By Richard Henderson, McCallie Strength Coach
The human body has a predictable response to specific amounts of training also known as the dose-response effect. This term often is used by medical scientists when discussing the amount of medicine needed to achieve a specific physiological response. For example, generally speaking two Tylenol will relieve the symptoms of headache. This is the specific dose needed to relieve the pain.
There is similar cause-and-effect response in the training setting. The body’s response to planned quantified stress through a certain number of repetitions, load, speed, etc., is relatively predictable.
One example of this predictability is found in the strength-endurance phase of training where three sets of 10 are commonly used to target muscular endurance. This dose-response has been examined in many sport science research studies where muscle biopsies are taken that show a training dose of three sets of ten with 50-70 percent one repetition maximum, results in larger cross-sectional area of muscle fiber as well as increased general work capacity. In other words, the body will have a predictable response to this type and dose of stress.
With this in mind, it is important that the strength coach or sports scientist creates an annual plan that targets specific physiological adaptations that build upon one another horizontally to achieve the best performances at the most meaningful times of the competitive calendar. To put it simply, we want the athlete to be at peak performance at the right time.
The predictability of the training process and the expected adaptation and improvement become somewhat clouded when variables such as sleep, hydration level, number of meals per day and the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) in the academic setting, sport setting and life setting are involved. A sound annual plan that is anchored to sport science research involving the body's adaptation to certain dosages of work is a very necessary starting point. The annual plan is where initial decisions are made about the progression of training loads required to target certain adaptations throughout the year.
In order to optimize the predictability of training stressors we must also have checkpoints or monitoring tests to evaluate how the athlete is handling all of the stress in their life. The information collected gives important insight into sleeping and eating habits which are critical for physiological growth and improvement. Optimal recovery occurs during sleep.
McCallie School performs a weekly monitoring program that entails the following:
- 90 Degree Static Jump with no arm swing on a Jump Mat (average of the 3 best jumps)
- Peak Velocity: This is measured with a Tendo unit attached to the dowel the athlete is holding
- Urine Color
- Sport RPE
- Academic RPE
- Life RPE
- # of Meals/Snacks
- Average Hours Sleep
This data is compiled into a report that gives coaches statistical evidence for the physical and mental preparedness of the group of athletes on each team. The monitoring program has many applications. The physical conditioning of the athlete minus accumulated fatigue equals PERFORMANCE! These weekly tests give insight into the amount of accumulated fatigue that an athlete is carrying. Fatigue clouds the central nervous system, delaying the rate of force development, also called “explosive strength”in an athletic task.
We use our monitoring program in order to ensure we are giving enough fatigue during certain times of the year to improve the trained state of the athlete. We also use it to make sure we are tapering enough fatigue to ensure peak performance at the end of the season.
A second application of the monitoring program is student well-being. We collect data on RPE categories for sport, life and academics, which gives a general indicator for the level of stress a young man is perceiving. A recent study by Dr. Bryan Mann showed a strong correlation between academic stress during exams and football injuries. This opens the door for conversations to ultimately care for the athlete and serve them if they are in need.
A third application of the monitoring program is to improve an athlete’s awareness of his own habits. As they become aware of their urine color, sleep averages, number of meals and other factors, each athlete is better able to create new habits that will influence performance as well as well-being.
This information is sound evidence that can be used to make training or practice related modifications that allow us to stay on track with the targeted adaptation we established in the annual plan. Without this data we do not have any concrete evidence to modify the training regime for each athlete..
At McCallie, we start by creating an evidence-based annual plan from sport science research and we use our monitoring program to determine how each athlete is handling and adapting to the prescribed training load. Athlete monitoring is used to collect our own evidence on our boys in order to support training load modifications in terms of the dosage of work that is given. We are more likely to get a desired response on the playing field as well as in the classroom and in life when we study our own athletes.
Monitor, Monitor, Monitor.
See other pertinent sport science information at twitter.com/bluesportscience.