Physical Characteristics of sprinters and runners

Sprinters are clearly differentiated from endurance athletes. Simply look at their physiques and you will note the remarkable muscle bulk of the sprinter in the key prime movers especially.

Workable periodisation for MMA

I get a lot of emails from grapplers and MMA fighters asking about training and planning questions. While I enjoy helping people out, one issue seems to reoccur, most people have no sort of plan!

Child/ Youth section

Information on strength and conditioning for the child or youth.

Setanta College

Setanta College is a blended learning institute which offers players, coaches, managers, teachers, physical education teachers and sports science graduates the opportunity to pursue practical coaching courses via the internet learning process (blended learning).

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Why EVERYONE Should Walk (from Morbidly Obese to Meathead)

By Guest Blogger Jack Tyler

It doesn’t matter if you’re obese, an athlete or an average Joe – you should be walking.
Not only is walking one of the most effective ways to lose fat, walking is a POWERFUL tool for increasing your quality of life – lose fat, increase knowledge, maintain muscle mass, reduce stress, increase mobility and promote recovery, all with a simple stroll.
This is a must read, but more importantly – a must do.
If you want to burn fat, the best time to walk is in the morning. The theory begin that upon awakening you have depleted glycogen stores (low in carbs) therefore your body will turn to your fat stores for energy. I agree with this premise and walking is the perfect form of exercise for it. I also find it gets people energized and level headed for the day ahead. Frequency: 4-7 times a week.
How long, how hard?
The goal is to perform a brisk walk, maintain an intensity which would allow you to maintain a conversation but at the same time gets you a bit hot and sweaty. It’s difficult to prescribe a precise duration to everyone, though it should sit between the 10-60minute mark. Closer 10 minutes if you’re morbidly obese and closer to 60minutes if you’re a very fit individual looking to lean up or promote recovery.
1. Walking burns A LOT of fat, without burning muscle:
Walking is a form of low intensity exercise, which generally means you burn a higher percentage of fat while you are participating in it than any other type of activity. I did a study on this if you’re interested (
So bro’s, to lose fat without burning muscle there are two options when it comes to cardio: High intensity cardio (sprint) Very low intensity cardio (walk)
It’s the midrange stuff that presents a problem for most people. When you go for a “jog” or hop on a cardio machine for 30-40minutes you will get all of the negatives effects associated with cardio (increased cortisol, muscle loss, overuse injuries, decreased power output and all other stuff bro’s have nightmares about). Walking doesn’t cause these negative effects, which is why it has been so popular with natural bodybuilders over the years, and as you’ll find out in the next point, it’s not always a good idea to sprint.
2. Walking doesn’t increase stress on the body:
This one is for the two extremes – individuals suffering from obesity and athletes. Why?
Obese folks already have excessive amounts of pressure being applied through their joints; running is a TERRIBLE option for these individuals. Walking will burn massive amounts of fat, as you’re effectively using your heavy frame as a training implement. So, stick with walking everyday – you’ll be blown away by the results!
Over to the other side, athletes spend a huge amount of time breaking down their body – smashing into people, lifting heavy weights, running and jumping… to say adding more stress to your body isn’t a good idea is an understatement, balance your yin and yang! A perfect segue to my next couple of points…
3. Walking aids recovery:
Walking promotes blood flow, which has been shown to be very important in helping recover from injuries and heavy training sessions. Some believe that walking also has a small spinal flossing effect that helps the nerves align optimally and thus transfer their electrical impulses in an optimal way. Though this is all speculation, one thing I do know is it gets you moving and out of your chair, which can really help loosen those chronically tight hips and help reduce back pain.
4. Walking reduces stress and increases intelligence:
Walking can be a powerful way to escape the chronic stress of life and get some quiet time, to collect your thoughts and ponder your troubles. Walking is also a great time to sink into a great audiobook or podcast, and get your learn on! I’m currently listening to Brian Tracy’s audiobook – No Excuses! It’s a great way to start my day, inspires new ideas and increases my focus and motivation.
Sure, this is not ground-breaking information but it’s extremely effective information, which is too often discarded and overlooked. Everyone could really benefit from slipping on those shoes and going for a stroll. I honestly believe this is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make, give it a go and you’ll see more than just your body change shape.

Jack Tyler is a Hertfordshire based Personal Trainer, Sports Scientist, Writer, Online Coach and Rugby Player. Who has always had an obsession with optimizing human performance.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Why Strength Training Is Important For Runners

One of the most overlooked protocols for runners is strength training.

The majority of runners just, well, run.

And while this is naturally the best way to improve endurance and speed, including other training protocols into your workout regime such and strength training (often referred to as resistance training) is a great way to further improve running performance and efficiency, prevent injury, and 
make you an altogether more balanced athlete.

In this article I’m going to address a few of these benefits in more detail.

Injury Prevention

Unfortunately, injury and running are synonymous - indeed, various statistics reveal that around two thirds of runners experience an injury every year, and 82% will pick up an injury during their lifetime.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of injury is to incorporate some strength training.

By strengthening your muscles and stabilising joints you can help correct certain structural imbalances that may occur naturally when your run, such as left-right side differences and unequal knee flexion, and decrease chronic pain and nagging joint discomfort.

Naturally, strengthening your legs around the knees is extremely important, as this will help prevent common injuries such Runner’s Knee and Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).

Improve Form

Multiple studies have shown that supplementing your runs with strength training can go a long way to improve the economy of your running technique, as this will effectively engage your core and lower body.

This is especially important if you’re running longer distances, as maintaining a good posture towards the end of a marathon when you are extremely fatigued can prove to be quite the struggle, and this is where an efficient form can really make a difference to performance.

Improve Performance

Using heavier resistance workouts for your legs can help you build explosive power, making you considerably faster as you dig deep for that agonising sprint finish.

In addition, lean muscle gains will improve the way your body uses energy and oxygen, and, what’s more, the right strength routine will also help you lose fat and improve body composition, and eliminating ‘drag’ and being lighter on your feet will always give you an added boost.

How often?
Incorporating strength training into your weekly regime doesn’t mean living in the gym – just 10 to 20 minutes of basic strength work a session will go a long way to keeping you injury free.

Perform these workouts two to three times a week on rest days or on lighter running days.

Which exercises?

The following are some basic strength exercises which you can start including in your regime right away.


Squats are, without doubt, the single best exercise there is when it comes to strengthening the lower body.

In addition to targeting a huge range of muscle groups, including your glutes, hams, quads, core, they also help strengthen your knees.

Exercises to try: Bodyweight squat, dumbbell squat, goblet squat, wall squat


Performing the plank is an extremely effective way of building strength in your core – that is, your abs, obliques, hips and lower back.

Targeting these muscles will help you build cast iron strength to balance and support your running posture over long distances, in addition to helping with breathing.

Exercises to try: Plank, side plank, dolphin plank

Lateral Movements

Performing lateral movements – which will move you in a different plane than you are used to - will help you improve joint stability and overall balance, as well as improving strength in the muscles that are often neglected in runners.

Exercises to try: Lateral lunges, lying double leg raises, skater squats


Many runners will neglect their upper body when training – however targeting this area (chest, arms, shoulders) will help you build power and improve speed that can be invaluable to your running performance.

Exercises to try: Pushups, decline pushups, pushups on a ball

Signing Off

Ultimately, whatever your discipline, be it sprinting, middle distance or marathon running, or whether you are new or old to sport, incorporating strength training into your regime will enable you to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

So, runners, don’t be a stranger to the weight room – you never know, you might even enjoy it!

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear from you, just drop me a comment below!

About the author

Henry is a fitness junkie with a passion for distance running, martial arts and strength training. You can find him blogging over at GymTalk and Running Junkies.

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Importance of Generalism in Long-Term Athlete Development

By Rob Anderson - Guest Blogger

As a strength and conditioning coach working within an educational institution, I coach athletes aged 12-18 (both male and female) from a variety of sports on a daily basis.  The process of helping develop youth athletes into well equipped, athletic, senior level athletes is a primary concern of mine. Within the athletes I coach, I have begun to notice a trend emerge in those athletes who display good levels of general movement and athleticism and those athletes who struggle when placed in movement scenarios outside their usual specific sporting discipline.

Previous participation in certain sports in childhood, particularly gymnastics and athletics, appears to equip the youth athlete with a base of key movement skills and athleticism that allows them to acquire new skills more easily and to attain progress more rapidly. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine long-term athlete development with a particular focus on the initial stage of the development model and to examine the benefits that may result from partaking in appropriately planned activities.

Long- term athlete development (LTAD)

The concept of a model of development has been suggested by many previous researchers, however the most popular model was presented by Dr Istvan Balyi (2001). Suggestions and modifications to this model have been presented by a number of researchers and it is suggested that the model is dynamic should be seen as a “work in progress” (Ford et al., 2011). Since the initial model was presented, separate models have been suggested for early specialisation sports (eg. gymnastics, figure skating, diving) and late specialisation sports (eg. athletics, combat sports, team sports). These models are presented below:

Early Specialisation
Late Specialisation
1.     Training to train
2.     Training to compete
3.     Training to win
4.     Retirement/retainment
1.     FUNdamental
2.     Training to train
3.     Training to compete
4.     Training to win
5.     Retirement/retainment
Taken from Balyi (2001)

This article will focus on the initial “FUNdamental” stage of the late specialisation model. Whilst individual and gender differences in rate of growth and maturation exist, these are influential in latter stages of the model and it is widely accepted that the FUNdamental stage is appropriate for both boys and girls aged 6 to 10 years old. The emphasis of this initial stage of athletic development is physical literacy due to the occurrence of neural development during this phase (Ford et al., 2011). This maturation lends itself to the acquiring of new skills and movement patterns. Physical literacy has been described as, “the development and competence in fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child or adult to move confidently in a wide range of physical activity, rhythmic and sport situations” (Higgs et al., 2008). Essentially, this means the ability to properly complete a general set of movement tasks. It is important to note that these general skills may also not be established in free play (Deli et al., 2006).  It is this general set of movement skills that I see lacking in youth athletes on a daily basis.  Often parents of youth athletes view the best route to athletic success at a senior level as early specialisation at a very early within a single sport. This approach leads to athletes lacking competency across a general set of skills that may be outside their chose sport. This specialised approach is counterproductive, as it has been suggested that a “proficiency barrier” exists, limiting a child’s progression to more complex, advanced and specialised sports skills, dependant on establishment of the fundamental movement patterns (Gallahue and Donnelly, 2003). Therefore, it may be construed that this initial stage of physical development may be underestimated in its influence in athletic progress.

As previously mentioned, it is recommended that the primary aim of FUNdamental stage of athletic development should be general physical literacy, with participation in a variety of sports.

The outcomes of this phase should be the “ABC’s of athleticism”
  •            Agility
  •        Balance
  •       Coordination
  •       Speed

These are to be developed reinforcing sound running, jumping and throwing technique, primarily through the use of fun games/activities/exercises. As the outcomes above are very broad, below is a schematic to illustrate activities which be incorporated into this phase. These are not an exhaustive list, but merely suggestions for categories/conditions of activities to select from. It is worth nothing that these biomotor abilities are not entirely exclusive from each other, thus some activities suggested may be considered to overlap category. For example, hopping may be considered to be a balance, agility and coordination activity.

An example of how a FUNdamental session might be constructed is displayed below:
Warm up
Circle jog
Arm circles forward
Arm circles backwards
Torso rotations
Spiderman lunges
A Walk
A skip
Jump rope
Straight hop and hold
Lateral hop and hold
Lateral shuffle
Lateral hurdle step overs
Hurdle over unders
Throw and catch shuttle run
single leg balance
Eyes closed single leg balance

For the most part, much of the activity in the FUNdamental stage can be completed with minimal equipment and is simple to deliver. However, it is vital to begin reinforcing correct movement patterns (running, lunging, jumping, throwing) with this age group as it the movement patterns established in this stage will be the basis of their movement patterns as they proceed to the next stage of maturation.

In summary, it has been noted anecdotally that many youth athletes lack the movement skills formed in the early stage of LTAD. These skills include competent running, jumping and throwing technique. The skills contribute to proper development of agility, balance, coordination and speed and should be appropriately addressed in the FUNdamental stage of LTAD in order to give a sound foundation of movement for athletic development in the latter stages of maturation. 

Balyi, I. (2001) Sport System Building and Long-Term Athlete Development in British Columbia. British Columbia: Sports Medicine.
Deli, E., Bakle, I.,  and Zachopolou, E. (2006) Implementing  intervention movement programmes for kindergarten children. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 4, pp 5-18.
Ford, P., De Ste Croix, M., Lloyd, R., Meyers, R., Moosavi, M., Oliver, J., Till, K., and  Williams, C. (2011) The Long-Term Athlete Development model: Physiological evidence and application. Journal of Sports Science, 29, pp 389-402.
Gallahue, D., and  Donnelly, F. (2003) Development of physical education for all children, 4th edition, Illinois: Human Kinetics.
Higgs, C., Balyi, I., Way, R., Cardinal, C., Norris, S., and  Bluechardt, M. (2008) Developing physical literacy: A guide for parents of children aged 0 to 12. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Sports Centres.


Rob Anderson is the Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach at the LeAF Elite Athlete Academy, Bournemouth.  The academy covers a range of sports including volleyball, swimming, football, boxing, athletics, karate and golf. Rob a qualified strength and conditioning coach through the UKSCA and is a strength and conditioning contractor for the GB Gymnastics World Class program (Trampoline) satellite program in Bournemouth, as well as a voluntary assistant coach to the British Weightlifting London and South East Talent Squad. Rob has a particular interest in Long-term athlete development and is a recreational weightlifter up to national level.

MSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Physiology
BSc in Strength and Conditioning Science
British Weightlifting Level 1 Assistant Coach
ISAK Level 1 Anthropometrist