Review of the High Performance Athletic Development Clinic


Athletic Lab recently hosted the Proformance High Performance Athletic Development Clinic. 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. Not to be outdone, the other 9 speakers were also top notch. Here’s a team summary from 3 attendees (Adli Edwards, Jenna Burnett, and Sang Hwang) all members of Athletic Lab’s Coaching & Applied Sport Science Mentorship Program. See the bottom of the post for information about the authors.

Simple Strategies for Delivering a Holistic Program in the Collegiate Setting by Chad Workman reviewed by Jenna Burnett

Chad Workman discussed the strategies coaches can employ to create a united team. First, Workman discussed the ways to bring a staff together. Important qualities to foster in a staff include trust and cooperation, and a united and organized front. One big thing Workman stressed is how creating a united staff may require you to get out of your comfort zone; it may require you to search out people or put yourself in new and different situations. One specific example Workman mentioned was the weekend he had to spend with a coach he didn’t know well; by the end of it, he said they had worked out many new ideas and ways to work together as a coaching staff!

The next step to creating a united team is to foster the team connection. Specific ways for a coach to do that include making sure your athletes understand why they are doing specific training segments, creating expectations and consequences, and building accountability within the team structure. Explaining training segments help athletes buy into the training and helps them put in the full effort to get the maximum results. Creating expectations and consequences will keep everyone accountable, while also creating a fair environment where the athletes know they can trust their coach. Lastly, building accountability can be completed through a team hierarchy such as creating captains; this will allow athletes to address issues within the team structure or look toward their peers as leaders. Next, Workman moved on to the motivation factors that can drive team unity. These include autonomy, intrinsic motivation, a feeling of competency, and social connectedness between not only the athletes, but also between the athletes and their coach.

Team Training Modifications for the College Setting, When Faced with Multiple Competition Periods by Greg Gatz, Reviewed by Adli Edwards

Greg Gatz took us through the evolution of his strength and conditioning program at the University of North Carolina. Changes to the collegiate athletic landscape have shaped his team training methods.

Between the school schedule and competition schedule the strength and conditioning coach has limited time available to develop athletes. This window is even more restricted when athletes compete in multiple competition periods.  Time must be effectively used and several key principles are proposed to maximize training time.

Gatz has observed an increase in sport skill but a decrease in physical ability with new athletes entering his program. Earning the right to progress is the backbone of progression. If an athlete does not show movement competency they will not progress their training load or move to more challenging exercises. Discipline is developed with adherence to movement quality.

Appropriate work must be done by athletes: limited training time cannot be wasted on work for the sake of work. The correct overload dosage is necessary to give the stress required for adaptation.

While these principles are administered across the board each athlete’s program should be tailored to their sport, their position, and the pattern of injury they are exposed to. Training programs include a focus on mobility drills, loading and unloading patterns, training stiffness, and hip projection.

Simple and Practical Training for Olympic Sports by Alex Carnall, reviewed by Adli Edwards

Alex Carnall faces issues common with many strength and conditioning professionals in the collegiate setting: short contact times with athletes and many athletes with young training ages.  His presentation tackles these issues with some practical solutions.  The training in the off-season must be maximized and regression must be minimized during the in-season. Carnall suggests that a focus on fundamentals is the simple and effective way to approach training in this collegiate setting.

The goal is to train athletes with tasks that are not overly difficult but still provide a challenge for their skill level.  This ideal middle ground of appropriate challenge, or “Flow Channel,” must be adjusted to scale according to an athlete’s changing abilities with the selection of proper exercises, periodization, and progressions.

Carnall favors power training methods which utilize synchronization of muscle activation over Olympic lifting methods. Acceleration of the athlete is emphasized over acceleration over the barbell.

Campbell University applies their training programs based around a focus on movement quality. Athletes are using familiar movement tasks, and coached to maintain neutral spine positions during their workouts.  Bracing and breathing strategies are taught to minimize low back pain.

With the large spectrum of training ages and the variable rates of progress amongst athletes it is important to not overcomplicating the training.

Training Variability by Keith Scruggs, Reviewed by Adli Edwards

The consideration and application of training variability was presented by Keith Scruggs as the modernization of periodization.

The ultimate goal of improving athleticism is accomplished by improving the traits that make an athlete perform their skills better. These traits, such as strength and speed, develop at different rates and the coach is responsible for monitoring whether these adaptations have been met and adjusting the prescription accordingly. The evolution of periodization is being responsive to daily assessment and being able to adjust appropriately. Planned variability allows training to be adjusted as adaptions mature which gives flexibility that strict block training does not.  By observing whether critical conditions (adaptations to the training) have been met by athletes an observant coach can use an “if-then” approach to adjust a program.

Training programs for primary traits such as absolute strength, acceleration, and dynamic bracing that give “depth” to athleticism will not feature as much variability as training programs focusing on the application of athleticism such as unilateral strength. Training methods that “affirm” athleticism such as a strength challenge set for repetitions or a jump test for power would have the most variability but are nonetheless important to build confidence and accustom athletes to the variability they will face in sport.

No program is perfect because rate of development will vary. However, a dynamic system will use intrinsic feedback sources to correct errors and optimize a program’s effectiveness.

Basics of Strength Training by Bob Alejo, Reviewed by Sangyoon Hwang

0528160016The field of strength and conditioning has progressed immensely with vast amount of studies and advance in technology. The coaches nowadays may be spending too much time on looking for the latest sport science research and the new training to gain advantages. Sometimes, we need to be come back to the basics and reevaluate our training method and reapply the basic concepts of strength and conditioning.

The role of strength and conditioning coach is to measure and manage. We measure by conducting valid and reliable tests. It is not just random testing we conduct. The coaches need to understand and be able to use the data in appropriate fashion. A stable testing results in a stable data. If you are not going to use the collected data, why collect? Not using the test data for programming is guessing. Hope is a bad strategy. When planning periodization, you don’t have to always follow the periodization model which composed of phases of hypertrophy, basic strength, and all that from 1 to 10. Not everyone has to go through hypertrophy. Everyone has different training level and status. Model is just a model. You need to look at your athletes and/or situations and make appropriate adjustments around them.

The coaches need to consider the intent of training. What are we trying to do? The goal is not to lift heavier weights; the goal is to help athletes run faster and jump higher. In order to achieve that, the strength is the key because the strength is the prerequisite for power. There is a tendency that the stronger athletes adapt faster to power training with greater magnitude, leading to greater and faster improvements in performance.

In the beginning of the program, the training should start with basics. Make sure that the athletes learn to lift with correct mechanics of each lift. Go through basic lifting techniques first. When the basics are successfully implemented, the more complex stuff comes easier. Also, the gains tend to be quicker with correct movement patterns rather than focusing on putting more weight in the beginning. The beginners benefit from any type of strength training, though we still need to look for the best practices that result in the best possible outcome. The intent in the beginning is to get the athletes stronger before getting into more complex trainings for better adaptation at a faster rate.

As discussed above, stronger athletes are better able to adapt to power training. Power training is more complex than general strength training which transfers to force production and performances. Stronger athletes are better able to tolerate eccentric load and generate greater rate of force development. One of the training methods that NCSU uses to produce maximum power output is velocity based training (VBT). The VBT can guide athletes to produce higher power output, however, do not rely too much on the numbers; rather stay true to the physical state of the athletes and the training purposes. Don’t fade away from the intent by other means.

The training should have a correct intent and purpose. You can either train hard at high intensity or train longer at higher volume, but not both at the same time. The high repetition, high volume with high intensity often increases risks of injuries and hampers performances. The best practice for the injury prevention is a good planning of training.

In conclusion, there are few key points that could be taken away by staying with basics in strength and conditioning training and practices. First of all, continuing education is important for coaches. Read the literature – you can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science. Data, technology and equipment are useless unless you understand it and be able to apply appropriately. Also, you don’t have to implement all of your knowledge to every day training practices. Stay with simple basic means and don’t overcomplicate yourself. Lastly, many coaches are looking to implement great technology and other fancy equipment to have a cutting-edge from others. Keep in mind, great coaching is the cutting edge.

Neuromechanics of Speed Development by Mike Young, reviewed by Jenna Burnett

Usain-sprintOne of the main points I took away from Athletic Lab’s Mike Young’s presentation were the physical characteristics of sprinters. Better sprinters have a variety of qualities including more front side mechanics, shorter ground contact times, and a touchdown characterized by a swing knee. But what actually impacts the speed a sprinter is capable of? The first step to a good sprint time is the acceleration. Young began discussing acceleration by mentioning is Newton’s Laws; in fact, he said they directly apply. Acceleration is generated by a force that is put on a mass, so the higher the force or the lower the mass, the more acceleration that is exerted, right? Well, to put it succinctly as Young did, “Fat don’t fly.” This leads to the general idea expressed by Young in the middle of his presentation; a small mass plus a big force in the right direction and applied for minimal time will make you run faster! But what is the right direction? Vertical, horizontal, diagonal? What direction should you choose? Young covered the dichotomy seen in the research next by discussing the two different views. One group believes that force in the vertical direction is more important to creating a faster sprint, while a second group disagrees and says that the horizontal direction matters more. So what do you do? Well, Young said that it is not necessarily the direction that matters, so much as the axis at which you look at it. In the beginning of a sprint, what direction do you apply the force? It goes down through your feet, through the blocks right? Well according to the standard axis system, that would be horizontal. But if you use the body as your axis system, the force goes in the vertical direction, as you push the force through the line of the body! So the argument is a bit nitpicky and silly if you think of it that way; it is not so much the global direction that matters, as much the direction relative to the body that matters!

Young moved on from the direction topic to discuss the characteristics that will increase maximum velocity. He says that the first step is to fix the posture, making it vertically erect, with a level head, tall hips, a high knee recovery and a neutral ankle and foot right before touchdown. The next step for max velocity is to emphasize vertical (relative to the body!) pushes and tall hips. Lastly, to get that nice knee recovery, think about stepping over and down. But what do you actually do to develop the sprinting ability? There were several ways that Young brought up in the presentation and I will list them for you here. They included downhill running, overspeed training and resistance training. For resistance training, there are several options, including explosive Olympic lifts and other multi-jointed lifts, working low on the force-velocity curve, stiffness jumps, plyometric training, eccentric overloading and training the posterior chain.

Developing Physical Capacities for Speed & Power by Mike Young, Reviewed by Sangyoon Hwang

0528160029Every sport that requires speed and power has a common denominator of power output. Faster speed involves generating large forces. The concept here is to generate powerful force through the body. The body is a meat machine. Muscular system depends on the nervous system to work – thus, hard wired athletes are the most successful athletes. In order to develop speed and sprint faster, you need to sprint. Strength does not equal to speed.

There are five physical capacities (biomotor abilities): strength, speed, flexibility, endurance, and coordination. We are here to concentrate on the coordination, which promotes efficiency. The neuromuscular coordination brings every other physical quality related to speed and power under the umbrella. Development of neuromuscular coordination could relate to the continuum of maximum strength transferred into speed. A simple example of neuromuscular enhancement in performance improvement is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching. PNF stretching enhances range of motion without change in tissue – it is the result of neuromuscular enhancement. As a result, the real reason of training in development of speed and power is to enhance neuromuscular efficiency.

Before getting into the wiring, we can build a bigger engine by building low end power. Training for sprint specific low-end power involves following qualities: quad/glute dominant, horizontal vector, concentric, and longer rate of force development. There are general and specific training. The general training includes weight training, sled push, and short jumps/multi-throws. The Olympic lifts from floor particularly power clean simulate the ankle, knee, hip joint angle at the start of the sprint. The recommended training load is 1-3 reps of 5-10 sets. We are keeping the reps low for the quality of movement. Squats of all variants with full depth improve speed over 10m, but the benefit subsidizes at about 30m mark due to shortening of ground contact time. The training load should be 2-6 reps of 4-7 sets. Sled push used to be thought of as a means to develop acceleration; however, it is actually a strength development tool similar to lunges or step ups. Short jumps such as standing long jump (SLJ) and standing triple jump (STJ) work to overcome inertia. The volume should be around 10-30 jumps/contacts. Multi-throws such as overhead back (OHB) and between the legs forward (BLF) also help develop low-end power. These exercises should be done in full effort with volume of 10-30 throws.

More specific means for developing low-end power include hill runs, resisted sprints, and acceleration sprints. Hill runs of 5-25 degree grades of 10-40m long sprints, 30-60 seconds rest per 10m, total volume of 200-360m is suggested for the development of low-end power. The emphasis should be the quality of movement. The resisted sprints such as sled sprint could improve speed. The resisted load should allow 10-20% speed decrement without change in kinematics. If the change in kinematics is observed, the load is too much. It may not be the best practices for the speed development compared to unloaded direct sprint; however, it is sometimes needed for the sake of variation in training. Then, there is sprint. Sprint emphasis on acceleration development should be less than 40m per repetition with a minute rest per 10m total volume of less than 300m (ex. 8x30m). Ladder drills are not a training method for force application/production, thus, they are not a speed development tool.

Another means of speed development is sprint specific training for stiffness (ex. super bouncy ball). These types of training involve following qualities: hip extensor dominant, vertical vector, eccentric, short rate of force development, and elasticity. Again, training for these qualities is divided into general and specific type of trainings. The general training includes weight training, Olympic lifts, and stiffness jumps. Olympic lifts from either from floor or hang position of power clean and/or snatch of relatively lighter load but emphasis on technique of reflexive movement should help develop stiffness. The rep/set scheme of 1-2 reps of 5-10 sets is recommended. For the sake of development of elasticity, preloading of reflexive movement may be allowed from hang position. Eccentric overload of 110-120% maximal load improve muscular stiffness, but this practice is definitely not for novices. The complexes of training also help developing stiff spring. These types of training should work downstream on the force-velocity curve. An example is squat before jumps improving jump heights. Another example is sprint after squat allowing athletes to sprint faster. The volume should be low and the sufficient rest is needed between sets. Training posterior chain is a key for developing stiffer spring. The exercises that emphasize posterior chain are RDLs, hip thrusts, glute-ham raises, and kettlebell swings. The downward phase of the kettlebell swings creates great amount of pressure on posterior chain due to the momentum. The plyometric exercises such as depth drops, depth jumps, vertical emphasis plyos, and stiffness jumps are great means of developing stiffness. These types of exercises should emphasize the vertical displacement, short contacts, and minimal amortization. The extreme height is not necessary for depth jumps and depth drops. The volumes should be low and emphasize the quality.

The specific means for sprint specific elasticity development include downhill running, assisted sprints, and maximal velocity sprints. In downhill running, the grade should be minimal, but overspeed with supra-maximal eccentric load should be emphasized. Maximal velocity sprinting could be varied with flying sprints, variable speed sprints, or short speed endurance. The distance in maximal velocity should be 10-40m per rep (not including the distance ran for the flying sprints), rest should be 20-60 seconds per 10m and the total volume should be 200-300m.

The whole training program should be planned ahead. The training is a process. The overload does not necessarily mean putting more weight, but for specific means of training. The rest and recovery should be well planned. The mobility and conditioning should not be overlooked. The compatible and complimentary training should be coupled together to promote better adaptation. The volume and intensity schemes should be always well planned to reduce the likelihood of injury and have optimum training benefits. The training sequence should progress from development of general low-end power to specific low-end power to general elastic power to specific elastic power. Remember, focus on quality of movement. That is the key for the development of the neuromuscular coordination which directly relates to development of speed and power.

Compatible & Complimentary Training Design by Boo Schexnayder, Reviewed by Sangyoon Hwang

Coach Boo Schexnayder is a master coach in every sense of the word.

Coach Boo Schexnayder is a master coach in every sense of the word.

When designing a training program, there are a number of general principles that need to be considered such as principles of overload, reversibility, rest and recovery, adaptation, and specificity. The overload principle is commonly misguided in nature. People think of overload principle as “no pain, no gain”, but in reality, it is “no strain, no gain”. Designing compatible and complimentary training program requires consideration of what kinds of trainings synergize each other, because not all the good trainings go well together.

When planning and applying appropriate adaptation, 4-week mesocycle fits the best. 6 weeks might be too long with drug free training scheme. At the fourth week, the rest week should be scheduled. During the rest week, the volume of training is reduced to 25%. Rest is important not only for the sake of resting; it allows athletes to train harder and reach higher.

A lot of coaches make common mistakes of having low volumes in the initial stages in the program. The training should begin with high volume-low intensity and build toward higher intensity-lower volume – early volume establishment is critical. As the season continues, there is an agent that needs to be addressed which is aggregate intensities. An aggregate intensity is the combined intensity of training and competition demands. During the season, trainings are affected by many factors including travel time, games time (frequent competition or no competition at all), and so forth. Sometimes the training needs to be adjusted due to the conditions and reactions of the athletes based on the aggregate intensities. The practice does not have to be perfect to be productive, thus make appropriate adjustment accordingly.

The variety in training is important. The variation reduces the likelihood of injury by minimizing repetitive exercises and loads that are injury prone. The boredom of athletes is at the least important, however, the variance just for the sake of variance sometimes is reasonable. The training should be varied with increasing complexity because easy trainings allow athletes to look good only in the training – absence of overload for progression. The variance of training by individualization is sometimes viewed too complicated. There need to be a system before individualizing the training program. Individualization does not mean that the training programs for different athletes or sports need to be widely different from each other. Making small adjustments to the system based on the individual’s needs better suits the individualization of program within the system.

The mesocycle planning has number of factors in consideration. The length of mesocycle should be 4 weeks and the rest and recovery time should be considered for better adaptation as discussed above. The theme of the training, such as work capacity, technique, speed, and strength, changes as the cycle changes. The construction of mesocycle has different options: block schemes, rotational schemes, and combination schemes. The block scheme uses one theme for a 4-week mesocycle and moves on to different theme on the next mesocycle. The rotational scheme uses a week long microcycle for each theme to cover different themes within a 4-week mesocycle. The combination scheme uses combination of both schemes in a random fashion.

Designing speed/power program requires understanding of neural vs. general training demand and ratios. It is important to group trainings based on neuromuscular demand. The traditional bodybuilding type of split routine has a white noise phenomenon. Having a ‘leg day’ on Monday, ‘chest day’ on the next day and so forth builds neuromuscular overload as an individual is hammered neurally from the high intensity training every day. The training effect is not localized, rather has a global effect. The training should be managed by looking at athlete’s state and specificity. The over-trained athletes should have change in training specificity from neural to general; the undertrained athletes should progress from general to neural.

Different types of neural training components should be grouped together. The neural components include speed training, multi-jumps, weight trainings such as Olympic lifts, static lifts, and ballistic lifts, and multi-throws. General training components should also be grouped together. These types of training include general strength, medicine ball, agility/change of direction, tempo running, and weight lifting of regional/bodybuilding lifts. Other options of grouping trainings are grouping by metabolic demand; duration of power output, technical commonalities – mix and match exercises that demand common techniques (ex. acceleration (longer foot contact) with deep squat;, static/dynamic nature of activity; and the rhythm of the activity – snatch and clean has a different rhythm, therefore, choose one and do not mix together. Grouping/coupling of similar qualities promotes better adaptation and learning.

In the complimentary training planning, trainings could either be contrasting or sequencing. The rest and restoration should be considered carefully as too many off days make an off year. Rather, consider planning restorative session which delivers the same purpose and outcome as the rest. The consideration of deeper in the same pool serves back to back neural days with different emphasis – quick short acceleration on day 1, and longer, strength based on deeper ROM in day 2 – help prepare athletes better in certain situations rather than balancing with general days.

The basic session planning of warm ups and cooldowns could be varied based on the emphasis of the training for the day. First and foremost, the warm ups should be movement-based. The lazy sequences of foam rolling or static stretching don’t do the job. On the neural day, ascending warm up should be implemented – starting from calm movements and finishing with high intensity activity – prepares athletes for the high intensity activities. The cool down for neural days could be varied, and move away from the old traditional box of thinking. Light activities such as multi-throws could cool down athletes on the heavy neural day. On contrast, for general day, descending warm up – starting with calm movements to high intensity activities and finishing with low intensity (calm) activities – calms athletes down for technical activities. You don’t want your athletes to be overly hyped for activities emphasizing technical precision. The traditional cooldown should be implemented for the general days.

The important piece of speed/power training is monitoring the power output. You never want to observe drop in the power output throughout the session, repetitions, and/or sets. Whenever you notice drop in the power output, make adjustment in the session (ex. 3×5 vs. 5×3). A good coach should able to identify such drop in the power output and make adjustments accordingly.

Strength Training Periodization for Speed and Power Sports by Boo Schexnayder, Reviewed by Adli Edwards

0528160026Boo Schexnayder gives a systemized look at the strength periodization methods he uses with his speed and power athletes. In the general, specific, and competition phases of training, different distinct protocols are administered.

The strength training protocols are designed to develop adaptations at the cellular level. In the general phase absolute strength preparation protocols featuring high volumes of squats and presses are used with lower relative intensities. Transitioning into the specific phase, absolute strength will be developed with higher intensities and lower volumes. The specific phase will also include lower intensity complimentary sessions, which diversify the work across multiple selected exercises to spread out a higher volume. During competition absolute strength training will be eliminated because of the decrement the slow movements have on performance.

Ballistic lift protocols are employed to maintain strength during season. A 10-30% load is used for weighted jumps and limited range of motion presses in this protocol. The exercise selection will include bilateral and unilateral movements through varied ranges of motion to provide diversity. If an athlete is sufficiently strong these ballistic lift sessions can replace absolute strength development in the general and specific phases.

Power training focuses on maximizing neuromuscular integration.  Progressive Olympic lifting protocols are established with a focus on velocity. Power development starts in the general training phase with lower loads and higher volumes.  During the specific and competition phases, emphasis is on rate of force development. Fewer repetitions and complete recovery allow heavier loads to be lifted.

Throughout this periodization a mix of heavy and light days are used to let the central nervous system recover from training. On light days restorative regional lifting circuits are utilized to prime the endocrine system and diversify the strength training.  These protocols are varied but typically feature 24 low intensity sets of 10 repetitions.

Additional considerations for guiding the long term execution of the periodization were discussed. Injury prevention is a product of diverse programming and using the minimum effective dose. Regarding how strong an athlete needs to be: strength balance trumps absolute strength. For example: Increasing upper body strength without gaining proportional strength in the lower body will hinder the athlete’s performance. With strong athletes there is a ceiling where strength gains just lead to a plateau.

Teaching Scheme for Acceleration and Maximal Velocity Mechanics by Boo Schexnayder, Reviewed by Sangyoon Hwang

Before getting into specific details of sprint mechanics, the first thing that needs to be addressed is the natural movement patterns of gait. Everyone has a different gait and the pathological gaits need extra attention. Those should to be separated and the appropriate mechanics should be taught around it. One of the global issues in sprint mechanics of gait is posture. Many athletes have postural problems in their sprint mechanics which limits their ability to sprint faster. There are two compartments in posture: stability and alignment. The alignment is a common concern for many athletes. The head and pelvic alignment in particular is at a great concern. The common concern here is that the head is out of the neutral position relative to the spine and the pelvis is tilting anteriorly. The head need to be stabilized at neutral position to create less muscle tension around the neck which allows muscles that are not involved in the sprint mechanics to be in a relaxed state. The anterior pelvic tilt creates a problem in a sprint mechanics in relation to driving the knee up as the angle of the knee drive loses its height and the direction of force application changes from being vertical. There is a huge misconception regarding the posture. Posture is not a condition; it is a skill that needs to be taught.

The important piece of energy production in sprint mechanics of gait is elastic energy. When the knee is driven up, the hamstring muscles preload, and when the force is applied to the ground, it produces elastic energy. The pelvic engine and the spinal engine works together to allow athletes to sprint faster. The pelvis moves freely around neutral position and the small rotational movement in core creates bigger amplitude in leg to sprint faster. The example of this movement is the towel snap. In childhood, we used to play with the towel before or after bath time, twisting it couple times and snapping it toward our buddies. The small movement in wrist creates big snap at the tail of the towel creating bigger force. This is similar mechanics as what is happening in the pelvic and spinal engine at the core while sprinting. The larger amplitude creates more efficiency and minimizes risk of injury. The shorter and higher frequency does not allow one to sprint faster, and it actually may be harmful due to more repetitive movement leading to overuse injury. The undulation of center of mass creating up and down movement spending minimal time on the ground creates stretch-reflex elastic energy.

Then, there is stability. Sprinting involves going through continuous cycle of losing stability and gaining stability. This is the process of dynamic stability. Athletes react to excessive instability while sprinting. When the ball of foot touches first in ground contact, it creates instability. Then body reacts to the instability and quickly regains stability as the gait progresses to continue moving forward. The stiffness in pelvis, knee, and ankle provides greater stability during sprint.

The gait is a basis of sprint which composed of three factors described above: elastic energy production, postural maintenance, and stability preservation – all together constructing the gait triangle. The force production starts from proximal to distal – preload in hamstring when knee up (proximal) and force application onto the ground in ground contact (distal). On this context, the force application to the ground in sprinting is push rather than pull. The angle of force application is important as the direction of force production determines the efficiency of the movement. The angle of the shin provides a good indicator of direction of force application.

We can now move into the specific skills of sprinting as the groundwork in of mechanics of gait is overviewed. The velocity is built around the momentum; momentum is the prerequisite of the velocity. The start in sprint is important as it creates momentum to build higher velocity. Thus, start is where the most teaching time should be invested. The start of sprint develops horizontal and vertical velocity along with generating horizontal momentum and high amplitudes. If athlete gets the start right, everything else follows as it is the baseline for the momentum production. As the athlete progresses from start (i.e. acceleration process) to maximal velocity, the angle of body and the force application gradually moves vertically. This is extremely important concept as athletes need to ‘gradually’ move upright to preserve stability and momentum. Another important aspect to note is that the heel recovery height and the force application. The teaching cue must direct toward the correct force application techniques, not low heel recoveries. Nothing blights the sprint mechanics more than overemphasis of stride frequency. With correct force application, the arm swings should synchronize the movement of the leg mirroring the identical course of force application.

Teaching acceleration and maximal velocity should concentrate on few aspects. The start and gradual progression in body angle and force application are the key skills that need to be taught. Keep in mind of triangle of gait, elastic energy production, posture, and stability component. They are the basis of the sprint mechanics in nature.

Critical Factors in Speed Training Design by Boo Schexnayder, Reviewed by Sangyoon Hwang

0528160010When talking about athletic development, speed is a number one quality that separates one from others. It is the most important fundamental athletic quality. Speed development requires a specific set of skills that involves an athlete to move faster. It takes time and requires appropriate progression and patience. Prioritizing speed development is important and it is not as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of gimmicks and preconceived notions in speed training, but we need to be free from the old knowledge and may have to re-learn our brains. Speaking of speed training, it is about developing a neural quality. The need here is to improve neuromuscular integration, which involves improvement in the recruitment of muscle fibers, enhancement of rate coding capabilities, and enrichment of synchronization. It doesn’t require any changes in muscle, but only involves the quality of nervous system activation.

In order to train the nervous system, there are few key points. First, quality of work is vital. The athlete needs to be training at their maximal intensity producing maximal power output. Second, rest should be long enough to support athletes to produce maximum effort. Again, long rest emphasizes the quality of work. Lastly, the volume should be low. We are looking for the quality of work; if the quality drops, there is no point continuing the session. If the quality drops at the later period of the speed session, the volume might be too much. Keep the volume low and aim for the quality of work. In total, 40 to 70% of training should be focused on improving neuromuscular integration to improve speed.

The relationship between strength and speed is not one way. It is recognized that the strength training improves speed. It is true to a certain extent. However, it is also true vice versa. Sprinting also improves strength. The tension created during the sprint may be higher than any other strength training athletes perform in the gym. The maximal power output generated from sprint has a positive effect of neural gains. Unlike strength training, there is no hypertrophy, but improvement in movement quality and coordination. Due to such benefits of sprint, speed development may assist with skill acquisition in sport due to the improvement in neuromuscular integration.

Lactate plays a significant role in speed development. High level of lactate irritates neural components and hinders the quality of speed training. However, mild to moderate level of lactate development is tolerable and the application in training needs to be careful. The long term effect of lactate and endocrine fitness, however, has a positive effect in developing lactate tolerance.

There are three forms in speed training: acceleration, speed (max velocity), and speed endurance. In every speed training, work quality (always high intensity) and recovery is key. In acceleration development training, short sprint of 10-40m isolating the acceleration component is worked over the volume of 300-400m. The recovery is set at near complete to allow some lactate accumulation. In speed development training, the work period is under 3 seconds which covers sprints of 40-70m (flying sprint or variable speed runs). Recovery should be complete and volume should be around 400-550m. In speed endurance training, the work period is 3 seconds or more, covering 80-150m. The distance could be varied with variable speed runs. Recovery should be complete and total volume is recommended to be around 600-800m.

Sport specificity catches a great amount of attention in sport performance development, but it may be highlighted too much. Sport specific fitness or needs are generally developed by sport trainings/games. There is no need to overemphasize the specificity especially during the season. The speed development and sport specificity is misguided – The speed development and specificity doesn’t depend on the consideration of what sport it is, it depends on the athlete type.

In long term development of speed, the training sequence develops from short to long (i.e. acceleration development to speed development to speed endurance) due to the lactate physiology. Through the progression, it develops the lactate tolerance along the scope. There is an old notion of building strength/endurance first before sprinting maximally. Sprint training should start on day 1. The consideration is the volume which should be minimized to reduce the likelihood of injury, but the intensity and quality of work should be high from the start. In the matter of planning of speed training during the week, it should be scheduled later in the week as the athletes might not be neurally ready in the beginning of the week.

Developing multidirectional speed is significant in many sports. There are three components to multidirectional speed: linear speed, plyometric performance, and body balance (strength ratios). There is no need to over-specify speed training with multidirectional component. Especially during the season, such specific component is already well-addressed in the sport training and matches. In developing multidirectional speed, focusing on the three components described above is sufficient. Overloading with certain characteristics may increase potential risks of overuse injuries; therefore, working on contrasting activities might help mitigate such risks.

Advance Uses of Circuit Training by Boo, Reviewed by Jenna Burnett

Irving “Boo” Schexnayder is a force to be reckoned with in the athlete training world. He graciously shared his vast knowledge with us this past weekend on a variety of topics, but this section focuses on circuit training. But what is the purpose of circuit training and what does it actually accomplish? The advantages of circuits include their ability to develop any sort of movement, as well as aerobic, anaerobic, and endocrine fitness. Circuits can also accelerate recovery, enhance glycogen storage and restoration, and minimize repetitive movements, thereby minimizing injury risks. Now Schexnayder has been in the coaching game for a long time, so he has generally figured out circuit implementation. In fact, he freely admits that he likes to put things in little boxes, which makes his circuit structure rather quantum-like. The circuit types that he likes to use are general strength, medball, jump, body building, and a few pseudo circuits. The general strength circuits work to increase your general fitness, endocrine fitness, and coordination, strength and mobility, as well as accelerate recovery and act as an injury buffer. There are several types that Schexnayder employs; the recovery enhancement, general fitness, scramble and stability circuits. These circuit’s purposes and setups are summarized below.

Recovery Enhancement General Fitness Circuits Stability Circuits Scramble Circuits for Fitness
Body Parts Whole body Whole body Specialty areas Whole body
Sets 12-16 12-16 10-12 10-12
Work time 15-20 s 15-30 s 15-30 s 15-30 s
Work : Rest Ratio 1:1 2:1 or 1:1 1:1:1 (L:R:Rest) 1:2
Total Length 8-12 min 8-12 min 8-12 min 8-12 min
Number of circuits 1 1-2 1
Exercises Mix Hard and easy, and callisthenic or functional exercises Mix callisthenic and specialized callisthenic, use gross, simple movements Mix body parts and positions Gross callisthenic, short sprints,


Medball circuit’s purposes are similar to the general strength purposes; however, they differ in that they include advanced impact and core training. The two types of exercises in the medball circuits used by Schexnayder are calisthenics and catch – toss work. The following table summarizes the prescription for the medball purpose types.

Recovery Enhancement General Fitness
Body Parts Whole body Whole body
Sets 10-15 10-15
Repetitions 8-15
Work time 20-30 s 20-40 s
Work : Rest Ratio 2:1 or 1:1:1 2:1 or 1:1:1
Total Length 8-12 min 8-12 min
Number of circuits 1-2
Exercises Mix Hard and easy, and callisthenic and catch toss Mix Hard and easy, and callisthenic and catch toss

The next set of circuits include in place jumps and multi-jump circuits. These circuits work to increase fitness gains, elastic strength, plyometric volume and act as an injury buffer for athletes. The type of in place jumps include easy and hard, deep and shallow heights, complex and simple jumps, and double or single leg jumps. The setup is summarized in the table below.

Fitness and Plyo Base Development
Body Parts Whole body
Work time 12-20 s
Work : Rest Ratio 1:2
Total Length 8-12 min
Exercises Mix hard/easy, deep/shallow, simple/complex exercises, can use single or double leg to increase difficulty

Schexnayder then went on to discuss his bodybuilding circuits. These he used for the same purposes as the general strength, with the added benefit of increased glycogen storage and replenishment. In general, he likes circuits that use a variety of body parts, smaller muscle groups, simple and complex movements and a mix of flexion, extension and rotation movements. The prescription is summarized below.

Endocrine Fitness/Glycogen Replenishment
Body Parts Whole body
Sets 24 total
Repetitions 10, 10 should be difficult
Recovery 60-90 s
Total Length 8-12 min
Exercises Mix flexion, extension, rotation; order should enhance difficulty

Schexnayder’s final circuits are his pseudocircuits. They are not real circuits, but instead focus on lowered fitness demands and are a collection of exercises that will fulfill a specific purpose. These purposes include working out connective tissue or fascial issues, and then working through functional movements to increase range of motion. The prescriptions are summarized below.

Connective Tissue/Fascia Functional Movement
Body Parts Whole body Whole body
Sets 5-10 8-16
Repetitions 10-20 meters 4-8
Work time 15-30 s
Work : Rest Ratio Individualized Individualized
Exercises Low walks over 10-20 meters Skilled Movements

These circuits have been employed throughout Schexnayder’s career with great success and should help many coaches make their athletes well rounded.

Plyometric Classification and Periodization by Boo Schexnayder, Reviewed by Adli Edwards

canadian-rugbyBoo Schexnayder uses different plyometric protocols for specific training goals. First, a classification of these different methods and their application:

In-place jumps increase elastic strength and fitness. A variety of exercises can be used to diversify training while establishing a volume base. Lower leg conditioning sessions are used for early season prep work focusing on impact training and mobility work.

Short horizontal bounds have a technical carryover due to the direction of their force application.  These plyometric routines can improve posture maintenance, acceleration development, and elastic strength development.

Vertical bounds have direct carryover for lateral movements and direction change as well as running speed from the vertical force push. Vertical Bounds are relatively safe because of the pelvic and quadriceps positions.

Hurdle hops also have a vertical application but feature responsive and quick ground contact times.  By keeping hurdle height low, athletes can scale their jump height according to their level of fatigue.

Extended bounds are a more demanding category of plyometric exercise and should be gradually built into. Sustained force production is the emphasis and thus has a great carryover for endurance/speed/power sports.

Depth jumps are drops from above vertical jump height and train the rebounding action.  The focus here is on intensity not on complexity.

With the periodization of plyometric exercises, the higher volume and lower intensity protocols transition towards lower volume and higher intensity protocols as the training season progresses towards competition. Plyometric exercises can be paired on heavy neural training days with speed training for compatible training.  Mesocycles are front loaded to scale with the increased elasticity present after a recovery week.

In the general phase three categories of plyometric exercises are implemented: in-place jumps for establishing volume, and vertical and short horizontal bounds.

As we progress to the specific training phase, the in-place jumps are replaced with extended bounds or depth jumps. The training volume decreases with the increased intensity.

In-season, Hurdle Hops are utilized and the frequency of training must be adjusted in response to the competitive schedule. During competition the athlete will be subjected to high intensity stresses and can easily be subjected to an excess of volume if plyometric sessions are not scaled back.

In response to training goals, specific variables should be targeted in each session: tension loads, direction of force application, and diversity. The emphasis with plyometric training is the need for a specificity of tension not movement.

Plyometric exercises can serve a secondary function as an early marker of overtraining. Monitoring the elasticity of plyometric exercises allows overtraining symptoms to be identified before power levels drop.

Technology in Sport by Ryan Horn, reviewed by Jenna Burnett

Ryan Horn began the discussion on technology with an important point. When you want to use technology, what should the technology do for you? First, it should assess something that matters and something that you can actually use. Second, the technology should be able to develop the athlete and make them better. Last, the technology should perform well and allow your athlete to perform. But what should you actually look for in technology? Horn says that the technology should target a small area. If you aim small, the amount of data you have to wade through will be small. This will make it easier to get relevant results. The technology should also be executable or attack the objective. The technology should help you to make a plan and execute that plan. Horn next discussed how the technology should help you with your decisions about training. The analysis you do and the type of data should drive your choice. Finally, the technology should maximize the results without making it inefficient or ineffective.

Now, this is all from the coaching standpoint, so what about the athlete side? The first important consideration is that the athlete should not have it interfere with what they are doing; you should be able to step back and not know it is there according to Horn. This would mean that the coach needs to make sure the technology fits and works with what they are trying to accomplish. The second consideration on the athlete side is that change can only happen with full commitment; both the athletes and the coaches need to fully believe and utilize the technology to make it worthwhile. Horn ended his discussion with a brief overview of some types of available technology. The general types include athlete tracking, velocity based training, force plate analysis and omega wave type technology.

Monitoring Training for Team Sports by Nate Brookreson, Reviewed by Jenna Burnett

0528160013Nate Brookreson continued the discussion on technology by introducing the concept of athlete monitoring. One of the first major points Brookreson stressed is how monitoring is not testing; monitoring allows the coach to collect data about the day-to-day fatigue or fitness of the athlete, while testing will tell the athlete’s current ability level. Brookreson discussed how monitoring will allow the coach to track an athlete’s response to a specific training dose or workout. It can help the coach determine when to push the athlete in a workout and when to back down and let them recover.

Brookreson then introduced a specific example of monitoring, the idea of a session rating of perceived exertion (RPE). The session RPE can be used to determine how the athlete feels during a workout. Brookreson pointed out that this is a subjective quality, which can be influenced by amount and quality of sleep, fatigue and a host of other factors, thereby making it useful during a session to determine when to adjust a workout back or when to kick it up a notch. However, while monitoring can be extremely useful to a coach, it can be rather invasive and will only work if the athletes will comply with it. Not all data is good data, and just because they are answering the questions doesn’t mean that it is an accurate representation of their current state. Therefore, it is important to make sure the athletes are giving a variable answer and not always choosing the same “middle ground” answer. But that is simply something to keep in mind; overall, monitoring can greatly help a coach determine their athlete’s current states and know when a workout is too much or not enough!

Monitoring on a Budget by John Grace, Reviewed by Jenna Burnett

0528160024Athletic Lab’s John Grace discussed monitoring on a budget, a reality for many coaches that cannot afford the high dollar sports technology. However, just because you cannot afford it does not mean you are any less effective at monitoring. Grace wanted to create a quadrant system that would allow you to mix and match monitoring systems to cover the largest areas possible. To do this, Grace first presented the general concepts of training which will create the following four quadrants: subjective and objective data on one side and then internal and external loads on the other. Together, these create a decision block which can help you choose your technology. Before looking at the example, the meaning of the various sections is crucial. An internal load is what the athlete’s psychological experiences are, while the external load is the measurable results. The subjective data is what the athletes feels, while the objective load is what is measurable by observation or testing. An example of various technology and their designation is displayed below.

Internal External
Objective HR variability, HR Load, Lactate Threshold, Blood Lactate GPS, Velocity Based, Session Duration, Daily Vertical Jump
Subjective Wellness Survey, Session RPE Coach Assessment

From the table, you can choose technology based on what you want to know. Grace then went into more detail on the various types of technology, covering pre-session monitoring by wellness surveys, and HR variability. He next moved onto post-session monitoring by discussing training load, which can be calculated as session duration times RPE. This allows you to cover two of the quadrants! But what is the long term point of all this data? Grace says that you should be working to determine what he calls a readiness score, which you can use to show day-to-day stress levels and then adjust training accordingly. Grace ended his talk with a cautionary statement; while it is all well and good to use the technology, personal interactions will always make you a better coach!

About the Authors

Adli Edwards, CSCS, MS Applied Exercise Science, is an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab.

Jenna Burnett has a Bachelors degree in physics and mathematics from Purdue University and is working on her Masters in kinesiology at Iowa State University. She is currently working as a Sports Science Research Intern at Athletic Lab.

Sangyoon (Sang) Hwang is a Coaching Science MS student at Ohio University, has a Bsc. Kinesiology and CSCS. He has played soccer at Collegiate level and has played for Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. He is currently an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab and has worked as an intern at Simon Fraser University Strength and Conditioning and has worked as an assistant fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC of the MLS.

Additional Reviews

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

A Review of the High Performance Athletic Development Clinic

Notes from the 2016 High Performance Athletic Development Clinic