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Elevation Training Masks: An Analysis

Somebody’s overcompensating for his weak inspiratory muscles…

Walk into a commercial gym and there’s a good chance you might see somebody running on a treadmill while wearing something resembling a Bane mask.  Internet clips of professional athletes wearing said devices are also beginning to circulate more and more.  In the fields of medicine, health, and performance, sound clinical reasoning is far more powerful than any specific intervention or tool.  Effective clinical reasoning is contingent upon asking relevant questions and drawing logical conclusions from known evidence and measurable information.  Analyzing the case for elevation training masks provides insight into how to critically evaluate other products and technologies alleged to improve performance.

This process requires that we answer three questions:

  1. What is the product alleged to do?
  2. What is known?
  3. What conclusions/deductive leaps can reasonably be made?

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Pelvic Influences on Hamstring Injuries

There was recently a discussion about hamstring injuries on social media during which somebody asked if “extension” can be a contributory factor. This was our answer:

If by “extension” you mean a motor strategy suggestive of lower cross syndrome or anterior pelvic tilt, it might be relevant to this discussion. Different ways of saying the same thing often distract us from the principles that unite commercial movement systems. While hamstring strains are multi-factorial, an extension pattern/anterior pelvic tilt/lower cross syndrome could alter motor control at the pelvis during early stance in sprinting in a way that puts hamstring tissue at risk for injury – which is why it’s so hard to differentiate mechanical from neurological archetypes.

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The Myth of Mental Toughness Training: Part II

Part I discussed misapplication of physical efforts associated with military selection courses to team sport athletes and raised questions about what constitutes mental toughness and the degree to which it can be taught.  Focusing less on esoteric constructs like mental toughness and more on preparation is a practical strategy for high performers.  In sport, athletes whose execution remains steadfast despite changes in the internal or external environment are generally considered to be mentally tough.  The distinction between mental toughness and disciplined execution becomes academic when teams take collective measures to maximize preparation.  Rather than fixating on abstract qualities allegedly developed during grueling workouts, civilian organizations would be better served implementing the following training and preparatory tenets of the special operations community:

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The Myth of Mental Toughness Training: Part I

This statement is not in itself controversial but as I am limited to 140 characters on Twitter, it warrants further explanation.  To begin, this tweet was not a criticism of the strength and conditioning programs depicted in the video.  As I was adamant about in a previous post, it is unfair to judge programs based on Internet snapshots, especially when said programs don’t get to control the narrative.  The suggested narrative here is that “extreme” training gives elite collegiate football programs an edge over their competitors by cultivating mental toughness.  The popular media rarely covers the less sensational, more established training that likely comprises the bulk of these universities’ performance programs.  As is generally the case in most fields, the things that really work aren’t always conducive to driving web traffic.

Moreover, the decision to implement “mental toughness” workouts can be mandated outside of the performance staff, often by sport coaches or front office personnel.  Even if these types of workouts serve as nothing more than a brief distraction from the monotony of weight training and running, journalistic pieces like this one are not without consequences.  When impressionable parents and youth sport coaches see that (insert BCS program of choice) trains like a military special operations unit, they often demand the same thing for their 8th grade son/daughter.  It doesn’t matter that said programs might only do this kind of “training” once every few years or when the camera crews are on campus.

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Stress Inoculation and Performance

Today’s multi-part series on stress inoculation and performing under pressure begins with a guest post from Naval Special Warfare veteran and physical preparation specialist Craig Weller: Stress Inoculation Training in Tactical Strength and Conditioning.

For more thought-provoking content from Craig, check out:

​Stay tuned to learn more about what does and doesn’t constitute “mental toughness” training.