If you’ve ever dreamed of combining the world’s finest thought leaders in the field of sports performance into one book, then the second edition of High-Performance Training for Sports is the book for you!
This new edition of High-Performance Training for Sports has arguably become the most-sought-after text in the field of athletic performance. Editors David Joyce and Daniel Lewindon have once again put together an “authoritative guide for ultimate athletic conditioning,” with chapters written by leading experts in the field. These contributors present the most up-to-date material on physiology, sports rehabilitation, biomechanics, coaching dynamics, and strength and conditioning in a single resource.
After the success of the first edition—which was one of the most recommended books by practitioners on Rob Pacey’s podcast—it was an ambitious attempt to improve the quality of the content, but the editors (and authors) have done just that. Although there are several similarities between the two editions, there are a number of brand-new chapters (approximately 17), along with others that expand upon the content contained in the first edition.The key difference with this text compared to many others: the information in each chapter is meant to be immediately transferrable to the field, says @dylhicks. Click To Tweet
The quality of authorship in each chapter is second to none, and the content should apply regardless of the stage of your own career, whether you are a graduate assistant taking care of your first team or moving into expert performance consulting. The foreword from Coach Dan Pfaff of ALTIS provides a historical snapshot of how the world of high performance has evolved and identifies the key difference with this text compared to many others: the information in each chapter is meant to be immediately transferrable to the field.
Format of High-Performance Training for Sports, 2nd Ed.
The book is divided into three parts:
- Establishing and Developing Resilience (8 chapters).
- Developing Athletic Capabilities (10 chapters).
- Enhancing and Sustaining Performance (8 chapters).
The strategy to design the flow of the book and chapters in this manner perfectly aligns with those of the practitioner:
- Understand how to work with the athlete.
- Understand how to develop and improve the athlete.
- Understand how to keep the athlete performing to a high level.
Like similar books in the field, throughout each chapter there are key points and/or coaching anecdotes summarized in what have been described as “Wise Ways.” These are fantastic in emphasizing the core message from that page or chapter—and in an age where 240 characters is a common medium, these work well to deliver the messages.
Concluding each chapter is a short list of “Non-Negotiables” that further refines the information for the practitioner and reinforces the key takeaways. Although the content in each chapter requires greater exploration, this book review will take a deep dive on five key chapters that resonated with me from a teaching, coaching, and research perspective:
- Chapter 11 – Speed Training, by Jean-Benoit Morin, PhD, and Stuart McMillan.
- Chapter 4 – Optimising Movement Efficiency, by Matt Jordan, PhD, CSCS.
- Chapter 20 – Preseason, by Darren Burgess, PhD.
- Chapter 9 – Understanding and Influencing Interpersonal Dynamics in the Training Environment, by Brett Bartholomew, MS Ed, CSCS*D, RSCC*D.
- Chapter 26 – Learning, by Sam Robertson, PhD, and Jacqueline Tran, PhD.
Chapter 11 – Speed Training (Jean-Benoit Morin and Stuart McMillan)
Who better to write a chapter on speed than two of the foremost leaders in sprint coaching and sprint science? Jean-Benoit Morin (Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne) is arguably the world’s leading researcher in understanding, interpreting, and explaining the mechanical determinants of sprint performance and is known for his work on human locomotion and force-velocity profiling. Stu McMillan (ALTIS) not only coaches some of the fastest humans on the planet, but he also provides a critical—yet analytical—lens to performance that few in the world can match.
The chapter begins by providing an overview of how speed can be described in various individual and team sport scenarios, while also discussing the key performance indicators (KPIs) of sprinting and the content-context continuum:
- The content describes how the athlete learns to control movement while sprinting and coordinate their degrees of freedom in space and time.
- The context describes how this movement is explored within the context of their sporting environment.
The constant iteration of these components forms the continuum. One term highlighted in the chapter is “foundational anchor points” (FAPs), which describes the movements that underpin performance. The link to FAPs is key in this chapter, as the authors frequently reference the shapes and patterns common in sprinting, which are highlighted in the ALTIS Kinogram Method.
The chapter goes on to explain that if coaches understand and can recognize when performances change or patterns do not stabilize, then the anchor has not been held in place and inconsistencies could arise at higher intensities. Midway through the chapter, the focus changes to understanding the mechanical demands of sprinting. Although based on Newtonian mechanics, the descriptions around acceleration, force production, orientation, and transmission are explained with a strong application to the field.
The authors make it a point to identify that the orientation of the ground reaction force (GRF) has greater significance for the overall sprint performance than absolute force production, along with linking this to force-velocity profiling and understanding the necessity to move past solely analyzing sprint times. Profiling allows the coach to understand the how of the sprint performance and provides an individual approach about what might limit performance or aid performance. The authors detail the five key components of the profile (F0, v0, PMAX, RFMAX, and DRF) and explain how even within a homogenous group of elite team sport athletes, differences in profiles will provide guidance when individualizing the training program.
In the latter parts of the chapter, the authors circle back to the FAPs and KPIs of sprinting by looking at sprint descriptors, including shapes, patterns, projection, rhythm, and rise. Although describing each in detail, they provide kinematic explanations of how each descriptor of the performance can be applied across various team sports.
Two key concepts that tie these descriptors together are the internal and external factors specific to the athlete. The athletes’ internal factors include their anthropometry, strength, mobility, and neuromuscular characteristics, while external factors include the athletes’ technical understanding of the required movement objective. Each of these factors will influence variables such as shape, patterns, projection, etc.
Limiting this chapter to 12 pages must have been extraordinarily difficult for the two authors, considering the level of knowledge they both possess and immense amount of information on the topic. Yet, they have distilled it down to the absolute non-negotiables of what underpins fast running.This chapter is presented in a way in which coaches working with athletes from all sports can improve their understanding of how to enhance sprint performance, says @dylhicks. Click To Tweet
Although sprinting has its roots in track and field, this chapter is not only informative from a mechanical perspective of the task, but it is presented in a way in which coaches working with athletes from all sports can improve their understanding of how to enhance sprint performance.
Chapter 4 – Optimising Movement Efficiency (Matt Jordan)
Matt Jordan (Canadian Sport Institute, Calgary) is arguably the world leader in the mechanics and assessment of movement, along with understanding movement compensations when returning from injury. Matt’s unique ability to see performance through the lens of a muscle physiologist, biomechanist, and strength and conditioning coach gives him a unique perspective few others in the world of human performance can offer.
Jordan begins by exploring the concept of efficiency of movement and its relationship to movement adaptability and mechanical efficiency. The early passages expand on mechanical efficiency in more detail by focusing on the optimization of biomechanics and the force-velocity (and force-length) relationship(s) of the muscle.
Performance coaches generally have a strong understanding of the linear force-velocity relationship/continuum from the point of view of strength training exercise selection but highlighting the link between the force-length relationship, joint angles, sport specificity, and muscle strength curve is where the true learning begins. Using a hierarchy and categorization of exercises, the explanation of how coordinative abilities—along with energetic and biomechanical demands of the competitive exercise/skill—are paired with an appropriate strength training option demonstrates Jordan’s systematic approach to enhance transfer between training and competition. Contrasting applied examples, often embedded in winter sports due to Jordan’s background at the Canadian Institute of Sport, highlight how an attention to detail in the force-time, force-length, and joint angle characteristics of the prescribed exercise will have significant implications on rate of force development (RFD), force effectiveness in the competition tasks, and overall efficiency in the task.
With the addition of Jordan’s loading parameter table (Plyometrics – reactive strength, Zone 1 – maximal power, Zone 2 – hypertrophy, and Zone 3 – maximal strength), practitioners are well on their way to better understanding, developing, and improving mechanical efficiency. Furthermore, the chapter challenges views on what is optimal movement while exploring movement solutions, variability, and adaptability from an individual athlete perspective. Jordan highlights that although coaches often view movement from an optimal model, greater understanding of the environmental constraints and the adaptive, self-organization of the human body is necessary.
With regard to ACL injuries, the chapter circles back to demonstrate how movement strategies across a range of tasks are generally limited by the strength available at each joint, along with the range of motion through which the body has moved—which further strengthens the importance of and focus on mechanical efficiencies (or inefficiencies). Finally, the constraints of human movement, along with cognitive abilities, are presented as the last pieces of the efficiency puzzle to meet the complexities of sport.
This chapter should reinforce that practitioners must ensure they know the inputs of what contributes to efficient movement; then, on an individual basis in their context, attempt to prescribe movement interventions so the athlete can find the appropriate movement solution.
Chapter 20 – Preseason (Darren Burgess)
Without a doubt, Darren Burgess (Adelaide Football Club) is one of the leading performance coaches in the world. His experience and success in soccer, Australian Rules football, and training load monitoring are well known and respected. For Australian performance coaches, he is one of the leading voices pushing the profession to new heights.
He begins his chapter by explaining the aims of a preseason period in team sports, which primarily focuses on reducing the risk of injury, developing biomotor abilities, and targeting arguably the most important aspect of training: tactical development. Burgess details how in most team sports at the professional level, the preseason period can range from as few as 4-6 weeks (EPL) to as long as 16 weeks (Australian Rules football). Therefore, the structure, content, and design of this period of training is highly dependent on which sport you are involved in.
Burgess’s attention to detail in all facets of preseason planning appears to be quite methodical, but the key message early on is to ensure the preseason period provides an appropriate overload to the in-season demands. Minimizing the risk of injury at any time of the competitive season is perhaps the highest priority, but during the preseason, determining the correct dose of fitness and fatigue requires a high level of experience and insight from the S&C coach.
Burgess highlights perhaps the biggest risk of injury for team sport athletes is high-speed running (HSR >20 km/h), or sprinting. Although coaches might look to avoid HSR to limit the chance of injury, the reality is that once the competitive season begins, the ability to sprint and break away from an opponent is game changing. Therefore, Burgess recommends an early, yet gradual, introduction to this type of training. Like all components of training, HSR needs to be periodized accordingly, and, along with speed and power development, the density of these components will differ between sports, positions on the field, and player history..@darrenburgess25 also highlights the importance of blending the tactical and technical training from the sport coach with the prescription from the S&C coach. This is absolutely non-negotiable. Click To Tweet
Aside from developing the raw physiological components during this period, Burgess also highlights the importance of blending the tactical and technical training from the sport coach with the prescription from the S&C coach. This is an absolute non-negotiable, but also requires higher order thinking from the S&C coach about the best approach to successfully achieve the speed, power, strength, and conditioning goals of the training period. In the latter part of the chapter, Burgess looks at how to define and ensure a successful preseason period by emphasizing the importance of writing effective training programs, monitoring athletes, planning tapers, and promoting positive behaviors and team culture.
A preseason training program requires meticulous planning and integration of several training components, yet the importance of getting it right cannot be understated. There is a saying, which I believe is attributed to Burgess: a good strength & conditioning program won’t win you the premiership, but a poor one might help you lose one (apologies if I have misquoted Darren here). This seems to ring true throughout chapter 20.
Chapter 9 – Understanding and Influencing Interpersonal Dynamics in the Training Environment (Brett Bartholomew)
Since Conscious Coaching hit the shelves a few years back, Brett Bartholomew (ArtofCoaching.com) has been upskilling performance coaches worldwide on their communication skills. More recently, aside from being one of the world leaders in sport performance coaching, Brett has challenged coaches to move past the X’s and O’s of coaching and begin to invest in themselves, starting with all components of communication.
Without question, coaching is all about communication. In a sports performance setting, coaches communicate with their athletes on a daily basis and attempt to influence their behaviors to elicit a positive outcome. However, the tactics and strategies we select while attempting to influence athletes are dependent on the coach-athlete relationship and the power dynamics between both parties.
Early in the chapter, common social scenarios that occur in sport every season are detailed to highlight how communication can lead to organizations imploding. These range from miscommunication between departments and athletes losing faith in coaching staff to the “blame game” and egotistical coaches—yet instead of digging into the details of each issue, Bartholomew recommends coaches look in the mirror. Self-awareness, self-examination, and critical reflection are the key concepts that the performance coach must continually work on to improve their communication. This is a perhaps the most critical takeaway from the chapter. Coaches with a strong sense of self-awareness understand their strengths and weaknesses and can demonstrate “social agility” in different situations to better influence and persuade the individual.
Although the terms power and influence might not appear in the NSCA S&C manual, as a coach, the ability to change behaviors requires an astute understanding of both concepts. Bartholomew provides several examples of different types of power (reward, coercive, informational), with examples and situations of when each type is evident in a coaching or team setting. Importantly, the way power is developed and the way it is maintained are two different things. Power dynamics in a performance setting require the select parties to effectively “read the room” to understand the rationale of why the social dynamics may change in certain environments.
The chapter then moves on to analyzing the concept of influence, which is described as a way we can periodize our interactions with people and make them more meaningful. Like power dynamics, various examples on influence tactics are provided, with a short explanation of how and when to apply each tactic. From a coaching perspective, influencing an athlete to do something that we think will help them seems quite easy, but after reading this section of the chapter, you can see this is short-sighted.From a coaching perspective, influencing an athlete to do something we think will help them seems quite easy, but after reading this section, you can see this is short-sighted, says @dylhicks. Click To Tweet
Bartholomew is methodical in his “breakdown” of each influence tactic, emphasizing the fact that whichever tactic is used, the success of this approach will likely depend on the perceived benefit and the overall relationship they have with YOU, the influencer.
In summary, sports performance is more than just speed, power, and periodization; it relies on the relationships between the coaching staff and the athletes. Reflecting and improving on your interactions and overall communication should be a high priority for all coaches, and something to constantly refine.
Chapter 26 – Learning (Sam Robertson and Jacqueline Tran)
Sam Robertson (Professor of Sport Analytics, Victoria University) and Jacqueline Tran (Team Leader, HPSNZ) are a pair of leading figures in the field of sport science and higher education. Although they may be less known among strength and conditioning coaches, their reach and expertise into the sports analytics space and high-performance learning environments is not to be questioned. Through the “rstats” content Tran shares via social media and the One Track Mind podcast that Robertson hosts, they both push the field to new heights with their content knowledge expertise, along with their strong understanding of how effective learning happens.
The chapter initially discusses the two perspectives when designing learning environments in high-performance sport:
- Designing environments to support individual
- Setting up environments which foster collective
When examining the relationship between learning and performance, the authors detail that teaching, learning, and performance are not interchangeable, and they therefore need to be examined separately to form an accurate assessment as to whether effective learning has occurred.
One of the counterintuitive aspects of learning is that when the learning is rich, performance initially suffers. Therefore, the challenge for coaches is to determine the appropriate time to assess the true quality of learning and retention. Different learning models are then explored, including a Complex Systems View of Learning and a Constraints-Led Approach to Learning, where the complex adaptive system (human body) is tasked with problem-solving and finding solutions within the unpredictable learning environment. Most sport practitioners would be familiar with these models, yet creating the environment where a high level of learning occurs might be the sticking point.
The chapter circles back to discussing individual and collective learning, and from a high-performance team perspective, it appears both learning types are essential. While individual learning for the coach presents an opportunity for how to better themselves, the approach coaches use with individual athletes is likely of much greater importance. In a similar approach to how training principles are manipulated in a training program, the features of an effective learning environment and principles of learning design are detailed to provide a learning roadmap with the acronym SPORT: specificity (representative design), progression, overload, reversibility, and tedium (variety).
For the athlete’s learning environment, one interesting concept raised is that of the challenge point. The challenge point describes an approach to find the appropriate difficulty of practice for learning to occur: too easy and it doesn’t represent “the game,” but too hard and the challenge is too great to conquer. Therefore, using the SPORT acronym might provide a framework for coaches to rely on when designing the environment for different phases of the year or for athletes with varying needs (e.g., draftee, veteran, return to play, etc.).
Designing a collective learning environment—where the group commits to learn together and then contributes and shares their learnings with each other—appears to provide a richer experience than a self-directed approach. A true high-performance environment fosters a community of practice where regular sharing opportunities are encouraged, so the team is learning as a whole, rather than a siloed approach.Although individual learning is necessary, collective learning can be transformational for an organization by ensuring domain-specific knowledge is disseminated across all personnel. Click To Tweet
This chapter emphasizes that true learning and retention do not occur by chance; rather, it is the result of the effective design of the learning environment for the individuals in your organization. Coaches must be proactive in manipulating the learning constraints (task, organism, environment) and constantly ask athletes to problem-solve in both predictable and unpredictable settings. Finally, although individual learning is necessary, collective learning can be transformational and sustainable for an organization by ensuring domain-specific knowledge and learnings are disseminated across all personnel.
Adding HPTS 2nd Edition to Your Coaching Library
Overall, HPTS 2nd edition is a book all performance coaches need to read, highlight, re-read, post-it note, and read again. In my opinion, this book will serve as the leading reference manual for strength & conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, and sports scientists across the globe.
Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading SimpliFaster than ever, and each week we bring you compelling content from coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists who are devoted to building better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — SF