Aug 24

UPDATING THE MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNER STANDINGS.

Back in 2013 we posted about Mo Farah’s achievements in winning the 5,000m/10,000m double at the London Olympics.

The post served to bring to light the modern era of excellent middle distance runners and mentioned the exploits of Morceli, El Guerrrouj, Gebrselassie and Bekele.

Since then, Farah has gone on to win a second 5000/10000 double gold in Rio, leap-frogging Bekele’s bag of 3 Olympic Gold and a Silver. The point that was made in the article at the time, when Farah was fresh off his London games victories, was that his times overall compared to the generation of runners from 10-15 years previous were still slightly behind.

 

 

Bekele remains the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder. Farah has not advanced his times since 2011, (before London), and holds only a few European and British records overall. Of course middle distance races are often tactical affairs but Farah does not have a top 10 time and Bekele has 7 races faster than Mo Farah’s best 10,000m time and 10 races better than his best 5,000m time.

There is no doubt that Farah is a tremendous racer, but in raw output we must remember the performance of Kenenisa Bekele whose times may stand for quite a while yet. If you didn’t see Farah run in Rio, watch the highlights below. And don’t forget to spare a thought to Finnish runner Lasse Viren, the only other athlete to complete the double-double 5,000/10,000m Olympic wins.

 

Jul 27

A FIGHT YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO.

The greater history of sport in Australia in the early part of Federation in the 20th century revolved around Cricket, Horse Racing and Boxing. A game we traditionally loved, and 2 games we could gamble on.

A major contributing catalyst to boxing’s early 20th century success and popularity was a major sporting event held in 1908. The Jack Johnson vs Tommie Burns Heavyweight championship title fight held at an outdoor purpose built arena in Rushcutters Bay was the biggest sporting event to be held in Australia for many years. The story of Hugh D McIntosh’s entrepreneurial efforts to bring the event to Sydney can be read about here on the ‘Sydney Living Museum’ website.

If you ever pondered the origin of the phrase, ‘The Great White Hope’ then the racial undertones of this fight and the multiple story lines behind it are incredibly informative.
 
 

 
 
More recently, mainstream boxing has been in the shadow of the rise of MMA and the UFC. Whilst big events like Mayweather v Pacquiao still attract big pay-per-view audiences, those super fights are seldom.

A fight on the horizon, might just be a contest worth paying closer attention to.

Andre Ward is scheduled to fight Sergey Kovalev on November 19th.

Ward must defeat Alexander Brand on August 6th for the fight to go ahead as scheduled, but if it does occur, it will pit the 2 best light-heavyweights in the world; both undefeated, and 2 of the top 4 pound for pound boxers of today.

Ward was the 2004 light-heavyweight Olympic Champion, is undefeated in both amateur and professional bouts and has a 25-0 pro record. His ability to switch from orthodox to south-paw, his length, his long amateur career and his always-coming forward style make him an appealing fighter.
 
 

 
 
There is no guaranteed victory for Ward over Brand. Brand is 25-1 with 19 knockouts, but it is the prospect of the next fight that generates this article.

Kovalev, like Ward has a long amateur career.

From 1997-2008 he was 195-18 before turning pro. His pro record is 30-1-0, the single draw coming from an accidental head clash that stopped the fight.
 
 

Kovalev has killed a man in the ring. In 2011 his fight against Roman Simakov was a total mismatch that resulted in Simakov falling into a coma and not coming to. Kovalev is a powerful hitter. He defeated the great Bernard Hopkins in 2014 and currently holds the WBA, IBF and WPO championships.

 

What sort of a fight are we hoping for? Well the fight of the year so far this year was the Shawn Porter v Keith Thurman fight.
 
 

 
 
Boxing journalist and your writer’s brother was at the fight in New York last month and filmed the pst fight interviews which you can start watching here.
 
 

 
 
In Paul’s early assessment, he feels that Kovalev has the edge. As we get closer, and if Ward wins his last warm up vs Brand, then you heard it hear first that this is a fight on the horizon that is worth getting excited about.

Jul 07

2016 IWF JUNIOR WORLDS

To be selected to one’s country is a tremendous honor, although weightlifting is hardly a well-contested sport in Australia, world-wide it is an entrenched competition that ranks as one of the worlds toughest to train for and succeed in.

Jackson Young qualified earlier this year for the IWF Junior World Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia; quite a feat for someone who has only been competing since February 2015 and had a gridiron season mixed in with that time period.

Part of a 9 person team (4 females, 5 males), Jackson PR’d his competition snatch (124) and total (294kg), coming terribly close in the 177kg C&J attempt that would have set a national record.

 

Don’t say we don’t go the extra mile for our athletes. Scott detoured from his Europe trip to work on Jackson prior to warm ups.

3rd attempt Snatch at 124kg was a competition PR.

 

177kg was so close, would have been a new Australian record.

May 11

SO, ABOUT THOSE ‘DUCK FEET’……

So there is a lot of, ‘Old man yells at cloud‘ with this, but have you noticed that Ducks don’t actually have ‘Duck Feet’?

 

 

Ducks Waddling

 

Look closely, do those feet look like they are pronated to you? On the contrary, if anything ‘Duck Foot’ looks a lot more like supination in actual ducks, NOT pronation. Do we really need to ‘fix duck feet’ in humans?

 

               

 

 

When we look a little closer, we find that Birds walk on their phalanges (toes) and that the first digit of a Duck’s foot is actually pointed behind. We humans however, are walking on our metatarsals and calcaneus whilst Ducks have a fused structure called the ‘tarsometatarsus’. The metaphorical use of a Duck’s foot in talking about over-pronation quickly starts to collapse.

 

 

 

There is a variation of digital alignment in birds. In Anisodactyl birds (3 toes fore and 1 hind toe), of which Ducks are, you will see further variations in webbing. The alignment of the toes is a key feature in understanding that Ducks are NOT over-pronating when they walk. Over-pronation in humans occurs when the Medial Longitudinal Arch collapses and falls in…….

 

 

A Duck just can’t do that, they are on their toes, there is no ‘arch’ that CAN collapse and if anything, particularly in the case of totipalmate birds like Gannets and Boobies, the 1st digit supports the foot medially. The Wood Duck is also like this.

 

The Blue-Footed Boobie and the Wood Duck would not be able to over-pronate even if they wanted to.

The Ducks’ ‘waddling gait‘ is actually an overt lateral movement of the trunk and lateral displacement/elevation of the hip during the swing phase. It results in circumduction; the foot steps across the midline from a wide abducted position.

Even when underwater, ducks have a gait that positions their ‘toes’ forward, and as noted above, if anything there is circumduction.

                        Ducks swimming underwater video crystal clear water HD

Much needs to be made of aquatic vs terrestrial locomotion. The Duck has evolved to Paddle int he water, Walk on the land and also fly……. it is a remarkable combination of adaptations. Remember though, these adaptations did not all occur at the same time, but that they are all present in one animal is worth recognizing and in particular, worth seeing how the terrestrial locomotion shows up in the aquatic. How a Duck walks and recovers its feet from one step into the next also happens in the water and even more worthy is comparing the systems that humans and ducks have to achieve similar results.

In humans, the Windlass mechanism describes the ‘winding up’ of the plantar fascia, creating a pawing or shortening of the foot. It is described here….

              

All birds however have a system that creates a very similar effect to the Windlass Mechanism in humans.

 

Birds do not have muscles in their feet. Instead the Avian foot has an automatic clawing system that is acted by the tendons originating in the hip and knee of the bird. As a bird ‘sits’ or perches, the feet automatically grip tight. You may have noticed this with a pet budgerigar that grips your finger automatically. A shortening during a perching or sitting action by the bird will create a griping and clawing of the toes.

Humans do not use their feet in the water to swim like a duck does, the duck paddles, the human uses a fin and flipper locomotion. But just as the human has the Windlass Mechanism in walking, the ‘Digital Tendon Locking Mechanism of the Avian Foot’ assists with the hydrodynamic effect of the swing phase of a Duck’s paddling stroke. As the foot is recovered, and swings forward again, the Digital tendons act to minimize the profile of the foot in the water. It reduces the drag.

 

There is no doubt that there is much to be concerned about with over-pronation in humans. In the coaching of lifting, running, football and gymnastics, over-pronation will stick out immediately. Its not a particularly difficult phenomena to get an improvement with, indeed the interface with the ground by the foot is a massive part of improving lifting, running, football and gymnastic skill anyhow, so in un-coached individuals, application to the efficient model of any of these skills can improve over-pronation just by itself.

I don’t think its the case here, but its worth considering whether the misapplication of Avian foot mechanics as a metaphor can lead to a misunderstanding of human gait, stultifying the remedies.

May 02

SSS GOES TO THE NFL!!!

Its not every day that a SSS athlete joins the NFL; but it was yesterday.

 

 

In a turbulent end to the 2016 NFL draft, long time Shire Speed and Strength athlete Blake Muir signed an Priority Free Agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

 

The offensive line graduate from Baylor University who first enrolled at the University of Hawaii before transferring, had to choose between several NFL teams after visiting the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers in the lead up. Deciding on the best offer after the draft from San Francisco, Blake will now be the second Australian on the 49ers roster with Jarryd Hayne.

 

Blake has been one of Shire Speed and Strength’s original and best athletes, holding many of the lifting records at the gym. His performance at the Baylor Pro Day resulted in the best broad jump of all offensive linemen with 9’8″, as well as several other top 10 results compared to the drafted players at his position.

 

 

An excellent student as well who was also just 1 of 3 players at Baylor to be awarded the National Football Foundation Hampshire Award for exceptional consistency in academics and athletics, Blake will prove to be an extremely reliable and productive member of the 49ers.

 

You can as always follow Blake’s online diary over at his local gridiron club’s website and we will keep things up to date at our Facebook page regarding major developments as they occur in the lead up to the 2016 NFL preseason. Blake will have a short period with his new club before having some time to return home for their Summer off season when he can do as he has always done for the past 7 years, prepare for his season at Shire Speed and Strength.

Apr 28

WITH GREAT SADNESS…….

One photo stands pride of place.

Several years ago a man from Melbourne contacted me about preparing to play gridiron…. as a QB for the first time at age 50!!!! He flew to Sydney to train, took on the skills and programming advice, and through persistence and need as injuries at his club took hold, he played his way into the starting spot and led the team to a championship win.
Amazing.

 

Super fit, a self made man, intrepid Jon Johnston then pursued mountaineering. Trips to Russia and Sth America ensued and we kept up with each other via email. This year was his 3rd attempt to summit Everest after storms and earthquake the last two years. Over the weekend he fell into a crevasse with another climber and died in Tibet. He leaves behind a wife and sons.
No better example of someone who died doing what they loved, a Stanford graduate and man of immense energy.

Vale Jon Johnston.

 

Apr 16

“ITS A GAWD-DAMN MARSHMELLOW IS WHAT IT IS.”

Lifters value the interface between their feet and the ground. This is not a place for something with the consistency of marshmellow.

 

Whether you’re still 13 years old or not, your school shoes or something like them, will serve as your initial lifting shoes until you have invested in actual ones.

 

It seems strange to most people when entering an actual gym that what they call their ‘gym shoes’ are actually just their walking around shoes. The instruction they are given is that in the initial stages, their old school shoes or dress shoes will serve the role of gym shoes. These are made of leather, they have a hard raised heel and they are sturdy. They are far superior to the kinds of shoes people generally wear to the gym.

 

You could almost take a bite out of the sole of this shoe.

 

Heavy squatting, pressing and pulls will be much more stable when supported by a shoe with a solid sole, than one that is mooshy and soft.

 

Once you think about it, it becomes fairly obvious and a difficult thing to argue against. The cost of a pair of 2nd hand school or dress shoes at something like the Salvation Army can be had for around $8-$20. Yeah it might have been pulled off a dead guy, but you’re saving a lot of money in the early stages until you make the investment in lifting shoes.

Mar 21

“THERE’S JUST NO WAY THAT I’M GONNA MISS THAT REP.”

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. This was a do or die rep at 164kg.
Pic courtesy of the awf.com.au Facebook page.

 

 

It was necessary to produce a comprehensive competition report for Shire Speed and Strength lifter Jackson Roberts-Young at the AWF 2016 Australian International.

 

An ambitious task of trying to improve his PR total of 270 and get it up to 286 (an AWF A Grade necessary for Oceans and Junior Worlds) was added to by the fact that although that 270 was back at Nationals last August, he has played a 3 1/2 month gridiron season in that time, taking out Team MVP honours in the process.

 

Adding to the flavour of the difficulty, was that the original plan included an earlier competition 3 weeks prior until injury struck. A subluxation of the elbow on a heavy snatch attempt 5 weeks out from the competition and final chance to qualify in time meant a radical change in training.

 

A grade 1 to 2 strain of the UCL would usually be a medium term lay off for someone like a baseball pitcher; the sort of people more likely have these problems. Weightlifters are not common in Australia, so not a lot of experience is available on rehab options and recovery possibilities. A huge shout needs to go Gwen Sisto and her blog that touched on this scenario for weightlifters which you can read here.

 

Between that blog write up, some coaching moxie, and some excellent discussions with the physiotherapist members of the Shire Speed and Strength gym, a daily rehab protocol of wrist, forearm and tricep work was added immediately followed by carefully reintroducing the competition lifts again over 5 weeks. A lot of squat and pull strength is never a bad thing, so we used our time wisely to get some work there done and make the best of a bad situation.

 

No less than the great Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture had a biography named after him titled, ‘The Hour and The Man‘, and whilst hitting an AWF A grade is hardly in the stratosphere of leading an Army of freed slaves against the Napolean’s French armed forces and birthing a nation; when you hit a big key rep and there are 5 or 6 good reasons why you shouldn’t, you can’t help but feel pretty happy about it.

 

The next addition to the gym will be some highly accurate scales for the reasons disclosed in the video. Its quite possible that we’ve gotten some readings that aren’t really spot on and effecting preparation like this. As the level of sporting success rises, the margin for error gets ever smaller.

 

 

 

Mar 08

I WANT TO SEE THE OVER-CORRECTION.

I think it is going to be a long time before a robot is able to do my job. I could of course be wrong, but I hope not, and and the more I think about it, I don’t think I am.

 
A coaching robot would have to be an extremely comprehensive device. It would have to have extraordinary sensory input but also operate with a framework that properly understands the variety of ways that humans communicate and therefore learn.

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

It would have to understand the subtly perceived, but very complex, cultural aspects of people’s backgrounds. It would need to understand when visual or auditory cues are needed (not that there is some sort of learning style/coaching style matching that we want to get caught up it. Discussion for another time), what metaphors might be useful, what to emphasize and what specifically not to emphasize, or else create a new problem. This is how people learn, they mimic things, they take on corrections, they self-analyze, they improve.

 
Real time coaching in our life-time may never be super-ceded. Surely, it would be cost prohibitive to the extent that no robot anytime soon could become cheap enough that it could compete with a human coach.

 
It would have to anticipate and be ready to see the over-correction.

 
The over-correction is essentially what you at least want to see in real time. New athletes cannot go on feel, they do not have a ‘feel’. They will start at a position, move to the next position and move inefficiently. They will attempt to correct it based on feedback and will get that wrong. This is okay, this is necessary, and during this period, adaptive coaching strategies may find a quicker easier path to achieve the goal that departs from the starting model.

 

 

“You bubble-headed-boobie!”

 

The only frustrating reps in coaching are when you see no change. No use of control by the athlete upon their own body. The likelihood is that they behave as if they have bodies as opposed to that they are bodies. Skill installation and nervous system development is not the same as more common energy system stress. The exercising community is primarily used to perceiving energy system stress; much less so strength fatigue. They jog, they swim, they ‘condition’ they have laborious jobs they sense endurance failures. Strength is not a consideration because strength is never developed in any way close to their genetic potential and it is rarely exposed to its end range.

 
Generally the average person only considers strength when it comes time to help their neighbor move house. They get on the end of the couch and enter an unfamiliar world. This is more than just the energy system stress that their body more regularly encounters. Its not unusual for someone to live their whole life and develop very little of what their bodies are capable of physically, such is the limitation of what they develop. ‘Getting puffed’, ‘feeling tired’, ‘nausea’ is where their physical stress have taken them, not ‘how much weight? how far did it move?

 
Moving between static positions, developing locomotion, progressing to tonic or ballistic emphasis is something we have spoken about before. Its a basic conceptual teaching progression for physical skills. But a world where robots and computers program humans rather than the other way around would need to greatly advance.

 

 

Instead of assembling sums of data and plotting towards a pre-constructed end goal, there would need to be the ultimate role reversal. But whilst HAL 9000 and anything like ‘him’ is Heuristic and therefore uses algorithms to create rational decision making, adaptive humans working with adaptive coaches pose a much greater challenge than just a game of chess.

 

 

CAPTCHA technology is holding back the tide on spambots; meanwhile, human coaches are waiting to see the over-correction.

Feb 16

THE LENGTHS THAT HAVE TO BE TAKEN.

It is a never ending chore to ensure fairness and equality in sport.

In the multitude of sports that Shire Speed and Strength has involvement with, and the multitude of ways in which that involvement structured (coaching, playing, officiating, administrating), that chore is considered on all sides here.

Obviously the hot topic in Australia has been the Essendon and Cronulla supplement regime/doping scandals which is ongoing in its many spin offs. Players and Coaches banned and sacked, coaches suing insurance companies, players appealing bans in Switzerland, coaches having costs awarded against them vs ASADA: There is a variety of carnage in the wake just of that one scandal.

 

 

Internationally we have seen Al Jazeera air a report describing the use of PED’s by various American and Jamaican athletes in an undercover story that showed how doctors and pharmacists are recruited into world of PED use in sport.

 

The key identity of the report has since recanted some of his claims, particularly those regarding NFL legend Peyton Manning. Regardless, that there is a murky world of illegal doping frustrates, angers, intrigues and shocks us.

 

Elsewhere, Russia will not send a Track and Field team to the Rio Olympics. The IAAF voted 22-1 to ban them due to corruption from the Russian Anti Doping organization (RUSADA). An independent report commissioned by WADA found that the Moscow lab commissioned to perform tests did not do so and instead destroyed samples.

Just a few days ago the former head of the organization Nikita Kameyev died suddenly of a heart attack just 2 months after resigning.

 

Nikita Kameyev died of a heart attack after resigning as head of RUSADA 2 months prior.

 

BALCO, Shane Warne, Lance Armstrong, all the way back to Alex Watson, a pentathlete banned at the 1988 games for excessive caffeine use, later cleared and even later caffeine taken off the banned list; the calendar turns over PED cases like it does months. It taints sports, it casts doubt over legends, it topples others, it withholds due credit and career achievement from some of the very best.

Whilst shocking, murky and controversial, such a broad society also has a somewhat mature and resolved mindset about PED use. The well known documentary ‘Bigger Stronger Faster’ investigates the sporting, cosmetic and cultural touchstones of PED use.

The lesser addressed irritation and frustration of PED use and organized doping is the cover that it gives to inefficient training and athlete development practices.

I made the statement in this short article from 3 years ago that, ‘Teenagers who have been training for 11 months should not be stronger than veteran NRL players who outweigh them by 16kg‘. I would go on to extend that to include the words ‘more efficient‘, ‘better prepared generally‘, ‘smarter‘, ‘more coachable‘.

My conclusion to that article….. ‘there is one extra shocking detail; that player performances could be even better without PED’s if they improved their training practices.’ is as valid now as it was then.

It is now bordering on ad nauseam the evidence and claim from this website that the preparation of athletes is inefficient, for both professional and amateurs, begins at a youth level and continues to professional levels. That skills and genuine experience is trumped by psuedoscience and accreditation systems that swindle money out of unsuspecting keen individuals who want to do good.

Intrusion into private lives.

That we are left with an anti-doping system that intrudes enormously into the private lives of athletes is no simple fix. It shouldn’t be any wonder that strangers are hired to come and watch you use the bathroom and fill a cup. All it took was Richard Reid’s failed attempt to blow up a plane with explosives in his shoes for every airport to insist on all passengers taking their shoes off before boarding an international flight.

Doping regimes are real and the price that must be paid is that athletes must submit to testing and strict whereabouts disclosure.

 

As a libertarian, the ADAMS (Administration And Management System) is antithetical to my creed. Its classic ‘Government gettin all up in yo buziness‘. It simply doesn’t cut it as an argument that if you ‘haven’t done anything wrong then you have nothing to hide‘. I actually don’t like living in a world where an agency collects your blood, urine, and biological information and demands to know your whereabouts.It adds to the costs of competition.

It leaves us in the middle of being cheated our of sporting success and our privacy being invaded…… and those cheats don’t take it laying down.

BALCO owner Victor Conte details all the ways around the efforts of WADA with his long but I feel seminal talk with Joe Rogan here….

 

 

The biological passport is a real time solution and future attempt to hold back contemporary doping strategies as well as a future that may include genetic manipulation. There may be no end to all this. The cost of high level sport might always be the intrusion of privacy, it is no libertarian ideal. But what choice do we have?

Latest article is up. http://shirespeedandstrength.com.au/?p=876

A photo posted by shirespeedandstrength (@shirespeedandstrength) on

 

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