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Tag Archive: planning

  1. Are you fit enough to play in the Champions League Final?


    Only the fittest will prevail.

    As the world’s top footballers prepare to meet in the Champions League Final this weekend, we explore what it takes to make it at the highest level.

    Advances in Sports Science have revealed the highly energetic demands within the modern game, what we as coaches then do is help you get ready to play and meet those demands.

    What is football fitness?

    Modern footballers run about 10km within a 90 minute game. One Champions League Final saw Barcelona’s Xavi cover a distance of 11.95km.

    Due to the length of a football match, roughly 90% of energy release is aerobic (3), with the average oxygen uptake (VO2) for elite footballers measuring roughly 70% of maximum (1).

    However in addition to sustaining effort for the full duration of a game, the ability to repeatedly produce rapid short bursts is vitally important.

    Being able to run at speed and change direction quickly in order to beat an opponent to the ball or evade a tackle will give a player a significant advantage.

    Top class players perform between 150-250 brief intense actions during a game, accounting for roughly 30% of activities within a game (1). The distance covered during high intensity efforts varies by position (2) and is shown below.football fitness

    How can I get fit for football?

    It is clear that footballers need the ability to work at high speed, to repeat the high speed activities regularly throughout a game and to continuously work at low intensity in between efforts. So how do you train all of these components together?

    agility for footballBefore trying to increase the quantity of high intensity work in training, it is first necessary to train the quality of speed.

    This will involve training straight line speed to improve the ability to run faster as well as agility to change direction at speed.

    Changing direction is a very energy consuming movement, and the ability to do so efficiently will save energy which can be utilised later on.

    Once the foundation of quality has been set, the quantity of high intensity work can be increased to improve speed endurance. Exercises such as shuttle runs and repeated sprints can be used to train speed endurance. However to more accurately mirror the demands of the game, football specific drills can be utilised.

    (We are currently working with 3 members of the England team preparing for the Paralympics. Their game is different, but we use the same principles to help them get fit for intense competition).


    To maximise the effectiveness of these training strategies, speed and speed endurance work should be done regularly and when the players are not fatigued.

    Devote 10-15 minutes at the start of technical/tactical training sessions to speed and speed endurance work: this allows quality to be developed.

    The lower intensity work can follow this and will provide the base for the continuous work capacity needed to sustain effort for the duration of a game.

    This allows players to practice skills in a fatigued state, preparing them for a game situation. It is also important to monitor fitness through testing.

    If you want to get fit for football without getting injured, then why not start now with our Sports Training System?

    Matt Durber 


    1)      Bangsbo, J., Mohr, M. & Krustrup, P. (2006) Physical and metabolic demands of training and match-play in the elite football player, Journal of Sports Sciences, 24 (7), 665-674.

    2)      Bradley, P.S., Sheldon, W., Wooster, B., Olsen, P., Boanas, P. & Krustrup, P. (2009) High-intensity running in English F.A. Premier League soccer matches, Journal of Sports Sciences, 27 (2), 159-168.

    3)     Hoff, J., Wisloff, U., Engen, L.C., Kemi, O.J. & Helgerud, J. (2002) Soccer
    specific aerobic endurance training, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36, 218-221.

  2. Creating the Perfect Workout: Vern Gambetta and Jim Radcliffe

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    “We should warm up with skills not drills”

    how to plan your perfect workout

    89 years of coaching experience

    Said Jim Radcliffe in his joint presentation with Vern Gambetta at GAIN. Combined they have been on an 89 year journey and “We can do better” said Vern in trying to create the perfect workout.

    This was an interesting dual presentation with a lot of back and forth.  (I have quoted directly where I can remember and make general points which could have come from either presenter.)

    Vern’s training mission is to make the workouts meaningful. This means paying attention to the sport and the athlete before designing sessions.

    Jim starts by asking himself if the strength, speed, agility and endurance are in the Athletic Performance or out of it? For example, speed and endurance are both present in the 800m race but strength and agility are out of it. That then focusses what needs to be done in extra sessions outside of the sport itself.

    landing mechanics

    Working on landing mechanics at GAIN

    He looks to increase the body wisdom of each athlete by asking them to solve movement problems. This includes developing postural control and the ability to negotiate the ground. (Someone else said at GAIN that in the battle between the athlete and the ground if the ground wins, the athlete gets injured).

    Jim has previously talked about this and the importance of change of direction mechanics. What is important is setting this up within a motor learning context so that the athlete learns through decision making.

    Training hard versus training smart

    How much time is spent doing “Mental Toughness” (Training Hard, or “Grit” training as England Hockey call beasting people) versus improving Biomechanical Performance (Training smart).

    Jim talked about eliminating negative practices from workouts: butt kicks for example in warm ups which encourage over striding.

    Ask yourself “Is everything you are doing in training aligned with the stated purpose of the training program?”  (I see a lot of coaches doing “stuff” in training that is a part of their sport’s folklore. When asked why it is there: “because we always do that” or “I saw team x doing it” or “we got given this kit so we use it.”

    how to plan a workout

    good luck predicting outcome

    Vern said there is always a trade -off: if you add something new, something needs to go. What would you take out of your programme if you added something?

    He used a brilliant analogy of a Rubik’s Cube. Children of the 1980s will remember that when trying to get one side green, you ended up messing up the red side! The human body is far more complicated than a Rubik’s Cube: so who knows what will happen if you change things repeatedly?

    No perfect workout without context

    For those coaches looking for “Monday’s workout” you will be disappointed. No training session or workout can or will stand alone (Goodbye WOD).  Context is everything: what went before, what comes after?

    perfect workout

    Radcliffe philosophy

    Start your workout plan with a clear intent and purpose.  What needs to happen to make your GOAL happen? (Having a clearly defined goal is a skill in itself).

    Jim’s underpinning philosophy when working with the Oregon Ducks football team was to create “bullets not bowling balls”. They wanted to have athletes with great burst. He achieved that by doing things consistently and by eliminating redundant practices.

    This is a useful reminder when planning workouts: keep coming back to “The why”.

    He finished with a demonstration of his signature warm up sequence which has a specific order and is looking to improve movement, technique and tempo.

    coach education devon

    Working on getting better at GAIN

    Whilst this may look like the blindingly obvious on paper, my experience coaching coaches on our courses is that this is like Rocket Science to some of them. NGB coaching qualifications that I have done (Gymnastics and my mentor Mike Euridge being the exception) simply fail to address this.

    The coaches are given drills rather than taught how to think and ask questions. Asking the right questions is much more important as a coach than thinking you have the answers or “the perfect workout” in your pocket.

    As I said in the previous blog, Jim as shaped my coaching practice immensely and Vern has shaped my thoughts on coaching through GAIN and much personal interaction. Hopefully the athletes at Excelsior ADC are benefitting (even if they don’t realise it!).

    Further Reading

    How to take charge of your fitness training

  3. Monitoring Overtraining:The 4 Hs


    “You’ve Got To Be In Top Physical Condition. Fatigue Makes Cowards Of Us All.

    symptoms of overtrainingVince Lombardi.

    But, in order to get in top physical condition, athletes risk doing too much, resting too little and can get fatigued. This may result in overtraining.

    The British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine (BASEM) spring conference was held in Manchester on 28 March 2014. The theme was “The Fatigued Athlete”.

    Speakers included experts from the fields of Sports and Exercise Medicine, nutrition, physiology, and psychology. Ute Scholl (Fencing coach and Sports Medicine Doctor) attended the day and here is her summary.

    Over reaching or over training?

    To attain peak performance, athletes and coaches very often tread a fine line between training hard to allow time for positive adaptation followed by recovery periods. When athletes get this balance wrong non-functional overreaching (NFOR) and ultimately overtraining syndrome (OTS) can develop.

    NFOR and OTS are less of a problem in elite athletes who are monitored very closely, but are more common in athletes below elite level, especially in athletes without an experienced coach.

    What are the Symptoms of Overtraining?

    Symptoms of NFOR and OTS include:

    • Performance decrements
    • Persistent fatigue
    • Alterations in mood
    • Frequent illnesses

    symptoms of overtraining

    The first step when NFOR or OTS are suspected is to refer the athlete to a Doctor to exclude:

    • Organic diseases
    • Infections
    • Negative energy balance
    • Iron deficiency
    • Magnesium deficiency
    • Allergies
    • Insufficient sleep
    • Chronic fatigue syndrome

    If all of these are negative NFOR or OTS are the most likely diagnosis.

    How do I treat overtraining?

    If the athlete presents with a brief history of NFOR complete rest is recommended in the short term and the athlete is advised to get as much sleep as possible over the next 48hrs.

    If OTS has developed treatment might take weeks or months and consists of rest, attention to dietary and fluid intake and psychological support.

    treatment of overtraining

    Prevention: the 4 Hs

    Awareness of NFOR and OTS is the one of the most important component of prevention. Monitoring for the conditions is an important task for coaches and athletes alike.

    The most effective means of monitoring for NFOR and OTS is self-analysis by the athlete. For a quick assessment for NFOR or OTS the coach and athlete should look out for the four H’s.

    The well-adjusted athlete should be:

    • Healthy (no more than the usual number of infections)
    • Happy (no unusual mood disturbances)
    • Hungry
    • Horny (normal libido)

    The athlete could keep a daily logbook in which he/she records:

    • Training details
    • Athlete’s comment on training – enjoyment, coping
    • Wellbeing ratings (1-7) – fatigue, stress, quality of sleep, muscle soreness, mood
    • Causes for stress and/or dissatisfaction
    • Illness, injury, menstruation (female)


    preventing overtrainingThe two most important components of prevention of NFOR and OTS are awareness of the problem and maintenance between training load and recovery.

    Athletes who coach themselves are far more likely to be affected by NFOR or OTS. The support of an experienced coach or training partner is one of the best means of maximising performance and avoiding NFOR and OTS.

  4. How to Eat a Big Elephant


    seasonal plan“It’s a big elephant: you can’t eat it all at once.”

    This sums up trying to get a sports team fit in season: there is so much to do, so little time, so many variables. A seasonal plan will help you.

    “How can I get my team fit?” is a question I tried to answer yesterday on the CPD day with the Level 1 and Level 2 S&C coaches.

    Start with a Needs Analysis.

    • What are the requirements of the sport?
    • How much time do I have?
    • What are the position needs?
    • What facilties do I have?
    • What level are my players at now?
    • What does the technical/ tactical training stimulate already?

    These were just some of the questions that we looked at. Then we rapidly realised that this was quite a daunting task, so we broke it down to “Need to do versus Nice to do” (Gambetta).

    The goals then become more manageable, we just have to plan that in and around the training.

    Fitting it all in.

    I then showed some example plans of how to fit in the different components of fitness that are needed. This includes using warm ups, small sided games, pre-match training, home training, and gym training.

    Time is precious and should not be wasted. If a fitness component is being developed in games and team training, then there is no need to work on it seperately. This will overload the players and is a waste of time.

    Developing aspects of fitness such as speed, power and strength, as well as maximal anaerobic qualities is best done in specific sessions. Balance, control, flexibility, agility and aerobic qualities can be developed in team training sessions with judicious use of warm ups and session planning.

    Maintaining what?

    The idea of a 6 week pre-season training and then in season “maintenance” was brought up. I questioned how players could maintain a quality they haven’t developed. We looked at detraining time frames and how the in-season training must develop fitness because the pre-seasons are so short.

    I favour 14-21 day microcycles within a 2 month training block. Each micro cycle has a major emphasis with a minor emphasis. This then either repeats and extends over the course of the year, or is followed by a complementary microcycle that allows different fitness aspects to develop.

    This depends on competition schedules and what the team is trying to peak towards. For school athletes this has to be adapted according to term times and factor in exam schedules too.

    Longer microcycles mean that components that are not being developed go backwards in a hurry. It also allows the components to:

    1. Stimulate
    2. Adapt
    3. Stabilise
    4. Actualise (Dan Pfaff)

    (Sports that have one major component may consider using Block Periodisation.)

    The sesson plan.

    By this time, heads were spinning, and brains melting down (especially mine), so we moved outside and I coached two sample sessions: one strength based and one speed based. They were planned incorporating the 4 cornerstones of training.

    sample session plan

    This was the first time these coaches had actually been coached by me, so I wanted to show how I incorporate the principles in practice. Each session was 30 minutes, purely for demonstration purposes, but there was little waste.

    Monitoring and evaluating.

    The coaches were asking lots of questions as we went along, and I was happy to answer them: the downside being that we were behind schedule. We touched on the difficulty of monitoring in season. It is important to collect and use the right data without becoming “random number gatherers” (Kelvin Giles)

    This is going to be our focus as part of our community of practice before our next session in 2013. We will share the ides discussed as a group.

    The coaches gave some really useful feedback at the end of the day; including ideas for future workshops. They were challenging me and my knowledge and practice which is helpful I was encouraging them to connect the dots not just collect them.

    You can’t eat an elephant in one sitting, just take it one bite at a time.

    This was the second in our series of CPD events that are exclusive to coaches who have completed the Level 1 or Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Coaching Course with us.

  5. Goal setting for sport: 4 secrets to success

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    goal setting for sportHow to get better at sport

    Goal setting can be a very effective exercise , or it can be a time wasting procedure. Here are 4 secrets that will help you achieve your goals.

    Lots of the athletes I work with have done a goal setting for sport exercise with their various coaches in the summer. This can quickly become consigned to the dustbin of history once the first three matches of the season have been played.

    Plans are the beginning of action. But competitive advantage is gained only by effective execution.” Sun Tzu

    Secret 1: Hold yourself accountable and put a review time for each goal you set into your diary.

    Other recreational athletes stumble from one week to another hoping for things to change, but never taking time to plan how. Getting sucked into the “back to school” vortex usually impedes any progress on anything apart from survival.

    Quality does not just happen. People who believe so, are people who trust in miracles to make their way through life.  Quality excellence is an outcome of preparation and relentless practice. It is surely a given then, that there is time set aside routinely for this.” Frank Dick

    Secret 2: Set time aside for 5 minutes each week to plan on how you are going to reach your goal.

    golf fitness 3Rather than wait until the New Year, I try and get our athletes to think about how to get better now. One unfortunate truth I share with athletes is that to get better at anything takes hard work.

    Mastery often involves working and working and showing little improvement, perhaps with a few moments of flow pulling you along, then making a little progress, and then working and working on that new, slightly higher plateau again.”  Daniel Pink: Drive

    This can be daunting at first, but setting small achievable goals and working on them until they are finished is the way forward. There is something immensely satisfying about finishing a task, no matter how small.

    When a task is once begun,

    Never leave it until it’s done.

    If the labour’s great or small,

    Do it well, or not at all.”

    Archie Moore (light heavyweight champion of the world).

    Secret 3: Small achievable goals are the foundation of bigger ones; start and finish small goals each week.

    Olympic lifting devonUnfortunately this thing called life has a habit of throwing unexpected obstacles in our path. Very few people live in an ivory tower of just being able to do their sport with no outside responsibilities.  The rest of us have to juggle work, studying, travel, family, and financial responsibilities.

    Something’s bound to happen to you in a tough fight, cut eye, broken nose, or broken hand or something like that. So you could make excuses out of anything, you know, but you got to keep on going if you’re a champ or a contender. This is what makes champs, I think the guys that keep fighting when they have things going against them.”

    Jake LaMotta (Middleweight champion of the world)

    Secret 4: Persevere, persevere, persevere. If you really want to get better, then you will have to learn how to keep going.

    Read our 3 part series on how to make effective changes 

  6. How to take charge of your fitness training


    herschel walker“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.”

    Herschel Walker

    Training hard is one part of fitness training, but any idiot can get tired (or indeed make you tired)!

    I want to give you ideas that will help you get fit for your purpose.

    That may be to run faster, get stronger or jump higher in your sports arena.

    It may be to get you fitter so that you can deliver the goods at the end of a match, or for life in general.

    Here are the key points that I have developed over the years that work with people just like you.


    how to warm up for runningKnowing where you are going is essential before you start out on your journey (I have covered this previously in The power of goal setting). You need to know what you are trying to achieve this month, this week and today in your training.

    #Key tip 1: write down what you want to achieve for the month, for the week, for your next training session.

    An example might be “I want to be able to run 5km in less than 20 minutes by the end of January. This week I will do a time trial and 3 other runs. Tomorrow I will run 1km fast, walk for 2 minutes and repeat for a total of 5 times“.

    Your resistance training programme must be more specific than “best workout plans” gained from a magazine. Now you know what the aim of your session is going to look like, you can plan your warm up accordingly. Start with the end in mind.

    If your session is running, or lifting weights explosively, then by the end of the warm up you should be performing activities that resemble that.

    But, at the start, you will probably be feeling tired, stiff or lethargic after a day of school, work or from previous sessions. The picture of me is doing a pre track warm up, using hurdles to help warm up my hips.

    #Key tip 2: You need to increase the range of motion, speed, and complexity of movements gradually in your warm up.

    (Read more on how to design your warm up).


    split jerkThis is the meat of your training session. What changes are you trying to make in your body? If it is to get stronger, then what movements are you trying to get stronger: a push, pull or a squat? Are you trying to develop speed? Then you need to be putting fast work in here.

    If your goal is to increase speed, then what aspect of speed: acceleration, deceleration, maximum speed, repeat speed, reaction speed? 

    Here is where your exercise choice, equipment choice, rest periods and amount of work done need to reflect the aim of the session. It is a common mistake to see a new exercise or new piece of kit and then jump straight into using that, without knowing why.

    #Key tip 3: Make sure your choice of exercises reflects the aim of the session, rather than dictates the session.

    For example, you read about Mo Farah’s 120 mile a week training and you see that he does a circuit in the gym. You copy that circuit without knowing why he is doing it, or even if it helps him. Worse still, you are a 15 year old runner with very little training background, you are in danger of getting hurt!

    Here are two example session plans for rugby players (other sports can follow the same principles), one in the field and one in the gym:how to start your fitness training

    how to start getting fit for sportI have left the sets/reps and loads blank because that is down to each individual. But the adaptation theme is for lower body strength in the gym, and for acceleration up to 20 metres on the field.

    I usually recommend using only 2 major lifts, plus minor lifts around that in the gym. The exercises in brackets will be lighter loads and are complementary to the major lifts. This allows you to practice those movements in what otherwise would be down time. (Picture is of hurdler Becky Brown doing the power snatch).

    #Key tip 4: Makes sure you work hard on the adaptation part of the session, allowing adequate rest between the major exercises (unless work capacity is your goal and rest will be reduced).

    (See how this works in practice with young athletes )


    how to start fitness trainingThis is the dessert of the session, or indeed the week. It is very,very easy (and common) to get caught in a numbers trap in the gym or field.

    But, unless you can apply your new found strength, speed or endurance on the field/court/mat or track what is the point?

    An example would be squash players only running on treadmills to improve their VO2 max (aerobic endurance) score to satisfy the physiologists who are unable to measure endurance where it counts: on the squash court!

    Your body has undergone some fatigue in the adaptation part of the session. It will remember this fatigue: you will be slower, weaker or more tired after this (every time you put a barbell on your back you move slower).

    Now you have to teach your body how to apply better movement that resembles or even better, replicates movements in your sport.

    This may mean getting out of the gym to run, jump or throw things! (picture is of Modern Pentathlete Greg Longden doing some hurdle jumps after squats).

    #Key tip 5: Get your body moving faster, further or in a complex pattern at the end of your training session. 

    This video shows an example of a good application exercise: the fire hydrant start.


    Finally we come to regeneration. This includes physical, mental and emotional recovery, repair and renewal. The cool down in the session should gradually restore your body to its resting state, rather than stop abruptly.

    If your training session has included a lot of one type of movement, then you might need to do some of the opposite movement in the cool down to restore balance. This video shows an example of what to do ensure your shoulders and back stay healthy.

    You need to think about what food and water you consume immediately post training, and later that day or evening (you will have prepared this previously of course!)

    You need to think about showering or bathing (I work with school age rugby players, so please forgive me as assuming this is a given is a mistake) as this can help speed the recovery process.

    But, what is often forgotten is the fact that you need time away from your sport (and especially team mates) so that you return to training refreshed and invigorated. Of course, for some of you, your sport is your time away from work/ family and is your chance of regeneration.

    # Key tip 6: The most important recovery tool is sleep, and all your post training activities should be designed to help increase the quality and quantity of your sleep.

    Read more here about our recovery pyramid and how much sleep you need after training


    fitness trainingI hope this has given you some insights into how to take charge of your fitness training. These methods work with the athletes I coach, whatever their sport.

    (This does apply to females too, read more from one female coach here)

    The detail of each session is changed according to the sport, but more importantly to the individual person.

    If you would like to benefit from this type of training, then you might want to use the programmes contained in my 3 books: Run Faster, Get Stronger or Jump Higher (all are readable on tablet, or pc and contain detailed training programmes with video clips).

    Or, if you want individual advice please contact me here 

    Good luck.

  7. Planning your Training: Block Periodisation for Young Athletes


    What is Periodisation?

    block periodisationPeriodisation is the term given to the practice of breaking down an athlete’s  conditioning plan into specific phases of training. Block periodisation is one version of this.

    By varying the emphasis of the training at regular time intervals, periodisation attempts to produce optimal gains in strength, power and endurance.  

    Periodisation aims to optimize both short term (e.g. weeks, months) and long term (e.g. years, over a career) goals. Competitive athletes will aim to peak their physical performance for major competitions on a weekly basis (e.g. Football, Rugby) or for a major competition (e.g. Athletics, Tennis).

    Although young athletes are often competing in matches and tournaments, the goal should always be long term progression and periodisation should be devised to develop quality as well as quantity of physical performance.

    The training variables that can be manipulated in an attempt to optimize the training program include:

    • Volume of work done (e.g. sets and reps, number of sessions)
    • Load (e.g. heavy or light resistance)
    • Rest periods between exercises
    • Types of exercises used (e.g. platform based exercises, multi-directional movements, technique based exercises).

    Does periodisation work?

    Despite the popularity of periodised training, there is little research examining its efficacy. A handful of studies have examined the effectiveness of a periodised resistance training programme on increasing strength and power.

    Studies lasting between 6 and 24 weeks have repeatedly shown that athletes using programmes progressing from high volume and low intensity to low volume and high intensity increased strength (load lifted) and power (vertical jump/cycling force production) compared to constant training
    intensity (1,2,3,4,5,6).

    Interestingly, many of these studies showed that both groups increased strength in equal amounts up until the periodisation group began a phase of lower volume.

    At this point the periodisation group began to see increases in strength significantly greater than the control group.

    This supports the Delayed Transformation concept which suggests that a period of low volume is needed for optimum adaptation to take place.

    One major limitation of these studies is the relatively short period over which they were conducted. Future research could investigate the longitudinal effects of periodisation to determine its efficacy for long term progression.

    Does Periodisation Work for Young Athletes?

    Tamas Feher weightlfting programmePeriodisation for young athletes is difficult in practice. Many factors affect the ability of teenagers to attend training, not least school commitments and the increasing importance of academic achievement in society. Youngsters also rely heavily on parents for transport and funding coaching and equipment which could be barriers to regular participation.

    Even on occasion when athletes are able to attend training, long school days (probably with inadequate nutrition and sleep) place a large amount strain on the body. This is not the best preparation for a training session possibly including heavy lifts or new complex techniques.

    For this reason, flexibility within a training plan is vital, as is the ability of the coach to judge when to apply each exercise or training method.

    Another consideration when coaching young athletes is the difference in growth and development rates (7). Individual’s rates of growth and maturation are largely unpredictable, thus making it hard to periodise a programme to peak at a specific time. This is also an important consideration when training groups of young athletes, as individuals will mature at different rates, making a progressive training programme difficult to plan.

    In addition to this, periodising different phases of training may not even be necessary for a developing sportsperson. Young athletes have a high degree of neural plasticity and can therefore adapt to almost any training stimulus(8).

    Even concurrently training competing physical qualities (such as maximal strength and anaerobic endurance) will result in a positive adaptation of both qualities to some extent.


    Although Periodisation appears to be a valuable tool for maximising training of competitive athletes, rigidly sticking to a periodised plan is unrealistic for most developing athletes.

    Numerous factors affect the ability of youngsters to train, affecting any opportunity to plan regular training. Physical and emotional stress of training and competing in different sports as well as juggling school work would mean adherence to a strict periodised plan could lead to overtraining and burnout.

    Young athletes are also more able to adapt to multiple training stimuli, reducing the need for separate phases of training. Over time, however, as the athlete becomes better developed, training programmes should become more planned and focused.

    To get an Annual training plan and weekly sessions join our Sports Training System.

    Matt Durber 


    1) McGee, D., T.C. Jessee, M.H. Stone, & D. Blessing. (1992) Leg and hip endurance adaptations to three weight-training programs. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6:92–95.

    2) O’Bryant, H.S., R. Byrd, & M.H. Stone. (1988) Cycle ergometer performance and maximum leg and hip strength adaptations to two different methods of weight-training. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 2:27–30.

    3) Stone, M.H., H. O’Bryant, & J. Garhammer. (1981) A hypothetical model for strength training. J. Sports Med. 21:342–351.

    4) Stowers, T., J.McMillan, D. Scala, V. Davis, D. Wilson, & M. Stone. (1983) The short-term effects of three different strength–power training methods. Natl. Strength Cond. Assoc. J. 5:24–27.

    5) Willoughby, D.S. (1992) A comparison of three selected weight training programs on the upper and lower body strength of trained males. Ann. J. Appl. Res. Coaching Athletics March:124–146.

    6)  Willoughby, D.S. (1993) The effects of meso-cycle-length weight training programs involving periodization and partially equated volumes on upper and lower body strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 7:2–8.

    7)Arsmtrong, N. & Welsman, J. () Training Young Athletes, In: Lee, M.J. eds. Coaching Children in Sport: Principles. pp191-203.

    8) Brooks, T. (2011) Periodization for the young athlete. http://iyca.org/periodization-for-young-athletes. International Youth Conditioning Association.

  8. Beware the Volume Trap

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    volumeHow to improve performance

    If you are a beginner exerciser then one of the best ways to improve performance is to increase volume.

    If you are training for 20 minutes every day a week, or for 45 minutes twice a week, then increasing to 45 minutes 6 times a week will lead to performance improvements.

    However, coaches can then get carried away with “volume” meaning better. But this has a limited time span of effectiveness. At some stage you will have to increase the intensitycomplexity or tactical relevance of the exercises.

    I have seen recently some very high level athletes being given 40 minutes of low level “core” work to do a day. Worse still, one footballer was told “to stand on a trampette for an hour a day“.

    This is sheer madness as this is just extra work to be done with little or no relevance and the athlete could use the time to rest, or do something constructive.

    Admiral Ackbar has some sage advice to coaches who insist on adding volume to an experienced athlete:

    Further Reading

  9. Train the way you play: Jim Radcliffe


    “Go hard, Go Fast, Finish it, Go Again”

    This sums up Jim Radcliffe’s approach to training teams at Oregon University. His lecture at GAIN V on his training system was a masterclass in how to organise and plan. The Jim Radcliffe workouts are efficient from beginning to end.

    This was not some periodisation lecture, instead it showed the different aspects that need training, and how they connect with each other. Radcliffe showed the different roots and branches of what is needed and why.

    His lecture last year looked more at the weekly and monthly cycles. This looked at more of the progressions that fit into those cycles.

    Musculo skeletal health 101

    Radcliffe started by linking the different aspects of fitness that are interconnected using Frank Dick’s model (1984 Pictured below)

    sports training principles

    He has changed this slightly and replaced mobility with movement efficiency, and uses a pyramid analogy instead of a triangle. Radcliffe wants his players to be around as long as the pyramids have been!

    He then gave his view of what physical state his college players are when they arrive. As we all find, they have:

    • poor mechanics
    • poor understanding of their own body
    • poor hip mobility (too much time in seated postures)
    • weak torsos
    • poor knee, hip and ankle integrity.

    (Posture coming up time and time again).

    These areas must be addressed before anything else. “We must be prepared to teach, train and develop not from scratch, but from behind zero.”

    clock faceRadcliffe used a clock diagram on several of his slides asking “what percentage of time is spent..?”

    On this first part, it was how much time should be spent on sitting or lying exercises that work on 1or 2 joints or muscles in isolation compared to standing exercises that are multiple joint and require synchronisation?

    “Running is a skill..”

    ..”in fact, it should be the main skill, and it needs to be taught”. Poor postures, lifestyles and inadequate teaching have left the players unable to run.

    The exercises and progressions in the gym should be able to assist and enhance this, rather than inhibit it. Radcliffe uses a small battery of tests/ screening exercises to assess what the players can do, rather than what they can’t do.

    He then leads into a progression of hip actions:

    Hip Hinge- Hip projection- Whip from the hip

    This is done in the gym and on the field. Everything must work together.

    Acceleration, Acceleration, Acceleration.

    Did I mention we do a lot of acceleration?” Radcliffe keeps working on this “until we get better and more efficient. Otherwise we are just running for running’s sake. Get better, then repeat it.

    This was really the central thrust of the Oregon system. Instead of doing drills for drills sake, the coaches are asked to train skills and get them working well. This sounds a lot more like “Coaching” rather than “instructing”.

    (For those of you not familiar with College Football, Oregon have been notorious for playing fast and furious football. Other teams struggle to keep up).

    Warm Up is a chance to rehearse skill

    Radcliffe espoused the use of the warm up as a chance to rehearse skill. It should not only do the physiological things that are necessary, but also be enabling skill.

    What you do 6 minutes before the game should build on what you did 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks and 6 months before.

    Do you Stretch/ Manipulate or do you Move before matches? (Static stretching is still common place in team warm ups at College football.)

    He then showed some great data on different warm up protocols and their effect on performance. Total synchronised body lifts that moved load at speed (The snatch) helped prepare the body better than just dynamic warm ups.

    (For the younger readers, you might think “we know this” but who do you think has led the field in questioning previous practices? More on dynamic warm ups here)

    Mass- Specific Force

    Jim Radcliffe workouts

    Ex Excelsior athlete Elliot Hoyte

    Are you moving mass just to move mass? Or does it have an application on the field? (We know where the UKSCA paradigm is on this! Jack Blatherwick on application of power in sport)

    Force ends up displaying itself on the field on 1 small spot like the ball of the foot (See Elliot Hoyte getting past the lineman right) so it must be applicable strength.

    Great force is exerted over a small base of support and rapidly. Training must replicate this and also work on the righting/ tilting reflexes that happen when the athlete is in the air or lands.

    • Get ’em strong
    • Train Rate of Force Development
    • Dynamic Strength

    My understanding from this year and last year is that Radcliffe incorporates application into every session, but to varying degrees. If maximal strength is being developed, at least 1-2 exercises at the end are used to help the body apply it.

     Gassers vs Get Offs

    “How much time is spent on Biomechanical Performance Technique vs Mental Toughness Training?” In other words is your training designed to replicate and encourage great technique and efficiency, or is it just making your players tired?

    (For Non US readers a gasser is a Football conditioning drill that requires players to run 2 widths of the pitch, rest and repeat. A Get off is working the first 2-3 steps of a start, so a 5-10metre acceleration drill).

    Radcliffe gave examples of wrestling coaches who insisted on their players doing a 13 mile run once a fortnight for “mental toughness”. When you step onto the mat you want to be sure you are technically, tactically superior, not that you can last longer on a 13 mile run (Or we may as well get Mo Farah to wrestle!).

    This applies across all sports, because someone has analysed the total distance covered in soccer/ basketball matches as 10km (roughly) coaches think you have to go out and jog for 10km!

    What this means is that poor running mechanics are rehearsed, the overstriders over stride and then hamstrings are torn when sprinting.

    Instead, work on the quality of the movement, then increase the reps, or sets or frequency of the training. This allows the players to repeatedly produce quality work.

    how to make gains when training

    The same applies in the gym: Radcliffe knows the stuff works because if you ask an athlete to do their own training it consists of a lot of steady state running, bench press and bicep curls.

    Because they are easy to do!

    Programme Objectives (Jim Radcliffe workouts in action)

    The Oregon long term objectives are to develop:

    • Explosive Power
    • Functional Strength
    • Directional Speed
    • Transitional Agility

    In the Short Term they work on:

    • Power Reliability (used to call it power endurance)
    • Work Capacity (The ability to do more intense work, or more load, finish it, recover, go again)
    • Recoverability
    • Stamina

    Radcliffe broke the Programme components down and showed how they inter relate with Preparational Work- Technical Work- Developmental Work and then Transitional Work and their various sub divisions.

    This was quite enlightening and showed the system behind the various exercises.

    The Programme emphasis is to put the players in situations where the drill forces the body to learn and adapt. This is a key coaching point and shows the importance of what we do.

    (As an aside, if, as an S&C coach, you just get your players to do lifts for lifts sake and do not work with the coaches, you will get isolated and not be aiding the players get better for where it counts. You must coach.)


    Once again this session highlighted why Radcliffe is at the top of his game. He has created a system over the last 26 years that is very thorough and specific.

    He understands the importance of application in the game situation and knows how to get his players there.

    He has researched the different aspects of power, strength, speed and agility and is continually looking to evolve his programme. This has been done with real athletes across different sports over many years.

    In combination with his superb practical demonstrations, Radcliffe makes me want to improve my delivery, my planning and my thinking.


    Further reading:

    See our Get Stronger programme.

  10. Don’t let Christmas ruin your training

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    Are you gearing up for a big session in training?

    mince pie calorie countYou might be aiming for a p.b. in your run, or you have downloaded the “US Army Rangers maximum explosive workout to get killer biceps in 7 minutes” that guarantees you can’t walk for the next week, and you aim to complete it.

    You can not get fit in one session.

    Conversely you might not be able to  resist that seasonal mince pie. Your inner chimp will be telling you that:

    “Missing one session, or stopping 5 mins early or having an extra biscuit is not going to hinder your sports performance.”

    Every little counts

    Taking a 50 week training year, with 8 sessions a week of 1 hour, as an average the accumulation of shortcuts adds up:

    • 1 session a week= 50 hours a year
    • 5 mins off each session = 40 mins a week= 33 hours a year
    • 1 extra chocolate hob nob = 95kcal 1 a day over 365 days = 34,675kcal= 9.9lbs of extra fat stored on your body.

    The converse is true also.

    By adding 1 session a week, doing 5 mins extra a day, or denying yourself 1 biscuit a day, you can make massive changes over time. It is a lot easier to do this and you will gain a massive advantage over your competition if they are taking the shortcuts.

    The effects are doubled if they take the shortcuts and you add a little bit in.

    You will be doing 166 more hours training a year and have nearly 20lbs of fat less than your opposition. That is the edge you may need.