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Chris Beardsley
Director, Strength and Conditioning Research
Director, Strength and Conditioning Research


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The strength-endurance continuum is another way in which strength is specific.

In fact, it is probably the earliest case that we have of strength being described as specific, because the discovery was made by Thomas DeLorme in the late 1940s, at the same time as he kicked off the science of progressive resistance training itself...

The principle of a continuum from strength-to-endurance states that lifting heavy weights leads to greater gains in muscular strength, while lifting light weights leads to greater gains in muscular endurance.

Muscular strength is here defined as the ability to produce maximum force in a single effort, often measured by 1RM. Muscular endurance is defined as the ability to produce force repeatedly over an extended period of time, and is most commonly measured by the number of repetitions to failure as a proportion of 1RM.

But what what causes heavy load training to produce greater gains in strength? And what makes light load (high repetition) training so much more effective for gaining muscular endurance?

Here is an analysis:

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What makes some people stronger than others?

This important question has been a focus of many books, research studies, and even a few PhD theses. And yet, we are still working on finding the answer!

Research to date tells us that there are several peripheral factors, as well as a couple of central factors, that could underpin the differences in maximum isometric strength of a single-joint exercise between people.

The main ones are as follows:

+ Muscle size
+ Muscle fascicle length
+ Muscle pennation angle
+ Moment arm length
+ Single fiber characteristics
+ Neural drive to the agonists
+ Co-activation of the antagonists

Very few studies have been able to assess the influence of more than a couple of these factors at the same time. And that is what makes the following study very exciting.

In this review, we take a look what they did:
What makes some people stronger than others?
What makes some people stronger than others?

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The August 2016 edition of S&C Research is now out!

If you wanted to read it, but didn't manage to sign up before the end of the month, you can still grab a copy on our store.

In this edition, we review new studies that provide insights into "change of direction" (COD) ability. Exciting new findings show that the "force vector" theory may also apply to COD ability, as well as to sprint running performance.

If you want to read more, you can check it out here:
August 2016 monthly edition – S&C Research store
August 2016 monthly edition – S&C Research store

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Change of direction (COD) ability is an important determinant of athletic performance in many team sports. COD ability is a physical property that is reasonably closely related to several other athletic performance measures. However, as you might expect, it is most closely related to linear sprint running.

Many recent studies have now clarified that linear sprint running ability is largely determined by the ability to continue to produce a high ratio of horizontal-to-total forces. This is in contrast to the old idea that vertical forces could be more important.

The ratio of horizontal-to-total forces is also known as the ability to direct force production more horizontally with increasing running speeds (the direction of force application).

However, whether the ability to produce a high ratio of horizontal-to-total force can also determine COD performance within a group of athletes is unclear.

This exciting new study sheds some light on this question:

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Butt wink is a very controversial issue in strength and conditioning.

In the attached article, guest contributor Daniel Mee shares his knowledge on the biomechanics of butt wink, based on the background to his current research projects.

Read on as Daniel explains what causes butt wink is, whether there are any performance implications, whether it might increase the risk of injury, and whether we can reduce the amount of butt wink we observe, at any given squat depth!
What really causes buttwink in a squat?
What really causes buttwink in a squat?

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You probably know Bret Contreras mainly as the world's foremost expert on glute training. But as Bret turns 40 years old, I would like to highlight his contributions to the science of strength training for athletic performance!

Sprint running is one of the most important athletic qualities in team sports, and is contested in its own right in track and field.

But which strength training exercises transfer best to sprinting?

Since "strength is specific", gains in some types of strength will help sprinting more than others, and this will determine how well an exercise or training approach can transfer to sprinting ability.

There are many ways in which strength is specific, including muscle action, bar speed, joint angle range of motion, external load type, and the degree of stability.

We know from recent research that joint angle is a key determinant of transfer between squat training and sprinting performance (because quarter squats transfer better than full squats, and this matches the joint angles at the hip and knee during running).

We also know that exercises performed with faster bar speeds tend to produce greater gains in sprinting ability than the same exercises performed with slower speeds.

But what about force vector? Are strength gains force vector-specific, and does this affect the transfer of strength gains to sprinting ability?

The force vector is the direction in which force is applied with respect to the body.

If the force vector is important, we should expect an axial exercise such as the squat to transfer better to athletic abilities involving axial (vertical) movements, like vertical jumping. On the other hand, the hip thrust should transfer better to athletic abilities involving anteroposterior (horizontal) movements, like broad jumping and sprinting.

This review covers a key study performed by Bret Contreras and colleagues, to explore exactly this important question! The findings were critical for an understanding of how strength transfers to sport.

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Strength is the most important physical quality that anyone can develop. Getting stronger should always be a priority. Everyone should be strength training!

But just because strength, getting stronger, and strength training are important, does not mean that they are simple.

Strength training is complex, because the strength gains you get are specific to the way that you train. Gains are larger when tested using the same muscle action, velocity, range of motion, external load type, and even the degree of stability that you use in training.

To improve your ability to decelerate, eccentric training is better than concentric training. To improve force production at high speeds, high-velocity training is better than low-velocity training. To get strong over partial ranges of motion, partials are better than full range of motion exercises. To get strong against a constant load, train with a constant load. To get strong in unstable environments, training under those conditions gets you stronger than a more stable set-up. And so on, and so on!

So getting strong for sport means analyzing the requirements of that sport in terms of muscle action, speed, range of motion, external load type, and stability. Matching these features in your strength training program with those that are important in your sport will give you better sport-specific strength gains than doing a “one-size-fits-all” training program.

Simplistic approaches that treat strength as some kind of single ability that is constant irrespective of muscle action, velocity, range of motion, external load type, and stability requirements will never allow athletes to achieve their full potential.

At the risk of sounding controversial, that means saying "just get strong" is wrong.

Saying "get strong for your sport" is right!

To find out more about how to program strength training for sport to take advantage of how strength is specific, check out this article. And don't miss the free ebook giveaway at the end!

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I have been writing a lot about how strength is specific recently.

So it was really fascinating to read Matt Rhea's new study exploring the effects of training using quarter, half and full squats on a range of difference performance measures.

Here is the low-down:

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Thanks to recent technological improvements in terms of computation power and accessibility to high-quality wearable technology, we are now seeing lots of new HRV applications.

In this article, guest contributor Marco Altini explains practical ways to acquire and interpret HRV data in the context of monitoring training load and optimizing performance, using the HRV4Training tool that he helped to build:
How can we measure physiological stress with HRV?
How can we measure physiological stress with HRV?

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Conventional weight training (often, but not always using free weights) is the most well-researched training method for improving athletic ability. In conventional weight training, the load remains constant throughout the exercise.

Of course, there are other methods available. Some differ from conventional weight training by design (such as some variable load machines), while others differ by starting with barbells, and then adding elastic bands or chains. In both cases, the load is variable throughout the exercise.

To date, few reviewers have considered how conventional weight training can produce a different training effect compared with other types of strength training, because of differences in the external load type (constant load vs. variable load).

But this is a important consideration, because differences in the external load type cause differences in where in the exercise range of motion each training method produces its peak muscle contraction.

Here's an explanation:
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