Training Specificity

When starting to train for speed and strength, what must come first is strength. Your body is a machine, and that machine must be prepared for the amount of work you will be exposing it to, or it will break down. It is possible to develop a foundation of strength through any number of programs, and for the most part as long as consistency is apart of that program you will succeed. When training myself, or my athletes, I have found great success in following simple programs that cover basic movement patterns repeatedly. Learning how to: squat, hinge, push, pull, rotate, and bend train the entire working system, to improve the qualities of these movements so we can appropriately overload the body and improve performance. 

Once we have established a solid foundation to build on, we can than further specify training modalities to attack the goal that we are training for. At this point I would like to introduce unilateral and bilateral training. Unilateral training indicates we are working one side of the body (typically dividing the body in the sagittal plane), and bilateral is both sides of the body. For example, a unilateral exercise would be the reverse lunge, and a traditional back squat is an example of a bilateral exercise. 

Bilateral exercises are great for force output. You are obviously stronger on two legs compared to one, however there is also a greater opportunity to compensate a movement and still complete it. This is a problem! Compensation patterns lead to efficient movement, lack of training adaptation, and injury! With unilateral movement, there is also a possibility of movement compensation, but the difference between the two is a unilateral movement compensation is more easily noticed and often leads to failure of movement completion. 

Unilateral movements are often more closely related to the movements required in sports. Sprinting is a unilateral plyometric. There is never a moment in time where there is two feet on the ground at the same time after the start! One of the goals of strength training is transferability to the field, and if I can more closely mimic a movement and load it safely, I will. With this principle in mind, let me discuss the back squat and reverse lunge. Neither of these movements are directly transfer to a sprint, but the reverse lunge is primarily completed on one leg (just like sprinting). The squat will work the same muscle group, and sprint performance will improve, but it will only take your improvements so far (the point of diminishing returns). Unless you participate in a barbell sport, there comes a certain point in training where the goal should shift from improving a squat number to improving athletic performance via movement specificity. 

I will continue to discuss how to improve training specificity for athletic improvement in the weight room with future posts! Thanks for reading! 


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength



Training for Acceleration

Take a moment, and picture yourself running as fast as you can. How did you get to top speed? Well, at some point you have to start moving! This is the acceleration phase of sprinting. There are two other phases, and these are max velocity and deceleration. At Total Performance, we train these phases individually. This blog post will be discussing the acceleration phase, and how we target the training required to improve acceleration ability. 

Some of you may be thinking, what is the difference between acceleration and max velocity? Why separate the two, when you are trying to be as fast as possible in each phase? Yes, they are similar in some ways, and the goal is to “be fast.” However, what your body does in order to get to max velocity is different than what it does once it has reached max velocity. Some big differences include are the magnitude, and direction of force applied while accelerating. Acceleration has a more horizontal application, while max velocity is more vertical. Also, during acceleration, you spend more time on the ground. This allows you more time to generate more force. Acceleration training should match the requirements of acceleration. 

So, if we are aiming to match the requirements of acceleration in the weight room, things like: the primary direction of the movement, the load of the movement, and the intent of the movement should be manipulated as such. Acceleration requires starting strength, you must get your mass moving forward as fast as possible. If you are weak, your ability to accomplish this is hindered. Max strength training requires heavier loads, and slower movements. Because of the horizontal force direction associated with acceleration, max strength training movements that put the body through a similar pattern should be the primary movements of the session. Roman Deadlifts (RDL), Hip Thrust, Split squat, and Single Leg (SL) Hip Flexion are a few possible exercise selections that I use to train acceleration. The RDL and Hip Thrust both target the hip hinge pattern. The primary action of hip hinge requires hip extension and flexion primarily occurring anteriorly, and posteriorly (forward and backward); here’s your horizontal force application. The Split Squat, and SL Hip Flexion are also movements that improve hip flexion and extension abilities, and they are unilateral (completed on one leg)! During all phases of sprinting, once you start, there is never a point in time in which you have two feet on the ground. So, you cannot rely on the force production of two legs at the same time, you have to rely on one. Neglecting this fact is a poor decision IMO. Finally, the intent of the movement should be to move fast concentrically. The benefits of having the intent to move weight as fast as possible are numerous, and we can discuss them later. Right now, all you need to worry about is “I gotta move this sh** fast” to train the qualities of acceleration. 

Plyometric type, and timing is also a major factors to consider. Plyometrics should check the same boxes of acceleration like direction, and force application. Broad jumps, and single leg bounds are a couple of examples. The timing refers back to the PAP post we had a few weeks ago. I will save that can of worms for another day. 

There are entire textbooks associated with sprinting, and acceleration. These are some basic facts and opinions to consider next time you want to train for speed.

 

-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength



Variable Resistance Training (Bands and Chainz)

If you follow my personal instagram page, you will notice I am a big fan of utilizing bands and chains as alternative resistance methods, but what’s the point? Yeah, they look cool, and sure they provide a little more resistance to the exercise (at certain points) but what’s really going on when you load up 50lbs of chains to the bar, or add 50lbs of tension with some bands? 

VRT provides altering amounts of external resistance throughout the movement. Bands are more versatile compared to chains in this aspect, due to the fact that they can resist or assist the movement. In a squat, with the bands pulling the bar to the floor, lowering the bar will result in a decrease in stretch of the band and a decrease in resistance. Standing up will stretch the band, thus increasing the resistance of the band. Bands hanging above the bar does the opposite. Do not over think these mechanisms! Chains provide no elastic qualities, so they only provide added resistance in this instance. When lowering the bar, the chains will coil on the ground and resistance from the chains decrease. Standing up will uncoil the chains and provide added resistance to the movement. 

There are parts certain points of every exercise that require the most effort to complete the task. Referring back to the squat, just above the bottom of the movement is the “sticking point” of the movement. This is where you feel the most amount of resistance, and this is where the majority of failed reps occur. Once you pass the sticking point, the ability to complete the movement is almost a given. Why attempt to make this more difficult by adding chains and/or bands? 

Of the many goals associated with strength training, one of them is to improve inter/intra muscular coordination. Intermuscular coordination is the coordination of contraction between different muscles, while intramuscular coordination is the coordination of the individual muscle’s firing pattern. Traditional free weight training (FWT) will provide the required stimulus to improve the neural adaptations listed above. However, let’s go back to the squat. The time between the “sticking point,” and the completion of the rep. The mechanical advantage we gain during this segment of the exercise is such that our muscles do not require the same amount of force production to complete the rep! This is where chains and bands come into play. They provide the extra resistance through the easier portions of the lift. So, this gap of mechanical advantage is now filled with added resistance that provide a greater stimulus, and inter/intra muscular coordination between these two points will increase as a result. 

This blog barely scrapes the surface of VRT implementation. This modality of training is a personal favorite of mine due to the fact that; VRT provides variation to commonly completed movements, and bands and chains are not expensive relative to other resistance mechanisms. I hope to dive deeper into this form of training and the role it plays in previously discussed topics, like plyometrics. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength



Post Activation Potentiation "PAP"

In training for sport performance, we are always looking for a way to enhance the effects of training to better optimize sports performance. One of those methods is post activation potentiation. This topic can get a little tricky, and the variables that go with PAP can be numerous. So, try to stay with me here as we dive into the effects of PAP. 

Physical performance is affected by the muscle’s contractile history. Most people will think of the decreased performance associated with muscle fatigue, well PAP aims to increase performance. We are attempting to prime the working muscle group, typically in preparation for dynamic movement like a jump, or sprint. There is no concrete evidence that gives us a clear look into what works, and what does not work when referring to improved performance. With that being said, I will go over a few variables people have looked into, and discuss what potentially went right and/or wrong. 

First and foremost, the only athletes that should attempting to potentiate should be experienced athletes with a training age of more than 5 years, and post pubescent biologically. Typically, PAP involves near maximal loading of an exercise, followed by a dynamic movement. If an athlete can not adequately perform a loaded pattern such a squat, I will not waste their time trying to prime their muscles for elevated performance. Research agrees with me. The novice athlete’s body simply isn’t ready to complete this type of training. Too much fatigue is often induced, and there's little to no benefit seen when attempting to potentiate the muscles. A solid foundation of strength needs to be formed first, then the athlete is physiologically ready to undergo this advanced style of training. 

Secondly, the loaded movement you are completing needs to be similar to the movement you attempting to elevate in performance. If my goal is to jump higher, a heavy bench press wouldn’t help me much.. Or would it? Anyway, a study attempted to elevate athletes change of direction ability by pairing the 5-10-5 drill with a maximal isometric voluntary contraction of the lower limb musculature in a squat pattern. The results indicated no improved performance in the change of direction drills. They speculated variables such as training age, rest periods, and movement specificity could all be involved when deciding how to potentiate properly. (Marshall, Turner 2019)

Another variable that must be considered is rest time. There is a small window of opportunity we have when trying to utilize the effects of PAP.  Immediately following a loaded movement, we experience fatigue, the greater the intensity of the movement, the more fatigue we experience. If the rest period is too short, we are just performing the dynamic movement fatigued and it will result in a decrease in performance. If we rest too long, the priming effect of PAP is lost, and it is like nothing happened in the first place. So far, it has been stipulated that a rest window of 3-7 minutes is optimal. But, a 4 minute difference in rest time is massive! For the purpose of weight room flow, and the limited time frame we have to work with our athletes at Total Performance, we typically allot for about 1-3 minutes of active recovery to take place before attempting the dynamic movement. At the end of the day, we have limited time to work with our athletes, and there is no research confirming a ratio of intensity to rest to optimize performance. So, we do what is best for our facility and our athletes. 

I want to touch again on the subject of athlete experience. The less experienced athlete will not need as much stimulus to see the effects of PAP, but they will need a greater rest time to allow for proper priming of the muscle. This is compared to the experienced athlete who requires a higher degree of stimulus, and rest time doesn’t need to be as long comparatively. This could be due to the fact that the motor unit threshold attempting to be reached is way higher in the experienced athlete compared to the novice, and the experienced athlete's enhanced ability to recover from work. 

I can discuss post activation potentiation for another 100 blog posts, and I might just do that. However, at the end of the day we don’t know the full risks/benefits of PAP. The variables are still too wide to come to a conclusion. I personally use PAP in my training, but I do not measure my results; but I can tell when I haven’t allotted enough rest or I have rested too long. TP’s athletes complete a variation of contrast training blocks with loaded pattern followed by the matching dynamic pattern. The degree of intensity, the rest time, and the volume is determined by the athletes training age, and the stage of their annual plan they are in. Hopefully we discover the full mystery of PAP in the near future to better harness its ability to improve performance! 

-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength