Neuromuscular Adaptations with Strength Training by Hayden Giuliani

[Hayden Giuliani recently finished her Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she now works as a research coordinator. She is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab.] So what do we really know about strength training? What happens beneath the surface to increase our strength and power – that ever so desired outcome? Strength training has been growing in popularity not only for sport but also for the general population, but sometimes we don’t always understand the benefits it provides for our body. Neuromuscular changes underlie what happens when you strength train, i.e. growth of muscles, increased strength and power and increased anaerobic capacity. We will be discussing both what happens within the muscles and also the brain’s communication to them. Before we proceed, I want to be clear about the kind of strength training I am talking about. I am designing this post at the type of strength training that high-level athletes and advanced lifters use. It is designed to impose a progressive overload, with high intensities and athletic movements. I would like to emphasize that strength training should be an 1) overload and 2) progressive in nature. (It should be considered that not all research studies follow this guideline, but the ones mentioned here generally did.) With an organized strength training plan, we typically see increases in strength (either tested as a 1- repetition maximum or maximal voluntary contraction), increases in power and speed, and greater muscle size (hypertrophy). The extent to which these adaptations occur can vary, based on age, gender, and training age. In addition, training load/ intensity, volume, and frequency also play critical roles that I will discuss throughout. In a long-term study [...]

By | 2017-10-23T13:37:48+00:00 October 23rd, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Cluster Training by Ivan Jukić

[Ivan Jukić is finishing his Master’s degree at the University of Zagreb, Croatia where he also works as a personal trainer and S&C coach for soccer. He is currently an Applied Sport Science Intern at Athletic Lab.] Training variations are essential because they stimulate recovery and adaptation, the avoidance of overtraining, long-term phase potentiation, and an elevation in performance outcomes (Plisk & Stone, 2003). Variation can be introduced into a periodized training program in many ways. Some typical examples of training variations that can be employed when designing a periodized program are manipulations of the overall training load, number of sets, number of repetitions, set configurations, and the exercises selected. These potential methods for introducing training variation allow the strength and conditioning professional a means for introducing novel stimuli into the training program. Hodges et al. (2005) suggest that the introduction of novel stimuli allows a more rapid gain in performance and that the more familiar the individual is with the task, the slower the overall gains in performance are. Therefore, it is essential that the strength and conditioning professional employs variations in the overall training program design in order to maximize the training outcomes. This is especially true for advanced and elite athletes. One often overlooked method of employing variation to the training program is the manipulation of the structure of the set being employed. Traditionally, the configuration of a set requires the athlete to perform each repetition in a continuous fashion where no rest is taken in between each repetition of the set (Fleck & Kraemer, 1997; Haff et al, 2003; Stone & O’Bryant, 1987). Cluster loading, sometimes termed inter-repetition rest training, describes a training system whereby the rest periods are manipulated, breaking [...]

By | 2017-09-20T10:12:48+00:00 September 20th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Hamstring Strength and Flexibility Following a Strain by Vincent Ragland

[Vincent Ragland is in his last semester as a student-athlete at East Carolina University, pursuing a Health Fitness Specialist Degree. He is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab] A hamstring strain is one of the most common injuries in all sports, specifically ones involving high intensity sprinting. Aside from the physical damage associated with a pulled hamstring, there are psychological damages associated with an injury as well. For example, a high-level sprinter who has strained their hamstring in the past will almost certainly never run a race again in their life without the thought of that pull being in the back of their mind. As with many injuries, the major problem associated with a hamstring injury is the risk of a re – injury, with nearly 30% of strains resulting in such. There seem to be two main reasons why researchers believe there is such a high prevalence of re-injury.  For one, muscle tissue will not completely regenerate after a strain has occurred, and two,  a weakness of the hamstring muscle or hamstring/quadriceps imbalance. After a hamstring strain occurs, scar tissue emerges in the location of the injury. The emergence of scar tissue increases the likelihood of re-injury and also limits the range of motion in a strained muscle. The most common mechanism of re-injury is when an athlete returns back to sport before the injury is completely healed and fully functioning. A study by Brian Cammarota shows that nearly 83 percent of hamstring re-injuries occur because an athlete attempts to return too soon. Similar studies show that 20-55% of the original injury had not healed in six weeks. (Cammarota, 2013). Typically, when an athlete suffers an injury, they want to [...]

By | 2017-09-13T09:45:25+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Periodization of Ice Bathing by Nick Voth

[Nick Voth is currently finishing his degree in Exercise Science from Bowling Green State University, where he competes on the Cross Country team. He is an Applied Sport Science Intern at Athletic Lab.] Cold water immersion (CWI) is a common recovery modality employed by athletes to enhance post-exercise recovery. Athletes may use CWI to speed recovery and reduce muscle damage. Two potential arguments can be made regarding CWI. The first is that CWI has been used to speed recovery, allowing athletes to train hard every day. Acute recovery mechanisms of CWI include a reduction in central nervous system fatigue, reduced cardiovascular strain, increased rate of removal of muscle metabolites, and acceleration of return of parasympathetic drive (Ihsan et al., 2016). Vasoconstriction induced by cold temperatures, subsequently followed by vasodilation leads to a multifold increase in blood flow to the tissues (Adamczyk et al., 2016). On the other hand, these acute recovery mechanisms may inhibit the adaptive process that increases adaptation. CWI may lead athletes feeling fresh for subsequent training sessions, however, the timing of this strategy may inhibit crucial adaptations. It is important to find a balance between the acute and chronic implications of CWI before using it as an intervention in training. Dr. Jeff Messer (2013) describes two types of inflammation in a lecture on ice bathing: compensatory and adaptive. Compensatory inflammation may accompany a traumatic injury (ex: joint sprain), while adaptive inflammation is associated with training induced muscle damage. CWI immersion after exercise may inhibit cellular responses associated with adaptation. He argues that cellular and mechanical stress are pre-requisites to adaptation (Messer, 2013). This point brings up speculations as to appropriate timing and use of CWI. If an athlete is in a phase [...]

By | 2017-09-13T00:20:10+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Fine Motor Development for Sport Performance by Tony Kauth

[Tony is currently a senior studying Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and an Applied Sport Science Intern at Athletic Lab.] To develop fine motor movements, serious dedication needs to take place. It is important to understand the benefits of developing this key mechanism in sport performance. To do so, there are general and specific exercises that an athlete can do. While the process of developing fine motor movements can seem daunting, let’s explore why it can be beneficial, and some methods to improve it in the most efficient manner. Performance Potential: Since fine motor development increases the precision of movement, its benefit to sport performance can be enormous. In sports where stability is of benefit, fine motor development can not only help a gymnast stay steady, but it can also help a tactical athlete redirect force more rapidly. In sports where maximal force production is of benefit, fine motor development can help an Olympic weightlifter direct that force in the most linear and efficient manner. Even in aerobic endurance sports, fine motor development can help a distance runner more efficiently strike the ground which uses less energy that they can store for later in their event. All in all, improving fine motor development reduces wasted motion. Utilization in Training: While it may be attractive to attempt to develop technical, fine motor movements early, it’s important to understand the limitations of doing so. In the spectrum of motor development, gross motor development is the first that is developed, and fine, especially those related to sport-specific skills, develop last (O’Connor, 2000). Since gross motor development occurs first, an athlete must create a nearly autonomous system of gross movements (i.e. “the basics”) before [...]

By | 2017-09-05T11:11:42+00:00 September 5th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

2017 Scholastic Sports Performance Update

Athletic Lab is proud to announce a major change to our Scholastic Sports Performance Program. Beginning on August 28th, the Scholastic Sports Performance small group training program will undergo the following changes: Longer Training Sessions: Training sessions will increase in length from their current 60 minutes to 75 minutes in duration. This will allow us to deliver a better and more comprehensive training experience to our athletes. Additional Time Slots: We will add 3 additional late evening training times each week to better meet the needs of in-season athletes.  In the past, our in-season athletes were often unable to continue their physical training because sport practices ended after our last training session. With the addition of new training times, in-season athletes should be able to continue their training even when they're in-season. Revised Start Times: In response to the points above, classes will now be offered on the following schedule: Mon / Wed / Thurs: 3:45 pm; 5 pm; 6:30 pm Tues / Fri: 3:45 pm; 5 pm Sat: 10 am; 11:15 am Improved Format: We will begin offering planned, progressive, semi-individualized training for all athletes in the Scholastic Sports Performance group training sessions. Athletes will receive semi-individualized training plans upon signing up and work their way through the training plans in much the same way as our collegiate and professional athletes. In the past, our group training sessions followed daily themes (speed, strength or power focused). This allowed us to focus on one aspect of training but athletes were often forced to miss the themes that were most relevant to their development because their availability did not match with our schedule. With the longer session durations and increased training time slots we will be able to address all [...]

By | 2017-08-14T11:42:49+00:00 August 14th, 2017|News, Training Info|0 Comments

Velocity based training – What we need to know by Nemanja Marković

[Nemanja Markovic earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Montenegro, where he also works as a personal trainer and S&C coach. He is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab] I was almost finished writing this article, but then I saw Mike Young’s quote on Science for sport's Instagram profile, “Applying insane forces, in the correct direction, over ridiculously short periods of time, is a trademark of the fastest people”. Behind the following text is a coach with insane intention to put ridiculously useful information in the correct direction, with the belief that athletes with great performances are the trademark of the smartest coaches. Before you shoot the messenger I hope that you saw the humor in the last sentence. I also believe my respected fellow coaches when we decide to enter the field of strength and conditioning, that the biggest bang for our buck is enhanced performance and injury prevention. We can agree that there appears to be, among other things, the true need to get through planning and programming until we achieve precise individualization of training. Having this in mind, the autoregulatory training method is the right choice for coaches. As we know power is the product of force and velocity. In the last decade, thanks to numerous research findings, the role of velocity as an important parameter for estimating and monitoring the optimum intensity during strength and power training has emerged on the surface. Regardless of the increasing popularity, velocity based training (VBT) is for sure a useful method bringing a lot of benefits of improving the performance of athletes. Making a long story short, as I still continue down the path of learning about VBT, the purpose of [...]

By | 2017-08-11T18:16:26+00:00 August 11th, 2017|News, Training Info|0 Comments

The Effects of Alcohol on Sports Performance and Recovery by Vincent Ragland

[Vincent Ragland is in his last semester as a student-athlete at East Carolina University, pursuing a Health Fitness Specialist Degree. He is currently an Athletic Development Intern at the Athletic Lab] Does drinking really affect an athlete’s performance the way that you may think? Should athletes avoid drinking altogether, drink in moderation, or does it even really matter? Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the world by college students and all athletes, ranging from high school to professional level. Studies even show that in the last 12 months, nearly 80 percent of athletes reported using alcohol (Wadler). In some years, this number has been as high as 88 percent. In actuality, this number could even be higher because of the inaccuracy associated with self-reported data. In some team settings, the intake of alcohol is even encouraged, as part of a team bonding experience. When teams win championships, it is not uncommon to see videos of nearly the entire team drinking and partying. When teams lose, it is also not uncommon for them to drink, as some athletes see it as a stress reliever and a way to get the mind off of the sorrows associated with losing a major competition. Of course, in extremely excessive amounts, alcohol can be very dangerous to anyone, sometimes fatal. When related to sports performance, there are several factors that have to be taken into account when trying to gauge the dangers associated with it, such as the age and gender of the individual, how much an athlete drinks in a particular setting, how often an athlete drinks over the course of time, how quickly they consume their drinks, the individual’s body size and composition, and their tolerance [...]

By | 2017-07-17T19:57:35+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Nutrition Info, Training Info|0 Comments

Using a flywheel device for cost effective assessment by Gilson Sampaio Pereira

[Gilson Sampaio Pereira is a master's student at University of Stuttgart, Germany, and Sport Performance Coach. He is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab]  In this blog post I will present a simple and cost effective method of assessing concentric and eccentric strength/power during hip extension. Lower limb asymmetries can also be assessed in the same test. The test is a hip extension exercise, with a flywheel device (FD) to generate an eccentric overload. The FD is gaining popularity on the S&C and athletic development scene because it exposes athletes to high loads with minimum equipment. Additionally, there might be superior gains in strength, power and hypertrophy with flywheel training due to an eccentric overload, when compared to traditional resistance training (Maroto-Izquierdo et al., 2017). First, a little background Let´s begin by stepping into the literature to better understand why testing hip extension strength could be of value to athletes and coaches.  Hip extension is a basic functional movement. The major hip extensors are the spinal erectors, gluteus maximus, biceps femoris (long head), semitendinosus, semimembranosus and adductor magnus. First, compared to knee extension, hip extension is more important in running speed (Schache et al., 2011), jump height (Lees et al. 2004) and back squat (Bryanton et al. 2011). Therefore, the role of hip extension becomes more significant when athletic movements are executed with a high intent. As a logical consequence, a sound S&C coach should favor the development of the hip extensors in their preparation and maintenance phases throughout the year. This was backed up by a study from Contreras et al. (2016) that showed a greater effect of horizontally than vertically loaded hip extension training on sprint acceleration (e.g. hip thrusters). [...]

By | 2017-07-15T10:02:39+00:00 July 17th, 2017|News, Training Info|0 Comments

Static Stretching and Explosive Activity by Vincent Ragland

[Vincent Ragland is in his last semester as a student-athlete at East Carolina University, pursuing a Health Fitness Specialist Degree. He is currently an Athletic Development Intern at the Athletic Lab] For many years, athletes across the world were taught the importance of static stretching before explosive exercises, such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing. The thought process behind it was that static stretching was a good way to loosen the muscles before exercise and help prevent injuries. Static stretching is, in essence, holding a stationary position and stretching a particular muscle further than its resting length. Some of the more common static stretches include the butterfly stretch, which stretches the inner thighs and hips, and the seated hamstring stretch. Muscles are usually stretched to a point where discomfort is reached, and are usually about 20 – 30 seconds in length. As time went on, researchers ultimately began to discover that static stretching had no noticeable benefits in terms of power output. Instead of better preparing an athlete for athletic activity, static stretching simply elongates and relaxes the muscles, it doesn't get them ready to generate force (Lebo et. Al 2014). In fact, having a small amount of tension and tightness in the muscles helps them to contract and produce more power. By doing static stretches before power based movements, athletes are stretching some of the desired power out of their muscles. I'm sure a lot of you all reading this blog have heard the phrase "a longer muscle is a stronger muscle". Coaches and athletes should be sure not to take this statement out of context. Static stretching does, in fact, lengthen the muscle. As previously stated, muscles need some tension and tightness in them [...]

By | 2017-07-01T12:49:10+00:00 July 3rd, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments