Is everything published on the internet true?

It has been less than six months since I entered the world of social media. Like many of my generation (now I really sound old) prior to now I had chosen a different path when it came to communicating with others and certainly when it came to the sharing and acquisition of training / sport science information.

Once I got on board I was genuinely impressed at the breadth of information being circulated, particularly the ahead of press articles, slightly “off-piste” research and some texts that I wasn’t aware of. All that being said I have arrived at an impasse.

Given my motivation to get my website up and going I studied as much as I could find about contemporary marketing in the digital age. That study lead me to the understanding that I should submit “tweets” and Facebook updates as much as 6-8 times per day. Now I get the logic, but unfortunately that to me appears to be a strategy that is more consistent with entertainment rather than education.

As I have spent more time reading a plethora of social media interactivity, I have now come to the conclusion that there are a large proportion of “professionals” out there pushing information that is of a questionable nature. That being said, my work may well fall into that category as well…”beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Not being one to waste time, I have taken the “glass is half full” approach and have used some of the things I have read as counter arguments to my own TRAINING MODEL. I essentially create an internal argument for myself, and force a valid point of view to either accept or reject various pieces of information I come across.

I thought I would pen some of the arguments I’ve had as I think it serves to help young coaches “get off the fence” when it comes to their own TRAINING MODEL.

I have purposely not identified the individuals who published these thoughts because they are their thoughts and I am only interpreting the information as I see it relative to my TRAINING MODEL. Their information is neither wholly right nor wrong, as is the case with my published thoughts. In many cases the published works are statements, not fully fleshed out philosophies and therefore may have other undocumented logic behind them. If as an author you recognize your work please do not take offense as I am merely sharing the process by which I choose to analyze what has become a mountain of information being driven through social media channels.

"Max strength rather than lean body comp correlates better with performance in strength / power sports".

I thought long and hard about this one. Really it all comes down to how you define your sport, and the thing is there are some changes across sports that may counter the above point.

I extrapolated a little to explore the definition of strength / power sports to see how this statement fit.

Rugby / Rugby League – many see both sports these days as strength / power based. No matter which way you look at it players still need to be able to run out a game ~80min (less for substitutes etc.). That being said there has been a huge shift toward changes in dietary and training practices that are producing leaner and more powerful athletes. On that basis I would disregard the above statement or reconfigure the way in which either sport is defined. Either way I think in a running-based sport, lean body composition and maximum strength both a have a significant role to play. Positional variation aside, I cannot validate high body fat to accommodate maximum strength. My belief is that with a diet optimized for CHO (not overloaded like many are) fat mass can be decreased markedly while easily sustaining and where required gaining LMM. Obviously, for props there is the question of “ballast”, but even then I would be working toward a stronger athlete both in absolute and relative terms rather than accept high fat mass.

Bobsled – I have no experience what so ever to draw upon, but watching the Sochi Winter Olympics I would suggest the Bobsled represents a significant strength / power sport. The observation that there weren’t too many “fat dudes” pushing in Sochi would lead me to conclude that there is also a relationship here between maximum strength / power and low fat mass, even despite the obvious benefits of increased mass in a gravity driven sport.

Powerlifting – again not my specialty by any stretch, but there certainly seems to be guys like Jim Wendler etc. who are radically changing their body composition and sustaining very high absolute strength levels.

Conclusion: While I certainly value maximum strength and power in my field sport athletes, I think advances in nutritional models have made it far easier to maintain a more efficient balance of LMM against fat mass. If you find you are compromised in the development of maximum strength / power by limited LMM gain I would be investigating closely the athletes dietary practices rather than accepting higher fat mass levels.

"Training to prepare as thoroughly as you can should outweigh the to desire avoid injury. Compromise training = compromise performance". 

Every single training stimulus a coach uses should be assessed on a “risk-reward” basis. In my mind if the risk out weighs the reward there is no point in continuing with the training stimulus.  Be that as it may, injuries still happen and certainly when loads are at their highest, particularly in team sports, some will get burnt.

One session does not make a season…but the wrong session can certainly break one.

Now I appreciate the sentiment of the above quote, there is certainly a “hardness” required in all training. That said; don’t be fooled into trying to be a “tough-guy” (as seems to be the trend in S&C at the minute), and implementing sessions that are untenable just because you want to. Read my article on the pitfalls of Survival of the Fittest training. I always try to plan and implement training with the accuracy of a sniper rifle rather than the blunt aggression of a shot-gun.

Continuity of training should always be protected.  If there is sufficient information about you that suggests a change to the training stimulus is warranted, then do it.  Don't be so short sighted as to ignore clear signs and follow dogmatically what you have written on a piece of paper  Taking a small step back allows you to maintain training continuity which in the long run creates greater training adaptations.

Conclusion: Work hard on your planning; work even harder on reading the individual’s adaptation through your monitoring and training data, and at an even higher level by how they move…mechanical fatigue tells a compelling story if you are open to seeing it. In my view training is testing and testing is training…everything an athlete does paints a picture as to how they are handling the training load. Read my article The Trend is Your Friend for more views on the subject.

"Don't ask your athlete you athletes to do anything you can't do"!

I tried to see this from different angles…but I still couldn’t figure it out. It looked like this to me, either

  1. As a coach you are a great athlete, and your charges struggle to keep up with you and you should think about competing rather than coaching or
  2. You limit your athlete’s development to what you are capable of, which in the case of most S&C coaches (certainly me) would restrict athletic development to a very low level.

I have written previously on what I believe is a crucial element of S&C coaching development: athletic empathy. I believe it is critical that as a coach you have sufficient personal experience to understand the nuances of various training drills, the challenges of multiple training sessions, the pain of compounded fatigue and the exhilaration of unloading phases (read more here). I don’t believe you have to have attained the levels that your are asking of your athletes – for mine that is another example of a “tough-guy” statement that doesn’t warrant inclusion in an informed TRAINING MODEL.

Here’s how I tested my hypothesis. At 45 I’m a relatively strong guy and when my knees allow it not a bad runner. That said in my 30’s with the Wallabies I trained numerous players to squat well over 200kg, while I was somewhere around 150kg. Was I unqualified to coach to that level, or should I have invested more time in my own training? I think preparing the Wallabies for over 100 tests would suggest those that employed me thought I was sufficiently qualified. In my present role I have 90kg players who can run over 16km of repeat sprints in 2hrs of AFL. At 97kg I go ok (preferably in soft sand) but I can’t get anywhere near them on grass at steady state let alone repeat sprints. Am I unqualified to coach at this level or should I run more? Again, my current employers seem to think I do a good job.

Conclusion: Based on my ability to remain employed at a very high level for a long time, I would suggest that in my case my blend of athletic empathy and athletic preparation knowledge is effective at producing results, and I therefore reject the statement opening statement for inclusion in my TRAINING MODEL.

Again, please let me be clear. The purpose of this article is not to criticize other’s points of view. It is to validate my own philosophies by comparing and contrasting with other views expressed on social media channels. In doing so I hope I have helped developing coaches explore how to rationalize concepts and either accept or reject them from their own TRAINING MODEL.


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