Sleep Like You Mean It (Part 2) by Austin Both

[Austin Both is the Associate Performance Director of Athletic Lab] In last week’s installment, we discussed the effects of cognition and physical capacity as a result of sleep deprivation. Perhaps, even more important than these aforementioned factors, is sleep’s ability to keep us alive (quite literally). While there is not a single unanimous explanation as to why sleep is required for life, after tireless research, we do have a greater understanding of the physiological functions that make it so important (Harvard.edu). One such mechanism that affects cognition, mood, as well as our physical state, is the tendency for sleep deprivation to cause an increase in cortisol levels (INSEP, Hausswirth, Mujika, p.102). While natural fluctuations of cortisol are a natural and healthy response to stress, physical or otherwise, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can cause a host of negative effects. Sleep deprivation’s effect on cortisol levels is likely less than clinical cases. However, it can still cause high blood pressure, weakness, as well as sub-optimal metabolism of carbohydrates leading to weight gain (Saladin, p. 673). Coupling with increased cortisol levels, disruption of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) can create even more issues in terms of energy and mood. The ANS often goes under the radar because we have no volitional control over its constituents; however, its control reaches numerous systems, including the endocrine system and cardiac muscle (Saladin, p.572). Lack of sleep can cause chronic hyperactivity of the sympathetic division of the ANS (INSEP, Hausswirth, Mujika, p.102), which is a state associated with excitation. As a result, this state will trigger consistently elevated heart rate and respiration (Saladin, p. 443.) This results in a dangerous duo with the aforementioned increased cortisol levels. This elevated sympathetic activity [...]

By |2020-05-18T11:03:28-04:00May 18th, 2020|Training Info|1 Comment

Using Velocity to Auto-Regulate Training by Craig Kleinberg

[Craig Kleinberg is a Performance Coach at Athletic Lab where we regularly integrate Velocity Based Training] As strength and conditioning coaches, understanding how our athletes are responding is of utmost importance, namely understanding work intensity and fatigue management. There are many ways to monitor fatigue. Some are more intrusive, such as blood cortisol levels, while others, like Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) and repetitions in reserve (RIR), are subjective and easy to assess, but leave room for high degrees of variability. One easy and objective method of monitoring that is becoming more popular is Velocity-Based Training (VBT). Researchers have been exploring the relationship between barbell velocity and its relationship to relative intensity, or percentage of 1 repetition max (1RM) for quite some time now (2, 6, 8, 10). Briefly, by determining the relationship between velocity and the percent of a 1RM, you can determine an athlete’s Load-Velocity Profile (LVP). This can help prescribe relative training intensities on a given day, accounting for accumulated fatigue from previous workouts and it is the foundation on which velocity-based training is built upon. For the sake of this article, I am not going to go into much more detail on LVP, but if you would like more information on the ins-and-outs, you can find it on one of our previous blog posts here. Before moving on, there are a few considerations that should be mentioned when discussing the use of velocity-based training. First, the more individualized a LVP, the more accurate your profiles will be (4). If it isn’t feasible to create a profile for each athlete, it is possible to scale the LVP based on position group, or team. Another consideration to be aware of is that velocity may [...]

By |2020-05-12T13:53:46-04:00May 13th, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Post-Activation Potentiation by Austin Both

[Austin Both is the Associate Performance Director of Athletic Lab] Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is a phrase and concept commonly known amongst most coaches. For athletes and other fitness enthusiasts; however, it might sound like some overly complex term used in an attempt to sound qualified. Although it sounds highly technical, its definition is relatively simple. PAP can be defined as “a phenomenon by which the force exerted by a muscle is increased due to its previous contraction” (Robbins, 2005). In practical terms, this essentially means that following a rapid and forceful contraction, you are capable of producing greater force. As a result, we can harness this effect and use it to our advantage in a multitude of ways. The first and simplest consideration would be exercise order in a session. While there are many factors that cause coaches to program power-based movements early in the session, PAP can be considered amongst them. While we want to prioritize these movements, such as weightlifting patterns, jumps, throws, swings, etc. due to cognitive demands and the quality decrement that fatigue would place upon them, they can also enhance the training that is to follow. Beginning a session with something like a clean pll or a power clean can cause a PAP effect on the ensuing lower body movements, allowing for great force production and subsequently greater strength gains. Similar to exercise order throughout a session, exercises can be advantageously paired together for a positive effect. The aim of these pairings is to elicit improved outcomes for force, power, and rate of force development, both in an acute sense and for long-term adaptations (Hodgson et al., 2005). This is generally regarded as contrast training. One such example would begin [...]

By |2020-05-02T11:47:47-04:00May 2nd, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Motor Learning – Part 2: The Impact of Feedback by Alex Penner

[Alex Penner is the Director of Coaching & Community at Athletic Lab] As discussed in the overview of motor learning concepts, athletes derive feedback both from within themselves (intrinsic feedback) and from their environment (extrinsic or augmented feedback) which includes interaction with coaches. In this article, we’ll focus primarily on how the coach can provide feedback to enhance motor learning. Most coaches are well-meaning when giving feedback to their athletes.  They see their athlete struggling with a move or a concept and the tendency is to give them the solution. The athlete will generally see significant improvement within the session thanks to the coach’s help. Similarly, when your GPS gives you turn-by-turn directions, you can be very confident that you’ll end up at your intended destination. However, how comfortable would you feel navigating your return trip if your GPS unexpectedly broke? Without having to figure out the route to your destination in the first place, it’s unlikely you paid enough attention to what was relevant. In the case of our athletes, that’s the same situation in which they find themselves on the next occasion that they have to perform. For this reason, it’s crucial that we don’t spoon-feed our athletes in practice as it deprives them of the opportunity to learn. Before exploring how to give feedback, let’s get clear on the goals of motor learning and how feedback fits in. Over time, we want to develop competence, consistency, psychological efficiency, and independence (Freeman, 2014, p. 17).  The end goal is the stage of automaticity, in which the athlete is able to perform movement skills correctly & consistently with minimal mental-effort, while having the ability to self-correct mistakes (Statler & Dubois, 2015, p. 156).  As the athlete learns and develops, the appropriate form [...]

By |2020-05-07T11:27:20-04:00April 30th, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Using Vertical Jump Testing to Measure and Monitor Fatigue by Julia Zwierzynski

[Julia Zwierzynski is a graduating senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying Exercise and Sport Science. Julia is participating in the Athletic Lab coaching mentorship program.] Generally, fatigue is the inability of a person to perform at their maximal level of performance due to physiological or environmental factors (Halson, 2014). Fatigue is a normal component of General Adaptation Syndrome. When the body is exposed to physical stressors such as exercise, fatigue occurs. Normally, the body then adapts to the stressors in order to deal with them more efficiently in the future, and the initial fatigue is overcome. Fatigue frequently occurs in athletes, but only when it is excessive and chronic does it start to inhibit performance. Excessive fatigue leads to injury, pain, and exhaustion (Clark et. al, 2012). Fatigue can be measured in a myriad of different ways, including internally perceived measurements such as RPE as well as physiological measurements like heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone concentrations. One common method of measuring fatigue is with tests of maximal effort. For example, a maximal vertical jump test. A maximal vertical jump test is easy to administer because it requires very little experience or equipment. Ideally, athletes should experience zero fatigue and be in peak condition during their competition season. They should be able to perform to their maximal level. Therefore, a test of maximal effort during competition season is a good way to measure fatigue, because any negative differences between the maximal level of performance and the results of a test of maximal effort would indicate fatigue (Halson 2014). Fatigue should be monitored and minimized in order to keep athletes competing at as high of a level as possible. Fatigue measurements [...]

By |2020-04-25T10:04:41-04:00April 28th, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Energy System Development – Developing Soccer Fitness by Beau Hains

[Beau Hains, MS is the Director of Team Training at Athletic Lab] In my last blog, I wrote about ‘Developing Aerobic Capacity.’ Now, my aim is to build upon those concepts and to apply them more specifically to developing fitness for soccer. Soccer is a very demanding sport that is played on a large pitch with very few periods of true rest. This creates a dynamic in which players are essentially running non-stop, often upwards to 7+ miles, and for 90+ minutes. Over the course of the game, soccer players will be required to sprint at high velocities, jump explosively, change direction, and more. Performing these feats at a high level for 90+ minutes will require an exceptional amount of endurance. Assessments and Application Aerobic capacity is critical for performing at a high level for the entire duration of a game, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. In order to be truly match ready, you must also address the need for the anaerobic system. By developing the anaerobic system, you can certainly increase endurance, but you can also address key areas such as balance, acceleration, speed, agility, and more. In order to optimally develop soccer fitness, you must first establish a baseline. This can be done by performing a series of performance tests. You will certainly want to administer a multitude of performance tests, highlighting and identifying all key performance indicators. However, in an effort to stay on the topic of soccer fitness, I only want to address the performance tests that I feel are most directly related to that area. This is not to say that other tests are not just as important, I simply want to stay on topic. When [...]

By |2020-04-30T11:29:53-04:00April 27th, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Maximizing the Effectiveness of Body Weight Training at Home by Julia Zwierzynski

[Julia Zwierzynski is a graduating senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying Exercise and Sport Science. Julia is participating in the Athletic Lab coaching mentorship program.] Structured, programmed weight training can be incredibly challenging. Weight training at home is even more so. With the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown, many people now suddenly face the additional challenge of trying to maintain their strength with limited or no access to weights. Fortunately, body weight training has the potential to be extremely effective in maintaining or even increasing strength. There are four main acute variables that can be manipulated when resistance training: Load, volume, tempo, and rest periods. Altering some or all of these variables will result in vastly different physiological effects. Different amounts of muscular endurance, hypertrophy, strength, speed, and power will result depending on the combination of the aforementioned variables. Load is simply the amount of weight or resistance of each exercise. The higher the load, the fewer repetitions can be performed and vice versa (Haff and Triplett, 2016). Increasing the load of an exercise will result in greater increases in strength and hypertrophy for the involved muscles. Decreasing the load of an exercise will increase the muscular endurance of those muscles. At first glance, the load for any given body weight exercise may seem immutable. After all, body weight is body weight. However, depending on the exercise, there may be many ways to alter the load of your own body weight. Let’s look at your standard push up. If you drop to your knees, the load decreases. If you stagger your hand placement so one hand is further in front of you than the other, the load increases on one [...]

By |2020-04-24T22:22:00-04:00April 26th, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Maintaining your Schedule During Quarantine by Austin Both

[Austin Both is the Associate Performance Director of Athletic Lab] COVID-19 has brought upon strange times for us all. Many people are not working, and some others who are working are doing so from home instead of going into the office. As a result, you may find your daily schedule and rhythm severely interrupted. Humans are creatures of habit and we not only prefer to maintain our routines and schedules, but we actually crave it. Aside from the preference of a comfort zone, this can largely be attributed to our circadian rhythm influencing our mood, energy, and productivity depending on the time of the day (Barnes, 2015). On the bright side, there is a simple fix that can do wonders to correct and maintain otherwise broken schedules. Exercise. Consistent exercise, especially that fit your pre-COVID-19 schedule, can be an easy fix to comfortably holding onto your daily rhythm. Furthermore, exercise occurs through a powerful two-pronged approach. The first mechanism is simple. Exercise can serve as a powerful anchor in our day. In the same way your meals might divide your workday and provide structure, exercise can have an equal or more significant effect. More importantly, exercise has a potent effect on our circadian rhythm, and from a practical point of view, this is our daily routine. For those who may be unfamiliar, circadian rhythm is a natural 24ish hour clock that manages our sleep/wake cycles as well as variable energy levels throughout the day (Sleep Foundation). Some research suggests that exercise has the ability to produce a ‘phase shift’ in circadian rhythm, adjusting our internal clocks (Eastman et al., 1995). This effectively means that exercising earlier in the morning will allow us to become more alert in the morning, [...]

By |2020-04-24T21:20:03-04:00April 25th, 2020|Training Info|1 Comment

Motor Learning – Part 1: An Overview of Fundamental Concepts by Alex Penner

[Alex Penner is the Director of Coaching & Community at Athletic Lab] For coaches, P.E. teachers, and sports-medicine professionals alike, it’s crucial to understand the factors that influence the process of motor learning in the populations that you serve. In this article, my intention is to provide you with a basic understanding of the fundamental concepts that influence motor learning, and in subsequent articles we’ll explore these concepts and their applications in further depth. Although I’ll be referring to training athletes throughout this article, these concepts will be relevant to any population where movement and learning are concerned. Motor learning is the process of acquiring and retaining movement skills. For clarity, we’ll define skill as the coordinated movement of the limbs or body in order to accomplish a task or goal. There are two main criteria for evaluating motor learning and the effectiveness of practice design. Retention is the measurement of whether the practice made the skill “stick.” Improvements within a training session are not indicative of retention as it can only be assessed after a break from practice. Transfer is the degree to which the task performed in practice leads to improvements in performance of a different task. For athletes, the retention test and the transfer test are the same thing. It’s the competition. Since practice and competition take place on separate occasions, and practice also differs in structure from the competition, coaches must take into account the impact on retention and transfer when designing practices and interacting with athletes. What Does Learning Look Like? Many people are familiar with the quote from Vince Lombardi “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” It highlights a commonly-held belief that the better the [...]

By |2020-05-07T11:27:46-04:00April 22nd, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments

Exercise and Immunity by Austin Both

[Austin Both is the Associate Performance Director of Athletic Lab] Exercise, or physical activity in general, has quite a profound effect on the immune system that is often unrecognized or under-appreciated. Oftentimes, when we feel mildly ill or under the weather, we often choose to decrease our activity level as a result of diminished energy. Ironically, maintaining physical activity during a time of minor illness could be the key to getting back to fighting shape as quickly as possible. The immune system is a complex beast that consists of two major components under the lymphatic system: nonspecific resistance, and specific immunity. For the sake of this article, we will be diving into nonspecific resistance. Exactly as it sounds, nonspecific resistance is the piece of the puzzle that protects from and attacks and foreign pathogens, regardless of pre-existing antibodies or previous exposures (Saladin, p. 829). Exercise has multiple interactions with nonspecific resistance of the immune system, mostly due to the close interaction of the circulatory system and the lymphatic system. The first component, and likely the simplest aspect, is that increased blood flow during exercise simply increases the probability that circulating immune cells, such as phagocytes will come into contact with any foreign pathogens (MedlinePlus). In tandem with this, researchers were able to link rigorous training with an improvement in “non-specific phagocyte related immunity” (Boyum et al., 1996). This essentially means that consistent and rigorous exercise improves our bodies’ ability to destroy any harmful invaders. In addition to this very base mechanism, increased blood flow also stimulates lymph return via a pumping action. As a result of increased lymph return, any pathogens will come into contact with more lymphatic cells that can destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, [...]

By |2020-04-18T12:24:23-04:00April 20th, 2020|Training Info|0 Comments