Category Archives: Training

Olympic Lifting – In Track & Field

A great post by one of our students focusing on the functionality and specificity of Olympic Lifting.  Some useful research evidence also supports the claims.

Olympic Lifting – In Track & Field.



Altitude Training- Is it really worth it?

Altitude Training- Is it really worth it?

Check out this great post on altitude training by @mikerawson.  Really good breakdown of what it is, different types of altitude training and some interesting data showing the benefits that can be had for road cycling

Altitude Training- Is it really worth it?.

Olympic Lifting – Not Just for the Olympics…

Zoe Smith at London Olympics 2012

Zoe Smith at London Olympics 2012

It is well regarded in sport that power is possibly the key attribute that defines elite athletes from their sub-elite counterparts.  Power, crucial in many of our running, throwing and jumping activities is of course the ability produce explosive movements and is related to speed-strength activity. Here is an account of speed-strength according to Athlepedia,

‘Speed strength is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible impulse in the shortest possible time.[1] It is defined in work divided by time, where work is defined as force x distance. Therefore, speed strength is defined as force x distance, divided by time (power). Speed Strength is characterized by three distinct components: starting strength, explosive strength, and reactive strength. 

If power is the mid point between maximal force production and maximal speed development, speed-strength activity favours increased rate of force development over the ability generate maximal force. Speed-strength is perhaps better explained through the force-velocity curve as shown in the figure below.  Generally speaking, when the force is high, we are less likely to be able to move said force very quickly (training for maximal strength).  Alternatively, when the force is lower, we are more likely to be able to generate more speed of movement (Speed-Strength and Speed training).  Our job as practitioners is of course to match the force-velocity demands of the sport, to the training activities and train appropriately along this curve.  This will allow for neuromuscular and metabolic specificity as well as mechanical specificity, depending on the type of movements that are being trained.  For more info on the force-velocity curve, take a look at Jamie Bain’s article on (click here for article).


According to Baechle and Earle (2008), traditional resistance training that focus on ‘core’ (squat, deadlift and bench press) and ‘assistance’ (isolating smaller muscle groups) exercises tend to focus more on developing the FORCE characteristics of the curve (maximal strength – power).  These types of exercise are great for developing maximal force generating capacity, though this form of training usually happens at slower, more deliberate speeds and therefore do not always match the neurological and metabolic demands of competitive action.  Johnson, Sabatini & Sparkman (2008) reinforce that whilst there is a definite initial explosive movement in power lifting, the slow velocity of the lifts can have a negative effect on movement speed and the ability of a muscle to display explosive effort.

Enter the art of Olympic Lifting.  Olympic Lifts are those exercises that make up the competition elements of the ‘weightlifting’ events at the Olympic Games. The 2 types of lift are the ‘Clean and Jerk’ and the ‘Snatch’. According to  Johnson, Sabatini & Sparkman (2008), Olympic weightlifting methods of training should assist with injury prevention, as well as increased power output, metabolic and biomechanical specificity (especially with regards to triple extension activity), high rates of force development, and muscle synchronization.  They go on to suggest that  the use of Olympic weightlifting methods of training could be used in order to account for the deficits in developing explosive strength and speed strength.

So what does the research say?  In a study of  20 NCAA Div III footballers (aged 19.2 ± 1.3 years), Hoffman et al (2004) looked at a comparison of Olympic lifting (OL) versus powerlifting (PL) over the course of a 15wk program (4 days/week).  Testing of strength (1RM bench press and squat), 40yd sprint, agility (T run) and vertical jump were measured pre and post the 15 week training period.  The results were staggering.  Whilst both OL and PL showed significant improvements in squat 1RM, which is to be expected following a well planned 15wk program, the OL group showed an 18% greater improvement in squat performance when compared to the PL group.  This was mirrored by a twofold greater decrease in 40yd sprint times amongst the OL group and a significantly greater improvement in vertical jump performance.  Interestingly the PL group showed little, if any improvement in vertical jump height, possibly highlighting the lack of specificity of PL training in enhancing performance of explosive bouts of activity.

So there is evidence to suggest that we can enhance the specificity of our training, especially for those sports that include explosive, multi joint movements, through the introduction of Olympic lifts and variations of their techniques.  However, these are highly technical movements that take many hours over and under the bar.  But don’t let that hold you back! Start with unloaded bars and broomsticks to help develop the technique before you start loading on the weight.  Here are some clips of me with about 5hrs of accumulated Olympic lift practice… (and a really unfortunate choice of title screen…)

So if you are an athlete, speak to your coach about the potential for including some Olympic lifts into your program, even if you are just starting with technique and movement specificity.  And coaches, perhaps this is something that you need to add to your arsenal. Look out for specific S&C courses, perhaps look at UKSCA accreditation, or look to employ a qualified S&C coach.  What ever you do, MAKE SURE IT IS SAFE!! Done incorrectly, could do more harm than good.  And ladies… this is not just for the men, check out Alison NYC and subscribe to her YoutTube channel here.

Comments and suggests, thoughts and views are all welcome as always.  Hope you enjoyed the post.


Baechle, T. R. & Earle, R. W. (2008) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd Edition). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Hoffman, J. R., Copper, J., Wendell, M. & Kang, J. (2004) Comparison of Olympic Vs. Traditional Power Lifting Training Programs in Football Players.  Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18 (1): 129-135

Johnson, J. B., Sabatini, P. L. & Sparkman, M. R. (2008) A Debate between Power Lifting and Olympic Lifting as the Main Athletic Training Method. Virginia Journal, 29 (4): 14-



What the ‘Hex’ this?!?

Welcome to Kukri Hex Training.

Hex Training

Every so often a new training system breaks on to the scene and today I had the privilege of seeing the new Kukri Hex Training system first hand.  The guys at Hex Training Have been busy creating both a product and a process in order to develop movement skills based around agility, speed and quickness.

It seems that this is a step on from SAQ training, with their hexagonal hoops adding a new dimension to skill development.  There is also a flexibility to their ‘Learn, Apply & Enhance’ approach that allows coaches and trainers to play around with the equipment, in order to develop drills specifically for their own sports and players and at a pace that is individual to their performers.

So go check them out at the link at the top of the page, and look out for Hex Training workshops coming out in the near future.

Reversibility and Tedium: False Friends as Principles of Training.

For some years now I have been coaching and teaching on courses/modules in order to improve athlete’s and student’s understanding of principles of training. The most common acronym that is used to help this understanding is S.P.O.R.T.






This can be found in many places online and top hits in a google search will take you to sites such as and explaining the full breakdown of S.P.O.R.T. although it also has it’s origins in previous GCSE PE  and B-TEC Sport sources.

For the most part this is a great acronym and fits nicely with the content that students are trying to remember, especially with regards to the S.P.O. and here is why.

We see it in everything that we read that specificity is key to a good training program.  When using specificity it is important that training is specific to the needs of the individual (based on an individualised needs analysis) and is also specific to the competition environment of the sport. This may be related to biomechanical actions, specific movement patterns, intensities and duration of intensity and stressing specific energy systems to the particular activity.  Baechle and Earle (2008) make a clear argument for this with their S.A.I.D acronym (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) in that the body will adapt to the stresses that are put on it.  In that case we must then stress the body in a way that it will adapt specifically for improvements in the required activity.

Moving on to progression and overload, again this is key to continued development as is highlighted by the S.A.I.D principle, in that if the body adapts to a stress, then eventually the same level of stress will not be enough to elicit an adaptation.  By continually progressing and adding an overload to our training stimulus we are constantly challenging the body to adapt to new and greater stresses.  I always like to use the Milo of Croton story as an analogy for this and this is nicely summarised by Robert at Total Performance Sports & Fitness (see his blog post here). The use of the F.I.T.T (Frequency Intensity Type Time) principle is often used to manage this progression and overload and is also a nice way to mix up your training. Check out the F.I.T.T principle in more detail here.

It is at this point that I start to disagree with the final 2 principles put forward, those being Reversibility and Tedium.  To take reversibility initially, I think that anything that describes a detraining effect shouldn’t really be put into a set of training principles, for me it kind of defeats the object.  BBC GCSE bitesize describes this as

“any adaptation that takes place as a result of training will be reversed when you stop training. If you take a break or don’t train often enough you will lose fitness”.

Yes I agree with this for the most part, but why then have this as a principle of training?

If that begs questions, then Tedium seems to be a bit of a cop out for me.  It is a constant question that I get asked “what is tedium?” and “how is that related to training?’ The argument is that we need to keep training interesting and to avoid boredom!! For me though, it is the specificity and loading that is important and if that is done properly then tedium shouldn’t be an issue.  I’m sure also that if you ask many athletes about their conditioning training, few would come back with it being fun and interesting.

So for this reason I would like to propose alternatives to Reversibility and Tedium in the shape of Recovery and Timing as it would appear that both are key principles in effective training and both still fit nicely into the S.P.O.R.T. acronym.

Recovery is a key aspect of all training and an important part of the adaptation process. Selye’s general adaptive syndrome (GAS) theory (discussed in Bompa and Haff, 2009) suggests that for the best training adaptations, training intensities need to be varied in order to allow for recovery and regeneration.  This is highlighted by the Supercompensation Cycle (see  fig 1. below) whereby the stimulus and fatigue phases of the cycle are followed by a compensation phase in which the body needs to recover.  This recovery is important for the anabolic/catabolic balance and it is important that enough nutrients and rest are provided for the growth and repair of tissues to take place.

Figure 1. Supercompensation Cycle (taken from Bompa & Haff, 2009).

At this point I feel that Timing of the next training bout is crucial and why it should be included as one of the principles of training.  Following the compensation phase or recovery aspect of training, comes the supercompenstion point where adaptation peaks as a result of the previous training stimulus and performance is increased.  If the next bout of training comes in too late, then we head into the involution phase, a period where the training effect begins to diminish and we move back towards our starting point (homeostasis).  On the other hand, if the next training bout comes in too early, whilst in the compensation phase, recovery may not be complete, training quality will be poor and supercompensation will not be reached.  There is also a fear that continued training without adequate recovery could lead to a performance slump or worse case scenario, overtraining (see fig 2. below).

Figure 2. Performance Slump or Overtraining

Figure 2. Performance Slump or Overtraining

It is for this reason that timing is so crucial as a training principle and important in creating programs that develop improvements in performance.

I like S.P.O.R.T. as an acronym for training principles as it fits quite nicely but I do feel that Reversibility and Tedium are ‘false friends’ as principles of training and a little misleading in what they represent.  For me, Recovery from training and the Timing of subsequent bouts present a far better opportunity to create performance enhancements.






Comments are welcomed.

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