ARTICLES

Flexibility?

The benefits of flexibility for health and sporting performance is a contentious topic both in the mainstream media and academic literature. However, improving flexibility is a very popular past-time with the rise of Yoga and Pilates being evidence of this.


For optimal performance you need to have enough flexibility to complete your sport and go about your everyday activities. Therefore, everyone will require varying degrees of flexibility. It is also probably true that being too flexible may actually increase injury risk and impair performance.


The most common way of increasing your flexibility is through static stretches. Such as in the picture below……

For these stretches to be most effective, research suggests they should be held for between 30-60 seconds, repeated 2-4 times and performed daily. They should also be completed when muscles are warm so for example at the end of a workout or after a hot bath.

Interestingly, if stretches are carried out before exercise, they have been shown to actually result in a reduction in muscle force, power and balance, with these effects lasting up-to 2 hours. So warm-ups are not the time to try & improve your flexibility; rather move your joints & muscles through their current range of motion.


There are a whole host of factors that contribute to your flexibility, such as:

  • Muscle length
  • Muscle tone
  • Joint mobility
  • Nerve mobility
  • Fascial mobility

If any one of these are limiting movement it may present as stiffness. It can be hard for you to determine which is the causative factor so if unsure why not make an appointment with us today.

 

You can book here.

 

 

Growth, Development and Maturation: Part 3 – Monitoring and Measurement

Monitoring is an important aspect which is normally neglected, especially in high performance youth environments. Young athletes are regularly released or dropped from performance programmes as the coaches make an assumption that the young athlete in question won’t make it. Maybe this is because they are too small, not strong enough, not fast enough, or suddenly had a decrease in performance.  

 

All of these reasons are related to growth, as mentioned in Part 2 athletes have a decrease in movement skill competency during and post growth spurt. Coaches who have limited to no paediatric knowledge will presume they have “lost it”. Similarly young athlete’s can be early or late maturers, meaning you could have a technically great 13 year old football player who is going to be a late maturer but is released prematurely as the coach believes he’s not big enough. This is a huge problem with the system.  

 

So how do we address these problems? 

 

We can monitor young peoples growth and plot this over a period of time to track their development. By simply taking standing height, seated height, and body mass every 3 months we can monitor their progress.  

 

For example, we have a  15 year old rugby player who is technically and tactically very developed. He is 5ft 8, the coach believes to make it as a professional in his position he needs to be 6ft minimum. We could use the monitoring to work out if he has already been through his growth spurt and if so, look at his rate of growth since, coupled with his predicted mid-parental height we could make an educated guess to estimate how tall he will end up. From here the coach and player could have a discussion around positions and if he needs to switch and therefore enhance his chances of playing professional. 

 

We can also use predictions using parental heights to estimate their adult height within 5-8 cm in males and 3-8 cm in females in 95% of cases (1). 

 

Tanner et al. (2) proposed the following calculations to predict adult height. Calculation for boys’ mid-parental height (mother’s height + father’s height + 13, divided by 2) and girls mid-parental height (mother’s height + father’s height – 13, divided by 2).  

 

Our next article relating to this topic will be looking at how to set up your own youth athletic development programme, with considerations for growth, development, and maturation. 

References

  1. STRATTON, Gareth, and OLIVER, Jon L (2012). The impact of growth and maturation on physical performance. In: LLOYD, Rhodri, and OLIVER, Jon L. Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes. Oxon, Routledge, 3-18.
     

  2. Tanner, J M (1990). Foetus into Man: Physical growth from conception to maturity, Cambridge MA: Harverd University Press.

What underpins muscle growth? – Part 1

Muscles can increase in volume and therefore overall mass… Here is a little underpinning science.

Image result for hypertrophy

There are two types of muscle growth, hyperplasia and hypertrophy, you might be asking what are you on about? I will simplify these terms and break them down.

 

Hyperplasia is an increase in the number of fibers in a muscle. This has been proven in animal studies, but not in human studies. However, split fibers are associated with hyperplasia in animals and split fibers have been observed in human studies making this a possibility.

 

Hypertrophy is an increase in the protein content of individual muscle fibers, making these fibers larger in either diameter or length. This has been proven in many human studies and is the most likely method people put on muscle in the gym…

 

Many studies have shown increase in muscle fascicle length (bundles of individual fibers) after long term strength training, most often through eccentric only training or when peak muscle contraction occurs at long muscle lengths. This is one reason why I always train clients through full ranges of motion, while increasing or maintaining mobility through this method of training.

 

Similar gains in muscle size can be observed using heavy or light loads, provided the intensity of the exercises remains hard. However, heavy load strength training also improves strength and hypertrophy at the same time, making this a better training option in my opinion.

 

The next mini article in this series will look deeper at what stimulates hypertrophy, and how we obtain that within the gym.

So you have just injured yourself? Is that the sound of the POLICE?

Is that the sound of the POLICE?

Image result for sports injury

After an acute injury, early management to ensure optimal outcome should follow a few simple principles – just think POLICE.

 

P – Protect

OL – Optimally Load

I – Ice

C – Compress

E– Elevate

 

Protect:

What this means is largely based on the severity of the injury but essentially protect the injury from further damage. Think using crutches when you injure your leg or a sling when you injure your arm.

 

Optimal Load:

Often following an acute injury, a little bit of rest is important. However, you may feel compelled to rest your injured body part for longer than is actually necessary. This can lead to negative consequences such as reduced muscle strength and stiffness, which can delay your return to normal function.

Therefore, optimal loading is now recommended following an injury. Not only does this reduce negative effects of ‘complete rest’ but it can also help stimulate the healing process. What optimal loading looks like will be dependent on the injury.

 

Ice:

Icing following an injury may help to manage the swelling around the injury and also reduce associated pain levels.

 

Compress:

Compression may help to reduce swelling and inflammation. To provide compression an elasticated bandage such as a tubigrip may be used and should be applied down from the injured body part and extend above the site of injury.

 

Elevate:

Elevation helps to reduce swelling. The elevated body-part should be above the level of the heart to maximise its beneficial effects.

As always if in doubt get it checked out and a physiotherapist will be able to guide you through the POLICE principle and how it best applies to you.

Growth, Development, and Maturation: Part 2 – Practical Implications

 

So how do we put this into practice? 

 

Having a basic understanding of the above is essential, however knowing how to measure and prescribe relevant training for young people is arguably the most important bit!  

 

Long term athletic development (LTAD) models tell us that at a certain age, this young person should be able to do X, Y and Z. BUT…  

 

What if the child has a rapid growth spurt and therefore suddenly has reduced co-ordination skills?  

What if a child hasn’t yet gone through their growth spurt and can’t achieve the minimum expectation of someone “aged 12”? 

 

This is where the Youth Physical Development Model comes into play. This model suggests young people should continue to work on everything… Prioritising different elements of the model at different stages of development. For example Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) should be continually incorporated into any training programme, as these are the foundations of movement. This should be a priority in early to mid childhood and then realistically maintained within warm ups while other elements take priority.  

 

Check out the Youth Physical Development Model article here. 

 

Youths generally get minimal contact time for athletic development due to sport specific skills taking priority in sessions. So we have to make a decision on what is going to have the largest benefit with the minimal available time at our disposal. 

 

FMS should also be re-prioritised during and after growth spurts, as there will be a clear decrease in movement skill competency and the young athlete will have to relearn these skills again due to things such as increased limb lengths or foot size.  

 

Strength should always be a priority, this can be developed from a very young age. A simplified way to look at it is when a baby stands up for the first time or walks for the first time. They are learning how to move and causing stress on their body in the process, very similar to intentional strength exercises when prescribed by experienced and qualified coaches. 

 

You can read a full article on Strength training for youths here

 

Alongside strength we should also include components such as speed, agility, and power. These are all trainable with youths and should be a priority for 5-17 year olds (1). Speed can refer to many things, however in this instance I will simplify it and refer to sprint speed. This can be improved through maximal sprints, however young people regularly do this within sport and physical activity.

 

This is similar to agility (change of direction at speed), kids are always running round and changing direction quickly. As coaches or teachers we should be coaching technique and embedding good movement patterns in youths from a young age, instead of putting on drills for kids to repeat over and over again regardless if they are moving well or not. 

 

Power development can be incorporated by performing different types of jumps and medicine ball exercises. These can be introduced at the start of a session before moving onto strength work. However young people should be taught the correct landing mechanics before then loading these movement patterns.

 

Finally, the body can only tolerate so much load and therefore when programming strength, power, and speed exercises you need to be careful you don’t go over the top. Start with low volume and slowly build the volume up as their tolerance to training increases. 

 

Part 3 will provide information on monitoring and measurement of young athletes, how this can be integrated and used within young peoples development. Part 3 coming soon!

 

References

   1.  LLOYD, Rhodri, and OLIVER, Jon L (2012). Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes.        Oxon, Routledge.

Growth, Development, and Maturation: Part 1 – An Introduction

These terms are thrown around quite a lot by coaches and teachers, including the classic “Children are not mini adults” statement. But what does this actually mean and how does this then impact on session planning and delivery? This article will look to break down the literature and provide useful suggestions on how to measure, programme, and apply the science into practice. 

 

What is Growth, Development and Maturation? 

 

Growth is simply the growth in body mass and stature from birth to adulthood. Growth is the result of increased cell size, number, and cell material, which is caused by certain biological processes (for example hypertrophy – building muscle) 

 

Maturation can be broken down into two main categories, skeletal maturity and sexual maturity. Maturity is referred to as the rate of progress, rather than the quantitative increase in cells (growth). Skeletal maturity is defined as a fully ossified (developed) skeleton, this means the skeleton’s development is complete and therefore has reached maximum size. Sexual maturity is defined as a fully functional reproductive system, therefore simply put the body is capable of producing children. 

 

Development is a more generalised approach, which considers more qualitative measures, including biological and behavioural characteristics. The biological side considers the formation of specific functional tissues, whereas the behavioural aspect looks at affective (social), cognitive (brain), and psychomotor (movement) development.  

There are three age based categories we can use to consider where a child is in certain areas of their development. Generally speaking these are chronological age, biological age, and training age. 

 

Chronological age refers to how old someone is based on when they were born. This is regularly used to determine things like school year and squad age group. However this causes problems  in many sport activities and competitions, the image below is a great example. 

 

 

 

 

The image above shows three gymnasts of the same chronological age, but if we look back to the definitions of growth, maturation, and development earlier in this article, we should be able to see how these young gymnasts are all at different stages in their development. 

 

Biological age is a more informative descriptor of a young persons “true age” in terms of growth, maturation, and development. Biological age can be broken down into three areas, skeletal age, sexual age, and somatic age. 

 

Skeletal age is determined by the level of offisification (bone development). This is generally assessed by radiographs, however a huge limitation to this is the radiation dose associated with the scan. Sexual age refers to rapid increases in growth, development of secondary sexual characteristics, and maturation of the reproductive system (3). Finally, Somatic age simply looks at physical maturity, such as height and body mass. Maturity can be measured in this way through ratios, such as sitting height to leg length (2) and talent can be predicted using second to fourth digit ratio (1). 

 

Training age is also important to consider, this is related to the time spent doing an activity, for example a young football player has a training age of 7 years. Although not necessarily a part of growth or maturation, it is important to consider when monitoring young peoples overall development.

 

Part 2 of this series will look at the practical implications of growth, development, and maturation. Specifically looking at how do we alter our delivery, methods, or programme.

 

References

  1. MANNING, J T (2002). The ratio of 2nd to 4th digit length and performance in skiing. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 42 (4), 446-450. 
     

  2. SHERAR, Lauren B, MIRWALD, Robert L, BAXTER-JONES, Adam DG, and THOMIS, Martine (2005). Prediction of adult height using maturity-based cumulative height velocity curves. The Journal of pediatrics. 147 (4), 508-514.
     

  3. TANNER, J M, GOLDSTEIN, H, and WHITEHOUSE R H (1970). Standards for children’s height at ages 2-9 years allowing for heights of parents. Archives of disease in childhood, 45 (244), 755-762.