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Tag Archives: strength and conditioning

In two posts (see http://wp.me/pZf7K-6J and http://wp.me/pZf7K-6M ) we covered some of the background behind developing a strength and conditioning program for basketball.  Another post (see http://wp.me/pZf7K-6Q) covered program design thoughts for high school level basketball.  This post will cover some general thoughts about program design and collegiate/national level basketball.

First, some principles:

  • Strength is going to be essential to the basketball player.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First, basketball has contact.  Second, strength has an impact on power (power is the ability to express strength quickly).  Third, strength may be a prerequisite for making plyometrics effective.
  • Attention needs to be paid on injury prevention.  This is especially true of the ankle and the knee.  This can be achieved in the warm-up (ankle) and during strength training and plyometrics (knee, by emphasizing the role of the hamstrings in squatting and landing from jumps).
  • Until elite levels, there probably isn’t a need to distinguish between the positions in terms of strength training.  However, at the elite level the positions should be viewed differently in terms of strength training.
  • Everyone has an opinion on this, but basketball doesn’t appear to be a largely aerobic sport – there is a lot of walking and standing.  This means the players have to be conditioned to be able to execute high-intensity sprints repeatedly.
  • Strength and technique are essential to success at plyometrics.
  • Basketball players aren’t weightlifters, powerlifters, or bodybuilders.  The weightroom is only a tool to better basketball.
  • Agility is going to be very important.  As the athlete becomes more advanced the ball and opponents need to be incorporated into drills.

With the above in mind, this post will look at collegiate or national team-level basketball players.  This is the level that needs a balance between general/fundamental training and more advanced/specialized training.  The athletes need to develop a foundation in terms of exercise technique, muscle size (which is important for strength), strength, mobility, speed, game endurance, and agility techniques but the athlete’s ability to advance beyond this will help to determine their success.

Strength and conditioning during the off-season could be organized around the following:

  • Variations of the power clean, power snatch, jerk, and pull using several implements to help develop explosiveness and to teach the techniques associated with these exercises.
  • Squats and their variations, Romanian deadlifts, and good mornings to develop lower body strength and hypertrophy.
  • Presses and pulls to develop upper body strength and hypertrophy.
  • Core training as needed/desired.
  • Ankle injury prevention exercises (these were addressed in previous posts http://wp.me/p1XfMm-o and http://wp.me/p1XfMm-E ) done as part of the warm-up.
  • Ten to sixty yard sprints focusing on acceleration and starting mechanics.
  • Starting, stopping, shuffling, and backpedaling to focus on fundamental agility skills.
  • Combination drills to focus on applying agility skills to basketball.
  • Sprints as conditioning (i.e. limited rest periods combined with a greater volume) to simulate the metabolic requirements of a game.
  • Other implements (battle ropes, kettlebells, suspension training) used as metabolic conditioning for variety.
  • An emphasis on vertical plyometrics, especially as strength and technique warrant.
  • Classical periodization is more than appropriate for this level of athlete.  This means initially focusing on higher volume/lower intensity and gradually decreasing the volume/increasing the intensity as the athlete gets closer to the season.

With the above in mind, a sample week of early off-season workouts might look as follows:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Strength Back Squats, 3×12-15×60-70%

Romanian Deadlifts, 3×12-15

Bench Press, 3×12-15×60-70%

Bent Over Rows, 3×12-15

Military Press, 3×12-15

Power Clean, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

Push Jerk, 3×4-6×60-70%

Clean Pulls, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

 

N/A
Plyometrics Counter-Movement Jumps (emphasize landing), 3×10 N/A Standing Long Jumps, 3×10
Speed N/A 3-5x Stick Drills

3-5×20 Yard Sprints, Standing Start

 

N/A
Agility N/A Start/stopping drills, 3-5x

Shuffle + turn and sprint (3-5×5+5 yards)

N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

Dynamic Flexibility Dynamic Flexibility

Battle Ropes

Suspension Training

Ankle

Core

 

  Thursday Friday
Strength Front Squats, 3×4-8×60-70%

Lunges, 3×12-15

Good Mornings, 3×12-15

Reverse Hyperextensions, 3×15-20

Dumbbell Bench Press, 3×12-15

Dips, 3xMax

Pull-Ups, 3xMax

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows, 3×12-15

Biceps/Triceps, 3×12-15

Plyometrics N/A BB Medicine Ball Throw, 3×10
Speed Conditioning:

1×20 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×100 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×20 yard

 

N/A
Agility   N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

The above workout is meant to be organized around making Monday a strength workout, Tuesday a power workout, and Thursday/Friday geared towards hypertrophy.

A late off-season workout might look like this:

 

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Strength Back Squats, 3×4-8×75-85%

Romanian Deadlifts, 3×4-8

Bench Press, 3×4-8×75-85%

Bent Over Rows, 3×4-8

Military Press, 3×4-8

Power Clean + Push Jerk, 3×3+2×60-70%

Clean Pulls, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

 

N/A
Plyometrics Counter-Movement Jumps (emphasize landing), 3×10

Box Jumps (emphasize landing), 3×10

N/A N/A
Speed N/A 3-5x Stick Drills

3-5×40 Yard Sprints, Standing Start

 

N/A
Agility N/A Start/stopping drills, 3-5x

Shuffle + turn and sprint (3-5×5+5 yards)

N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility

Suspension Training

Ankle

Core

Dynamic Flexibility

Kettlebells

N/A
  Thursday Friday
Strength Power Snatch, h, AK, 3×4-6

Snatch Pulls, 3×4-6

Dumbbell Clean, 3×4-6

Pause Squats, 3×3-6×60-70%

Good Mornings, 3×8-12

Incline Press, 3×4-8×75-85%

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows, 3×4-8

Dumbbell Shoulder Press, 3×4-8

Plyometrics N/A Standing Long Jumps, 3×10

Hurdle Hops, 3×5 yards

BB Medicine Ball Throw, 3×10

Speed 3-5×20 yards, Standing Start

3-5 Stride Length Drills

Conditioning:

1×20 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×100 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×20 yard

 

Agility   N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility

Kettlebells

Dynamic Flexibility

Battle Ropes

Ankle

Core

With the late off-season workouts, the training has become heavier and there is more of a power focus, it’s designed to build upon the training that has come before.

Regarding the in-season, there is less time available for training.  This means a real focus on what’s important, strength/power/basketball specificity.  During the in-season, sprinting is curtailed and done as part of agility training.  Conditioning is curtailed unless it is a deficiency.

A sample week of in-season workouts might look like:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday (Game)
Strength/ Plyometrics Power Clean + Push Jerk, 3×3+2×60-70%

Back Squats + Box Jumps, 3×2-6×80-90% + 5 jumps

Bench Press + Medicine Ball Toss, 3×2-x80-90% + 10 throws

Bent Over Rows + Medicine Ball Toss, 3×2-6 + 10 throws

N/A

 

Clean Pulls, 3×4-6×60-70%

Pause Squats, 3×2-6×70-80%

 

Plyometrics Counter-N/A N/A N/A
Speed N/A N/A

 

N/A
Agility N/A Start/stopping drills, 3-5x

Shuffle + turn and sprint (3-5×5+5 yards)

N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

Dynamic Flexibility

Kettlebells

N/A
  Thursday Friday (Game)
Strength/ Plyometrics N/A Snatch Pull + Power Snatch, 3×2-4+2-4×60-70%

Front Squats, 3×2-4×70-80%

Pause Bench Press, 3×2-6×60-70%

Plyometrics N/A N/A
Speed N/A N/A

 

Agility Agility drills incorporating ball and opponent, 2-3×3-5 N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility

Battle Ropes

Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

For more information:

Standing starts: http://wp.me/p1XfMm-1S andhttp://youtu.be/JPoBnrJxnDQ .

Shuffling: http://wp.me/p1XfMm-1o ,http://youtu.be/rDHILRb8Mnc,  and http://youtu.be/jYtqLsy_fuQ .

Stopping: http://wp.me/p1XfMm-P  and http://youtu.be/YnaONuqZWWE

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In two posts (see http://wp.me/pZf7K-6J and http://wp.me/pZf7K-6M ) we covered some of the background behind developing a strength and conditioning program for basketball. This post will cover some general thoughts about program design and basketball.

First, some principles:
• Strength is going to be essential to the basketball player. There are a number of reasons for this. First, basketball has contact. Second, strength has an impact on power (power is the ability to express strength quickly). Third, strength may be a prerequisite for making plyometrics effective.
• Attention needs to be paid on injury prevention. This is especially true of the ankle and the knee. This can be achieved in the warm-up (ankle) and during strength training and plyometrics (knee, by emphasizing the role of the hamstrings in squatting and landing from jumps).
• Until elite levels, there probably isn’t a need to distinguish between the positions in terms of strength training. However, at the elite level the positions should be viewed differently in terms of strength training.
• Everyone has an opinion on this, but basketball doesn’t appear to be a largely aerobic sport – there is a lot of walking and standing. This means the players have to be conditioned to be able to execute high-intensity sprints repeatedly.
• Plyometrics will be important, but the strength and technique base needs to be there first.
• Basketball players aren’t weightlifters, powerlifters, or bodybuilders. The weightroom is only a tool to better basketball.
• Agility is going to be very important. As the athlete becomes more advanced the ball and opponents need to be incorporated into drills.

With the above in mind, this post will look at high school level basketball players. In Texas, the high school basketball season runs from November through February. At the high school level, there isn’t a need (or a benefit) behind a lot of specialized training. The athletes need to develop a foundation in terms of exercise technique, muscle size (which is important for strength), strength, mobility, speed, game endurance, and agility techniques.

Strength and conditioning during the off-season could be organized around the following:
• Variations of the power clean, push jerk, and pull to help develop explosiveness and to teach the techniques associated with these exercises.
• Squats, Romanian deadlifts, and good mornings to develop lower body strength and hypertrophy.
• Presses and pulls to develop upper body strength and hypertrophy.
• Core training as needed/desired.
• Ankle injury prevention exercises (these were addressed in previous posts http://wp.me/p1XfMm-o and http://wp.me/p1XfMm-E ) done as part of the warm-up.
• Ten to twenty yard sprints focusing on acceleration and starting mechanics.
• Starting, stopping, shuffling, and backpedaling to focus on fundamental agility skills.
• Sprints as conditioning (i.e. limited rest periods combined with a greater volume) to simulate the metabolic requirements of a game.
• Beyond fundamental skills, an emphasis on plyometrics won’t be productive at this level.
• Classical periodization is more than appropriate for this level of athlete. This means initially focusing on higher volume/lower intensity and gradually decreasing the volume/increasing the intensity as the athlete gets closer to the season.

With the above in mind, a sample week of off-season workouts might look like the following:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Strength Power Clean, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

Back Squats, 3×12-15×60-70%

Romanian Deadlifts, 3×12-15

Bench Press, 3×12-15×60-70%

Bent Over Rows, 3×12-15

Military Press, 3×12-15

N/A Push Jerk, 3×4-6×60-70%

Lunges, 3×12-15

Good Mornings, 3×12-15

Dips, 3xMax

Pull-Ups, 3xMax

Plyometrics Counter-Movement Jumps (emphasize landing), 3×10 N/A Standing Long Jumps, 3×10
Speed N/A 3-5×20 Yard Sprints, Standing Start

Conditioning:

1×20 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×100 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×20 yard

N/A
Agility N/A Shuffle right/left, 3-5×5 yards

Backpedal, 3-5×5 yards

N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

Dynamic Flexibility Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

 

Notes:

  Thursday Friday
Strength N/A Clean Pulls, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

Front Squats, 3×6-8×60-70%

Reverse Hyperextensions, 3×12-15

Dumbbell Bench Press, 3×12-15

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows, 3×12-15

Biceps/Triceps, 3×12-15

Plyometrics N/A BB Medicine Ball Throw, 3×10
Speed 3-5x Stick Drills

3-5×20 Yard Sprints, Standing Start

 

N/A
Agility Start/stopping drills, 3-5x

Shuffle + turn and sprint (3-5×5+5 yards)

N/A
Other Dynamic Flexibility Dynamic Flexibility

Ankle

Core

Power Clean, h, AK = power clean from the hang, barbell begins at above-the-knee height
3×4-6×60-70%= three sets of four to six repetitions at 60-70% of 1-RM
3×12-15= three sets of twelve to fifteen repetitions, last 2-3 reps should be hard
Conditioning is a series of sprints. Ideally the athlete has a specific amount of time to perform each sprint, after that time has elapsed the next sprint starts. For example, the athlete has 20 seconds from the command “Go!” to perform a sprint and rest before the second sprint starts. Athletes should never be told how much time they have so that they give 100% effort throughout.

In-season workouts will be condensed due to travel and time restrictions. If I were writing this up, I’d drop the middle strength training workout and the second speed/agility day and fight hard to maintain the other three workouts each week.

For more information:

Standing starts: http://wp.me/p1XfMm-1S andhttp://youtu.be/JPoBnrJxnDQ .

Shuffling: http://wp.me/p1XfMm-1o ,http://youtu.be/rDHILRb8Mnc,  and http://youtu.be/jYtqLsy_fuQ .

Stopping: http://wp.me/p1XfMm-P  and http://youtu.be/YnaONuqZWWE .

In the last post (see here: ), a general overview of the game of basketball was provided. From a strength and conditioning standpoint, it’s important to understand that basketball has a number of different positions and different kinds of athletes are going to be successful in each position.

A number of studies have looked at male basketball players from a variety of settings and playing levels (Division I, national team members, Euroleague, etc.). The results of these studies appear in the table below. I recognize that there are shooting guards, point guards, small forwards, and power forwards and that these are all lumped together below. Some studies distinguish between these positions, but others don’t. In the interest of comparing apples to apples, they have been lumped together in the table below.

Characteristic Guards Forwards Centers
Age 23 22 22
Height (cm) 191 196 203
Weight (kg) 87 90 99
% Body Fat 9.7 9.8 13
Vertical Jump (cm) 61 59 52
Bench Press/Body Weight 1.05 .98 .98
Power Clean/ Body Weight 1.14 1.11 .98
Squat/Body Weight 2.01 1.91 1.7
T Test (sec) 9.3 9.7 9.9
5 meter sprint .99 1.14 1.17
10 meter sprint 1.86 1.97 2
30 meter sprint 4.14 4.16 4.32

(adapted from Abdelkrim et al 2009, Abdelkrim et al 2010, Latin et al 1994, Ostojic et al 2006, Sallet et al 2005).

A few things to keep in mind about the above table. First, this table shows averages of an amalgamation of male basketball player data. Second, note the average ages of the players. Third, much of this is from European/North African national-level basketball players. The combination of all these things shows extremely interesting trends, but you should be cautious about using the above information as standards for player evaluation.

The table does provide some interesting information. Guards tend to be lighter and more athletic than the other positions. Their relative strength is greater, vertical jump is higher, and they are faster and more agile than the other positions. Centers tend to be the tallest and heaviest athletes with the highest body fat and the lowest relative strength (though their absolute strength is greater than the other positions). They also tend to be slower and have a lower vertical jump than the other positions. Forwards fall in between.

The specifics of this information (i.e. what values are ideal for each characteristic?) is going to vary depending upon age, level of ability, setting, etc. However, the trends are extremely important for an athlete and for a coach. An athlete that is taller, heavier, and slower may not make a good guard but may make a good forward or center. A smaller, faster, more agile athlete with a greater vertical jump may be more effective as a guard. Etc.

These same trends hold true of female athletes. The table below shows an amalgamation of research articles looking at primarily collegiate female basketball players. Notice that the same trends hold true:

Characteristic Guards Forwards Centers
Age 25 26 26
Height (cm) 170 177 184
Weight (kg) 62 70 78
Body Fat (%) 17 19 23
Vertical Jump (cm) 47 46 42
20 meter sprint (seconds) 3.37 3.53 3.59
T-Test (seconds) 10.05 10.5 10.7
Suicide Run (seconds) 30 32 32

(adapted from Delextrat and Cohen 2009, LaMonte et al 1999).

Abdelkrim, N.B., Castagna, C., Fazaa, S.E., Tabka, Z., and Ati, J.E. Blood metabolites during basketball competitions. J Strength Cond Re 23(3): 765-773, 2009.

Abdelkrim, N.B., Chaouachi, A., Chamari, K., Chtara, M., and Castagna, C. Positional role and competitive-level differences in elite-level men’s basketball players. J Strength Cond Re 24(5): 1346-1355, 2010.

Delextrat, A. and Cohen, D. Strength, power, speed, and agility of women’s basketball players according to playing position. J Strength Cond Re 23(7): 1974-1981, 2009.

LaMonte, M.J., McKinney, J.T., Quinn, S.M., Bainbridge, C.N., and Eisenman, P.A. Comparison of physical and physiological variables for female college basketball players. J Strength Cond Re 13(3): 264-270, 1999.

Latin, R.W., Berg, K., and Baechle, T. Physical and performance characteristics of NCAA Division I male basketball players. J Strength Cond Re 8(4): 214-218, 1994.

Ostojic, S.M., Mazic, S., and Dikic, N. Profiling in basketball: Physical and physiological characteristics of elite players. J Strength Cond Re 20(4): 740-744, 2006.

Sallet, P., Perrier, D., Ferret, J.M., Vitelli, V., and Baverel, G. Physiological differences in professional basketball players as a function of playing position and level of play. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 45(3): 291-294, 2005.

Basketball is a total-body sport that involves running, walking, sprinting, changes of direction, shuffling, and jumping. While it’s intended to be a non-contact sport, many injuries are related to contact. Regardless of whether it is men’s or women’s basketball, European or collegiate or high school, ankle injuries are the most common injuries seen in the sport, followed by knee and lower back injuries (Agel et al 2007, Kofotolis et al 2007, Mihata et al 2006, Stergioulas et al 2007). There are more injuries in games than practices and many of the ankle injuries result from contact.

Basketball is characterized by short bursts of high-intensity movement. The table below is from Abdelkrim et al (2010) and shows the distance and percentage of time devoted towards each type of movement pattern. In their article, the authors define the speeds at which each movement pattern takes place (for example, sprinting is in excess of 24 km/hour). The point is that very little time and distance is devoted to high-speed/intensity movements. Almost 63% of game time is devoted to walking or standing. This means that basketball athletes have to be conditioned for short bursts of speed and power.

However, as Taylor (2003) points out, though, this is going to change depending upon the personnel, level of play, coaching style/scheme, etc. So while the information below is useful, it should not be viewed as an absolute.

  Ttl Distance % Ttl Time
Total

7558

 
Walk

1720

30.98

Jog

1870

5.58

Run

928

4.54

Stride

406

2.37

Sprint

763

2.83

Sideways

218

1.89

LI Shuffle

606

8.54

MI Shuffle

691

6.48

HI Shuffle

169

3.1

Standing  

32.3

Jumping  

1.34

The sport has five major types of positions; shooting guards, point guards, small forwards, power forwards, and centers. As we’ll discuss in a future blog, each position has different physical characteristics that are necessary for success. Point guards are the main ball handlers and prepare the offense. Shooting guards are often the team’s best scorer. Small forwards tend to be well balanced in terms of skills and important for the defense. The power forward is important for defense and guards the basket. The center is generally the tallest player on the court, blocks shots, scores around the basket, and has a large rebounding responsibility. In the next post, where we discuss characteristics of the positions, the guards will be lumped together as will the forwards.

Abdelkrim, N.B., Castagna, C., Jabri, I., Battikh, T., Fazaa, S.E., and Ati, J.E. Activity profile and physiological requirements of junior elite basketball players in relation to aerobic-anaerobic fitness. J Strength Cond Re 24(9): 2330-2342, 2010.

Agel, J., Olson, D.E., Dick, R., Arendt, E.A., Marshall, S.W., and Sikka, R.S. Descriptive epidemiology of collegiate women’s basketball injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association injury surveillance system, 1988-1989 through 2003-2004. J Athl Training 42(2): 202-210, 2007.

Kofotolis, N. and Kellis, E. Ankle sprain injuries: A 2 year prospective cohort study in female Greek professional basketball players. J Athl Training 42(3): 388-394.

Mihata, L.C.S., Beutler, A.I., and Boden, B.P. Comparing the incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injury in collegiate lacrosse, soccer, and basketball players: Implications for anterior cruciate ligament mechanism and prevention. Am J Sport Med 34: 899-904, 2006.

Stergioulas, A., Tripolitsioti, A., Kostopoulos, N., Gavriilidis, A., Sotiropoulos, D., and Baltopoulos, P. Amateur basketball injuries: A prospective study among male and female athletes. Biol Exercise 3: 35-45, 2007.

Taylor, J. Basketball: Applying time motion data to conditioning. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 25(2): 57-64, 2003.

There’s been a debate for a number of years, largely driven by marketing and hype, about training volume. There is a “less is better” school of thought, i.e. do one set to failure and that’s all you need to make massive gains from training. Over the years, a number of studies have shown that this is a fine approach for the untrained (i.e. absolute beginners), but may not be appropriate for highly trained athletes.

In the December issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Marshall et al look at the impact of training volume on lower body strength and performance measures. The authors designed a really interesting 12 week training study. During this study, all subjects had the same two-week initial period (to wash out the effects of any previous training), then the six week study period (detailed below), then four weeks of “peaking” where all subjects did the same training program basically focusing on power training.

During the six week study period, all subjects did a split so that 2x per week the subjects trained chest/shoulders/arms and 2x per week the subjects trained back and back squats. The authors divided their subjects into three groups; one did one set on the squat, one did four sets on the squat, one did eight sets on the squat. Every group did the same training protocol on all the other exercises.

Testing was performed after the two week washout period, three weeks into the study period, after the study period, and after the peaking period. Testing consisted of 1-RM on the back squat, isokinetic strength testing, and isometric strength testing (all of the knee extensors).

During the course of the study, the authors found a number of interesting things:
• Total training volume (setsxrepsxweight) was very different between the three groups, with the four set group having a training volume more than 200% greater than the one set group and the eight set group having a training volume more than 460% greater than the one set group.
• Between the baseline testing after the washout period and the end of the six week intervention, the 1 set group improved their back squat strength by 10%. The four set group improved by 14%. The 8 set group improved by 19%.
• The authors also noted the existence of high, medium, and low responders. The high responders increased their squat strength by almost 30%, the medium by almost 15%, the low by about 3%.
• According to the authors, 11/13 low responders were in the one and four-set groups.

Over a six week training intervention, performing eight sets of squats produced superior gains to one set. Although, six weeks of one-set training increased squat strength by 10%. Having said that, there are some qualifications that need to be kept in mind. First, at baseline testing all the groups were squatting around 185-190% of bodyweight. So there is some training experience but these are not “strong” lifters. This suggests that almost any training program will still produce gains for these subjects. Second, the low/medium/high responder information is very interesting and I’m grateful that the authors looked at this. It also significantly complicates the results. If there were fewer low responders in the one- and four-set groups, those groups might have experienced better gains in the squat and the differences between the groups might not be as stark.

What causes someone to be a high, medium, or low responder?  This actually isn’t the first study I’ve seen suggesting this exists.    Petrella et al (2008) looked at how people respond to 16 weeks of strength training and found that those that increased their population of satellite cells the most during training had the most significant hypertrophy gains.  Satellite cells exist in between the inner and outer membranes of the muscle fibers and are thought to provide the material for muscle hypertrophy.  However, some of us have many and some of us don’t – in other words this seems to bea  genetic limitation to training.

This was a really interesting study, but it shows a need for us to start looking at training gains in terms of whether people are responders to training.

Marshall, P.W.M., McEwen, M., and Robbins, D.W. (2011). Strength and neuromuscular adaptation following one, four, and eight sets of high intensity resistance exercise in trained males. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111: 3007-3016.

 

Petrella, J.K., Kim, J-S., Mayhew, D.L., Cross, J.M., and Bamman, M.M.  (2008).  Potent myofiber hypertrophy during resistance training in humans is associated with satellite cell-mediated myonuclear addition: a cluster analysis.  Journal of Applied Physiology, 104: 1736-1742.

 

De Villarreal et al have a really interesting study in the December issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looking at the impact of different exercise protocols on the vertical jump. The authors studied college physical education students using one of five protocols: heavy full-squats, power half squats (i.e. to parallel), weighted counter-movement jumps (CMJ), plyometrics, and a combination of all. Subjects were tested on their vertical jump height and their performance on CMJs with 17kg, 27kg, and 37kg of added resistance.

All training took place 3 times per week for seven weeks:
• Heavy squat group: Gradually increased the resistance over seven weeks while decreasing the volume.
• Power half squat group: Gradually increased the resistance over seven weeks while decreasing the volume. The initial resistance was selected as the resistance that maximized power output, after the first week the resistance was increased each week and leveled out at weeks six and seven.
• Weighted CMJ group: Resistance was selected based upon what maximized power output. Initially the group exercised with 30% less than the amount that maximizes power output, over seven weeks this was increased.
• Plyometric group: sets of five rebound jumps.
• Combined group: Basically combined all the above workouts.

In terms of results:
• All groups increased the heights of their vertical jumps, the heights of their loaded CMJ height at each resistance, and the rate of force development during the loaded CMJs. There were no statistically significant differences between any of the groups.
• There were statistically significant increases in power output during loaded CMJs for the combined group and the weighted CMJ group only. However, all groups increased their power outputs by 3-13% at each resistance after seven weeks of training. So while this may not be statistically significant, it is an increase.

The results are interesting because essentially all the training programs worked. To me the most interesting result in the vertical jump height, the weighted CMJ testing condition isn’t really something that’s going to be duplicated on the field. The authors don’t give us the vertical jump values, only a graph so it is difficult to tease out the improvements in vertical jump. This suggests that heavy squats, squats done explosively, weighted vertical jumps, and plyos all improve vertical jump. The results are also interesting because the group with the greatest volume (the combined group) made the same gains as the other groups.

Now, there are some limitations. First, the subjects were college students. It’s very possible that strength trained athletes would have had different results. Second, the study may not have been long enough to tease out differences between the training programs. Third, all the squats and weighted CMJs are being done in a Smith machine which may impact both adaptations and transferability of the results. Finally, by using weights greater than that which maximized power output (the power squat group) or by using weights less than that which maximized power output (weighted CMJ group) both of these groups may not have made the gains that they could have as a result of the training.

De Villarreal, E.S.S., Izquierdo, M., and Gonzalez-Badillo, J.J. (2011). Enhancing jump performance after combined vs. maximal power, heavy-resistance, and plyometric training alone. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(12), 3274-3281.

The power clean is a popular exercise for the strength and conditioning of athletes as well as an assistance exercise in the training of Olympic lifters. The lift uses most of the muscles of the body, is done standing up, must be completed in around a second to be successful, and results in a great deal of power output especially compared to many other (and slower) strength training exercises. For all these reasons, it is popular for the conditioning of athletes.

There are a number of variations of the power clean. It can be performed from the floor (power clean), from blocks (the bar rests on a raised surface), or from the hang (the lifter holds the bar from a static position and then performs the lift).

Comfort et al, in the December issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, studied whether a particular variation of the power clean results in a better power output. In their study, they had sixteen male rugby league players perform variations of the power clean with 60% of their 1-RM on a force platform. The variations were the power clean proper, the lift from the hang (knee height), the lift from the hang (mid-thigh level), and the clean pull from mid-thigh. Each lifter did three reps on each lift, with 30 seconds of rest between each lift.

The results are not what I expected:
• Mid-thigh power clean and mid-thigh clean pull had the greatest force output, followed by knee height power clean, followed by the power clean proper (~2800 newtons for mid-thigh power clean versus ~2300 newtons for the power clean).
• The same pattern was true for rate of force development (~15,000 N/s for the mid-thigh power clean versus ~8700 N/S for the power clean).
• The same pattern was true for power output (~3600 Watts for the mid-thigh power clean versus ~2600 Watts for the power clean).
• In all cases, the mid-thigh pull had greater force, RFD, and power values than the mid-thigh clean though there were no statistically significant differences between the two.

This is not the first article from these authors on this (see http://wp.me/pZf7K-3w) for a summary of another article. If it’s true, and if we are seeking to maximize our athletes’ training time, then it suggests that the mid-thigh pulls and cleans may be a better use of our time.

Now, there are some assumptions with these results:
1. The subjects are trained. It’s likely that subjects that are more, or less trained would have responded differently to the testing.
2. 60% is the optimal intensity. The other study performed by the authors on this subject also used 60% of 1-RM as the testing intensity. Some authors have found that peak power occurs at 80% of 1-RM, though there is no statistically significant difference in the ranges of 50%-90% of 1-RM (Cormie et al 2007, Kilduff et al 2007).
3. The subjects have good technique on the lifts. Proper technique may have a huge impact on the outcome of the study. We have now way of knowing the subjects technical mastery of the lifts.

Lastly, it needs to be pointed out that this is not a training study. In other words, we don’t see the impact of focusing on x number of weeks of the mid-thigh lifts versus the power clean on power output and other variables. This would be an interesting route to go with future research.

Comfort, P., Allen, M., and Graham-Smith, P. (2011). Kinetic comparisons during variations of the power clean. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(12), 3269-3273.

Cormie, P., McCauley, G.O., Triplett, N.T., and McBride, J.M. (2007). Optimal loading for maximal power output during lower-body resistance exercises. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 340-349.

Kilduff, L.P., Bevan, H., Owen, N., Kingsley, M.I.C., Brunce, P., Bennett, M., and Cunningham, D. (2007). Optimal loading for peak power output during the hang power clean in professional rugby players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2, 260-269.

Kettlebells exploded on the scene a number of years ago and have attained almost cult-like status. They are promoted as a tool to increase strength, hypertrophy, power, core stability, metabolic conditioning, and even cardio-vascular conditioning. Despite the claims, almost no research has been done on this exercise mode. Harrison et al, in the December issue of Strength and Conditioning Journal, have an article that reviews the state of the literature and provides recommendations for the implementation of kettlebells into a strength and conditioning program.

As kettlebells have mass, and as this mass can be increased (i.e. you can always exercise with a heavier kettlebell), they are effective at increasing strength and hypertrophy. It also stands to reason that performing explosive exercises with them will result in an increase in power.

In terms of cardio-vascular and fat-loss benefits, the authors don’t report terribly strong research. For example, there is a study that demonstrated that performing the two-handed swing for twelve minutes increases heart rate, but it is not as stressful as running. They report that research looking at the metabolic cost of using kettlebells is unclear and guilty of comparing apples to oranges (i.e. this means you cannot really draw a conclusion on the effectiveness of kettlebells one way or the other).

At the very least, the authors feel that kettlebells can aid with muscular strength/hypertrophy/power and certainly add some variety and fun to a strength and conditioning program.

With regards to implementation, I feel that the authors make an excellent point when they state that: “Training protocols for kettlebells do not necessarily need to be different from the traditional resistance training protocols…” At the end of the day, if the goal is to increase strength (no matter what training tool is used) then one needs to lift heavy weights, for few repetitions, with full recovery. If the goal is to train power, one needs to focus on being explosive, which means limiting fatigue and allowing full recovery. If the goal is endurance or metabolic conditioning, then the workout will look very different.

I personally have some opinions about technique and kettlebell exercises, especially when we start talking about the Olympic lifts and kettlebells. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of swinging the weights for these lifts, which most places advocate. I still feel that the triple extension motion is very important (if the idea is to train for transferable power). I also think that swinging the weight overhead on the snatch is just asking for trouble.

Harrison, J.S., Schoenfeld, B., and Schoenfeld, M.L. (2011). Application of kettlebells in exercise program design. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33(6), 86-89.

David Behm is one of my favorite authors. He often takes a critical look at our assumptions regarding strength training and performs extensive literature reviews that cause you to rethink assumptions. In the past he has written reviews on velocity specificity, the neural effects of strength training, and core training all of which are thought-provoking articles. The challenge has been that he tends to publish in journals that are not as accessible to most coaches and practitioners. In the November issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology, David Behm and Anis Chaouachi perform a literature review looking at the impact of static and dynamic stretching on performance.

The literature review begins by providing the historical background. Thirty years ago we would have been recommending a warm-up that includes submaximal aerobic exercise followed by 5-10 minutes of static stretching. The authors note that a few groundbreaking studies began chipping away at the belief that static stretching was beneficial during the warm-up. They then note that a significant number of studies report performance decreases in strength, power, and jumping measures as a result of static stretching. According to the authors, though, the results are not as clear-cut as many studies show no impact or improvement as a result of static stretching and there appears to be no consensus about its impact on sprinting and running.

To investigate this, the authors performed a literature review from 1989 to 2010 to look at the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. The results are interesting. Across studies, the authors found:
• An almost 7% decrease in strength and force as a result of static stretching as warm-up.
• An almost 3% decrease in jumping performance.
• An approximate 2% decrease in sprinting performance.
• There is a relationship between the length of the static stretch and the decrease in performance. Basically stretches held for greater than 90 seconds produce more a decrease in performance than those held for less (some studies have stretches being performed for up to 20 minutes).
• However, this information is not unanimous as there are studies looking at shorter duration stretches that show performance decreases in track and field athletes.

The authors make a number of recommendations:
• First, given the conflicting nature of the literature static stretching as warm-up for athletes should probably be minimized.
• Second, there are sports and positions in sports where static stretching as warm-up is going to be needed (the authors’ example is goaltending in hockey). When this is the case the static stretches should last less than 30 seconds for each muscle group.
• Third, if the goal is to increase range of motion, then there should be a separate static stretching session.

Behm, D.G. and Chaouachi, A. (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111: 2633-2651.

There has been a debate for a number of years about the effectiveness of the powerlifts (bench press, squat, deadlift) at improving power. The thought has been that while these lifts increase maximal strength, they are performed too slowly to train power adequately. Powerlifting proponents, especially with the advent of training with chains and bands, have argued this is not the case. Swinton et al, in the November issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research conducted a study looking at the deadlift exercise and came up with some fascinating data on the deadlift that may require that this argument be reevaluated.

The authors had 23 experienced subjects (powerlifters and rugby union athletes) participate in the study. On average, the athletes weighed 107 kilograms and deadlifted 227 kilograms. In other words, these athletes are deadlifting more than twice their body weight.

The athletes performed two testing sessions. During the first session, athletes maxed out on the deadlift. They then performed a single repetition at 30%, 50%, and 70% of their 1-RM at maximal velocity.

During the second session, the athletes performed repetitions at 30%, 50%, and 70% of 1-RM at submaximal velocity. After this, they performed maximal velocity repetitions at 30%, 50%+chains equal to 20% of 1-RM, then 70%+chains equal to 40% of 1-RM. Two repetitions were performed at each weight.

Subjects performed the lift on a force platform and had each lift filmed.

Many of the results are what you’d expect:
• As the weight increased, the velocity of the barbell decreased. The velocity was greatest at the maximal velocity trial with 30%+chains (at 2.2 meters per second).
• For the submaximal velocity trials, peak power increased as the resistance increased. For the maximal velocity trials, it was greatest at the 30%+chain load and decreased as the weights increased. Peak power for the maximal velocity trails was more than double that of the submax trials for every resistance except 70%+chains.
• The acceleration phase for performing the lifts with chains is greater than the submax conditions.

The velocity information is fascinating. These numbers exceed some of the velocities seen in the second pull of the snatch and clean as well as the drive of the jerk exercise. This suggests that the deadlift can be performed in an explosive manner to train for athletic power.

Now, there are some challenges with this study. First, the athletes studied are able to deadlift double bodyweight, which means that they have some skill on the exercise. It’s unclear if the results can be transmitted to other athletes. It is actually likely that there needs to be a strength base present before advanced training tools, like chains, can be effective. Second, the athletes self-selected “submaximal” and “maximal” velocities. Without standardizing the submaximal velocities (i.e. lift at 70% of maximal deadlift velocity, etc.) it makes it difficult to compare the results across lifters and to apply them to a larger pool of athletes. The final limitation that needs to be kept in mind is that this is not a training study. In other words, this study is not looking at the effectiveness of X number of weeks of training the deadlift with chains on power. It’s a snapshot in time and this needs to be kept in perspective when reading about it.

Swinton, P.A., Stewart, A.D., Keogh, J.W.L., Agouris, I., and Lloyd, R. (2011). Kinematic and kinetic analysis of maximal velocity deadlifts performed with and without the inclusion of chain resistance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(11), 3163-3174.