The goal of training is to improve performance. This typically involves skirting a very thin line between maximizing performance and overtraining. However, training isn’t the only stress that our bodies undergo throughout the day. Stress can present itself through things like work, home, relationships, and pretty much every other aspect of life. And a huge challenge when training for high performance is balancing stress and workload with proper recovery. There have been many attempts to monitor all stress levels, to get an idea of how hard to push the body during a training session, and while things like heart rate, and power output, seem to do a decent job at monitoring training stress, there is still a general lack of guidelines of when to terminate a workout early based on these factors. Monitoring skeletal muscle oxygenation (SmO2) offers a more objective means of monitoring how the muscle is responding to the stress of training. Arguably, one of the largest benefits of monitoring SmO2 during workouts is the ability to autoregulate workouts. While this is an extremely powerful tool to monitor the acute effects of exercise and tailor workouts to an individuals’ physiology. It’s been shown that heart rate at the same power output improves over time, the highest maintainable power output during an endurance event increases and VO2max increases with proper training, yet, very little has been done to monitor how training effects SmO2. In the next few posts I want to walk through a case study to detail changes to an athletes’ physiology over the course of 5 weeks of training. This first post will detail the set-up and give proper background information, the second post will look at the acute effects of each workout, and the final post will detail the patterns of change throughout the 5 weeks.
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) devices have seen growing popularity in research and sporting application over the last decade because of their ability to non-invasively determine muscle oxygen saturation changes during real-time activities. These devices have the potential to change the way exercise is prescribed. However, most NIRS devices are too expensive for consumer use and/or require large power sources and cords, relegating athletes and coaches to only using these devices in a laboratory setting. NIRS devices use a few different methods to determine changes in muscle oxygenation, which I won’t go into detail in this post, but the least cost prohibitive is a method called continuous-wave NIRS. This involves emitting 2 to 4 different wavelengths of light into the tissue of interest and measuring changes in the intensity of light to determine how tissue oxygenation is changing. One major drawback of using most CW-NIRS devices is that they use 2 wavelengths of light while assuming that the tissue the light is passing through remains constant which limits these devices to ONLY reporting changes in muscle oxygenation. Indeed, these devices can estimate percent changes in oxygenation, but only after a calibration step is completed and applied to the data after tests are finished.
Introduction. In the last post how to complete a repeat desaturation protocol was discussed. This protocol is especially useful for multimodal and team sport athletes. Briefly, using a sport specific exercise modality, have an athlete complete repeated sprint intervals (~20s) until they can no longer desaturate or recover SmO2 to the same extent as the start of the workout. Using this data, coaches and athletes can get an idea of sprint endurance capacity which will inform substitution patterns in team sports activities and pacing strategies for other sports. In this blog post I want to walk through an example of a repeated desaturation protocol completed by a cyclist to get an idea of his capacity for accelerations/attacks during a race.
Introduction. The last few posts have covered the topic of assessments, and how Moxy/NIRS devices can be used to gain insight into how the muscle is responding to different loads in real-time. The most common assessment that uses Moxy is the 5-1-5 assessment. Through a progressive increase in exercise intensity with dispersed rest periods this assessment is designed to determined which system (cardiac, pulmonary, and/or skeletal muscle) is most limiting to performance. The second assessment used is a progressive strength test. The goal of this test is to evaluate the blood flow/volume response (tHb) during progressively harder weight-lifting. Upon completion the athlete gains insight to the rep ranges necessary to best elicit different adaptations (strength, hypertrophy, endurance). The above two tests are designed to evaluate endurance and strength limitations, however, the major drawback to these assessments is that they are not very sport specific. Therefore, this post will discuss a repeat desaturation protocol which can be used to evaluate team sport athletes whose sports require repeated sprints. While this style of assessment is best suited for sport specific evaluation, it can still be used for sports that do not use repeated sprints in competition (e.g. many endurance sports). This assessment is useful because it provides insights to how well an athlete responds and recovers to high intensity bouts.
Skeletal muscle oxygenation response during training/assessments can give great insights to how the body is responding to the stimulus it is encountering. Over the past posts I have outlined how Moxy can be used to Autoregulate Sprint Interval Training and Strength Training, in this post I want to detail a Strength Assessment used/created by Evan Peikon at Training Think Tank to determine the best rep ranges for strength and hypertrophy based on your individual physiology using Moxy. The goal. The goal of the strength assessment is to evaluate where different occlusion trends are occurring. By honing in on what intensity an athletes’ body shifts from compression, to venous, and venous to arterial occlusion, you can better understand which weight ranges will most likely provide the physiologic adaptations that are being pursued.
Topics: strength training
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a powerful non-invasive tool that allows researchers to measure, in real-time, the changes in oxygen dynamics in a myriad of tissues during a variety of interventions from sitting to exercising. One of them most useful functions of NIRS is its utility in measuring skeletal muscle oxidative capacity. This technique has even been validated against phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (P-MRS) and high resolution respirometry (HRR) which are considered the gold-standard measurements for mitochondrial function. In both of the above studies the NIRS technique, described in detail below, was shown to be significantly correlated to each gold-standard measure (r > .88, p < 0.0001) and (r = 0.61 – 0.74, p < 0.01), respectively. Very briefly, to measure skeletal muscle oxidative capacity, a seated participant contracts their muscle (to provide a metabolic stimulus), then undergoes a series of 5-15 rapid cuff inflations, from a blood pressure cuff located proximal to the area of interrogation. Upon completion the cuff/s are inflated above systolic blood pressure for 3-5 minutes in order to normalize the NIRS signal. Finally, the slope of each cuff is measured, plotted, and fit to a monoexponential curve allowing for the determination of the NIRS rate constant, k, which is the value used as a surrogate for skeletal muscle oxidative capacity.
NIRS in Research. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a relatively new technology that has shown utility for many different non-invasive protocols for physiologic experimentation. Essentially, NIRS technology monitors changes in capillary oxygenation values by measuring the intensity of light (600-1000nm) after it passes through biological tissue, (i.e. skeletal muscle). The amount of light that is absorbed by a tissue depends mainly on the amount of oxygen that is bound to the chromophores, hemoglobin and myoglobin, underneath the sensor. Therefore, by measuring dynamic changes in the amount of light that passes through a tissue, researchers are able to get an idea of oxygen consumption within the tissue underneath the sensor.
While science does a great job of measuring the statistical norms of a population, the individual physiologic response to training must be taken into account in order to maximize an athlete’s performance potential. Training autoregulation is the concept that training should be monitored and manipulated on a daily basis, based on the individual physiologic responses of the athlete. In the last blog post I introduced the concept of autoregulation and how monitoring skeletal muscle oxygenation levels via NIRS could provide useful insights to how an athlete is coping with a workout. In the next couple of posts I want to walk through the analysis/real-time monitoring of an athlete completing a repeated sprint style workout, and a lunge based body weight strength circuit.
Scientists and coaches have long been searching for the perfect interval workout that pushes the athlete hard enough to elicit a specific adaptation while keeping them healthy enough to continue to train consistently. Such studies have resulted in the creation of guidelines for set and rep schemes for both strength and endurance training aimed at targeting specific adaptations. While this research has gleaned many generalizable rules, these rules have a tendency to fall apart when applied purely on an individual basis. Even something as simple as hypertrophy training (3-5 sets of 8-12 reps) does not always elicit the mass gain it promises. Speaking from experience, it’s extremely frustrating to complete prescribed workouts, with what seems like adequate stimulus, without gaining the benefits that are touted.
Over the last few blog posts, I have outlined how to Complete and Analyze a 5-1-5 Assessment. Briefly, a 5-1-5 assessment consists of progressively harder load steps where 5 minutes of work are followed by 1 minute of complete rest, then repeated. After the load is repeated twice it is increased until the athlete cannot finish a load or has completed sufficient work to gain enough information about their physiology. Using this data one of three major physiological limiters can be identified.