Its been a little while now since I last posted a blog. Now the AFL season has finished I've had time to lift my head from the vortex that professional sport can be and have a look around and reacquaint myself with the world.
As much as I'd like to say I read/study a lot during the season, the truth is I really don't do very much. That being said, once the pace settles I'm right back into it.
Aside from academic literature I also try to keep up to date with the health / fitness industry just to keep a eye on what is going on out there...in my line of work you just never know when you may need it!
One of the first things I came across was an editorial piece on High Intensity Training...and the best part was I couldn't stop laughing! Check out this edit (just the punchline really).
Now to be fair the whole article wasn't bad. Check it out here to form your own opinion. I must also note that the scientists involved in this piece conveyed a good message based on some solid research...they just can't coach!
However, the basis for my extremely enjoyable roll around laughing (the best part...apart from the journalist swearing... is Professor John Hawley audibly saying "Ahh no!"...twice!) is that the video above defines so much of where the fitness and sports industries are at.
Research vs Practical Intervention
I genuinely respect all of the scientists who presented in the full episode of Catalyst from which my video excerpt was drawn, and as I noted above they present some great science. However, there is a fair distance between what happens in a lab and what is required when we decide to blend terra firma and human speed. My intent here is not to get caught up in the specifics of developing speed, but rather to make the point that it is all well and good to read something in a research article (or worse still watch it on a current affairs program), it is quite another thing to implement it safely and repeatably.
While the use of High Intensity Training (HIT), involving both speed and strength modalities are well documented and widely used, I still see far too much evidence on a daily basis of people, particularly young athletes and untrained middle aged people (like me), going far too hard in terms of both running speed and weight lifted in the gym. Social media is awash with examples of "box" gyms claiming to be High Performance centers having all manner of people complete tasks that are so far beyond their ability its ridiculous.
The same point extends to the evolution of the Sport Scientist in professional sport. Just because you have an advanced degree in physiology doesn't mean you know the first thing about how to prepare an individual to complete maximal effort repeat speed (so beautifully demonstrated in the video above). I've written extensively on this subject before (here) and my point remains the same...respect accrued knowledge of others and understand where you own limitations as a professional lay.
General vs Specific Training
I've had a lot of requests lately for preseason training programs (particularly for AFL...check this out). While I'm working on some new material for that specifically, I will say that again the video above made me reflect on the importance of the General Physical Preparation (GPP) phase of training.
The old adage of running long slow distance until you get to football training is as "stupid" as running hills flat out on your first go. I've never forgotten watching a Charlie Francis video back in the early '90's about the enormous soft tissue resilience benefits of running "rhythm" reps...70-80% maximum velocity and build some volume. It is this General work that allows you to layer on more Specific work (maximal sprint and change of direction) later in the preseason period.
Strength Before Speed
This is a core tenant of the rehabilitation process...and should be the same for anyone trying to enter a speed based program. Get strong first! If you can't do 20 single leg calf raises off the floor...I would think strongly about pursuing a direction other than a speed based one.
Maximal force (strength) isn't the answer in and of itself either. When it comes to force production...its not about how much you produce...its how you produce it that makes all the difference.
On the same line of thinking, yesterday I read a fantastic article by Jean-Benoit Morin (Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal) which clearly illustrates the level of scientific investigation going into understanding exactly which components of force production contribute to speed performance. Whether you are into the science or not (although I must say its it very cool and has wide ranging application), the inference clearly is that the way in which the athlete interacts with the ground and how sustainable it is, is the most critical determinant of performance and in my view injury prevention. The "how" of the movement is everything.
For southern hemisphere readers good luck in preparation for preseason, and for the northern hemisphere guys all the best for the winter season!