Posts

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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Observing the Kinetic Chain

While most countries saw their sport-science research nearly dissapear after the cold war ended, a united Germany continued with the same determination ever since and have pushed out new studies with regularity. Just last month, an Egyptian doctoral student Marwa Sakr completed a doctoral dissertation at the Universität Konstanz in Southern Germany focusing solely on the biomechanics on the women’s hammer throw. After hearing about her initial plans two years ago, I was eagerly awaiting the results.

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Betty Heidler, Kathrin Klaas, and Mareike Nannen show off the study’s measurement equipment.

Sakr’s research in many ways was an extension of Koji Murofushi’s research from several years ago. She created a device similar to Koji’s to help measure the energy throughout the throw. But the focus of her work was not simply measuring the kinetic energy levels throughout the body and hammer during the throw, but also to look at how the energy moved sequentially through the human body by looking at correlations between the energy levels of different parts. This was the first time a study has looked at the kinetic chain in the hammer throw and it is built upon the “kinetic link principle” which says that segments reach their maximum of speed consecutively beginning with those at the far end of the kinetic chain. In other words, the theory is that the kinetic energy travels from the ground up and into the hammer.
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How Mental Stress Affects Throwing

Distance coach Steve Magness. As I like to say, you can always trust a man in glasses.

Sometimes learning more about throwing can lead you to some weird places. Over the last year or two it has led me to read a lot of work by distance coaches. There is so little throws-related research and writing taking place that I am always looking for some nugget of information in another sport that might carry over to throwing. The mass participation in distance running means there are a lot of new ideas, research, and writing on training topics. Former Nike Oregon Project assistant coach and current University of Houston distance coach Steve Magness does a good job of keeping track of what is going in the field and contributing his own ideas on his blog, the Science of Running. His most recent post is definitely one that throwers can learn from too.

As I mentioned last year, mental fatigue can hurt your training. A recent study showed that cyclists peak power output was reduced 20% after being put through demanding cognitive tasks. I notice this first hand: since I’ve started to work my post-work training results have dropped and my morning training is now regularly better.
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What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

A topic that has interested me a lot this year is how to identify and develop talent. Recently Vern Gambetta shared a good article on his blog about a counterintuitive article recently published in journal Sports Medicine. The abstract describes the article best:

[T]he vast majority of [talent development] systems expend a great deal of effort maximizing support to the young athletes and trying to counter the impact of naturally occurring life stressors. In this article, we suggest that much of this effort is misdirected; that, in fact, talented potential can often benefit from, or even need, a variety of challenges to facilitate eventual adult performance.

“The Rocky Road to the Top: Why Talent Needs Trauma” by Dave Collins and Áine MacNamara of Institute of Coaching and Performance, University of Central Lancashire, Lancashire, UK.
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The Effects of Mental Fatigue

I’ve began regularly throwing twice a day after I graduated from law school back in 2008. When I was living in Kamloops my training sessions would start at 9 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. The results were almost always better in the afternoon. When I arrived in Switzerland in 2010, I continued training twice a day but had to adjust my training times. Since I have to work in between trainings, my morning session normally starts between 7:30 and 8:30 (often depending on the sunrise) and my afternoon training session normally begins closer to 4 (unless I can squeeze it in at lunch).

If anything, you would think this change would mean that my morning training sessions would get worse in comparison. But the opposite has happened. Now my morning training session is, without fail, my best of the day. This summer some of my best results were as early as 7 o’clock. And my afternoon sessions were continuously unimpressive.
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