The coach’s responsibility

I feel like I need to get something out in the open, I am sick of hearing about ‘movement mechanics training’ or ‘sports specific training’ when it comes to athletes because more often than not, these terms are misunderstood and misused by strength coaches at large. Sports Mechanics is a very unique field and should be left to specialists. The simple fact is that while I am very much in support of making each and every athlete better at their sport, that is not the job of the strength coach. That is the job of their sports coach, so do your job and make them better athletes!

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We are in the business of making athletes strong!

Too many of us in the coaching field are trying to be more than we are by attempting to move our knowledge in to fields that we are not qualified to speak on. If I take on a rugby player as a client, I am not going to start putting them into sports specific positional drills. Those muscles are already being worked in training and I sure as hell can’t teach them better than a qualified rugby coach. All your doing is exacerbating the issue at hand and not fulfilling your job description. Sure, your working towards making sure that the player snaps the ball marginally faster, but can they run faster, jump higher and change direction quicker? If not, then no one is going to care how fast he or she can offload the ball because the monster at the other end of the field is already closing in on them with a torpedo like pace.

TAKE THAT!

TAKE THAT!

We need to look at each individual sports requirements and make sure that we are tailoring what ever strength and conditioning that we are putting our athletes through directly corresponds to the demands of that sports. If your sport requires rotational force such as golf, make sure you stabilize the midline and work on the capability of the body to generate rotational force. If you’re a thrower, take it ones step further than work on the ability of the body to rotate and extend during the production of power.

Does your sport require agility and power, great! Lets work on the physical attributes that allow you to have agility and power, but lets make sure that we are doing this in a well thought out and methodical way. The aforementioned issue that I have with the way in which some strength coaches are training their athletes is that it is inappropriate not just in terms of the coaches primary function, namely as a strength coach, but also because its working on the top end of the ‘athletes pyramid’ model that I have discussed in previous works before.

To recap, if we think about ultimate athletic potential as a pyramid, we want to build the tallest, broadest pyramid possible and to do that we need to bare in mind that a pyramid can only be as tall as its base is wide. If we break down the pyramid into three sections we have general physical preparedness (GPP), special physical preparedness (SPP), and sports specific physical preparedness (SSPP).

General physical preparedness would be maximal strength, conditioning and bodily composition of the athlete. Special physical preparedness would be applying the athletes GPP within the context of either the time demands of the sport, the context of a movement pattern, or a set physical attribute that the sport requires. For example, max back squat for a wrestler would be GPP. Zercher squats, sand bag carries, or farmers walks would be SPP. Finally, the act of wrestling would be the SSPP, and this relies on the expertise of the wrestling coach, not you.

Zach Even-Esh has made a career taking kids who know how to wrestle, and making them wrestlers!

Zach Even-Esh has made a career taking kids who know how to wrestle, and making them wrestlers!

The long and short of this article is that you need to remember what your priority is when dealing with athletes. It is your job to make sure that your athletes become harder, better, faster, stronger, not to make them better at there specific sports skills. If you are doing your job right then everyone of their physical attributes that you develop will carry over to their abilities within their actual sports. Don’t try and teach a rugby player how to tackle, make them tackle harder. Don’t teach a runner how to run, make sure that they can physically withstand the mileage of their endurance training.

We as coaches have a duty of care, by not fulfilling our job description we are not just endangering our athletes but our reputations.

To find out how you can get strong and realise your inner athlete just click the link below.

http://bit.ly/1rvbFHQ

Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Strong.

Training Vs. Practice

Take a look at any sport. Whether it is performance, individual, or team based, they all have one thing in common, they have a very unique understanding of the difference between training and practice. True, with sports which are skill orientated rather than purely performance based, i.e football vs. the 100m dash, there is an even greater distinction between ‘training’, and ‘practice’ due to the differentiation between the time spent ‘practicing’ the skill of their sports, and the time spent developing the physical aspects during the Strength and Conditioning ‘training’.

Technique and movement quality have to come first.

Technique and movement quality have to come first.

However, within the world of physical and athletic development the current paradigm presents us with a problem. We don’t teach our athletes to view their gym time as a time of skill acquisition and ‘practice’. Anyone who has spent time surfing the interwebs looking at training videos – you know who you are! – has probably seen some incredible feats of strength and endurance from athletes that have some horrendous technique, but they are still great athletes, but the real question is this, how long can they keep themselves that way, and how can we make them better?

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This guy is a probably a great athlete, but this is not a great power clean.

Whenever the weightlifting teams at California Strength and MDUSA finish their sessions, their coaches say, ‘Good practice everyone!’. This speaks volumes to me as, while the sport of weightlifting is a special case due to its nature as a performance based sport, they are focused on making sure that the time they spend getting stronger is time spent attempting to become as technically proficient as possible the allow for the greatest carry over to their performance as athletes.

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You need good technique in order to support this kind load!

While I am aware that using these elite weightlifters as an example may not speak to the everyday athletes out there, we as coaches must seek to break that barrier. If a training methodology does not scale both up and down, from the greatest athletes to the worst, then it is a broken system and needs to be updated or repaired. Skill acquisition must be placed first. It is the foundation upon which all other physical attributes are formed. Strength is useless without the ability to move efficiently and apply that strength.

So, what we need to do as coaches is implement a shift in the way in which we teach our athletes and clients to think of the time they spend training with us, as well as the way in which they perceive their own progress. Training or practice is measured in progress, but a big bug bear of mine is the fact that we only seem to teach people progress in terms of weight on the bar, not in terms of speed, efficiency, or movement quality. While I am all for people shooting for the moon and getting as strong as they can be, this ‘balls to the wall’ style of training is not maintainable for the vast majority of everyday athletes or for that matter a smart way to go about things. It breeds the mentality that record hunting is the only way that we can measure progress and this leads to a competition mentality that causes people to sacrifice movement quality for the sake of a new PR.

The stronger you are, the greater the buffer between you and injury, but this only applies so far before you hit a point of diminishing returns. The risk vs. reward aspect of advancing before you are technically ready is always risky, and will only work for so long before injury or structural breakdown. There is a time and place for pushing your boundaries, but this must be done in the safest possible way to make sure that the buffer against injury is at its greatest.

Being a great athlete is what allows Brian Cushings to keep playing one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. This applies to you just as much as it does to anyone else.

Being a great athlete is what allows Brian Cushings to keep playing one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. This applies to you just as much as it does to anyone else.

Push for strength, push for improvement, but measure improvement as more than just load on the bar. Widen your horizons and understand that there is more to progress than the current paradigm of gym culture tells you there is.

To find out how you can get strong and realise your inner athlete just click the link below.

http://bit.ly/1rvbFHQ

Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Strong.

UNCOMFORTABLY ENERGETIC!!!!

Ever heard someone talk about any of the following things:

Phosphocreatine?
Blood Lactic?
Anaerobic?
Aerobic?
Lactic threshold?
ATP?
ADP?
Adenine?
Adenosine?

If so, where you left dumbfounded, did you feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights of bullshit? If so, don’t worry; it’s not your fault! It’s the Internet’s. However, I digress. With the ease with which people can put down their opinions on everything under the sun on the Internet, it becomes very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. As such, I will be providing you with a basic, introduction to the various energy systems of the body, and all that this entails. I have taken all of this knowledge from various textbooks, so this should be up to date correct.

anaelacticphospho what now?!

Ok, so here we go! Right, so, the body is like a car, it requires fuel or its not going anywhere. This fuel is the food we eat, which in essence is broken down into the macronutrients of Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Each energy source is metabolized differently to generate useable energy. The only energy unit however, that is useable by the body is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the bodies’ energy currency, and is used in one of the three bodily energy systems, which are the phosphocreatine system, the aerobic system, and the lactic system. We’ll get onto these later.

First things first, we get energy from foods, but all these foods are metabolized in different ways.
 
Carbs
Carbs! Yes, fruit and veggies are carbs, get over it!

So, carbs have 4 kcal per gram. The NHS nutritional guidlines state that 60-65% of your caloric intake should be carbohydrate however, this prescription is based on an out dated understanding of how foods are metabolised and is slowly being stamped out in the minds of the public and our health officials thank God. All carbs are in essence sugar waiting to happen; besides the molecular structure the only thing that separates a gummy baby from a sweet potato is the time it takes the body to break down these foods into usable sugar, i.e. glucose.

Carbs are not easily stored within the body, with small amounts being stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which can be reverted into glucose when needed. Glycogen stored in the muscles can only be used in the muscles and cannot be released in the blood for use elsewhere. Carbs should be taken pre and post work out and limited the rest of the day, with the amounts of carbs varying depending on your goals… that’s right, I am saying you should limit carbs!

The reason for this being that Glycogen has a relatively large chemical structure, as it is made of many glucose molecules. When activity levels start to increase, or are anticipated to increase, adrenaline, and glucagon (a fuel mobilizing hormone) send messages for the enzymes within the muscles cells to work to break the glycogen apart, via a process called glycogenolysis.

Fat
Fats. Yummy yummy fats!

Fat provides the greatest amount of energy per gram at 9kcal per gram. Fat is stored in the body both underneath the skin and around the organs. The same hormones that stimulate the break down of glycogen into glucose stimulates that breakdown of fat in the adipose tissue into fatty acids to be used for energy production. This is known as lipolysis. Now, the funny thing about fats is this, not only are these vital for hormone production, testosterone levels, the fitter an individual, the more efficient they are at extracting energy from fat. Fat needs a great deal of oxygen to be metabolized effectively. The cardiovascular adaptations that occur with regular cardio vascular training improves the abilities of an individual to take up oxygen and deliver it to the working muscles making it easier for the body to use fat as fuel even at higher intensities. This is a useful survival mechanism, because which carbs run out quickly, there is an abundant supply of fat to fuel ongoing activity. A fit individual can spare the carbs until it is really needed and maintained activity, using fat as the main fuel. Some carbs are still needed to aid the metabolism of fat as it acts as a metabolic primer.

Protein
Meat is Murder! Tasty, tasty murder!

Protein, the building blocks of life and the key to you becoming the a more optimally functional human being. I am not going to do this section to death, as everyone seems to know a fair bit about protein. It provides 4kcal of energy per gram. Protein is stored in the body as muscle and is only used for energy production when carb stores are deleted. Proteins need to be broken down into amino acids and converted into glucose by the liver if they are to be used for energy production. This process is known as gluconeogeneis.

This is where magic happens!

Ok so, those are the fuel sources. Muscle glycogen is stored to fuel muscular activity, such as weightlifting, and muscle glycogen is stored for use by the brain. If there is no glucose remaining in blood and the liver glycogen store is running low, carbs must be ingested or it must start to be made internally. Amino acids are used for this through the break down or protein.

The demand of ATP synthesis varies depending on the intensity of the activity. The more ATP is required the quicker it needs to be synthesized. If it cannot be synthesized quick enough, then intensity of activity must lower, even at its fastest, it takes a minimum of 10 seconds to synthesize enough ATP. The body will use a mix of fat in the form of fatty acids and carbohydrates in the form of glucose to synthesis ATP. Fat can only be used in the presence of oxygen. Without oxygen, only carbohydrate can be used. As already mentioned, there are plenty of fat stores, but fat takes a relatively long time to metabolise.

 
ENERGY SYSTEMS!
 

The only source of energy that can be used directly by the body is ATP. It is made of one adenosine molecule and three phosphates, which are attached through high-energy bonds. Energy is produced when the bond between the second and third phosphate is broken. The by products of this are Adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and phosphate. ATP is really unstable and cannot be stored in the muscle. ADP and phosphate are stable. To maintain energy supplies ATP must be constantly re-synthesized, meaning energy is needed from somewhere else to reattach the phosphate that has broken away and allow the cycle to continue. There are three energy systems that perform this function.

The energy systems used to re-synthesized ATP will be depend on:

The intensity of the exercise / activity
Duration of the exercise
The type of exercise / activity

Phosphocreatine –

Muscle glycogen provides the initial fuel for movement when exercise starts. Straight away the body starts to metabolize fat and increase the flow of blood to the muscles being used, in order to provide the fat and oxygen required if activity is to continue. This process takes a minimum of 20 seconds, by which time the small amounts of glycogen held within the muscles has been completely used up in approximately 1-2 seconds.

Maximal intensity exercises have a huge glycogen demand

Within the muscle there is a store of creatine phosphate. Although this cannot be used directly, it can be converted very quickly when catalysed by the anaerobic enzyme creatine kinase. Only one chemical process is required to separate the phosophate from the creatine, so that phospate is added to the ADP to create more ATP.

Creatine phosphate is generated in the liver, but is also sourced from the meat that we eat. When muscle demands it, either more is synthesized in the liver, or more is taken from within the bloodstream. At best, a muscle can store no more than roughly 20 seconds worth of the stuff. The more the creatine phosphate is used, the greater the ability to sore it and the greater the amount of creatine kinase is made readily available. High intensity training involving repeated short bursts of explosive movements is likely to be the most effective way of achieving this.

Fast twitch muscle fiber’s (fast glycolytic) will use the phosphocreatine system for energy production. Their low aerobic ability means that they need to use an energy system that can provide energy without the use of oxygen (anaerobically). Their suitability to short bursts of intense activity also means that the best energy system for them to utilize is the phosphocreatine system.

The phosphocreatine system fuels short bursts of very high or maximal intensity activity. This should be reflected when one tries to improve the efficiency of the phosphocreatine system. By alternating maximal efforts with long recovery periods using interval training, this energy system can be effectively overloaded to bring about adaptation.

For example, a max effort squat would use all the muscular stores of creatine phosphate. A long recovery is then required to allow the body to refuel these stores, roughly 6 minutes. Therefore only allowing the body 3 minutes allows for a gradual depletion of the bodies creatine phosphate over a number of maximal efforts.

Lift heavy, often, with good technique.
The Lactic System

Once all available creatine phospate has been used, intensity of activity must lower, as no other system is able to re-synthesize ATP as quickly. If activity is continued then the next fastest system is the lactic system. The lactic system is also used if an activity is started at a less intense rate than required for the phosphocreatine system. The body continues to metabolize fat and increase the flow of blood to the muscles involved, to provide the fat and oxygen required if the activity is to continue. The lactic acid system is more efficient than the phosphocreatine system at generate ATP, producing a max of three ATP molecules per molecule of glycogen via a process called anaerobic glycolysis The process of anaerobic glycolysis takes longer than the phosphocreatine system, due to the more chemically complex nature of the glucose molecules, which causes a rapid depletion of the bodies glycogen stores.

Two variables limit the ability of the lactic system to continue working. Firstly that glucose stores run out pretty damn quick. The second is that the system produces more of its waste product, lactic acid… duh, than the body can handle. This leads to all those nasty cramps and vomiting that we sometimes experience when we feel the “burn”.

Why does it hurt so much to be this fast?!

The build up of lactic acid in fact prevents further ATP generation. The muscles continue to try to contract, but with each contraction less ATP is generated. Once intensity of exercise decreases, lactic acid is dispersed into the blood and taken to other muscles or the liver. The speed or recovery is related not to only the intensity of activity that is continued but also to each individuals personal abilities. Total recovery from an over load of the lactic system is approximately 30 minutes. An individual will first reach the aerobic threshold. This is the point at which energy production begins to shift in favor of anaerobic pathways, but lactic acid concentrations have not yet reached a level that will inhibit performance, which lets be honest, sucks.

The point at which lactic acid is being produced faster than it can be removed is known as anaerobic threshold. This threshold is also known as the point of onset blood lactate accumulation (OBLA). To improve the lactic system interval training is an effective method of improving the lactic acid system. By alternating work efforts that create a lactic build up with periods of recovery to remove the lactic acid by product we can begin to increase the anaerobic threshold and point of OBLA. Fartlek (speed play), cruise intervals, HIIT are all good methodologies to follow to improve the lactic acid system.

The Aerobic System

Once the lactic acid has prevented further generation of ATP, intensity of activity must be lowered. The aerobic system then takes over. Aerobic production of ATP is by far the most preferred method. As long as there is sufficient oxygen present, the body always selects the aerobic system. Not only does this utilize fat as well as carbs, leaving more carbs in the tank, but it also is able to generate more molecules of ATP. Aerobic (with oxygen) glycolysis generates up to 38 molecules of ATP for each molecule of glycogen.

Aerobic glycolysis takes place in specialized muscle cells called mitochondria. Mitochondria are essentially cell batteries and are found within muscle fibers. The point at which intensity of activity increases so much that the body is no longer able to get enough oxygen to get to the working muscles is known as the aerobic threshold. Again, to a certain extent this is genetically set. Appropriate training, in the form of interval training with peaks just about the aerobic threshold, can improve the aerobic threshold by enabling the body to transport and work with oxygen at a higher intensity.

When glucose is broken down in the presence of oxygen it is converted into pyruvate. This process is known as glycolysis. In the absence of oxygen the pyruvate becomes lactic acid and eventually inhibits further muscle contraction. As long as oxygen and carbohydrates are present the aerobic energy systems can last indefinably. The by products of aerobic production are CO2, water and heat. The body easily removes all these, so it presents no limiting factors. The aerobic energy system will at the time be using a combination of fats and carbs to produce ATP. Protein can be used when glycogen stores have been depleted. The proportion of fat and carbs used is determined by the intensity of the activity. As intensity increases a greater proportion of ATP synthesis will come from aerobic glycolysis until anaerobic threshold is reached. However, the maximal effective duration of the Aerobic system is only two hours.

So there we are boys and girls, a brief insight into the world of energy systems. I hope you enjoy.

Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Strong.

Rogan

For any information or questions regarding the blog, or for any information regarding my services as a Personal Trainer, please contact me via my Facebook Page, Twitter, Email, or in the comment section below.

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