Can Women Sprint or Run Faster than Men? Yes!

>> January 23, 2016

In early 1990's, scientists (Whip & Ward) said women will perform better than men in all running events by 2050.

Another scientist claimed that in 150 years (around 2150), a woman will run just slower than 8 seconds at 100m and it would be quick enough to beat the winning time of men's 100m at the Olympics.

So these are the two examples of the extreme conclusion derived from the results of the model that they used, linear regression. By using the same model, you can predict that humans will eventually run the 200m in 2 seconds. Historical trends are important but they are not guaranteed to continue into the future.

World record holders at 100m, Usain Bolt and Florence Griffith-Joyner

One possible reason to see such data that women will do better than men could be because of the "performance revolution" or higher rate of improvement seen in women's sports performances in the 1980s and 1990s after women's sports have grown in popularity and participation in 1960s and 1970s. They did not get the same opportunity as men in the past. In other words, women "started late."

But current opinion suggests that the world records have reached 99% of the human performance limits that can be reached within one generation.

It has also been reported that the gender gap in the Olympic sports performance has been stable or unchanged since the early 1980s.

Sprinting velocity is a product stride "length" and "frequency". But in maximal velocity sprinting, the "frequency" (foot's contact per second) can be more relevant than the "length". Ben Johnson would produce similar steps (46.5) (stride length) to run 10.44 (1983) and 9.79 (1988) at 100m. The "frequency" can be influenced by the ground contact time that is determined by the speed of contraction (of muscle fibers contractile properties).

To run 8 seconds in 100m would require a huge (double?) change of muscle fibers (the contractile properties) that will influence the force generating capacity, which will then determine the production of the required (huge) amount of power. This increment (i.e. double) may be possible with a significant increase in muscle mass. If Usain Bolt weighs 94kg (and 9.58s in 100m), this 8-second female sprinter would actually sprint with a body mass of >100kg. The average body mass of the women's 100m Olympic finalists is about 56kg, almost half of it.

In the elite level, even with a highly systematic training provided to athletes, the muscle fibers are nearly unaltered or altered very very little.

Men are apparently more powerful than women because of muscle mass (greater). This is because men have ~10 times higher testosterone concentration than women.

Because we are probably near to "upper end" of human performance limits, for sprint and running (to limit the scope of this discussion), women can surely run faster than men athletes, but the fastest men athletes will always superior to the fastest women athletes.

Women performance at a high level will not match those of men!.


Dietmar Schmidtbleicher on Interference Effects of Concurrent Training

>> January 11, 2016

Strength and power expert, Prof Dr.Dr. Dietmar Schmidtbleicher has been invited for a 2-hour discussion regarding sports conditioning-related topics with a small group of strength and conditioning coaches in January 2016.

For a record, the German scientist has published ~480 scientific journals and articles since the late 1970s when he started with his research studies. One of the topics we discussed was interference effects of concurrent training.

Schmidtbleicher during NSCA conference in Orlando
Concurrent training is a structure of training combining endurance (aerobic) and strength training during a single training session. This structure is usually applied by coaches to reduce the number of training sessions that the athletes have to do in a week, as well as to obtain a certain mileage goal of running endurance for a particular week.

Hence, they have athletes to perform aerobic endurance first and then followed by strength session with the conditioning coach. Despite these reasons, the structure may not be the best training arrangement according to Schmidtbleicher.

One example of arrangement that has been used by coaches is to have athletes to perform endurance training such as long slow distance for 10km, and followed by weight training (e.g. 3 sets x 10 reps bench press) after some period of recovery (~20 mins).

The first point that highlighted by Schmidtbleicher sounds like this, “neuromuscular condition is good if you’re not fatigue”. The neuromuscular system is certainly at best for performing many athletic movements during "fresh" condition.

In contrary, it can be a problem for athletes to execute a sound technique of strength exercises when they are in a state of fatigue. Thus, Schmidtbeicher suggests the athletes perform running endurance and strength training, not at the same session.

by Hawley (2009), A Physiol Nutr Metab

One reason for "splitting" the two types of training can be justified when we look at the “interference theory” which explains the “competing effects” occur at cellular level associated with performance of aerobic endurance and strength training simultaneously at the same session.

The activation of enzymes (i.e. AMPK) important for the process of energy production (i.e. mitochondrial production) in aerobic endurance are not compatible, and in fact can possibly impedes the enzymes (mTORC1) that should be activated during strength training to regulate the protein synthesis (for cell growth).

This “blocking” of the signaling pathways could minimize the adaptation of training. Threfore, athletes may not get an optimal benefit during concurrent training that is structured as above.

Moreover, long-term performance of high volume or intensity of concurrent training may promote overreaching (while getting minimal training gain), which can possibly put athletes into the state of overtraining.

Nevertheless, it is still important to scrutinize or make an in-depth inspection on this topic. We may want to look further at the dose-response relationship, specific objective (body composition et.?), type of endurance training (running, walking, cycling, swimming?), type of strength training (hypertrophy, strength, power), training structure for optimal training adaptation (lesser interference effect) while maintaining sports-specific requirement (for endurance-strength sports), and current research looking at these variables on the magnitude of interference effects from concurrent training. This allows one to ascertain if the aerobic endurance and strength training can be performed together at some degrees.

From existing information (e.g. Wilson et al., 2012, JSCR), what we already know is that concurrent training can affect power production. If one has to do concurrent training, he/she must choose endurance modality that specific to his/her sports in order to avoid the occurrence of competing adaptations. For sports requiring strength and power, it is suggested to perform endurance activity at a higher intensity (e.g. 10 x 100m @ ~70%), rather than the 20-40 mins of a slow jog.


Whole Body Vibration for Sports Performance - Does it Works?

>> January 02, 2016

Russian scientists have examined the application of "vibration" for performances, such as strength and power quality. It dates back to 1970's and more research on vibration were published subsequently in 1980's and 1990's such as those of Nazarov and Spivak (1987), Issurin (1994, 1997 etc.), Bosco (1998 etc). Issurin's 1994 work was the first study of vibration in athletic performance (strength, power, and flexibility) that was published in English. Unlike the current practice, he actually used vibration to specific parts of the body.

Most of the studies that were published after 2000 reported positive benefits following vibration exposure (e.g. using the Whole Body Vibration, WBV). However, WBV is not invariably favorable and appears to depend on fitness level and the WBV variables (will be discussed).

Recreational / untrained subjects
There appear to be some benefits of WBV to this group. Most probably they are more responsive to the intensity of WBV, which resulted in an increased muscle activation. In the last 10 years, enhancement of jump performance, sprint ability, change of direction, flexibility, and balance have been reported following exposure of WBV.

Elite athletes
The effect of WBV on elite athletes is not conclusive. The most frequently cited reasons for the insignificant results following exposure of WBV is "insufficient stimulus" and "dampening effect." The stimulus of WBV comes from one or more of the WBV variables such as intensity, duration etc. (will be discussed). Dampening effect is associated with internal and external factors. The internal factor related to athlete's fitness level, basically, the fitter you're the more stimulus is needed. The external factor may be related to an accessory that can possibly weaken the vibration signals such as your shoes.

Application of Whole Body Vibration.
There are a few variables to consider, primarily the amplitude, frequency, volume, and recovery.

  • Amplitude - as determined by displacement (peak to peak distance, in mm) of the wave-like shape (sinusoidal) that is produced by vibration device. The amplitude can determine the "up and down" of movement.
  • Frequency - number or rate of the wave produced in a minute. In layman's, given 50 Hz vs 40 Hz of frequency, 50 Hz vibration can "shake you" a bit more than the 40 Hz. 
  • Volume - this is the duration of exercise. In literature, 30s of WBV with an appropriate set of amplitude and frequency can elevate performance (e.g. jumps). Most of the studies used 30s to 2 minutes of total duration for warm up application, and this can be longer when WBV applied as training mean.
  • Recovery - rest between WBV exposure (e.g. set 1, set 2 and so on) and also recovery between last WBV to the performance. Rest between exposure is around 1:1 work to rest ration and the recovery before performance is at least 1 minute.
The physiology of vibration
Vibration can produce wave and energy. During the WBV exposure, the body is "accelerated" or "shaken" because of the amplitude and frequency of vibration. This will give a stimulus primarily from the activation of receptors, the muscle spindles. Activation of muscle spindles enabled reflex potentiation or a better recruitment of motor units. This effect can also be seen in other athletic activities such as plyometrics, dynamic warm up, and so on. The enhancement of neuromuscular recruitment results in improvement of neuromuscular excitability that is crucial for athletic performance.



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To be updated



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