A Review of the High Performance Athletic Development Clinic

Athletic Lab in conjunction with UK based Proformance recently hosted the High Performance Athletic Development Clinic. The clinic brought together some of the top coaches in the world of sports performance and applied sports science. There were over 60 coaches in attendance including staff members from the Carolina Hurricanes, NC State, UNC, Duke, UNC, ECU, Clemson, Wake Forest, Ole Miss and more. The featured speaker was legendary Track & Field coach Boo Schexnayder who lectured attendees for over 7 hours over the 2 day clinic. Athletic Lab’s Dr. Mike Young and John Grace were also featured speakers. The other 7 speakers were also top notch and delivered outstanding presentations. Here’s a team summary from 3 attendees (Jamie Hershfang, Laurel Zimmermann, and Riley Rogers) all members of Athletic Lab’s Coaching & Applied Sport Science Mentorship Program. See the bottom of the post for information about the authors.

Compatible and Complementary Training Design by Boo Schexnayder reviewed by Riley Rogers

DSC07894Boo Schexnayder presented on Compatible and Complementary Training Design, focusing specifically on the mesocycle. By shifting the design of the training program every 28 days, the athlete is given the ideal amount of time to adapt neuromuscularly. “The difference between a good athlete and a bad athlete is the nervous system,” he stated. Using this time frame, the athlete trains for three weeks and rests for one. He clarified that his concept of “rest days” are high intensity and low volume. As Schexnayder noted, “I can work hard because I rest hard,” meaning that rest is of value because it gives the athletes a chance to recharge in anticipation of the coming work weeks.
There are a few mesocycle schemes that Schexnayder outlined: block scheme, rotational scheme, and block within a block. For example, a block scheme might consist of a month of work capacity, a month of technique, a month of speed, and a month of strength. A rotational scheme would consist of a week of each type. This is an example of compatible training design, which is an approach where certain activities should be performed in a specific sequence because of the body’s demands.
Next, Schexnayder talked about designing training programs that are complementary, meaning that they are based on the demand of the nervous system. Because of this, it’s important to keep in mind what is going on at the cellular level, not just the physical level. Schexnayder noted, “If you trust your eye, you get misled”. He gave specific suggestions for grouping in a complementary manner, such as putting neuromuscular demands together such as speed, multi jumps, and weight training.
Although Schexnayder shared a wealth of information in his lecture, I will share what I, personally, found most interesting. Schexnayder stated, “Variance in training reduces the likelihood of injury”. This is interesting and important to me because people are always trying to find new methods of “injury prevention”. The fact of the matter is, injuries cannot be completely prevented, but their likelihood can be reduced. Schexnayder revealed his secret in this presentation: variance.

Team Training Modification for the College Setting by Greg Gatz reviewed by Riley Rogers

With 18 years of experience in strength and conditioning for Olympic sports and a published book under his belt, Greg Gatz is no amateur when it comes to training successful teams. As Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gatz has helped several Division 1 teams develop the strength, speed, and power needed to win national championships. Therefore, it is only fitting that he presented on Team Training Modification for the College Setting at the HPAD clinic. Gatz moved seamlessly through his presentation, making the attendees feel as though they were discussing team training modification 1-on-1 with a friend. His use of personal anecdotes had the crowd absorbed as if they were present at the time.
Gatz expressed, “Many athletes today have a high skill level, but low physical competencies”. In training college teams, he noted seven important elements: mobility, ground contact time, loading and unloading mechanics, linking strength from top to bottom, foot plant from above and stiffness, acceleration, and individualized and appropriate fitness. He suggested tossing the old strategies out the window, such as drilling for drill’s sake, slow running, bodybuilding, and long runs for conditioning. Instead, they can be replaced with these more modern and sport-specific elements. Gatz continued on and talked about monitoring, something that all coaches do, but not necessarily in the right way or for the right reasons. For a good coach, Gatz claimed that monitoring is “in the eyes,” meaning that it’s not all about what numbers the athletes record, but also about how they look and feel.
Finally, Gatz ended his presentation with thoughts of the future of training in the college setting. He predicted the continued emergence of year-round competitive athletes, which would result in a change to “summer” training and new obstacles that coaches will need to adjust to. The message he had to coaches was to continue to communicate with their athletes and to educate.

Simple and Practical Training for Olympic Sports by Alex Carnall reviewed by Riley Rogers

march_football (13 of 25)As the Assistant Director of Campbell University’s Strength and Conditioning program, Alex Carnall has faced his fair share of challenges. In recent years, their Men’s Soccer team consisted of large numbers of freshmen, a few sophomores, a moderate number of juniors, and zero seniors. Given this youth movement, the challenge for him here was creating a training program that worked for 17 and 18 year olds with little to no experience in strength and conditioning as well as 21 and 22 year olds in their third and fourth years with the same program. With this experience, Carnall presented on Simple and Practical Training for Olympic Sports. Although he presented as part of the Future Leaders Program, Carnall spoke with such confidence and knowledge that would make you think he’s been in the field of Exercise Science since birth. His comfort in front of an audience made the Athletic Lab’s extensive space feel intimate while he spoke about how he has learned from his own experiences.
Carnall stated, “It comes down to how well you do the fundamentals”. In the off-season, he focused on the “flow channel,” exercise selection and periodization, as well as on sound and simple progressions. The flow channel matches challenges to skills in a linear correlation. As skills improve, the challenges must also be increased to avoid anxiety or boredom. Lastly, Carnall spoke about how best to focus on the three points of emphasis in simple training: familiarity with movement tasks, breathing and bracing strategies, and neutral postures. By teaching these basics, Carnall set his team up for success not only in the short run (shown by measuring body composition, power output, and timed agility), but in the long run as well (shown by skill mastery). Overall, Carnall’s simple and practical training strategy allows each athlete to progress, especially in situations when a team is so diverse in age and experience.

Neuromechanics of Speed Development by Mike Young reviewed by Laurel Zimmermann

soccer-prep2Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the High Performance Athletic Development clinic presented by Proformance and Athletic Lab. One thing Mike said at the beginning of his presentation was “Everyone can run, but that doesn’t mean everyone can run well”. I think this is incredibly important because as coaches and trainers it is our duty to help our athletes get to the next level. One method of doing this is following what Mike calls Sprinting 101: small mass + big force + right direction + minimal time= run faster. If you want to accelerate faster you need to apply a large force to the ground while being as light as possible. Greater force is beneficial because it will not only help increase stride length but it will increase stride frequency as well.
Another key component of speed is posture; an athlete should have their trunk erect, head level, and hips tall. If an athlete has bad posture they won’t have proper stabilization and alignment of the core and are more likely to have inappropriate movements of the limbs. This will in turn slow them down and could result in an increased risk of injury.
In conclusion, the most important thing I learned was that sprinting is a skill that can be improved with proper mechanics and a lot of practice. Specificity is especially important; to sprint faster you need to sprint, there is no better way. The weight room is supportive but shouldn’t be the main focus. Fat doesn’t fly; any body mass that’s not directly contributing to propulsive forces is actually limiting speed.

Simple Strategies for Delivering A Holistic Program in the Collegiate Setting by Chad Workman reviewed by Riley Rogers

Chad Workman, Assistant Coach of UNC’s Strength and Conditioning program, presented to the HPAD clinic’s attendees on Simple Strategies for Delivering A Holistic Program in the Collegiate Setting. Workman’s strong presence and firm tone portrayed that he had a message that needed sharing, and he did just that. His presentation covered the important components of a holistic program, from staff and team culture to student-athlete interaction to the role of coaches. These are all familiar concepts that athletes and athletic staff alike have been taught since the beginning, but elements that are often challenging to master.
In Workman’s discussion about dynamics, he noted there are roles that the staff has and roles that the team has. Amongst staff, trust and cooperation are paramount in addition to unity and organization. As for the team, they must understand why they’re training, what the staff’s expectations and consequences are for them and they must be accountable and have team unity. As he made clear to the audience, strength and conditioning coaches can make or break these roles, for they are the link between coaches and the team in terms of training. As Workman quoted, “How do you increase the effectiveness of your program? Have communication between colleagues and athletes”. Additionally, he said, “Information needs to be shared at every level of an organizational hierarchy to ensure the vision is shared”. A few methods for enforcing his strategy are autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Autonomy allows the athletes to have a say in what they feel they need to improve. Relatedness aligns interest, showcases similarities, and therefore creates trust between the coach and the athlete. Finally, the appropriate training progressions allow athletes to feel a sense of competence and encourages them to work together towards reaching their goals. With Workman’s simple strategies, athletes and athletic staff can maximize their potential, both interpersonally and in competition.

Critical Factors in Speed Training Design by Boo Schexnayder reviewed by Jamie Hershfang

0528160009In all sports, why is speed development such an integral part of training? Speed helps strength, strength helps speed, could it really be stated that simply? Speed is a neural quality, therefore we must train the nervous system accordingly. When implemented in program design, coaches should focus their attention to the percentage of neural work, understanding how it improves coordination and movement qualities among their athletes. Advanced neuromuscular integration and better functioning lactate metabolism are just a few benefits from speed training.
The main speed training components are accelerative development, speed development, and speed endurance. In terms of training for long term development, the sequence of these components are important for safety, preparation for training, and improved lactate physiology. Accelerative development involves the lowest lactate levels with the lowest volumes and highest intensities due to complete recovery. Speed development has high lactate levels with variable speed constructs and moderately high intensities. Finally, speed endurance has the highest lactate levels which teaches the muscle and nervous system to function together. When implemented in training, coaches should consider starting the week with power/explosiveness, rather than speed, so athletes are not stale going into their speed workout. There is the misconception that athletes must feel fresh for these types of speed workouts, but often this is not the case, and it is the competition, not the practice, where athletes should seek their greatest performance.

Implementing Technology in Sport by Ryan Horn reviewed by Laurel Zimmermann

Power output reading from the kMeter.

Power output reading from the kMeter.

“Using technology doesn’t make me soft, it makes me informed” this was how Ryan Horn began his talk on Saturday afternoon. Technology should help you, not hinder you. You don’t need to buy the newest gadget or tool if you aren’t going to be able to learn how to use it and more importantly apply it to your athletes training. There are a variety of different pieces of technology available; for example with his athletes Horn uses athlete-tracking devices, velocity based training, force plate analysis, and the omega wave, just to name a new. However, purchases need to be based on purpose. Talk with your coaches and ask the question: what do we need to do to bring about the adaptation we want? Your technology should always compliment what you do and how you do it and essentially make life a little easier for everyone.

Monitoring Training for Team Sports by Nate Brookreson reviewed by Laurel Zimmermann

Everyone always asks the question, “What do you use for injury prevention”? Brookreson’s reply to this is that there is no injury prevention, that’s impossible. However, we can try to reduce injury through seeing injury markers and trends. Monitoring is a great tool to use to help assist in injury reduction and determine effectiveness of training. People can get carried away with this and believe that they won’t be able to monitor their athletes properly unless they have as much data as possible. This is wrong; we don’t necessarily need more data, we need better use of the data we already have. If you’re keeping track of your athletes RPE, but just writing down the results and not understanding what impact it has on training and what needs to be changed to help athletes train better, it is a waste of time. Data is numbers without context; we need to understand the context in order to use data effectively.

Strength Training Periodization for Speed and Power Sports by Boo Schexnayder reviewed by Jamie Hershfang

In season athletes train HEAVY or LIGHT, there is no middle ground. This doesn’t necessarily mean athletes should always train black and white, all or nothing, there are just certain times when the middle ground, the gray area, is not critical for performance enhancements. The first step towards developing a periodized training plan for speed and power is identifying the strength qualities of the athlete. For system based training, this could also consider the team as a whole as well. The qualities that should be considered include general strength, absolute strength, strength endurance, power, and reactive strength. The key tools used to develop these qualities are Olympic lifts, static lifts, and ballistic lifts. Olympic lifting develops basic power in athletes. High end power exercises creates a greater rate of force development and improves complex strength. Ballistic lifting can be used to develop reactive strength and important for strength maintenance phases of training.
Lifting plays a role in long term development. It serves as an injury prevention mechanism as diversity in training increases. Athletes begin to develop greater endocrine fitness through alternating high and low intensity sessions. Lifting resets the pituitary gland which benefits the athlete’s metabolic system functioning. This enhances the body’s ability to restore glycogen after high intensity workouts, creating a better adaptation to training. With consistency, athletes can continue to train at the most optimal level with a minimum effective dose to achieve peak performance. The greatest factor coaches should take into consideration is developing a functional athlete and making them strong enough for their individualized needs.

Plyometric Classification and Periodization by Boo Schexnayder reviewed by Jamie Hershfang

Diversity is the key to injury prevention. One of the major faults with plyometric training is misunderstanding specificity. “Plyometrics are not specific towards any single exercise or movement, it is the specificity of muscle elasticity.” Boo Schexnayder explained how plyometric training builds volume through a variety of training which stresses different muscle groups in different ways. The greatest benefit from plyometric training can be seen when applied at the beginning of the training cycle to establish volume. He likes to peak the intensity directly before the competitive season, not during, so it does not interfere with in season competition. While plyometrics are not necessarily the best strength exercise, it has a critical role in developing strength endurance. Extended bounds are often incorporated as it has been beneficial towards developing sustained force production.
It is important to focus on lower leg conditioning to improve elastic strength development. In place jumps, short horizontal bounds, vertical bounds, hurdle hops, extended bounds, and depth jumps are used through specific progression phases of a periodized plyometric training plan. However, there are certain management principles that must be considered for the athletes. This includes training readiness and power output, intensities or perceived exertion, and subjective evaluation of the competitive schedule. These are all factors that should be monitored over time.
Athletes are often susceptible to overtraining, which is not necessarily doing too much, it can be neglecting the little things outside of training itself. Lack of sleep, not enough recovery, too much stress, or not enough calories to fuel workouts can contribute to overtraining. The first sign is often loss of fine motor control. Next is decreased mobility and elasticity, which can often be seen when repeated jump tests decrease. Finally, power levels decrease, athletes may feel weak, fatigued, and their performance is hindered as well. These are all signs coaches should watch for throughout the season to monitor their performance and progression. The best way to prevent overtraining is to target specific training goals and variables. Coaches should apply a diversity of exercises to training to focus on enhanced tension levels and appropriate force application direction. By progressing from general to specific exercises, athletes can better adapt to training.

Basics of Strength Training by Bob Alejo reviewed by Laurel Zimmermann

0528160016People are always searching for the next big “cutting edge” program or piece of technology to help their athletes improve. Bob Alejo said, “it’s time we get back to the basics, our number one intent when writing a program should be strength”. Stronger athletes adapt faster and with greater magnitude. If we don’t focus on the fundamentals, such as strength training, we won’t have anything to build on.
One thing I think a lot of coaches and trainers often misunderstand is the importance of not only reading the literature but also understanding it. Alejo said, “The physiology has never changed, what we know and how much we understand has. Read the literature, you can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science”. This was a huge sticking point with me because I am interested in research and sometimes it can be difficult to understand because so many people have their own opinion when it comes to interpreting data. In the end, you can choose whether or not you agree with what someone found out, but the physiology has not and will not change.

Advanced Uses of Circuit Training by Boo Schexnayder reviewed by Jamie Hershfang

What is a circuit? Does it really need to be incorporated into training? Boo Schexnayder described circuits as a collection of exercises with a defined purpose. Circuits often involve exercises including general strength, medicine balls, jumping, and even weightlifting. Parameters can vary based on the type of activity and general purpose for the athlete, whether it be strength, endurance, and even recovery.
General strength circuits develop coordination, strength, and mobility which transfers over to all other types of training. Increases in general strength serve as an injury prevention mechanism for higher intensity activities. Medicine ball circuits promote the same type of general fitness, but have also accelerated recovery when athletes use these types of circuits on recovery days. As Boo Schexnayder stated, “medicine balls are often the best tools for mild eccentric restoration.” Medicine balls work through all ranges of motion when applied correctly, promoting active recovery. In terms of in place jumps, this improves elastic strength and allows for athletes to build plyometric volumes safely through progression phases. Bodybuilding exercises are also often used for accelerated recovery and improvements in endocrine fitness. By mixing flexion, extension, and rotation, bodybuilding exercises work a variety of body parts and muscle groups to promote total body recovery.

Monitoring on a Budget by John Grace reviewed by Laurel Zimmermann

0528160024One of the most important things I think John touched on was the importance of sleep. Monitoring sleep is one of the cheapest ways to assess readiness. Studies have found that athletes who get less than eight hours of sleep are 170% more likely to get injured than athletes who get greater than eight hours of sleep. This is especially important when it comes to working with college athletes. Waking up early for classes, going to practice, and staying up late working on homework or studying often means that sleep gets put on the back burner. It is essential that athletes understand how important getting enough sleep is to reducing risk of injury and improving performance.
John also reminded everyone not to be the guy sitting behind the computer. It’s great to have and understand the data, but if you don’t know the athletes you’re working with, it’s useless. Get to know your athletes and build relationships with them, then they will be more likely to listen to you and you will better understand how to help them.

Teaching Schemes for Acceleration and Maximal Velocity Mechanics by Boo Schexnayder reviewed by Jamie Hershfang

People often confuse greater stride frequency with greater speed, however, that is not usually the case. There are certain biomechanical factors that impact high velocity gait. Coaches should often focus on the shin angle, as this dictates the angle of force application to the ground. To increase velocity, both horizontal and vertical components need to be considered in practice. In terms of acceleration, it all comes down to the sprint. However, we always want to think of momentum as a prerequisite to velocity. Invest time and skill on the start, it is something that should be spent the most time on. If a start can be executed correctly, everything else down the track will come easier given the proper training. Sprinting is a process of losing stability and regaining stability, referred to as dynamic stability. With increased momentum and acceleration from the start, along with proper biomechanical factors while sprinting, athletes can attain their maximal velocity.

Applications and Considerations of Training Variability by Keith Scruggs reviewed by Riley Rogers

Keith Scruggs, a PhD Student and volunteer Strength & Conditioning coach at the University of South Carolina, presented on Applications and Considerations of Training Variability. Although he presented second to last, the audience couldn’t help but be attentive, for Scruggs spoke clearly and engaged his peers with questions to kick off his presentation. To begin with, he mentioned that the role of strength and conditioning is to teach athletes to enhance their expression of athleticism. Using Newell’s Constraints Theory, which shows that a person’s structure and function, a task, and the environment can cause constraints of a human’s motor development, Scruggs adapted it to his own field to note the importance of controlling “the task and the environment to manipulate the athlete”
[i]. In promoting athletic development, Scruggs suggested using a cycle of assessing movement competence, specifying measurable objectives, and evaluating progress and adaptations. Given the adaptability of the athlete, he mentioned that “each iteration of the cycle might become more ‘specific’”.
Scruggs’ next point was that athletes are capable of self-organizing, meaning they can detect and correct errors in movement based on previous states, something that is particularly important because the coach is not always present on the field or court with them. Teaching self-organizing requires ensuring that the athlete can do the basics well before adding variety in secondary movements.
Finally, Scruggs emphasized that development is based on exposure to variety, given the neurological, biological, and musculoskeletal possibilities at a given time. In order to reach the ultimate goal of “training the trainable,” Scruggs suggested periodization, variation, and allowing critical conditions to mature. Additionally, he noted that training variability is not strict, but it’s also not random, rather it is somewhere in between.

[i] Newell’s Theory of Constraints. Cognitive and Motor Development for the Physical Education Classroom. 2011. Web. 03 June 2016.

Developing Physical Capacities for Speed and Power by Mike Young reviewed by Jamie Hershfang

0528160029Before beginning any program, you must first conduct a needs analysis to understand the appropriate training for the athlete. Strength, coordination, flexibility, endurance, and speed are critical factors in any successful training program. The best athletes are the ones that can apply the greatest force over the longest period of time, to get faster, you must sprint. Through sprinting, athletes improve neuromuscular communication. Even for distance runners, they become better runners without becoming more aerobically developed, which is important for long term speed development.
plyometricsTo build a bigger engine, training should gradually progress from general to specific, to develop low end power. General means include weight training, sled pushes, and short jumps. Specific training incorporates hills, resisted sprints, and acceleration sprints. There is a strong relationship between squat strength and speed. A higher back squat relative to bodyweight is often associated with faster running. Resistance training is beneficial towards a holistic balance for strength, but minimizes hypertrophy. In terms of sled pushing, it must be understood that sprinting with a sled is still not sprinting, it is only a general strength development tool. Short jumps can be used for athletes to learn to overcome their own body inertia.
Hills are one of the most essential tools used to develop specific power. It can vary in length, grade, and volume depending on the needs of the athlete. Training should follow the 10 percent rule, and not increase by more than that each week. Hill repetitions focus on form efficiency, since it is hard to move up a hill with poor mechanics. Downhill running should only be used with a minimal grade to practice over speed eccentric movement, but should be closely monitored to prevent compromised running mechanics. Optimizing mechanics ensures that there is maximal generation of force in the appropriate direction.
The greatest takeaway message is: know what capacities need to be trained and train them!

About the Authors 

  • Jamie Hershfang is an exercise and movement science major at Lewis University in Chicago, IL. With a background in cross country and track and field, she is currently a sport performance coach intern at Athletic Lab.
  • Laurel Zimmermann is an Exercise Science major with minors in both Business and Biology at The College at Brockport. She is currently an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab.
  • Riley Rogers is a Exercise and Sport Science major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab

Additional Reviews

You can check out other reviews from some of the Athletic Lab summer intern group on these two blogs:

By | 2017-04-12T19:33:22+00:00 June 9th, 2016|Training Info|0 Comments

Leave A Comment