This article is part of a series on my experiences at this years BSMPG seminar in Boston, which brings together strength and conditioning and medical practitioners from all over the world. In the series I’ll be sharing with you my experiences, my thoughts on the various speakers and the notes that I took from their presentations.
In previous instalments I have covered presentations from Robert Sapolsky, James Anderson and Vincent Walsh on the human stress response, the influence of the diaphragm on sporting movement, and the role of the brain in performance respectively.
Part 4: Roman Fomin of Omegawave
If you a coach, performance scientist of even a player and you have not heard of Omegawave before, I would seriously recommend you check them out. I first become properly aware of the company when I sat in on this lecture from their co-founder, Val Nasedkin, who is a former head of Ukranian track & field, an international athlete and a PhD himself:
The lecture was an absolute game changer for me. Once I got over the feeling that I was a fraud and I should switch professions, I went home and completely re-wrote my masters thesis. The presentation was that good! In a nutshell here are the principles from Val’s lecture which underpin the Omegawave diagnostic technology:
- For maximum performance and adaptation you need to do more than just train
- Maximum performance and adaptation requires the right training stressor, at the right time and in the right amount
- These optimum values vary wildly between athletes and also on a minute, hour and daily basis for individual athletes
- Even more difficult: you have seven different physiological systems in a constant state of flux. Each is differently affected by different forms of exercise. People draw on them differently and they are always changing in how quickly or slowly they recover from stress.
- You can’t just guess. You have to measure the athlete’s state on a daily basis to ensure the best training is done
Roman is Val’s colleague, and he also holds a PhD in exercise physiology. After the knowledge bombs I had from Val in 2012, I had high expectations for this presentation and Roman didn’t disappoint. I thought it was excellent: exactly the kind of evidence based we see too little of in performance sport, and it really lit a fire under my arse. Here is a summary of what he had to say:
- Collecting data is great. A lot of coaches do it. But data is useless without 1) understanding of what it means and 2) using it to change what you are doing for the better. Too few coaches do these last two bits. Omegawave try to help coaches do these better.
- The majority of training programmes are process focussed- the details and loading parameters of the training programme are the star of the show. We implement training, measure the results, then change or maintain the programme.
- Training in the 21st century needs to be athlete focussed. Even if results are positive in a training based model, it doesn’t tell you if the athlete is optimally positioned to train and get even better results, or if results might be being achieved at a detrimental biological cost.
- The athlete focussed model: test, prescribe, implement, test again, review the programme.
- For each sport, position or event there is a configuration of the athlete’s biological systems- “the functional state”- which can be considered optimal. The role of the strength and conditioning coach is to bridge the gap between where the functional state currently is and where it needs to be.
- A efficient training programme should pull all physiological systems in the same direction toward the performance goal. If there are conflicting methodologies at play or the stimulus is delivered is inappropriate (content, timing or volume), we pay a price in terms of performance and/or injury risk. We have to think of the interplay between systems. We can’t be isolationist in our thinking.
- The athlete’s functional state determines the adaptation far more than the training stimulus. If the state is good, you win/perform well and adapt. If it sucks, you suck. The same training session can have vastly different effects on a day to day basis.
- In one case study of a Russian professional boxer there was a clear pattern between the athlete’s aerobic index and his win-loss record. The more heavily he relied on anaerobic energy production to meet sport demands, the worse he fought (another nail in the coffin for the Tabata fan boys!).
- Omegawave have also been working closely with Sale Sharks (English Premiership) for the past year, collecting a ton of data in the process. They are now at a point where they are able to identify the key training and physiological data which underpin match performance.
- The subsequent predictive model they have created allows them to predict with 93% accuracy whether they will win or lose (presumably the remaining 7% is the stuff they can’t control) . This allows them to better try and identify and control key variables which influence win/loss probability.
What I took away from the presentation
This presentation was great for a few things:
- It confirmed that we are on the right path with the Argentina Rugby Union. Though we don’t use Omegawave technology, we operate on a readiness based training model and we have had a lot of success in reducing injury rates (50% in one year) and improving performance on our KPIs in testing. Hopefully we can continue to refine this model and keep improving the numbers that matter.
- It reminded me that whilst we do record data, understand what it means and implement programme changes, we aren’t good enough at doing this. We do it in what I would term a “reactive” fashion i.e. we see changes in the functional state and then modify the programme. We aren’t good enough at using that data to plan ahead (“proactive”) and try to prevent negative changes in the functional state before they happen in the future.
- I think predictive modelling might be the future of strength and conditioning, and I would like to bring my work and athletes closer towards this. I frequently write that it isn’t just good enough to be capable of great performances, we have to be able to produce those performances at the right time and on a consistent basis. Understanding what are the key variables that underpin this in all domains- gym, field, logistics, medical etc.- and the relationships between these variables can only help us to do that better. Maybe I’ll save it for the PhD I’m not enough of a masochist to do yet.
Now my head hurts.