Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Self-Experiment in Frequent training. Part 1


I decided to try out frequent training (upper/lower 6x/week) with using higher volume (lots of sets) of low reps with submax intensity and effort to explode on every rep as fast as possible. HERE is the Excel file with all the data and program outline.  If someone wants to perform certain analysis be my guest – you can find ‘pulled data’ HERE which I actually used for analysis for this blog entry.

Basically the program was doing Workout A (squat) and Workout B (bench press) every other day for 6 days a week for 4 weeks (although due skipping days it lasted a bit longer). On each day I did Olympic lifts (snatch on a squat day and clean on a bench day), but I haven’t taken those into workload account, since it was basically technique work but with a lot of sets (8-10).

I have tracked morning HRV and HRrest every day (or most days – hell, this is real life, if you track a lot of data it gets tedious).

Here is the setup of workout A (squat) and B (bench press). I have used 110kg 1RM for bench and 160kg 1RM for squat to estimate loads to be used on a given day (please check Excel file).

So I warmed up, tested peak velocity and mean power in 20kg countermovement jump (CMJ20kg) averaged over 5 reps on both days. This was my performance indicator.

On Workout A I also repeated CMJ20kg and calculated %decrement for both peak velocity and mean power to estimate fatigue.

On a bench day I also tracked best mean velocity with 50kg (pause bench press) before and after training to establish fatigue. In most cases this improved showing facilitation instead of fatigue (DISCLAIMER: what I have noticed is that usually the peak/max scores in a set are not that affected as are averages over couple of reps, usually 3 – thus it might be wiser to track multiple jumps/attempts with this goal since tired athletes might maintain power-force with one attempt, but over multiple it tends to drop, so that might be more sensitive to fatigue).

In the warm-up sets for squat and bench press I estimated daily 1RM using regression analysis of mean velocity of the lift. This was pretty unique approach and one of goals of this self-experiment.  For squat those were 3 reps with 70, 90 and 110kg (pause squat) and for bench press it was 50, 70 and 90kg for 3 reps (pause bench). Then I estimate 1RM using regression analysis: 0,3m/s for squat and 0,1m/s for bench press. I will expand more on this feature since I believe this is the first time someone documented this over a cycle.

Over each working set I have tracked mean velocity and estimated between set decrement and within set decrement in velocity (I am not going to expand on methods how I calculated this, but it is pretty similar how RSA decrement is calculated). 

I wanted to see any relationship with CMJ20kg performance decrement and this (between and within set decrement) as they did in this great study [LINK]. Besides this study was the main motivator for this self-experiment.

If I had some energy left I did some assistance lifts (not that often) or extra conditioning (not that often).

High frequency lifting

High frequency lifting was fun for the first week. The second week was hell. Then I started skipping workouts and even had huge drop in estimated 1RM in squat and hence a lot higher corrected %1RM used that caused even more strain (hence the importance of auto-regulatory approach) and knee pain the days later. I learned the importance of starting VERY easy (not with higher volume as I did) and providing higher variability in load parameters in the week and between weeks (which I luckily did). Anyway, as a result of it both of my 1RMs improved along with my Olympic lifting technique and weights (haven’t tested these yet, but I can ‘feel it’ ).


One thing that I noticed is that HRV measurement needs to be kept very strict. I did it while standing after waking up and going to the toilet. Sometimes different modes of ‘going to the toilet’ yielded different readings (small toilet vs. big toilet) since I did before/after. Also, drinking a glass of water might yield different score, as well as walking to the kitchen. So, really stick to one routine. I would say: wake up, walk to toilet, pee, measure HRV, continue with the rest of your life.

The correlation between HRV and Rest HR in my case is r = -0.62.

In the next part I will continue with more analysis.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The man behind AccelerWare®: Interview with Stewart Briggs

Over last couple of months I have been looking into software solutions to help me with keeping data at one place, along with helping me in design of workouts, year plans, testing results, training workloads and monitoring. Why – because I am sick of Excel.  Because Excel was never meant to be a database solution.

A lot of coaches struggle with this  - they have testing data in one sheet, year plan in another, workouts in third, training load in fourth, etc. They have the current athletes/squads in one folder, older squads in another. They have two computers, one at home, one at work (thank God for Dropbox though).

Connecting those databases might be really problematic and demand a lot of “manual labor”. Now with Power Pivot and DAX formulas data mining might be easier, but I am not sure how you can create a ready to print workout cards from exercise database and 1RM testing using it. Another solution might be to learn Access, a desktop database software from Microsoft which is also a part of the Office package (which I currently doing along with learning statistics/R).

If you have a lot of money maybe you can hire an IT guy to code cloud and in-house solution. Or you might go with already developed software like AccelerWare, Smartabase, EDGE10, Visual Coaching, etc.

While I was googling software solution for strength training I stumbled upon AccelerWare. I asked for a demo and immediately got a response by Stewart Briggs, the ‘father’ of the AccelerWare. He was kind enough to give me a live demo of the system and I immediately started using it. I must admit that AccelerWare is really great tool – especially for small/medium businesses/clubs and strength and conditioning coaches.  The price of AccelerWare is a tiny fraction of other professional solutions, besides - you pay month to month which is awesome. 

Stewart is one of the kindest guys I talk to and I was really enjoying time talking to him, so I decided to do an interview with him and introduce him and AccelerWare to my readers.

I hope you enjoy the interview and please make sure to check AccelerWare – you might find that this is the solution to your database problems and a lot more.

Mladen: Thank you for taking you time to do this interview Stewart.  Can you please tell us something about yourself – who you are, what do you do, your coaching/development history, most notable clients/athletes/achievements and your general training philosophy?

Stewart: Hi Mladen, thanks for having me.  My name is Stewart Briggs. I was born in 1973 in a small country town named Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia. I grew up on a cattle station and went to school, rode horses and motor bikes and generally worked and played sport throughout my youth. I went to boarding school for 5 years in Rockhampton where I discovered new sports and I began strength training.  This is when I first learned the affects weight training could have on performance. I then had a choice of a military career or to go to university to study Human Movements. I chose university but joined the army reserve to continue my interests in military activities. My interest in strength and power training was enhanced by the talented staff and graduate students that were coincidentally at Southern Cross University in the early 1990’s. Therefore, I volunteered to be involved with many studies which were ground breaking at the time and developed my foundational knowledge to become a quality strength coach.

During my undergraduate studies, I decided to open my horizons and do exchange studies in the United States in 1994. I then decided to do my Masters of Education (Developmental Kinesiology) at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). After graduation, I was immediately hired to work as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach under Mike Ward at BGSU.  During my 4 years there, I had the pleasure of training athletes who went onto the NHL, NBA, and NFL.

In 1998, I became the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. This position allowed me to apply the things I learnt from Mike Ward and implement new training theories I had read about or remembered from studies at Southern Cross. This was an extremely positive time of my career and one which I will look back fondly upon forever.  While at Drake, I was again fortunate to work with several players who progressed into the NFL, which was amazing considering the small size of the football program.

In the year 2000, I returned with my wife Vicki to Brisbane, Australia to live. That is when we decided to start a company called Acceleration Australia. Since then, we have worked with countless numbers of fantastic athletes who have accomplished some very cool things. Most prominently we worked with Libby Trickett (Lenton at the time) where Libby won Olympic Gold and attained World Champion status in Swimming. Also, the Brisbane Bullets won their first National Championship (Professional Basketball) in 20 years. We have trained over 8 other Olympic athletes and a large number of young athletes who have gone on to represent their country or to play professionally.

My training philosophy is simple, “Results”. We only do things that get results. If we discover that there is a better way to get results, then we adapt and change what we do. I do not, however, jump around to the latest fade or trend. Instead, I like to watch, listen and learn from people who have been doing something for years and cut through all of the mistakes they made and get to the point where we know we will get results – and FAST.

Mladen: What motivated you to build AccelerWare? What is the story behind it?

Stewart: In early 2002, I started building a software program to handle testing data so that athletes could attain their results without necessarily seeing everyone else’s results. When I was a college strength coach I really struggled with the testing days because it seemed like a waste of time because no one really analysed their test results and used the information to make the program better or improve performance. Anyway at this time there was nothing on the market that was remotely in this space – so I started building AccelerWare. If you want to read the rest of the story on our About Us page:

Mladen: I as a strength and conditioning coach, I am mostly interested in a way to manage player profiles, testing scores and histories, workout templates, loads, attendance, injuries and possible some way of subjective feedback (like wellness questionnaire or sRPE). Besides that I have noticed that the productivity also depends on the way workouts are presented to the squad/athletes (design, description, instruction, etc). How can AccelerWare help me in that regard?

Stewart: You’re absolutely dead right! There are so many components to training athletes and getting results.  You have to collect, record and report on so many aspects of the individuals and teams you train. This is why we created AccelerWare in the first place.  In order to be successful, we had to develop a system to quickly, easily and accurately to deliver programs, collect information, process that information and work with it. So, the software is ready to manage player details, record testing results, save templates and track attendance and injuries – and heaps more! We pump a lot of athletes through our weight room.  To be efficient and productive, we’ve worked really hard on our training program design.  It is built in a way to allow a coach to write his/her programs in a smart progression which allows the athletes to flow through a weight room.  AccelerWare also gives you quite a few set and rep chart options that fill into a program automatically. Weights can be entered in live cells which are recorded for reporting purposes. Programs also include exercises from a database which allows each exercise to be clicked on to view: videos, photographs, descriptions and other information which means communication is clear and concise. There are many aspects that we’ve built into the system over the last 11 years to cut out any repetitive jobs and streamline the processes that would otherwise bog you down or be neglected.

Mladen: Is AccelerWare limited only to strength and conditioning specialists or medical staff, rehab specialist or even skill/sport coaches and gym owners can use it? How can AccelerWare integrate the whole coaching staff for a common purpose and make that achievable on the front lines?

Stewart: AccelerWare also works really well for specialist coaches, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, personal trainers, fitness centres and sporting clubs.  The reason why it can work for so many different people and industries is because it was designed with the dual purpose of running a profitable business.  It doesn’t matter what you do, you still need to perform some fundamental, rudimentary tasks. Technically speaking, AccelerWare is powerful because it is built around a database and within a browser or cloud format. Once you start putting data into a database, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can do with that information.  The browser or cloud format means that the software is almost organic in the way that it can adapt, grow and change to accommodate for how it works what you want it to do.

This also allows fast and effective integration of information and communication with not only your staff but the other pertinent people with whom you need to work with.  They say that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a lot of people to look after your athletes and/or clients.  AccelerWare effectively integrates with your ‘village’ being parents, board members, directors, surgeons, therapists, volunteers etc.

Mladen: Compared to other products like Smartabase, EliteForm and Visual Coaching, what makes AccelerWare unique?

Stewart:  Smartabase, Elite Form and Visual Coaching all have their strong points. AccelerWare is unique for several reasons.  The first is Time.  We’ve been around for over 11 years building and improving its systems. I don’t think the other companies can say that. The second is Testing.  I have three very busy training centers and many customers using this software every day.  If there is a problem, we find it and we fix it.  We have a dedicated programmer who works for us, and she’s a genius! The third is Access. Because AccelerWare is cloud-based, it makes sharing information and communicating quick and easy.  Not only that, but it means that your hard drives are clear of heavy, bulky software.  This also means that there are no annoying upgrades to do but you always have the most current version. The fourth is Adaptability. AccelerWare is totally customizable!  If you find something we don’t have, no problem. We’ll just work together to build it in!  Also, each component of the software is separate so you only pay for what you need. That hints to the last thing – Affordability.  We’ve made the pricing fair as it will accommodate for what elements you want to use, the size of your organization and the timeframe that you are using it.

Mladen:  Who are some of the prominent clubs and/or coaches that use AccelerWare?

Stewart:  We have over 25 organisations from all over the world using AccelerWare. The range of users is tremendous. I will list some of my prolific users of AccelerWare and then I would say to you to watch their space because they are likely to be very successful in their given industry. Why do I say that? Well, I have been around some bad teams, some great teams and some average teams in business and sport. The one thing I have always noticed is that it is much easier to be good if you are systemized and these people were systemized even before they started using AccelerWare. So, they are sure to continue to be successful.

Vector Health – Glenn Hansen (
Willows Health and Fitness – Troy Morgan (
Perth Wildcats – Will Markwick (
SNAPP – Joey Eisenmann (
Cal Baptist University – Chris Bates (

Mladen: How steep is the learning curve? How long is the transition time for an average user and what can one you do to speed the transition time to AccelerWare?

Stewart:  This is a great question! Mastering any new software can seem like a massive, time consuming task. Incorporating new software that runs your whole operation is going to take a bit of time however, we’ve broken it down into consequential stages that guide you along and don’t take a huge amount of time.

For example, to get going quickly it is best to upload your client/athlete details. Using enrolment forms, this takes about 10-30 minutes.
Then, you can look to add your staff member’s details.  Each person should take about 5 minutes.
Finally, you can start to look at the calendar system to organize everyone.  Adding one series of events will take only 5 minutes.
Another important stage that needs to be addressed early is your bookkeeping. If you are keen to use the automated invoicing, you’ll need to set up a few parameters.  That should take only 60 minutes.

So, you can see that after a few hours, everyone is set up and in the system ready to start working.

Some people learn faster than others, but feedback from various customers tells me that it takes from a few days to a few months to really get on top of what they want to do with AccelerWare. When you consider that AccelerWare is meant to manage EVERYTHING then I suppose you would understand that it will take a while to set up properly.  Besides, I usually spend a bit of time helping people in the first couple of weeks anyway. 

Mladen: Technology seems to advance more and more and data collection gets more and more automatic. How is AccelerWare following this “arms-race”? Is there a  possibility to develop APIs for more automatic data entry, for example data from timing gates and/or jump mats?

Stewart: Data collection is vital for all professions these days because managers and boards are asking for more detailed reporting than ever. The speed with which you can collect and analyse this data is very important – that is where the sharing of API’s comes in handy. We have already used API’s to automate the sales processes of creating invoices and collecting payments. So doing this is absolutely do-able!  However, each time I look at automations like these, I need to consider whether it is actually worth it.

Swift Performance Equipment ( and I have talked about sharing API from their software to AccelerWare. This is completely possible and the idea is really interesting as SPE’s timing gates and programs are really good.  However, I must say that we have not been in a rush to do this one because it doesn’t seem to streamline the testing process.  I’ve found that the time it takes to set-up people before testing might be just as long if not longer than simply typing the results in manually. So, when considering any type of API automation, we’ll need to decide whether or not it will cut out a few steps. If it doesn’t then the customization may not be worthwhile.

This is how we stay ahead of the “arms-race” - by thinking practicality to base our decisions. We are not trying to create a multifunctional toy, but a smart, efficient tool that actually helps rather than mucking up the system. The last thing we want is a convolute AccelerWare and confuse people with a lot of extras and add-ons.  In saying that, however, if there is a technology out there that improves the software and makes it more useful; we will certainly be all over that!

Mladen: Speaking of that, customization of the whole AccelerWare is possible. What are the most frequent customizations requested by the users?

Stewart: Actually, there isn’t one thing requested more than another. It really depends on the industry we are talking about. For instance, therapists are looking for consultation note taking and calendar usage. Fitness Centres are very business focused so the whole financial reporting etc is very important. Strength coaches are obviously interested in designing programs quickly, while reporting is becoming a bigger issue every year. Personal trainers are mostly interested in a one-stop shop for all their needs from business to training programs. Sports Scientists are interested in data collection and statistical reporting on recovery and testing etc.  Exercise Physiologists are worried about printing options because a lot of their clients are not technologically savvy enough to use the internet. So the requests are many and varied throughout the week.

Mladen: What are the next major updates of the software? New features? GUI improvements, drag and drop export/import, statistical analysis?

Stewart:  AccelerWare has had vast improvements over the past few years.  A few of the highlights are: automatic invoicing, a selection of calendar views, set and rep charts, import/export training load data, business analysis reporting and video embedding. The next very immediate project we are starting has to do with more weight prescription automations. The idea is so that a strength coach of a large sporting organization, like a college, can prescribe accurate weights for each and every lift over time. The biggest point of difference however, will be our ability to track the changes to those weights actually lifted. This means more accurate weight prescription in the future, plus faster reporting and analysis for the strength coach.

Mladen: Thank you very much for such insightful answer Stewart. I hope that this interview brought some attention to your work and excellent AccelerWare software.

Stewart: No, thank you Mladen! You have done a great job asking really good questions! It is people like you that will help AccelerWare remain one of the best cloud based software’s of its type in the world. I have learnt a long time ago that it is my customers who are the future innovators of AccelerWare. So keep up the hard work, mate because it makes a difference not only for you but all AcclerWare users around the world.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Interview with Julen Castellano

After reading couple of excellent recent research papers on GPS analysis of Small Sided Games (SSG) in soccer by Julen Castellano et al. [PAPER1PAPER2PAPER3PAPER4] I decided to contact Julen and interview him for the blog. Julen was kind enough to accept the invitation and share his viewpoints and research findings.

MLADEN: I am really glad I have the chance to discuss GPS data and SSG games with you Julen. Before I starting picking up your brain can you please share with the readers who you are and what do you do?

JULEN: I am Julen, Professor at the University of the Basque Country. I have Ph.D.s in Physical Activity and Sport Sciences (UPV/EHU, University of the Basque Country). I am also a Level III Football Coach.

I was a semi-professional football player for 15 years and another 15 as a fitness trainer. But I am not old because I simultaneously did the two roles in the same teams for years. In terms of coaching, I have worked in the academy of professional soccer teams.

My main research focuses on team sports, especially, in “fútbol”, football or soccer. My research areas are: performance analysis, training methods and evaluation, but they are focused on the game and the players’/teams’ tactical behaviour. I have done research on the physical and tactical aspects associated with sports performance in professional, semi-professional and youth football. I published over 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals, six books, 35 book chapters and tutored six Ph.D. students.

MLADEN: What is the best way to measure training load in intermittent activities like soccer? What is the relationship between external (GPS data: acceleration and velocity) and internal (sRPE, %HRmax, TRIMP, bLA) indicators and how do they differ in different activities (for example match vs SSGs)? Which one is most valid, reliable and sensitive?

JULEN: Measuring training load in intermittent activities is not easy. This has been debated for decades, yet now unlocked. They all have their adv’s and dis’s, and probably, if the team has sufficient resources, it will work with some of them; this would be better. Nowadays, with the improvement of technology like GPS having data on external load is a reality. I agree with respecting the principle of specificity, prioritizing, because it is assumed that performance improves more when training simulates the physiological demands and movement patterns of competitive matches. We must stimulate our players as specifically as we can. Velocity and displacement, but specifically acceleration, can be the main variables to measure players load. Soon (I hope) a new work titled RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INDICATORS OF INTENSITY IN SMALL-SIDED SOCCER GAMES will be published. The conclusion of this study is that during training regimes of this kind it is necessary to consider a range of intensity indicators so as to obtain complementary information. This will enable coaches to assess more accurately the load imposed on players and to optimize the training process. The information obtained from indicators associated with high-intensity activity could be of interest, particularly when the aim is to assess specific training drills such as SSG rather than just training sessions as a whole. In SSG, it could be useful to combine both internal and external indicators so as to obtain a more accurate measure of the training load experienced by players. We have begun to see that these types of variables are more pertinent than others. But much more research is necessary to improve knowledge about it.

MLADEN: Not sure if you are familiar with the work done by prof. Roberto Colli on power output during soccer [LINK], but what they basically did was to combine velocity and acceleration/deceleration data to get power output. Using velocity only analysis oversees short powerful accelerations/decelerations that did not reach high speed threshold, yet provide tremendous mechanical load characteristic for intermittent sports. What are your thoughts about using acceleration and power instead of only speed and how will this impact calculated external load?

JULEN: Nowadays, the information available (to us) is enormous. One thing must be kept in mind, simplicity, we have to be simple. We must think that the trainers need little information (the most relevant) but quickly. Programs capable of handling this information would be included. But, as a result of technological developments it is now much easier to evaluate automatically the external training load of several players at the same time. In this line, global indicators like player load (by Catapult sport, among others), calculated using the data obtained via the triaxial accelerometer incorporated within the GPS device, has demonstrated high reliability, suggesting that accelerometers are a viable tool for tracking activity changes during exercise. Now, we have other indicators derived such as player load 2D, player load slow, number of change of directions and their intensity… Absolutely, around this more research is necessary

MLADEN: In most time motion analysis studies including the new ones using GPS, along with HR data all intensity zones are set up to absolute numbers (i.e. 10-14km/h, 80-90% HRmax). How would using individualized zones, for example based on max speed, MAS (vVO2max) or some other indicator affect calculated loads? Would that be more valid way to assess workloads of an individual?

JULEN: Measuring individual zones we can use max speed, it could be an option, but we have to think that football is a sport of absolute values, in others words, for the game we need to know who is faster than another and not if the players ran at their 90% max speed. The paper by Buchheit M et al. (Match Running Performance and Fitness in Youth Soccer. Int J Sports Med, 2010) is a good example to understand this. I am sure both options have to keep in mind, mixing absolute and relative perspectives.

MLADEN: The study done by Di Salvo et al. (2009) [ABSTRACT]  showed that high intensity activity in the game (assessed with total high intensity running distance; THIR ) was related to team success with teams finishing in the bottom five and middle ten Premier League positions completed statistically significant more THIR compared with teams in the top five. Also, the new study by Carling et al.(2012) [ABSTRACT] showed that Repeat Sprint Ability (RSA) might not play crucial role in a elite match performance as commonly believed. What are your thoughts on this, especially taking into account that those conclusions were based on velocity based time-motion analysis?

 JULEN: Really, the apparent contradictory results of both papers are logical, why? Simply, it is not new, actual performance within a team-sport framework is a complex concept. Nowadays, there are more and more papers about the ‘contextual variables’ (like match status, quality of opponent, location...) and time-motion or playing tactics, for example. To summarise, there is a number of variables that could explain physical workload in soccer players, and combinations of these variables could be used to develop a model for predicting (from a probabilistic viewpoint) the physical activity profile in competition. Some of our research arrives at this conclusion: the player was to make more intelligent runs rather than simply running for long distances. The winning team will probably run less than the opponent, but I wonder, did they run less before scoring the goal? Or on the other hand, run more and once the team has scored a goal, use another kind of strategy to keep the advantage (and run less)? Often, to evaluate performance analysis researchers use all of the game to assess it, but during the game is there a relation to other contextual variables that influence the player’s physical and physiological demands, and one of them being match status. Maybe we should evaluate the physical performance whilst keeping in mind the score. Indeed, some papers suggest that effective assessment of soccer performance at a behavioural level needs to account for the potential interactions between situational variables. To answer the question, we can not to assess sport team performance using only physical point of view, we need more information, because among other things, used play style can be different and so enhances other physical demands.

MLADEN:  When it comes to soccer training, especially lately, coaches use SSG (small sided games) exclusively to develop soccer-specific endurance, even speed and power [click for more HERE]. What are your thoughts on such practices and can it be used for all levels of players (youth, adult, elite) and/or all positions. Is there a ceiling/plateau after which SSG cannot provide further stimuli for improving physical qualities and yield no transfer to a game? Can we achieve all needed physical adaptations by relying solely on SSGs as a method of conditioning/training?

JULEN: Yes of course, I agree with you. The SSG can only help players in some physical qualities or areas and only to a certain level. When players get to one particular level, SSG cannot provide further stimuli to improve physical qualities. Players need other methods to improve their qualities. But we have to think that players need to optimize their qualities and not maximize their qualities. To underline, the play performance is more important than the physical performance. We must be careful! Attention should be paid when using SSGs in training programs because this training method probably would fail to provide stress on activity variables deemed to potentially promote adaptations for the development of game repeated sprint and repeated high-intensity activity. With all, there is no other option, this requires the tracking of players’ training load every day (if we can).

MLADEN: Some coaches believe that 2v2 and 3v3 SSGs (and not 1v1, 2v1, 3v2 finishings) develop power of the players, thus negating the need for power/strength training. They base their rationale on how players feel after it (sore and heavy legs), but I believe that peak power output in those exercises is actually lower (or they spend less time and less occurrence at high power/speed/acceleration/deceleration zones) compared to bigger games due the proximity of the ball and opponents, but the frequency of medium-high efforts and zones is higher, thus the workload is higher on average. In my opinion this is “flaw of averages” and biased view. What is your viewpoint?

JULEN: For an ideal performance in team sports, such as soccer, players need to optimize their technical, tactical, physical and psychological capacities. In this way, it has been suggested that the small games can improve the above mentioned skills of simultaneous and specific form. Nevertheless, although these situations of training replicate the majority of the demands of the competition and that they can be an exercise adapted for the development of some principles of the ‘play model’, they might provide a deficient stimulation of high intensity activities, requiring coaches and trainers to complement this training with other types of drills or carefully configure these tasks with the intention to provide the player with an ideal stimuli of training.

MLADEN: Recent study by Buchheit et al. (ABSTRACT; Slides HERE) showed that we cannot expect linear connection with improving/decreasing physical qualities (MAS and Vmax) and changes in physical game performances. Taking this into account, how do we know whether improvements in physical qualities (MAS – maximum aerobic speed, acceleration, deceleration, agility, maximum speed, etc) yield improvement in physical game performances or do changes in tactical situations yield those improvements? Also, is there a certain threshold after which further improvements in certain physical qualities yield no game performance benefit? How do we know that?

JULEN: Absolutely, more and more studies focus their results in that same line. As I have previously commented in football the priority is not the physical condition. Prior to this, skills and decision-making are key for success, and moreover, all orienting to the team or tactical behaviour. During its history, football training has had different stages. The training methods depend on the era, especially influenced by winning teams. Probably, nowadays, if the German teams keep their superiority other kinds of training methods (and ‘play model’) will be copied. Regarding different styles, I am sure that a minimum level of fitness is necessary (footballers aren’t sedentary), due to the high pace of competition, increasingly during the last few decadesTo assess physical qualities we must be very very specific, try to propose the evaluation of the same physical and physiological demands. The physical qualities should allow players to be prepared to keep their fitness for a whole season (long competitive periods within and between national and international competitions). Furthermore, training must be specifically adapted to player specificity (to their strengths and weaknesses), try to avoid unforced injuries. Permanently evaluating MAS, acceleration, deceleration, agility, maximum speed and others (e.g. in individual areas like biomechanical, physiological…) could help us to diagnose and make decisions regarding player rotation, overtraining, fatigue, recovery strategies, periodisation, influence of training loads on physiological responses and adaptations, risk of injury, inter-individual variability in the responses and adaptations to training, and a lot of more, that although they are not the most important in this type of sport we have to bear them in mind.

MLADEN: Speaking about training, how important is to conduct specific intermittent intervals (i.e. 15/15 with changes of direction) for improving endurance and why are they better than more generic conditioning like 4x1000m or 4x4min?  Wouldn’t  too much of specific work (especially the one that includes a lot of changes of direction) yield specific over-use injuries? Is there time and place for generic training, like intervals on the bike or 4x1000m runs?

JULEN: In my opinion both ideas could be valid. Considering both general and specific work, it is better to keep a balance. In Spanish we use one sentence that can sum up this: “todo no es ni blanco ni negro”, it depends.  Each country, club, team and player has their own idiosyncrasy, so there is not a unique option. It will depend on multiple factors that I can’t list now, but everybody knows or suspects. Linking to the next question, I am closer to the Tactical Periodisation (“Periodización táctica”, Portuguese proposal) than other options, of course, proposed systematically and especially assessing players (experience tells me that it is unusual). This type of periodization involves games principles, every day, week and month. The training skill is almost always a game. This means not leaving aside the structural features of the game when preparing any task, as Ecological Dynamics argues: in designing practice tasks that faithfully simulate performance environments an important challenge is to share information and action, allowing emergent movement patterns. Playing football is different to simply running, jumping or changing direction, although to play football players have to run, jump and change direction. Decision-making comes before everything. But once again, although most training contents should imitate the game I disagree with only taking one type of model which would be a restrictive training approach. I agree with mixing methods.

MLADEN: When it comes to periodization there are multiple solutions that include block training and concurrent training. How should a coach periodize the pre-season and in-season? What should one do during the long in-season to maintain fitness levels and avoid injuries? A lot of coaches use Raymond Verheijen rotation of SSG – what is your opinion on this?

JULEN: In professional football the physical and physiological periodisation principles (that are both individual concepts) have most importance during pre-season, all players have to have a minimum level of fitness, as close to their previous years. Once an elevated level of fitness has been achieved, the team has to keep their fitness platform throughout the season. Independent from different options that the coaching team proposes for their players, the variability can’t be very high because each weekend the team must have a maximal performance (in some cases twice a week), in other words, all games have the same 3 points to win. From this point of view the block periodisation concept might not be the best option. Methodology adopted by individual sports could not be applied in team sports. Team sports need team principles, not individual principles. Another thing is that for physical performance coaches it is easier to program and assess individual qualities. This is necessary but not enough when it comes to team sports. Raymond Verheijen proposal seems a good option too, but I need to read more scientific evidence around this to evaluate adequately (in the same proportion for Tactical periodisation). In my point of view this proposal stems from the player and not from the team. Once again, we are trying to apply individual principles to team sports and I think we must begin from the mean, but it is only my opinion. Maybe, for this reason, when a team play better they are running less; although, it is true that training to run more is easier than training to run better.

MLADEN: Thank you very much for sharing these insights Julen. A lot food for thought and some very important concepts. We are looking forward to new research papers from your group. I wish you good luck and a lot more studies.