Athlete Training strategies during the Covid – 19 Crisis: Why Jumping and Hopping may be the next best resource for your at Home Performance Training Program

All across the world, human beings are being asked to behave in a unique way as we adapt to “social distancing.”  People are being asked to take part  in an innately unusual activity that many may consider to be inhuman – to limit social contact and to stay indoors. While this issue is warranted considering the COVID crisis, it presents a number of challenges to human activity and beings in all facets of life – especially athletes.

Consider that just over a week ago, basketball athletes from the collegiate ranks to the professional arenas were in the midst of their regular season preparing for playoff and/or championship competition. This preparation for activity has come to an aggressive halt with little insight for when activity will return.  Many are coming to the realization that the prevailing crisis may perpetuate an egregious halt to organized athletic activity for an unknown period of time. 5dbb7a0d-b5ec-44bc-9463-dc85972e5705-Screen_Shot_2020-03-12_at_12.03.34_AM

Such an occurrence  is likely to be a major impediment to athletes seeking to reach their athletic prowess this year, from the sport of basketball to the Olympics (originally set to begin this summer). Moreover, this global halt borne of Covid-19 combined with the various regulations meant to curb the spread of coronavirus may lead to a greater potential for injury should we return to activity in the weeks to come forward.  Sports performance specialists all over the world aimed at protecting their athletes from injury or providing them a platform for future success, are strategizing and providing a number of resources to their athletes to support their future performance and limit their potential for injury.  In the spirit of this topic, I have created this post which is aimed at helping my athletes as well as those looking for resources in these unprecedented times. 

    DCIM140GOPROG0012053.JPGHere is what I have come up with so far:  Don’t stop jumping. 

For many of us, this abrupt cease in movement and hence limited options for physical activity has likely been just over a week. Which means detraining has likely occurred for many of us leading active lifestyles before the Covid-19 Crisis. However,  on some capacity,  there are performance centered strategies we can still implement that can allow our athletes to keep some of the great improvements made this year.  If this momentary halt presents itself as temporary crisis then we will be glad to have taken these measures to continue our road to help our athletes achieve the goals they have set for themselves. Focusing on jumping, especially for those of us relegated indoors in small spaces, may be a powerful deterrent to the potential problems that comes with inactivity and then a  sudden exposure to the physical stress seen in athletic sport.

No matter the sport, what we have learned from research and clinical practice is that the return-to-sport phase is a balancing act between a swift return to full activity and avoiding overloading and re-injury of the muucslotendionous tissue.  Plans must be set and progression must be a priority.  The key here is to understand what to do considering the circumstances. Many of our athletes may be relegated indoors without the opportunity to run outside or on a treadmill. For such circumstances,  a program centered on jumping indoors is likely to be an important and powerful resource towards performances for the future, especially for athletes without the liberty of running outdoors or on a treadmill.

Indoor BikeIf we choose a program centered on jumping as a training path, a question still remains: how do we most efficiently return patients back to preparation for sport with a low risk of re-injury or risk for other injuries? Inadequate returning to sport programs prior to full recovery are risks that might be minimized with appropriate guidance in the return-to-sport phase. We understand that re-injury is likely to be more common following a short recovery period and is likely prevalent in those athletes who received no assistance  compared to athletes who are given a standardized progression program that gradually increases loading during the return-to-sport phase.

Thus, during this return-to-sport phase, it is increasingly important to provide our athletes gradual and controlled progressions that aim to provide them the best opportunity to return to sport. It is also imperative that we seek to ensure continuous communication to understand athletes progression and  allow them sufficient time to recover. Consistent dialogue as well as record keeping strategies will prove to be a crucial compass to aid the athlete and performance specialist in navigating this relative active-less and thereby treacherous training environment.

Why jumping and keeping a journal may be the best strategy to help our athletes during these next few months. 

DCIM140GOPROG0082631.JPGWhy Jumping and hopping? Without the availability of squat racks, leg press machines or resources that can generate the loads needed for appropriate adaptation to sport, we have to consider the utility of jumping as the next best loading option. Fundamentally, training for sport, centers on progressive mechanical loading of tissue. This is because we know that mechanical loading (through resistance training, running or loading activity) of muucslotendionous tissue is of major importance for promoting healing and recovery of tendon tissue.   

As a strength and conditioning specialists tasked with improving the resilience of our athletes to sports stressors and to augment their ability to perform, we rely on mechanical loads to help our athletes achieve these aforementioned goals.  We often approach mechanical load by manipulating factors like duration, magnitude and timing in a progressive fashion to produce favorable adaptations for our athletes.  For now many of our athletes are without the customary squat rack, leg press, or barbell items that can provide controlled, measurable and high intensity loads to our athletes for appropriate adaptation.  Jump and hop training may be the next best option during these extraordinary times.

DCIM140GOPROG0032187.JPGConsider, that during running and jumping, the Achilles tendon is subjected to tensile loads as high as 6 to 12 times body weight. Without the availability of a barbell to adequately provide such a load, it may be incumbent upon our athletes to rely on progressive and controlled jumping and hopping to adequately prepare them for the demands of their respective sports.

Of course such a focus on a task that is relatively more challenging to manipulate in load intensity than the standard barbell,  requires both the athlete and performance specialists to be extra mindful of progressions.  In other words we must be careful with jump programming as overloading of musculotendonious tissue with insufficient recovery may result in tissue damage. Similar to the manner in which we program weight centered loading programs for our athletes, we can program jumping and hopping by focusing on factors such as duration (amount of time jumping or hopping), magnitude (how high an athlete jumps), and timing of loading (the amount of contact time one spends on the ground). Thus, like all programs provided to our athletes they must be planned ahead, individualized to their current needs and progressively designed with a set date in mind. 

The next and perhaps most important strategy centers on record keeping and communication with our athletes.  If we are to execute a progressive jumping, hopping or plyometric centered program we must also record keep and communicate athlete response to our given jump or hop prescriptions. By now many of our athletes have already deteriorated in regards to tissue integrity, conditioning level and tendon stiffness. Therefore, it is important that we monitor how our athletes respond to a given progressive load during these next few weeks to months.  It is also important to state that our progressions must be simple, relatively light in magnitude, duration and intensity in the immediate future. This can potentially help mitigate factors such as soreness, pain or discomfort athletes might experience from accumulating repetitive jumping or hopping loads from a particular program.

In the video shown above I’ve outlined a few suggestions  on exercises to help you and your athlete navigate this “new normal.”

Load your collagen to get in better (structural) shape.

Why loading exercise and collagen protein in your performance program may keep you in better (structural) shape.

DCIM118GOPROG0076289.JPG    Collagen supplementation combined with strength training (under the specific conditions) may lead to denser, stiffer and a stronger tissue resulting in greater potential for force expression during sport movements. The combination of collagen and exercise may also lead to an increased resiliency to sport injury.

A possible deterrent to musculoskeletal injury

While early in development, a number of research scientists are beginning to show support for collagen supplementation as a performance aid. Their findings are novel as athletes face a number of challenges in competitive sport that can lead to poor play, loss of play, and a shortened career.  Musculoskeletal injuries are often regarded as a chief concern for various members in the sports profession as they are a common complaint in active populations and seen in more than 50% of all injuries in sports (often classified as sprains, strains, ruptures, or breaks of musculoskeletal tissues). (Shaw, 2016). As such,  the occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries is continually regarded as a challenge in the competitive field of  sports performance. Solutions to such obstacles require a vigilant  and constant mindful approach to the availability of  innovative resources and practices that can support the health, sport demands and performance of today’s athletes. 

Innovations in Nutrition Science are highly valued  for today’s athlete. 

       With each passing day the limits of performance and health continue to be pushed to new levels. Today, we know that running a marathon under 2 hours is no longer impossible.  Such human feats are a reminder of the innovation we continue to see in sports practices such as nutrition and performance training.  Today’s athletes continue to recognize their nutrition choices as a  both a valued resource and an element within a complex system that must work in accordance with a number of factors, especially a goal oriented performance training program in order to achieve maximal performance benefit. 

Collagen is the most important protein produced in the body

    IMG_1982 2   The relatively new developments in nutrition science regarding collagen supplementation to sports performance reaffirms this mutually inclusive relationship in which nutrition plays to performance training. Collagen supplementation for sports performance benefit (a research area still regarded to be in it’s infancy) focuses on potential performance boosting adaptations to our connective tissue. Recent research has shown that collagen supplementation may increase the potential to support connective tissue growth or repair within our body.  This is a novel finding, as collagen is an abundant and valuable protein to human structure and function. Collagen is involved in a multitude of functions that include the development of organs, tissue healing, as well as bone and blood vessel reparation.  It is also present in various biological functions of the cell such as proliferation, cell survival, and differentiation. This protein  forms the basis of our skin, hair, tendons, ligaments and bones. In other words, collagen gives human beings both structure and shape!

Collagen Supplementation may be a powerful resource for tendon and bone health

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Unlike muscle and unlike bone, our tendons and ligaments have more limited access to nutrient delivery.  Tendons for instance, are known to have poor healing capabilities, regenerating slowly and often with incomplete recovery. This is due to a number of tendon characteristics that include low cell density and vascularization. 

While collagen is recognized as the most important protein produced by the body, a particular type of collagen known as native collagen type I can be acquired in our diets commonly through the consumption of animal sources such as bovine, porcine, marine organisms. When consumed in the diet, the collagen molecule is mainly broken down into amino acids such as glycine, proline, lysine and arginine.  After digestion of collagen occurs, amino acids appear in our bloodstream to be used by our cells for collagen synthesis or the production of collagen fibrils. These fibrils represent the main building blocks of large connective tissues such as skin, bone, cartilage, and tendon. Researchers have recently demonstrated the ability to impact the integrity of human structure and shape, especially tissues that are susceptible to injury in sport, such as tendons and ligaments through the consumption of collagen. Unlike muscle and unlike bone, our tendons and ligaments have more limited access to nutrient delivery.  Tendons for instance, are known to have poor healing capabilities, regenerating slowly and often with incomplete recovery. This is due to a number of tendon characteristics that include low cell density and vascularization.  However, through collagen consumption or supplementation in conjunction with a specific exercise program, it is believed that we can help deliver collagen protein to improve connective tissue health in susceptible areas such as tendon, ligaments and bone (Shaw, 2016). 

Collagen comes in various forms including supplementation. 

IMG_6814Collagen can be supplemented in the diet through such sources such as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides. Hydrolyzed collagen supplementation may presents several advantages for the sport athlete consumption due to its neutral odor, low viscosity in water solutions and it’s colorless form.  Moreover, this form of collagen is highly digestible and is easily absorbed and distributed in the human body (Lopez et al., 2019). Collagen supplements can also be acquired as a gelatin product, a colorless and tasteless water-soluble protein prepared from collagen ( Guillerminet, 2011).

The amount of collagen absorbed in individuals can vary based on the supplementation choice and product.  Review collagen supplements with your doctor,  sport dietician before beginning supplementation. It is important to consider that collagen supplementation is a product of animals, as collagen comes from the skin, bones and essentially the connective tissue of animals. Hence, collagen supplements are inherently animal products. Furthermore, the exercise strategies  you choose can serve as effective vehicles for targeting collagen synthesis to important and susceptible areas to sport such as tendons and ligaments.  It may be important for you to encourage discussion between sports nutritionist and performance specialist on the best strategies to maximize supplementation for sports performance benefit.

DCIM107GOPROG0441009.JPGWhile researchers have previously understood that adequate nutrition together with exercise normally improves the function of connective tissue,  recent evidence shows that there may be even greater value to exercise as an intervention for collagen synthesis.  Acute exercise is known to increase collagen synthesis as well as the enzymes involved in collagen cross-linking, thereby creating denser and stiffer tissue after training that is both stronger and resilient to higher loads (Shaw, 2016).  Thus, it is vital to understand the importance of exercise programming when supplementing collagen within your diet.

    Researchers suggest supplementing 15 to 20 grams of a collagen source along with a source of vitamin C approximately one hour prior to exercise and immediately post exercise for  maximal benefit.  A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that consuming gelatin, a derivative of collagen, and vitamin C–rich supplement increases amino acid components of collagen in the blood one hour after consumption. Moreover, mixture of a  collagen supplement with a vitamin rich c supplement results in greater collagen synthesis than a mixture without collagen or a mixture with less collagen (Shaw, 2016)

DCIM109GOPROG0593829.JPGCollagen supplementation is a very new area of science research that must be further investigated. The more we continue to gain understanding of nutrition science and performance science, the more we learn that we must leverage areas for maximal effect.   recognizing the mutual understanding the value of a team based approach to nutrition performance.  Perhaps what’s most important to take away from the recent developments in collagen supplementation research is that our ability gain perspective through science allows athletes, coaches and performance specialists to be more effective at delivering greater accuracy towards their performance goals. Lastly, understanding collagen supplementation in sports performance is a great example of the mutually inclusive relationship that exists between nutrition and performance training. Understanding the intricacies in the relationship between exercise and nutrition while forming specific and appropriate objectives for your performance goal is an important part of a strategy for reaching performance success.

 

 

References:

Guillerminet, Fanny & Fabien-Soulé, Véronique & Even, Patrick & Tomé, Daniel & Benhamou, C-L & Roux, C & Blais, Anne. (2011). Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone status and prevents bone loss in ovariectomized C3H/HeN mice. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA. 23. 1909-1919.

León-López, A.; Morales-Peñaloza, A.; Martínez-Juárez, V.M.; Vargas-Torres, A.; Zeugolis, D.I.; Aguirre-Álvarez, G. Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications. Molecules 201924, 4031.

Rodríguez, María & Rodriguez Barroso, Laura & Sánchez, Mirna. (2017). Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 17. 10.1111/jocd.12450. 

Shaw, G., Lee-Barthel, A., Ross, M.,  Wang, B.,  Baar, K.,  Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 105, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 136–143

Svensson, Rene & Herchenhan, Andreas & Starborg, Toby & Larsen, Michael & Kadler, Karl & Qvortrup, Klaus & Magnusson, Stig. (2017). Evidence of structurally continuous collagen fibrils in tendon. Acta Biomaterialia. 50. 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.01.006.

 The Art of The Squat Stance 

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“ Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy”. – Sun Tzu

To understand the fundamental value of the squat stance is to appreciate a position that provides efficiency and effectiveness for multilateral function. 

We recognize The squat movement stance as essential for activities  basic human function such as sitting, lifting. However, in sport this fundamental yet complex stance provides the stage for executing a multitude of sportive tasks.  It is a position that also reverberates resilience to external forces. 

Functionally the squat stance represents a position of readiness

The squat stance can be recognized for its ability to place athletes  in a resourceful and efficient position for a multitude of functionally active movements.  In the squat stance one improves their ability to store potential energy for accelerative, jumping evasive, or attack like maneuvers. The squat stance employs  multitudinous function from a position of great stability when standing. In the Squat Stance one has the ability to maximize potential energy for synchronized use toward various evasive, jumping accelerative actions as well as the ability efficiently recover and/or absorb energy from these same maneuvers by returning toward the same squat stance.

         The squat stance demonstrates a complex composition of factors necessary toward understanding  human movement as it can reflect kinematic elemental systems such as neuromuscular control, strength, stability, and mobility from the ground up or standing position (Myer et al., 2014).  The various systems and components which support orthograde human posture owes its complexity, shape and function from human evolution and the evolving environment that has laid touch to human beings from their beginnings.  The human to environment relationship is an important foundation for exploring the art and special qualities of human movement.  And the squat stance a version of human upright posture,  unique among all mammalian creatures is a useful place to start. 

To appreciate the squat stance, one must evaluate human environmental demands – especially in sport. 

“Whatever one may think of it, the upright posture does not offer sufficient advantages for it to have persisted according to the classic criteria of natural selection …sufficient advantages” must have existed, and our ancestors were definitely able to fulfill the functional requirements of their environment and eventually acquired an erect locomotion. (Niemitz, 2010).

 

From an evolutionary perspective,  there appears to be a number of sufficient advantages for the transition from hominin quadrupedalism to bipedalism, that includes  the ability to resourcefully navigate varied environments, as well developing useful approaches to attack, defend and intimidate.  It is believed our early ancestors, valued bipedalism for the advantages it brought within their wooded habitat of the forest as well as the nearby shore where they walked and waded in shallow water finding rich food with little investment (Niemitz, 2010). The value of standing upright may rest on our ancestors desire to efficiently step through and around barriers in search for nutrients or resources.  Evolutionary scientists have also suggested that the adoption of bipedalism in hominins was associated with aggressive displays in which bipedal posture made the individual appear larger and more threatening.  Leading theory also suggests that early humans adopted an upright posture and gait to be able to wield resources for attacking and defending against their predators (Carrier, 2011).   

In the end, an evolutionary development associated with sufficient advantages in attacking, defending, intimidating and navigating multiple environments translated into  a closed-chain kinetic movement  that requires the activation of well over 200 muscles for proper function and serves as the biomechanical and neurological basis for several functional and multi-joint sporting movements.  The squat dynamically recruits most of the lower-body musculature, including the quadriceps femoris, hip extensors, hip adductors, hip abductors, and triceps surae as well as upper body  and supporting muscle groups such as the abdominals, erector spinae, trapezius, rhomboids, and many others) to facilitate postural stabilization of the trunk. (Schoenfeld, 2010)

Squat1To fully appreciate, the vastness in function and complexity of a simple squat is to recognize that balancing upright on two feet is fundamentally a human quality, one relegated to nature’s highest form of cognitive ability  The vertical arrangement of head, trunk, legs and feet with task specific links in the neck, spine, pelvis, knee and ankles to dynamically balance together is a testament to the power in design of nature or the divine.  The human being, a freely moving construct, in spite of the forces acting on it, exists on capricious ground, always an inch or two away from falling – and yet remains erect. In other words, The defying nature of human ability to stand resistant to fall, in spite of nature’s force, is a consequence of human cognition and construct.  

Dr.  Soo Borson Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Director, Memory Disorders Program, University of Washington School of Medicine defined “Cognition” as broad range of largely invisible activities carried out by the human brain.  These activities include perceiving, thinking, knowing, reasoning, remembering, analyzing, planning, paying attention, generating and synthesizing ideas, creating, judging, being aware, and among others, having insight. (Borson, 2010). It is believed that these developed abilities give way to the potential for a habitually  erect stance maintained through the processing of gravitational and non-gravitational information.  Dr. John r. Skyoles desribes this processing as as a species specific vertical balance faculty that only came to be fully exploited through the evolution of early humans, larger brain size and the development of higher levels of cognition. 

The first step in appreciating and understanding the squat stance is to recognize that the multitude of skeletomuscular adjustments that allow for a constant perpendicular uprightness of the body axis to the ground in direct gravitational alignment, is born of (among other factors) a human brain capacity to balance. In particular, our evolved and developed human scope provides enough perspective to execute a complex balance system.  In a study published by the act of bioengineering and biomechanics, researchers defined human balance as  a system of organs and mechanisms, which generate postural reactions to counter the displacement from the equilibrium position of the body centre of gravity, and which control eye movement in order to maintain a stable image of the environment (Olchowik, G., et al.. (2015).  More than a system of generating reaction, the human balance system, is one that collects and communicates information for the execution of control and movement. It is a conglomeration of interdependent parts which serve to sense or collect valuable information through vehicles such as the vestibular, visual, proprioceptive systems, the musculo-skeletal system and the central nervous system. Interestingly, an important component in understanding balance is that to achieve it optimally, one must be able to collect and communicate impactful information ideally.

Perspective, a fundamental quality of art,  presents itself in the basis of human locomotor function and to the feasibility of the Squat. To glean information for function is important in movement and life, but perhaps as equally important is the perspectives in which we acquire such information. Leonard Da Vinci once said “Make yourself a master of perspective, then acquire perfect knowledge of the proportions of men and other animals.” This insight also serves as a central tenet to human movement and perhaps life.  Gain perspective, qualify these varied forms of information and acquire knowledge as well as an understanding of your environment. Researchers at the Medical University of Lublin, portray this idea in their description of sensory organization and its role in achieving human balance 

“Signals from the sensory organs are integrated in the central nervous system in order to maintain body balance. These signals are used to determine the position of the body’s segments relative to each other and to the environment. The displacement of the centre of gravity from the equilibrium position is also determined. The signals from the sensory organs are used to varying degrees, depending on the stimulation conditions. The greatest contribution is from those which provide the most reliable information about the actual displacement of the body centre of gravity from the equilibrium position.”   – (Olchowik et al., 2015)

Achieving the squat stance is the capacity to sense valuable information, from many perspectives, in a manner that is organized, hierarchal, systematically checked  for the purpose of making appropriate decisions to display a balanced state and to maintain a position which enables the potential for a multitude of higher functions.

       Biomechanists note that proper organization of sensory information, in maintaining body balance, leads to reliable sources of information about the position of the body centre of gravity for a given stimulation of the sensory organs. Insight into these various perspectives of sensory information and the faculty which organize them is a useful measure to gain appreciation for the complexity of the squat position and the systems that are intrinsic to the maintenance of balance and decision making.

There are three sensory systems which are understood to contribute to the maintenance of balance at all times.  We know them as the vestibular system, the visual system and the somatosensory system. These systems contain elements such as sensory receptors and communication vehicles or afferent neurons that are critical to providing information to the squat stance position.  However, each system and its parts are weighed and organized differently depending on both task and environment. 

_DSC9120 (1)When we maintain the squat stance with our eyes open and our feet placed  shoulder width apart,  it is the somatosensory and visual systems  that are chiefly involved in providing sufficient sensory information to maintain the balance necessary  for this quiet standing position.

        However, if we were suddenly required to squat on an unstable surface (such as a stand up paddle board in the middle of a  lake), the vestibular system suddenly becomes more involved in achieving a balance squat stance position.  (Li, Zhang & Dobson, 2018).  The flexibility in reliability of systems necessary for attaining information for balance  in an upright standing position is due in part to the inherent differences within each system as well as the vehicles which implore their function.

 

 

References:

Borson S. (2010). Cognition, aging, and disabilities: conceptual issues. Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics of North America, 21(2), 375–382.

Carrier, D. (2011). The Advantage of Standing Up to Fight and the Evolution of Habitual Bipedalism in Hominins. PloS one. 6.

Li, L., Zhang, S. & Dobson, J. (2018). The contribution of small and large sensory afferents to postural control in patients with Peripheral Neuropathy. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 8, 218 – 227

Myer, G. D., Kushner, A. M., Brent, J. L., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hugentobler, J., Lloyd, R. S., … McGill, S. M. (2014). The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength and conditioning journal, 36(6), 4–27.

Niemitz, C. (2010). The evolution of the upright posture and gait—a review and a new synthesis. Die Naturwissenschaften. 97. 241-263.

Olchowik, G., et al.. (2015). The human balance system and gender. Acta of bioengineering and biomechanics / Wrocław University of Technology. 17. 69-74

Schoenfeld, B. (2010). Squatting Kinematics and Kinetics and Their Application to Exercise Performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 24. 3497-3506.

Skoyles, John. (2006). Human balance, the evolution of bipedalism and dysequilibrium syndrome. Medical hypotheses. 66. 1060-10688.

Organizational Change in 3 Steps

When individuals are hired by members of a struggling organization to a leadership role, we often hear the value of culture change as a necessary step for a return to organizational success. If an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value, than a change in potential is a necessary element to adapt to a highly competitive and growing environment.  It is difficult to know for sure what must of been going through the mind of early stakeholders or  leaders tasked with transforming struggling organizations.  However, through the work of research and the observations of  various organizations we are beginning to understand the anatomy of organizational change and the various factors necessary for its successful initiation, implementation and institutionalization.   

lean-enterprise-book-illustrations-v10-39

Michael Fullan, an expert in leadership and change, along with the work of various researchers help  to provide insight to the anatomy of organizational transformation and provide us a glimpse of how teams mired in failure can find success. 

If it was possible to relegate the complex elements of change to three words the most likely culprits would be goals, collaboration and leadership.

The essence of an organization or  a system composed of value adding processes is built on the foundation of:

  1. “Closing the gap” to an overarching goal
  2.  Recognizing strategies that focus on effective communication and action
  3. Improving the ability to leverage leadership within its system. 

Understanding these three guidelines helps to summarize the multi-dimensional nature of change. 

Step 1: Closing the gap as the or to an overarching Goal

In attempting to understand what took place in the early phases of change we must first recognize that change is unique, non-linear and does not follow clear, rigid rules. However, we can be certain of a few fundamental elements such as establishing meaning. Meaningful change is preceded by determining meaning. Acquiring meaning is an important individual and organizational pursuit if it is to be successful. Fullan states that “acquiring meaning is achieved across a group of people working in concert. This is perhaps one of the most important lessons to be drawn from Fullan’s  explanation of change. In this explanation he demonstrates the importance of establishing a plan and communicating said plan to parts of the organization. Acquiring meaning is the first step in creating a plan. A plan inherently has a starting point and an objective. Acquiring meaning drives us to close the gap or reach the objective of a plan. If the theory of change emerging at this point leads us to conclude that we need better plans and planners, we are embarking on the infinite regress that characterizes the pursuit of a theory of “changing”.  Closing the gap requires self – reflection or the ability to ask difficult questions, challenge norms and understand methods aimed at its construction. Understanding the anatomy for change is perhaps the most important and valuable lesson before undertaking change.  As Fullan states “we need to explain not only what causes it but also how to influence those causes”. Just like physics is a foundation for engineering, knowledge of change has been a foundation for innovation and the ability to create change.  In creating change we recognize that questions that begin with 

  1. Why
  2. What
  3. How 
  4.  What if

are important to know. 

These questions, give us the ability to determine meaning, objective and the abilities to close the gap of an established objective.

Step 2: Recognize the value of strategies that are socially based and action oriented

They also recognize that change is a cyclical process, that requires constant genuine discussion based on data driven assessments.  Authors have argued that Change leadership (or the interplay between artful leadership and organization management) is necessary for developing an organizations culture and is an essential component for developing new core capabilities needed to compete in a global, high tech world (Mcguire, 2006). Fullan demonstrates that trust and cohesion between parts of an organization is important for its success and operation especially when undertaking the complexities of change.  Communication across boundaries allow for greater potential in understanding one another as well as acquire meaning in oneself or the group.  Social discussions allow various elements to share and increase value in one another. In order to display this value, action is needed. A good strategy toward this goal is to begin and end a day with a meeting. There is a firm understanding that discussion built on trust and cohesion allows us to make appropriate decisions as well as actions to reach our planned goals when provided with good information. 

Step 3: Stay the course  of good direction through continually leveraging leadership. 

Experience shows that change occurs from or with the support of a position of leadership. Fullan states that individuals in leadership positions within an organization such as chief administrators or central distract staff are critical sources of advocacy, support and imitation of new programs. This observation is no different from the occurrences of sports organizations which are often run by senior officials such as a general manager or chief executive officer.  They may not be the catalyst for change, but they are certainly important resources for advocacy and support in change. The messaging of advocacy, communicated from the general manager is a constant reminder for those individuals new to change within the organization. They also help to recognize the importance of establishing key stakeholders in facilitating change or leveraging leadership. Leveraging leadership provides individuals with purpose and meaning in their roles but also empowers their positions and perspectives.

In establishing change we recognize that that each instance of change is unique. In other words, when discussing change, we must be mindful that it exists as an individual quality from other episodes of change.  This can be the result of its multifactorial nature.  As authors have suggested there are no hard-and-fast rules to change but rather a set of suggestions for how change can occur.  Generally speaking, we know that change requires us to establish meaning, collaborate and leverage leadership.

References

Fullan, M. (2016). The new meaning of educational change. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

McGuire, J. (2003). Leadership strategies for culture change: Developing change leadership as an organization core capability. Orlando, Florida: Center for Creative Leadership.

Young, Y. (2006). Mindset. Brighton: Pen Press.

Look, Learn, Live & Do You: The Squat Stance Cable V – Bar Chop w/ Tricep Extension

6.-Do-things-in-order.pngIn the past I have found difficulty in prioritizing certain isolation exercise and core movement. Historically, exercises that center on isolating a particular muscle group often appear towards the end of the workout. Take for instance, the bicep curl, calf raise or the triceps extension.  When It comes to anything in life, if you hold a good deal of value for it, make sure you start off with it.  You might reason then that a look at my exercise order suggests that the bicep curl, tricep extension hold little relative value compared to others such as the clean from the hang, the sled push or the weighted pull up.  You might be right in this assessment, but I like to believe that the value of an exercise is meaningless if it’s inappropriate for a given athlete, workout, or period of time.  Despite this focus, the reality of life is that we are always bounded by time.  Having little respect for time and you will find that the things that are placed last  are often forgotten or dismissed. Thus, efficiency is always an important component of program design when time is a limiting factor.

In this post, I will provide you with an exercise that helps improve training efficiency and adds value to exercises that are often considered valueless.

The Squat Stance Cable V – Bar Chop w/ Tricep Extension

The Squat Stance – Rotating – V Bar – Chop fits into several classes of exercise.  It is an exercise that challenges stability through rotation. It is also an exercise that challenges the body as a whole rather than in isolation. We can also view it as an integrative exercise or a movement that is challenged by the ability to integrate various parts and/or function to produce a desired objective. Additionally, the Squat Stance rotating cable Vbar chop is an exercise that challenges our ability to apply a horizontal impulse in to the ground.

There are several objectives in applying this exercise to a training program.  We are looking to combine simple exercises together for the purpose of improving efficiency and increase value by increasing objectives.  In this particular exercise there are three particular training objectives that are combined

  1. Objective 1: Demonstrating core control through the application of a resistive load along the transverse plane to the upper extremity as it relates to the lower extremity. – This is just another fancy way of saying this is a core exercise.
  2. Objective 2: Applying a resistive load to challenge elbow extension
  3. Objective 3: Applying a resistive force to a single limb that challenges both horizontal displacement and the integrity of hip abduction and
  4. Objective 4: Allowing resistive load to produce greater range and neural control in hip internal rotation.

Mastering these objectives will allow an individual to gain range in hip internal rotation, improve their ability to displace themselves horizontally, improve the strength, control and integrity of hip extension, abduction and flexion and provide help them facilitate a higher quality of communication between the upper extremities and the lower extremities. A detailed account of the muscles worked in this particular exercise is complex and difficult to quantify due to the number of structures that are involved  combined with the fact that the various individuals express movement differently due to the variances in their structures. It may be best to view this simply as multisgemental and complex movement that challenges the following among many.

  1. Internal and External Obliques,
  2. Rectus Abdominus
  3. Hip External Rotators
  4. Hip Abductions
  5. Grip Strength
  6. Support
  7. The start of the position immediately acts on the internal rotators of the hip. In particular the tensor fascia lata (TFL) and gluteus medius. The gluteus minimus is engaged the more we get the athlete to flex at the hip.
  8. Additionally, there is quite a bit of stress placed on structures involved in stability of the knee.

efficient1.jpgThe reasons why I like this particular exercise and the class of exercises like it is due to the fact that it drives efficiency.  With this particular exercise I can focus on developing strength through the upper body and stability of the lower body. I also like it because it is a widely recognize motion.  We are likely to have seen someone chop tree or swing a bat. Thus, the movement has a great reference and is therefore easier to teach than those exercises without reference.  This allows the exercise to be relatively easier to perform and thus widely applicable to various populations. Lastly, it is integrative  and movement based and can act as a great avenue in the transfer of strength gains to movement and therefore performance.

A Traditional Metric & Methodology for High Performance continues to hold its Weight.

“In God we trust; Everything else we measure”

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Introduction to Weight Management in the NFL and a Potential solution for an Off-Season Detraining Dilemma – Part 1

All across the nation Professional Football teams of the National Football League are gearing up for training programs otherwise known as off season programs. These off – season programs are designed in effort to provide elite football athletes the opportunity to prepare for the performance demands of a rigorous and highly competitive NFL season. Many may wonder what methods are used to ready this exclusive population of genetic talent and skill for success. While different teams may reflect various unique features as key components for garnering success, there are fundamental and similar components shared across all teams that help to promote success in performance to both the individual and team. In an article titled “Common Factors of High Performance Teams” published in the Journal of contemporary issues in Business and Government, authors highlight that advancing team performance means teams must systematically develop and assess new training methods to support changes in team effectiveness (Jackson & Madsen, 2005).

Their conclusions reflects the importance of evaluation and the practice of seeking new training methodology to produce high performance. Thus, in any high achieving system, one must establish a method of assessment, a metric that comprehensively and conclusively denotes the result of the assessment as well as a methodology that continually advances training for the assessment. This particular insight into the common factors of high performance in teams gives perspective to one of the many shared activities that our highly successful NFL teams will be embarking through these next few weeks – Assessment.

Assessment can come in many forms and provide a number of important information regarding the state of an athlete. Likewise, the approach in which teams use to improve their athletes based on assessment varies as well. It all depends on the teams perspective of a meaningful metric and the methodology used for high performance.

What’s your favorite M&M? – Metric and Methodology for high performance?

Among the multitude of assessments and/or metrics available to performance and football coaches, an athlete’s weight and body composition is considered of great importance. This is due to the strong relationship in which weight and/or body composition plays to a multitude of physical performance components such as strength, vertical jump, anaerobic power, speed and injury risk. Potteiger, Smith, Maier & Foster, 2010Silvestre, West, Maresh & Kraemer, 2006; Rose, Emery & Meeuwisse, 2008Vardar et al., 2007). In fact, the National Strength and Conditioning Association details this important relationship in the book NSCA’s Guide to Tests and Assessments.

“All fitness components depend on body composition to some extent. An increase in lean body mass contributes to strength and power development. Strength and power are related to muscle size. Thus, an increase in lean body mass enables the athlete to generate more force in a specific period of time. A sufficient level of lean body mass also contributes to speed, quickness, and agility performance (in the development of force applied to the ground for maximal acceleration and deceleration). Reduced nonessential body fat contributes to muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, speed, and agility development. Additional weight (in the form of nonessential fat) provides greater resistance to athletic motion thereby forcing the athlete to increase the muscle force of contraction per given workload. The additional body fat can limit endurance, balance, coordination, and movement capacity. Joint range of motion can be negatively affected by excessive body mass and fat as well, and mass can form a physical barrier to joint movement in a complete range of motion. (Miller, 2012)

In other words, a scale can be one the most effective assessment tool towards improving potential and performance. The value for which a scale presents to a performance coach when an steps on can be an important metric towards high performance. And it is likely that during this week, the 3000 athletes preparing for NFL training camps and a chance to compete this season are stepping on a scale and taking part in a corresponding evaluation of body composition.  It is also likely that a few members of this group will be weighing in at a number that grossly surpasses the weight needed to perform their duties at an optimal level and/or compromises their physical performance factors such as speed, power, and their ability to stay healthy.

Before we scrutinize and denigrate the athlete it’s important to examine our role as performance coaches and the methodology we use to solve challenges in performance. We must remember (again) that high performing teams must systematically develop and assess methodology that supports team effectiveness. To solve the particular challenges associated with athletes returning from the off season above weight/body composition standards and to improve team effectiveness we must first evaluate and understand the current weight issues of today.

High performing teams must systematically develop and assess methodology that supports team effectiveness.

The next part of this three part article will allow readers to understand the relative difficulties athletes may face in preparation for off-season conditioning and offers a training resource aimed to improve speed, power while diminishing potential for injury. Through our understanding of the environmental and social hurdles and limitations we can identify a potential solution for the challenges associated with weight management in today’s performance landscape. This understanding establishes why weight/body composition should continue to be an important metric for high performance and lays the foundation for an effectively methodology to help deliver success to both the football athlete and the team of coaches responsible for the athlete.

References:

Jackson, B., & Madsen, S. R. (2005). Common factors of high performance teamsJournal of Contemporary Issues in Business and Government11(2), 35–49.

Miller, T. (2012). NSCA’s guide to tests and assessments. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Potteiger, J., Smith, D., Maier,. M.L., Foster, T.S. (2010). Relationship Between Body Composition, Leg Strength, Anaerobic Power, and On-Ice Skating Performance in Division I Men’s Hockey Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24. 1755-1762

Rose, M.S., Emery C.A., Meeuwisse, W.H. (2008). Sociodemographic predictors of sport

injury in adolescents. Journal of Medicine Science Sports Exercise40(3):444–450.

Silvestre, R.,West, C., Maresh, C., Kraemer, W. (2006). Body Composition and Physical Performance in Men’s Soccer: A Study of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I TeamJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 20. 177-183.

Vardar, S. A., Tezel, S., Öztürk, L., & Kaya, O. (2007). The Relationship Between Body Composition and Anaerobic Performance of Elite Young Wrestlers. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 6(CSSI-2), 34–38.

Dan Liburd has over a decade of experience working with professional Athletes and as a NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach. Liburd has experience in designing, implementing and supervising strength and conditioning programs for various athletic populations. Liburd also has experience in designing and overseeing team nutrition and dietary programs. Liburd is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who earned his Bachelor degree in Exercise Science from Boston University. He has a Master of Science degree from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd holds a variety of certifications in Health and Sport Nutrition, Olympic Weight Lifting and Movement Assessment. These certifications include Precision Nutrition Level I and Level II as well as USA Weightlifting and Functional Movement Systems. Liburd also has a great deal of experience in Health, Fitness and Sport Strength and Conditioning. Liburd has worked with several professional teams such as the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Liburd has also held various positions in Collegiate Strength and Conditioning programs. He has worked with the Boston University Terriers, Springfield College Pride, American College Yellow Jackets and held positions at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning as well as Peak Performance Physical Therapy. 

Trace Minerals and Big Performance

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Naim Süleymanoğlu aka Pocket Hercules may have established Big performances thanks to the function of minute minerals in his diet.

“Little things make big things happen.” It seems that there is evidence for this quote in all walks of life, include athletic performance and nutrition. Recently, scientific investigators have reported that up to 60% of female athletes and 25% of male athletes are considered to be deficient in an important micronutrient involved in the process of oxygen consumption and aerobic exercise performance. Interestingly, even with proper monitoring and treatment regarding dietary intake, deficiencies of this particular trace mineral were still noted in athletes (Coates, Mountjoy& Burr, 2017). It’s hard to imagine that a deficiency in an element needed in just minute quantities, can play such a vital role in disrupting the integrity of various physiological and metabolic processes fundamental for athletic function and success. Furthermore, performance specialists tasked with the major responsibility of driving athletic potential can also miss this little detail in dietary needs. But alas, little things make big things happen, and safeguarding your athlete’s potential through routine dietary screening and supplementation can be the little change for a big difference. Evaluating the level of micronutrients such as iron and magnesium should be part of a comprehensive approach in your performance system, to help diminish the potential obstacles in your athlete’s ability. Adopting such an approach also adds a measure for safety by providing insight into potential excess of both essential and toxic elements. Take for instance the micronutrient iron.

 

Iron is widely recognized for its significant impact to health and performance in elite athletes and its deficiency can have a number of negative impacts on various physical capabilities such as aerobic performance. This relationship of iron to performance largely stems from its critical role in forming an important oxygen transporting protein known as hemogloblin. Thus, a deficiency in iron, and/or the presence of iron deficiency anemia is likely to diminish levels of hemoglobin, resulting in impaired performance due to the limited ability of oxygen to be transported to muscle tissue (Roland, 2011). Authors have also noted that factors involved in athletic performance such as increased fatigue levels and decreased energy drive are also resulting symptoms of low levels of iron (Eichner, 2012). Moreover, insufficient levels of iron can negatively impact immune system function and diminish bone strength.

This relationship between iron and various measures of physical function is testament to the powerful impact of such minute minerals, otherwise known as inorganic substances essential for metabolic and/or structural functions in the body. Many factors fundamental to athletic performance are manifested through the optimal function of processes within the body therefore we must consider optimizing micronutrient intake of our athletes. While macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins play a valuable role and are often touted for their powerful contributions to factors related to physical function and performance, micronutrients must also be largely recognized.

Iron is widely recognized for its significant impact to health and performance in elite athletes and its deficiency can have a number of negative impacts on various physical capabilities such as aerobic performance – even for the Iron Cowboy.

 

Similarly to iron, the micronutrient magnesium has also been demonstrated to have a monumental impact to athletic performance through the efforts of researchers. For instance, researchers at the University of São Paulo showed that supplementation with magnesium contributed to positive markers of athleticism such as decreases in lactate production and significant increases in jumping capabilities (Setaro et al., 2014). Investigators in this study concluded that supplementation with magnesium resulted in improvements in anaerobic function despite no evidence of magnesium deficiencies in the athletic subjects. This should come as little surprise as magnesium is involved in a number of critical roles necessary for human function. Minute amounts of the trace mineral magnesium is needed for its role in enzymatic reactions, cell growth, and energy metabolism, such as glycolysis and protein synthesis (Zhang, Xun, Wang, Mao & He, 2017. Magnesium is believed to positively impact athletic performance through its ability to regulate the concentration of glucose and lactate in the brain, muscle, and in circulation (Zhang, Xun, Wang, Mao & He, 2017). A number of animal and human studies have demonstrated improvements in various factors related to increased performance with magnesium supplementation such as, increased strength, enhanced glucose utilization, delayed muscle fatigue through the attenuation of muscle lactate, and improved muscle recovery through increased levels of glucose post exercise (Lee, 2017; Zhang, Xun, Wang, Mao & He, 2017). Conversely, authors note that when magnesium is depleted from the diet, there are notable adverse effects to metabolism, cardiovascular function and exercise performance (Lee, 2017). Despite the critical role of magnesium to human function and performance deficiencies have been noted in a number of athletic populations.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Magnesium research reported that existing data demonstrates that most athletes do not consume adequate amounts of magnesium in their diets (Alfredo, Diego, Juan, Jesús, & Alberto, 2017). Additionally, investigators of a 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical nutrition, determined that international female and male collegiate soccer players, as well as male rugby players, fell below the proper required amount of magnesium in their diets (Noda et al., 2009). This finding was suggested by investigators to be a representation of dietary deficiencies characteristically found in collegiate athletes. In addition, previous studies have reflected an intake as low as 45% of the daily recommended amount in elite athletes suggesting that magnesium deficiencies are evident even at the highest level of athletics.

Similar to magnesium, iron has long been established as a mineral often deficient in athletic populations. Dr. Thomas Rowland notes in a review titled: Iron deficiency in athletes: An update that a high frequency of iron deficiency without anemia, has been consistently observed in trained athletes, particularly female runners. While not a common finding in male athletes, Rowland notes that in any group of training endurance athletes, 1 out of every 3 or 4 females can be expected to satisfy the criteria for nonanemic iron deficiency (Rowland, 2012).

Growing research supports iron and magnesium as not only essential minerals to both human function and athletic performance, but also as minerals likely to be reported deficient in athletes. These minerals are clear examples of dietary factors in which performance and/or dietary specialists must carefully monitor when attempting to mediate improvements in their athlete’s potential. Failure to acknowledge these factors during periods of competiton can result in diminished performance but can also negatively impact health and human function.

1 out of every 3 or 4 females can be expected to satisfy the criteria for nonanemic iron deficiency (Roland, 2012)

 

As performance specialists we should consistently encourage our athletes to be routinely screened for mineral deficiencies and to be mindful of the role in which their diet and nutritional requirements can help facilitate greater levels of potential and performance. Effective approaches for deficiencies can take place through both dietary means and supplementation but before those changes can take place we have to assess our athlete’s needs. Screening resources such as Blueprint for Athletes can play a powerful role in the evaluation and treatment of athletic performance. In addition to Blueprint for Athletes, there are a number of affordable and reliable nutrition screening services available online to help provide insight to iron indicators such as serum ferritin.

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Screening resources such as Blueprint for Athletes can play a powerful role in the evaluation and treatment of athletic performance.

 

This iron indicator has been noted to be substantially different in highly trained athletes as compared to the normal population (Chapman et al., 2017). Serum ferritin values of 20 ng·mL−1 are commonly recognized as a low range for iron and an indication of deficiency in normal populations however new data suggests that such a value may be too low for athletes. New research suggests that a lower range for serum ferritin criterion value in athletes should be set at 35 ng·mL−1 . This range may demonstrate that a far greater amount of both male and female athletes are iron deficient (Chapman et al., 2017).

Additionally, magnesium is often measured by serum concentration. A reference range of 0.65–1.05 mmol/L for total magnesium concentrations in adult blood serum is considered to be healthy physiological range (Jahnen-Dechent, & Ketteler, 2012).

Excess intake of iron can lead to adverse effects and should be avoided.

While there are a number of minerals that are essential to diet and function, research continues to support an important role of magnesium and iron. It’s important to note that while these minerals are important for function excess intake of these minerals can lead to adverse effects and should be avoided. For instance, iron excess may be pro-oxidative and has been linked to several chronic diseases.

As we continue to develop further in to the science of sports performance and in light of the growing measures of assessments available to athletes, we may find that it’s miniscule actions such as monitoring the level of little factors such as trace minerals that may be imperative to the big picture or great athletic success.

References:

Alfredo,C., Diego, F., Juan, M., Jesús, S., Alberto, C.G., (2017) Effect of magnesium supplementation on muscular damage markers in basketball players during a full season. Journal of Magnesium Research30(2), 61-70. 

Chapman, R. F., Sinex, J., Wilber, R., Kendig, A., Moreau, B., Nabhan, D., & Stray-Gundersen, J. (2017). Routine Screening for Iron Deficiency Is an Important Component of Athlete Care. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise49(11), 2364.

Coates, A., Mountjoy, M., Burr, J., (2017). Incidence of Iron Deficiency and Iron Deficient Anemia in Elite Runners and Triathletes. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine27 (5), 493–498.

Eichner, E. R. (2012). Perennial Questions: On Fatigue, on Iron and on Anemia. Current Sports Medicine Reports11(6), 274-275.

Jahnen-Dechent, W., & Ketteler, M. (2012). Magnesium basics. Clinical Kidney Journal,5(1), i3–i14.

Lee, N. (2017). A Review of Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc Supplementation Effects on Athletic Performance. The Korean Journal of Physical Education56(1), 797-806

Mettler, S., & Zimmermann, M. B. (2010). Iron excess in recreational marathon runners. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition64(5), 490-494.

Noda, Y., Iide, K., Masuda, R., Kishida, R., & Nagata, A., & Hirakawa, F.,Yoshimura, Y., Imamura, H. (2009). Nutrient intake and blood iron status of male collegiate soccer players. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 18, 344-350.

Rowland, T. (2012). Iron Deficiency in Athletes. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 6(4), 319-327.

Setaro L, Santos-Silva PR, Nakano EY, et al. (2014). Magnesium status and the physical performance of volleyball players: effects of magnesium supplementation. Journal of Sports Science 32(5), 438–445.

Volpe, S. L. (2015). Magnesium and the Athlete. Current Sports Medicine Reports14(4), 279-283.

Zhang, Y., Xun, P., Wang, R., Mao, L., & He, K. (2017). Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance? Nutrients, 9(12), 946.