Dynamic vs Static Stretching Warm up:  The Effect on Power and Agility Performance. Journal of Stength and Conditioning Res. 20(3), 492:499

Swanson, J.R. (2006) A Functional Approach to Warm up and Flexibility.  Strength and Conditioning Journal. 28(5), 30-36

Taylor, K.L., Sheppard, J.M., Lee, H., Plummer, N. (2008). Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with a sports specific warm up component.  Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 12, 657-661.

Disclaimer:  The advice given in this communication is in no way intended as an exercise/nutrition prescription.  Each individual coach/athlete is responsible to decide which training/nutrition methods are appropriate for their athletes based on their assessment.  FITSolutions takes no responsibility for injury or health issues arising from inappropriate use of the methodologies and/or training exercises shared in this email.

 

BCA Dryland Blog – Recovery Strategies for Athletes

RECOVERY STRATEGIES FOR ATHLETES

Doing a better job of recovery is one of the most potent training tools an athlete can use.  If you are working with development level athletes, spending time educating athletes on how they can maximize their recovery time is critical to their success.  In most cases, over-reaching and over-training are not really a concern as the training frequency is insufficient to cause this.  However, when you couple a heavy training load with inadequate recovery, a busy social life and other emotional stressors, it is common that athletes become consistently fatigued and this no doubt impacts their training adaptations.

The graph below suggests that if we introduce an appropriate training stimulus (e.g something that challenges homeostasis – it must be hard) then we create fatigue.    Over time, if we continue to apply appropriate training balanced with effective recovery, the body adapts (supercompensation) and fitness improves.  If we fail to recover (e.g. too many hard sessions, insufficient recovery time) we enter an over-reaching phase of training.  This is actually quite desirable in some training blocks.  However, if the athlete fails to fully recover at the end of the block and then starts intense training again, this cycle of events will lead to underperformance and potentially over-training.  Conversely, if the training stimulus is too easy, the body will fail to super-compensate and fitness is not improved.

andrew

We had a great talk from Dr Trent Stellingwerff in Whistler May 2013 regarding recovery. Here are a few notes I took from the presentation, plus a few things I added myself.

Recovery modalities (should be used in some form DAILY)

1.            The cold tub – use these after a new workout or unaccustomed load and you are anticipating muscle soreness.  The tub should be at around 15C (NOT ice cold) and you sit in there around 10 mins.

2.            Hot/cold tubs – these are for high fatigue days following an intense workout.  Go at a ratio of 2:2 (hot:cold) x 4.

3.            Active recovery  – doing light aerobic exercise (10bpm below zone 2) stimulates blood flow to the muscles, delivering oxygen to removing metabolic by products.  After a tough strength workout, you should spin for 15 minutes.  At the end of a tough bike workout (e.g. hill climbs) do an easy spin for 15 mins.

4.            Pool workouts / swimming – these are great as they are low impact (minimal eccentric actions) while allowing the joints to go through a pain free range of motion and allowing increased oxygen delivery to recovering / sore muscles.

5.            Rolling and stretching – various rolling modailities allow athletes to work on trigger points or hot spots in muscles that would otherwise require sports massage.  There are a variety of ways to do ‘stretching’, however, following an intense workout, it is important to return the muscle to its normal (resting) length to allow metabolic recovery.

6.            Yoga – optimal recovery is both physiological and emotional.  Yoga is a great form of recovery as it incorporates breathing and relaxation techniques as well as working on whole body mobility and stability.

Hydration

Maintaining hydration becomes a significant challenge in particular circumstances.  The main way in which we lose heat during exercise is by evaporation of sweat from the skin.  Hydration and electrolyte balance will be challenged more in hot/cold/humid environments.  It is possible during an intense exercise session in the heat to lose ~2 liters of fluid through sweat per hour.  The best way in which for an athlete to gauge fluid loss is by starting the session hydrated (urine is a light lemon colour).  Weigh yourself before and after to determine weight loss.  It is important if you have sweated profusely to use an electrolyte based drink (e.g. Gatorade).  Following the initial recovery period, switch to pure water.  Remember, if you eat following a workout, you are likely ingesting sufficient electrolytes depending on the food – the electrolytre drink is just convenient during and directly after the workout.  There is no magic number for how much water (e.g. 10 glasses a day), other than to say that your body weight should be restored to pre-exercise levels.  Your urination should be a light lemon colour and it is recommended that you start the day with a glass of water due to the dehydrating effects of sleep (e.g. 7-9 hrs without fluids).  Try to get most of your fluids in before the evening as excessive fluid consumption later in the day will lead to sleep disruption.

Pay particular attention to hydration in the following conditions:

1.            During long workouts when you sweat for an extended period.

2.            Training at altitude (ventilation is higher and the air is cooler and drier – both of these circumstances lead to increased fluid loss).

3.            Training in the cold – your need to warm and humidify cold/dry air and so this leads to greater fluid loss.

Nutrition

Following workouts, replacement of lost nutrients is crucial to your energy for the next workout and for muscle repair/growth:

1.            Glycogen synthesis is most rapid immediately following a workout.  So, it is very important to have a source of carbohydrate(CHO) directly following the workout.  This should be easily absorbed (e.g. CHO drink, energy bar, high glycemic index snack).  Then, have a full meal within 2 hrs of the workout.  Other meals should contain more nutrient dense sources of CHO (e.g. whole grain breads, wild/brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, yams).  Avoid delaying CHO intake as glycogen synthesis will be reduced and your training the next day will be impacted.

2.            Getting quality proteins (amino acids) in your body is important through the day to ensure a positive nitrogen balance.  This creates an anabolic environment in which the muscle can recover/rebuild and new muscle growth can occur.  It is important to have a source of quality protein with every meal (e.g. lean meats, eggs, dairy).  Before/during/after your workout research suggests that beyond 20g of protein, very little can actually be absorbed and used for muscle synthesis.  So, mega doses of protein while neglecting protein at other meals will be ineffective.  Taking a supplemental form of protein before/during/after workouts is practical for athletes as it is convenient and absorbed quickly.  Whey protein isolate is the best choice, in particular due to the higher concentrations of the essential amino Leucine which has been shown to be very potent in stimulating muscle synthesis.

3.            Antioxidants – Athletes are under increased oxidative stress from a busy training schedule.  Eating a diet which is high in fresh fruits and vegetables can have a positive effect on overall inflammation in the body as well as overall health.

Sleep

Likely the most important aspect of recovery!  Your body undergoes the greatest regeneration during deep sleep.  The main principles are fairly obvious to most people, and yet many struggle to get a good nights sleep and wake up feeling heavy and tired.  Good sleep means:

•             Falling asleep within 30 mins of laying down and not waking up regularly in the night.

•             Getting between 8-10 hrs for an athlete aged 15-20.  Everyone is different, but this is a ball park.

•             Avoid excessive alcohol  (more than 1-2 units)

•             Avoid caffeine, especially past noon (some people are more sensitive than others)

•             Practise sleep hygiene (no TV in your room, room is dark and temperature is comfortable.  Noise is minimal.  If you can’t control noise, then a white noise machine can be very useful)

•             Perhaps de-stressing before sleep.  If you feel wound up, meditation can help calm your central nervous system.

 

Having effective recovery strategies is equally important to the actual training you do and can expedite your progress dramatically.  This is not an exhaustive list, but covers the basics.

 

All for now,

Andrew.

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