Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Functional strength, movement and what does it all mean?


My definition of functional fitness for an athlete is really no different than the definition for the layman.  The difference lies in the fact that the layman’s sport is everyday physical challenges that present themselves and the athlete’s ability to function is tied to an athletic challenge.  
 
For an athlete the idea of being functionally sound is of great importance.  At Titan we devote a lot of time and effort into making sure that our athletes are functionally sound before we begin higher levels of volume and intensity in training.  Functional capabilities in an athlete are demonstrated in the ability to move the body through space with a strong base of overall body control.  This control comes from overall body strength, flexibility, coordination, and endurance.  This control of the body allows this movement to take place with a minimal amount of stress to the body.  In other words, if an athlete cannot adequately perform certain multi-joint combination movements then we have to determine where the gaps are in their fitness and take the proper steps to improve those weaknesses.  Gray Cook and Lee Burton developed the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) as a tool to gather objective data on an individual’s ability to perform movement patterns and identify areas of weakness and prevent injury. 

At Titan we utilize the FMS to help us establish a starting point for developing the overall strategy of training an athlete or non athlete.  The data generated from this screen coupled with a biomechanical screen and additional fitness evaluation gives us a good window into the fitness of an individual prior to the start of training.  This is VERY important information.  Any individual starting a fitness training program should spend time gathering this data.  

The FMS helps to reduce injuries, identify muscle imbalances, provides benchmarks for evaluating training, and areas where a sport may be leading to chronic injuries or movement impairments.  

In the last entry I spoke about periodization.   The start of all of our periodization is functional movement capabilities.   Depending on the individual’s ability to perform functionally will determine the amount of time in the periodization devoted to correcting imbalances that are discovered in these screens.  Even if an athlete is determined to be functionally sound all of our training is driven by a foundation of human movement and the ability of the individual to perform movement at higher and higher levels of output for the given sport. 
We utilize the FMS throughout an athlete’s training time to give us an ongoing tool to make sure that athletes are improving their ability to perform movements efficiently. 

Train smart, have fun and you will prevail.

Jacques

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Periodization

I apologize for the long break in writing this blog.  However August is a great month for some rest and recovery from all that life throws at you.  That sets up a perfect transition into discussing the concept of periodization. 

Periodization is a concept that can be viewed in a very simple fashion or at very complex level.  In theory it is the management of work, stress, volume, intensity versus rest in a systematic fashion.    The objective is to create a strategy for the training that produces the maximum amount of improvement allowing athletes and non athletes to reap the greatest benefit from training.  It also integrates training into the competitive calendar of athlete during the competitive season.   

As mentioned before one of the most important parts of a successful training program is the strategy developed around the training to reach a particular goal.    The tactics are the day to day training modalities that support this strategy.  If the strategy is weak then the tactics do not have as much of the intended effect and the athlete’s progression is slowed or reversed.   Therefore, periodization should be a large part of the strategy for an athlete.   From my experience you see endurance athletes or cyclic sports paying the most attention to periodization.  I think that is because the volume of training time is typically greater.  Also with cyclic sports the training and the sport are often times the same.  Think of cycling.  In other sports or non cyclic sports the strength and conditioning is usually much different than the sport.  Think tennis.  However, non cyclic sports would be well served to look closer at periodization to maximize training results.  At Titan  we utilize periodization principles in the training of our athletes in both cyclic and non cyclic sports  as well as with personal training clients.  

So in principal periodization is a well planned, systematic, methodical training plan that maximizes the concept of overload and adaptation.  This periodization should address the neuromuscular requirements of a sport, the metabolic requirements, and the cardio respiratory requirements.  

I have found the most effective method to creating an effective peiodization is to work backwards.  The training should be based on an evaluation the current fitness level and how these relate to the goal of training.  The eastern bloc countries during the 1960s and 70s were structuring 10 year periodization.  I think the periodization should be long.  Today’s fast food mentality makes this difficult for many and increases the risk for overloads that are too great and subsequently injure or over train the athlete.  It is important that the long term perspective is evaluated even though many would state that 10 years from now is not that important today.  That is a na├»ve perspective that will hurt the progression of the athlete in the long run.   By working backward and understanding the starting point, coupled with a goal a periodization can be developed.

Overloads and regeneration must be monitored and managed through the periodization.  This progression and regeneration both in the short run and long run must be monitored and measured.  This also allows the strength coach to better understand total stress on the body, plus how athletes and individuals adapt and respond to training stress.  Training stress is cumulative and must be measured both on a macro basis and a micro basis.  

The periodization is usually broken into micro cycles and macro cycles.  The coach must understand the energy systems utilized by the athlete for a particular sport and the time it takes for the athlete to recover.  Without this understanding training becomes a patchwork of stresses and recovery that does not maximize training time.    The goal should be both physical and psychological.  The psychological aspect is of even greater importance with an athlete.  

I will be addressing the different approaches to periodization in future posts. 

Train smart, have fun and you will prevail.

jacques