Athletics Coaches Survey

This survey was designed to collect data on how Italian Athletics coaches see various aspects of coaching as well as how they find information/learn and develop their knowledge. The data collection in Italy was completed last year. I would like to experiment the survey with coaches around the World and want to make sure everyone can see the outcomes as data come in. For this reasons, I have designed a simple dashboard with Tableau which is linked to the google spreadsheet and updates itself as soon as somebody fills in the questionnaire.

The questionnaire is available here. If you are a coach in Athletics, make sure you fill it in and if you have colleagues/friends interested, pass them the link.

You can also fill it in from this page

In the meantime, some data are available here:
Athletics Coaches and Testing

New article on strength training in the elderly


In 2013 I was kindly invited by my colleague Dr. Urs Granacher in Potsdam to give a talk to his institution about science in sport. During my stay we discussed about many aspects of sports science and spent a lot of time talking about bilateral deficit and the fact that there was not much research on assessing it in various populations and also on the effectiveness of various training interventions on this interesting neuromuscular phenomenon. In particular, I was concerned with the amount of training prescriptions characterised by exercises involving two limbs, while most movements are performed with one limb. Also, we discussed how this was relevant for the elderly, as the risk of falls is large for older people and falls occur normally when most of the weight is supported by one leg.

Discussions moved to actions, and the project has been now published on Plos One. The abstract is below and if you want to read the article you can click on the image.


The term “bilateral deficit” (BLD) has been used to describe a reduction in performance during bilateral contractions when compared to the sum of identical unilateral contractions. In old age, maximal isometric force production (MIF) decreases and BLD increases indicating the need for training interventions to mitigate this impact in seniors. In a cross-sectional approach, we examined age-related differences in MIF and BLD in young (age: 20–30 years) and old adults (age: >65 years). In addition, a randomized-controlled trial was conducted to investigate training-specific effects of resistance vs. balance training on MIF and BLD of the leg extensors in old adults. Subjects were randomly assigned to resistance training (n = 19), balance training (n = 14), or a control group (n = 20). Bilateral heavy-resistance training for the lower extremities was performed for 13 weeks (3 × / week) at 80% of the one repetition maximum. Balance training was conducted using predominately unilateral exercises on wobble boards, soft mats, and uneven surfaces for the same duration. Pre- and post-tests included uni- and bilateral measurements of maximal isometric leg extension force. At baseline, young subjects outperformed older adults in uni- and bilateral MIF (all p < .001; d = 2.61–3.37) and in measures of BLD (p < .001; d = 2.04). We also found significant increases in uni- and bilateral MIF after resistance training (all p < .001, d = 1.8-5.7) and balance training (all p < .05, d = 1.3-3.2). In addition, BLD decreased following resistance (p < .001, d = 3.4) and balance training (p < .001, d = 2.6). It can be concluded that both training regimens resulted in increased MIF and decreased BLD of the leg extensors (HRT-group more than BAL-group), almost reaching the levels of young adults.

Excellent Article on Mathematical Modeling of Athletic Training

I came across this wonderful article of and 
A number of professions rely on exercise prescription to improve health or athletic performance, including coaching, fitness/personal training, rehabilitation, and exercise physiology. It is therefore advisable that the professionals involved learn the various tools available for designing effective training programs. Mathematical modeling of athletic training and performance, which we henceforth call “performance modeling,” is one such tool. Two models, the critical power (CP) model and the Banister impulse-response (IR) model, offer complementary information. The CP model describes the relationship between work rates and the durations for which an individual can sustain them during constant-work-rate or intermittent exercise. The IR model describes the dynamics by which an individual’s performance capacity changes over time as a function of training. Both models elegantly abstract the underlying physiology, and both can accurately fit performance data, such that educating exercise practitioners in the science of performance modeling offers both pedagogical and practical benefits. In addition, performance modeling offers an avenue for introducing mathematical modeling skills to exercise physiology researchers. A principal limitation to the adoption of performance modeling is a lack of education. The goal of this report is therefore to encourage educators of exercise physiology practitioners and researchers to incorporate the science of performance modeling in their curricula and to serve as a resource to support this effort. The resources include a comprehensive review of the concepts associated with the development and use of the models, software to enable hands-on computer exercises, and strategies for teaching the models to different audiences.

This paper was published on Advances in Physiology Education which is a relatively new journal of the American Physiological Society.
Here is the full reference: 
Clarke DC, Skiba PF. Rationale and resources for teaching the mathematical modeling of athletic training and performance. Adv Physiol Educ. 37(2):134-52. June 2013.

If you want to read more about Dr. Skiba’s work you can go here.
Great paper and most of all great supplementary material, excellent job @DrPhilipSkiba!

Change of scenery, move, new job and new opportunities

Apologies for the silence, but the last month has been quite eventful. I left the UK and moved to Qatar to start my new job at Aspire Academy heading physiology and biochemistry. So far I have been a month in Qatar and I can tell you that this is an exciting project with huge potential.
This is the location of the Academy.

An incredible facility with some great colleagues and great coaches, so looking forward to get back into working with young athletes. Reading a lot at the moment and trying to write up few things while developing the structure of the physiology and biochemistry activities in Aspire. 
I plan to write more and have few ideas for new articles on this blog, so stay tuned and hopefully you will like the new content.

End of the year reflections and thanks again!

Here we are, today it is the last day of 2012 and as usual it is time for reflections. What an amazing year it has been. So much expectations for the “home” Olympics in London and fantastic results not only in terms of sporting success but also for the feel good of the nation. Also, another year of blogging is gone by and the number of visits is increased again. In fact, this year the blog received 33,286 visits from 157 countries. I am still amazed by such interest but also very proud of contributing to the development and sharing of knowledge related to Sport and exercise science.
So, here is my thank you to all the readers. I hope readers find this blog useful and I will try to grow it a bit more in 2013, trying to update the theme and trying to develop more content with practical applications for coaches and sports scientists working in the real world of sport and physical activity.
I did not manage to publish much on this blog, less than 20 blog entries and a couple on my employers’ blog. It was a very difficult and stressful year. However all the hard work, the hours spent planning and executing the various projects in the lead up to the Olympics and the support provided during the London 2012 Olympic Games has been a journey I will never forget. Not an easy ride, but what an honour to be part of something so big! Most of all, it was a rewarding experience to be part of a thriving scientific community which was working hard to provide our athletes with the best possible resources to compete in London.
The London Games were a truly amazing experience. The Olympic Village was incredible, well built and really a great place to work.
We managed to design and run a fantastic facility for our athletes and staff to be able to prepare in the best possible way for each competition and recover faster between competitions. The place had a great atmosphere and it was brilliant to be there to support not only our wonderful athletes but also the incredible coaches and support staff working with them on a daily basis to help achieve the dream of winning an Olympic medal.
Photo_B57AE7C3-380F-025B-D6A8-352DCF58B6C5 (3)
The medals won by Team GB were 65 in the end. 3rd overall place in the medal table, best result ever for Team GB, and most of all Team GB was better than Australia (there is such a rivalry between the two countries that even politicians bet on results and you can see here what kind of things the losing sports minister has to do!).

More medals in more sport than ever before. Incredible result. Our athletes were part of a great show organised perfectly by LOCOG with amazing ceremonies, incredible facilities, great organisation, fantastic volunteers and an incredibly positive atmosphere. When you see happy crowds like this one…you know that every minute spent working was well worth it.
The National Gallery: Thousands of people line the streets during the London 2012 Victory Parade for Team GB and Paralympic GB
The memories will stay with me forever.
Just few days to rest and recover and as soon as I was back at work lot of things happened. The legacy project of the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health finally became reality and a new base will be opened soon to provide research and education opportunities in partnership with University College London and UCLH. Two of my students completed their PhDs and published their first papers (Dr. Zoe Wimshurst for vision training and Dr. Catherine Hesford for Near Infrared Spectroscopy) and have started a career in applied research and higher education and I am sure they will do incredibly well in the future. I also managed to start a new research group at UCL dedicated to Sports and Health Analytics (SHARP). There are some incredible people with expertise in various fields and I am looking forward to a productive few years learning from great colleagues and developing new approaches to gathering and analysing data in Sport. I promise to write more about this exciting initiative in the new year. It was a great year also for the ESPRIT project which is continuously developing innovative technologies and approaches for sport and health. Again, a great pleasure to be part of such a talented group of people. On the sporting front, preparations for SOCHI 2014 are in full swing and projects and activities for our winter sports will accelerate in 2013 to make sure our winter athletes reach Russia with the best possible conditions to be the best they can be.
2013 looks already busy. I have a list of papers to write and submit, projects to start or complete, trips to make, athletes and coaches to work with, people to meet, lectures to give in the UK and abroad, but most of all I know there are loads of things I want to learn and develop. So I know already that it is going to be a great year. If I learn half of what I learnt this year, I will be a happy and lucky man in 2013.
With few hours left to the end of 2012 I wish you all the best for next year with good health and plenty of learning opportunities.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi