Strength and Conditioning Research the TL;DR Version (October 2014)



Fat athletes don’t jump as high

Sprint Momentum is an important change between senior and junior rugby

Heavy sleds are good

Some journal authors have some silly ideas

Back squat is better than overhead squat for lowerbody strength and ab training is better than overhead squat for abs.

Volume is important for size.

Heavy sleds are good

Band squats could give you an acute 7.7% increase in 1RM… :O

Body Composition and Muscle strength predictors of jump performance.

  • 35 top level female volleyball athletes and 21 physically active female non athletes where included in the study.  The study tested their maximal jump height with and without arm swing, their body fat / muscle mass was assessed and their maximal leg press was also tested.
  • Researches found strong relationships between body composition and jumping ability in non athletes, and moderate significant relationships between strength and jump height in both groups.

TL;DR = Fat athletes can’t jump as high as lean athletes.  Strength is a predictor of jump ability but relative strength is more important,

Long term changes in Elite rugby union players in sprint speed and sprint momentum.

  • 38 Elite rugby union players and 31 Junior internationals where tested initially over a 40 meter sprint (using 10m splits) from this data Initial sprint velocity (ISV), Intital sprint momentum (ISM), Maximum sprint velocity and Maximum sprint momentum (MSM) were determined.
  • In the second part of the study 12 Junior players and 15 senior players where tracked over a 2 year period to see the changes that where made on these 4 variables from their training regimes.
  • Initial Momentum and Maximum Momentum where the key differences between international junior and senior players with senior players having greater momentum.  Speed seems to peak in a player’s early 20s whilst sprint momentum seems to be the more trainable quality.
  • Junior players managed a much greater improvement in all variables other than initial sprint velocity in the 2 year training period when compared to senior players.

TL;DR = Sprint momentum not speed seems to be a key factor in senior rugby players performance and is more trainable than velocity. 

Heavy vs Light sled loads for sprint training.

  • It has been advised that heavy loads that restrict sprint velocity >10% should not be used as they alter sprint mechanics and would not result in a performance benefit.  This study tested this assertion empirically.
  • 21 Physically active makes took part in the study and where split into two training groups heavy sled towing (n=10 with loads that reduced their sprinting velocity by 30%) and light sled towing (n=11 with sleds that decrease their sprinting velocity by 10%)
  • Heavy sled training decreased both 5 and 10m speed times (-5.7% and -3.5% respectively) where as light sled training only improved the 10m performance (-3%).

TL;DR = Heavy sled sprint training might offer more benefits than light sled training (improvements in 5m and 10m times).

Power output of the back squat using a stupidly light weight and doing loads of reps.

  • 19 resistance trained men with an average back squat of 149 took part in the study.
  • The study looked at the peakpower output of an “explosive squat” using 40% of 1RM squat over 5 sets of 16 reps!
  • Power output (average) declined with each set however peak power was unaffected.
  • 2 minutes if rest us enough to maintain peak power outputs using 16 reps at 40% of rm squat.

TL;DR – some researchers really don’t like their subjects.

Overhead Squat vs Back Squat EMG and kinetic comparison.

  • 14 resistance trained males performed 3 reps of each exercise at 60, 75 and 90% of their 3 RM.  A selection of trunk isolation exercises where also performed for compaision.
  • Overhead squat showed greater activation of the Rectus abdominals and External obliques although the differences where small (2-7%) and back squat had a greater activation of erector spiane, glutes, quads and hamstrings.
  • Abdominal exercises had a greater abdominal activation than both overhead squat and back squat.

TL;DR – If you want to train your legs squat, if you want to train your abs do ab exercises.

Powerlifting training vs bodybuilding training for strength and hypertrophy.

  • 17 men where split between two 8 week training programmes. Bodybuilding (3 sets of 10 with 90 seconds of rest) or powerlifting 7 sets of 3 (with 3 minutes of rest) both programmes where equated for total volume.
  • Powerlifting group and bodybuilding group showed similar gains in muscle size.
  • Powerlifting group showed greater strength gains in bench press and back squat.

TL;DR – volume is important for muscle growth not intensity.

Effects of resisted sprint training with 5, 12.5 and 20% of body mass.

  • Three groups took part in a 7 week 14 session sled sprinting programme 5% BW (n = 7), 12.5% BW (n = 6) and 20% BW (n = 6).
  • They were tested in Counter movement jump, full squat, loaded vertical jump and 40 meter time (split into 10m intervals).
  • All three groups improved their 0 to 40 times
  • 12.5 and 20% improved their 0-20, 0-30, CMJ, Squat and Loaded jump.

TL;DR – 12.5 and 20% bodyweight training can make moderately trained people faster, stronger and jump higher (30-40m times can be improved better using lighter loads).

Band Squat warm ups can improve your 1RM Squat?

  • 16 lifters took part in the study.  They performed a base line 1RM Squat lift.
  • They then warmed up either with free weights or variable weight (bar with bands) the warm up intensity was 85% of 1RM performed for 2 sets of 3 reps.  The experimental condition consisted of 50% bar weight and 35% band tension.
  • 13 of the 16 participants managed an average increase in 1RM of 7.7% after taking part in the band squat warm up.

TL;DR – Maybe you should consider starting off with some band squats in your squat sessions.