Ever wondered why some training programmes work for some athletes and not for others? Why some people are genetically gifted athletes? Why there is a fixed set of intervals for all athletes? Why certain drugs work for some and not others? Do compression socks work? What the hell does a VO2 max test tell you, is it just useless information? Is lactate friend or foe? I delve into the sport science world and try to find the answers to train smarter and hopefully become a better athlete. This page is written in my own thoughts and words with a cross-pollination from several other sites and links to the original articles. Some of it might sound like a rant but it is written to make you think. So if you read it without a open mind then your in the wrong place. Enjoy and open your mind.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The case against stability training (throw away the swiss ball?)

Unstable surface training UST is used to improve trunk muscle strength and core activation. But, there is enough research and an excellent article at Science of Running that debunks this idea, here is a summary.

When working with stability exercises on devices such as the swiss ball, bosu balls, wobble boards etc. we will have agonist and antagonist muscles involved. For a positive improvement the agonist muscle needs to be engaged and the antagonist involvement decreased. What research is showing is that UST is doing the opposite. Most of the research has been done by Behm (2002) and the research has shown significant activation in antagonistic muscle when performing exercises with UST which has led to greater reduction in peak power output and a reduction in agonist muscle activation. Thus a negative adaptation.

One of the biggest 'side effects' of UST training seems to be a reduction in force which eliminates the effect of adaptation, as much as 59.6% force reduction. Willardson, 2004, showed that UST will lead to improper muscle recruitment patterns, so UST has no place in sport specific skills. Stanton et al. (2004) found that runners were unable to improve running performance or posture using UST devices compared to non UST runners.
NCAA Division I soccer players performed their normal strength and conditioning programs, except that one group performed the final exercise of each training session on an unstable surface (Cressey et al., 2007). After ten weeks of training, the UST group saw performance decrements in bounce drop jump, countermovement jump, 10- and 40-yard sprint times compared to the group which did the same exact workout except for the last exercise (Cressey et al., 2007).
The core is activated more during a stable floor exercise such as a squat or any other stable floor exercise than druring the same exercise performed on a UST device (Drake et al., 2006). A study done by Kavcic, found that of 8 exercises that focus on the muscles that stabilize the spine. The least effective exercise done was also the only exercise using UST.

The idea that replacing a chair with a swiss ball and that it will improve posture has been proved wrong.

Other research has been conducted by researchers (Anderson & Behm, 2004; Cressey et al., 2007; Drake et al., 2006; Hamlyn et al., 2007; Kavcic et al 2004; McBride, 2006; McBride et al., 2006; McBride et al., 2009; Nuzzo et al., 2008) have found similar results from the combination of UST and traditional resistance training exercise.

The one thing that stability training seems to do positively is that using UST is the only thing that we will become good at using! We may improve our balance but from the research done, core activation and force output is found to be negatively influenced using stabilization devices. If you want to effectively improve the core it seems a squat is still the best option, you may not get a six pack from squatting, but then do you really need a six pack for performance? If you want stability and balance, sport specific is still the best sensible option. Often overlooked is the diaphragm which is a major core stabilization muscle which if weak will lead to quickly 'falling' apart when fatigued. Specifically strengthening the diaphragm with breathing work focused on strength, will do more core activation and core stabilization than traditional core stability exercises performed on UST and dare I say even traditional core exercises.

We are so focused on finding the magic session that will improve us that we so often forget to do our own research into why and how a new activity, training session or device will influence or outcome on performance and that we seem to be happy just to follow the crowd, just because we accept that it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lactate Balance Point – LBP

The majority of physiologist and athletes reading this article will think these ideas are crazy, if you think so come back in 10 or 15 years and read these ideas again. Read this article and the links, understand why, and you may have found a better tool for threshold testing.


At first it may look similar to a normal Lactate Threshold (LT) test, ventilatory test or anaerobic threshold. But it is different. LBP is a assessment for fitness training levels. The LBP is simply lactate in balance at a certain level, there is no increase in the lactate level and no decrease. It is the area where the body if the ECGM (CGM) is correct reaches its weakest point. LBP, originally developed over 20 years ago has been researched and field tested over the last several years by FaCT with hundreds of repeatable results.

The LBP assessment is different, in that the bodies Lactate Balance Point is more easily and accurately found than using traditional sometimes misinterpreted Threshold Tests.

Diet influence on traditional LT test
Diet influence on LBP test
We need to look at lactate as a bio marker of fatigue and an indicator of energy stores. Lactate is highly influenced by what you eat, as lactate responds to glucose which will affect lactate levels. The LBP assesment is hardly affected by what is eaten but glycogen stores can mess up the traditional LT step test curve. This can be proven completing a traditional LT test carbo loaded and then repeated being carbo depleted (protein loaded). So the theory that (Mader) 4 mmol is anaerobic threshold is blown out of the water with this in mind. It would be like saying every person has a max heart rate of 220 minus their age. So looking for 4 mmol will not be accurate as there are other factors involved. Just because you had x mmol of lactate at x heart rate in a test does not mean that x mmol will always indicate threshold. 

The traditional LT test is based on a objective protocol based upon wattage normally 20 watt step increases, for some people 20 watts is to much at some point which will lead to a too big jump in heart rate which will mean a large part of the heart rate range may be missed, this big jump will also lead to a 'jump' in lactate which will falsely indicate threshold. Lactate is always present in the human body even at rest and will increase linear as heart rate increase (Connet et al circa 1984). The LBP assessment follows physiological parameters where heart rate is increases by 5 to 10 beat and the balance point is not missed. LBP will normally be lower than what you get from a LT test and this is because LBP test give you the point of the weakest link, with a LT test you are getting the point where the test has overstepped the bodies (weakest point) limit and the bodies ability to handle the metabolic process in the muscle.

Anaerobic threshold does not exist! There is no proof or evidence that muscle would go anaerobic during intense or max workouts. Research is showing that oxygen may actually be higher during all out exercise than lower intensity’s (Connett, Gayeski, Saltin). Lactate is used as a fuel and may especially at higher intensity be a preferred fuel source (Brooks and Dubouchaud).

The above were some of the reasons for the development of the Lactate Balance Point assessment.


A brief explanation of the test. The body is warmed up gradually with a step increase of 10 to 20 watts every 3 minutes upto a perceived exertion (Pe) of 7 to 8 (about 15 min). No lactate is taken during the step test, only at the end of the 3 min where Pe 7/8 is found, SpO2 is also taken (oxymeter). This is the only part that resembles a traditional step test and is only done to warm the body up and get lactate raised, ready for the actual assessment. There is absolutely no need to take lactate before Pe 7/8 or any need to take the athlete to max which will tell you nothing about his LBP (or threshold if you really wanted to call it that).

Now drop the wattage by 50% and continue without rest. This is where protocol stops and physiology reaction assessment starts. Take lactate and SpO2 after 3 min at 50% wattage, continue at 50% until you have the lactate reading and decide if or how fast the lactate and heart rate has dropped from the Pe 8 reading, whether to continue on 50% for another minute.

LBP test with LBP at 155 bpm
If there was a big drop go to the next step immediately if a slow drop in lactate and heart rate stay another minute. To go to the next step increase wattage until HEART RATE increases by 5 to 10 beats, after 3 minutes take lactate and SpO2 again stay at the current HR and wait for the Lactate result, if not dropping wait another minute if lactate is dropping increase HR by 5 to 10 beat again, continue this until lactate stops dropping and there is a increase in lactate. When there is a increase you have your balance point.

Using this method less lactate strips are used. (to know how much to increase wattage for the 5 to 10 beat increase use the initial step test to Pe 8 as a guide on wattage/hr increases). What a lot of coaches and physiologist find hard to accept with this test is that there is no protocol, that steps can be be prolonged, and that the test follows physiological parameters, we have to look at how the body reacts and have to think during the test. Read the articles on FaCT test system and what is LBP test.

Instead of wattage perceived exertion or speed can be used as a guide for increasing HR.  The SpO2 reading is used to get information on the blood situation and can be used as a guide for finding LBP in combination with lactate. This is the basic assessment to find the LBP, for zoning a later article will be written.