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The need for speed.

The Need for Speed: shortcuts to increase your maximum velocity, sprint efforts and high-speed running

By Damian Kovacevic

 

What you need to know:

  1. In almost every sport, speed is king.
  2. Sled pulls, prowler pushes, banded running and hill sprints can improve our running technique and provide us with a novel strength stimulus.
  3. Of all strength exercises, the concentric-only trap bar deadlift has produced some of the best results in improving speed.
  4. Caffeine can enhance performance in high-intensity activities, including team sports such as Australian rules football, soccer and rugby.
  5. Unweighted, free sprints are still our best way to improve explosive acceleration and speed.

 

Speed is king

In almost every sport, speed is king. Possessing explosive athletic abilities may decide the most important activities within a match. If a player can reach the highest speed attainable at any given moment before their opponent, it could decide if they are first to a ball in dispute, able to move into space before an opponent to shoot, pass or receive the ball, or able to press an opponent in possession to block or disrupt their pass or shot on goal.

These three shortcuts will provide you with the best chance to increase your most explosive athletic movements.

 

  1. Resisted running

Resisted running has previously copped a bad rap amongst speed experts, with them declaring that the additional load negatively alters the natural running mechanics of an athlete. Thanks to the latest research in sports science, we can just about dispel this misguided belief completely. As it turns out, resisted running – which can be in the form of pulling sleds, pushing prowlers or running with power bands – actually improves our acceleration technique, when incorporated into a properly prescribe speed development programme.

Pulling sleds or pushing prowlers enables us to maintain a forward lean, which is essential for proper acceleration. This constant forward lean, all whilst overcoming additional resistance, forces us to:

  • remain low, as opposed to popping up into an upright posture too early in the acceleration phase;
  • maintain a positive shin angle with each foot strike, where our knee is in front of our toe, enabling us to apply more force back into the ground whilst minimising overstriding; and,
  • positively adapt to a novel strength stimulus, bridging the gap between the weight room and the running track, by overloading the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves with the added load.

For pulling sleds, research suggest that we apply ~70 – 100% of our own body weight to the sled. Researchers found this to be the optimal loading conditioning for the development of horizontal power (i.e. acceleration).

Note, if you don’t have access to the necessary equipment for resisted runs, remember that the incline of hill sprints can provide a very similar training stimulus.

 

  1. Concentric-only trap bar deadlifts

Get stronger and we become faster – it’s as simple as that. Ryan Flaherty, Senior Director of Performance at Nike, was once quoted as saying “…the simpler you make your training, the better the results become”. We have all been guilty of getting caught up in the novel or minute details of our training programmes, when simply just sticking to the basics would have yielded the biggest and best results for our performance.

That is where systematic strength training comes in. Strength training is one of our greatest avenues to improving our strength-to-weight ratio. Essentially, this ratio calculates how much force we can produce relative to our body weight, which is paramount to speed.

The findings of Flaherty’s most recent research suggested that of all strength exercises, the trap bar deadlift produced the best results in improving this strength-to-weight ratio, and subsequently, improving speed.

Specifically, Flaherty’s trap bar deadlift protocol recommends completing 3-4 sets x 5 reps at 85% of 1 rep. max., superset with a basic plyometric exercise, before resting for 4-5 minutes. What makes this protocol different from most? …dropping the bar at the top of the movement with each rep.

Flaherty’s explains, “What happens a lot of times is people get stronger AND add lean muscle mass, which increase their body weight… and that does not necessarily make them faster or any more explosive, because they have increased their body weight at the same rate as their strength”.

Working the concentric phase of the trap bar deadlift only – ripping the bar up off the floor – stresses our neuromuscular system enough to increase strength, without tearing the muscle fibres -which would usually lead the muscles to grow in size.

 

  1. Caffeine

Caffeine has been shown to be an effective ergogenic aid, enhancing our athletic performance. It appears to do so via its influence on our central nervous system, reducing our perception of effort – exercise feels easier – and reducing our perception of fatigue.

It is particularly effective in enhancing performance in high-intensity activities of prolonged durations, including intermittent, field-based, team sports such as Australian rules football, soccer and rugby.

It is recommended that it be consumed 15-60 min prior to competition, in low-to-moderate doses (~3-6 mg/kg), as there have been shown to be no further benefit when consumed at higher doses.

Our performance hack – save on the expensive pre-workouts, and opt for a simple, black coffee instead.

 

Summary

With all of these performance shortcuts in mind, let’s not forget that our bodies adapt specifically to the imposed demands placed upon it. That means that unweighted, free sprints are still our best way to improve explosive acceleration and speed. Along with your free sprints, implement these three shortcuts this preseason, and enjoy the newfound athleticism!

The ultimate gameday preparation secret!

The ultimate gameday preparation secret!

By Michael Chiovitti – Sport Scientist

 

Olympic level athletes, world champion boxers, AFL footballers, A-League stars…

In an era where every developing athlete (and coach) is looking to ‘borrow’ the training routines and habits from sports high-achievers, I regularly get asked about whether a commonality exists between the successful athletes that I’ve coached over the years. It took me over a decade, and many conversations with colleagues, to isolate two specific elements which I believe lay at the centre of athletic excellent.

As we know, there is no single athletic quality, skill, personality trait, training program or piece of technology which is exclusively responsible for producing sporting success. Every athlete possesses a bank of unique physical and psychological qualities which allow them to be effective within their chosen field. However, these two specific qualities have been standout traits for the likes of Sam Soliman (IBF Middleweight World Champion) and Rodrigo Vargas (Melbourne Victory star).

 

  • Self-Awareness; The Ability to Monitor & Thoroughly Evaluate

 

Successful athletes all have the ability to self-assess their own performance without getting caught up by their ego or the perceptions of the people around them. Rather than looking for excuses to justify a bad game or ungratefully accepting the outcome of a good performance, they reflect specifically on the details of their preparation. In some cases, especially with Sam, it can take a lifetime of self-assessment to isolate the exact approach to training and pre-game/fight routine which produces the best physical outcomes. Regardless, the best athletes have all painstakingly reviewed their own behaviours and routines to identify what their unique preparation process needs to be every week. That may relate to training type, training volume/intensity, diet or sleep quality leading into competition. The majority of successful athletes are extremely in-tune with what makes them tick. Many of them use journals, diaries or monitoring systems to track their preparation as a way of retrospectively assessing whether something could’ve been done better.

 

  • A Growth Mindset; The Willingness to Understand Failure & Find Opportunity  

 

For athletes with a growth mindset, there is no such thing as a ‘weakness’, there are only opportunities for improvement. For successful athletes and sporting teams, physical performance shortfalls or tactical deficiencies are embraced as a great opportunity to become better. Gaps in your skillset or physical capabilities (strength, speed, endurance) should be appreciated as an untapped opportunity to improve your overall performance. Finding a new opportunity to improve will motivate people with a growth mindset to get to cracking! Alternatively, people with a fixed mindset will perceive ‘weaknesses’ as an uncontrollable limitation that will always restrict their ability to be the best they can be. The take-home message is simple; your strengths will always be your strengths, but your weaknesses don’t have to be permanent, unless you allow them to be. Accurately identifying your ‘weaknesses’ through testing and monitoring is only half the battle, the athlete must be open to accepting that information and applying that new knowledge to their training/preparation in an effective way.

An athlete’s natural ability may get them to the top, but their willingness to constantly better themselves is what will keep them there. Athletes who can clearly see the opportunity that lies within a weakness or performance shortfall will not only have the ability to accommodate and adapt, they will enjoy the process of systematically focusing their attention on one specific part of their development until they’re satisfied with the change in performance.

Successful athletes can clearly identify the weakness or physical obstacle (using an analysis or monitoring tool), which can allow them to then create an action plan to overcome that weakness and effectively implement their plan until that obstacle becomes a stepping stone for future progress.

Whether it’s GPS monitoring or a basic performance journal – track your preparation, objectively sell-assess your performance and create an action plan to address your shortfalls… a recipe for success both on and off the sporting field.

Live Demo Update

Gametraka Live Demo.

Want to familiarise yourself with the updated Gametraka software? You now can with our new live demo!

Our in-house tech team has worked tirelessly to deliver you a very professional yet simple Gametraka platform. With updated metrics, you are now able to take your performance analysis to the next level.

Managers and team admins can now get excited about managing more than one team, segmenting multiple performances at once and comparing current and previous events. We would also like to introduce you to our new SPT teams. Joining the SPT Beasts (AFL) we have the SPT Rebels (Rugby) and the SPT Wanderers FC (Football/Soccer). No matter what sport you play, we have you covered to see the possibilities of affordable GPS technology at your fingertips.

At SPT we pride ourselves on delivering a powerful, simple and affordable product. Our SPT2 device combined with our updated Gametraka software is a game-changer for all athletes of all abilities and ages. Clubs and athletes in over 90 countries have reaped the benefits of our current platform and now you can too. Our dashboard has gone through a brief touch up with the visual aspect remaining fairly constant. However, a new background and a shift of your top performances to the left hand-side contribute to a professional and simple look.

You will now see a tab underneath your profile picture, if you click on this you will be presented with the option to view your team performances or your personal performances. Once you click on a performance you will be presented with numerous metrics and information about your performance. To have a clearer understanding of what each metric means, hover your mouse over it for a description. You will be happy to see some new metrics there that the SPT2 is capable of measuring.

Another feature we have added to Gametraka are the speed breakdowns on the heatmap. You will see a tab to the top-right of the map. You will be presented with walk, jog, run and sprints in the left-hand column. If you click on one of them you will be able to see where you performed this speed on the heatmap.

As a company always willing to improve and provide you with the best possible product and service, we would love to know your feedback and any suggestions you may have.

 

Feel free to send an email to [email protected]

See our updated live demo HERE

How to become a ‘big-game’ specialist.

Do you rise or fall in the presence of big-game-pressure?

Key Take-Aways:

  1. How we identify, absorb and control the imminent nervous tension of big games (finals, try-outs etc) is a major contributor to sporting career success.
  2. Perception is not reality! You control the ability to negatively or positively perceive high-pressure situations but it takes practice.
  3. Pressure and anxiety can negatively affect your nervous system excitability which results in a sense of fatigue and lethargy often before the game has even started!
  4. External pressure; coaching staff, teammates, family, friends
  5. Internal pressure; often stemming from self-inflicted expectations to produce a certain outcome as a direct reflection of your personal worth and value.
  6. Mimicking the conditions of a big game or increasing the stakes (using punishment or reward) in training drills, can better prepare us for optimum performance.
  7. Following a structured psychological prep routine (including visualisation & imagery) leading up to a big game will further optimise physical performances.
  8. Stay in the moment! By recognising the physical impact of ‘stress’ and controlling it, you can focus on what matters (i.e. the next passage of play, playing your role, enjoyment!)

Why do some athletes compete consistently well in big games when the stakes are at their highest – while others tend to really struggle or go missing? A major contributing factor to these contrasting outcomes involves our ability to absorb, control and use pressure to shape performance.

Perception of Pressure

How we perceive the ensuing pressure of a big game can largely shape how we performance under its stressors. For instance, if an athlete perceives pressure negatively, then negative thought processes will ensue – self-doubt and a loss of confidence, destructive self-talk, poor concentration, or indecision and “freezing up”.

Conversely, if an athlete perceives pressure positively – understanding that with pressure comes the physiological feeling of nervousness, which in turn, actually increases arousal and alertness, heartrate and breathing efficiency – then positive performance outcomes are more likely to follow.

External Sources of Pressure

Increasing or reducing external sources of pressure can also positively assist in shaping our performance. For instance, coaches, teammates, family and friends can unknowingly pass on their feelings (be it positive or negative) concerning a big game. If their feelings are ones of doubt or panic, then it may not bode well for our subsequent performance. In such cases, it may be worth distancing ourselves from such external sources (in the short-term, at least – sorry mum!).

Train the Way You Play

Experiencing pressure not just on competition day, but in training too, can better prepare us to absorb the pressure that is present in big games. Being exposed to pressure at training allows us to make mistakes, learn from them, and then rectify those mistakes, all well before the actual competition takes place.

Once we learned a skill correctly, and increase the intensity and quantity of which we complete it at training, then it is worth including some additional pressure into the training environment. This can be in the form of teammates – placing token pressure on you throughout a drill – as to mimic the conditions of a big game.

Follow a Routine

Following a structured routine can also help mitigate potential feelings of overwhelming pressure. From completing a light mobility circuit, to eating certain meals at certain times on game day, completing a pre-game routine can help alleviate any potential feelings of anxiety, in that it provides us with a familiar environment that has bred successful performances in the past.

Visualise Worst-case Scenarios

Pre-game visualisation can better prepare us for the pressures of any big moment in a game. Rather than visualising the perfect play in a big game, try visualising what may go wrong, and then, how you are going to fix it to the best of your abilities. Through adopting this “worst-case scenario” visualisation technique, no situation on game day should catch you off guard.

Identify Internal Triggers

Experienced big game players have openly described their ability to quickly recognise the symptoms synonymous with pressure, which they believe goes a long way to using that pressure to optimise their performance. As previously mentioned, with pressure comes an increase in heartrate and breathing, as well as that infamous feeling of “butterflies in your stomach”. Big game players recognise when these symptoms ensue, and control their arousal accordingly. If they have exceeded their optimum arousal levels pregame, then they implement simple breathing techniques to reduce such levels.

Pro tip: next time your nervous energy is “red lining”, try inhaling through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, holding that breath for a count of 2 second, and exhaling gently through your mouth for a count of 6 seconds.

Be Where Your Feet Are!

Additionally, big game players have also described narrowing their focusing on to the next passage of play specifically – not on what has occurred beforehand, or what might occur in the future. If you make a mistake, then at least you still have another chance to start and try again, almost immediately. This technique also reminds us of what parts of our performance are actually under our control. Try not getting caught up in focusing on the outcome or results, but instead, focus on process that will get you there – the next big tackle, gut-busting run or explosive attempt on goal.

Final thoughts…

Nervous energy is just that… energy! You can let that energy throw your mental cognition into overload until the point that you’re completely exhausted or you can harness that energy you’re your physical contribution to the game. If you’re currently using technology (such as GPS) to track your total running distance or high-speed-running, why don’t you compare your stats in a high pressure games to those of a low pressure game (against similar opposition) to see how well you manage pressure!

Stop guessing… start measuring!

The SPT Lab