Athlete Development

Performance

We take great care in designing our athletes annual training structures and each individual training session because we know that each training session can influence subsequent training sessions, both positively and negatively.

Our coaches design their athletes’ training into periodised phases which differ in design but offer a superior environment for fat loss and muscle adaptation. This assists our athletes to avoid injuries and gives them an edge with their fitness or strength.

Periodisation

The use of periodisation in our training program assists in allowing adequate time for specific muscle groups to recover and adapt in order to gain increases in performance. This can be explained in the diagram below, featuring the stimulus fatigue theory.

During training, we provide a stimulus to a specific muscle group, which in turn results in muscle fatigue. Immediately following this fatigue the muscle group will go into recovery mode, which is a period of approximately 48 hours. This 48 hour period allows the muscle group to overcompensate and increases in force, power or muscle mass, depending on what you’ve trained for. This allows the muscle group to be prepared for the next stimulus to be loaded upon them. However, if extra stimulus is placed upon them before the recovery period is allowed then overcompensation will not occur, rather resulting in a decrease in force, power or muscle mass. All the programs that we develop for our clients follow this theory to allow for overcompensation and increases in performance.

What would a typical program look like?

Throughout your training you will no doubt encounter supersets (where one exercise performed straight after another) in a lower body to upper body format. This is a time effective and proven way to add muscle mass and reduce fat in a very fast yet, challenging way.

When it comes to resistance training, big compound functional exercises often provide the basis for our training programs. Compound exercises simply mean exercises that require more than 1 joint to perform the movement (eg squats, dead lifts etc). These specific exercises are very important because they invoke high mechanical stress on the body, which stimulates the release of many important hormones that play a role in muscle repair, muscle growth and in turn fat reduction. In addition, training like this tends to damage a lot of muscle cells. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, this is one of the most important processes required to lose fat and gain muscle. This high muscle damage stimulates the release of pacman-like hormones (cytokines) that eat up the damaged muscle cells and fertilizer-like hormones (IGF-1, testosterone and growth hormone). Together they get rid of the damaged muscle and allow new muscle proliferation to happen; as a result of this adaptation the new muscle raises the bodies metabolic rate at rest which effectively means your body is now a more effective fat burning machine – HOW GOOD!

So if your goal is to increase muscle mass or fat loss, the exercise selection will remain the same. It is the sets, reps and load scheme which will vary. For example; in between sets, shorter rest periods (30-60sec) will lead to more body fat loss, while longer rest periods (60sec – 2mins) will lead to more muscle gain.

Keep in mind though, that by far the most effective tool to improving your body composition is the growth hormone IGF-1. To maximise production of this powerful fat burning hormone, focus on lactic acid production. To achieve this, you would use heavy weights with slow lifting tempos and shorter rest periods. You can read more about this in our article How and why we periodise.

We optimise our athletes' performance through

Velocity Based Training (VBT)

Hammer Athletic utilises PUSH Band technology to optimise our athletes’ training regime and results.

The PUSH Band measures metrics that are key indicators of athletic performance: Velocity and Power. In addition, PUSH calculates an athlete’s Total Work, measured in Kilojoules (KJ), which allows us to quantify effort for every session.

Worn on the forearm and paired with our iOS devices, the PUSH Band combines the latest technology with industry-leading algorithms to provide us with actionable workout analytics that will take your coaching to new levels.

Understanding VBT

The speed at which an athlete lifts can tell you how appropriate the load is. If an athlete is lifting slowly, then the weight applied is too heavy; too fast and it could be time to add more.

It takes a skilled coach to know when an athlete is lifting outside of their ideal velocity range, and sometimes the signs aren’t obvious. Objective velocity data can help to determine an athlete’s daily optimal training load, measure an athlete’s level of fatigue to avoid over-training and highlight target velocity ranges for Strength, Power, Endurance, Speed, and Hypertrophy focuses.

POWER: THE ULTIMATE METRIC OF PERFORMANCE

Measured in Watts, power is calculated by multiplying the force of a lift by the velocity.

Force takes into account not only the weight lifted, but also the effective body mass of the athlete as well as the acceleration of the movement. Power is able to answer these previously unanswerable questions:

  • How can I evenly compare athletes of different weight classes?
  • How hard is each athlete actually working?
  • How can I tell if an increased load was beneficial?

TOTAL WORK: PUT A NUMBER TO EFFORT

Total work is calculated by multiplying the force of a lift by its displacement, and includes both the eccentric and concentric phases of a lift.

PUSH Band allows us to calculate total work to help you:

  • Quantify how hard you pushed yourself in a session
  • Guide the optimal scheduling of future sessions
  • Determine the total amount of stress imposed

Performance Testing

Every six weeks our athletes are subjected to a rigorous testing battery. We do this in order to predict future performance, indicate weaknesses, measure improvement, assess the success of the training program and motivate our athletes. In addition to this, we find that testing breaks up and adds a bit of variety to the training program.

The introduction of the more comprehensive software that comes with the PUSH Band allows for a shorter yet more comprehensive testing battery and can allow client performance increases by upwards of 10%. We will be implementing the PUSH technology in the following way:

Here at Hammer Athletic, we consider strength testing the most important in all testing measures. This test enables us to deduce a great deal of knowledge about our bodies, so often overlooked by the everyday Joe. We perform a variety of strength testing modalities, from postural to outright strength measures. Depending on your experience level and injury status there are tests to cover all bases.

Why is this so important? Fundamentally, if we are strong then we are less likely to get injured; remember, strong things don’t break. Another benefit is that the stronger we are, the more muscle mass we develop either through density, girth or as a measure of both. Ultimately, this leads to a higher RMR (resting metabolic rate) as muscle requires a lot of energy just to subsist, enabling us to burn higher calories at rest and inherently become a better fat burner. Further, strength underpins everything, so in order to improve in the power tests (as explained previously), the stronger our foundations have to be to aid progression. The stronger we are, the faster we move in our speed endurance, the better we are in our running economy for aerobic tests and the more agile we are (enabling you to overcome huge forces in order to change direction). Needless to say, strength is the bedrock of improvement and as such, we appreciate and emphasize its importance in our training regimes.

PUSH Band predictive strength tests (Bench Press and Squat) – the PUSH Band has the ability to perform a predictive 1RM test by using average velocities in an algorithm to accurately predict our true 1RM. This is a great tool, as it is safer than doing a 1RM and also reduces the fluctuations that are observed when performing 1RM’s from phase to phase. For true 1RM lifting, the subject has to be mentally ‘ON’ and when we have a regular client fronting up at 5.30am, after having a hell of a week, they might not always be ready for that max effort. This new protocol allows clients to build to submaximal loads, without the stress of always seeking that 1RM. While I maintain that 1RM testing is still important testing protocol, we will simply adapt the timing of that protocol to ensure that is safer and performed after establishing a proper strength foundation.

The ability for a human to move loads fast is probably the most desired trait when performing any sort of exercise. In everyday activity, we are constantly producing forces through many vectors and occasionally, not in the safest manner. Essentially, training the body to withstand loads at higher velocities prepares us for the randomness of reality. As an athlete, the ability to move load fast is the ultimate performance indicator; if you are powerful and fast, the harder you are to stop.

At Hammer, we have 4 tests measuring this specific parameter. Initially, we use Vertical jump and a chest pass with a medicine ball; these are simple and great tests for power (or rate of force development) in the lower and upper body. They focus on the higher velocity section of the force-velocity relationship; that is to say, how fast one can move minimal load and/or bodyweight.

PUSH Band jump squat at 40% 1RM or 1RM Squat Clean – These are performed for our Strength – Speed test; notably, the guys who are competent with O-Lifting will do the squat clean 1RM and those who aren’t will perform a jump squat test with the PUSH Band, with height of the jump and peak power during the lift measured by the PUSH Band.

PUSH Band Vertical Jump – by using the PUSH Band to determine a vertical jump height, this reduces the influence of the arm swing which strictly measures;

Tests of anthropometry include measurements of body mass, density and body composition through skinfolds. It is important to be aware of the changes in fat percentage, as it can influence performance significantly. Body composition and size are essential; the leaner a person is, the greater their ability for aerobic performance.  However, if a person is too light, this will affect power, strength and physical stature. Therefore, determining fat free mass and fat mass is integral in maintaining optimal weight and composition ranges as the less fat percentage, the less non-functional mass. Another advantage of anthropometric testing is that it allows for constant monitoring of your nutritional intake; for example, if you are training consistently and still putting on fat mass then your nutrition intake is poor. What this is also tells us is that if you are plateauing, yet you are doing all the right things, then other non-nutritional factors may be involved like hormone imbalances, stresses and other limitations.

This particular form of testing measures how cardiovascular fit we are. For this particular test, we use the O’Neil rowing test, a test that has been invented to accommodate the athlete and the everyday person. Terry O’Neil adopted and amended this test from a previous test called the Copper test, which was a 12 min running test for people attempting to enter the Armed Forces. With an enormous amount of normative data accumulated from Concept 2 rowing ergometers, he produced a test that is more relevant both for the everyday trainer as well as an athlete.  The use of the ergometer accommodates the high number of the general population unable to run due to injuries and illnesses, yet allows the participant to reach a ‘VO2max’ expenditure equivalent to that seen in similar running tests. Further, O’Neil also established that there was no requirement for lengthy testing procedures, as some of the values observed in his data displayed very accurate correlations with intensities and efforts in a quarter of the time compared to other tests like the Cooper or other VO2max tests. Another inherent benefit about this test is that can be performed in the same conditions, without being subject to external environmental factors, allowing great reliability in the results. But what is the test? In essence, it is a 4 minute effort on the rowing ergometer on a resistance level of 3, with the maximum distance covered in that 4 minute effort compared to range of normative data. You are then categorized based on your distance and what bodyweight class you fit in. Not only does this give you a target to beat at the next test, it also shows where you viz a viz the greater population.

For a measure of flexibility, we conduct the knee to wall test. Research has established that this is one of the best flexibility assessments to predict injury. Fundamentally, if we suffer from poor ankle mobility we have a tendency to compensate with poor recruitment patterns, which produce shear forces throughout our posterior chain. Humans are built to withstand significant compressive forces but conversely, we are not particularly amenable to forces that cause rotation or sideways movement. The consequence of this test is that a poor result in the ankle mobility test can allow us to prescribe correct exercises to not help achieve the fundamental goal (namely, strength) but also allows us to increase the mobility through the ankle, minimising those rotational and sideways displacing forces that can cause injury.