Correlations don’t prove causation, but we can still learn from them

If you ever take a statistics course, one of the first things you will learn is that correlation does not imply causation. It is one of the main tenants of science and if you wonder why that is the case, just think through some examples like the perfect correlation between ice cream sales and shark attacks per month, or other great examples from the Spurious Correlations website. Simply put, just because two things coincide, doesn’t mean that one caused the other and, even if there is a causal link, which direction it is heading. Read more

GAINcast Episode 104: Polarized training (with Stephen Seiler)

Since the turn of the century perhaps no researcher has been more influential in the endurance world than Stephen Seiler. His study of polarized training methods has framed a new discussion on training intensities thanks to an innovative research approach that started by looking at what elite athletes actually do. On this week’s podcast Seiler joins us to dissect his past research, discuss future projects, and more. Read more

Finally, some good news in the fight against doping

Sport has a doping crisis. It has been tainted with drugs scandals for as long as I can remember, from Ben Johnson being stripped of the 100m Olympic Gold in 1988, to the more recent issues surrounding more or less the whole of Russia in the lead up to the Olympics. Among the way, we have mini-scandals – Mo Farah’s doorbell, Alberto Salazar’s cream, British Cycling’s package in a brown bag – which, whilst not direct evidence of wrong doing, further erode public confidence in the cleanliness of sport. Read more

Skeletal muscle has an epigenetic memory . . . so what?

The term epigenetics is becoming increasingly popular, not just in scientific papers, but also in the lay press. The word itself applies to a fairly complex process through which genetic expression is governed, and as such it is frequently mis-understood. I’ve previously explored what epigenetic modifications are, and what they might mean for sport, but a recent paper in this field has got the internet buzzing. Read more

A new paradigm for talent

Think over all the talent identification processes you’ve either witnessed or been involved in over the years. Typically, they tend to be comprised of some sort of test; usually physical, but they can be augmented with psychological and anthropometric measures. For example, when I was 14 I was invited to a Talent Identification day where I was put through a number of different tasks; standing long jump, 30m sprint, endurance run, seated medicine ball throw. I didn’t score particularly well in any of those tests, apart from the 30m sprint, where I was in the top 1% of all scores ever recorded. It was recommended that I take up sprinting. Read more

Looking beyond the headlines: putting research in context

Research studies often get big headlines in the popular science media, which can be eye-catching. In today’s media saturated world, a quick headline on social media is all many of us have time for. This, of course, can lead to us not getting the full picture, and having what we do in our day-to-day negatively impacted through the incorrect application of this information. Read more

Finding the right caffeine intake for performance

One thing that fascinates me about humans is that we’re all different. We see this all the time in training; why do some people improve, but others don’t? Why does one athlete respond really well to a type of training, but another doesn’t? The same is true with caffeine: why does caffein affect some athletes differently than others? And what should we consider when adopting a adopt a strategy to get the most out of it? Read more

Can You Repeat That Please?

You might not know it, but scientific research is facing a crisis. Swathes of previously accepted research findings are being called into question, as subsequent experiments have failed to reproduce the same findings as the original papers. This replications crisis is strongest in psychology, especially social psychology, but has roots in, and implications for, all branches of science. And as more coaches are looking for an edge in the latest scientific research and social psychology findings, this has a large impact on coaching too. Read more

Do Non-Responders To Exercise Exist?

When we exercise, we expect to see improvements in health, fitness, or both. However, substantial research over the past couple of decades has illustrated that the magnitude of training improvements is highly variable between individuals, and a small number of people show no, or perhaps even negative, improvements to an exercise training intervention. These individuals are typically referred to as “non-responders.” Whis phenomenon is not unique to exercise, but new research is finally starting to take a closer look at this topic. Read more

Training With Multiple Weighted Implements

In Martin’s post from earlier this week he mentioned that coach Jean-Pierre Egger had expanded his rule of not using implement more or less than 10% of the competition weight. With Valerie Adams now uses a range of plus or minus 25%. Larry Judge is one of the few American coaches to write about the topic and he mentions a similar 10% rule, although he noted that it is not uncommon to throw an implement upwards of 20% higher then the competition weight to develop special strength. Is there such a simple rule that can be easily applied to throwing heavy and light implements?

When working on my graduate degree I chose to do my thesis project on just this topic. The final thesis was titled “Resistance Training Methods of Elite Shot Putters” and I asked nine of the top shot put coaches in the USA to participate in the project. These coaches were chosen based off of the results they had in International Championships, USA National Championships, and NCAA National Championships. One of the questions I asked each of these coaches was if they used multiple weighted implements as a means of training. I included this question because using multiple weighted implements for training was widely accepted and at this time there had been very little research done using this training method.
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