Author Archives: Patrick

Daily Undulating Periodization & Performance Improvements in Powerlifters

Dr. Mike Zourdos and colleagues just published a new paper on Daily Undulating Periodization (Zourdos MC, et al. Modified Daily Undulating Periodization Model Produces Greater Performance Than a Traditional Configuration in Powerlifters. J Strength Cond Res 2015. Published Ahead of Print). Being a fan of the Daily Undulating Periodization approach to training structure I thought I would summarize the paper and share some of my thoughts.

Subjects

  • 18 Male, college-aged powerlifters
  • Subjects were assigned to one of two groups: Hypertrophy, Strength, & Power (HSP) or Hypertrophy, Power, & Strength (HPS)
  • The groups were balanced to ensure that relative and absolute strength were similar

Training Programs

  • Hypertrophy, Strength, & Power: This group performed three sessions per week, on non-consecutive days. Day 1 had a primary emphasis of hypertrophy, day 2 had an emphasis of strength, and day 3 had an emphasis of power.
  • Hypertrophy, Power, & Strength: This group performed three sessions per week, on non-consecutive days. Day 1 had a primary emphasis of hypertrophy, day 2 had an emphasis of power, and day 3 had an emphasis of strength.
  • The rationale for testing the outcome between these two weekly training schemes is that in the former, which is a common weekly set up for Daily Undulating Periodization in research, the strength session takes place ~48 hours following the hypertrophy session, which is the higher volume training session of the three. This may create an issue with the subject’s ability to perform their strength session due to the lack of recovery from the high volume hypertrophy session.
  • The variables for each of the training days are described in the chart below:

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 2.52.09 PM

Summary of Strength Results

The strength change results from both of the 6-week training programs are summarized as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.14.57 PM

  • No statistical difference in the squat and deadlift were found between groups; however a statistical improvement was seen in the bench press for the HPS group compared to the HSP group.
  • No statistical difference was found between groups for powerlifting total.
  • Effect sizes greater than 0.5 were noted for the squat, bench press, and powerlifting total in favor of HPS, which may suggest a practically significant improvement in HPS versus HSP when developing training programs for powerlifters.

Comments & Thought

This was an interesting study and I like the approach of trying to find an optimal scheme within the training week. Perhaps someday we may find that the optimal scheme for the Daily Undulating Periodization Model (or any training model!) is one where the emphasis of training on a given day is dictated based on how the athlete reports and what they are able to tolerate? This very fluid approach to programming – where we are attempting to strike a balance between training variety, to prevent monotony, and a concentrated dose of training, to increase fitness in a certain capacity – has been suggested by John Kiely’s work on periodization. In the paper by Zourdos and colleagues, they used an autoregulation approach on the hypertrophy day to dictate the training load/intensity for that session (an approach discussed by Mel Siff in Supertraining and researched by Bryan Mann, as referenced above). Perhaps, in a practical setting, we could extend this a bit further and utilize a linear position transducer or some other form of velocity based approach (the folks at PUSH have come up with an affordable and easy to use solution) to dictate the load/intensity on the power and strength training days. If the athlete is sluggish and moving the bar slowly, then lower the load to stay within a desired range of bar velocity. Additionally, because training takes place on non-consecutive days in this type of frame work (E.g., 3 sessions over 7 days) it may be possible to utilize monitoring strategies (bar velocity, daily wellness, RPE training loads, HRV, etc) to make the suggestion that the athlete take a rest day, instead of performing the scheduled training session, and see how their body is the following day and if it is prepared to tolerate the load.

The use of effect sizes in this paper allows us to get a better understanding of whether or not the average difference between groups is of practical significance. One of the things that I find  critical when looking at research on training interventions is the understanding of inter-individual differences. It is very possible that some athletes in this study responded favorably to either of the training approaches while others had no result or a poor result.  The paper also look at things like changes in total volume and some hormonal measures. When it comes to understanding responders and non-responders in training, it isn’t good enough to just say, “Some people get better and others don’t”. At some point, we need to figure out who doesn’t respond and why they don’t respond. Perhaps there is something to additionally look at in this paper with the hormonal changes and the individual’s ability to increase training volume or get stagnant during certain periods of the training program.

Hopefully this group continues to do more research on the topic of Daily Undulating Periodization because I find it to be a practical method of programming training and they have done some good work thus far that they can certainly follow up on. While Mike Zourdos tends to aim his approach at Powerlifters (I believe because he is competitive lifter himself) there are concepts within this framework that can easily be extended to training team sport athletes as well as concepts that could be used for sport coaches when establishing the weekly practice structure.

Three things a high performance team can learn from The Profit

One of my favorite shows at the moment is CNBC’s, The Profit. The basic premise of the show is that millionaire investor, Marcus Lemonis, finds failing businesses, evaluates them, and then  provided he feels the business has potential, invests in the company for a certain percentage of ownership. He then establishes a road map to success by helping them understand what aspects of their business are broken.

In the show, Marcus preaches three main constructs which he feels are necessary for a successful business:

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Product

In reality, a high performance team working with a sports franchise is no different and these three constructs are actually incredibly valuable for determining what areas your high performance team needs to improve upon or where you may need to make some changes in order to have better success and be more efficient.

People

“Do we have the right people in the right positions?” When thinking about this question it is important to not only think about skill set and ability but also whether or not they work well as part of a team. A lot of times, teams or universities are afraid to let someone go because they have “been there for a long time” or they are “a nice guy”. I understand this can be a tough thing but at the end of the day, keeping people around that are unable to contribute to the level and expectation that is needed is going to create more problems and frustration in the long run. It makes sense to part ways and ensure that the people you are putting together on the staff have a very high level of skill set and interest in continuing to learn and push things to new levels. Additionally, it is important to move along from those who are insecure and create turf wars between departments. These individuals can tear a team apart in a second and create problems within the high performance team. A high performance team is one that is collaborative across the main player support departments – Sports Science, Athletic Training/Medical, and Strength & Conditioning. If the people within the staff are not interested in collaboration and working together then the high performance team will never work. In the Profit, Marcus evaluates people within the businesses he invests in and, at times, is forced to make the decision (with the other owners he has partnered with) to let people go who are not willing or able to satisfy the need of working collaboratively in a successful business.

Process

Marcus is a stickler for process. His famous quote in the show, after handing over a check for his investment and becoming a part owner is, “I may be a part owner but I am 100% in charge”. Oftentimes, where businesses fail is not in the people or the product, but in the process. They can’t seem to put the appropriate processes in place to ensure that product gets manufactured at the right cost, without wasting money, or the product gets ordered at the right amount, without having a back log of inventory. Being a successful entrepreneur, Marcus sets up some very specific processes for these companies to ensure that business is performed in an efficient and timely manner. Within the high performance team environment this process is essential. What is the flow of data – how is it collected, processed, analyzed, and then distributed and discussed amongst all support staff and key stakeholders in the building? Things can be very busy in a professional or university team environment, making these processes even more critical. Oftentimes, information falls through the cracks because there is not a process in place for ensuring that people on the staff get together and meet on a daily basis to discuss the data and develop a plan about what to do with the data – turning data into action.

Product

Finally, product. Obviously a high performance team isn’t making any product; however, a high performance team is serving the athlete to ensure that athlete’s health and wellness is cared for during their time with the team. This “product” is really the outcome of having great people, with a high skill set and standard for excellence, who can work together and having great processes in place, ensuring that the information flow between departments is fluid and efficient.

Collectively, these three constructs will ultimately determine the success that your high performance team has and their ability to adequately effect the athlete’s within the training environment ultimately decreasing injury and improving performance.

The Ebb & Flow of a Strength & Conditioning Program

I’ve talked a lot about training stress and adaptation in the blog over the years. As simple as it sounds, training really comes down to two things:

  • Stress the body
  • Recover and adapt

That’s it!

How you stress the body is one of the key components. Are you doing the appropriate training to obtain the physiological changes you seek? This has been discussed many times over on this site.

The other key component is the frequency of stress. Today’s article comes from a conversation I had regarding this topic, last week, with Walter Norton. For those that don’t know, Walter owns Institute of Performance & Fitness in Andover, MA. Walter has worked as a strength coach for over 20 years. He has worked for three professional sports teams in three different sports (NBA, MLS, and NHL), has served as a strength coach for a number of collegiate programs, works with a number of high school athletes everyday, and still makes time to train groups of general population folks who are trying look better, feel better, and move better. Aside from all this experience, Walter is one of the best coaches I have ever seen. When it comes to taking a group of athletes, setting up a training program to meet the needs of those athletes, and then coaching the hell out of everything – Warm Up, Speed & Agility, Lifting, Recovery/Mobility –  Walter Norton can deliver.

This past week we were discussing training and the ebb and flow of the week when writing training programs. Walter was sharing some ideas for training his groups of general population clients. His ideas match with my thought process and approach to training – the ideas are good for anyone (general public or athlete).

It is always a tough sell when training people because no one likes to hear that the intensity of some of their training sessions needs to be regulated. Walter was explaining that the most difficult day of the week for his clients is Tuesday because they have a hard training session on Monday and a hard training session on Wednesday, which means Tuesday needs to be a lighter training day. Most of the clients at the gym dislike this session. When I used to have my gym people didn’t love those days either. I think Walter phrased it best when he said, “We try and educate the clients to understand that we go easier on Tuesday to set you up for success on Wednesday.”

Let’s face it, it is easy to sell hardcore workouts that make people feel sick to the stomach or leave them lying on the floor in a puddle of sweat. People love the sense of accomplishment and like to feel that they worked hard. (Side NOTE: Training should be hard and we need to push ourselves to achieve results. The flip side is doing too little that we don’t get enough training stimulus! Good programming should walk the line between the two – doing too much and doing too little.) The problem is that there is always a cost of doing business and at some point you are going to have to pay that cost. People can usually string together a number of really hard training sessions or even several weeks of very hard training, but eventually something gives – they either start to feel bad (joints ache, muscles hurt, etc), they start to feel fatigued, tired, and irritable, or their progress begins to stall.

Most coaches don’t understand this concept. They want the clients/athletes to always feel like they got after it. The problem is that we aren’t really making the person better when we do this, we are just making them tired. Training is a process. It is not defined by one single “hard” workout. You need to educate your clients/athletes about this process and show them that there is a way to achieve their goals without foolishly applying a training session. While this may be difficult for some clients to hear (heck, you might even turn some people a way), at the end of the day you have a goal, as the coach, to help your client/athlete achieve success with their training program. Your job is not to be a drill sergeant and beat people down in every session. Your job is to educate them on what it means to be healthy. Part of that education process means teaching them what it means to regulate their training appropriately so that they can see continued results/improvement. Mark McLaughlin once said something like, “True discipline is the athlete that can do 60min of aerobic work with their HR at 100-110bpm and not push the pace because they want to “feel like they are working hard”. That is an athlete who understands what they have to do and understands the process.”

As stated earlier, these types of ideas are not unique to strength and conditioning. More sports coaches would be better off understanding this concept when they run practice. The hardest thing for a sports coach to understand is the role they play in the injury of an athlete because they don’t consider practice intensity. The sports coach who can embrace logical coaching methods and an understanding of how his/her practice impacts the physiological state of the athletes will be a coach who has a team that is always healthy, fresh, and ready to compete.

2014-2015 NBA MVP (Canadian)

A little over a week ago I posted some analysis of the three players currently in the running for MVP of the 2014-2015 NBA season – Curry, Westbrook, and Harden. This week, I wanted to look at the current crop of Canadian stars who are playing in the NBA.

There has been a lot of basketball talent coming out of Canada recently and the 2014 NBA draft was full of young stars, with Andrew Wiggins leading the pack as the number one overall pick (Choosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers who then sent him to Minnesota, in a trade that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland to play with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving). Additionally, some of my best friends happen to make up the sports medicine, sports science, and strength and conditioning staffs for the Canadian Men’s National Team leading up to the 2016 Olympics (so obviously I am cheering them on).

OH CANADA

OH CANADA

Players Analysis

One of the biggest issues with the analysis is that several of the players don’t play very many minutes. That being said, I included them anyway.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 6.20.15 PMThe main players to play significant minutes were Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Kyle Olynyk, and Robert Sacre; so we will concentrate the analysis on them.

Each player played in over 70 games and over 1000 minutes, with both Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins making an appearance in all 82 games and playing over 2000 minutes (Wiggins played nearly 3000 minutes in his rookie year).

As you can see in the chart below, Wiggins had the highest average points points per game of the group – averaging around 17 points per game.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 6.37.12 PM
However, as discussed in the previous blog article, points aren’t everything. To be an MVP you need to help make others around you better. There are times where players score a lot of points but are actually problematic to their team and cause less winning opportunities. For example, a ball hog who takes a lot of shots, has a poor field goal percentage, and turns the ball over frequently because he is always trying to control the court rather than distributing the ball to his teammates. Allen Iverson was a good example of this, at times, and, if my memory serves, there were three seasons where he led the league in turnovers and despite scoring a lot of points he had a poor field goal percentage and scoring efficiency. In Berri and Schmidt’s research, Iverson actually cost his team wins because of his play, despite the fans enjoying the show – everybody likes to see a guy score lots of points!

Wins Produced

Speaking of Berri and Schmidt’s research, as we did in the previous blog article, we will turn our attention to the Wins Produced model, which allows us to understand the player’s contribution to his team winning games throughout the season. How many things does the player do well and how good is the player at minimizing things that cause the other team to score points?

Going back to Wiggins, while he scored more points than the other guys in the analysis – he had a lot more opportunities to score given the high amount of minutes he played – he only produced about 2 wins for his team (or 0.03 wins per 48min). One reason may be due to his high amount of turnovers.

Looking at Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, we see that both players helped contribute about 7 wins to their team. While Joseph’s first two NBA seasons were nothing to write home about, he has put together a great season on a stacked San Antonio Spurs team and might be a guy they look to in the future to run the point guard position as their team continues to age. Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson finished fifth in NBA 6th Man Voting and had a great season coming off the bench on a Cleveland CAVS team led by King James.

Kyle Olynyk pops out in the Wins Produced stat as actually being a bit detrimental to the Boston Celtics. Here is an example of a guy who played a lot of minutes, however, his production is actually less than what an average Center would be able to do given the same number of minutes he played (Olyny played about 100 more minutes than the average for Centers). Olynyk was good for 93 offensive rebounds and 211 defensive rebounds, while Centers, on average, this season pulled down 123 offensive rebounds and 264 defensive rebounds. Kyle did do better than the average in scoring, 656 points to the league average, for Centers, of 522 points. However, he did turn the ball over more than the average, 98 turnovers versus the league average of 74. When looking at all the factors that go into the model, Olynyk didn’t seem to be effective. During his rookie season, 2013-2014, one of the criticisms is that he is not a true center and lacks the ability to defend some of the best big men in the league.
Stauskas produced 0 wins for his team, the Sacramento Kings and Robert Sacre was actually more detrimental to the Los Angeles Lakers than Olynyk was to the Celtics!

Some Other Thoughts

Looking at the stats, it appears that it is a toss up between Joseph (who actually played really well despite playing about 800 minutes less than Thompson) and Thompson for the Canadian MVP. Both had great seasons and contributed a lot to their teams.

Wiggins had a good season as well and, as a rookie, has a lot of room for growth. Controlling the ball is going to be something he will have to work on in the offseason.

Olynyk just finished his second season on a young Celtics team. Perhaps playing Center isn’t his position but he may just need more time to grow into it. Despite having a negative wins produced stat for his team this year, he did start to show promise towards the latter half of the season.

One thing I think about, from a health stand point, is the number of minutes some of these young players are playing. With 3936 available minutes in an NBA season, not counting overtime games, Wiggins logged a massive amount of minutes. Keeping players healthy is the name of the game and managing their health by managing their minutes played (as well as how you help them recover off the court) is going to be critical for these rising stars.

2014-2015 NBA MVP Analysis

Currently, there is an intense debate over who is more deserving of the 2014-2015 NBA MVP. The three main front runners are Steph Curry (PG, Golden State Warriors), Russell Westbrook (PG, Oklahoma City Thunder), and James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets).

All three players had remarkable seasons and you could make a case for each one (despite Westbrook’s team not even making it to the post season).

All three players were leaders in Points scored in their respective positions:

  • Steph Curry = 1900 points
  • Russell Westbrook = 1886 points
  • James Harden = 2217 points

While Harden scored more total points, he actually scored less than Westbrook per game (keep in mind that Westbrook also missed several games in the beginning of the season, due to injury). Both are in the running for the SCORING TITLE this season:

  • Westbrook – 28.2 pts/g [95% CI: 25.8 , 30.6]
  • Harden – 27.4 pts/g [95% CI: 25.2 , 29.5]
  • Curry – 23.8 pts/g [95% CI: 22.0 , 25.5]

The difference between each player and the margin of error of their difference scores is as follows:

  • Curry compared to Westbrook = Difference: 4.40 pts/g with a 2.99 Margin of Error
  • Curry Compared to Harden = Difference: 3.62 pts/g with a 2.79 Margin of Error
  • Harden Compared to Westbrook = Difference: 0.78 pts/g with a 3.22 Margin of Error

From this, it appears that, while Harden scored more total points, Westbrook appears to average more points per game than the other three. Of course we don’t know how we would have performed had he not missed games early in the season. Both Harden and Curry played in 80 games while Westbrook only played in 66. This, along with his team not making the playoffs, may end up hurting him in MVP Voting.

While there are some differences in production between the three players, all of them were incredible at putting up points. In relationship to the average player at their respective positions, Curry and Westbrook were both 3.2 standard deviations better than the average, while Harden was an astonishing 4 standard deviations better than the average shooting guard.

Points Aren’t Everything

While scoring a lot of points is important, it isn’t everything. A key aspect of a player, particularly an MVP, is whether or not he makes his teammates better. What is the value of the player to the team and how is he able to contribute to helping the team win?

One metric that is useful to help answer this question is Wins Produced, from David Berri and Martin Schmidt. The metric is designed to understand a player’s contribution to winning and it factors in not only the players stats for that season but also how an average player would have contributed given the same opportunities (minutes played), allowing us to understand how much more effective the player was then the average player that season.

To compare these players to the average for their position groups, I took every player in the league who played in more than 200 minutes during the season. The Wins Produced for Curry, Harden, and Westbrook are:

  • Curry = 18.8 Wins Produced (0.344 Wins Per 48min)
  • Harden = 16.9 Wins Produced (0.263 Wins Per 48min)
  • Westbrook = 11.2 Wins Produced (0.237 Wins Per 48min)

The Wins Produced and Wins Per 48min for all three of these players is exceptional. When we compare the three, we see that Curry produced a bit more wins and wins per 48min than Westbrook and Harden. Note that Westbrook drops a little bit here which could, again, be reflective of the fact that he played 14 less games that the other two. Curry appears to make larger contributes to help his team win games.

Curry produced approximately 17 more wins than the average point guard. Westbrook produced 9 more wins than the average point guard and Harden was able to produce approximately 13 more wins than the average shooting guard.

Who Should Be Crowned MVP?

I don’t know that there is a simple answer here. All three of these guys played incredible this season. If I were casting a vote, my vote would go to Curry. While he scored about 300 total points less than Harden and he averaged slightly less than both Harden and Westbrook, he did have a slightly less variance from game-to-game points (although not significant). Additionally, because of his consistency and ability to help create more wins for his team per 48min, I believe he is deserving of the MVP. The MVP provides the most value to his team by helping them succeed.