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In part I we looked at the effect of high repetition strength training and its effect on the strength spectrum.  For me, the discovery of the multiple types of repetitions trained in a single set of twenty reps was a validation in the effectiveness and efficiency of this method.  Especially in regard to training the “year round” athlete that has limited “developmental” time and a limited reserve capacity due to the demands of their sporting commitment.

 

In this part of the series we look at the effect the high repetition set has had on the positive transfer of multiple athletic qualities for these young athletes.

 

Quality I: Power Measures

I’ll begin with power measurements.  I will not go on and on about how broad jump and vertical jump improvements are correlated to athletic performance as these are well known.  But I will attempt to explain how improving the basic ability of power not only underpins the quality at which our sporting movements are done but also bridges the gap of a strength exercises to applicable movement.

The quality of power production (and absorption) is evident in a sport such as soccer especially with the many cutting and start stop actions in pursuing or defending the ball.  “In order to make a change in direction while in motion, especially a quick one, you must have adequate levels of strength (eccentric, concentric, and isometric), speed-strength (explosive strength), flexibility (ROM) and coordination (technique).  Also included is speed of movement which is related to your strength levels.” {1}   For optimal projection to occur the muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle must absorb, stabilize, and contract in a quick, powerful, and coordinated manner.   I do understand that the transfer of more specific drills (plyometrics, altitude drops, etc.) do play a vital role in the development of these movements but in my opinion; these means incur a large cost if the athlete is not prepared.  In other words, our athletes are only as strong as their weakest link. Especially in the over competed and under trained populous such as women’s soccer players.  The way I see it, it is vitally important to develop needs sequentially from base to peak during the developmental stages.  Even though each of the young women featured in this article series are division one signees, their base athletic metrics were at a relatively low level.

Here is a glimpse into the improvements of the broad jump, vertical jump, and average power (as measured on the COACHING TOOLS link on XLATHLETE.COM) that were taken about one month apart.

As you can see substantial progress was made over the respective time periods for both athletes, especially in the broad jump.  The beauty of the utilizing the BABA (build a better athlete system AKA 1×20) was that employing one high rep set for broad spectrum (AKA general) exercises not only help build strength along the repetition spectrum but allowed us the time to work on other aspects of athleticism (cutting technique, sprinting, specialized exercises and variations of broad and vertical jumps in this case) without draining the neuro reserves.

SIDE NOTE:  This phenomenon became evident especially as the Meg and Katelynn had their team early morning “conditioning” requirements as well as side jobs that included babysitting and shoveling snow for multiple hours in a day.  Circumstances like this were mentioned by Jeff Moyer in his presentation as he explained the “why” behind the minimal effective dose philosophy. 

What’s also interesting are the improvements is average power.  This metric includes Jump height in relation to body weight.  There are two ways to look at improvement in average power.  First way, jump height remains relatively unchanged as body weight rises.  Which would apply to athlete’s looking to put on quality muscle mass.  This scenario mainly pertains to athletes in weight class dependent sports looking to bump up a class or two; as well underweight footballers or rugby players.  I don’t believe in gaining weight at the sacrifice of our power production capabilities.  The second way, is that body weight remains relatively unchanged while vertical jump (counter movement style) rises.  Which happened to apply to our athletes in this scenario.  The low exposure to total volume (and time under tension) in the minimal dose, broad spectrum strategy aided in keeping their body weights at bay.  The total volume remained stagnant (20 rep sets in ½ squat) as each exercise was executed for the same amount of reps aiming at improving technical execution of the jumps and specialized exercises while making minimal jumps in the strength exercises from week to week.  This is unlike classic strength approaches in the West where overall loads of barbell (volume and intensities) and number of exercises are increased over time.  While this approach may be optimal for those in barbell sports or the gym rat that wants to work out longer and harder; it will most likely eat away at the adaptive reserves of those in merely need to “use” strength to develop athletic abilities.

 

 

 

Quality II: Agility

 

Having the ability to devote time (while sparing the adaptive reserves) to the specialized drills and jumps was imperative to bridge the gap between our strength exercises and “on-field” drills.   While at the same time these young women improved their strength, they were able to learn how to apply that strength without running the well dry.

Here is a glimpse into measurements in the pro agility (***no hand touch as they will never touch their hand down to change direction in game play).

As you can see here both  made some great progress in the basic 5-10-5 test.  What should be noted here is that I did not introduce the specialized exercises for the side and forward cord lunges (as described in the many resources provided by Dr. Micheal Yessis and better shown in the Coaches Corner video section of the CVASPS Community site) until the second week of January.  This may be why we saw the larger improvements in Megan’s time from December to February.  Part of this decision was two-fold for myself 1) I felt meg needed to develop strength in the spinal erectors, abductors, and adductors 2) My comfort level with teaching the exercises which was made easier with the (excuse my shameless plug for Jay DeMayo) videos on the CVASPS Community.  In hindsight I probably would have introduced the lunges in a more basic manner (IE with dumbbells or possibly isometric holds) so that we could’ve made a smoother transition into the cords, but there is nothing wrong with the progress we made.  My takeaways on how this was done…

  • The protocol of half squats was not simply doing a set of 20. I may get flack for this; but I utilized a form of triphasic modalities in two warm up sets preceding the 20 rep set (what we term our push set).  The importance of eccentric strength in cutting cannot be understated as it is a key strength skill (a coordinated strength effort) in executing effective change of direction movements {2}. I waved the method of slow lowering to the half squat position (for a six count), holding the half squat position (for a six count), and slow lowering with a bottom hold (each for a three count).  In three week waves a piece.  My reasoning here was for them to learn the position, posture, and “pace” of the pattern.  (I apologize for the tongue twister.)  The loads represented fifty and seventy five percent (respectively) of the load in the push set, which was just enough to prime them for it.   In the grand scheme loads this light may not have been enough to completely train eccentric or isometric qualities “enough”; but given the training age of these individuals I felt it was necessary to use the TP method as a learning tool to effect posture and position more than anything else.

Some may ask, Why the half squat?  In short, a real smart guy in Whitewater Wisconsin told me in a phone conversation that ½ squats transfer to cutting and ¼ squats transfer to sprinting.  Thank again Ryan.

 

  • As mentioned before the ability to spare training time and the nervous system allowed us simultaneously develop technique. Featured here are a series of pictures at the “plant point” of a cut.

 

Here is meg in her second test in the 5/10/5.  And you can see a couple of things going on from this perspective that standout as inefficient.  Firstly, her head and shoulders are in front of her hips (center of mass).  Secondly, her hips are closed and not turned and are too late in positioning her body to run in the opposite direction.  The lack of strength in her erector muscles is evident as the angle of the torso is dipping into the angle of the shin. This lack of position causes her to swing her head and hips around her plant foot (as she pushes off) which forces her lead foot to swing back and to the side roughly at a 45 degree angle from her intended direction (as marked by the circle) detracting from the ‘sharpness’ of the cut.  In this case her lack of technique and postural strength force her to lose a step in the direction she wants to change direction to.

 

Closed hips, head and shoulders forward. Not the best position to be in.

Hips and head have to swing around plant foot to compensate costing valuable time and energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is meg in her third test of the 5-10-5.

A much better posture and position to be powerful!

Notice the more balanced and centered posture along with a pretty good hip turn.  You’ll also see that megs lead foot is nearly parallel to the plant foot as well as “in the air” ready to receive the ground off the push-off.  What used to take Meg two movements (and more time) to execute she now does in a single movement.  Take a look at that torso and shin angle nearly perfectly parallel and into that ankle beautifully, she can now apply the developed strength optimally.

 

 

Quality III: Confidence

 

A quality often overlooked in the development of young athletes is that of confidence.  I believe I heard Joe Kenn say in one of his presentations that “Confidence tranfers.”  Given the experience I’ve had with these young ladies as well the ones I’ve been so fortunate to work with over years; I’d be hard pressed to disagree.  It is easy for us coaches to get lost in the numbers but if there’s one intangible I’ve learned in this project if we can measure we can motivate.  These two things go hand in hand as well as give both coach and athlete an idea of where we are going together.  Giving equal ownership in progress to both.  Gratification is great thing both as an athlete and coach as it keeps us both in check with athlete on the intent of effort end and the coach on the critical thinking end.  I believe it was Tony Holler that wrote in a recent article (or one of his million twitter posts per day) about a dopamine release when kids see their numbers.,,Record, Rank, Publish I say he got it right.  If this is true, is this not the neuro rich environment we want our kids in?  Hell yes I say, because is they can see it we can sell it!  All this talk about buy in is then made simple.  In working with this group of girls thus far they gave me crap about having to go pants shopping because their legs out grew their current size.  I of course joked, “Like you women need another excuse to go shopping?!”  This type of interplay is vital in relationship building.  My young eight grader (numbers were not featured in this article as her training his largely to garner technical competence and basic strength) has also experienced the confidence boost.  Recently she scored a “defensive” goal in her indoor season (basically on a shorter pitch she was able to score form a long distance kick); which left herself and her parents surprised and elated.  Her mother told me she would never have had the confidence to try that before.  A couple weeks later her father told me how she now pursues offensive attacks with her arms up, unafraid to engage with larger players as she plays a level up against high schoolers.  With that said it is hard to argue with positive effects of a minimal effective dose approach that does not bash our kids into some archaic and ass backwards mantra of no pain no gain.  But rather keeps the needle moving forward for them making the training experience more enjoyable for athlete, parents, and coach.

My take away items from this project and writing were many and I’m sure more will reveal itself as I put this project into practice more often.  I certainly hoped you gained a newfound appreciation and understanding for general (like I said let’s call it broad spectrum) means in reading this. I know writing it has helped me better understand and discover what can be done when you can the simple meaningful.

 

 

 

{1} “You must have adequate levels of strength (eccentric, concentric, isometric)…pg. 47” Yessis, Dr. Micheal, Women’s Soccer: Using science to improve speed. 2001, Wish Publishing.

{2} “Strength along with coordination is very important, especially eccentric strength.” pg 130.  Yessis, Dr. Micheal, Explosive Basketball Training. 2003 Coaches Choice.

 

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