Entries by Craig Pickering

Studying the effects of bilateral vs. unilateral training

Rightly, or, as some people would argue, wrongly, resistance training is a major component within the training programs of most sports. We know from research that improvements in strength tend to lead to improvements in physical performance—such as sprint speed or jump height—and, in many cases, injury resilience. But how specific does that resistance need to be?

How we can prevent a post-lockdown leg injury surge

We’re in unprecedented times, with the COVID-19-driven lockdown of many countries and cities affecting athletes ability to train. The long-term effects of this lockdown, and how it might influence performance in 2021, are impossible to predict. However an older study, published in 2011 and widely shared on social media in the last couple of weeks, might give us some potentially crucial insights.

Sports Science Monthly – April 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. Coaches often turn to other fields to learn from and a recent trend is looking at the military. To start off this month’s edition we break down some of the key topics the US military is looking at in terms of enhancing performance. Then we look at athlete leadership, parental priorities for athletes, bias in injury prevention strategies, LTAD, and more.

Understanding and preventing leg cramps

If you’re someone who regularly exercises, you’ve likely experienced the feeling of a cramp, or, more specifically, exercise associated muscle cramp (EAMC). During my career, I regularly suffered from leg cramps at highly inopportune moments, including on the start line of the 2011 National Championships 100-meter final, which prevented me from being able to compete. Cramps are common, with well over half, and in many cases over two-thirds, of athletes across a variety of sports reporting having experienced it. Given the wide occurrence of cramping, you might think that it would be well understood. You would be wrong.

The role of adversity in development

We find ourselves in very strange times, with the COVID-19 causing shut down of all but essential services. As a result local and international competitions have been cancelled or postponed, including the Olympics, Paralympics, and World Under-20 Championships. Even finding a place to train is nearly impossible.

Sports Science Monthly – March 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. Athletes often complaint about small niggles, but how seriously that needs to be taken has not been researched much. In this month’s edition we start off by taking a look at new research on the topic, plus updates on the art of coaching, performance health, youth sports scaling, sports psychology technology, and high pressure training.

How long does it take to develop an Olympian?

Back in 1993, Anders Ericsson made his name by publishing a study in which he claimed that deliberate practice—the time spent practicing a skill designed solely for the purpose of performance enhancement—was the main differentiator between good and elite violinists. This soon became highly popularized—although Ericsson is keen to point out not by him—as the 10,000 hour rule.

Searching for smoothness

On a recent trip back to the UK, I got to watch my one-year-old niece play with Luis, my sister’s dog. My niece was fascinated by Luis, and wanted nothing more than to play with him, as well as give him a healthy dose of stroking. Watching her trying to do this was interesting; whilst she had the motivation to do so, she lacked the ability to do it well. Luis is a hyperactive dog (my sister prefers the phrase “energetic”), and is forever bounding around; as such, whenever my niece would go to stroke him, she would invariably miss him. Even when Luis was still, my niece struggled to stroke him in what I would call a “normal” fashion; instead of a long, smooth stroke along his coat, she would instead “pat” him, in a somewhat uncoordinated manner.

Consistency versus excellence

During my athletics career, I trained with two truly world-class athletes: one a gold medalist and the other a world champion. What struck me at the time was how normal they were; they turned up to training, trained fairly well, and then came back the next day to repeat the process. There were no superhuman sessions—although there were occasional exceptional performances—but just consistently decent sessions, strung together over an extended period of time.