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MSc Strength & Conditioning assignment

Below is an assignment from my MSc that I handed in last year. I thought some people may find it interesting if they are currently studying or thinking of undertaking an MSc in Strength & Conditioning. I’d definitely recommend the program at St Mary’s especially if you are currently working full time due to the flexible structure of it’s distance learning program.

I really enjoyed the first year and was pleased to get 68% for this first assignment. On reflection and feedback I can definitely see where it can be improved and I don’t necessarily agree with my concluding thoughts.

The assignment was to critique the dynamic correspondence of weightlifting to a sports skill in 2000 words. This was to be done using the principles of dynamic correspondance outlined by Mel Siff in his book Supertraining. I chose to analyse the transfer of weightlifting to a rowing stroke. Have a read and feel free to let me know what you think…….


Critically analyse the dynamic correspondence of weightlifting to a sports skill

To ensure that adaptations to training are specific to the nature of competition stress (Young, 2006) a strength and conditioning professional must assess and introduce to the program appropriate exercises that exhibit the highest level of transfer of training results (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006) to the required sports skill. Maximizing an athlete’s transfer of training to their sport performance is described by Stone, Stone and Sands (2007) as the most important aspect of the training program. This highlights the need for a thorough and structured analysis of which means and methods of strength training will provide an adequate work regime to ensure continued sporting performance improvements (Siff & Verkhoshansky’s, 1993).

This essay will answer the following question. Should weightlifting movements be included in the strength and conditioning program of a rower? Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) principle of dynamic correspondence will be the framework used to analyse the movements. Each of the five criterions of Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) principle will be introduced followed by critical analysis of the level of dynamic correspondence of weightlifting to a rowing stroke against the criterion. From this critical analysis of each criterion a rationale will be made as to whether it is felt that the level of dynamic correspondence is enough to advise that weightlifting movements should be included in the strength and conditioning program of a rower.

Determining the amplitude and direction of force is the first criterion of Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) five criterions of the principle of dynamic correspondence. This criterion is used to create an understanding of which musculature is recruited to generate the force during the sports skill and the muscle activation patterns utilised throughout the body to generate the required level of force (Siff & Verkhoshansky’s, 1993).

Mazzone (1988) breaks the muscle requirements of the rowing stroke into sequential segments starting with the catch followed by the drive with the legs emphasised. In the catch position the athlete is flexed at the knee and hip and there is dorsiflexion at the ankle joint (Mazzone, 1988) in preparation to extend these three joints during the drive phase (Soper & Hume, 2004). As the drive phase begins the gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris and gastrocnemius are synchronously recruited to forcefully extend at the knee followed by the hip (Soper & Hume 2004). Chui and Schilling (2005) comment that the primary movement of a lift is performed by the hip and knee extensors with previous research identifying that a concentric contraction of the quadriceps and gluteus maximus musculature is responsible for extension of the knee and hip (Everett, 2011; Garhammer, 1984). The muscle recruitment patterns in the lower body during the drive phase of a rowing stroke are matched during the first pull of a lift.

At the start of a snatch or clean and jerk it is advised that the back is held rigid to avoid excessive torque placed on the hip and spinal joints due to the lack of recruitment and isometric contraction of multifidis, transverse abdominus and internal obliques that provide intra-abdominal pressure and support at the lumbar spine (Everett, 2011). Soper and Hume (2004) highlight that the high incidence of back pain in rowers can in part be due to the amount of time they spend flexed at the spine and it is advised that rowers should adopt a less flexed lumbar spine and that the pelvis could be held more anteriorly tilted (Stallard, 1999). Avoiding lumbar spine flexion allows a rower to transmit the forces generated at the lower body through the kinetic chain and into the oar (Baudouin & Hawkins, 2002). To summarize this both a rowing stroke and a weightlifting movement require a neutral spine posture and contraction of the trunk musculature.

During the drive phase of a lift the shoulder is stable in order to transfer the load generated at the lower body into the oar handle (Francis, 2011). The latisumuss dorsi is isometrically contracted to hold the shoulder down (Francis, 2011), supra and infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres major and minor contract to strengthen the joint whilst the scapula is stabilized by serratus anterior and trapezius (Mazzone, 1988). Latisumuss dorsi is also isometrically contracted in the start position and during the first pull in weightlifting in conjunction with retraction of the shoulder by the scapula retractor muscles to create the required level of shoulder stability (Brewer, 2005; Chui & Schilling, 2005; Garhammer, 1984; Newton, 2006). This corresponds highly with the muscular recruitment and type of muscular recruitment during a rowing stroke.

On analysis of the muscle recruitment in the lower body, at the shoulder and the simultaneous coordinated tension of the trunk musculature it is concluded that during the drive and first pull of the respective movements Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) first criterion, the amplitude and direction of movement is adequately fulfilled. It is advised that the first pull in weightlifting movements recruits the appropriate musculature and produces the appropriate muscular contractions in comparison to the drive phase of a rowing stroke.

Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) second criterion, the accentuated region of force production determines whether during the strength exercise force is generated at the appropriate joint angle and whether the start position and the specific direction of resistance to the pull of muscles is in correspondence to the sports skill (Siff & Verkoshansky, 1993).

When analysing this criterion it is important to note that joint angles in the start position of both exercises will be dictated by the anthropometric characteristics of each individual (Everett, 2011; Soper & Hume 2004). To maximise stroke length rowers are required to achieve maximal hip and knee flexion in the catch position (Harvey, 1998) with reported on water knee and hip joint angles of between 50.9° and 51.5° and 31.8° and 32.4° respectively (Elliott, Lyttle & Birkett, 2002). It is recommended that when starting a weightlifting movement the hip is flexed to 25-50° and the knee 45-90° (Bai, Wang, Zhang, Ji & Wang, 2008; Everett, 2011; Roman, 1988).

At a knee angle of 90° forces produced are reported as 600N (Soper & Hume, 2004), 832N (McGregor, Bull & Byng-Maddick, 2003) and up to 1500N (Steinacker, 1993). Force production at these angles during a lift where the knee is extended from the start position of 45° to approximately 90° (Roman, 1988) has been recorded at 2471N (Souza, Shimada & Koontz, 2002). This surpasses the levels generated during a rowing stroke which therefore creates a strong correspondence between peak force production during the drive phase of a rowing stroke and during the first pull in weightlifting.

On reflection the dynamic correspondence of the start position of a weightlifting movement is high in comparison to a rowing stroke. This is determined from similarities in the suggested angles during each start position. The knee and hip angles during the initial drive of a stroke and the weightlifting first pull phase are again similar with the force levels generated during a lift exceeding what is required during a rowing stroke. Both movements require extension of the hip and knee therefore creating the same direction of resistance and pull on the musclature. These findings suggest that Siff and Verkoshansky’s (1993) second criterion the accentuated region of force production is adequately fulfilled during the start position and the first pull of a lift. Importantly though it may be premature to state that Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) second criterion is fully fulfilled as peak levels of force are recorded during the second pull phase of a weightlifting movement (Everett, 2011; Newton, 2006; Souza & Shimada, 2002).

At this point angles at the knee and hip have been reported as being much greater than those found during peak force production of a rowing stroke. Previous studies have used a knee angle of 141° (Kawamori et al., 2006) and reported angles of 135° to 185° at and during the second pull (Souza & Shimada, 2002) whilst at this point the hip is at full extension (Everett, 2011). Peak force production during a weightlifting movement is generated at the second pull which elicits a hip angle that a rower never extends to (Francis, 2011). Prior to the lifter being in this position and just after the first extension of the knees (the first pull) is finished a second or double knee bend is performed by the lifter (Hydock, 2001). This second knee bend must be performed during a lift as it produces a myotatic reflex in the lower body musculature that produces optimal power production (Hedrick & Wada, 2008; Stone, Pierce, Sands & Stone, 2006). During a rowing stroke the knees only extend once, there is no myotatic reflex and the hip never reaches full extension. It is therefore proposed that during this phase of a lift there is no transfer to a rowing stroke and the criterion of the accentuated region of force production isn’t fulfilled.

In Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) third criterion; the dynamics of the effort, they state that the training stimulus and effort exerted in training should not be less than what is generated in the specific sports movement. It has already been identified that peak force production during a stroke of 1500N reported by Steinacker (1993) is surpassed during the first pull in weightlifting which has been reported as 2471N (Souza, et al., 2002). This evidence relates only to the force produced and not to the speed of contraction which also forms part of this criterion. This criterion links closely to Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) fourth criterion; the rate and time of maximum force production. This criterion is of importance to ensure that the athlete is generating the required level of force in the optimal time so the essential muscle fibre type is recruited and the optimum motor unit recruitment patterns are achieved (Haff & Potteiger, 2001).

Baudoin & Hawkins (2002) report drive phase time of 0.6-1.0 second for a rowing stroke with Hill (2002) reporting times of 649 milliseconds (ms) to 901 ms. In weightlifting Roman (1988) states that the first pull takes between 400 to 600 ms with an athlete in a study by Souza et al. (2002) averaging close to 500 ms to complete the first pull.

The training effect of using this training modality will allow the athlete to activate the larger motor units, recruiting them sooner and more efficiently and at high contraction speeds (Haff & Pottieger, 2001). This will produce a transfer from training to improvements in sports performance (Chui & Schilling, 2005). Therefore it is felt that the first pull during weightlifting fulfils both Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) criterions of the dynamics of the effort and the rate and time of maximum force production in comparison to the drive phase of a stroke.

The regime of muscular work of a rowing stroke is cyclic involving eccentric and concentric contractions for a high number of repetitions averaging around 40% of the athlete’s maximum power output for the duration of a race (Soper & Hume, 2004). The ability for a rower to generate high levels of power to produce a high boat velocity is key to successful rowing performance (Soper & Hume, 2004) especially at the start of a race where the boat is accelerated from stationary to race velocity in as short a period of time as possible (McNeely, Sandler & Bamel 2005). This is also the stage of the race where the highest power outputs are achieved (Steinacker, 1993). The pull is responsible for the majority of the power production during a clean or snatch with Hydock (2001) commenting that more training should be performed with the pull alone to develop sport specific power and that dropping into the full catch may not be necessary if the sole purpose is power production. As previously concluded the second pull which is part of the pull exercise involves a re-bending of the knees, a myotatic reflex and maximal extension of the hip which aren’t required in a rowing stroke. Therefore it is advised that performing just the first pull in a cyclic nature at loads which surpass the average force generated during a race should be performed. This could also be performed at maximum power output over ten seconds to transfer to a race start. A full maximal lift fails to satisfy Siff and Verkoshansky’s (1993) fifth criterion, the regime of muscular work.

Variations to the mechanics of a full lift, repetitions and load may create a stronger transfer to the sports skill and satisfy Siff and Verkhoshansky’s (1993) principle of dynamic correspondence to a greater level. On reflection of the analysis and in answer to the original question it is determined that only the first pull in weightlifting has sufficient transfer to a rowing stroke so therefore only this movement should be included in a rowers strength and conditioning program. Peak force production, force production at specific joint angles, starting position, muscular recruitment in the lower body, torso and shoulder and the time to produce the required force all correspond highly in the first pull in weightlifting in comparison to the drive phase of a rowing stroke. It is recommended that further exercises should be devised to fulfil the dynamic correspondence of the remaining phases of a rowing stroke.

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