November Strength & Conditioning Research Questions

Hi fitness folks! Do you know the answer to the November S&C research review questions? If not, you ought to subscribe to our research review service. To subscribe, just click on the button below and follow the instructions…


Strength & Conditioning, Power and Hypertrophy

  1. Which improves sprinting performance more – vertical or horizontal jumps?
  2. Which improves sprinting performance more – plyometrics or resistance training?
  3. Can a short-distance, heavy sled tow improve sprint running performance after 12 minutes?
  4. Can repeated maximal power training improve repeated sprint ability?
  5. What is jumping interval training and can it improve rate of force development?
  6. Can functional HIIT simultaneously increase strength and fitness?
  7. Which improves sprinting performance more – horizontal or vertical power training?
  8. Does adding elastic bands to free weights improve strength gains?
  9. Can pneumatic bench press training improve free weight bench press 1RM?
  10. Is the leg press as good as the back squat for increasing jumping ability?
  11. Which improves squat 1RM most – block or weekly undulating periodization?
  12. Do drop sets produce better results than one set to failure?
  13. How does kettlebell HIIT compare with sprint interval cycling?
  14. What is the best warm up for different sports?


Biomechanics & motor control

  1. Is the force-velocity relationship linear during loaded jumping?
  2. Does the force-velocity relationship differ across groups of elite athletes?
  3. How should jump squats and push jerks be programmed to improve jumping ability?
  4. How do compression shorts affect vertical jump ability?
  5. How do coaching instructions affect drop jump biomechanics?
  6. Do the medial and lateral hamstrings display different muscle activity during sprinting?
  7. How long do increases in hamstring muscle fascicle length caused by eccentric training last?
  8. How fast are the first and second pull phases of the snatch in Olympic weightlifters?
  9. Does a pronated grip lead to more back muscle activity during an inverted row?
  10. Does the thickness of the push up bar affect shoulder muscle activity?
  11. Does using a TRX or wobble board for push ups affect shoulder muscle activity?
  12. Does hanging kettlebells on the barbell in the bench press increase muscle activity?
  13. How does lumbar extension angle affect hamstrings muscle activity?
  14. Are muscle strength and size related to eccentric leg stiffness during jump landings?


Anatomy, physiology & nutrition

  1. Which is best for weight loss – diet, exercise, or diet plus exercise?
  2. Does caloric restriction make muscles more efficient?
  3. Does insulin affect muscle protein synthesis or breakdown?
  4. Impaired insulin action in the human brain: causes and metabolic consequences
  5. Does taking steroids increase your risk of a ruptured tendon?
  6. Did endurance running really cause unique gluteus maximus development in humans?
  7. Does peripheral fatigue cause reductions in voluntary activation?
  8. How can we measure parasympathetic activity levels in athletes?
  9. Can your parasympathetic activity levels predict how much you gain from doing HIIT?
  10. Can cold water immersion cause faster parasympathetic reactivation after Rugby matches?


Physical therapy & rehabilitation

  1. Can the FMS predict injury in active populations?
  2. Can the FMS tests identify the presence of absence of dynamic stability?
  3. Can foam rolling the hip flexors improve hip and knee flexibility?
  4. Can foam rolling reduce pain in the tender spots in calf muscles?
  5. Do people with cam femoroacetabular impingement squat differently?
  6. Which type of lunge is best for the hip muscles and which is best for the knee muscles?
  7. What is the best way to improve the single-leg squat movement pattern?
  8. Is poor ankle dorsiflexion related to hip adduction and internal rotation in a step down test?
  9. How do physiotherapists rehabilitate patellar tendinopathy in practice?
  10. Which is better for improving scapulohumeral rhythm – the full-can or empty-can exercise?
  11. What speed maximizes the VMO to VL ratio during the wall squat?
  12. What hip rotation position maximizes gluteus medius muscle activity in the pelvic drop exercise?


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November Strength & Conditioning Research Preview: High Intensity Functional Training Edition

The S&C Research review service comes out on the first day of every month. Here is a preview of the November 2015 edition, which comes out on Sunday. Each edition covers a wide range of exciting new research but this edition has a special theme of High Intensity Functional Training (HIFT)!


What is High Intensity Functional Training (HIFT)?

HIFT is simply high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but performed with resistance training equipment. The term HIFT was originally put forward by Heinrich et al. (2014) to describe a combined training program involving free weights resistance training exercises, gymnastics, and calisthenics, all performed at a high intensity and with minimal rest.

Other researchers have made different suggestions about what to call HIFT. For example, Smith et al. (2013) proposed the term “High Intensity Power Training” and other researchers have simply called it HIIT using resistance training equipment (e.g. Meier et al. 2015). There is no real consensus yet about what to call it, so for this article at least we are going with HIFT!


Why do HIFT and not HIIT?

One of the main intended benefits of HIFT is that it can be different, interesting and even fun wherever possible. Another key characteristic of HIFT is that it makes use of novel implements, like kettlebells, battling ropes and medicine balls, as well as traditional resistance training tools like barbells and even bodyweight. HIFT is designed to be more enjoyable than HIIT but to produce a similar metabolic response.

Additionally, it has been suggested (based on observations of HIFT in some studies) that HIFT might be able to produce simultaneous improvements in wider range of fitness qualities than HIIT, as well as similar changes in body composition. However, until recently, few studies had actually compared HIFT with HIIT. To find out what happens when researchers compare HIFT with HIIT, keep reading…


How does kettlebell HIFT compare with traditional sprint cycling HIIT?

The study: Comparison of cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses in kettlebell high-intensity interval training versus sprint interval cycling, by Williams & Kraemer, in Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the immediate effects of a HIFT workout using kettlebells with a similar sprint interval cycling workout on heart rates, oxygen consumption (VO2), and total energy expended (all measured using a metabolic analyzer).

All subjects performed both 12- minute workouts on different days. The kettlebell HIFT workout involved 3 circuits of 4 exercises using a Tabata protocol, which involves 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times over 4 minutes. The 4 exercises were the sumo squat (single- handed or two-handed), two-handed swings, clean and press (dominant arm), and sumo deadlifts (single- handed or two-handed). Kettlebell weights ranged between 10 – 22kg across subjects and exercises. The sprint interval cycling workout involved 3 bouts of 30-second Wingate sprints with 4 minutes of rest between the first two sprints and 2.5 minutes of recovery after the third sprint.

What happened?

The researchers found that the average heart rate was higher during the kettlebell workout than during the cycling workout (149.16 ± 7.4 vs. 139.69 ± 7.85bpm), average oxygen consumption was greater in the kettlebell workout than in the cycling workout (22.6 ± 1.48 vs. 19.9 ± 1.01 ml/kg/min), and total caloric expenditure in the kettlebell workout was greater than in the cycling workout (144.9 ± 6.6 vs. 122.0 ± 7.3 kcal). Therefore, the kettlebell workout produced greater average heart rate, higher oxygen consumption, and greater energy expended than a traditional sprint cycling workout. Whether the same results would be observed if the work-to-rest periods were matched is less clear.

How does combined HIFT compare with rowing HIIT?

The study: Multimodal high-intensity interval training increases muscle function and metabolic performance in females, by Buckley, Knapp, Lackie, Lewry, Horvey, Benko & Butcher, in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the long-term effects of 6-week program of indoor rowing HIIT and a program of HIFT, comprising a circuit comprised of multiple different exercises, on changes in maximal aerobic capacity (VO2-max) (as measured by an incremental treadmill test), maximal anaerobic power (as measured by a 30-second cycling Wingate test), muscular strength (as measured by the 1RM in back squat, overhead press and deadlift), muscular endurance (as measured by the number of repetitions at 70% of 1RM back squat), and athletic ability (as measured by standing long jump horizontal distance).

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that both the HIFT and rowing HIIT groups displayed similar improvements in maximal aerobic capacity (7% vs. 5%) and anaerobic power (15% vs. 12%). However, only the HIFT group displayed increases in squat (by 39%), overhead press (by 27%), deadlift (by 18%) 1RM, back squat muscular endurance (by 280%) and standing long jump distance (by 6%). HIFT therefore seems to be able to produce similar benefits in aerobic and anaerobic fitness to HIIT, while also improving several measures of muscular strength and athletic performance.

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Hip Thruster 2.0: Band-Resisted Deadlifts and Better Band-Resisted Hip Thrusts

Hi fitness friends. I’m pleased to announce the new Hip Thruster 2.0 design. Basically, we did the following:

  1. Switched the default color from red to metallic (this was my call; the new color exudes manliness IMO). Custom colors are still available.
  2. Used Sorinex’s laser-cutter to have thinner metal (I love this sleek new look).
  3. Augmented the design (Sorinex took it upon themselves to carry this out) to assemble and ship easier
  4. Provided band pegs on the foot plate to allow for band-resisted deadlifts and other band-resisted exercises
  5. Switched the primary band peg design to resemble a “T,” which allows for more versatility
  6. Wrapped the padding on the back support to increase comfort

HERE is a link to the Hip Thruster website.

In the video below I review the key changes.

Below are some pictures that showcase the new model.

P1030429 P1030430 P1030425 P1030426 P1030409 P1030408

A Multiplanar Approach is Best for Developing the Glutes

Just over a year ago, I wrote one of my most popular articles titled, “Do More than Just Squat.” In the article, I outlined my belief that gluteus maximus hypertrophy cannot be maximized by any one exercise. For some strange reason, an alarming amount of coaches (might I add that these coaches never have any testimonials showing dramatic glute transformation pictures) will advise women seeking maximum glute development to “just squat.” I believe that this is the worst advice imaginable, which I already wrote about in the linked article. For the record, if you want maximum pec growth, you shouldn’t “just bench,” – you should also perform incline presses and single joint horizontal adduction movements, and if you want maximum back growth, you shouldn’t “just deadlift” – you should also perform chins, pulldowns, and rows. This is common sense just as is the case with glutes and squats – you should also perform hip thrusts and various glute isolation exercises.


The squat is a great glute exercise for many people. As is the deadlift. As is the lunge. As is the good morning. However, these are all vertically-based hip extension exercises. As a personal trainer, when I started implementing more horizontally-based hip extension exercises such as hip thrusts and back extensions in concert with vertically-based hip extension exercises, my clients started seeing markedly faster and greater results in the glute department. But the glutes aren’t just made for hip extension; the glutes do four distinct things:

  • Hip extension (in varying angles of hip abduction and hip external rotation)
  • Hip abduction (in varying angles of hip flexion)
  • Hip external rotation (in varying angles of hip flexion)
  • Pelvic posterior tilt (PPT is actually similar to hip extension as far as the head of the femur and the acetabulum are concerned)

For this reason, my training programs always include a variety of glute exercises. We make sure to progressively load up our hip thrusts (horizontally-based hip extension) and squats and deadlifts (vertically-based hip extension) for increasing mechanical tension. We employ single leg exercises (vertically-based hip extension) for muscle damage. We employ back extensions (horizontally-based hip extension) and various lateral band exercises (hip abduction and hip external rotation) for metabolic stress. We add some posterior pelvic tilting at the top of our horizontally-based hip extension exercises to increase mechanical tension at the range of motion that maximizes glute activation. We make sure to heavily work the upper glutes and the lower glutes alike. And we use the “same but different” concept by always focusing on the same movement patterns but employing just enough variety to prevent stagnation and keep the gains coming.

Is there any evidence that this approach is superior to the traditional approach of just squatting and possibly deadlifting? Well, I like to think that my extensive Testimonials page provides good evidence, along with my Twin Experiment. However, a brand new paper also sheds some light on this topic.


Just this past week, in HOMO – Journal of Comparative Human Biology, an article was published ahead of print titled, “The cross-sectional area of the gluteus maximus muscle varies according to habitual exercise loading: Implications for activity-related and evolutionary studies.”

The study examined the gluteus maximus size in 6 groups of people. Here’s how the authors described the subjects:

“Several different sports competitors were represented in the sample: 9 volleyball players, 10 high-jumpers, 9 soccer players, 10 squash players, 17 power-lifters, 18 endurance runners, and 18 swimmers. These sports were classified into five categories based on training history: high impact (volleyball players and high-jumpers), odd impact (soccer and squash players), high magnitude (power-lifters), repetitive impact (endurance runners), and repetitive non-impact (swimmers) loading. Definitions of these exercise loading types take into consideration both typical sport performance as well as the typical training regimen, which together establish the exercise loading type of the given sport. Playing volleyball and high-jumping include either maximal jumps and leaps or high impacts from a specific direction during typical sport performance and training, and these sports were considered to represent high-impact loading. Soccer and squash are sports that include rapidly accelerating and decelerating movements and quick turns of the body and the hip region to which they are not normally accustomed; these sports were considered to represent odd-impact loading. The difference between high impact and odd impact loadings was based on the idea of unusual loading direction. Powerlifting involves precise co-ordination of movement coupled with intense muscle force production, and this sport was considered to represent high-magnitude loading. Long-distance running, an endurance sport that includes a great number of repetitive weight-bearing impacts with the ground was considered to represent repetitive impact loading. Swimming is also an endurance sport with a great number of repetitive movements but lacking ground impact; this group was thus considered to represent repetitive non-impact loading”

Here is what the authors found:

Chart II

Chart III

As you can see, powerlifters indeed have markedly larger gluteus maximi than controls (controls still exercised 3 hours per week so they weren’t sedentary), and they had the highest isometric strength. But so did soccer/squash players, as did volleyball players/high jumpers (this group had the highest dynamic strength). Moreover, the gluteus maximi were pretty similar between these three groups, indicating that heavy loading via vertically-based hip extension exercises (powerlifting) isn’t the only way to build the glutes. Various sports have you accelerating and decelerating the body in the vertical, horizontal, lateral, and rotational vectors. These features likely account for the similar gluteus maximi sizes despite the markedly lower loading magnitudes.

Check out the endurance runners and swimmers – their gluteus maximi were not much higher than the controls. The swimming group was training 17 hours per week and still this was not enough to significantly enlarge the glutes. In other words, running and swimming do not build the glutes.

In my opinion, these results do not imply that you have to play sports to maximize glute size; they imply that you should work the glutes in multiple vectors and include a variety of hip extension, hip abduction, and hip external rotation exercises in your training. Sports, sprints, and plyometrics can be risky, but resistance exercises are controlled and predictable and contain a concentric and eccentric component. This study shows that simply activating the glutes to low degrees and performing mundane, repetitive hip extension tasks (running swimming) does not yield glute growth; progressive overload via heavy resistance training and explosive training are needed to significantly enlarge the glutes.

It should be pointed out that this study didn’t examine longitudinal changes in glute size through training…it is possible that individuals with naturally larger glutes gravitate toward sports.

Here are the authors’ conclusions:

“To conclude, muscle activation alone does not result in or require greater muscle size because large muscles are not a prerequisite for endurance type exercise. On the contrary, it seems that rapid and powerful movements favour larger gluteus maximus muscles. Therefore, according to our results, the greater size of M. gluteus maximus is likely to have evolved as a requirement for sprinting and/or jumping movements (for powerful hip extension and stabilizing the trunk against flexion) instead of endurance running or walking. The results of this study demonstrate that active female athletes possess better-developed cranial portions of M. gluteus maximus for high impact, odd impact or high magnitude loading than do a group of less active controls. Moreover, those athletes involved in sports requiring rapid lower limb movements and stabilization of an erect torso possess greater development than do those performing repetitive impact (endurance runners) and repetitive non-impact (swimmers) loadings. It seems likely that sprinting and climbing behaviours would facilitate food acquisition– hunting in addition to aboveground gathering of resources – and both would be implicated in fleeing from danger. Those sports requiring stabilization of an erect torso to provide a stable platform for useof the upper limbs, in this case squash in odd impact group, suggests an equally important evolutionary adaptation favouring development of the cranial portion of M. gluteus maximus. Conversely, endurance running and walking, which are often associated with hunting, do not seem to be sufficient in themselves to account for the development of the cranial portion of M. gluteus maximus.”

In summary, do more than just squat and deadlift for maximum gluteal development; make sure to incorporate glute exercises that have you extending the hips, abducting the hips, and externally rotating the hips. This is what we do in Strong Curves and Get Glutes, and it’s what my Glute Squad does out of my Glute Lab. It’s what my client Erin did to win her first overall in bikini. It works for me/them and it’ll work for you.