Breakfast is not Paul Daniels…

I love breakfast. Granted, not quite as much as dinner, but it’s in my top two meals of the day.

Fry UpSo with that in mind, let’s celebrate National Breakfast Week!

Breakfast is not magic…

As much as I do love breakfast, it’s not the panacea for all of life’s ills. It’s not critical to health or weight loss. It’s not the key to productivity or ‘balanced’ energy levels. No one meal has magical properties, not even breakfast.

What do I think Breakfast is?

  1. Breakfast is a chance to consume calories.
  2. Breakfast is a chance to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
  3. Breakfast is a chance to consume useful macro- and micro-nutrients.
  4. Breakfast is a chance to eat and enjoy food.

Is breakfast associated with being overweight?

Last Thursday, a paper from Lee et al. (2016) was published ahead of print in the journal Eating Behaviors. The investigators concluded that skipping breakfast and eating late at night were not associated with being overweight, either as individual factors or in combination, in 5000 Japanese individuals. Breakfast skippers were actually 12% less likely to be overweight than breakfast eaters. The analysis did identify that eating quickly was associated with an increased likelihood of obesity (92%).

Is breakfast beneficial for weight loss?

Breakfast and weight lossThe Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) – the largest professional body of food and nutrition professionals in the USA – acknowledge that there is no experimental support for the notion that breakfast helps weight loss. In their hot-off-the-press 2016 position statement (Raynor & Champagne, 2016) they advise that practitioners adopt an individualised approach when considering meal patterns and timings with clients.

Breakfast and weight loss ‘experiments’

The AND position statement highlights three randomised control trials that fail to support the notion that breakfast helps weight loss. One of which appears doesn’t appear to show up in any database searches. Here’s an overview of the two that do:

  • Schlundt et al. (1992)

In this study, 52 obese women (BMI > 30) responded to newspaper adverts; they were paid based on participating in the study and for completing follow up assessments. They completed a 12-week diet treatment on matched 1200 kcal energy deficit diet plans and attended meetings once a week. Participants were split into either breakfast eaters (≥4 times/week) or breakfast skippers. Half of each group were assigned to eat breakfast during the treatment (breakfast, lunch, dinner), whilst the other half of each group were assigned to skip breakfast (lunch, dinner).

After the 12-week treatment, baseline breakfast eaters lost 8.9 kg (±4.2 kg) when they skipped breakfast and 6.2 kg (±3.3 kg) when they continued to eat breakfast. Conversely, baseline breakfast skippers lost 6.0 kg (± 3.9 kg) when they continued to skip breakfast and 7.7 kg (±3.3 kg) when they consumed breakfast. Basically, all strategies worked, but challenging the status quo and changing breakfast habits increased the magnitude of weight loss.

  • Dhurandhar et al. (2014)

283 overweight (BMI > 25) participants were allocated into either a control, breakfast-eating or breakfast-skipping group for a 16-week weight loss intervention. Roughly half of each group were habitual skippers.

In the control condition, breakfast-skippers lost 0.71 kg (±1.16 kg) and breakfast-eaters lost 0.53 kg (±1.16 kg). In the breakfast-eating condition, breakfast-skippers lost 0.76 kg (±1.26 kg) and breakfast-eaters lost 0.59 kg (±1.06 kg). In the breakfast-skipping condition, breakfast-skippers lost 0.61 kg (±1.18 kg) and breakfast-eaters lost 0.71 kg (±1.17 kg).

Weight loss breakfastSo, no difference there then.

But eating breakfast ‘speeds up your metabolism’…

Sorry, research says doesn’t support this one either. The aforementioned Schlundt et al. (1992) study found no difference and here are two more recent RCT’s that suggest similar.

  • Betts et al. (2014)

This study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition detailed findings from the Bath Breakfast Project, a randomised control trial looking at ‘extended morning fasting’ (i.e. breakfast skipping) on various health and wellbeing markers. 33 participants, the majority of which were habitual breakfast eaters, were allocated to either a breakfast (≥700 kcal before 11:00) or extended fasting (0 kcal until 12:00) group for a period of 6-weeks. No calorie controlled diets, just free-living conditions.

The investigators reported that resting metabolic rate was not different between groups at baseline (~1450 kcal/day) and did not change over the intervention. Body mass and fat mass was also not different between groups.

  • Reeves et al. (2015)

Thirty-seven participants were split into four groups on the basis of BMI (either lean or overweight) and breakfast habit (either breakfast-eater or breakfast-skipper). Participants were then randomly assigned to either breakfast-eating or breakfast-skipping for 7 days and then completed the alternative condition.

There was no significant difference for any group between conditions (RMR was actually 8% lower for lean skippers consuming breakfast, although possibly a consequence of general variance in this measure).

But skipping breakfast means you eat more…

So eating less means that you eat more in total? Or just more at subsequent meals? Let’s look at the literature.

In the Betts et al. (2014) study, breakfast-eaters reported ingesting 2730 kcal/d (573 kcal/d) versus 2191 (±494 kcal/d) reported by breakfast-skippers (P = 0.007), a difference of 539 kcal/d. Breakfast-eaters reported ingesting most of this additional energy in the form of carbohydrate (337 ± 94 g/d versus 249 ± 58 g/d; P = 0.004), particularly in the form of sugar (149 ± 51 g/d versus 96 ± 38 g/d; P = 0.002).

  • Levitsky and Pacanowski (2013)

Special KThis paper in Physiology & Behavior reported the results of two RCT studies.

In the first, participants consumed either (a) no breakfast, (b) a high carbohydrate breakfast (335 kcal), or (c) a high fibre breakfast (360 kcal) breakfast before ad libitum (i.e. an eat-as-much-as-you-like buffer) food intake was measured at lunch. Participants completed all three conditions in a random order. Although the breakfast-skipping group reported greater hunger, kcal intake at lunch was the same between groups (570 – 610 kcal).

The second RCT had just two groups and compared breakfast-skipping to breakfast-eating. This time, the breakfast was consumed ad libitum with the average consumption at 624 kcal. Hunger at lunch was greater in the breakfast-skippers and they went on to consume 144 kcal extra at lunch versus the breakfast-eaters. This resulted in an energy deficit of 408 kcal across the day.

So what next?

Let’s call this one a breakfast primer. Breaking the breakfast fast, if you will. Next time out I’ll give you some less research heavy recommendations. We’ll also give a little more focus to the athletes.

 

References:
Betts JA, Richardson JD, Chowdhury EA, Holman GD, Tsintzas K, Thompson D. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014: 100: 539-547.
Dhurandhar EJ, Dawson JW, Alcorn A, Larsen LH, Thomas EA, Cardel M, Bourland AC, Astrup A, St-Onge M-P, Hill JO, Apovian CM, Shikany JM, Allison DB. The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014: 100: 507-513.
Lee JS, Mishra G, Hayashi K, Watanabe E, Mori K, Kawakubo K. Combined eating behaviors and overweight: Eating quickly, late evening meals, and skipping breakfast. Eating Behaviors. 2016.
Levitsky DA, Pacanowski CR. Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake. Physiology & Behavior. 2013: 119: 9-16.
Raynor HA, Champagne CM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016: 116: 129-147.
Reeves S, Huber JW, Halsey LG, Villegas-Montes M, Elgumati J, Smith T. A cross-over experiment to investigate possible mechanisms for lower BMIs in people who habitually eat breakfast. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015: 69: 632-637.
Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, Sharp T. The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: A randomized clinical trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1992: 55: 645-651.
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A Diet Does Not Have To Be Sustainable

With Christmas now done and dusted, it’s almost time for those inevitable New Year’s weight loss resolutions.

Normally the turn of the year will bring with it a host of celebrity endorsed fad diets, but I sense that the waters have changed over the twelve months. So, is common sense finally prevailing?

In short… no it’s not.

#EatClean

Eat CleanNow the fad diets have been replaced by the ‘eat clean’ brigade. Keto-warriors fuelled by bulletproof coffee and spiralized courgette are now preaching the healthy eating message.

But this holier-than-thou attitude actually helping anyone?

Death by diet

You should not feel that you have to live for your diet.

Unless you harbour ambitions of being an elite athlete, there are more important things to worry about that if adding a banana to your NutriBullet Kale smoothie will spike your insulin levels.

Here’s a thought. What if I told you something that no-one else seems to be telling you…

A diet does NOT have to be sustainable.

The ‘training mindset’

Keto MemeWould you perform the same training programme all year round? I sure hope not. So why should it be the any different for your nutrition?

There are certain training pillars that are common in every good training programme, but every good training programme is not the same. 5/3/1 does not look like Stronglifts. Westside Barbell methods do not look like Bulgarian methods. These programmes all work because they are underpinned by sound training principles.

The basics

Now, if your current nutrition is rubbish then just getting the basic principles right is going to be all you need.

Two rules (because every ‘diet’ needs a rule or two) that pretty much every good plan have in common are:

  • Prepare as many of your own meals as you can.
  • Prioritise protein and veggies at most of your meals.

Hit these two 80% of the time and you’ll probably be doing ok.

Block-based nutrition

SpiralizerSometimes, general ‘maintenance’ nutrition is unlikely to cut the mustard for your goal. Let’s say that you want to drop some body fat and you’ve got the basics fairly well covered. No we need a specific approach.

In training terms, think of this as a training block with one specific goal. A plateau buster.

For example, if you want a bigger squat you may decide on a 12-week focused programme all geared towards to improving that lift.

‘Short and hard’ or ‘long and limp’?

What would you rather do:

  • Feel like you’re constantly fighting your ‘willpower’ (whatever that is) 24/7?

or

  • Plan short ‘blocks’ of nutrition where you focus on a specific goal for a short duration?

These blocks, just like in training, can be structured in whatever way works for you. You could have two days every week where you focus on your dietary goals. It could be a solid four weeks every other month. It’s whatever programme works for YOU.

Short-term thinking

The short-term ‘let’s hit things hard’ approach is one that’s an easier psychological sell for a lot of people. It feels less like deprivation and more like an challenge. The goal seems closer and therefore more achievable.

What happens after the ‘diet’?

Well, what happens when you finish a training programme? You could just take a week or two off and then repeat things, that would work in most instances. But let’s explore some of your other options.

  • Don’t bother training – i.e. the beer and pizza diet
  • Go back to maintenance training – i.e. the sensible ‘basics’ diet
  • Start a new – i.e. try a new ‘diet’ approach

(Almost) everything works

Low carb works. Low(-ish) fat works. Intermittent fasting works. Carb backloading works. Eating every two hours works…. you get the idea.

The difference is that some work better for a given individual at a given time. The best approach when for you in a busy December may not be the best approach for you in a quiet June. What worked to get you down from 20% to 15% body fat may not best the best way to strip down to 10%.

The point is that anything with sound principles behind it can work.

There’s nothing wrong with programme hopping for your nutrition, just so long as you stick with the plan long enough in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with ‘falling off the wagon’ every now and again, just so long as you don’t take it to the extreme.

Embrace moderacy!

Yes, food is fuel. Yes, food is a hormonal regulator. But it’s also something to be enjoyed. It shouldn’t come wrapped in guilt or bound to psychological stressors.

Let’s make 2016 a year where we all just take a step back and see the bigger picture.

#EatClean is not making the world a happier or healthier place for the majority of people. We need a new approach…

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Assessing Stiffness in Athletes

In a previous posts I’ve outlined what stiffness is and the key principles of assessing stiffness. This post will look at the some of the considerations for assessing stiffness in athletes.

Vertical stiffness – quick and simple

SpringTo model stiffness in athletes, researchers or practitioners will commonly seek to determine vertical stiffness during bilateral hopping.

Vertical stiffness is the quickest and easiest stiffness measure to determine as all you need is a force plate. Vertical ground reaction force is your force measure and then displacement of the centre of mass can be determined from the force trace using inverse dynamics.

Bilateral hopping is a popular choice of assessment because it provides the closest representation of a true spring mass-model; hopping is an efficient activity that requires little active force contribution once a rhythm is established.

Problems with stiffness assessments

Hop TraceThe problem with assessing stiffness, or any pretty much any variable within biomechanics, is that it’s almost impossible to truly assess a ‘mechanical’ property during human movement. Every movement task is a skill and is therefore governed by a host of conscious and sub-conscious control mechanisms.

Stiffness is therefore dependent on: a) the movement task, b) how we perform the task, and c) our training background.

What’s the best way to assess stiffness in athletes?

This is one question that my PhD has sought to investigate.

In a study published ahead of print in the Journal of Sports Sciences, we examined vertical stiffness asymmetries in twelve recreationally active males during three different activities:

  1. Bilateral hopping – a rhythmic submaximal activity
  2. Bilateral drop jumping – a single-burst of bilateral maximal activity
  3. Unilateral drop jumping – a single-burst of unilateral maximal activity

Our findings – magnitude of asymmetry

Force vs COMWe discovered that significant asymmetries between limbs were exhibited in each type of task, however, the way in which these asymmetries presented was different in each task.

Relative to the stiffer limb, vertical stiffness of the compliant (less stiff) limb was 5% less in bilateral hopping, 20% less during bilateral drop jumping and 15% during unilateral drop jumping.

These findings led us to conclude that all three methods could be used to assess vertical stiffness asymmetries but drop jumping tasks detected larger asymmetries than hopping.

  • Key Point 1

The magnitude of asymmetries is likely to be greater in maximal tasks such as drop jumps versus rhythmic tasks such as hopping.

Our findings – direction of asymmetry

We also discovered that the stiffer leg was rarely consistent across all three tasks. For example, an individual may present a stiffer right leg during bilateral hopping, left leg during bilateral drop jumping and right leg during unilateral drop jumping.

Only four participants in the study had the same leg characterised as the stiffer leg in all three tasks.

  • Key Point 2

The presentation and direction of asymmetries is likely to be task dependant.

What’s the best way to assess stiffness it athletes?

Snapshot 1 (01-10-2015 20-42)In short, it depends on the athlete and what they do. Much like choosing an agility test, we should seek to find the task with the closest correspondence to an athlete’s sport.

For example, a bilateral hopping task may be well suited to a distance runner engaging in prolonged submaximal activity. Conversely, a unilateral drop jump is likely to be a more valid test for assessing stiffness in team-sport athletes where maximal bursts of unilateral activity, such as changes of direction, are required.

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A Review of the Elite Athletic Development 2.0 Seminar

I’m not a fan of hard sells and affiliate marketing. I am a fan of continuing personal development thought, and I want to do my put to share the resources I think are worthwhile investments. This article is will review the latest resource from Mike Robertson – one of the people in this industry who I have most respect for – and ‘Big House’ Joe Kenn, namely the Elite Athletic Development 2.0 Seminar. EADS 2.0 launches Monday 5th October.

Whilst many professionals are more than happy to recommend things they’ve not seen or used first-hand, I most certainly won’t. If I plug it, I’ve been through it. Here’s my summary.

What is it?

Elite Athletic Development 2.0 Seminar is a 12 DVD set of the Elite Athletic Development Seminar recorded across a two-day live workshop.

FullFamily

Tailored towards trainers or coaches who already have some footing within the industry, the ultimate goal of the seminar is to provide you with the specifics and with the details that will take your programming and coaching to the next level.

What do you get?

Essentially, you’re sitting in on the entire seminar. You watch the lectures and demo’s, hear the questions and responses. All in all you get over 13 hours of content to work through in your own time.

Yes, it’s not quite being there in person, but you do have the advantage of saving yourself more than a few hundred pounds and you end up with a resource you can tap back into time after time.

What does it cover?

5 key areas are covered:

  1. Planning and periodisation
  2. How to create a unique training philosophy
  3. Programme design
  4. Managing in-season athletes
  5. Case studies of top-level athletes

Why is it good?

Here are a few of the things I really liked about the seminar:

Real world annual planning

Periodisation spreadsheetJoe Kenn does a really fantastic job of discussing periodisation! I got to see Joe at the 2014 UKSCA Annual Conference discussing off-season training for NFL athletes so I already had a bit of a grounding in some of his approaches and a basic understanding of the ‘Tier System’ in particular; indeed, he speaks of how the conference has helped shaped his current viewpoint. Here you get a much wider understanding of his philosophies and how periodisation works in the real world.

Here are some of the points he’ll help you consider:

  • The difference between periodisation of the annual plan and periodisation of training variables
  • Why you need to know the ‘uncontrollable factors’ that can affect the plan
  • How to differentiate planning for high- and low- training age athletes
  • Why ‘Block Zero’ training and laying the foundations of development are so important
  • Why it’s important to periodise the training styles and modalities you use with your athletes

Mesocycle specifics

road_to_successSome great detail on the nuts of bolts on planning training blocks and evidence by case studies of the teams and athletes they’ve used these strategies with.

  • Why it’s important to link mesocycles effectively – traditional periodisation strategies may be flawed
  • When we should consider going ‘off-the-script’ in training to maximise strength and power gains
  • How to use and incorporate deload weeks – and importantly how to portray them to your athletes!

How to manage the in-season athlete

Mike talks you through his first season working in the North American Soccer League and his experiences (good and bad!) in setting up a physical preparation culture in a far from optimal environment. Lots of great detail from Joe on working in the NFL also.

  • How to pick the low hanging fruit and prioritise your goals when stepping into a new club
  • Where to start when working with individuals with minimal training experience
  • How to integrate simple subjective and objective monitoring strategies
  • Samples for structuring the training week and the training session

Inter-mixed periodisation

Joe’s talk on inter-mixed periodisation is one of the best talks I’ve seen on the subject and that’s some pretty high praise! He takes you through:

  • The classical models of periodisation and their key bulletpoints
  • How elements are integrated into the Tier system
  • What inter-mixed periodisation is and why you’re probably already using it!
  • Examples of how to plan cycles with different emphases (including sets, reps, etc.)

What’s included?

A total of 12 DVDs cover the seminar:

  • EADSquare-Banner_1Disc 1 – Practical Periodisation – Development of the Annual Plan (Part One) (56:59)
  • Disc 2 – Practical Periodisation – Development of the Annual Plan (Part Two) (Part 2) (60:03)
  • Disc 3 – Developing YOUR Training Philosophy (Part 1) (60:05)
  • Disc 4 – Developing YOUR Training Philosophy (Part 2) (60:03)
  • Disc 5 – Practical Periodisation – Microcycles, Mesocycles and Macrocycles (60:03)
  • Disc 6 – Managing the In-Season Athlete (87:30)
  • Disc 7 – Practical Periodisation – Intermixed Periodisation (Part 1) (71:13)
  • Disc 8 – Practical Periodisation – Intermixed Periodisation (Part 2) (90:42)
  • Disc 9 – Elite Athletic Case Studies (90:32)
  • Disc 10 – Coaching 2.02 (Part 1) (54:25)
  • Disc 11 – Coaching 2.02 (Part 2) (49:05)
  • Disc 12 – Mike and Joe Q&A (47:49)

Should I get it?

I don’t think this resource is one for the beginner. You need a decent grounding in the basics of training and of periodisation to really get the best from this.

  • Younger coaches

For younger coaches I think this is a fantastic way of working out how to translate what you know about the prescription of training in theory and put it into practice in the real world. This seminar will help allow you to systematise periodisation whilst allowing you the freedom to be the individual coach you are. Definitely a resource that will speed up your learning curve and there’s lots of ready-to-go systems/templates for you to use straight away.

  • Seasoned coaches

For the more seasoned coaches this is a great way to reflect on your current practice and how you currently go about planning and periodisation. There’ll be plenty of ‘confirmed learnings’ that reinforce what you do but I’m sure that this may get you thinking about things in a different way and may show up some areas to improve – it certainly has done for me!

Also, as with any seminar, lots of specific golden nuggets that apply to your situation and that you’ll take away to incorporate.

For me, some of the mesocycle formatting and exercise prescriptions will be things I’ll be experimenting with. Really liked some of the programming tips and trips to deal with the overextended athlete (aka pretty much all of them!) too.

How do I get it?

First off, if you’re interested, please use my affiliate link to check it out! If you buy using this link this will generate a little revenue to help me support projects like Research Review.

It’s on sale from Monday 5th October for $197 (just over £129 in proper money) until Friday 10th October. You can also split this into two payments of just over £64.

As always with Mike’s work, this comes with no quibble money-back guarantee so that you can make sure you get your hard-earned money’s worth.

I’ll leave you with some of the testimonials from the course attendees:

Coaching, Conferences, Exercises, Performance, Prehab & Rehab, Science , , , , , , ,

Applying RSI Monitoring

So, we’ve looked at the background behind the use of jump testing to monitor neuromuscular fatigue in part one and the use of the reactive strength index (RSI) as an assessment tool in part two.

Snapshot 1 (01-10-2015 20-42)In brief, the RSI shows some real promise as a relatively low-cost way of monitoring readiness, although other parameters may be more sensitive longitudinally.

This is all very well in theory, but how does it work in practice?

The aim of this article is to show you how I use jump-based monitoring with myself and my athletes.

Who do I use it with?

I use regular jump-based monitoring with only a very small percentage of my more experienced (in terms of either training age or competitive status) athletes. The bottom line is that unless the results would make a difference to my programming, it’s not worth testing. This only qualifies about 2-3% of my current athletes.

Cherry CakeFor the majority of athletes I still rely on feel to dictate the session. We have a plan in mind before the session and this will normally come with an intended dose. Generally if I’s a good day the dose is higher, a bad day the dose is lower. Not really rocket science.

An analogy

I think of the RSI as the cherry on the cake. This is a tool to fine-tune within-session programming and is therefore a strategy that few athletes need. Focus on putting the right ingredients into the cake first. Mix them well and bake it properly. Now for the icing. Then, finally, the pop the cherry on top.

What does RSI monitoring look like?

Following the pre-performance prep, athletes perform two sets of three drop jumps from a height of ~18 cm. Hands are positioned on hips throughout (see video).

The prep work will always have included a) landing focus elements, b) ankle stiffness elements, and c) global power/priming elements. These are all important factors to consider prior to testing as they demonstrate the potential to affect the RSI and therefore influence the reliability of your method.

How reliable is it?

If a test is not reliable then it’s meaningless. For the athletes we use the RSI with, we first establish a baseline over a period of two-three weeks.

  • Within-session reliability

First off, we look at the within-session reliability over the three best jumps from the six jumps performed. Using just the best three helps to reduce some of the noise.

We typically see an average coefficient of variation (CV%) of somewhere between 1% and 3% after just a few sessions – meaning there’s about 1-3% variation on the same day.

My CV is just under 2%. Marwick et al. (2015) report ~3% in professional basketball players.

  • Between-session reliability

If the RSI is a sensitive representation of fatigue then it would be expected to fluctuate a considerable amount over the training week and over the training cycle. Because of this, it makes determining a value for between-session reliability a little challenging. However, as we’ll start using the RSI during an out of competition period, we can try to get an idea of the reliability over a few weeks of fairly consistent GPP-style training to see how well it’s working.

My own RSI data

The figure below shows my RSI over the last six-seven months of training.

RSI Tracker

The blue markers represent the mean score from the best three jumps, the red markers represent the best score. The lines represent the four-point moving average.

Fatigue ArtWhat does it show?

It’s clear that the RSI certainly isn’t flat-lining, there are a large number of peaks of troughs as we move through the year. Even with just a quick eyeball of the graph, we can see these peaks and troughs follow a fairly predictable pattern, typically occurring every three-four weeks or so.

This mirrors my general training cycle of three weeks on, one week deload pretty closely – fatigue accumulates over the three week cycle and the RSI subsequently drop and then, following deload week, the RSI picks up again.

My own jump height data

I also monitor my own CMJ height along with my RSI, mainly as a general gauge of lower body power and ‘effectiveness’ of my current programme.

Jump Height Tracker

A single set of two maximal CMJs, with hands on hips, are performed after the drop jumps.

The case for RSI

Have a look at how the RSI and CMJ height compare. The RSI is definitely more sensitive to change. For this reason it’s probably a better choice if you’re looking to monitor the accumulation of fatigue over multiple training cycles.

However, I’ve found that when my RSI has really skyrocketed or plummeted, my CMJ score has tended to go with it.

So what about jump height?

Traffic light facesIf I’m going to use any parameter to adjust training load on a given then I’ll need to see a pretty decent change. And when I say decent change that doesn’t just mean anything above the ‘smallest worthwhile change’, I’m talking at least 10%.

With this in mind, at least from my own example, if I were only using this type of monitoring with as an indicator of ‘red-light’ sessions – times where the intended session needs to be changed substantially from the original plan- the CMJ would probably suffice.

Other options…

Would the broad jump do the same thing as the CMJ? Possibly, although it’s not something I’ve looked at. This may even be a more attractive prospect than the CMJ as it’s even easier to set-up.

In the same ballpark, could something like the 3 Hop Test do for horizontal jump testing what the drop jump does for vertical testing? Certainly an interesting thought if the SSC is as important as it seems to be.

 

Really interested to see what people’s thoughts and experiences are with this. Please feel free to pop or comment below or drop me an email.

 

References

Marwick WJ, Bird SP, Tufano JJ, Seitz LB, Haff GG. The intraday reliability of the reactive strength index calculated from a drop jump in professional men’s basketball. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2015: 10: 482-488.

 

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Can RSI Assess Neuromuscular Fatigue?

Last time out we looked at the potential for using jump testing to monitor neuromuscular fatigue. To summarise briefly, the countermovement (CMJ) jump shows strong promise as an assessment tool. The flight time to contraction time (FT/CT) ratio during the CMJ appeared to be the measure most sensitive to change following a fatiguing event.

Force PlateWhat’s the problem with FT/CT?

To work out contraction time during the CMJ you’ll need a force plate. Do you have a force plate? If so, great. If not, we need to start looking at potential alternatives.

What is FT/CT meant to represent?

The FT/CT is representative of the movement strategy utilised to perform the CMJ. A longer CT (i.e. slower speed of contraction) indicates utilisation of a slower jumping which may indicate neuromuscular fatigue.

Enter the RSI…

CMJRSI stands for reactive strength index and can be determined during a drop jump using a simple contact mat. The RSI is a function of either:

  • flight time / ground contact time
  • jump height / ground contact time

Personally, I’ll always favour the former. It’s possible to calculate jump height in a plethora of different ways so think it avoids a little confusion.

What does the RSI represent?

The RSI gives provides an indication of an athlete’s capacity to utilise the stretch shortening cycle in similar manner to the FT/CT. A longer ground contact time is indicative of a longer contraction time and, as with the FT/CT, highlights the utilisation of a slower jumping strategy.

Added impact?

Russian Drop JumpAn advantage the RSI has over the FT/CT is that it also demonstrates the capacity to tolerate impact loading, a parameter which also may be sensitive to fatigue. Indeed, a study by Nicol et al. (1991) published in the very first issue of Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reported an increase in impact forces during a drop jump performed following a fatiguing marathon run.

Why is it a potential monitoring tool?

The roots of using the RSI as a monitoring tool can largely be traced back to an investigation by Oliver et al. (2008). Oliver et al. examined changes in the jump performance of youth footballers (aged: 15.8 ± 0.4) following a sport-specific exercise test. Squat jump (-1.4 ± 1.6 cm; P < 0.05), CMJ (-3.0 ± 2.9 cm; P < 0.05) and drop jump (-2.3 ± 1.7 cm; P < 0.01) performance were all impaired by fatigue, however, the only force variable to be affected was impact loading in the drop jump.

Is the drop jump better than the CMJ?

Sleeping BallTwo studies by Dave Hamilton may shed light on this question. Initially it was reported that CMJ height was not affected during a period of intensified completion in elite youth (aged: 14.4 ± 0.4) soccer players (Hamilton 2009a). A subsequent study in a similar population went on to demonstrate that drop jump RSI appeared to provide an indication of neuromuscular fatigue when examined on an individual, but not group, basis (Hamilton 2009b).

Who is using the RSI as a monitoring tool?

The popularity of the RSI as a monitoring tool hit new heights in 2012. The UKSCA conference of that year was littered with references to how this was incorporated by the English Institute of Sport, perhaps most notably in Dave Hamilton’s presentation on the physical preparation of the GB women’s field hockey team in the years leading up to 2012 (Hamilton 2012). The data he presented certainly appeared to back up his previous observations in youth soccer.

Is RSI monitoring viable?

Given the relatively low-cost and additional utility of jump mats, RSI monitoring is now a viable option for almost all professional organisations and a considerable percentage of sports teams.

But is RSI all it’s cracked up to be?

Fatigue ArtA new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the European Journal of Sport Science sought to evaluate both the short- and long-term potential of jump based monitoring. Oliver et al. (2015) evaluated the CMJ height, RSI, leg stiffness and perceived well-being of elite junior (aged: 16.9 ± 0.8) rugby players over a seven-week in-season period. Unsurprisingly, the authors reported that CMJ, RSI and well-being were all sensitive to detecting post-match fatigue. However, whereas CMJ and stiffness were deemed sensitive to detecting accumulated fatigue over the seven-week period, RSI and well-being were not.

It’s important to note that the RSI in the Oliver study was not measured during a drop jump, but during a series of repeated CMJs. This technique typically results in a less reliable measurement and may explain why such a substantial variation was observed in the study.

 

Hopefully the last two posts have given you an insight into the rationale behind using jump based monitoring. Next time out I’ll walk you through my own thoughts and observations. I’ll promise you’ll not have to wait as long as last time for this one!

 

References:

Hamilton D. Drop jumps as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue and recovery in elite youth soccer athletes. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning. 2009: 17: 3-8.
Hamilton D. Explosive performance in young soccer players during several games in succession: a tournament scenario. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning. 2009: 17.
Hamilton D. The Impact of Monitoring Strategies on a Team Sport Through an Olympiad: Physical Development, Taper & Recovery. UKSCA Annual Conference. Royal Holloway University, London, 2012.
Nicol C, Komi PV, Marconnet P. Fatigue effects of marathon running on neuromuscular performance, I. Changes in muscle force and stiffness characteristics. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 1991: 1: 10-17.
Oliver J, Armstrong N, Williams C. Changes in jump performance and muscle activity following soccer-specific exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2008: 26: 141-148.
Oliver JL, Lloyd RS, Whitney A. Monitoring of in-season neuromuscular and perceptual fatigue in youth rugby players. European Journal of Sport Science. 2015: 15: 514-522.
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Assessing Neuromuscular Fatigue

Striking a healthy balance between training and recovery is integral to a successful programme. Understanding the fatigue responses to training and/or competition can play an important role in avoiding unplanned decrements in performance and reduce the likelihood of illnesses and injuries associated with ‘non-functional overreaching’ (typically known as overtraining).

How can we assess fatigue?

General Adaptation SyndromeThere are a number of ways we can attempt to quantify and monitor fatigue. Perhaps the easiest methods to employ are subjective assessments such self-reported questionnaires. For this reason these types of assessment tend to be the most commonly used tools by high-performance coaches (Taylor et al. 2012).

What’s the disadvantage of questionnaires?

Whilst self-reported measures have been shown to be sensitive to changes in training load (Kellmann & Günther 2000; Halson et al. 2003; Coutts et al. 2007), the subjective nature of such measures should be considered. It is possible that athletes may over- or under-report in these questionnaires, often termed ‘faking bad’ or ‘faking good’, to achieved a desired outcome (Meeusen et al. 2013).

Why measure neuromuscular function?

Measures of neuromuscular (NM) function are often used to assess recovery because of their greater utility to monitor relatively low-level NM fatigue compared with other indirect markers such as subjective questionnaires (Twist & Highton 2013). These measures provide an objective measure for the coach or athlete to interpret which, for good or for bad, do not consider the perceptions of the athlete.

Why use jump based measures?

The most common tool used to assess NM fatigue is a countermovement jump (CMJ) (Taylor et al. 2012). However, typical performance variables such a jump height or peak power may always not be sensitive enough to detect changes in NM function.

What measures are the most sensitive?

Considering an array of different CMJ variables, Cormack et al. (2008) reported that ratio of flight time to contraction time (FT:CT) during a countermovement jump provided the best indication of NM fatigue following an Australian football match. Whilst FT (used to measure jump height) was relatively unaffected (<1% decrease) FT:CT was reduced by an average of 7% at 24 hours post-match. As such, decreases in FT:CT appear largely dependent on an increase in the duration of contraction.

When fatigue goes up, speed comes down

TortoiseSimilar results have been reported by in collegiate team-sport athletes Gathercole et al. (2015). They observed that CMJ performance was diminished immediately post-exercise (a fatiguing Yo-Yo test) but had recovered at 72 hours. Importantly, alterations in jump strategy (i.e. decreased eccentric utilisation and increased jump duration) persisted at 72 hours. Also, another investigation conducted in elite snowboard cross athletes by the same research group (Gathercole et al. 2015) reported that jump performance was not impaired 30 minutes following fatigue (stair climbs to fatigue) but the eccentric utilisation and jump duration were impaired.

The SSC appears to be the key

Taken together, these results of these investigations suggest that practitioners need to examine variables that reflect stretch shortening cycle (SSC) capacity if seeking to use jump testing as an assessment of NM fatigue. Athletes may be able to maintain performance (i.e. jump height) by using a different (and slower) movement strategy.

Why is the SSC important?

SSC activities have been proposed in the study of NM fatigue by Komi (2000) as metabolic, mechanical, and neural elements are all challenged during this type of activity. As such, a fatigue-related disturbance in any of the elements could impair SSC performance and may explain why such tests are sensitive to low-level changes in NM function.

Does jump monitoring work long term?

Fatigue ArtDue to constraints of both time and budget, investigations in most fields of sports science tend to be conducted over relatively short time periods (rarely longer than 6-8 weeks). There are a few studies out there though. For example, Balsalobre-Fernández et al. (2014) reported that CMJ height correlated well with cortisol concentration (i.e. the stress response) in elite endurance runners over a 39 week season. Perhaps most importantly, they observed significant differences in jump performance (~8-9%) when tested before athletes’ best and worst performances of the year.

What about the FT:CT?

Cormack et al. (2008) were the first to evaluate the potential of using this technique over an entire season. They reported a clear pattern of impaired FT:CT following AFL match-play and that this also appeared to mirror changes in cortisol concentration. Mooney et al. (2013) have since shown that decreases in FT:CT are linked to impaired high-intensity running capacity in the same population.

What about drop jumps then?

Hopefully this has given you a little introduction into the potential of jump based monitoring. Today we’ve focused on the potential power of the bog-standard CMJ to monitor NM fatigue, next time out we’ll take a look whether the drop jump may prove an even more powerful assessment tool.

 

References:

Balsalobre-Fernández C, Tejero-González CM, del Campo-Vecino J. Relationships between training load, salivary cortisol responses and performance during season training in middle and long distance runners. PloS one. 2014: 9: e106066.
Cormack SJ, Newton RU, McGuigan MR. Neuromuscular and endocrine responses of elite players to an Australian Rules Football match. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2008: 3: 359-374.
Cormack SJ, Newton RU, McGuigan MR, Cormie P. Neuromuscular and endocrine responses of elite players during an Australian Rules Football season. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2008: 3: 439-453.
Coutts AJ, Wallace LK, Slattery KM. Monitoring changes in performance, physiology, biochemistry, and psychology during overreaching and recovery in triathletes. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007: 28: 125-134.
Gathercole R, Sporer B, Stellingwerff T, Sleivert G. Alternative countermovement-jump analysis to quantify acute neuromuscular fatigue. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2015: 10: 84-92.
Gathercole RJ, Stellingwerff T, Sporer BC. Effect of acute fatigue and training adaptation on countermovement jump performance in elite snowboard cross athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2015: 29: 37-46.
Halson SL, Lancaster G, Jeukendrup AE, Gleeson M. Immunological responses to overreaching in cyclists. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. 2003: 35: 854-861.
Kellmann M, Günther K-D. Changes in stress and recovery in elite rowers during preparation for the Olympic Games. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. 2000: 32: 676-683.
Komi PV. Stretch-shortening cycle: a powerful model to study normal and fatigued muscle. Journal of Biomechanics. 2000: 33: 1197-1206.
Meeusen R, Duclos M, Foster C, Fry A, Gleeson M, Nieman D, Raglin J, Rietjens G, Steinacker J, Urhausen A, Science ECoS, Medicine ACoS. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. 2013: 45: 186-205.
Mooney MG, Cormack S, O’Brien BJ, Morgan WM, McGuigan M. Impact of neuromuscular fatigue on match exercise intensity and performance in elite Australian football. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013: 27: 166-173.
Taylor KL, Chapman DW, Cronin JB, Newton MJ, Gill ND. Fatigue monitoring in high performance sport: a survey of current trends. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning. 2012: 20: 12-23.
Twist C, Highton J. Monitoring ratigue and recovery in rugby league players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2013: 8: 467-474.
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Star Quality

Time to introduce you to a stalwart of my warm-up and muscle conditioning prescriptions – the side plank with star.

The traditional side plank

Your standard side plank, or side bridge, is a bit of an unsung hero. It seems to carry the perception that it’s a low-level oblique exercise that is reserved for the type of people who bring their own mat to the gym. In reality, the side plank is so much more.

Glutes and QL

During the side plank you have to fight against gravity to stop your hips sinking to the floor. Therefore, to stay locked in place, we must produce an anti-lateral flexion moment at the trunk, and an anti-adduction moment at the hip. Both of these moments are concentrated on the side closest to floor.

The QL

QLThe anti-lateral flexion moment is where your oblique activation comes from in the side plank, but we certainly should not overlook the contribution of the quadratus lumborum (QL). Dysfunction of the QL is strongly implicated in a range of conditions, most notably lower back pain, and it is not greatly challenged during sagittal plane lifting. It always makes sense to give this postural dynamo a little extra attention.

Glutes

GlutesAh, the good old glutes. I’m sure I don’t need to outline the important of the glutes in both injury prevention and performance. All portions of the glutes facilitate an abduction moment at the hip, but it’s the smaller gluteus medius and gluteus minimus that we looking to get after here; the big boy gluteus maximus gets a lot from the pure extension moments associated with sagittal plane lifting.

The star factor

Now, the side plank with star is a completely different ball game. Elevating the leg adds a whole heap of extra abduction wonderfulness to the mix! First off, you’re getting an abduction moment on the top hip that wasn’t there with the base level side plank. Secondly, you’re elevating the centre of mass and increasing the moment arm for the lower hip to work against.

Star performance

Two ways you can perform this little beauty:

  • For reps (12 – 15 reps to get you going)
  • For time (30 seconds is a good start point)

Either way, it’s pretty damn challenging if you’ve not done it before. Don’t be too disheartened if you can’t hit these numbers straight off the bat.

Star plus

Not hard enough for you as it is?

  • Up the abduction moment by looping a mini-band around your ankle
  • Increase the demands imposed upper body by holding a dumbbell in your hand and performing a lateral raise

You can thank me for these tomorrow.

As a diagnostic

Traffic light facesOne of the tests I utilise in my physical competency screening is a traditional side plank hold. Indeed, in last month’s Research Review I featured a study linking this diagnostic to lower back pain in elite tennis players. You should definitely sign up for Research Review by the way, it’s bloody good!

My green flag criteria for the side plank is typically:

  • 120 second hold
  • < 5 % discrepancy between sides

Naturally this assumes no pain, proper form and does vary a little based on the specific sport and population.

A* or red flag?

I’m currently toying with the idea of changing my diagnostic to the star variation for some of my higher level athletes. Not certain what my criteria is at the moment, still need to get some more baselines on this, but I’m thinking at the moment:

  • Green flag – > 60 second hold
  • Red flag – < 30 second hold

Why not give it a try and let me know what you think to these targets!

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A Review of Physical Preparation 1.01

As I’ve said once before, I very seldom do product reviews or affiliate links but when I do you can rest assured that it’s a good one! Mike Robertson’s Physical Preparation 1.01 is only the second product to get the Maloney Performance treatment.

PP101 1What is it?

Physical Preparation 1.01 is a 12 DVD series recorded at a two-day seminar Mike gave whilst in Dublin last year. Essentially, you’re sitting in on the entire seminar. You watch the lectures and demo’s, hear the questions and responses. Having the whole thing sitting in DVD form on your bookshelf isn’t bad compensation for not being there in person!

The main goals of Physical Preparation 1.01 are to enable you to do two things

  • Write superior programmes in less time
  • Coach these programmes more effectively

I think it delivers really well on both fronts.

Why is it good?

PP101 3Without giving away all the juicy stuff, here are my 5 key take-homes!

  • It provides you with a system that works

Mike provides you with his complete system for coaching athletes and lord knows I love a system. Good systems not only make you a more efficient coach, but they stop you making mistakes and leaving holes in your athletes’ programmes. Good systems also aren’t bound to specific modalities, they give you the freedom to integrate the specific ideas and approaches that work well for you.

  • The R7 System

I think the ‘R7’ approach in particular is a really clever and attractive way of looking of at programming. Mike outlines the 7 R’s that should be considered within each session and explains how you can use this template to help ensure that the mini-goals within each section of your programme are clear, concise and understood by the athlete. We can use this structure to engage emotive responses from our athletes to make each portion of the session more effective. There are a couple of R’s that I’ll definitely be paying more attention to in my programmes from now on.

  • How to coach

Po DeadliftMike not only has a phenomenal knowledge base, a quick look at his blog can tell you that, but he knows how to coach. The second day of the seminar (Discs 7-12) is all geared towards coaching athletes and you see first-hand how Mike does this. Not only do we see the ‘gold standard’ in terms of the group demonstration, but also the breakouts where the attendees are making errors and we see how Mike attempts to correct them. Every coach will have different nuances to how they coach and there’s always at least one golden nugget that will hit home with you when you see a good coach in action.

  • How to coach the ‘smaller’ things in particular

In my experience, most S&C’s do a pretty good job coaching the big lifts but are far less comfortable coaching aspects such breathing and core training. Mike walks you through some of the less sexy coaching points such as how to cue effective breathing patterns, how to reach versus how to row and maximise unilateral exercises. I’ll be taking away a number of little gems and putting these into practice straight away.

  • Embrace a moderate, pragmatic philosophy

Throughout the seminar, one thing that really struck home with me was Mike’s moderate, pragmatic approach to training. The seminar is not trying to push you into particular methods. It’s not polarising concepts as good or bad. Little things such as knowing what degree of compensation on a given exercise is acceptable are crucial to effective coaching.

What’s included?

First off, you get the 12 DVDs covering the seminar:

  • PP101 2Disc 1 – The R7 Approach to Training (60:01)
  • Disc 2 – 10 Principles of Smart Programming (49:22)
  • Disc 3 – Program Design 1.01 (Part 1) (60:01)
  • Disc 4 – Program Design 1.01 (Part 2) (57:25)
  • Disc 5 – The Intelligent Approach to Conditioning (46:22)
  • Disc 6 – Sample Programming (43:54)
  • Disc 7 – Coaching Breathing and Core Training (44:50)
  • Disc 8 – Coaching the Squat (39:49)
  • Disc 9 – Coaching the Deadlift (52:31)
  • Disc 10 – Coaching Horizontal Reaching and Rowing Exercises (38:47)
  • Disc 11 – Coaching Vertical Reaching and Rowing Exercises (39:56)
  • Disc 12 – Coaching Split-Stance and Single-Leg Exercises (31:41)

If I’ve done my maths right, that’s just under 9½ hours of content!

You’ll also get a bunch of bonuses including all the presentation slides and all the progression-regression pathways.

Should I get it?

If you’re a coach or trainer, this is a fantastic investment and a product you’ll come back to time and time again.

  • Younger coaches

Younger coaches would be able take Mike’s system and implement this into their own training programmes without feeling that they are just delivering somebody else’s work. The system will ensure that you aren’t leaving the types of gaps in your athletes’ programmes that many coaches tend to do when starting out. As you become more experienced you can start to customise this template to make it feel even more your own.

  • TimeSeasoned coaches

For the more seasoned coaches this is a fantastic way to audit your own systems and I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a few components that you’ll integrate into your programming. Just as powerfully, Mike’s system should serve to make your programming more concise and efficient. I think we all want to spend more time coaching in the gym rather than writing in the office.

  • All coaches

For the both ends of the coaching spectrum I know that there are some exercises, progression/regression pathways and specific coaching cues that you’ll take away and be using from day one.

  • Multi-coach facilities

If you’re working in a facility alongside other coaches then it’s really imperative you develop a good system that delivers a consistent message. This gives you that structure but still allows the individual coaches freedom to coach what and how works best for them.

How do I get it?

First off, if you’re interested, please use my affiliate link to check it out! If you buy using this link this will generate a little revenue to help me support projects like Research Review.

It’s currently on sale for $247 (just over £161 in proper money) until Friday 5th June. You can also split this into two payments of just over £80. If you’re not sure if it’s for you then Mike’s also offering a six month, no quibble money-back guarantee!

I’ll leave you with some of the testimonials from the course attendees:

Coaching, Conferences, Performance, Prehab & Rehab, Recovery, Science , , , , , ,

Ground Based Movement – Why Should I Bother?

The importance of efficiency in strength and conditioning cannot be understated. Whether we’re looking from the point of view of the coach or the athlete, the resources we have at our disposal are limited. With everything we do in our training we must seek to attain as much return as we can from our investments, squeezing every last drop out of the programming. This is where ground based movement comes to the fore.

Enter Ground Based Movement

GBM - PlancheIf you’ve heard the term ground based movement then you’re probably thinking along the lines of crawling, animal flow, gymnastics, etc. However, I define ground as with the arm on the floor. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, there are a hell of a lot of ground based movement exercises beyond a bear crawl and an L-sit.

Why Should I Care?

For me, there are three big components I can get at with ground based movement:

  • Whole body mobility
  • Shoulder stability
  • Trunk stability

Let’s tackle each in turn.

Mobility

As mobility should proceed stability, that’s where we’ll kick off. Not only can you tinker with ground based movement patterns to attack any joint you fancy but pick the right exercises and you can hit four or five in one go. Now that’s efficiency for you! As I outlined in my Warm-Up – A Systems Approach article, the ankle, hip and T-spine are often the culprits requiring the most attention – a simple mountain climber with a reach can tick them all off nicely.

Shoulder Stability

Shoulder PainThere’s something almost magic about ground based movement for the shoulders. When applied in a smart and sensible manner, ground based movement can play an important role in dealing with shoulder problems. More importantly, the show the potential to reduce the likelihood of injuries occurring in the first place.

First off, when you have your hands in contact with the floor gravity is helping you centrate the head of humerus inside the glenoid cavity. Proper centration of the joint is required not just for stability, but for effective proprioception and force transmission too.

Secondly, ground based movement challenges the ability to maintain this centrated position in the presence of movement and perturbation. All the muscles around the shoulder are force to co-contract to stabilise the joint reflexively. This is the true function of rotator cuff and is an integral part of how we need to train it! Call it rhythmic stabilisation, upper body proprioception, quasi-isometrics or whatever fancy term you like, just get down and do it!

Trunk Stability

GBM Push Up Arm HoldAgain, we’re forcing muscles to co-contract in order to resist unwanted movement around the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex by locking everything in place. During the majority of ground based exercises gravity is acting down on the lower back and trying to push us into lumbar extension. By resisting this extension moment we’re using the musculature around the trunk and emphasising the anterior musculature (abs) in particular.]

To increase the demands on the trunk there’s a few things we can do:

  • Move – moving forces the trunk musculature to act in a more reflexive and ‘real-world’ fashion than static holds
  • Stretch – the further you can get your hands or feet away from your belly button, the harder the exercise
  • Get off centre – making the load asymmetric by taking a hand off the floor, for example, turns things up a notch
  • Tuck under – by posteriorly tilting the pelvis we can increase the demand on the anterior musculature

Influences

I’ll be back in another article to show you some of my go-to ground based movements. In the meantime, here a few of the flashier forms of ground based movement that have influence what I do.

Dewey Nielsen, MovNat, Global Bodyweight Training

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