Posts Tagged ‘Sports Science’

The Combine, what I like and a really stupid test.

Admittedly, I like the NFL combine. Not as much as I used to but I still think it’s kinda cool to watch. These guys are absolute freaks of nature and even a “poor” performance by them is an outstanding performance by 99% of people.

Plus it’s nice to see what these guys can actually do. Too often during college football games we hear that kid A squats 500lbs and kid B benches 450…Do these numbers happen?


They just don’t happen for 3-5 players on every team…Let’s face it, coaches lie to media. Ever seen a media guide with accurate heights and weights? ……Neither have I. Many strength coaches are notourious for lax standards on testing and report inflated numbers CONSISTENTLY….remember this board.

4 guys ran 4.2’s….WTF?

4.2’s don’t come along all that often at the combine WHERE THE BEST UPPERCLASS DRAFT PROSPECTS ARE….But at UF they do this with consistency? (yes I know Florida has AWESOME talent, but really guys?) Oh and the whole it’s a slow track at Indy stuff is trash, it’s not slow, it’s electronically timed….yeah, no I punch the clock a little late on the start and early on the finish so it looks good for the coaches/ fans/ scouts/ recruiters/ media sorry….

According to there have been 3…yep a big 3…. 4.2’s run in the combine since 2006 and NONE this year. More about fake 40’s  here. Point is, coaches lie exaggerate and then the guys on TV, Radio and in the print, who don’t really know what they’re talking about, in this regard, recite this trash without question and it becomes commonplace for 18,19,20,21 year olds to run 4.2’s (4.4’s if he’s slow) and bench 500lbs….none of which actually happens in real life very much.

How do I know this? Powerlifting Watch ALL TIME WORLD RECORDS

You think kids, 20 year olds, are almost as strong as some of the strongest powerlifters ever? I doubt that.

Mike Boyle in Advances in Functional Training makes this point:

When I was a college football strength coach, I’d tell our football coaches when they were recruiting a kid to divide his squat by two. A high school kid who claimed to squat  500 pounds would usually get a little more than half that on test day.

Like most things, don’t believe the hype.

That’s why I like the 40rd dash at the combine. It gives real insight into the speed these guys can produce which, quite frankly, is amazing even if it’s not a strength coach lie exaggerated 4.2.

If you want to see what the normal desk jockey would run the 40 in click on this: Rich-Eisen-runs-the-40

The test I really hate is the 225lbs bench test. This thing needs to go, it’s useless. Football is a sport of all out efforts separated by 40 seconds. It has nothing to do with a continuous repeated upper body effort.

Yeah, it looks cool and it’s impressive as hell…but he’s a receiver….does this really matter in his sport at that position?

Me thinks not.

Let’s use some logic here….and some inferences which I know are not 1 to 1 correlations but work for this example: in other words you’ll get the picture.

If player A can bench press 400lbs and he pushes against player B who can bench press 300lbs.

Who wins in a pushing contest? (assuming all other variable to be equal….obviously).

RIGHT! Player A. In fact he’ll probably (all things being equal again) maul player B.

He gets to rest 40 seconds and go at it again. Let’s assume a 10% drop-off in force output per play (this would be a lot of a drop but whatever).

Player A: 400lbs force   Player B: 300lbs force
Play 1:      400lbs                                  300lbs
Play 2:      360lbs                                  270lbs
Play 3:      324lbs                                  243lbs
Play 4:      292lbs                                  219lbs
Play 5:      263lbs                                  197lbs

So obviously the stronger guy would win in force output for every contest and most likely the battle on the field….every down.

When the combine was actually looked at in this article. Here’s what they found:

Performance test with a low correlation in comparison with other tests shows that the skill being measured is unique. The 225-lb bench press test, the 3-cone drill, and the 60-yd shuttle are not as highly correlated with the other tests in the testing battery of the combine. This signifies that these tests measure different components of performance; however, it does not signify that these tests are valuable in determining whether an athlete could be successful playing in the next level.

 For example, the vertical jump was the most important test to determine draft success in the RB position, whereas the 225-lb bench press test had little to no effect.

The 225lbs test was also studied here, here and here.

Here is the long and short of their findings:

 muscular endurance repetitions with an absolute load of 225 lb can be used to predict 1 RM bench press strength in college football players, although the error in prediction increases when endurance performance exceeds 10 repetitions.

So yeah, when you perform more than 10 reps the accuracy of the test (in predicting 1RM ie. maximal strength) diminishes as the reps performed increases and the test results have no impact on where a player gets drafted for some positions.

Why do we do this test again?

My alternative is to replace it with a max test….a 1RM or 3RM. It would be closer to the actual maximal force production of the athletes and it would be more protective.

Just about anyone who is not a beginner to the whole weight lifting game will tell you that a 1RM test is “easier” than a high rep RM set to failure, especially in this type of environment where every rep could mean money on the line for an athlete especially a lineman. 1RM tests tend to be difficult but don’t result in the types of injuries seen with these “all out” high rep sets. The potential for muscle strains, tendon strains and ligament injuries are high because as the athlete tires they look for any way possible to squeeze out another rep. The athletes are so strong and the weight is such a low percentage of what they are capable of that they can use poor technique and still complete reps.

Where as with a maximal attempt technique must be maintained to complete the rep….and good technique is what keeps us safe

Poor technique is what leads to injury…NOT WEIGHT!….this test lends itself to poor technique.

Now it looks like agents are questioning this test (and the guy who administers it). If this happens enough players will start to opt out more often and eventually the NFL we either drop of alter the test to something that would actually tell us some information about the player and their physical abilities relative to NFL football.

And with at least one torn pec being suffered this year during the event (by Iowa tackle Markus Zusevics), agents have been complaining about the effort to get the players to squeeze out a final rep that could blow out a muscle or a tendon.

Who cares if my guy gets 24 instead of 27 reps?” one agent told PFT.  “No one has ever won a football game because of how many times a guy can lift 225 pounds with his arms.”



Surprise!!!!and maybe it didn’t have to be like this…..

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Paula Deen Has Type Two Diabetes Us Weekly via Yahoo news.

I feel bad for her…I mean, that sucks balls and all, she seems like a genuinely nice person and her food looks awesome but seriously, who didn’t see this one coming?

When Al Roker repeatedly asked Deen if her diagnosis was a direct result of her butter-rich diet, she admitted that it’s “part of the puzzle” but not the only factor.

A “part of the puzzle”? I guess she didn’t specify how big of a “part” so she’s right….At least it looks like she’s trying to deal with this and not just pull a, “oh well, guess that’s how it goes”….

But this quote was awesome;

] a few years ago: ‘Honey, I’m your cook, not your doctor,'” Deen said. “You are going to have to be responsible for yourself.”

Damn straight…..

Being the “fitness professional” I am sometimes me thinks, “Self, could some exercise have kept Paula Deen’s insulin sensitivity in check and help her stave off the dreaded diabetes mellitus?”

I don’t know, but it looks like science does (great segway right?)…..Here is the actual article (only including this because it appears that this work is one of the few truly groundbreaking findings in quite a while in this field)….Plus, it’s published in Nature which is considered along with Science to be the two most prestigious science publications which usually means it’s kinda important.

Here is the more readable version from Science Daily: Boost for Health? Researchers Isolate Protein Linking Exercise to Health Benefits. The researchers were able to isolate the hormone from muscle cells which is the trigger for some of the benefits of exercise. The protein is called irisin and it switches on mechanisms that turn white fat (metabolically inactive) into brown fat (which is metabolically active). Irisin was also shown to improve glucose tolerance ie. no more diabetes, HELLO Paula Deen deep-fried cheescake!


Charles Poliquin, who is really smart and has TONS of great insights and ideas, wrote this blog about the implications for this finding, and I totally agree. Strength training will be where the irisin research goes in the future and will prove to be MUCH more fruitful in terms quality outcomes resulting from controlling the release of this protein.

Maybe this whole irisin thing is why teenagers, athletes etc. can eat like shit “shitake mushrooms” and not get fat. Plus, I have to give myself a little credit here. For the last couple years I noticed that even with a pretty bad diet clients who showed up and worked hard would keep their weight in check….So I started telling my clients that diet is where you’ll lose or gain weight and exercise is your “buffer” for when you eat Paula Deen deep-fried cheescake like shite…If you’re training hard a few times a week, it seems like you can get away with several more nutritional slip-ups than if you’re not training at all or training like the average gym zombie.

Jim Wendler’s Blog post today totally speaks the truth to this topic…You Can Out Train Your Diet– Jim Wendler

Plyometrics- You’re Doing it Wrong

January 17, 2012 1 comment

Earlier this week I had a discussion with one of the better, for sake of a better word let use, “athletes” at work….He’s early to mid in really good shape and ran track in college, now he’s part of a special campus security team. He asked me about “plyometric” workouts…..right then, I knew it was going to be bad….

It was

he had gotten a workout off of the interwebs that called for 3 sets of 3 exercises for sets of 10-12 each…..

plyo’s are NOT body building…nor should we use the DeLorme method. It just ain’t right….plyometrics are about speed and power. So this is the basics of what I told him:

First off 99% of what people call plyometric is not at all. Don’t believe me? What about the National Strength and Conditioning Association,

Even though plyometrics have been around for decades, many coaches still remain misinformed on how to properly incorporate plyometrics into their athlete’s training plans. Others fail to understand or apply the scientific theories behind this unique methodology of training.- Shawn Myszka

“Plyometric” is a western term (we made it up) which comes from what was termed by Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky as “shock training”.

True “plyometric” or “shock” training requires a large eccentric force to be coupled with a concentric force resulting in a very large resultant force.  

The most famous exercise which is used in the “shock” method is the depth jump;

stand on a box, step off, hit the ground, and immediately jump up as high as possible at ground contact. You should gain energy from the impact that you absorb, stabilize, and transfer to your muscles and tendons for a more explosive jump. – Kelly Bagggett

Obviously, this is very different from the exercises that most people call plyometric such as box jumps and broad jumps where there is no coupling of the eccentric and concentric contractions or amortization phase. The goal of plyometrics is to ultimately enhance the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) of the muscles and tendons. The athlete needs the eccentric loading provided by stepping off the box for the SSC to really be challenged and trained.

For the most part true plyometric training is out of the question for most people. It’s just too stressful on the body. The vast majority of people can not absorb the types of forces that are associated with this type of training….if you think you can remember


not the muscles. Don’t forget tendons are what attaches muscle to bone….If your knees hurt now just think about how they’ll feel after a nice series of depth jumps.

Strength is a hotly debated issue in regards to how strong is strong enough for plyo’s. Some say you should refrain from plyometric training until you can squat 1.5-2 times your body weight. I don’t know about that. That’s a pretty big squat for most people, but in regards to depth jumps and their ilk, I think I do agree with that because the eccentric forces being absorbed are so big. If nothing else, to squat that kind of weight, you would have to have a good body awareness and control. That sais pseudo plyometric drills like vertical jumps, box jumps etc, a little strength would be good (enough to control the landings) but I don’t think that type of strength is needed. Maybe a squat equal to 75-90% of body weight should suffice.

Now, before I get the angry Mike Boyle, CrossFitt nut hanger who goes, “My kids jump off play ground equipment all day and their fine” argument..


I’m not talking about you 55lbs kid who is active and runs, jumps, moves has good mechanics etc.  I’m talking about an adult who mostly stands around or sits at a desk, has bad mechanics, orthopedic restrictions and weighs 200lbs doing depth jumps….not box jumps or landings….thanks for your input. And if you listened to the ENTIRE statement Coach Boyle makes about the whole plyometric things you would realize he agrees…

Even the NSCA says, “Only Athletes who have already achieved high levels of strength through standardized resistance  training should engage in plyometric drills.” Not that they are the end all be  all but that seems to be the consensus.

Once we understand what we’re doing and what we need to be able to do this the question becomes..How much?

Answer: Not Much

Remember plyos are explosive and result in the body absorbing and producing large forces. Big forces are stressful to the body. Yeah, you may make it though the workout, but will you make it through the next one? When it comes to true plyos less is almost always more. It’s easy to overtrain these. Remember the words of Charlie Francis, ” it is always better to undertrain than to overtrain“. If you can’t recover, you can’t improve.

While there are guidelines for plyometric volume in a workout….the honest answer is, it depends. Training age, strength levels, the intensity (height of drop, number of consecutive jumps, etc), goal of the training session and cycle all need to be taken into consideration. Remember, “these are a speed-strength tool not an endurance tool. Maximum muscular recruitment requires that you stay fresh. High volumes of consecutive repetitions are not possible or advisable.” –Kelly Baggett . Keep em quick and explosive. Less than 20 ground contacts for things like depth jumps is probably good, 20-50 things like box jumps, cone hops, skater strides is probably enough there for most people.

That’s the quick and dirty basics of plyometrics….next time you hear someone go, “I love plyos. They make you sweat a lot”….or that they “did the plyometrics on P90X” understand that they have been BADLY misinformed and have no clue what’s going on… 

Great video on Dr. Verkhoshansky and plyos: If you are an athlete of train athletes well worth your time, if not…skip it.

Dan Pfaff Speaks!

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

There are a LOT of fake Yoda’s out there pushing the training system of the minute. Then there are guys like Dan Pfaff…oh you know, they’ve actually DONE IT in the field of sport performance…ohhhh, those guys.

These videos are really enlightening….HUGE double hat tip..Ben Bruno for linking to Patrick Ward

Too many people are not listening to coaches like this and are listening to the internet asshat of the minute…

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Achievement, 10,000 hours, Grit and why you’re not a pro athlete…..

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment

First things first, your best predictor of lifetime sporting achievement is your parents….Genetics matter, a lot. the talent pool at the truly world-class level is deep and wide. Those without the basic prerequisites, height, size, strength, speed etc. will not make the cut. Just trying hard doesn’t get you a $120 million dollar contract.

Tried realllly hard?...Yeah, ummm, he still wins...

That said, practice can go a long way to getting the most out of the abilities you do have.  the old

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

has a lot of truth to it…but lets face it there are not too many 5’6 point guards in the NBA or 5.5 second 40yrd dash guys playing cornerback in the NFL…genetics do play the largest part.

But what does account for the “overachiever”? Those athletes on the fringe who overcome and make it? The ones who are a tad too slow, short, weak, but they overcome  and become professional level performers. The Doug Fluties, the David Ecksteins. What allows them to overcome their fringe (for the professional level) talent and still excel? What accounts for the can’t miss prospect who never develops their talent, who seems distracted, aimless and lost?

Some  suggest that it’s 10,000 hours of directed goal oriented practice based off of this guys research….some says this is not an adequate way to discern talent vs. practice. Any way, there’s a lot of practice involved with achieving world-class performance so there must be something that allows these people to continue on in this race when others stop, slow down or become distracted…the answer might be akin to what I wrote about in this (unpublished, only for a grade in grad school) paper, How Mental Toughness and Hardiness Interact to Provide the Necessary “Will and Skill” in the Development of Elite Athletes.“.

Then I saw this video today, hat tip Kevin Neeld.

Seems like “Grit” is exactly what I was looking for when I wrote that grad school paper… appears “grit” is what allows us to make the “most” of our innate abilities…It’s majic really, if you stick with something long enough and you are willing to work hard enough, good things happen……sooooo obvious, yet so many miss the boat.

It looks like that’s probably what separates the top end performers (regardless of the field), relative to their genetic equals, from everyone else.

Holy Sh*t…Sport Science article on…Yahoo?

No really it’s true…I thought is was BS at first but it’s not. Yahoo sports ran a Grrrrrrrrrrrreat article about Usain Bolt and more so sprinting and running speed.  Usain Bolt: A Case Study in Science of Sprinting– Jay Hart   

Hint: He’s not fast because of “advanced training techniques” taught at the local “speed camp”…nor is it Under Armour 360 Combine training, HIT training, Crossfit or even 5/3/1….Nope, not because of cones or parachutes, kettlebells, Bosu balls, bands or even chains……not even chains?


It has more to do with Sir Issac Newton.

Sprinting Speed= How much force exerted against ground and how long that force is applied.

“Weyand discovered that speed is dependent upon two variables: The force with which one presses against the ground and how long one applies that force.”- Hart

Knowledge Bombs ahead:

Aftermath of this article...

 “In a full sprint, the average person applies about 500 to 600 pounds of force. An Olympic sprinter can apply more than 1,000 pounds.”

“The average person’s foot is on the ground for about .12 seconds, while an Olympic sprinter’s foot is on the ground for just .08 seconds — a 33-percent difference.”

Don’t get me wrong, adhering to or advocating a system of training is fine…and it’s good to have many tools and know how and when to use those tools…But the fundamental truth is physics still rules the day. Force application still rules the day, the program and modalities used are just a means to the end.

Personal Note:

Jay Hart, you sir, at least as far as this article goes are a fine journalist. Usually you get articles like this and the quoted expert is the local “fitness expert” or a sport coach or some crap like that. Not Jay Hart, he got quotes from one of, if not, the best sprint coach in the world Dan Pfaff. Instead of getting an opinion from someone who may seem educated to the public on the subject but is wholly ignorant, he went and found….an actual expert, with real world training, experience and results in that field.

Some people still do it right.

The rest of the media could take a play out of that book huh?

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