Strength training, transfer and wearable resistance.

I bet that most of us will agree that strength levels are strongly related to performance in explosive sports. The discussion could be about what kind of strength has the strongest relation, maximal strength, explosive strength, power, or more specific forms of strength. It all boils down however, to the question of transfer. Quite a few books are written about this subject, most of them by Dr. Anatoli Bondartshuk. In my idea, this might be an individual issue.

Some athletes increase in maximal strength, let’s say, their 1RM, in a relevant exercise, and this transfers to a strong increase in explosive strength or speed as well, they are lucky. Other athletes might become a lot stronger in maximal strength as well, but they hardly increase their explosive performance, or at least not to the same extent as the others. Still, it’s the performance in the explosive events that counts in the end, unless you are weight lifter or powerlifter there are no medals to be won by having a high 1RM in itself.

An important issue in training is the balance in volume between general, or maximal strength training at one hand, and specific strength training at the other hand. Specific strength training is mainly about increasing your strength levels during the specific demands or dominant motor skills in competition. It’s not about getting stronger in the weight room, it’s about getting stronger in sprinting, jumping or throwing, generating higher forces often in the shortest possible time within that specific movement pattern!
There are quite a few ways to accomplish this, I hope you know about this, since I will skip this part.

In general, there are two important limitations to specific strength training.
-to increase the load in a SPECIFIC way, e.g. keeping in mind the force-time    characteristics of a movement
-to choose a load light enough in order to keep it specific, but still high enough to increase specific strength
Many exercises and lots of equipment have been developed for the purpose of making the strength training more specific. A well-known example is e.g. throwing with heavier implements in the shotput, like, 8 or 9 kg, instead of 7.25 kg. Or sprinting with resistance, here sled towing comes to mind.
Still, many of these change the kinematics and or dynamics of the movement to an less optimal level.

The second limitation is to find the optimal added load, whereas a shot of 8 or 9 kg might still look like shot putting, a shot of 12 kg definitely does not. Also pulling a very heavy sled, might increase maximal strength, but increase the contact time, or change stride kinematics and dynamics, to the extent that it no longer looks like sprinting. In those cases, in my opinion it’s better to go to the weight room. The more weight is added the less specific (read: slower) the movement becomes.

One solution, and I have been talking about it here before, is working with wearable resistance. Wearable resistance is applying variable weights, of 50, 100 or 200 grams on the trunk or extremities and loading the specific muscle groups you want to make stronger. This allows the athlete to execute specific drills and exercise, that are similar to competitions demands or movement patterns, or isolated exercises.
My aim is to see if wearable resistance, for the time being, can be an viable alternative to maximal strength training.

Wearable resistance training has many advantages:
-versatility in the choice of loads 50, 100 or 200 grams- total load (expressed in % of body weight)
-versatility of load placing (trunk and/or extremities, peripheral or distal, frontal or dorsal, lateral or medial)

Also, wearable resistance training can be used for:
-specific strength training: loading relevant and dominant muscle groups
-rehabilitation: loading specific muscle groups
-hypergravity training: wearing a load 16 hours a day during minimum 3 weeks)
-contrast-training: performing exercise with and without the load, e.g. each repetition or each set
-post-activation potentiation (PAP): prior to other exercise or even as a warming-up before
competition

For pictures, see the post of May 11, Training camp

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Is it just me or ……

Recently I read an analysis in Dutch sportmagazine in disbelief….. it was about my profession as a coach.
Holland has 17 million inhabitants and 4.3 million are somehow engaged in sports. Holland has 400.000 coaches (it’s not clear what the definition of coach was), but 90% of the coaches is uneducated, really …. 90%!

In a time where even a person who is delivering your pizza or walking your dog is required to be educated for this task. But coaching, also meaning being responsible for the mental, physical and even the social health of your children, anyone seems to be able to do that without an education, it’s probably the last “profession” in which this is possible.

Not a miracle that the social status of a coach in Holland, is all the way at the bottom of the status ladder. Jokingly I always answer when asked how I became a coach that I was too lazy to work and too stupid to study, so I became a coach. Unfortunately this joke doesn’t seem to be far from the truth. Sending your kids to a sports club in Holland means that you have 90% change that the person becoming responsible for your kids has no clue what they are doing. To make it worse, I am not convinced about the quality of 10% of the coaches that actually is educated, of which a large percentage did a 1 day workshop on let’s say speed training, and now has become a “speed expert”.

In many cases, the license or diploma is also just a paper shield, gained by attending a course or workshop. Nowadays people don’t like to be examined, their egos are too fragile to be evaluated, they might be confronted by their own incompetence, and who wants to break their illusion of competence. Most coach’s education systems for coaches in Holland thus are without exams, you just sit there and get your yearly necessary accreditation points. Points for attendance, not for quality.

I realize won’t become popular or making friends, by saying that coach’s education is terrible at the moment and that this should be improved and that coaches need to be examined again, instead of being rewarded for mere presence. I never won a popularity poll and never intended to, and I have enough friends left on Facebook.

Say no to doping …. but yes to drugs.

Our national sports council is a recently founded organization in which invited people (or better celebrities) will try and help to improve sports in Holland.
And that is a good thing, sports has many potential positive qualities, although most of us deny the fact that sports also gives place to less desirable qualities as well. Or like George Orwell stated: “Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting”

After all, the roots of sports can be found in preparation for the hunt or the preparation for war or survival: archery, wrestling, boxing, fencing, equestrian, shooting, javelin throwing, running, jumping are good examples. Civilization only molded modern sports into a more socially acceptable form and at the same time saw opportunities to again misuse sport for political goals, and propaganda.
Just watch the movie “Triumph des Willens” by Leni Riefenstahl about the 1936 Nazi-Olympics tosee a perfect example.

Or sports has been degraded to  money-making machine for a small and select group of people, lots of money and thus created organizations controlled by white-collar criminals, like IAAF, IOC, FIFA: white-washing, theft, fraud, corruption, nepotism, etc. You name it, they do it and they get away with it as well.

One of the members of our National Sports Council is Duncan Stutterheim, a guy who made his fortune organizing famous Dutch dance-events like White Sensation. He is in the National Sports Council, because of his experience with large scale events and because he knows what a young generation of people want.

In a recent interview he stated that he is very much opposed against the use of doping in sports. No surprise here, but what surprised me is that within the same sentence, without blinking an eye, he added that he is tolerant towards drugs, having used them himself and in the beginning of his career even made lots of money selling drugs. His event, White Sensation has been known to be the largest gathering of drug users in the world and drug dealers have been making a fortune there, mainly XTC and cocaine.

This really beats me: I do not know of any athlete in Holland who died from the use of doping in the last 20 years. I know however that in 2016, 235 people die of drug use. I don’t know of any doping wars, but I know about narco-states and drug cartels, killing thousands of people yearly, think aboutMexico, Colombia and Afghanistan to mention a few. Even 9 out of 10 criminal liquidations executed in our country are about drug gangs, drug production, trafficking and sales. I know about the environmental and health damage by criminals dumping large amounts of toxic waste from the production of synthetic drugs in the environment.

So here is my point: how can someone who says no to doping, but say yes to drugs, be a member of our National Sports Council, trying hard to improve the health, wellness and the future of our youth?
Probably I am not smart enough to understand that, maybe it is my lack of the use of mind-altering drugs.

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Training camp.

After 14 years, I started actively coaching athletes again, or rather … one athlete. Call me stupid if you like, but I just could not resist the challenge to see if I still can make a difference. I choose a rather gifted, young athlete, (as matter of fact, she choose and asked me and I said yes). She is in the final stage of her exams in high school, or in Holland, preparing for university, which takes time, brain effort and brings some stress with it.

 

Coaching again

Therefore I decided to go abroad, mainly to focus on study and training without many of the distractions of the modern adolescent, who is flooded, influenced, molded, nudged and manipulated by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. And hopefully, after finishing this stage, in a few weeks from now, we can focus more on training, performance and competition results.

The reasons to go to training camp are the right ones:
-being assured of higher temperature for sprinting
-change of environment (from urban to mountains)
-focus

In the past I know that many coaches went for training camp for the strange reasons:
-being away or escaping from job, home, wife and children
-vacation in exotic places and e.g. visiting wild parks in Africa (I just go and see them in a zoo)
-bringing their athletes into the destruction zone by training twice a day with athletes who normally worked out 4 times a week – injury and/or overtraining guaranteed

Now my new athlete is a perfect “guinea pig”, in this training camp I experimented with two ideas:
1. a dynamic higher intensity warming-up, before every workout, instead of the classical jog, stretch and drills
2. working with wearable resistance and measuring the effect on sprinting, e.g. speed, stride length and stride frequency. Load in this case: 400 gram on each quad and each hamstring. But be aware that this does not tell you much, since the leverage (on placing on the muscle group is the main variable here.

Wearable resistance – front

Wearable resistance – back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skipping with wearable resistance

Heelkicks with wearable resistance

Practice what you preach, in previous posts I wrote about Methodology of Training 2.0, an overview of new developments in this field since the 1960’s.
My approach to training will mainly be based on the foundations of this concept. I believe that most of our ideas and concepts are either based on knowledge, experiences and science, based on times when sports was very much different from how it is now, and mainly coming from the former East Bloc states like the USSR and DDR before 1990. Or based on “new” specialized, but very specific, but fluffy concepts without any depth, scientific background nor adequate experience e.g. performances.

For example, recently in Holland a young exercise physiologist made the headlines, because he uses muscle biopsies to guide the training, thinking he came up with something new. Great, but we have done these already in 1986/1987, as I pointed out in earlier posts, and we moved on and are 30 years ahead.

Training definitely isn’t rocket science, otherwise we’d all be working at NASA. But regarding training as a biological experiment, the knowledge about the functioning of the athlete’s body and mind is increasing exponentially, and even if basic knowledge still hold true, the difference is performance is made in the details.

Training isn’t difficult, there are many variables that we understand pretty well, but training is therefore complex, how do all these variables interact with each other, positively or negatively?

An example, every sprinter in the world performs almost the same technical drills, like e.g.skipping or high knees, so that’s is not where the difference is, but the difference is in the application for each individual athlete: why (or why not) they are performed, how they are performed, how often, how many, in what combination, etc.

How does this drill transfer to a better sprinting form? And here is the key questions to think about. We all have many drills and exercises in our “toolbox”, but what would the impact on performance be if we leave one of these exercise out of our workouts? Would there be an impact anyway? If the answers is “no”, or you don’t know, then why do your perform this drill?

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An example of a training program

Program Mohammed al Malki preparation Asian Games in September (see the post before)

After my last post, a few coaches asked me to outline how Mohammed’s training program would look like.

Notes:
This is the program as made and executed as well. Don’t try to copy even part of it, just look what I was looking for: a program that worked for this particular individual, based on his strengths and limitation. I take an example of how a typical training week look liked throughout the months.
Due to cultural factors Mohammed was off two days a week, so 5 days of training, once a day only, and two days off. I did not write down the usual normal warming -up and drills.

Peculiar factors:
No starts from the blocks,
No (supra-)maximal speed,
No resistance running,
No weight training,
No jumps or bounding,
Very specific training-stimuli in variation from 60-600 meters, volume changes little, intensity increase gradually through the months.
All based on avoiding the recurrence of his thigh injury and making a risk-benefit ratio for each form of training.

Abbreviations:
St.st = from standing starts
Mip. = micropause or rest between the reps or runs
Map. = macropause or rest between the sets

Jan 19: 6 x 300m rest 5 mins, 48.8/47.0/44.5/41.8/43.8/44.2
Jan 20: 8x 120 m st.st
Jan 21: 3 x 3x 200m on flats, with 30 secs rest and 8 mins between the sets: 30/30/29//29/28/28//29/30/28 secs
Jan 22: 500-600-500-600-500m rest 8 mins 1.30/1.50/1.29/1.49.1.28 secs
Jan 23: 250-200-15-/250-200-150 m on flats, mip 4-5 mins, map 8 mins, 35.2/27.0/18.4//33.7/25.6/17.2
Jan 24: rest
Jan 25: rest

Feb 23: 4x200m and 3×200 m in relay form, mip. 1,20 min, map 10 mins, 25 secs
Feb 24: 5x (300m – mip. 1.00 min -200m) map 6 mins 45/27- 44/28 -44/28-43/28-41/28
Feb 25: 3×250, st.st rest 8 mins 30.2/29.5/29.1
Feb 26: 10×1 20m st.st rest 5 mins: 14.4/14.1/13.9/13.9/14.3/13.9/14.2/14.3/14.0/13.8
Feb 27: rest
Feb 28: rest

April 21: 8 x 1.5. rounds on the grass around the soccer pitch with half a round walk
April 22: 250-200-150-120 rest 14 mins, 28.51/22.09/16.17/12.86
April 23: 6 x 120m st.st: rest 4-5 mins, 13.76/12.99/13.01/13.14/12.97/14.2
April 24: 2x300m st.st rest 20 ins, 33.68/34.46
April 25: rest
April 26: rest.
April 27: 3 x 3 x 200m with 30 secs mip. and 8-10 mins map: 26.1/28.2/28.5//26.0/27.2/26.9//25.9/26.2/27.1
April 28: 10x 100m st.st, rest 3 mins: 11.35/11.37/11.24/11.16/11.16/11.35/11.44/11.24/11.32/11.10
April 29: 2 x 350m rest 30 ins, 40.08 (splits: 23.0/34.24) and 40.74 (split 35.22)
April 30 easy jog and strides on the grass om flats
May 1: 5x 200m st.st: 22.61, rest 5 mins, 22.76, rest 6 mins, 22.87 rest 15 mins, 22.76 rest 5 mins 23.30
May 2: rest
May 3: rest
May 4: 1 x 500m 62.08 (splits 36.5 and 49.7)
May 5: 4 x 3 laps around the soccer pitch on grass on flats
May 6: TV recordings
May 7: 1 x 150m st.st : 15.50
May 8: 4x(300m, 30 secs mip, 200m) 38.5/27.3, 9 mins, 40.2/27.3, 10 mins, 39.6/27.5, 12 mins 40.6/27.1
May 9: rest
May 10: rest

Last 3 weeks of preparation:

Sunday Sept 9: flight from Athens to Amsterdam
Monday Sept 10: 3 x 300m, rest 15 mins , 37.33/36.96/34.65
Tuesday Sept 11: flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
Wednesday Sept 12: rest
Thursday Sept 13: morning: easy aerobic run 20 mins, afternoon 3x250m flying st 26.50/26.30/26.95 rest 12-15 mins
Friday Sept 14: 500 m – 300m p. maximal 61.31/33.80
Saturday Sept 15: rest
Sunday Sept 16: easy 10-20-30-40-50-60-50-40-30-20-10 sec running on grass with 1 minute rest in between
Monday Sept.17: 3 x 300m standing start, rest 12 mins. 33.20/36.06/35.15
Tuesday Sept. 18: 5x200m on grass, rest 50 secs
Wednesday Sept 19: flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing
Thursday Sept 20: rest
Friday Sept 21:3 x 200m flying //2 x 200m flying, rest 1 minute and 5 minutes between the 2 sets 23.97/23.66/25.00///23.00/23.16
Saturday Sept 22: relay training 4×400 meter
Sunday Sept 23: rest
Monday Sept 24: 2x250m flying easy: 27.76// at 150m hamstring pull !!??
Tuesday Sept 25: rest
Wednesday Sept 26: rest
Thursday Sept 27: Asian Games 400 meter heats 1st 48.04 sec
Friday Sept 28: Asian Games 400 meter semi-final 2nd 45.83 sec behind Ismael Ibrahim from Qatar
Saturday Sept 29: Asian Games 400 meter final 1st in 45.81 sec
Sunday Sept 30: rest

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Interview with Mohammed Al Malki, the Omani track star.

Phil Zimbardo, in his book The Time Paradox, wrote about the time perspective of humans. Some people prefer to live in the past, some in the present, others mainly look forward towards the future. I like to learn from the past in order to have a better perspective on the future. I just came back from a fantastic holiday in the country where I used to work ( 1990-1992), the Sultanate of Oman.

 

Still friends after more than 25 years

The best athlete I coached over there is Mohammed Al Malki, a wonderful person and a great athlete. Olympic finalist in 1988 at the 400 meter and winner of the Asian Games in 1990, with a personal best of 44.56 secs, a time that still stands. So meeting with him again and looking back after 28 years, I took the opportunity to interview him during a long car ride into the countryside of his beautiful country.

Why Mohammed Al Malki?
First of all because he was a remarkable athlete whose times still stand. His 44.56 seconds would have gotten him a 4th place at the last World Championships in London! And of course because I know him personally, and it was a good opportunity to interview him.

Al Malki data :
Country: Sultanate of Oman
DOB: Dec 1, 1962
Height: 1.76 cm (5ft.9)
Weight: 62 kg (137 lbs)
PB:
100 meter: 10.6 secs.
200 meter: 20.6 secs.
300 meter: 32.38 secs
400 meter: 44.56 secs
800 meter: 1.49 secs.

Mohammed Al Malki started athletics at the age of 21, in 1984, the Olympic year. Before that he used to play soccer and was rather good at that too. His first competition result was after a few weeks when he ran 400 meter in 49 seconds.
His first international experience was when he was allowed to represent Oman at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 and as matter of fact his first international competition was the heats of the 400 meter at the Games. Just before that, he spend 45 days of training with an US coach track and field coach, Sam Bell in Indiana.
He was 6th in the heats in 47.61 secs, still being tired of the training.

In 1985 he won the first ever medal for Oman (silver) at the Arab Games.
In 1986, he started training with a British coach Tudor Bidder, who came to Oman and in that year he won the bronze medal at the Asian Games in Seoul. He stopped training for a few from time to time due to injuries or lack of motivation, only playing soccer again. In 1987 Mohammed won medals at the Arab Championships in Algiers, the Asian Championships in Singapore and also went to the World Championships in Rome, and made it to the quarter final (45.71 secs).

His best year was 1988, when he was finalist in the Olympic 400 meter final at the Seoul Olympics and also ran his best 400 meter time of 44.56 in Budapest. He spend quite a long time abroad for training camps and competitions, in Australia and Germany. (Note: during the summer months of June, July and August the temperature in Oman can rise up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 F) which makes it impossible to train during daytime. Also quality competitions were lacking in Oman and the Middle-East).
In 1989 Tudor Bidder left Oman, I came at the beginning of 1990.

I worked in Oman from 1990-1992. Unfortunately Mohammed was suffering from an injury in 1989 and his motivation was rather low. The injury was a thigh injury caused by a contusion in the thigh muscle, during a soccer game, leading to hematoma that calcified, called myositis ossificans.

Al Malki in the Sultan Qaboos Stadium

But thanks to Mohammed’s willpower we were able to prepare him adequately for a new challenge, participation at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. But disaster struck, two days before the competition Mohamed pulled a hamstring muscle during a very easy 250 meter in approximately 30-31 seconds. Diagnosis by ultrasound showed a serious lesion and non-participation was looming. Even walking became difficult. Not willing to give up yet, we decided Mohammed should run none the less. His main rival was Ibrahim Ismael Muftah, from Qatar, coached by 400 meter ex-world record holder John Smith. Muftah had beaten Mohammed during the Asian Championships in New Delhi the year before.
I’ll cut a long story short: Mohammed beat Ibrahim and won the gold medal for Oman at the Asian Games. It showed the incredible mental power of Mohammed.
The injury at the thigh came back and limited Mohammed during 1991, very few competitions were run, and most of the time was spent on rest and rehab.

Mohammed Al Malki winning

 

In 1992 the Olympic Games were in Barcelona, but we would not go there together anymore, even if Mohammed’s training and preparation looked good. Good enough to run under 45 seconds again. But due to problems in the Omani Athletic Association we did not receive the budget necessary to go to Spain for a training camp to escape the unbearable hear in summer, and to travel for the necessary competitions.
In the end again Mohammed’s first competition in 8 months would be the heats of the Olympic games just like in 1984. The thing that was different from 1984 were the high expectations after Mohammed’s successes in the recent years. This situation was unacceptable to me, and I refused to take the blame for imminent failure and I left Oman to become the coach of an international group of athletes preparing for the Olympics: Sandra Farmer-Patrick, Juliet Cuthbert, Merlene Ottey, Winthrop Graham, Troy Douglas and others. Mohammed and the other Omani athletes did go to the Olympics in the end , but with a completely inadequate preparation, so their participation became a disaster. Mohammed, devastated by the events, became 6th in the 400 meter heats in 48.00 secs. My heart was crying because I knew these athletes deserved and could have done so much better, if only they had received the necessary support from their association.

Q: Asking him about what factor separated him from the rest of the athletes, his technique, his strength, his endurance? He pointed at his head and said his mind was stronger than that of the others, his willpower, his capability to continue where others gave up. And having been his coach I support this for 100%. It was impossible to make him give up a work-out, he always found some “hidden energy reserves” to do another run.
Q: Could he have run under 44.00 seconds? Mohammed thinks he could have done that if only he would have had more scientific and medical support e.g. to prevent and cure injuries and, as indicated above, the necessary support from the Association in order to prepare him adequately at world-class level.

Q: What were the positive things about his career as an athlete?
The opportunity to travel abroad, to see other countries and to meet other people and other cultures. He did however not enjoy to stay away from home for extended periods of time such as training camps for weeks or months at an end.
Mohammed still follows athletics, mainly on TV and the Internet.

Q: What changes did you see when you compare the current situation with time you were active?
Of course better conditions, in Oman athletes have a car and are no longer picked up by the bus.
In the first years of his career Mohammed worked as a taxi driver in the morning, went to train in the afternoon, and in the evening he had second job at the national TV station.
More facilities are  available, such as synthetic tracks, but the accessibility is too limited, the track should be open for every athlete at any time.

Q: What needs to be improved in Oman in order to create another Al Malki?
Mainly the Association, it looks as if the Association is mainly supporting themselves instead of the athletes, the coaches and the sport. They need to invest in good coaches with a proven track record. In general: the Association and the Olympic Committee invest and employ in people who never performed anything in sport.

Q: What would his advice be for young athletes?
1. have patience: good results do not come overnight
2. go straight to your goal and do not get distracted by all the advices

Performance  Place                         Date
1992 48.00    Barcelona (ESP)     01 AUG 1992
1990 45.81    Beijing (CHN)          29 SEP 1990
1989 45.01    Zürich (SUI)             16 AUG 1989
1988 44.56    Budapest (HUN)     12 AUG 1988
1987 45.56    Algiers (ALG)           07 JUL 1987
1986 46.42   Seoul (KOR)              29 SEP 1986
1985 47.18    Canberra (AUS)       05 OCT 1985
1984 47.61    Los Angeles (USA)  04 AUG 1984

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The second Helping the best to get better – seminar

Last weekend we staged the 2nd HTBTGB-seminar and again we can look back with pride. I think the lineup of speakers was very good and the wide range of topics offered something for everybody. Attendants came from all over the planet, Israel, Bermuda, Germany, Spain, etc.

Bill Laich started off with an excellent lecture, giving a crystal clear explanation of the terms flexibility, Range of Motion, elasticity, and plasticity, its anatomical and physiological mechanisms, and the practical implications. Not only Bill’s wide spectrum of knowledge is unmatched, but also his depth of knowledge in each different field is hard to compare, at least I never met anyone of this level.
Good start of the day!

Bill Laich

The sisters Sharon and Myrthe Beld, both professional basketball players and podiatricians showed us the way to their unique way of working, using the latest 3-D video analysis systems and treadmill measurements for evaluation and immediate feedback of their interventions, mainly consisting of manual therapies and active exercises.

Sharon and Myrthe Beld in action

Kornelius Kraus, a young sport scientist and coach from Germany shared his experiences with the detection of injuries and its prevention and treatments, with the help of thermography and multiple channel, wearable EMG equipment, coupled with Omegawave tests. For intervention he focused on the role of the use of eccentric overload for hamstring injury prevention and treatment.

Kornelius Kraus

Ryan Rasmussen, our US guest, gave a sharp presentation about motor control and motor control restoration and introduced us to two techniques: Square one and reflexive performance reset, both gaining more and more attention of coaches and therapists.

Ryan Rasmussen in action

Katja Rubbens from Belgium, introduced the Multiscan equipment (I work with it the last 10 years) and showed the importance of a broad-spectrum evaluation of athletes. An intervention is always limited by the quality of your evaluation, your therapy or training should always be based on something. By frequent evaluation, this test only takes 4 minutes, is non-invasive and does not require effort, we can now monitor and control the athlete’s status.

Katja Rubbens

I gave a presentation on with the scary title: “To dope of not to dope… what is the answer” and one could hear a pin drop for whatever reason, that was scary….

Henk Kraaijenhof

All and all an interesting and enjoyable seminar, (yes, is because I am biased, but it was the feedback from the attendants and speakers) and I decided to organize another one in fall. Stay tuned!

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Fitness and performance sports: a mismatch?

Sometimes one has to step back from his her work and environment in order to see things more clear. One of the things I have been thinking about is the growing influence of the fitness-industry on elite sports and the other way around. In my opinion this is a mistake.

The main expertise of the fitness industry is making untrained people move, change their life-styles, or losing weight (mainly fat) and gaining some muscle, not winning Olympic medals or break world records! The expertise of elite sports coaches is to make their athletes break records and make their athletes or teams win medals, not to make the average person fitter or faster. The exercises that Usain Bolt or other competitors of that level in any sports use are not suitable for the average person in the gym, the average bootcamper, or crossfitter.

These exercises are not even designed to make us lose weight, or get into a healthy lifestyle, the goal is different. Running a speed ladder or pulling a sledge along the track once a week will not make you or me any faster, it just has a great entertainment value, or (in German: Beschaeftigungstherapie, in Dutch: bezigheidstherapie).

Your fitness instructor or personal trainer is not elite performance coach, even if he/she pretends to be one

Just like a Turkish get-up will mainly create envious glances in the gym, but does not contribute at all to winning an Olympic medal in any sport (unless of course Turkish get up becomes an Olympic sport).

But the fitness industry is growing, they have to come up with a new fitness gimmick every year, Jane Fonda, Jazzercise, steps, Zumba, Body-pump, Tai-bo, Crossfit, kettle-bells, HIT, you name it.

And they have to sell their equipment, vibration platforms, steps, Ab-trainers, Swiss balls, kettle bells, TRX, foam-rollers, kinesio-tapes, and many more that you will find in the closet, garage or under a bed there months later, only to be replaced by a later (and of course better) gadget.

Absolutely great for the fitness-fan, but if you want to win medals, stay away from these. And if you are not an elite athlete, don’t try Lance Armstrong’s training program, nor Usain Bolt’s exercises, or Mo Farah’s workouts. Go do fitness, (it works for me, I have been doing Buns of Steel since 1987)

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Second ‘Helping the best to get better” Seminar

Also during the last few weeks I recruited speakers for the next ‘Helping the best to get better’ Seminar, Saturday March 24, 2018 again at Hotel De Witte Bergen, Hilversum/Eemnes, Netherlands.

Again Bill Laich, much appreciated at the first seminar, will lecture about the role of stretch, stiffness and elasticity in sports performance.

And in this men-dominated world of sports we seldom hear women present. I found some real smart women willing to share their knowledge and experiences with us.

Sharon Beld has specialized in problems that originate in the feet. She has unique technologies to detect and analyze problems in this area.

Katja Rubbens (Belgium) will introduce us to the complex diagnostic system I have been working with for the last 10 years. It consists of multiple test modules such as bio impedance, HRV, pulse oxymetry, pulsewave analysis all processed with sophisticated software. This to evaluate the status of athletes and patients in a very short period. Nothing esoteric, or leaps of faith to be taken: all based on hard scientific data.

Ryan Rasmussen (USA) will talk about his experiences with RPR, Reflexive Performance Reset and similar techniques.

Kornelius Kraus, (Germany), an excellent coach and sport research scientist, will share his latest findings about the popular topic of hamstring function in running, soccer and cycling.

This time I will be presenting as well. Title: “To dope or not to dope, but what is the answer? “, an overview of my work with new developments in performance enhancement.

Again, a unique set of speakers, topics and content that very few people will have knowledge of, not the “usual suspects” and a great opportunity to bring yourself up to date with the latest ideas in sports training and rehab. And also a good opportunity to connect and network as happened during the November seminar.

More information coming soon, also on my Facebook page and Linkedin.

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A bit of coaching philosophy.

I admit, it has been a long time, way too long since I wrote a post. I did not retire or even slow down, rather the opposite I might say. In the last two months, all of sudden, a lot of new developments came together and I needed time to process it all. The world of elite sports is a dynamic one, things improve or change at a rapid pace. New developments, be it technical innovations or concepts.

Also as you might have read in my last post, I put new batteries in my stopwatch and started coaching again.

Watching the start of my pupil

The road is long, the hill is steep and there is no guarantee for success, but then, if somebody told you that coaching athletes is easy he/she has been lying to you. It has never been easy and will never be.

I used the holiday period to read a lot and some ideas came up.

It started with reading about art. I always enjoyed the paintings of Monet, the French impressionist who was very fond of the Giverny gardens and pond. Monet was an excellent artist. One of his famous water lily paintings sold for more than € 40 million. And he produced about 250 water lily paintings!

In sports we have these artists and craftsmen too. We call them coaches, not the smartest kids in class, otherwise we would have chosen a different career. But somehow we got into coaching and most of us got stuck here.

Now the connection: recently I read an article about pigment-science. In this science researchers analyze the pigments of e.g. paintings by Monet.
And there it was: a parallel with the situation in sport and fitness: too many pigment-scientists, way too few Monet’s, too many laborers, too few artists and craftsmen, too many analyzers, too few creative developers and integrators.

Very few of the younger generation of coaches and sport scientists take the time to generate their 10.000 hours (or more!) to become a master in their field. No, after 3 months they have become specialists, after 6 months they see themselves as experts, after 9 months they call themselves masters and within one year they think they know it all. Of course everybody who wants to build a new house wants to be the architect or the designer, very few people like to carry the bricks and put them on top of each other.

If you want to be successful in the long-term: change you mindset from “specialist” or “expert” to artist. Pigment scientists are replaceable, and easy to forget, Monet was not.

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Transfer of training – A sneak preview of my next book.

Transfer of training is an extremely important issue in the training of athletes.

Let me explain this, because what is training? Training is the planned, goal-oriented process consisting of the repetition of physical exercises with the intention to improve the performance of an athlete. It is what athletes do and what the coaches come up with: yes…… physical exercises. And already the core of the problem presents itself: which exercises does the coach chose in order to improve performance in competition? Which exercises does he chose and which ones does he ignore? We aren’t even at the stage of deciding the amount of reps, sets or rest intervals of a chosen exercise yet.

The menu of possible exercises is a large one. But the first decision is an important one. Are we looking at the short term, tomorrow’s workout, or in the long-term, becoming Olympic champion in 8 years. This is also important because the menu changes over time. There are many exercise that might be used for the training of elite athletes only, but not for juniors or beginners and the other way around. In the process some exercises that fulfilled their purpose in an early stage of the athlete’s career disappear from the menu, while other exercises already executed during the first workout of an athlete are still there in the very last workout of the same athlete.

As you can imagine, transfer is a complex subject and there isn’t a lot of scientific consensus about this subject. Not a lot is written about it and what is written is hard to read and to apply, although Dr. Bondartschuk has done a good job writing some books about it.

So basically, what is transfer? Transfer is the thought that by choosing and executing certain exercises from the menu, these exercises will somehow directly or indirectly translate or contribute into a better performance.
You can imagine the discussions about the choice of exercises in order to improve performance. Some coaches are in love with certain exercises since they are sure these are an absolute must in the training of the athlete otherwise he/she will not improve. The same exercises however are on the “banned” list of other coaches. And here is the catch, the athletes of both coaches can be very successful!

Let’s start with the first choice to be made: the long term. Long term in this case means a timespan of years to even a decade or in other words, a large part of the career of an athlete. This choice is related to the long-term development of athletes and the choice between early specialization in a sport or event or the choice to perform more and different sports before the athlete starts to specialize.

We can find many examples of athletes who are/were the best in their sports, starting and specializing at a very early age. Tiger Woods in golf, the Williams sisters in tennis. At the other hand there are many examples of very successful athletes who started at a very late age.

I don’t want to go deep into this specific topic, but here is my take on this: I have seen and coached world-class athletes in the same event, at both the extremes of this spectrum.
Some athletes specialized early and were masters in their event, while anything else, other sports, other events, playing with a ball, was nothing less than a motor disaster. I think some athletes need many hours of rather specific training, while others are better off building a broad base of motor experience as a foundation for later success. The rhetorical question is always whether an athlete becomes really good due to early specialization or despite the early specialization (and would have been better off practicing a different or more sports before specializing).

Anyway, in many cases we start coaching athletes at a later age e.g. 16-18 years old, and by then we don’t really have to make a choice about early specialization or practicing different sports, since the athlete already went through that stage. This also creates doubts about the reality of a long-term athletic development system or LTAD. I know only of one example where this idea existed and worked, in the former GDR. The whole long-term process of athlete development was from the beginning to the end tightly integrated and controlled by the state’s sports authorities. Every coach knew he/she was a link in the chain, but knew what had happened in the link before and what was expected from him/her in the link after. It was a continuous process, developed by and controlled from above, therefore controlling every single link in the chain and no weak links.

Most coaches limit their choice of exercises, based on transfer of biomechanical and kinesiological factors. In other words they look at the similarity of the movement patterns of the exercises and the predominant competition movement patterns or clusters.
But transfer does not only depend on biomechanical similarities. One also has to take into account the metabolic and psychological similarities. For example, the duration and intensity of an exercise dictate the metabolic pathways being used. And of course the level of pressure under which an exercise is executed. It might be easy to display a perfect technique in training for a short duration or at lower intensity, but what happens in competition with high pressure, under fatigue with maximum intensity?

Short-term transfer is more related to the choice of exercises and their effect, over a short period of time, from minutes to months.
The key questions are:
• does an exercise contribute to a better performance?
• in which aspects (biomechanical, metabolic and/or psychological)?
• directly or indirectly?
• how much does it contribute (priorities)?
• when does it contribute?
• does the effect of an exercise change over time?

I don‘t have the answer all of these questions in detail, but will try to give you my opinion and some food for thought.

Many choices a coach makes are driven by insecurity, doubt, uncertainty, and answering the question: ‘is this really enough or sufficient?’ And all too often the answer is : “no”.
Or: ‘we also do this exercise, just in case’. And sometimes you hear this: ‘ if it doesn‘t hurt, just put it in the program’ .
In the end, this idea is dead wrong! Simply because performing any exercise will cost resources and energy, metabolic energy, adaptation energy, energy for recovery. And the athlete only possesses a limited amount of resources and energy. That is why some athletes end up spending 3-4 hours in the weight room, trying to get stronger and faster, making more hours and more miles, performing so many different exercises or drills and only increase the risk of flat or submaximal performances, overtraining or acute or chronic injuries, often without any improvement of performance. There the saying the more, the better not only applies to training volume or frequency, but also to the amount of different exercises and drills.

To what extent can an exercise contribute to improved performance?
Let’s assume you want to run 100 meters fast, which exercise(-s) would you use? I would begin by running 100 meter fast in training because then you have all the components in a specific way. Sounds logical? Yes, because we are assuming: what you train makes you better. So by running 100 meters fast you become better at running 100 meters fast. But in the longer term, after e.g. a few months you will discover that only running 100 meters fast will no longer improve your 100 meter time. This is because the principle of diminishing returns dictates that the body will adapt to a certain specific training load and therefore this training load will have less and less impact on performance, if repeated over a longer period of time.

The second idea is to break up the 100 meter race in different functional components and see which components need to be stressed specifically. Let’s say, the last part of the 100 meter race is OK, but the first part of the race, e.g. 30 meter is poor. So we reset our priorities and start to work on the start and the acceleration, making more repetitions of those, by running e.g. 30 meters from blocks or standing starts. But even then, in the end the effect of doing this will diminish.

Maybe adding strength training might be a good idea since the acceleration-phase has a strong relationship with strength qualities, such as explosive strength. Here you recognize the shift from very specific training, e.g. running 100 meters fast, to more general exercises which show less similarity to the intended goal, e.g. strength training with Olympic lifts, squats, leg press etc.
Let me use some symbolic numbers, say running a fast 100 meter in competition is 100%, running a fast 100 meter in training is 98% (running alone, less pressure, no crowd, nothing at stake). Let us call this 98% a high transfer potential. Now take performing a set of biceps curls, since the sprinter moves his/her arms and bends and extends the elbow while sprinting. This has a very low transfer potential, let’s say 5%. In other words, you can only have a very faint hope of improving your sprint performance by becoming great in biceps curls. A negative transfer potential means that performing this exercise has a negative effect on the intended performance. The transfer potential displays the likelihood of an exercise contributing positively to a competition performance.

It becomes more complex.
Many coaches think that a relationship between two variables is clear and linear i.e. ’if this, than that’. Unfortunately this is seldom the case. An example: one might think that by testing sprinters for their 1RM in squats, this will show that the best sprinters lift more in squats. But does this mean that lifting squats will improve sprinting?
Many coaches think so, but it might also be that by performing a lot of sprints the athlete becomes stronger in squat. Or it might even be that by performing more sprint training, one might become stronger in squats as well as faster in sprint. It doesn’t really mean that by doing squats you are going to sprint faster!

For example: in one European country, athletes and coaches interpreted the findings of sport scientists who found a strong relationship between explosive strength (vertical jumping ability) and sprinting performance. And they started to do a lot of jumping in order to improve their sprinting performances. In the end these athletes had abnormally good results in explosive strength tests, but they did not sprint any faster. An imbalance was created by confusing the end and the means or, cause and effect.

In our choice of exercise we have to be more or less sure that the exercise will positively contribute to an increased performance at a later stage. If you are not sure of this, leave it out!
Just the fact that an exercise exists or can be done, does not necessarily mean one has to incorporate it into one’s program or has to execute it.

“Just in case” is not a good argument for an exercise in be included in a training program.

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