Friday, April 29, 2016

Transfer of Training Part 2 - Muscle Contractions in Action

Last week we discussed the basic contraction types of our muscles and had a little look at the force/velocity spectrum.

Today we'll look at contraction types in further depth where we looked at basic eccentric, isometric and concentric contractions in part 1.

All 3 actions are performed in pretty every movement you do. When you kick, your hip flexors perform an eccentric contraction as the lengthen when the leg swings back.

Once the leg has gone back as far as you're range of motion allows then it momentarily stays in the one spot which is the isometric contraction of the hip flexors. If you didn't perform an isometric contraction then you're leg would simply keep going back like a piece if spaghetti!

As the leg comes forwards the the hip flexors go through a powerful concentric contraction as the muscles shorten and kick the ball.

Each portion is extremely important.

Think of muscles as rubber bands - the further you lengthen the band upon pulling it back (eccentric), the further it will go once you release it (concentric).

Rubber band like muscles have great reactivity which is another word for elasticity which is another word for bouncey-ness that all refrer to what you think is the ability to jump high (legs like pogo sticks, springs etc).

Training with weights using deliberate and slow rep speeds builds great tension which is great of you're looking for hypertrophy as time under tension is high, but sucks balls for building reactivity which is what all the great athletes possess.

The image up top is of a bloke I play footy with who as you can see can hide behind a point post but is 101% reactive and takes mark of the year every week...well he tries anyway!

When you train to create tension then when you want to be reactive then you're body has a hard time releasing the tension as that it is all it knows.

Worst of all, trying to push a tense boy into reactiveness will probably result in an injury of some kind.

What you can do in the gym is to perform your reps with a greater focus on 1 or more of the muscle actions rather then a slow deliberate speed for the entire rep.

Here are some ways you can do this:

Fast Eccentric (Drops) - trains force absorption which is the pulling the back portion of the rubber band analogy from earlier so the further you pull it back, the more force you can put out in the concentric.

Overspeed Eccentrics - if the faster you can drop results in the more force you can exert then if you can overload the eccentric portion of the rep, then you'll put out even greater force:

Fast Eccentric + Isometric - you pretty much can't perform a fast eccentric without an isometric anyway as you saw from the fast eccentrics video above but you would add a times isometric when training to improve your stabilisation from eccentric to concentric.

Fast Eccentric + Isometric + Fast Concentric - this is a progression from fast eccentric + isometric where you are now trying to develop rate of force development out of the isometric position.

Fast Concentric - this should be a given for 99% of your training, always focusing on the performing the concentric portion as fast as you can. Even if bar speed doesn't literally look fast, your intent should.

Fast Eccentric + Fast Concentric - these would be used in a peaking phase with the aim being to perform as many reps as possible in a specific time frame but no longer then 10secs. Without building great eccentric, isometric and concentric strength as well as being able to release tension during the lift, then these would be pretty much useless to you.

Rebounds - this uses the drop and catch but then you push the bar back up as fast as you can using continuous reps which improves your ability to release tension and momentarily relax your muscles. Sprinting is the equivalent to this for lower body but here's an upper body version:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Transfer of Training Part 1 - Muscle Contractions

The point of training ion the gym is to prepare our bodies for the rigors of training and playing.

Strength training is vital for Aussie Rules but still  it's a distant 3rd in your priority of training behind training and actual playing.

So if depending on your time constraints, here's your football activity pyramid for a lack of better term:

Priority 1 - Playing

Priority 2 - Football Training

Priority 3 - Outside fitness.strength training

Of course being able to do all 3 of these will give you the greatest chance of success, 2 of these options is solid but not a deal breaker and just playing without any other prep type work during the week is a recipe for disaster if you want to stay injury free!

Anyway I want to talk about strength training and how we can best use it to actually prepare us for the types of contractions used during high velocity activity thus hopefully actually transferring over to our performance on the ground.

In this installment we'll simply list the different contraction types / rep varieties you can use in the gym starting with the big 3:

Eccentric - generally the lowering portion of the exercise where the muscle lengthens (arms straight to bar on the chest during bench presses, standing to bottom squat position etc)

Isometric - the portion of the lift between the lowering and lifting phases where the muscle is help a certain length. Regardless of if you purposefully hold a certain range of motion or not, there is always an isometric portion, it's just a matter of how long it lasts (bar on the chest during bench presses, very bottom portion of a squat etc)

Concentric - generally the lifting portion of the exercise where the muscle shortens (arms push up from chest to straight in a bench press, you push up from the bottom position to a standing position during a squat etc)

These are the 3 contractions you use pretty much 100% of the time which is what happens when you run and sprint, but you need to find a way to use a rep speed similar to running and sprinting to actually provide football specific benefits.

The usual 2 - 3secs down and push straight back up is fine for working the muscles but it's not anywhere near training or game specific speed.

I've posted about the force / velocity curve before and this is where this can handy for choosing your exercises:

With locomotion (running action) being the dominant movement on footy, let's look at how it fits into the force / velocity curve (FVC).

Maximal Strength - as you can see it entails high amounts of force but little velocity. This essential in initial acceleration such as starting a sprint from a standing start as you need great force to overcome inertia (your own bodyweight) to get moving in a certain direction as fast as possible. Without maximal strength you'd look like you are stuck in the mud. Contact time is relatively long which means you have more time to generate forward momentum and muscle tension is at it's highest, which is like a strength exercise in the gym (think heavy squat).

Power - as you can see it lies in the middle of the FVC and it requires close to a half dosage of maximal strength and speed. This is essential in the transitional stage from initial acceleration to max velocity so we're talking say 5m to 20m in the lead from a standing start from above. Contact time has decreased so you now have less time to generate forward momentum but you begin to use elastic properties such as tendons to gather top end speed.

Speed - top speed requires great velocity but not as much as force as now contact time is so fast that there is no time to generate strength and now all your speed is generated by your tendons and the relaxation rate of your muscles. The ability to contract your muscles with great force in hundreds of a second upon ground contract followed by the ability to fully relax those muscles upon the swing phase of sprinting is what sets elite sprinters apart from the rest us (among other things).

The best way to get better at sprinting is to sprint, make no mistake about that, but sprinting is also the activity that fatigues the nervous system the most and thus needs the greatest recovery time.

To be able to train the element of speed more frequently, using alternative rep tempo and rep types can allow you to train speed without sprinting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In-Season Training Part 6 - Small But Important Tid Bits

So over the last few weeks we've broken in-season training to an inch of it's life but we've just got a few little tid-bits to cover.

If you want a complete program then tid-bits matter.

GET THE MOST FROM THE LEAST - as mentioned throughout this series of posts once the season rolls around you only have a certain amount of resources you can put towards training and preparation as games are so more intensive and fatigue building then training. After dedicating a couple of days to recovery from games and then another couple of days to prep for your up-coming game then it really only leaves 2 - 4 days for you to train. This means that every session must count towards something and everything you do in each of those sessions must count towards something too.

LEAVE OUT THE GARBAGE VOLUME - backing off the previous point any training volume that does not really need to be there should go and be replaced by more important training or just left out on it's own. There's no winners for who does the most training season, just winners of games on a Saturday. If you're trying to play catch up during the season for fitness or whatever then be very careful about how you go about it or at least let your coach know you're doing some extra work but hopefully it won't affect your on-field performance too much.

INDIVIDUALISE ENERGY SYSTEMS WORK - as a coach you should have a fair idea of what your players strengths are in regards to energy systems work. Players that dominate your time trials are aerobic based athletes where your best sprinters are exactly that. During the season the time to improve aerobic or alactic capacities is probably out the window at local/amateur level because of outside stresses. Having a sprinter do a lot of aerobic based work will have a far greater effect on him physiologically then your time trial professionals as their body's love short, intensive work which is why they are naturally good at it. On the other hand having your aerobic dominant players do a lor of short, intensive sprints might fry their nervous systems more then the sprinter type and the residual fatigue from a session like this could stay until game day, affecting on-field performance. I'd keep 70 - 80% of energy systems work to their strong suit during the season making sure that the non-dominant trait is trained only when in a non-fatigued state and early in the week to ensure that output can be high and that recovery can be made during the week. You might also need to ease up on a Thursday night too if you do this but it can be done.

PRIORITISE YOUR WEEK - I've mentioned training residuals before but if you're not going to abide your training by that (which I don't know why you wouldn't) then you need to list all the things you need to train for footy and then using a long term approach, prioritise what you need to train each week. So you'd break it up into aerobic (long distance and slow pace), lactic (med distance/pace but high fatigue) and alactic (short distance and fast pace) and then you'd break down activities into those 3 categories and rotate through them all in a 2 - 4 week block. Just remember that you can't train everything all the time1

STRENGTH TRAINING - the 2 major rules here is to keep intensity and volume in check and also to don't introduce too many new exercises into the mix. Intensity and volume should be decided based on your readiness for that day and stick to it. New exercises means you'll be training through a different range of motion which will stress your body differently which generally means soreness will ensue. Don't induce this soreness if it will affect your training. Gym improvements can be made during the season but not at the expense of footy training and then games.

NEURAL CHARGE WORKOUTS - by Monday you're probably refreshed a fair bit from Saturday (unless you're 37 like me!) but training isn't until Tuesday. A good way to prime your nervous system for Tuesday training is to perform a 10 - 15min workout the uses 5 - 6 explosive, but low impact exercises either Monday night or Tuesday morning. These workouts should not induce any fatigue at all as sets should be about 5 - 8asecs long. You could also use another of these workouts on a Friday or even Saturday morning but if you do the Saturday probably make it 7 - 10mins long.

TAKE FRIDAY OFF WORK - OK a long bow being drawn here but at the very least as soon as you finish work get home and put the feet up as you'll still be recovering from Thursday training even if you don't feel like it it needed recovering from. So relax and rest your body do tomorrow you wake up with high player readiness so there are no excuses not to make an impact on the ground.

That wraps up the in-season training series of articles.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

In-Season Training Part 5 - Train Monday Instead of Tuesday?

As most of you know I don't train with my tram because of work commitments which means I'm free to schedule how I like throughout the week.

Earlier this week I posted about my weekly set up to date which in a  nutshell looked like this but bear in mind I'm 37 and a half so my recovery rate is no where what it was 10 years ago:

Saturday - Game
Sunday - Rest day but do some breathing and stretching work to facilitate recovery
Monday - Easy active recovery day
Tuesday - Harder but still easy recovery day
Wednesday - My 'High' day of training for the week where I'll sprint
Thursday - An easy to medium day which is upper body power in the gym
Friday - Lower body potentiation day for tomorrow's game

My HRV tested best on Tuesday but instead of doing my 'High" day earlier I stuck to the plan but in future if I record a god HRV on a Tuesday I'll do my high day then.

Anyway as you can see my schedule isn't anywhere near what yours probably is with team training on a Tuesday and Thursday.

So what I'll discuss today is the pro's and con's of training Monday or Tuesday as your first team training session of the week.

As a little side note I think most AFL teams do their main session on a Wednesday. Don't quote me on that but I've players and coaches say this in various interviews and besides the teams need to be in by Thursday so they need to see how players pull up from the main session to see who is right to be picked.

Pro's of Training Monday

  • Provides more time to train other "stuff" during the week on your own
  • Ensures that the coach can implement a proper recovery plan which I class as more important then actual training during the season, of which a Monday session could be based on 
  • More time between training sessions and thus, better recovery from training
  • If you train again on the Wednesday then you have more time between training and game time ensuring players are fully rested and ready for game day
  • Players might "behave" better on the weekend if they know training is on Monday

Cons of Training Monday

  • Less time between games and training
  • If doing your 2nd team training session on Thursday then it makes it hard do longer duration, intense training but do you need a lot of this during the season?
  • You might be relying on players do some training on their own between sessions that as a coach you might feel "needs" to be done and would want to make sure is done.
  • More time between games and training means some players might lose "touch" with that long between handing a football 
  • More time between games could also have a negative affect on how you mentally prepare for game day where at the moment once Thursday comes around it's "footy time" to 5pm Saturday
That's just a few off the top of my head and I'll add to this as I think of them but please chime in with your own pro's and con's of using this set up on our Facebook page.

A lot of this comes down to player commitment and trust but all training does. Training Tuesday and Thursday means that are trusting players to do their own recovery work so that they are 100% for Tuesday but every night there's still blokes who don't train for whatever reason.

I would love for a team to try this out, if even just for a month and with a little data collected during this time, see how it ends up looking against the traditional model. If you;re a coach and would like to chat about this some more then let me know!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

In-Season Part 4 - My Game to Game Weekly Lay Out

Yesterday I posted about my post game recovery to be 100% for round 1 this Saturday.

Today I'll let you in on how I'll schedule my week from game to game (Saturday to Saturday).

Saturday Game Finishes at 2pm

  • Protein shake immediately after game
  • Decent lunch from canteen, usually a roast meat roll or salad roll + sports drink
  • 750ml water throughout the afternoon
  • 6 weetbix, 400ml milk and sugar once I got home
  • Hot bath with Epson Salts 
  • 4 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, 2 pieces of toast and a bowl of veggies
  • Another 750ml water
  • Relaxed on the couch from 7pm til bedtime by midnight
  • 8hrs sleep
  • A slow walk with the family to the garden park where I did a very easy core and stretching workout on the grass to facilitate recovery some more - 15mins tops
  • Back on the couch from 3:30 til bedtime at 10:30
  • All meals were classed as 'pass" meals so no fast food, chocolate, pastries or anything.
  • 6.5hrs sleep or so s I start at 6am at the studio but I need to get to bed earlier then I have been as 30mins extra a night = 3 - 4hrs extra sleep, and thus recovery time, per week.
  • Recovery based aerobic session in the park later this afternoon staying between 120 - 150 beats per minute for about 20mins to again facilitate recovery. Even though my HRV reading was excellent (8.1 up from 6.3 yesterday - reading is the image above), my resting heart rate was still in the low 60's this morning so I need some aerobic training to let the body know it can go into rest mode. This will be classed as a low day in the high / low training system.
  • All meals will be clean again today as I want to drop about 5kgs in the next 5 - 8 weeks to ease the stress of the knee.
  • I'm attempting an aerobic capacity session using only upper body exercises tomorrow which I'm not sure how it will go as I find it hard to get my heart rate up with upper body exercises alone. I've tried to set it up so all exercises require some, but not great, stability which will increase muscle use and thus energy expenditure. I'll also be mixing in some upper body cardio stuff to keep the heart rate ticking over so we'll see how we go with this one. Hopefully I can stretch this out to 30mins at 130 - 150 beats per minute. Again this will be classed as a low day.
  • I've put Wednesday as my high day for training where I'll do the most demanding stuff of the week and it;s where recovery from last weeks game finishes and preparation for the next game begins. I'll be doing front squats in the gym and sprints in the park on this day, flying sprints for max velocity specifically. You'll rarely, if ever, hit your 100% max velocity speed in a game so to increase your operational output (game running) you still need to improve your mechanical output (straight line sprinting).
  • Upper body power workout where it's all quality over quantity.
  • Lower body potentiation power day for low volume but high intensity. I used this session last week but then had a full day in the hospital with the wife which wiped me out (with a 5yr old in tow) and I was cooked by half time Saturday. I'm not sure if the potentiation session had anything to do with it as that session felt great but I';ll cut the volume down for it this week and see how it goes.
  • Hopefully get myself to bed straight after the footy finishes at 10:15ish, listen to the Triple M rub in bed and lights off at 11:30ish.
The aim is for 90% of all meals to be classes as "clean" to help with fat loss going forward and to ensure the body is being fueled with the right stuff for optimal performance.

So that's what I have laid out for this week but it's always subject to change (as it should be during the season) depending on my HRV and resting heart rate readings. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

In-Season Training Part 3 - My Post Game Recovery

I played in our 2nd practice game yesterday against a team that plays in a higher league then ours, were more skilled and much bigger bodies then we're used to.

Suffice to say this post couldn't come at a better time for me!

I spent all day in the hospital with the wife Friday on a day that I was already tired and we ended up there all day and didn't get home til 6:30pm.

My HRV registered a 7.5 (medium for me - I'd like to be at 8, or closer to, on game days) with a resting heart rate of 62 which is 7 - 10 beats more then normal. This indicated that before I even got out of my bed that my body was working a lot harder then normal to offset the stresses of the preceding day/s.

That being said I still felt alright during the warm up.

The ground looked pristine but was harder then it looked in getting dumped twice in a tackle after the whistle had been blown didn't help either.

By half time I had blown up and was functioning at no more then 70% the rest of the game which looking back at my readings - made perfect sense.

A few blokes even asked if I was injured so it must been evident I wasn't moving as well as I normally do.

Normally after the last practice game you'd have a week off then start round 1 but with Easter being earlier this year we go straight into round 1 next weekend so essentially this week was round 1.

Pulling up wise yesterday I was dog tired throughout the day watching the 1's with a little bit of lower back stiffness (from the hard ground + tired body I suspect) and my usual leg weariness I get after every game and always have.

As soon as I finish a game I have head straight to my bag for my protein drink. I showered and followed that up with a roast beef and gravy roll and a Gatorade drink (blue if you're interested). During the day I consumed 2 bottles of water.

Once I got home I had 6 weetbix, about 400ml milk and a table spoon of sugar (my usual breakfast) and jumped in a hot bath with some Epsom salts which worked a treat for the short term.

For dinner I had 4 eggs, 2 pieces of bread, 2 pieces of bacon and a bowl of veggies and another huge glass of water.

I was asleep by just after midnight after Saving Private Ryan got the better of me on the TV (still a top 5 movie of all time).

I got up just after 9am which puts me at 8hrs of pretty good sleep with daylight savings ticking over last night where my back stiffness was still present and a sore neck had moved in which came from another front on tackle and post whistle dumping where the back head slammed into the ground so I have a whiplash type pain down the front of my neck.

So far I've had my usual breakfast as above and we're heading out for a family walk after I finish this up where I will go through some easy core stuff on the grass while I'm there before settling in for the footy from 3:20.

When you play an actual game you enter what is called the sympathetic nervous system which is the "fight' in the fight or flight response. Heart rate elevates, breathing becomes shallower and alertness increases which is what is meant to happen in times of stress.

What also needs to happen post game is to get yourself back into the parasympathetic nervous system which is the "flight" portion which is where you rest, recover and regenerate.

If you don't get into this nervous system state, then recovery will be compromised. My HRV was a 6.3 today (image above) which is very low so imagine if I went our on the piss last night and got in at 3am. I wouldn't be right to do an intense training session until the weekend which means I'll have missed an entire week of training essentially.

If you did head out and continued to train like normal on Tuesday and Thursday, then I can guarantee you'll have a less then poor outing during round 1 next week as you wouldn't even have fully recovered from your previous game before playing the next one.

Eventually something has to give which is soft tissue injury or sickness, both resulting in you missing games which doesn't help anyone and shouldn't happen when you have total control over this.

Granted I'm 37 and a half and don't recover like some of you young bucks do but the principles are still the same.

Buddy to kick 7 today against the much improved Blues!