Benefits of Interning

Internships, whether paid or unpaid have many benefits. I’ve done my fair share of internships. Here are some benefits.

Develop a System

Unless you’re working alongside one coach, internships will allow you to observe coaches from a variety of departments – performance, skills, technical, rehabilitation, nutrition etc. This is good as coaches have different ways of coaching and communicating with their athletes. This isn’t just verbal communication, but their visual (body language) forms of communicating. Plenty of teams I’ve had the chance to work with had coaches of differing styles – autocratic, democratic, loud, reserved, alpha-male, the list goes on, but it’s how you get to the end result of improved performance and the athletes buying into you as a coach and person, not the programme. The same goes for programming and periodization. Working with many coaches isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong, but what ideas can you take from all the coaches you work under, and implement them into your own coaching system and methodology going forward.

Learn Cultures

During my time in Australia and the USA I was fortunate to work with so many sports. This is huge for interns as all sports have their own culture, their own banter, codes of conduct etc. It requires you to adapt your coaching style to fit the needs of the sport and athletes. The more you can adapt and talk their language, whatever their sport, will only improve your chances of coaching it successfully. There is talk that having previous experience in certain sports increases your chances of employment. I can understand that it demonstrates experience of culture, scheduling, etc but nothing will ever replace good coaching and education. I’ve been fortunate to play sport to a pretty decent level, with many team-mates and previous opponents going on to play semi-professionally/professionally, but don’t know the first thing about the needs, demands or how to coach at all. I think it’s the culture the profession has been brought up in, but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

Earn Respect

This goes for earning respect from coaches and athletes. It’s pretty likely you’ll go into an internship and do nothing but setup and breakdown equipment for the first month or so. This isn’t because coaches just see you as an extra pair of hands. This is a test of your attention to detail, organization, and initiative. If you can’t follow a set of basic instructions to setup a few cones and equipment in an order so the session flows smoothly, then how can the coach trust you coaching a technical lift with their star player? You have to earn the right to coach those players. Do the small tasks extraordinarily well and you’ll get your chance to coach. The same applies to building the respect between yourself and the athletes. Most interns are too quick to go in correcting technique when they haven’t even introduced themselves or asked the athlete their name. I think the saying is ‘athletes don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’ and this is true. I heard a podcast recently featuring Jon Gordon who calls it ‘tough love’. Yes we want to be tough on our athletes, hold them accountable to their part of the training process, but before we can be tough we must love the athletes. Coaches need to go deep inside the athlete and find what makes them tick, what motivates them, why they do what they do. In a squad setting, differing personalities exist, and again we need to be adaptable and call on our experiences of working with different coaches, sports, sexes, and cultures.

Work Hard

The two best experiences I’ve had in life were again in Australia and USA. I’ve never worked so many hours on the floor as I did there, but I loved it. Long days, 5:30 am start to get a workout in, 4-6 groups per day, 2-3 groups in the evenings, finishing at 8:30 pm, there is really nothing better in my opinion. This is just session delivery, not accounting for the planning and evaluation, what went well, what didn’t, what needs to change, what can stay. If you are successful in attaining an internship in a big organization (well done), but you’ll also be doing the ugly jobs. Laundry every hour, wet and dry cleaning the gym floor, organizing the equipment storage, prepping pre-and-post workout shakes. All the little jobs which you think you’re above, but you’re not. I’ve witnessed coaches who’ve been in the game for 20+ years still doing laundry, replacing cutlery, picking up trash off the floor. If you think you’re better than those miniature tasks you’re wrong. I heard several Undergraduate students complain when they were handed their Semester 2 timetable because they had lectures everyday. Firstly, lectures everyday means you’re learning more continually, so if you pay attention you should retain more information. Further, lectures are about 2 hours maximum. If you’re complaining about having 2-4 hours of lectures every couple of days then you will be in a big shock upon entering  employment. Saying that, you probably won’t get employed for the reasons just mentioned.

Become Part of Something

I’m sure most people look at internships as another step on their ladder to the end goal. That is fine, but don’t get drawn away from the here and now. You should look to leave a trail of success on all your positions, no matter how good or bad they appear to feel at the time. Yes you could be at a prestigious club/company but if you didn’t contribute anything whilst you were there then it’s worthless. The person who’s interning with a less glamorous sport/organization and performs exceptionally well is more equipped when it comes to making that next step than those aim to use the status of their employers, as opposed to their skills and initiative. By truly embracing the experience you’ll definitely get more out of the internship, it’s what you make of it. If you show that you’re willing to learn and want to contribute, coaches will go out of their way to help you. This relates back to earlier points regarding respect and hard work. I’ve been part of staff and intern teams that were incredible. We all had goals we were chasing, but worked for each other and got our rewards as a result. For me it’s all about the people. The athletes, other coaches, interns – how I can help others achieve their goals. If you can surround yourself with the right people it is so important in achieving your mission.

CT

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Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training

Here is a review of the book Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor Bompa and Greg Haff I have been reading recently. I will break it into two parts as I have many notes.

Bompa and Haff

The Authors

Tudor O. Bompa, PhD, is recognised worldwide as the foremost expert on periodization training. He first developed the concept of “periodization of strength” in Romania in 1963, as he helped the Eastern Bloc countries rise to dominance in the athletic world. A full professor at York University in Toronto, Bompa has authored several important books on physical conditioning, including Serious Strength Training, Second Edition, Periodization Training for Sports and Total Training for Young Champions as well as numerous articles on the subject
Dr G. Gregory Haff is the Course Coordinator for the Post Graduate Degree in Strength and Conditioning at Edith Cowan University. He is a Level 2 ASCA strength and conditioning coach and a Level 3 Australian Weightlifting Association Coach. Dr Haff was the 2011, NSCA’s William J. Kraemer Sport Scientist of the Year Award Winner and has served as the Vice President of the NSCA, Assistant Editor and Chief for The Journal of Strength and Conditioning and is a Senior Associate Editor for The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with Distinction, a founding Fellow of the NSCA, and an accredited member of the United Kingdom Strength & Conditioning Association. He is a USA Weightlifting Regional Level Coach and has served as an outside scientist with the United States Olympic Training Centre’s Performance Enhancement Teams for Track Cycling and Weightlifting.

The book is broken down into 3 components: 1) Training Theory where underlying principles of periodization such as energy systems, skill classification, training principles and variables of training are identified 2) how to periodize training for specific biomotor abilities, competitions, annual planning, training cycles, and planning the actual workout, and 3) training methodology of strength and power, endurance, and speed & agility.

Chapter 1 – Basis for Training

This chapter lays the outlining the multiple factors associated with the training process.
Auxillary SciencesIt is important that a progressive increase in stimulus will lead to adaptation and improved performance, lack of stimulus results in a plateau and hinders performance, whereas too excessive of a stimulus results in maladaptation, decreasing performance. In terms of basic energy system information the ATP-PC system is responsible for approximately 10s high intensity work, with 50-70% decrease in as little as 5s – 70% ATP is restored after 30s rest, whereas 84% PCr is resored at 2 minutes and 89% at 4 minutes. The glycolytic system is responsible from 20s – 2 minutes of activity where during fast glycolysis lactate is converted to pyruvate. Towards 2 minutes ATP supply transfers from fast to slow glycolysis and shifts pyruvate to the mitochondria for oxidative metabolism. The oxidative system is predominant during 2 minutes – 3 hour events.

Chapter 2 – Principles of Training

Multilateral development is important during the early stages of development as it lays the foundations for more specific work to com later on. It provides consistent but progressive performances through steady incremental loading patterns which results in fewer injuries. Early specialization will bring about quick improvements but theses will tail off and plateau in the future. There is also a high incidence of burnout with early specialization through overtraining and an increased risk of injury due to forced development as compared to consistent and progressive seen in multilateral development. Load progressions should be planned according to tolerance level – biological age and chronological age, training age, training histroy, health status, and stress and recovery rate.
Standard loading: Where similar training loads & training densities are used throughout the preparation phase.
Linear loading: Can be useful early on in development (Mark Rippetoe states this also in his book Practical Programming), but periods of recovery are needed to maximize adaptive responses otherwise will plateau, or if done for an extended period overtraining will occur.
Step loading: Progressive overload interspersed with periods of unloading usually following a wave-like increase in training load (a 3 week increase: 1 week unload for example). A greater loading phase will require a greater unloading phase but step loading develops a base for future training blocks. This loading pattern is useful for sequential cyclic phases potentiation with strength endurance > max strength > speed strength for example.
Concentrated loading: Sometimes classified as short-term overreaching, where high volumes and intensities are planned for a short time, and performance gains may not occur until 4-12 weeks after the cessation of the concentrated load.
Conjugated Sequence: Concentrated loading followed by restitution where microcycles will have 1 primary emphasis (max strength) while maintaining other areas (speed, power, agility). During the restitution phase max strength will then be reduced focus and an increase focus in the other biomotor abilities will occur. By concentrating the loading for 4 weeks, then unloading for 3 weeks , then going back to loading and a further unload results in a supercompensation effect. Therefore, training can be sequenced so that performance can peak at certain times by manipulating training density and duration, not volume and intensity.
Flat loading: applicable to more advanced highly trained athletes if they have developed the physiological base to tolerate constant high volumes and intensities. Usually performed for 3 weeks with the 4th week an unload.

If sequenced properly each block will potentiate the next. Siff and Verkoshansky (2003) outlined the progression of general physical preparation > strength > speed > endurance. There are endless ways to integrate loading paradigms – 3:1, 2:1, 1:3 but consider the training status of the athlete, goals of the training plan, recovery interventions available, amount of time to train, and the physiological responses to different loading models according to scientific literature.

Chapter 3 – Preparation for Training
Pyramid
Physical training increases physiological potential and sport specific biomotor abilities. This can be broken down to general physical training increasing work capacity and the potential to adapt (think multilateral development), and sport specific physical training which builds on the general physical training foundations, but are more specific to the demands of the sport by targeting specific physiological adaptations.
Exercises in the general phase utilize body weight, benches, skipping and med balls targeting general strength, flexibility, mobility, aerobic fitness and anaerobic capacity. Sports specific exercises target specific movement patterns of the sporting activities, allowing for a greater transfer of training through specific muscle actions (concentric, eccentric, isometric), kinematic (velocity, angles) and kinetic characteristics (force, RFD, power). Exercises include Olympic lifts, squats etc.

Technical Training: it is important to create efficient movement patterns that are biomechanically sound in relation to application of forces and running economy. Technique can be based on a technical model to develop plans to target weak areas but remember that every individual is different and this should be based on biomechanical aspects of performance rather than someone who is ‘good’ at the skill as people develop at different rates. Simple tasks as running and cycling are also easier to attain proficiency in as compared to complex Olympic lifts, throws, jumps which require more coordination.

Chapter 4 – Variables of Training

The manipulation of volume, intensity and density of training is key to a well thought out plan and programme.
Volume relates to the total quantity of work performed in the training session/phase. In sports like running and cycling volume can be represented as time or duration, or distance covered, whereas in the weight room volume or ‘volume load’ can be reps x sets x weight lifted for each resistance exercise. For sprints, throws, and lower body jumps can be number of repetitions. Volume can be increased through increasing the volume (method above) during the session or increasing the density (frequency) of training, or both.
Intensity relates to power output, opposing force, or velocity of progression. It reuires an increase in neuromuscular activation and can be expressed as metres per second (speed), kg (force), or Watts (power). In team sports variables such as average HR or % of maximum HR is usually found within the literature. Here is a table from the book I quickly created in Excel for strength and speed intensities alongside one taken from Stephen Seiler which doesn’t feature in the book, but he’s done a lot of research in elite endurance athletes training intensity and distribution.

Strength and Endurance Zones
Volume and intensity are inversely related in most instances. High volumes and intensities increase physiological stress and hormone disturbances while causing severe neuromuscular fatigue. High volumes of work with low intensities do serve as a basis for the higher intensity workloads that come later on though.

Density represents the frequency or distribution of training sessions. It is important to establish correct work:rest ratios in order to target the specific energy systems.Work to rest
Chapter 5 – Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery is aiming to maximize preparedness (dissipate fatigue and maintain fitness) and is best done through properly designed programming with logical variations in volume, intensity and exercise selection. Fatigue can be broken into acute and chronic. Acute = specific to the task. Chronic = unable to recover from stimulus usually from high volumes and intensities for long periods. If high volumes and intensities are done for short periods, this might be overreaching.
Overreaching is a planned part of the programme (high concentrated loading) followed by unloading to supercompensate 2-5 weeks post overreach phase.
Overtraining is associated with long-term decreases in performance from accumulation of training and non-training  stressors. Usually caused by monotonous non-varying training patterns sustained for too long or too frequently.
Ways to monitor and prevent overtraining:

  • periodize programme
  • individualize training
  • recovery and restoration measures – nutrition, sleep, supplementation, social, lifestyle
  • monitor (RPE, volume load, HR)
  • Questionnaire (POMS, wellness)
  • Educate them – sleep, nutrition, non-training stressors
  • Keep a training log

Passive recovery – sleep, aim for 9-10 hours including < 30 minute naps – simpleActive recovery – light exercise around 50% will improve lactate clearance and decrease CNS activity
Massage – reduces anxiety, tension, stress, depression, increases mood, relaxation, parasympathetic activity
Here is a theoretical model from Weerapong et al., (2005) that features in the book.

Theoretical Massage

Chapter 6 – Annual Training Plan

Divides the year into distinct phases with specific objectives. A sequential approach is necessary to stimulate adaptations as it’s not possible to maintain maximum capacity all year around.
Cycles

The duration of each of the above phases will depend on the sport and competition, for example in track and field a bi-cycle may be more appropriate if the athlete will compete indoor and outdoor championships/events.

It is quite easy to develop your own template and design as you see fit – just  an example below.
Annual Plan

Anatomical Adaptation
Sometimes referred to as a hypertrophy phase to increase lean body mass, increase strength, work capacity and lay the neuromuscular foundations through high volume – moderate intensity across 4-6 weeks. Usually 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Maximum Strength
Power and endurance are highly dependent upon maximum strength. Stronger individuals show increased power outputs and higher levels of muscular endurance. This phase builds on abilities developed in the anatomical adaptation phase and develops the specific neuromuscular attributes associated with power development. Usually 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps at 75-85 %1RM. This strength can be converted to speed strength through ballistic and plyometric exercises, but it is important to contain some exercises of a high enough intensity to maintain strength, while avoiding fatigue (reduce the number of exercises and sets/reps to 1-3 of each). When training for speed strength the load (% 1RM) will depend on the exercise used, 0-80% 1RM.

Extensive tempo

  • > 200 m
  • < 70% max speed
  • 45 rest between reps
  • < 2 minutes rest between sets

Intensive tempo

  • > 80 m
  • 80-90% max speed
  • 30s – 5 minutes rest between reps
  • 3-10 minutes rest between sets

Speed

  • 50-100 m
  • 90-100% max speed
  • 1-10 minutes between reps
  • 3-4 minutes between sets

Max Speed

  • 20-80 m
  • 90-100 max speed
  • 3-5 minutes rest between reps
  • 6-8 minutes rest between sets

Anaerobic Endurance

  • < 80 m
  • 95-100% max speed
  • 1 minute rest between reps
  • 4 minutes rest between sets

l will post the remainder of my notes next week.

The Art of Coaching

In the following post I’ll share a few thoughts on what I have really been focusing on when working with a variety of athletes of recent times. It is really beneficial to have knowledge of the underpinning science that is the foundation of our profession, but it is the coaching that requires years of focused commitment through dedicated practice. I think it is vital to be able to demonstrate, explain, and instruct, and  see the following points part of the process.

Stages of Mastery

Coaching Process 1

The above diagram, I believe, can be tailored towards coaching or the athlete. As a coach, we aim to take athletes on the journey from being unconsciously incompetent to being unconsciously competent, this is especially the case with young athletes who lack the motor skills and coordination, and also develop at varying rates. But as coaches we must also commit to an apprenticeship of aiming to master the art of coaching, we can’t expect athletes to want to learn if we ourselves don’t commit to providing the best service possible through continuous education.

Organization

Ask yourself, what is the objective of the session? Explain what the goals/layouts of the session is/are – is it speed? Acceleration? Multi directional, Strength or Power? Preparation is key in order for the session to run smoothly. I plan all my sessions, but I know for sure when I pay attention to every detail possible, they run far more efficiently than when not. It is important to consider equipment, is there enough racks/DB’s for the whole squad? Is there enough space so that you can oversee all of the groups? Coach to athlete ratio – can you take control of a large group, or because of such large numbers, is the session delivery and content being sacrificed at the expense of getting everyone through the session?

Plan the execution and execute the plan!

Organization Examples

The picture gives an example of field based movement coaching organisation scenarios, but can also be used when dealing with large groups, using body weight exercises or KB’s/DB’s/MB’s for example. I apologise for my poor stick diagrams!

Circle orientation: good for cool down, to reinforce coaching points from the session – so brings a feeling of unity with a group. Can also be used at the start of a session to address the group and set the tempo for the session. Negative is that you’re always going to have your back to someone.

Parallel Orientation: can learn from each other, however people are not mirror image so it gets confusing, for instance if you perform a lateral drill to go to the left, some individuals might get confused as to which left you’re referring to.OrientationMulti-Line Orientation: for big groups, may be good when working with really large numbers, but as you can see, limits the coach as to where he/she stations themselves in order to provide feedback and coaching points. Again you can’t always see all the athletes either.

Single Line Orientation: probably the most common orientation and easy to get coaching points across and give feedback

Session Flow

Session flow links in with organisation, how many sets/how long does it take? Is the session planned adequately time wise (sets, reps, rest) in order to provide the stimulus for adaptation? It also links with equipment layout, are all the required equipment (racks, platforms, assistance exercises) within the same area in the gym, or will the athletes have to go from one end to the other to get something? This is key when working with groups back-to-back
and must be planned to run smoothly.

Verbal Instruction

Verbal instruction is key to provide clear instructions that explains the task. The instructions must be clear and concise, providing 1-2 focus cues to build athlete awareness, limiting unnecessary information to avoid “over-coaching”. This is obviously best done before the set commences, rather than feeding point during the set. It can be beneficial to start and finish instruction with what you want vs. what you don’t want, just to clear any misunderstanding from the athletes point of view.

Visual Instruction

Visual instruction is key when teaching new skill. It is very important to say the correct verbal instruction, but if you can back that up with proper execution of a visual instruction, then you’re onto a winner. When demonstrating, beware to orient yourself so everyone can see, this links in with the type of session orientation you have chosen, as certain ones will limit what the athletes can see. Therefore, you can repeat the visual instruction in multiple locations if necessary (front on & side on), and finish the explanation with exactly what you want them to do. Leading by example by performing a good demonstration can really set the tempo for the drill.

Error Identification/Correction

Identify the critical moment(s) and/or performance errors throughout the training session. I think there are too many coaches who try to correct too many errors at once. I’m sure I have been guilty of this myself, but my coaching style has always been to focus on progress, not perfection. I’m not saying proficient technique isn’t important, it is, but depending on the level of athlete, I filter errors which are top priority. I always ask, what is the major limiting factor to performing this exercise correctly? Then I’ll try to hone in on that for the session. I think this links in with verbal ‘over-coaching’, if you give the athlete too many things to focus on, you’re suffocating them with information overload and probably negating the desired outcome.

Feedback

Feedback of the skill involves three forms of communication: 1) visual; 2) auditory; and 3) kinaesthetic. Each individual athlete will have a preference for one of these methods and if all three are combined in a demonstration, the coach is more likely to enhance communication with all of the athletes and enhance learning.
Visual learners improve learning when there is a lot of visual input and requires clear demonstrations. Coaches can play back videos of the athletes own, and others’ performances in order to improve performance.
Auditory learners retain information more when listening to instructions and advice, such as discussing problems, tactics, and strategies.
Kinaesthetic learners prefer actual physical practice, shadow activities through physical movement, such as reinforcing posture for acceleration during a wall hold.

The timing of feedback can also be crucial to skill development. If novices are used to over coaching, then they will expect feedback all the time, even sometimes after every rep. I prefer to give delayed feedback to  beginner-intermediate athletes, as they need to feel the coordination the movement requires in order to progress, rather than having them to focus on coaching points. They are probably having a hard enough time trying to perform the skill, and the last thing they need is a coach giving them further instruction after every rep.

Instantaneous feedback can be used with more advanced athletes as they are more towards the autonomous stage of learning. At this stage the athlete has a stable movement pattern with or without errors, therefore can process internal & external information regarding performance to a greater degree than less skilled athletes.

Feedback can be provided to the group (global feedback), or locally (individual feedback), linking in with how many people are in the group and the orientation. When providing a visual and verbal instruction at the end of the drill would require global feedback if there was something needing to be reinforced across the group. Whereas local feedback can be provided to an individual if the drill was organised into a waterfall start for acceleration, for example. And the level of athlete would determine whether the feedback is delayed (end of the acceleration) or instantaneous (during the acceleration).

Feedback should be used for correction and positive reinforcement, I always like to give feedback on what is good, what can be improved, and finish with why it will help what is already good with the performance.

Cueing

Similar to feedback, cueing reinforces the movement pattern and provides one focus point for the next repetition, limiting over coaching “paralysis by analysis”. Internal cues have a  coordination focus on aspects internal within the athlete, i.e. tilt your pelvis when performing a SL RDL, imagine a rod from the heel – shoulder, don’t break that when performing a pillar bridge and a common one would be push the knees out during a squat. External cues have a coordination and performance focus, i.e. push the ground away when accelerating, jump through the roof when performing a jump, or push the hips back against the wall when performing a RDL.

Similar to providing feedback, global cues (projecting common corrections to whole group) can be done at the start of an exercise, whereas local cues provide individual corrections – allowing the coach to be engaged with the athletes.

For more information of feedback, cueing, and coaching in general, I recommend the work of Nick Winkelman. Nick is Director of Training Systems and Education at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona and currently pursuing his PhD at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions with an emphasis in coaching science. Two articles in particular on the NSCA website are very good reads: What We Say That Matter Part 1 and What We Say That Matters Part 2