Resistance for Acceleration

Sprinting has been described as consisting of a series of phases: an acceleration phase (typically the first 10 metres), a transition phase, and a maximum velocity phase.  For sports such as soccer, rugby, hockey, football and basketball, maximum velocity is not always attained, and repeated short sprints are more common.  Taking this into consideration, the ability to develop speed in as short a time as possible (acceleration) may be of high importance to many athletes.  It has been proposed that acceleration and maximum velocity are relatively separate and specific qualities.

An athlete’s ability to accelerate his or her body during sprinting is dependent on several factors.  These factors include technique and the force production capability of the body, in particular the leg muscles.  It has been shown that the technical aspects may have less importance for the acceleration phase of performance than for a typical sprinting event.  For example, in many sports the athletes have to accelerate from a lying or crouching position, from landing on 1 leg and pivoting, from catching a ball, and so on.  Therefore, the force capability of the muscle may be more important in improving acceleration of the athlete.  This point was supported by R. Mann in his publication titled “The Elite Athletes Project: Sprints and Hurdles.” which stated that the ability to perform well in sprints over short distances is dependent on the ability to produce large amounts of force at crucial times.

A variety of methods are used to enhance force output.  These methods include resistance training, plyometric training, and assisted and resisted sprinting techniques.  For this article we will focus on resisted sprinting which involves athletes sprinting with added load.  This load can come in different forms: weighted vests, sled-sprints, uphill sprinting and limb loading.  More specifically, this article will focus on the towing of weighted devices such as sleds which is the most common method of providing towing resistance for the enhancement of sprinting.

It has been shown that the use of towing as a form of resistance may increase the load on the athlete’s torso and therefore require more stabilization.  This training stimulus may increase pelvic stabilization, leading to a positive effect on sprint performance.  Increased torso loads also cause an increased upper-body lean and increased thigh angle at both the beginning and the end of the stance phase.  This increased thigh angle reflects the increased need for force production during the prolonged stance phase.

It is important to note that sprinting speed should not be decreased by more than 10% when adding resistance; adding too much resistance may alter running kinematics in ways that are not desirable.  It is also maintained that sled-sprinting should not be employed when the desired training effect is neural (i.e. maximal velocity).  Sled-sprinting is an effective method for a metabolic training effect (i.e. acceleration).  Due to evidence that only the first 10 metres of a sprint have been designated as the acceleration phase, it is suggested that sled-sprints should be performed for distances no longer than 10 metres.

S.S.T. holds that a well implemented speed program should include a variety of methods to achieve desirable results (i.e. resisted sprints, assisted sprints, unassisted sprints and resistance training).  Also, methods such as resisted and assisted sprints should be used sparingly, such as in the final or next-to-final block of an athlete’s periodized program.

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BTW – If you missed last week’s piece “To Squat or to Power Clean, that is the question?” CLICK HERE to see it.

 

What to Look for in a Strength Coach/Personal Trainer?

If you are just getting into the spirit of using a strength coach or personal trainer and want to know what to look for, hopefully I can offer some advice. I have been in this field for over 14 years and have seen a lot. I’ve traded new information with colleagues, and used mentors and libraries of information to learn what I now know. But the learning never stops! I am always seeking what is best for my clients.

Many people have asked me what to look for when hiring a strength coach or a personal trainer; I think the answers are the same in either situation.

I used to think education was the most important credential and trust me I believe this lays down the foundation of the science of personal training which is very important but not the only thing to look for.  I have seen many good coaches who don’t have a post-secondary degree have success but I have seen many more trainers who have a degree and then take a 2 day course and now think they are EXPERT personal trainers after one weekend!

Here are some of the attributes I think a client should look for:

Passion

I have just returned from a speaking engagement and workshop in cloudy southern California (June Gloom!) where a couple of things really stood out.   On the first day I had the pleasure of teaching 50 personal trainers about Functional Applied Speed Training for Power Systems.

I was overwhelmed and surprised by the passion and love for training and knowledge these coaches exhibited.  Some had come from as far as Canada and New York all the way to California for a full day of learning.  Right away (8 am) the audience was engaging and very receptive to learning.   Never once did I have to beg for a volunteer, in fact I had to beat them away with a stick when we went into the practical sessions.  This is what I call passion!

The next day I was fortunate to pair up with a good friend and great strength coach, Scott Prohaska.  He had arranged for the training of 15 athletes, ranging from Olympic bobsledders to division one football players to rep baseball players.  Coming into this I knew all these high -level athletes would have passion, but the passion from Scott was amazing.  Not only was he encouraging, but he tried every drill I put each athlete through.  At the end of the session he told me that he has brought in many people in to speak with his athletes and was pleased to report that his athletes told him that they enjoyed the day mainly due to my passion and the fact that I was right there in the trenches with them. This is what I love to do!

Later that day Scott and I went for dinner and discussed how many hours we work per week?
70-80 hours was the answer.  I have asked many professionals, in other fields, the same question and they often admitted to working similar long hours. When I ask why they work so many hours each week,  the common answer was not just that they have so much work to do, but rather, that they love what they do. You can actually see the true passion in their manner.  People who are successful  put the time into their field of work, but the ones who are truly dedicated, do it for the love of it! Their passion shows, in fact it oozes out of them – because you can not fake passion!  As one of my clients, JoAnn, says “Love it!!”

See my recent video on this point: Video I – Passion CLICK HERE

Leave your Ego at the Door!

This is probably one of the most important ideals, and one of the most difficult for many coaches to acquire.  I see big egos every time I travel and watch other coaches teach.

Let’s use my friend Scott for example. His strength is his ability to help his clients get strong . . . he does a GREAT job at this, but he understands his limitations, in this case, speed training. What did he do but seek out someone to help him and his athletes.   He left his ego at the door!

I did the same thing for some of my female clients when I discussed nutrition and training with top physique coach, Francine from Montreal. Her insight was tremendously productive in helping my female clients achieve success.   I often bring in nutrition experts such and Caryn from Biotics Nutrition to teach the SST staff, enabling us to better help our clients.  Again I remind you, your trainer should be able to leave ego at the door!

Remember the bottom line is that strength coaches and personal trainers are here to help you.  Whatever it takes, coaches should try to ensure the best for their clients.

We, as coaches and trainers, all like to boast about our clients’ successes and sometimes market them (before and after stories),  but remember this (and I tell all my parents and athletes this):  You are the one who committed yourself to the project and you must be the first one to put forth a great effort .  Our trainers are ready to work hard for you, and you must be ready to work too.   I just wrote up a program to encourage you to reach your goals . . . you and your trainer’s best efforts!

 

Continuing Search for Educational Resources

Consider the strength coaches who attended this past seminar. They took time from their busy schedule to spend a whole day to better their techniques.   They are determined in their search of new educational information.  Next time you are looking for a trainer/coach ask how many seminars and what other types of education they take part in. At SST, the minimum goal is to attend one new seminar each month to better ourselves. Even if I only discover one new thing, both my client and I will be better for it.

These last few weeks, I have been reading books, articles, DVDs and anything I can get my hands on regarding cancer and nutrition.  Why?  One of my clients has been diagnosed with cancer and I feel an obligation to do the best I can to help him get better.  This is the kind of dedication I look for when hiring strength coaches.

Another good friend, one of the most learned nutritionists in the world, John Berardi spends countless hours researching and discovering new information about the human body.  He has PASSION which leads him to the never-ending search of new and important information; the ongoing search for education!  Why do you think he is the best?   Passion and education!

So next time you are looking for a trainer/coach, don’t be afraid to ask them questions as if you’re conducting a job interview; which you, in fact, are.

See my recent video on this point: Video III – Continued Education CLICK HERE

Results

Yes, results are the bottom line. Why do you think the TV show, Biggest Loser is such a hit? People are getting results and that’s what everybody wants!  Most people want instant success. If a coach tells you that you can drop 20 pounds in two weeks, be very leery. Success takes a lot of work, as in anything worth while, and there are no short cuts. So don’t expect shortcuts in weight loss or training either.

Ask your coach or trainer what successes they have had, and be specific. If you are a female client ask about successes with female clients.  If you’re an athlete, ask about who the trainer has helped?

Do you see a theme here?  The best coaches all have passion; all exhibit a keen interest to learn more in an endless study of research; a good coach stashes his/her ego. All these combined will give the client excellent results.   Notice I did not mention certification?  The reason for this is that some trainer certifications are done on line or through a weekend course (some are actually pretty good) Now, this is better than nothing I guess, but imagine dealing with a doctor who received his accreditations at a weekend seminar.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to get certification but the trainer/coach must still continue their education throughout their lifetime.

So, when looking for a good coach/ trainer please ask these questions and remember you will only get the results you want from the effort you and your trainer put into it.  Some Coaches may only be working with you for two hours a week.  So get off the couch, get ready for summer, and find yourself a great coach!

See my recent video on this point: Video II – Results CLICK HERE

For more information and access to great articles and videos please visit www.sst.training

Larry Jusdanis

Owner, Sports Specific Training

www.sst.training

To Squat or to Power Clean, that is the question.

With Olympic lifting at an optimal high in training facilities, I ask the question – to squat or to power clean?

What’s better? I know any good strength coach like Charles Poliquin,  Dave Scott-McDowell and Scot Prohaska and will say it depends upon their program. I then ask, why do some coaches who I believe get their certificate over a weekend (more on this later, or see my article on What Makes A Good Strength Coach) preach power cleans for close to 100 reps when we know that this is a technical lift and high reps increase the breakdown of form?

Squats are a staple in many successful athletes’ programs, and for a reason: too MANY people are too weak for their speed. “Strength is an essential component of all human performance and its form development can no longer be neglected in the preparation of any athlete.”

As Mark Rippetoe states in Starting Strength, “Physical strength is the most important thing in life.”

What does that mean? People need to get under a bar and squat!

Squats are what I call a slower strength movement (obviously there are some speed variations, but for this purpose we will focus on back squats), or more at the maximal strength component of the strength speed continuum, aka force velocity curve.

As you can see in the diagram above, squats’ emphasis is on maximal strength and strength speed during dynamic training days. Some variations of squats that would emphasize different phases of the force velocity curve are:

Back / front / safety squats for maximal weight – maximal strength

Back / safety squats with bands – shifts more to strength speed

Back squats with bands – traditionally strength speed and depending upon load closer to speed- strength

Jump squats – dependent upon weight – at SST we emphasize speed during this exercise and have our athletes NEVER exceed 25% of bodyweight as their load for their day. If you are in doubt, ALWAYS aim for the lower weight and increase speed during this exercise

Cleans

The power clean and its variations… pound for pound, the power clean and cleans are great exercises when performed properly, and this is where the issue lies. Cleans are a component of Olympic lifting and a sport in itself, which many coaches and athletes neglect. It takes thousands of hours to become proficient. There are many qualified coaches who are able to coach this lift properly, but unfortunately there are way more that have no clue!

An example of this is a client of mine who won the North American Masters Javelin championship. After performing an assessment, I discovered many imbalances such as unable to fully squat, but what dumbfounded me more was that he told me his trainer had him proficient in power cleans. I said, “OK, go ahead and please show me with light weight.” he must have seen the sheer terror in my eyes after his rep and asked what was wrong. Quickly I said, “We have a few things to work on prior to cleaning again.”

The Clean is a tremendous exercise that falls in the strength-speed and speed-strength continuum dependent upon load. When coached properly, an athlete will see tremendous gains in athletic ability such as jumping and sprinting. Power cleans and variations of cleans are exercises that allow one to  “Jump with weight.” Sometimes as coaches and athletes we neglect this aspect, but the underlying premise is, it’s still a loaded jump.

One of my biggest concerns, and this is with many lifts, is that athletes want to lift more and more weight independent of their form. I prefer to use cleans as a speed strength exercise to improve jumps and speed only. With squats I shift our focus to more of a maximal strength and strength speed exercise. As stated earlier, most athletes are too weak for their speed, thus the focus should be on maximal strength and the king of this is squats and other variations.

Another variable to consider when comparing cleans to squats is that the power clean teaches more timing and synchronization of motor units, whereas the squat is more of a BEAR DOWN and sweat, or what I call “Get under the bar and lift” type of exercise. I know there are some more technicalities regarding the squat such as position, application of force, etc., but the rate of force production and synchronization is greater in the clean.

So let’s get back to our original question: to squat or to clean? What is right? It all depends. If you find you are too weak for your speed, then squats should be the focus. In fact, one of my top strength coaches, Antoine Hamelin, has a rule: if a person cannot squat their own body weight, they squat 3–4 times per week!

If you are too slow for your strength, then cleans may be the better choice. I witness this with athletes who have powerlifted. But do remember this: Athlete A, who squats 500 lbs, will always be able to clean more than an athlete who only squats 200 lbs.

In my next article I will discuss the importance of full squats for sprinting.

 

Verkohoshansky and Siff; Supertraining; Sixth edition – expanded version.

Larry Jusdanis is the owner of Sports Specific Training (SST) the #1 rated speed program in Canada! 

For more information about Sports Specific Training’s SUMMER speed  programs please

CLICK HERE