Beta Alanine Supplementation

July 7, 2010

If you pick up any fitness magazine or walk into any nutrition store you will find dozens of products that claim to improve performance, with more showing up on the store shelves every month. In most cases the claims are exaggerated with very few products actually improving performance. Every now and then however a product does come along that lives up to the hype; about twenty years ago that product was creatine, which has gone on to become the most researched performance enhancing supplement with the vast majority of studies supporting it’s use in most athlete groups.  Recently another product has started to show that same type of promise: Beta alanine. Beat alanine supplementation has been reported to decrease fatigue associated with higher intensity exercise.

Fatigue during Exercise

Fatigue, defined as the inability to carry on a given level of work, is a complex phenomenon with many factors contributing simultaneously. While the inability of the nervous system to activate muscle fibres, interference with calcium release or uptake within the muscle, structural damage to muscle fibres, heat, and depletion of energy stores are some of the main culprits, an accumulation of metabolites like ADP, inorganic phosphate,  lactate and hydrogen ions are among the most well known contributors to fatigue.

There has been an ongoing debate about the role of lactate in fatigue. Research conducted in the 1970s suggested that lactate was a major contributor to fatigue. Many of these studies were correlation studies that did not look at cause and effect. While there was a correlation between the amount of lactate that was produced and fatigue more recent research has shown that lactate itself does not contribute to fatigue and may actually work to prevent fatigue. The production of hydrogen ions, from various sources in the series of chemical reactions that take place when the anaerobic energy systems are used, can lead to a decrease in the pH of the cell; interfering with energy production and muscle contraction.

Buffers

Buffers are the body’s chemical agents that keep pH in the cells within normal range. There are a variety of buffers that the body uses. Bicarbonate is the most important extracellular buffer, meaning that it maintains the pH outside of the cells. It has been known for many years that ingesting sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, can increase the effectiveness of the bicarbonate buffering system in the body and delay fatigue in high intensity sports. For many people ingesting baking soda causes stomach problems and can lead to vomiting or diarrhoea, unpleasant side effects at the best of times but particularly problematic during competition.  Carnosine is the primary intramuscular buffer found in humans, it also seems to have positive effects on the nervous system, acts as an antioxidant and may have anti aging effects.  Carnosine does not appear to be increased by exercise  but supplementation with Beta Alanine does increase intramuscular carnosine and improve buffer capacity.

Effects on Performance

The majority of studies suggest that beta alanine can enhance performance in sports where there are maximal or near maximal efforts for 60s to 5 minutes. Shorter duration sprints and strength training do not seem to benefit as much from beta alanine use, although total work volume in strength training sessions can be improved by as much as 20% following beta alanine supplementation. Whether the increase in work volume can translate into better training adaptations and performance improvements is not known. Two studies have shown improvements in power at anaerobic threshold following beta alanine supplementation and slight improvements (2.5%) in time to exhaustion at anaerobic threshold.

Supplementation Protocol

Several studies have been done on to find the optimal protocol for taking beat alanine. It appears that ability of beta alanine to increase carnosine is dose dependant, 6-7 g per day give best results. Beta alanine supplements often cause tingling sensations in various parts of the body, particularly in the head and neck region. This can become quite intense and unpleasant if large doses are taken at one time. The tingling can start within minutes of taking the supplement and last for up to an hour.  Smaller doses spread throughout the day or time release capsules seem to decrease or eliminate the tingling. Beta alanine supplementation is not an acute response supplement it needs to be done over an extended period of time for significant effects to be noticed, usually 28 days or more.

Adverse Effects

Currently the only known adverse effects associated with beta alanine supplementation is the tingling that is noticed shortly after taking the supplement.

References

  1. Allen DG, Lamb GD, Westerblad H. Skeletal muscle fatigue: cellular mechanisms. Physiol Rev. 2008;88(1):287–332.
  2. ARTIOLI, G. G., B. GUALANO, A. SMITH, J. STOUT, and A. H. LANCHA, JR. Role of A-Alanine Supplementation on Muscle Carnosine and Exercise Performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 42, No. 6, pp. 1162–1173, 2010
  3. Boning D, Maassen N. Last word on point:counterpoint: lactic acid is/is not the only physicochemical contributor to the acidosis of exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2008;105(1):368.
  4. Cairns SP. Lactic acid and exercise performance: culprit or friend? Sports Med. 2006;36(4):279–91.

The Power Clean

June 14, 2010

The Olympic style lifts, the snatch, clean and jerk and their variations have become the basis of the strength and power programs for many sports. The primary reason for including these exercises in a program is to train the nervous system to maximally activate the muscles, resulting in greater speed and power while under load. Additionally some coaches feel that the movements used in the clean are similar to those used when the body starts to open during jumps and accelerating out of the athletic ready position. Athletes throughout the world use the Olympic style lifts yet there are many misconceptions and concerns about including them in a training program.

Safety

Many athletes and coaches worry about being injured while doing a clean or snatch. When done properly the Olympic style lifts are among the safest lifts. Back injuries in sports like golf, baseball, and football occur about twice as frequently as they do in Olympic lifting. The odds of developing a shoulder injury during the bench press are much greater than injuring your back during a clean, provided they are done properly.

Sets and Reps

The Olympic style lifts need to be explosive; power is the key to successfully using these exercises in your program. It is possible to muscle the weight up but it defeats the purpose of the exercise and increases the chance of injury. In order to keep these movements explosive and powerful sets need to be short. The anaerobic alactic energy system, which uses the ATP-CP stored in the muscles, is the only energy system that provides energy quickly enough to maintain the power output needed to make the Olympic style lifts effective. The anaerobic alactic system can provide energy for 10-12s of all out work, which is about four reps for a power clean or power snatch. There is no need to take these exercises to a failure point, so you should have a little left at the end of a set.

Choosing the Right Lifts

Table 1 shows a list of the Olympic style lifts and some of their variations. There are plenty to choose from, providing the opportunity for lots of variation in your program. The exercises that are chosen will be dependant on equipment and space available and the body structure of the athlete.

Clean Snatch Jerk
Power clean Power snatch Push Press
Hang clean Hang snatch Push Jerk
Clean pull from the floor Snatch pull form the floor Power Jerk
Clean pull from blocks Snatch pull from blocks

During the explosive second pull of the clean or snatch the weight is brought in against the legs high on the thighs, near the hips. This brings the bar close to the athlete’s center of gravity and allows the greatest power production. It also keep the bar moving close to the body, eliminating a swinging action away from the body that could potentially cause injury when the athlete tries to dip under the bar. To effectively perform the technique of either the snatch or clean the athlete must be able to get the bar into the right position. While this will not be a problem for the majority of athletes those with very long arms and short torsos may have difficulty performing the exercise properly. To test whether an athletes should be performing clean movements or snatch movements have the athlete assume the hang clean starting position demonstrated on the video, holding a broom stick in front of their body with an overhand grip. If the broom stick is sitting above the middle of their thigh they can safely perform clean and snatch exercises. If the broom stick is sitting below mid thigh ask the student to move their hands out to a snatch width grip and reexamine the bar placement. If sliding the hands out has moved the bar above mid thigh the student can perform snatch movements but not clean movements. If the bar is still not above mid thigh and the body position is correct the athlete should not be doing either clean movements or snatch movements.

The Jerk and variations can be safely performed by almost all athletes provided they have adequate flexibility through the wrists, shoulders and elbows to get into the correct body positions. Very tall athletes with long limbs may feel unstable during Jerk variations because the bar is so far above their center of gravity. These athletes should spend some time focusing on developing rotator cuff and shoulder strength before attempting these exercises.

If an athlete has physical limitations that prevent them from using the Olympic style lifts in their training this does not mean they cannot train for power development. Various plyometric jumps and jump throw combinations with medicine balls can be used instead.


Squatting Improves Speed

June 10, 2010

Modern strength training programs for athletes spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on using unstable surfaces, single leg exercises and balance training to improve speed, strength and power.  There is currently no research that shows that these types of training improves athletic performance (1) but it has been well established that training on unstable training results in significantly less force development and loads that will limit strength gains (2). All this balance and stability training has come at the cost of building strength in traditional exercises like the squat, bench press, deadlift, and power clean yet these exercise have time and again been shown to be key to athletic performance. A recent study at Applalachian State University examined the relationship between squat strength and sprint speed(3).  The subjects were a group of 17 football players with an average height of 1.78m and an average weight of 85.9 kg.  1RM squat was assessed on the first day of the study. All subjects were required to squat to a 70o knee angle, making it a deeper squat than the 90o knee angle that many people use in training. A deeper squat will normally decrease the amount of weight lifted. The average 1RM squat was 166.5 kg. Later in the week the subjects performed electronically timed 5, 10, and 40m sprints on a standard outdoor track surface. When they analyzed the data they found significant correlations between squat strength to body weight ratio and the 10m and 40m sprints.  When the group was divided into those with a squat to bodyweight ratio of greater than 2.1 and those with a ratio of less than 1.9 those with the higher strength to weight ratio were significantly faster than those with a squat to bodyweight ratio less than 1.9. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that shows the importance of traditional strength training exercises for improving athletic performance.

So why does improved strength improve speed and acceleration? Think back to your high school physics class and you might remember the formula F=ma; force is equal to mass times acceleration.  Transforming the formula to solve for acceleration we get a=F/m; acceleration is equal to force divided by mass. When we are speaking of running or jumping activities the mass is your body weight. If you increase your strength to body weight ratio you will increase your speed and acceleration; it is simple physics.

Unstable surface, single leg and balance training may be fine during a warm up but they are no replacement for good old fashioned deep squats when it comes to increasing strength and improving speed and power that translates to athletic ability. So if you want to get faster stop using circus tricks and lift some real weights.

  1. Wilardson, J. (2004). The effectiveness of resistance exercise performed on unstable equipment. JSCR. 26(5) 70-74.
  2. Behm et al (2002). Muscle force and activation under stable and unstable conditions. JSCR 16(3) 416-422
  3. McBride et al (2009). Relationship between maximal squat strength and five, ten, and forty yard sprint times. JSCR. 23(6) 1633-1636.

Eccentric Training

June 6, 2010

Introduction

You’ve heard it all before, how much can you lift? Just about everyone goes to the gym to “lift” weights, never putting much thought into lowering them. You’ve seen it before: the person doing barbell curls, allowing the barbell to drop rapidly from the top of the lift back to the bottom with no control during the lowering portion. The lowering part of the repetition is just as important if not more than just lifting it, by allowing the weight to drop you are cheating yourself out of half of the lift. Unless you’re training specifically just to “lift” weights, you should be concerned with lowering it as well. The lowering portion contributes to size and strength gains.

In order to understand how Negative Training or Eccentric Training can benefit your current program, we must first classify the various types of muscle contractions. We must also have a fundamental understanding of the anatomy of a repetition. The human body is capable of three types of muscle actions concentric, isometric, and eccentric muscle actions. Lifting a weight is termed the positive portion, or concentric action, of the lift. This is the part of the movement that everyone in the gym seems to put their focus on. Holding a weight at a given point in the range of motion is an isometric action, meaning that no movement is occurring in the body part being trained. This type of muscle action is not typically seen during your usual work out but can become important in some sports training programs. The major muscle action we will be looking at is the lowering of a weight. It is also known as the negative portion or eccentric action.

A Closer Look

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening during an eccentric muscle action.  As you lower the weight, you are typically much stronger than during the lifting phase. There are two main reasons for the increase in strength; first, you are no longer attempting to overcome the force of gravity by lifting upwards and second, eccentric contractions result in greater force developed in the working muscles because the actin and myosin cross bridges that allow a muscle to contract are stretched apart. What this means is that regardless of how much weight you can lift, you will be able to lower much more. In fact, you are 20-40% stronger in the eccentric phase. Therefore, the weight you use to train is too light to tax your eccentric strength. This does not mean you should simply ignore your eccentric strength and continue to drop the weight. Instead, you should lower the weight with control to eliminate momentum and focus on the muscle being trained, by moving slower the tension is increased in the working muscles. By incorporating eccentric training schemes, you can get greater increase in size and strength from your workouts.

As with every training method, eccentric emphasized training has advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage of eccentric training is that it allows you to pick up more weight, causing the body to adapt to the increases in weight, which over time will cause increased size and strength. The disadvantage is that the extra weight increases the risk of injury, and depending on the type of eccentric training utilized will require a spotter. There are several types of eccentric emphasized training, using different modalities including free-weights, machines, manual resistance and body weight.

Eccentric Safety and Effectiveness

Before getting into the specifics of eccentrics, safety guidelines must be addressed. The rep speed is of utmost importance when performing eccentric work and will vary depending on the type of method being used. For eccentric training to be effective and maintain safety, you should follow a 3-10 second count per repetition. Any faster and you won’t have control of the weight. Always apply maximal effort throughout the entire eccentric portion of the lift. Proper weight selection must be determined. You are 20-40% stronger on the lowering portion of an exercise than the lifting. However, this does not mean that you add 40% to your max the first time you undertake an eccentric training session, build to this over time by following the eccentric methods below that don’t require added weight.

Eccentric Applications

The most common methods of eccentric training are eccentric only, eccentric finishes, emphasized eccentric, accentuated eccentrics and manual eccentrics.

Eccentric only

This method requires the use of attentive spotters. They allow for the maximum amount of weight to be used safely. The weight used will be approximately 130-140% of the lifters 3RM, the maximum amount of weight you can lift three times. If the load is too heavy risk of injury is increased and the weight will descend too quickly to get a benefit from the movement. You should not push the weight during the concentric portion of the lift; the spotters lift the weight to the starting position and then when you are ready they release the weight. You then push against the weight as it slowly lowers on its own. If the weight selected is correct, you will push be pushing as hard as possible even when the weight continues to descend. If the weight is too heavy, you will not be able to push up against it long enough to provide an effective eccentric overload, an eccentric should take at least two seconds to complete. If you are able to stop the movement at any point during the lowering portion, then the weight is too light.

Eccentric finishes

These require the use of spotters at the end of your set. After you complete the set by taking it to the point of momentary muscular failure, the spotter will then lift the weight back to the top. Then you will lower the weight under control. This will be repeated until you are not able to control the weight. This method will allow you to reach momentary muscular failure not just concentrically but eccentrically as well.

Emphasized eccentrics

This method allows eccentric to be done without the aid of spotters. These are the safest form of eccentrics as they use the lightest weight and are completely controlled by the lifter. The goal of emphasized eccentrics is to increase the length of time it takes to lower the weight. Initially the weight will be lowered to a three second count and gradually increased to a ten second count when the resistance is increased and the weight is again lowered for a three second count. This type of training eliminates momentum from the movement, which keeps tension thru ought the range of motion constant and increases the total time under tension for the muscle.

Accentuated eccentrics

These are typically done on a machine but can be performed with dumbbells as well and without the use of spotters. The machine should have a movement arm that allows you to use one or both limbs. The weight will typically be decreased from your regular concentric-eccentric loads. The concentric portion is performed with both limbs while the eccentric phase is executed with one limb at a slow speed. You perform all eccentric reps on the same limb for a set or alternate between reps. If using dumbbells, use both arms to get the weight into the top position then remove one arm and lower slowly.

Manual eccentrics

Manual eccentrics are my personal favorite to perform. They allow the lifter to perform maximally both concentrically and eccentrically without waiting until the end of a set, or just doing eccentric only sets to tax the eccentric strength. Manual eccentrics require a spotter who applies resistance to the bar or weight stack while you are performing the eccentric portion. The major advantage is that the muscle will fatigue both concentrically and eccentrically at about the same time.

Positive results

These eccentric methods all provide a different challenge and add variety to your current training program. Keep in mind they will all result in some serious soreness if applied properly. The delayed on set muscle soreness (DOMS) produced by eccentric training is much greater than in traditional training. The severity of muscle damage that they induce means that they can only be performed for a week or two at a time and only 3-4 times during the year. You may choose to include a few eccentric sets at the end of your regular sets or for the highly motivated an eccentric emphasized work out session. Regardless of which method you decide to use, the result will be greater development in size and strength.

Guidelines for incorporating Eccentric Training into your program:

An eccentric training program is not advisable for the beginner that has less than 6 months of proper progressive training under their belt.

Use a spotter for all exercises; the exceptions would be with accentuated eccentrics. Remember you will be using more weight than you can lift therefore proper spotting is required. Not all exercises allow for eccentric training such as squats, leg presses and few others. Make safety paramount!

Do not go beyond failure during your eccentric sets. An eccentric set should be terminated when you can no longer resist the lowering of the weight for at least a two second lowering phase. If you go beyond this point you are now allowing the bar to free fall due to gravity and not focusing on the muscles being worked.

Progression is key. Determined the appropriate weight for each eccentric exercise then strive for increases as you would with any other training technique. Whenever you find that you’re able to resist a weight load for more than five to six seconds on the first of rep then it would be time to increase weight.

Recovery is paramount. Since, eccentric training causes more muscle breakdown than other types of lifting, it often requires more recovery time. So when you begin doing eccentric workouts, you may well need to alter your weekly schedule consequently. For example, instead of working the biceps muscle group three a week, you’ll probably only work it only once every seven to ten days, depending on the level of muscle soreness.

Muscle soreness is a good sign that you may require more recovery. However do not train a muscle group if too much soreness is still present, a little soreness is ok but use common sense and stay injury free.

Eccentric training should be performed after a base level of strength has    been established; proper progression working up to eccentrics is important.


Putting Your Exercises in the Right Order

January 26, 2009

Ed McNeely

The order or sequence of exercises in a training session can have an impact on the effectiveness of the workout. One of the goals of exercise sequencing is to arrange the exercises in an order that minimizes the impact of fatigue from exercise to exercise, allowing you to complete the workout. There are several ways of ordering your exercises depending on the equipment and time you have available and your training goals.

Priority Ordering

Priority ordering refers to sequencing the exercises by order of importance for your training goals. If you were training for arm wrestling you might choose to do bicep and forearm work first in a training session when you are fresh and have the most energy. Priority ordering can also be used if you need to rehab an injured muscle or you have a strength difference between muscle groups that is increasing your chance of injury. This approach makes the most sense for activities that rely primarily on small muscle groups that typically fatigue quickly.

Descending Energy Cost Ordering 

Some ordering plans call for the sequencing of exercises from those that use the most energy to those that use the least. This allows you to train the hardest exercises without fatigue and before energy stores start to become depleted. Some examples of these schemes are

Large Muscles to Small Muscles

This order suggests that the largest muscle of the body are trained before the smaller muscles. Training large muscles will require more energy and create more fatigue than training small muscles. The typical order would be:

  1. Quadriceps and Glutes
  2. Hamstrings
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Shoulders
  6. Abdominals
  7. Triceps
  8. Biceps
  9. Calves
  10. Forearms

Multi joint to Single Joint

Multi joint exercises are those where more than one major joint in the body is involved in the exercise. For instance in a squat; movement occurs at both the hip and knee joints. Movements involving multiple joint typically require heavier weights and more energy than single joint movements. Some examples of multiple joint movements include:

  1. Squats
  2. Front squats
  3. Bench Press
  4. Incline press
  5. Decline Press
  6. Deadlift
  7. Overhead press movements
  8. Bent rows
  9. Seated rows

High Power to Low Power

Power is developed when the weight you are lifting is moved at high speed. This increases the energy demand of the activity. If speed of movement decreases so does power production and the power training effect. The ability to maintain power depends on the body’s stores of ATP, which are depleted very quickly. Power training is often done early in the training session to take advantage of higher energy levels. The Olympic style weightlifting movements like the power clean, power snatch, push press, and jerk are the most common power movements in the weight room but any exercise can be a power movement if it is done explosively.

Alternating Muscle Groups

Alternating muscle groups is another way of distributing fatigue. The objective of this method is to alternate unrelated muscles from exercise to exercise. This is usually accomplished by alternating push and pull movements or upper body and lower body movements. For instance if you did bench press as your first exercise you would want to do a bent row or seated row as the next exercise because they use unrelated muscle groups. Alternating push pull exercises is used if you are only training a couple of muscle groups in each session, if you are doing a full body workout you alternating upper and lower body is more effective. An example of ordering by alternating muscle groups is:

Push/Pull
  1. Bench press
  2. Bent row
  3. Shoulder press
  4. Arm Curl
  5. Tricep Extension
Upperbody/Lower Body
  1. Bench press
  2. Leg press
  3. Bent row
  4. Hamstring curls
  5. Overhead press
  6. Calf raise
  7. Arm curls
  8. Sit ups
  9. Triceps extensions 

Exercise order is one of the fundamental components of the training program that can have a tremendous impact on whether you are able to reach your training goals or not. Take the time to ensure that there is a logical reason for the order of the exercises in your program.


Rest between Sets

January 20, 2009

Ed McNeely

Rest between sets is one of the most important variables in a strength training program. The rest between sets allows your body the time to replenish the energy it uses during the set and plays a role in determining the nature of the training effect. The amount of rest that is taken depends upon the duration of work in the strength training session and your training objectives and can vary from 0-7 minutes between sets or exercises.

Training for Strength

 Rest periods for developing maximal strength and power are quite long, usually 3-10 minutes. Strength training with heavy weight and low reps uses predominantly the anaerobic alactic energy system. The alactic energy system relies on the energy stored in the muscles. Energy is stored in the form of ATP and CP. These two compounds, known as the phosphagens, are available for immediate use. The stored supply of these compounds is relatively small, they can provide energy for about 10-15 seconds of all out strength training effort.  Once all the stored energy is used up the body requires about 3 minutes to fully replace the phosphagens. If the next set is started before the phosphagens are fully restored the muscles will be forced to use the anaerobic lactic energy system. This will result in a build up of lactic acid.

 Lactic acid is partially responsible for the burning sensation in the muscles. It also contributes to feelings of heaviness and fatigue. A build up of lactic acid may inhibit the quantity and quality of work performed resulting in fewer strength gains.

 Training for Size

 It is quite common for bodybuilders to take short rest periods between sets, particularly during pre contest preparation. This is doe for a variety of reasons; depletion of carbohydrate stores, keep metabolism high and burn more calories, and stimulate muscle growth.

 As we already discussed short rest periods will result in an accumulation of lactic acid. There is some evidence that strength training sessions that result in high lactic acid levels also cause the body to naturally release more growth hormone, one of the hormones responsible for increasing muscle size. Rest periods in bodybuilding programs are typically 30 seconds to two minutes in duration.

 Training for Sports Performance

 The rest periods between sets for athletes vary depending on the time of the year. They will initially be quite long, 3-5 minutes during the off season and preseason when strength and power are the main training goals. During the season the rest period should simulate the rest periods that they have in their competitions. For instance if you are a thrower in track and field and have several minutes between throws you should take several minutes between your sets. If you are a football player and have 30 seconds between plays you should limit the rest time between your sets to about 30 seconds. A wrestler who is constantly working for a whole match may use circuit training in season so that they can continuously move from exercise to exercise. Adjusting the rest period between sets to your sport will help you develop the appropriate energy systems and recovery ability between bouts of work.

 Table 1. Rest periods

Work Type Rest between sets Rest between exercises Purpose
Maximum Strength 5-10 minutes 5-10 min ATP-CP recovery
Maximum Power 3-5 minutes 3-5 min ATP-CP recovery
Muscle Mass 0:30-2:00 None Stimulate GH release
Sports Training 0- several minutes 0-several minutes Simulate sport demands

Monitoring Your Recovery

January 17, 2009

Ed McNeely

Training without monitoring your progress is like driving with your eyes closed, you will get somewhere but you can’t be sure where or what shape you’ll be in when you arrive. Through daily monitoring you will be able to make the fine adjustments to your program that allow you to continue to progress and recover at the fastest rate possible.

 The Recovery Questionnaire

 The recovery questionnaire is filled out every day of the week whether there is a workout scheduled or not, you want to be able to measure the effect of a day off as well as a training day. A 2-3 week baseline should be established in the off-season when you are doing little or no training. The baseline is used to measure how far from a fully recovered state you are moving as a result of training and will be referred back to every week so keep the baseline numbers handy.

 Each of the items in table 1 are rated on a scale of 1-10, using half points as well as whole numbers. high numbers are better ratings for example a rating of 10 on quality of sleep means you had a great nights sleep, a 1 might mean you were up most of the night. The ratings are based on how you fell when you first wake up and get out of bed in the morning. Be honest with yourself, as you will use this information to adjust your program. Body weight should be measured after voiding and before breakfast so that conditions for the weigh in are standardized. Morning heart rate is measured as soon as you wake up. Keep a watch by your bedside and take a 30 second heart rate count and multiply it by two to get the number of beats per minute.

Table 1. The Recovery Questionnaire

Item Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun Average Baseline
Hours of Sleep                  
Sleep Quality                  
Muscle Soreness                  
Joint Soreness                  
General Fatigue                  
Desire to Train                  
Motivation                  
Morning HR                  
Bodyweight                  

 Using the Data to Adjust The Program

 All data is compared back to the baseline established in the off-season. No single variable can assess recovery; the power of the questionnaire comes from the use of multiple variables simultaneously. If you see an increase of two points on the unshaded variables, compared to the baseline, on three or more variables two days in a row you need to take a day off or cut both the volume and intensity of the day’s training in half. If the week average of three of the unshaded items increases by three or more points you need to schedule a recovery week, even if one is not planned in the program.

 Morning heart rate and body weight are not included in the daily and weekly analysis because changes in these items are much more gradual than the other factors that are being monitored. Increases in morning heart rate of more than 10 beats per minute for a week or more should be looked at closely, if it is occurring without changes in any of the other variables it may signal a loss of aerobic fitness which may or may not affect your performance depending on the endurance demands of your sport. If the weekly average is increasing and morning heart rate is high you need to consider planning a recovery week.

 Unintentional decreases in bodyweight are one of the early signs of overtraining. Body weight can fluctuate daily because of hydration levels and what you ate and drank the previous day. Very large athletes can see their weight change by several pounds from day to day; because of this it is better to use weekly percent changes in body weight to assess your long-term weight profile. If you see a weekly-unintended weight loss of more than two percent something needs to be adjusted in training or diet. First increase fluid intake to see if you are dehydrated because of the week’s training schedule and insufficient fluid intake. If the weekly average of other variables is increasing and bodyweight is decreasing there is a good chance that you are beginning to overtrain and need to schedule a recovery week.