Technical, Tactical, and Strategic Factors in Strength and Conditioning: A Primer

In sport, there are technical, tactical, and strategic factors to consider in athlete development. Technical abilities typically relate to the execution of specific skills. (i.e. how to throw a curve ball). Tactical abilities involve placing athletes in position in order to best utilize technical abilities, and knowing when and where to use these technical skills in a given context. (i.e. pitch choice and choosing to pitch from the stretch or windup due to the current on-field situation). Strategy refers to higher level planning in order to identify and achieve a goal or series of goals. This includes the selection and sequencing of tactics in order to achieve the goal or sub-goal. In sport, this may be as large as the strategy for a season or the strategy for a given game within the context of the seasonal strategy.

Technical, Tactical, and Strategic Elements in Strength and Conditioning

The same technical, tactical, and strategic elements can be applied to strength and conditioning in order to facilitate coach development and ensure staff effectiveness. Analysis and practice of these elements can be incorporated in order to create your staff’s standard operating procedures. Technical elements refer to technique and coaching cues intended to elicit the desired performance outcomes for individual exercises, drills, and movements. (i.e. proper squat technique and how to coach it). Tactical elements refer to positioning coaches and athletes in order to ensure that proper technical abilities can be applied effectively and efficiently. An example would be placing coaches in certain positions in the weight-room in order to maximize eyes on athletes and allow the coaches to best use their technical abilities. The selection of exercise methods could also be considered to be tactical elements as they are a means used to achieve a goal within an overarching periodization strategy. Strategic elements refer to the overall goal of the workout itself, the goal of the training cycle, and the planning elements in place to achieve the goal. This includes the selection of necessary tactics such as exercise selection, sequencing and methods, as well as designating coaching responsibilities.

Conclusion

This primer is meant to be a brief overview of technical, tactical, and strategic considerations and to stimulate thought on their application to strength and conditioning. Use this primer in order to categorize technical and tactical skills, and strategic elements used in your programs. Consider which skills and elements in these categories that you consider to be essential for program and departmental success. Then, create standard operating procedures in order to consistently achieve desired performance outcomes and facilitate new hire on-boarding and training in the future.

Please share your thoughts and examples that you utilize in your coaching practices. Also, stay tuned for future posts where I will share relevant details from my own coaching practice.

– Max

Advertisements

Bands for Beginners: Accommodating Resistance in Teaching the Deadlift

Accommodating resistance is typically reserved for dynamic effort work and athletes of intermediate to advanced training ages. Many coaches avoid the use of bands and chains with athletes of low training ages. However, my assistant and I have been experimenting with bands while teaching our newest batch of athletes how to deadlift. We have found that using band resistance helps teach intent during the concentric portion of the deadlift, reinforces the idea of bracing and maintaining tension through the movement, and helps create a linear bar path.

FullSizeRender

Intent

Intent is the idea of trying to lift the bar as fast as possible, regardless of the weight or actual speed of movement. My organization specifically uses the deadlift to develop concentric rate of force production. Completing the concentric portion of the deadlift with intent is key in obtaining this desired training effect. The band overloads the top of the movement. Athletes feel the need to push harder into the floor in order to account for the increase in band tension. I have found that this additional kinesthetic feedback, combined with the right cuing, reinforces the idea of intent better than when using straight weight.. The band helps accelerate the learning stage due to the added kinesthetic feedback from experiencing greater resistance at the top of the movement. It should be noted that the band is used primarily for feedback. The band is not intended to overload the top of the strength curve and reduce bar deceleration, as is the goal in accommodating resistance for true dynamic effort work. Therefore, you should use bands with lower band tensions.

Bracing

Here in the Dominican Republic, I have found that many athletes have trouble understanding bracing as a concept. They often struggle to maintain a rigid torso during compound movements. Bracing is contracting the abdominal musculature in order to create a rigid torso and stabilize the spine. Bracing is important for the safe execution of compound movements with heavy loads, and it allows us to more efficiently transfer force between the lower extremities and upper half. With the band applying tension against the bar, athletes seem to feel the need to reflexively brace more. I have found that athletes are able to brace and maintain the brace with less cuing when using band tension.

Bar Path

A linear, vertical bar path is important for efficiency and proper technique in executing the deadlift. My organization teaches our primary deadlift variation with a controlled eccentric portion. New athletes often struggle to keep the bar from drifting away from their body as they descend into the eccentric portion. The band forces a straight bar path as the athlete will receive immediate kinesthetic feedback through a change in the band’s direction of pull if they deviate from a straight bar path. I have found that the kinesthetic feedback from the band cleaned up bar path with almost no cuing required.

Conclusion

Using band resistance to teach a deadlift is nothing magical. However, the band provides useful kinesthetic feedback to the athlete and can make the teaching process more efficient for the strength coach. Use a band that provides light resistance. I used bands that provided roughly 15 pounds of resistance in the stretched position with my last batch of new athletes. Remember, we are using the band to provide the athlete with additional feedback that they can use to learn proper technique. We are not using the band specifically to apply overload along the strength curve. If anyone has used a similar strategy, I would love to hear your experience. Share here in the comments or on social media.

– Max

Featured on Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society

An old post of mine, “Considerations for Extra Work: Part 1” was featured on the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches (PBSCCS) website today. I was initially surprised that anyone actually read my work. I am extremely grateful for the feature. “Considerations for Extra Work: Part 2” will be featured on their site next week. I am in the last month of my season here in the Dominican Summer League and it has been tough to find the motivation to write. Requests like that from the PBSCCS and Sparta Science to feature my writing definitely help me dig deep to keep writing.

– Max

Standard Operating Procedures in Strength and Conditioning: Behind the Article

I recently had a post published on Sparta Science’s blog about Standard Operating Procedures in Strength and Conditioning. For my post here on Iron and Inference, I wanted to provide the situation and line of thought that led me to write about Standard Operating Procedures as they relate to our profession as strength and conditioning coaches.

Context

I established the Rockies’ physical performance program here in the Dominican Republic in its current form. I was hired and tasked with building a physical performance program with the purpose of creating a seamless transition from the Dominican Summer League to U.S. affiliates. Additionally, we sought to mirror the structure and training culture of our U.S. minor league physical performance program. This was a new position which meant a lot of questions and grey areas on how this was to be done.

Upon arriving to the DR, I had to hit the ground running and navigate an often ambiguous environment. I had to create many policies on the fly, drawing on quick situational analysis, intuition, and my previous knowledge and experiences. This year, we added a second team. I had to review and revise existing policies and create new ones in response to the new context and situations that I faced.

One of my major tasks for extended spring training and the season was to find, hire, and train a new assistant physical performance coach. This was a new situation both for me and the organization. Up until mid-June, I was running both teams by myself and I had been a one man show for the past two years. Facing the prospect of training a new coach made me realize that many of my processes, while intuitive and known to the players, were never formally stated.

From a One Man Show to a Duet

The most successful strength and conditioning staffs that I have been a part of always had clear organizational standards. I knew that in order for our new coach to succeed, I had to formalize our processes and ensure clarity. Thus, I set to creating a curriculum. The first iteration was a simple check list of essential tasks and knowledge. In order to assess competence in each task, I drew inspiration from medicine’s, “see one, do one, teach one” model. This was quite effective, as I was able to have a central list of all essential tasks and knowledge as well with metrics for progress. However, I encountered hiccups along the way that lead me to write more detailed Standard Operating Procedures for all major facets of our program here in the DR.

These SOPs, when combined with the previous curriculum, will allow for an even more effective and efficient training and onboarding process for new DR physical performance coaches. Additionally, they may be reviewed and revisited periodically. We can alter and improve SOPs and review areas of the curriculum as a staff. Ensuring that all staff members are clear on the Intent, Why, and How behind each SOP will permit a more seamless athlete experience from coach-to-coach. In this manner, we can consistently provide the highest quality program to our players here in the Dominican Republic.

If anyone has examples of how developing formalized SOPs has helped their department or valuable resources regarding SOPs, I would love for you to share them.

– Max

 

Lifting for Busy People: Save Time With Drop Sets

I don’t have much time to write this week as I am currently juggling multiple work and personal projects. However, I must remain true to my goal of one post every other week here on Iron and Inference. The time press inspired me to add to my series, “Lifting for Busy People” (see Part 1 and Part 2 in the series) and profess my love of drop sets for time-pressed lifters.

Drop sets are a dear friend from my old bro days in high school. Even as a non-bro (debatable) now, I have come to rely on drop sets whenever I am pressed for time. I find drop sets to be extremely useful for time-pressed lifters as they allow you to add volume to your training sessions with minimal additional time investment. In short, they are a great way to get jacked, chase the pump, and get the hell out of the weightroom in a short period.

Upper Body

I especially like drop sets for a quick upper body agonist/antagonist pairing (see Lifting for Busy People for more info), with a compound push and a compound pull. Superset each exercise for time-efficiency, working up to a top set at an RPE of ~8 on each. Then, strip a plate and perform an AMRAP* set at an RPE of 7-9. Repeat this process until you return to your first warm-up weight. Rest only as long as it takes you to remove the plates. I can typically hit a few movement preparation drills, specific warm-up, and perform 5-8 work sets 20 minutes or less. This makes drop sets a great option when you only have a short block of time to get a lift in.

Lower Body

Drop sets are not only reserved for upper body workouts. I like using drop sets following bilateral compound movements like squat or deadlift variations. Work up to heavyish top set of 5 or less reps at an RPE of ~8 then repeat the process listed for the Upper Body example. Again, you can get a lot done in 20 or so minutes with this strategy.

Unilateral Movements

I generally reserve drop sets for bilateral lower body movements.  In my experience, heavy unilateral movements add additional time to the workout. I typically find it necessary to rest a bit between legs when performing sets at RPE’s of 8 or 9. That said, I still use the strategy with rear foot elevated split squats when I am feeling especially masochistic and have a bit more time on my hands. Hello soreness, my old friend.

Conclusion

If you are strapped for time and already in reasonable physical condition, I encourage you to give drop sets a try in your own training. The extra volume will help you maintain or increase hypertrophy (jackedness) while still getting you out of the weightroom and on to conquer the day in a short time. Staying consistent with a few quick lifts every week is better than nothing and will help you return to regular training following busy periods in your life. Add drop sets to your tool box to get more done in less time.

What time saving strategies do you turn to in the weightroom? Please share in the comments or on social media.

– Max

Training Interns and New Hires in Strength and Conditioning: Inspiration from Medicine

I have been on a medicine (profession) kick lately and have been devouring books written by physicians about medical school, the residency process, and practicing medicine. I also recently hired and began training a new assistant physical performance coach here in the Dominican Republic. I work internationally and in a foreign language and am unable to utilize our typical approach to onboarding and training a new physical performance coach like we would on the U.S. side of the organization. For this reason, I developed a curriculum and list of required skills and competencies that fits my unique context and requirements. As such, I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about new employee training and education in the past few weeks. Now allow me to explain how the topics of medicine and my new hire converge.

See-Do-Teach Model in Medical Education

In my consumption of various medical tales and memoirs, one thing that stood out to me was the way physicians learn new procedures. Medical interns and residents are commonly taught via the, “see one, do one, teach one” model (see-do-each). Essentially, interns and residents will watch a more experienced physician perform a procedure, then perform the procedure themselves with guidance and supervision, and finally teach the procedure to a lesser-experienced physician once they have become competent in performing the procedure. It seems simple, practical, and most importantly, functional.

Applying the See-Do-Teach Model to Strength and Conditioning

I decided to apply a modified version of the see-do-teach approach to my new hire training process. First, I came up with a curriculum that covered the broad base of skills and information that our new coach was required to learn and display competency in. Then, I created a three level checklist for each skill and competency. Let me provide an example to explain. Our new coach must be able to teach a front squat using common language and cuing that I use when coaching athletes here in the DR (more on this in a future post). Here is the see-do-teach model applied to the front squat:

  • Our “see one” level would be for me to teach the new coach how to front squat with our desired technique while using our common language and cuing.
  • Our “do one” level would be for the new coach to teach me or another experienced physical performance coach, demonstrating proper technique and using our common language and cuing. This step would be repeated as necessary, using the feedback from the more experienced physical performance coach until the new coach was able to satisfactorily perform the task.
  • Our “teach one” level would be for the new coach to successfully teach an athlete or group of athletes the front squat, properly demonstrating technique and using the common language and cues. This would be done with a more experienced physical performance coach present to provide post-lift feedback and verify competency.

Conclusion

I have applied this see-do-teach approach to every item on the curriculum and list of competencies. This curriculum is multidisciplinary and ranges from specific execution of exercises, to movement drills, and how to utilize our athlete management software and it’s various features. It is my hope that applying this see-do-teach model to each item of the curriculum will allow me to adequately assess our new coach’s competence and ability to perform all required skills and tasks. I can track our progress through the curriculum and ensure that our new coach can complete his duties in line with our organization’s high coaching standards.

Share your thoughts! What methods have you used to assure competency in your new coach training and onboarding processes? Please share in the comments or via social media.

– Max

Stop and Smell the Roses Part 2: Progressive Overload Through Paused Repetitions

It is no secret that I am a fan of paused exercises, squats in particular. This is evidenced in a previous post, Stop and Smell the Roses: The Utility of Paused Repetitions. My favorable experience using paused squats for our pre-spring training program lead me to build on the idea and use them again for our Dominican extended spring training program. My reasoning was multi-faceted and similar to that explained in “Stop and Smell the Roses“. Below is a brief recap along with my context for extended spring training:

  • I was again working with a high athlete-to-coach ratio. From mid-March to the second week of June I was the only physical performance coach for about 62 athletes divided between two baseball teams and rehabilitation assignments.
  • I was working with athletes of low to no training age. My players are generally between 16 and 19 years old and very few have participated in a formal strength and conditioning program or have trained under the supervision of a certified and experienced coach.
  • Paused squats are hard. Players with low and high training ages can train at high RPE’s and feel like they are pushing themselves with lower absolute intensities. Athletes generally like to be pushed. I know when I boxed and played football I wanted to feel that I trained harder than any competition that I faced. However, due to my players low training ages and technical abilities, I wanted them to push themselves without high absolute intensities that could cause catastrophic technical breakdown and put them at a higher risk of injury or accident in the weight room.

Periodizing Through the Pause

Rather than alter the absolute intensities and training tonnages through sets and reps, I changed the length of the pauses. This was intended to safely provide progressive overload of our core exercises while simultaneously improving technique.[1] We progressed from a 5 second pause to a 3 second pause and will now remove the pause entirely. The absolute intensity that a player can lift and maintain a 5 second pause at the bottom of a front squat is less than the absolute intensity that a player can use and maintain a 3 second pause.  I used the same standard weekly 5/4/3 wave and each phase is repeated twice, the second time with higher intensities. Below is a general example:

Phase 1 – 5 Second Pause

3×5 – 55-65% 1RM

3×4 – 60-70% 1RM

3×3 – 65-75% 1RM

Phase 2 – 3 Second Pause

3×5 – 60-70% 1RM

3×4 – 65-75% 1RM

3×3 – 70-80% 1RM

Phase 3 – No Pause

3×5 – 70-80% 1RM

3×4 – 75-85% 1RM

3×3 – 80-90% 1RM

*Please note that the volumes and intensities are provided as a general example. I use bodyweight percentages when programming due to my organization’s athlete management software and provide players with RPE’s that I expect them to hit in a given day.

Why This Works for Us

While I previously alluded to altering training tonnages through the pause, I am more concerned with developing my players’ technical ability in performing my organization’s core exercises, building their general base of strength (particularly eccentric strength), and improving their bodies’ abilities to tolerate training stress (of which absolute intensity is a piece). My organization follows a high intensity, low volume in-season training strategy and my players must eventually be prepared for this as they rise up through the minor leagues. However, without improving the aforementioned qualities, their ability to safely tolerate high intensities and competently perform our core exercises will be lower than that many of our American players who were signed out of college or even high schools with quality strength and conditioning programs.

Limitations

It is important to remember my player population when you are determining if periodizing through paused repetitions is right for your athletes. I work with young, early-specialized athletes with little to no training history. It is my opinion that many high school athletes and college freshmen with low training ages could benefit from my chosen strategy, particularly tall athletes (e.g. youth and young adult basketball players). However, athletes with higher training ages who already have solid technique in core exercises and poses a robust base of general strength should likely limit my described strategy to a general preparation period early in the off-season.

Conclusion

Paused repetitions may benefit your athletes with low training ages like mine. There may even be use in general physical preparation periods early in the offseason. Reflect on your athletes and the context in which you coach and see if a paused periodization strategy is right for you. Please share your thoughts and experiences on using paused reps your athletes.

– Max

[1] See Consistency is King: Programming for Sport for my thoughts on training in-season and applying progressive overload.

Lifting For Busy People Part 2: My Current Training

Life is still busy. We had our opening day last week and have officially started our season.  Additionally, I am running two teams as the sole strength and conditioning coach and am in the final stages of hiring an assistant for the season. That said, I am still training consistently. As a follow up to my first post, Lifting for Busy People, I decided to post my current program so others could find inspiration. It may not look like much but it adheres to the points listed in the previous article and it keeps me training consistently.

The Program:

Lifting For Busy People 2 Pic

KISS Principle

As you will notice, every session has a lower body exercise, a push, and a pull. Additionally, these exercises take me a minute or less to set up and are easy to load. Strategic accessory work (e.g. upper back/rotator cuff, core, and additional posterior chain work) is also programmed concurrently. Finally, I try to do some kind of plyometric variation in every training session to maintain some semblance of athleticism. I do whatever plyometric variation that I feel like doing that day.

Short Frequent Workouts

I train four times per week and none of these sessions take over 30 minutes to complete, including my warm-up/hip rehab. I train whenever I have time. That may be four days in a row or spread through the week. If I finish all four days and have another day to train, I will typically do accessory work and/or some steady state aerobic work and mobility.

Use Short Training Blocks

Three weeks still works well for me. I can apply progressive overload while still having some variation in exercises or loading strategies every three weeks for some novelty. I find novelty to be important for general fitness. It can be hard to stay consistent without training for a specific goal and a bit of novelty keeps me looking forward to the next phase. Using similar but different exercises (e.g. split-squat to reverse lunge or front squat to safety bar squat) can allow you to maintain carry over between exercises and apply progressive overload while allowing you some variation in movements. (For more information on progressive overload, see Consistency is King: Programming for Sport)

Conclusion

I want to note that I am training through a recurring hip issue while performing my daily assigned rehab. As such, my lower body exercise selection is based on my current limitations. You may want to utilize exercises with higher loading potentials (e.g. front squat/back squat) than I am currently using to get the most training bang for your buck. (For resources on training around hip issues see, Hip Pain – My Personal Workarounds and Additional Resources)

As mentioned in the previous post, a simple general fitness program like this one is not sufficient for a trained individual to achieve specific performance goals. For a trained individual, there is not enough specific volume and intensity applied to significantly develop a given attribute. However, when the goal is simply to train through busy times in life, these programs may be just what the doctor ordered.

If you have any go to programs for busy times, please share.

– Max

Lifting for Busy People

Everyone who enjoys strength training has faced a periods their lives where they are busy to the point where it is difficult to follow their regular resistance training program. Many members of the general public may be surprised to learn that strength and conditioning coaches are no exception. When time between work activities is tight and I am tired of standing in a weight room all day, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get my own lift in. That said, I know that I owe it to myself and my athletes to find a way to train. In this post, I will share a few simple ideas of how I structure my own training when I am pressed for time. I should note, that when I am extremely busy, I typically train for general fitness rather than training to achieve any specific goals.

KISS Principle

Keep it simple stupid. My first rule for programming when I am busy is to keep it as simple as possible. I usually look to the advice of strength and conditioning coach, Mike Boyle, when it comes to following this principle. When in doubt, think push, pull, legs, and core. If you only program each of these movements with a simple and time-efficient periodization strategy, you can still train effectively when busy. For example, if you performed a squat variation, press variation, row variation, and some kind of anterior core work (rollout, reverse crunch, etc.) you would have a solid workout that can be performed fairly quickly. Use exercises that are easy to set up, progress, and load. It should be so simple and easy to get your workout started that you have no excuse not to train.

Short, Frequent Workouts are Clutch

Aim for three to four short workouts per week. The goal is to make your workouts as time efficient as possible. I like to keep my workouts to 20-30 minutes from the time I warm up to the time I finish last programmed set for the day. Again, you want to avoid having any excuse not to train. Longer workouts will be harder to fit into a jam-packed schedule. If you finish your programmed workout and have time to spare, throw in some accessory/vanity work. Use pairings and giant sets to maximize time efficiency. Programing using upper-lower, or agonist-antagonist exercise pairings will allow you to perform more work in less time. Giant sets that incorporate the push, pull, legs, core mantra can also be used with success.

Upper-Lower Pairing Example:

A1) Romanian Deadlift 5×8

A2) Weighted Push-Up 5×8

Agonist-Antagonist Pairing Example:

A1) Bench Press 5×8

A2) 1-Arm DB Row 5×8

KISS Giant Set

A1) RFE Split-Squat 3×8

A2) DB Overhead Press 3×8

A3) Weighted Pull-Up 3×8

A4) Barbell Roll-Out 3×8

Use Short Training Blocks

Before I begin, I have to confess a dark secret. I am a program hopper. Not only that, but my training ADD is exacerbated when I am busy. I have found that running short 3 week training blocks allows me to train with some intent and keep the training ADD at bay.

Get Started

Below is a sample program for someone on a tight schedule. With this program, the goal would be to get 3 days of training in per week, alternating between the two days.

Lifting For Busy People

Conclusion

There is nothing fancy about the program or my recommendations. At the end of the day, getting in any organized training is better than nothing. Being realistic about the time and energy that you have available for training during periods of heavy work or life responsibilities will allow you to find an effective strategy to stay consistent. If anyone has thoughts or strategies on the matter, please share.

– Max

 

Considerations for Extra Work Part 2: Extra Conditioning

Life events caught up with me and I missed my goal of a post every 1-2 weeks. I finally got back on the wagon with this post. This post is based on of my personal experiences in the field. I kept the example general but I feel that it is representative of situations that commonly occur in a few different sports and settings.

Examples for Extra Conditioning

A quality strength and conditioning coach will have conducted a needs analysis of an athlete’s sport. An examination of the physiological requirements of the sport is a part of this needs analysis. Depending on the demands of the sport, certain training modalities may not lead to adaptations that benefit sport performance, and may even interfere with other beneficial adaptations. An example would be strength and power athletes performing additional long distance running. Many athletes and sport coaches hold the belief that long distance running has a distinct endurance benefit for their strength and power athletes. As such, many strength and power athletes commonly perform long distance running for extra work and many sport coaches often encourage it. This can occur even when a strength and conditioning coach has a planned and periodized program that abstains from such a conditioning modality and instead utilizes modalities that are more complementary to the requirements of the sport.

Let me contextualize a hypothetical example in which extra work will be provided to an athlete. In this hypothetical situation, strict adherence to the strength and conditioning program is not always mandatory for the athlete. Additionally, non-strength and conditioning/sports medicine stakeholders can overrule the strength and conditioning coach when it comes to training decisions. For this reason, concessions may need to be made to both the athlete and other actors, and the approach must remain very collaborative. This ensures that a productive and progressive strength and conditioning program may remain in place and supported by all parties involved.

In this example, let us assume that the strength and power athlete has been determined to have an issue with their general preparedness that affects their task specific preparedness (repeated efforts of throwing, sprinting, etc.). In the past, additional long distance running workouts may have been commonly prescribed to remedy this issue. However, due to the interference effect, long steady-state aerobic work could negatively affect the athlete’s maximal strength and power outputs in practice and in competition. Additionally, it can interfere with positive adaptations from specific training modalities designed to elicit adaptations in maximal strength and explosive power. [1] The interference effect refers to reductions in strength and power when these two qualities are trained concurrently with endurance training modalities that are primarily aerobic in nature. This has been shown to be particularly evident when aerobic training is programmed at high volumes and when distance running is the modality.

Cost Versus Benefit and Finding Alternatives

Improvement in aerobic capacity may help the athlete recover between specific efforts in their sport and improve his/her general preparedness. However, the reductions in strength and power from using distance running to build aerobic capacity could outweigh the benefits. Referring back to our example, if it was determined that this athlete required improved aerobic capacity, the strength and conditioning coach would be better off selecting a non- or low-impact LSD (Long Slow Distance) modality over LSD running. LSD work performed on a bike, for example, does not seem to interfere with strength performance to the same degree as distance running.[2] Thus it may be prudent to provide extra work in the form of non- and low-impact modalities like the bike, elliptical, or even power walking with a lightly loaded sled. These modalities have similar benefits to distance running (improved aerobic capacity, quicker heart rate recovery, lower resting heart rate, etc.) with lower costs (reduced readiness, orthopedic stress, negative effects on other physical qualities, etc.).

Some may argue that strength and power athletes should avoid all LSD work, and only perform anaerobic conditioning. However, assuming that this was already addressed in the team’s conditioning program, doing extra anaerobic conditioning could put the athlete on the path towards chronic fatigue (see Considerations for Extra Work Part 1: Preparedness, Readiness, and Fatigue for info on fitness versus fatigue). With a strength and power athlete, one session of extra LSD work on a bike or elliptical with a heart rate of ~130-150 could be all it takes to see improvements in general fitness and aerobic capacity. Also, is easy for the athlete to recover from and does not significantly reduce readiness. Therefore, it has a low cost and high benefit in this situation.

Minimum Effective Dose for Extra Work

In this example, the minimum effective dose has multiple meanings. The first is physiological. We generally want to prescribe the athlete with the minimum effective dose of an exercise intervention to allow him/her to see a positive adaptation in the targeted quality. For example, a 20-30 minute session of LSD work on a bike 1-2x/week may be sufficient to drive down resting heart rates, see improved heart rate recovery between efforts, and obtain other benefits from improved aerobic capacity. Having this athlete perform higher volumes of this exercise may add unnecessary fatigue. Time spent performing extra work is time away from recovery and/or practicing sport skills, and it must be accounted for.

The second is perception. In the defined context of this example, the other actors (sport coaches, administration, etc.) and the athlete need to perceive that the athlete has been given enough extra work in order for them to feel that the athlete will improve. If they do not, the strength coach runs the risk of having the athlete performing unmonitored extra work in secret or one of the other actors overruling the strength coach and dictating the training intervention. This could lead to undesirable outcomes as uncertified actors are now dictating training interventions and doses that may lead to negative performance outcomes or injury. Psychology can trump physiology and it is important that the athlete and other actors involved in his/her development feel that the training intervention and dose are sufficient enough to achieve the desired effect. This may mean that the minimum effective dose of a given modality in order to achieve positive perception is greater than the actual minimum effective dose required to achieve a positive physiological change. For example 1x/week for 20-30 minutes of LSD work on a bike may be all it takes for physiological change but the coach programs 2x/week in agreement with the athlete and other actors. This is of course, provided that the strength coach determines that the second session will not detract from readiness.

Conclusion

Extra conditioning work is always tricky to productively program and implement. Context often dictates the manner in which extra work can be implemented.  Strength and conditioning coaches must be mindful of the contexts in which they work. It is essential that we as strength and conditioning coaches always seek to educate athletes, coaches, and other stakeholders involved in sport, in order to ensure that extra work is appropriately applied. Education can lead to better program adherence and facilitate support for beneficial and appropriate training interventions in the future. Athletes’ and sport coaches’ trust in the strength and conditioning coach and the program will avert many of the issues with perception of the minimum effective dose. However, trust takes time and patience to develop. Please comment or contact me if you have any thoughts on the matter.

– Max

[1] Braechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (3rd Ed.) [Kindle]. Kindle Location 3887

[2] Wilson, J. M., Marin, P. J., Rhea, M. R., Wilson, S. M., Loenneke, J. P., & Anderson, J. C. (2012). Concurrent Training: A Meta-Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resitance Training Exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), august, 2304-2305