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Looking Back at 2014: Best Training Posts

This year marked the first full of HMMR Media and several new authors joining our site. We have doubled our readership and hope to keep promoting a good discussion of training methods. But most importantly we have also improved our content. As a coach or athlete, you have to constantly analyze what you are doing and either verify what you are doing or be ready to change. Nick Garcia summed up this philosophy overt he summer by saying only the paranoid survive.
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Simplifying “Complex” Periodization

Perhaps it is the Swiss in me, but I love order. I look at training and I see how I can put nearly every aspect of it in its own little box. You can classify exercises, types of strength, bodily systems used, recovery methods, etc. But the point of classifying it is to see how you can put it all back together. What good is it to classify foods, after all, if you never make a meal?
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Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky

The Germans vs. The Soviets

Look at the two sporting superpowers of post war era, Germany and the Soviet Union/post-Soviet states, and you find two very different approaches to training. Both have produced amazing results, but interestingly ideas like periodization, the concept of transfer of training, block training, complex training, special strength, etc. came just from one of the two powerhouses. Try to think of the most influential names in training methods and you’ll have to scroll well past luminaries like Leo Matveyev, Yuri Verkhoshansky, Vladimir Issurin, Vladimir Zatsiorsky and of course my coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk before you find many Germans. How come so many revolutionary ideas came from just one of these countries? Read more

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Book Review: Science and Practice of Strength Training

You’d think that making presentations is about teaching others, but for me it is as much an exercise in improving my own knowledge. I get to meet new people, hear new ideas, and, most importantly, the act of presenting helps me understand what I know and what I don’t know. This final point inevitably leads me to pick up more books to fill my knowledge gaps. In preparing for presentations this fall, one of my weaknesses related to the basic science of strength training. Therefore I decided to recently reread a classic in this area: Science and Practice of Strength Training, Second Edition by Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and William J. Kraemer.
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Case Study: High School Implementation of the Bondarchuk System

nick_ginikaAfter a year of using the system myself I felt it was time that I go ahead and implement it with some of my high school athletes. I had the perfect candidate to experiment with: a young thrower on my team named Ginika Iwuchukwu. As a freshman and sophomore Ginika had played basketball in the winter and we only had a short time to prepare her for the upcoming track season. During this time I had her on a traditionally periodized training plan and at the end of her sophomore year she had thrown right at 12 meters (39 feet). Looking ahead to her junior year she decided to focus on throwing. Therefore, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to apply Dr. B’s system or what my idea of what the Dr. B. system was. Rather than going into the structure of the program, which Martin has explained and had examples of it up in the past. I will go over the results we got, mistakes I made, and what I am doing differently this year compared to with Ginika over the last two years.
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New Podcast With Ultimate Athlete Concepts

UACLogo_CompName-1-300x163On Tuesday I had the chance to sit down with Yosef Johnson of Ultimate Athlete Concepts and Jeff Moyer of DC Sports Training for the latest edition of their video podcast. We covered special strength, training intensities, transfer of training, Bondarchuk’s analytic approach, and some other interesting aspects in training with him. Many of these topics will be looked at more in depth in our upcoming seminars, so check it out below and sign up if you are interested in learning more.
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The classic periodization model decreases volume, intensity, and technical work at the same time to reach a peak.

My Periodization Manifesto

I think the biggest plague affecting training is the cookie-cutter approach to it used many coaches in all sports. Individuals are different. Sports are different. And there are different training methods to choose from. An optimal training program comes not just from tailoring a template to individual- and sport-specific needs, but from also starting with the right template in the first place.

That is my periodization manifesto. So I read with interest last week as an article explained there is actually only one type of periodization:

“We have 97% genetic concordance with Gorillas, 98%+ with Chimps, and 99%+ with every other human on the planet. Humans respond to training in almost identical ways qualitatively, but differ only in quantity of response.”

-Dr. Mike Israetel in “5 Questions with Dr. Mike Israetel” on Juggernaut Training Systems

Israetel’s ultimate point in the article is a bit more nuanced and semantic; he concludes that what we think of as different types of periodization are merely variants of the same and the current debates just concern the specifics of implementation. In other words, we are all cooking Thanksgiving dinner and we only disagree about portion size, how much salt to use, or which dishes might be included. But whether we bake a turkey or ham, we we are all making Thanksgiving dinner. Israetel clearly does not advocate a one-size-fits-all approach, but I have heard this same argument used before to defend that approach.

Related Content: Want to learn more about periodization? It’s not too late to register for the HMMR Media Seminar next weekend in Nashville.

On the one hand I don’t really care how we lump approaches together as that does not really affect what we do. But on the other hand it affects how we talk training and therefore it is an important topic. Framing the issue this way glosses over the specifics, but the specifics should be front and center as there is no meaningful training without them. In fact, the specifics of training are in the definition of periodization itself:

Periodization is the timing, sequence and interaction of the training stimuli to allow optimum adaptive response in pursuit of specific competitive goals.

-Vern Gambetta in “What is Periodization?”

In the grand scheme of things the changes may be small. Human beings are indeed more similar than different. But those differences are still huge. I am not a biologist, but if a 1% change in genetic correspondence means the difference between a human and a chimp, then the variance within humans, even if smaller, is significant and needs to be taken into account in training. Those differences can make or break an athlete’s program. The difference between using classical block periodization or complex periodization for a sprinter can affect performance and injury rates. The difference each period’s length can mean the difference between an extremely effective program and a waste of time. And the balance of specificity is crucial. These types of specifics matter whether you consider it all one type of periodization or not.

And let’s be clear: the differences between individuals are both quantitative and qualitative. There are some common points with everyone. For example, introduce a stressor and the body will attempt to adapt to it. But individual differences are not just in how much the body adapts (quantity) but also in the process of adaptation itself (quality). When talking about individual differences, I love to cite a University of Alabama looking at swimming warmups. Researchers tested three different warm-up variations: a normal long warm up, a short warm up, and no warm up. After each warm up athletes performed a time trial. Unsurprisingly, the normal warm up generally proved the best option, but only for 44-percent of the athletes. Another 19-percent performed better with a short warm up and 37-percent performed the best without a warm-up. The conclusion: there is no best warmup. What was best for the group in general was actually worse for the majority of athletes. This example is a bit simplistic and does not look at periodization or the longer adaptation process, but the same type of individual variation applies there too. My coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk, for example, has shown that what was once thought of as uniform adaptive response varies widely among individuals and should be taken into account in planning. But he is hardly revolutionary in this regard:

“In recent years substantial evidence has emerged demonstrating that training responses vary extensively, depending upon multiple underlying factors. Such findings challenge the appropriateness of applying generic methodologies.”

-Professor John Kiely in “Periodization Paradigms in the 21st Century: Evidence-Led or Tradition-Driven?”

Just as there is no best warmup, there is no best program. There are only best programs for an individual training for a specific sport at a specific point in time. As much as I love concrete answers, this is a case where it is relative. Relativity might not sell books, but it is what makes coaching such a fun art form. We need to focus the conversation on what ingredients we use, the proportions, and main course. Heck, we need to take a step back and decide what occasion we are even cooking for before we even open up the cook book and find a recipe. Let’s talk about this, because this is how we become better coaches together.

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The Inflection Point

In my last post I talked about the book Only the Paranoid Survive. The central theme is about finding “inflection points.” When you figure out that the situation you are involved with has reached an “inflection point” it is time to change. When do we know its time to change? Author Andrew Grove explains that we need to “figure out who our major competitor is and see if they’re about to change. If there is more then one competitor then there is something significant going on.” When this is realized there are a number of things that Grove suggests you do:
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Reviewing Your Training Program: Accept, Adapt, Apply

qeKH.AuSt.42It’s that time of the year where summer training programs are winding down and Strength and Conditioning Coaches throughout the country are looking back at their summer training session and hopefully critiquing areas that worked well and other exercises, drills, etc, that didn’t work so well. When recently working on a recap of my summer training programs I thought of a catchy little 3 word phrase that represents what I try and do at the end of any long training block. These 3 words are ACCEPT, ADAPT, APPLY. I originally became a fan of these simple 3 word phrases after hearing Carolina Panthers Strength and Conditioning Coach Joe Kenn use the phrase Absorb, Modify, and Apply, when discussing what to do with material you gather at clinics, site visits, etc. Absorb the material presented to you, modify your program in accordance with what you think fits into your philosophy, and lastly apply this new information in your program and with your athletes. My program evaluation model of accept, adapt, apply, has a similar thought process behind it, with a few changes that I think should help coaches continue to evolve and improve their programs. Read more