It is of the utmost importance that the athletes involved in the weight throw are prepared to perform in an explosive fashion upon entering into the competitive venue (4,12). Problems with technique are usually the result of deficiencies in strength; as the athlete gets stronger, he or she is typically able to perform better technically (22). Athletes involved in throwing events require very high strength levels, because weight room 1 repetition maximums have been shown to be related to performance (18). However, the high-school indoor weight throw itself uses a much lighter load (9.1 kg for girls, 11.4 kg for boys) than those used frequently during weight training sessions.
The throws coach must devise a workout that will incorporate training to improve levels of event specific physical conditioning and at the same time build a working technical model. Improvement may be accomplished by overloading the system in the weight room, throwing with overweight and underweight implements, and by performing assistance exercises with medicine balls and kettle bells. It is therefore beneficial to perform training that overloads the athlete near the specific force velocity requirements for the improved weight throw performance. This overload will eventually allow the athlete to advance technically and perform more efficiently. This concept is well known among knowledgeable coaches and has in the past been referred to as special strength exercises (28). However, with advances in the understanding of muscle physiology, coaches have begun to refer to this type of training as strength-power potentiating complexes (SPPCs) (14,20,22). This training technique takes advantage of postactivation potentiation (PAP) (11). The SPPC involves the performance of a high force or high power movement to potentiate a subsequent high power or high velocity movement (20,22). Although the idea of PAP is not new, the use of SPPC has been receiving a great deal of recent discussion and study (11,14). However, much of the research to date has produced confounding results (30).
Postactivation potentiation takes advantage of the contractile history of a muscle to influence the mechanical performance of subsequent muscle contractions. Fatiguing muscle contractions impair muscle performance, whereas nonfatiguing muscle contractions, typically at high loads of brief duration, may enhance muscle performance (22). Thus, PAP results in increased muscle force and rate of force development as a result of previous activation of the muscle. The proposed mechanism for PAP is the phosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chains, which renders the actin-myosin complex more sensitive to Ca2+ released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum during subsequent muscle contractions (7-9,11,23,27).
Although PAP is a well-known property of muscle, the impact of PAP on human performance is less understood (1,20,21). The research is equivocal to date as to whether PAP enhances human performance and/or performing training (1,20,21). It has become increasingly prevalent among track and field throws coaches to use heavy implements in an SPPC (14,22) as part of the preactivity warm-up in an attempt to enhance performance in the weight throw. The conventional wisdom is that the heavier implement will make the regulation weight feel “lighter,” and thus, the athlete will be more powerful. The current understanding of PAP lends a plausible scientific hypothesis to the conventional wisdom that surrounds the use of heavy implements for athletes in the weight throw. Throwing a heavy weight before the regulation weight could potentate the muscle fiber and thus increase the rate of force development on subsequent efforts. The potential benefit of using PAP in training is clear in theory, but research using SPPC has not been able to clarify its practical application. Typical research in this area has attempted to induce performance gains after a preliminary SPPC activity that is not exactly the same as the second (5,22). Examples include a midthigh pull followed by a snatch (22) or a heavy half squat followed by a vertical jump (15). Additionally, a much higher load has been used (15,22,30) that is not practical in sport-specific situations like weight throwing. A recent study by Terzis et al. (24) reported a protocol that could be used at a throwing venue. Five consecutive drop jumps from a height of 40 cm were reported to enhance squat underhand shotput throwing performance. Although PAP has been shown to increase performance, many studies have found PAP to have little effect or to induce fatigue and reduce performance (10,19,26).
Although the technique is accepted and used by coaches, weaker and inexperienced athletes do not always show evidence for potentiation (3,21,22). Factors including training status, training age, chronological age, genetics (e.g., fiber-type composition), anthropometrics, gender, relative strength, and absolute strength may modify the effect of PAP (22,26).
It has been suggested that although PAP has not been demonstrated to effect maximal strength, it has been shown to influence rate of force development (3), and this could enhance performance in events that require the development of maximal velocity with a submaximal load, similar to the weight throw event. However, the influence using SPPC on the weight throw has not been investigated. The purpose of this study was to examine the potentiation effect of throwing different overweight implements for warm-up on subsequent one turn performance in the high-school weight throw.
Experimental Approach to the Problem
A within-subjects repeated-measures design was employed for the present investigation. The participants were tested for maximum distance thrown with a standard indoor weight implement and perceived fatigue on 3 different days with at least 48 hours between trials. Each trial began with a warm-up protocol that included 15 minutes of general warm-up activities (skipping, dynamic mobility, etc.) followed by the warm-up throws with 1 of 3 implements: the competition weight implement (STAND), an implement that was 1.37 kg heavier than the competition implement (OVRWGHT1), and an implement that was 2.27 kg heavier (OVRWGHT2). The order in which the participants used these implements during the warm-up was randomized. After warm-up, participants performed 3 maximum effort 1 heel turn (1-heel) throws with the competition weight implement that were measured for distance. The independent variable that was manipulated (warm-up implement) was chosen to assess its effect on the dependent variable (1-heel turn throw) to determine its efficacy for use as a performance-enhancing tehcnique. Finally, after each warm-up session, participants were asked to respond to the amount of fatigue they felt after the warm-up using a 10-cm visual analogue scale (VAS).
The institutional review board at Ball State University approved the present investigation. Before participating in the investigation, the subjects gave written assent, and the parents of the athletes provided written consent for the subjects to participate. Characteristics for the participants can be seen in Table 1. It should be noted that based upon the reported personal bests, youth athletes who volunteered and were tested could all be classified in the top 10% of similar aged youth athletes who compete in the weight throw.
The local club team coach performed all data collection, and the data were later provided to the authors without identifiable information along with the procedures used in the investigation. Participants reported on 3 separate occasions to the practice complex for the local track and field club team. On each occasion, the participant performed the normal club team preactivity warm-up protocol that consisted of approximately 15 minutes of active warm-up that included: drills, skipping exercises, and dynamic mobility exercise. Before performing any maximal effort attempts for distance, the participants performed a series of 5 warm-up 1-heel turn attempts with an assigned implement (treatment). The order of assignment of warm-up implement was randomized. The warm-up implements consisted of the competition weight (9.1 kg for girls, 11.4 kg for boys) implement (STAND), an implement that was 1.37 kg heavier than the competition implement (OVRWGHT1) and an implement that was 2.27 kg heavier (OVRWGHT2). The last of the warm-up throws constituted the end of the warm-up period, at which point data collection began. First, participants responded to the fatigue that they felt post-warm-up using a 10-cm VAS, and subsequently participants performed 3 maximal effort 1-heel turn throws with the competition weight implement that were measured for distance in the same fashion as would be encountered during a track and field competition. At least 3 minutes of rest was given to participants between each maximal effort attempt. A minimum of 48 hours passed between each trial.
Visual Analogue Scale
Participants were asked to respond to the amount of fatigue incurred during each of the assigned warm-up treatments. This was done with the help of a 10-cm VAS. The scale consisted of a 10-cm-long line centered on white piece of paper. The 10-cm line was anchored on both ends by a 2-cm perpendicular mark and written descriptors. The end (designated 0 cm) that was on the participant's left was anchored by the descriptor “Not Tired At All,” and on the opposite end (designated 10 cm) the descriptor “Extremely Tired.”
Descriptive data are reported as means and SD. Intraclass correlations were calculated for both the distance (ICC = 0.991) and the VAS perceived pain (ICC = 0.780). The results from the measured attempts were analyzed via repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) (Treatment × Attempt) and with paired samples t-test to examine the differences in peak distance attained for each treatment. Differences in VAS were examined with the use of paired samples t-tests. Alpha level for significance was set a priori at p ≤ 0.05. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS 17.0 for Macintosh.
Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for Treatment (F(2,16) = 5.001, p = 0.021, η2p = 0.385) and Attempt (F(2,16) = 5.577, p = 0.015, η2p = 0.411) but no significant interaction effect for Treatment × Attempt (F(4,32) = 0.361, p = 0.835, η2p = 0.043). The mean value for the OVRWGHT1 treatment was the highest (14.52 ± 3.54 m, 95%CI 17.20-11.83 m) followed by OVRWGHT2 (14.22 ± 3.15 m, 95%CI 16.64-11.72 m) and STAND (13.38 ± 2.98, 95%CI 15.68-11.09 m).
Holm-Bonferroni corrected paired sample t-tests for peak distance by treatment revealed that both OVRWGHT1 (p = 0.004) and OVRWGHT2 (p = 0.027) were significantly different from STAND. However; there was no significant difference (p = 0.092) found between peak performance under the OVRWGHT1 and OVRWGHT2 treatments (Figure 1).
Paired sample t-tests were also used to examine the differences by treatment for VAS and revealed that both OVRWGHT1 (p = 0.025) and OVRWGHT2 (p = 0.007) resulted in significantly greater reported fatigue than STAND. However; there was no significant difference (p = 0.077) found between VAS fatigue under the OVRWGHT1 and OVRWGHT2 treatments (Figure 2).
Results from the present investigation present unique findings regarding the use of SPPC with track and field weight throwers. The primary finding of this pilot study is that in moderately trained high-school athletes, the use of heavy implements as part of the preactivity warm-up does enhance performance in the weight throw. SPPCs have been shown to increase performance in power events such as peak velocity attained in midthigh pulls (22), countermovement jumps (17), and vertical jump after a dynamic warm-up with a weighted vest (25). Unlike many examples in the literature of performance testing with SPPC, standard weightlifting equipment was not used in the present investigation. The method for preactivation was chosen because of a modality similar to the competitive movement (i.e., both 1-turn weight throws). Although the use of this technique is understood by practitioners (13,14,28), research with specific athletes in this area is very limited. Although a preactivity SPPC in the throwing events has not been tested scientifically, anecdotal reports from coaches confirm favorable results using this concept. Judges reported positive results from field data in a similar event (the women's hammer) using an overweight (5-kg) hammer as part of the preactivity warm-up to increase subsequent performance in the women's hammer throw (13).
It was evident in the present study that athletes with a resistance training background do show evidence for potentiation. Although both overweight treatments yielded significant results, the best results were achieved with the lighter of the 2 treatments. The standard implement yielded the least favorable results of the 3 treatments, producing almost 1 m less throw after warm-up than the 1.37-kg overweight implement. Chiu et al. (3) found that athletic preparation allowed individuals to have a greater response to a PAP stimulus. The moderately trained high-school athlete may not have had the initial strength levels or training experience to take advantage of the preactivity protocol using the heaviest implement (OVRWGHT2). Because the subjects in the present study were moderately trained high-school athletes, this could account for the greater effectiveness of the 1.37-kg overweight implement as opposed to the heavier 2.27-kg overweight implement. Factors like training status, training age, chronological age, genetics (e.g., fiber-type composition), anthropometrics, gender, relative strength, and absolute strength (5,14,22) have been reported to influence the effectiveness of the SPPC protocol.
It was apparent in this observation that athletes with a resistance training background do show evidence for potentiation, but it is important to consider the load of the SPPC. A reduction in performance with the increased weight implement was evident in only 1 subject who was the youngest and had the least throwing background and resistance training experience. Evidence indicates that training background and maximum strength level are related to the capability for potentiation (3,21). An implement that is too heavy can break down the confidence of young, weak, inexperienced throwers and may impact their motivation to throw the competitive implement. Thus, strength levels and experience with the protocol may play an important psychological role in potentiation capability (22). Stronger athletes appear to generate potentiation effects to a larger degree than weaker athletes (22). Three issues that might impact the degree of potentiation are initial strength levels (22,29), past training experience (29), and the present level of fatigue (21,22). The results of the VAS indicated that the OVRWGHT1 and OVRWGHT2 treatments were significantly more fatiguing than the STAND implement. However, the responses on the VAS scale still trended toward ‘Not Fatigued At All’ even with the overweight implement, and the results indicated that the fatigue levels did not impact performance.
Typical PAP research has used an experiment where the first SPPC activity is not exactly the same as the second (22,30), and in many cases, the study has also included a much higher load (15,29). A recent study by Terzis et al. (24) reported data using a protocol involving a high-power SPPC that lie much further to the right on the force-velocity curve similar to that used in the present study. Five consecutive drop jumps from 40 cm were reported to enhance squat underhand shotput throwing performance. The findings in the present study are in agreement with those in other sports such as weightlifting (22) that use a different activity for the SPPC but are performed in the same (resistance training) venue. The method for preactivation in the present study was chosen because of its practicality in a sport-specific situation (i.e., both throws) and can be performed in the same venue (throwing ring). The first activity (1 turn weight throw) in the present study was exactly the same as the second. The 1 turn weight throw was chosen because of its technical simplicity. It is also a very common technique for high-school athletes (4). The investigators felt the more technically demanding 2 and 3 turn technique could bias the results. The weight of the implement in each of the treatments (1.37 and 2.27 kg over the standard competition weight) was only slightly greater than the weight of the standard implement used in competition. However, because of the unique nature of the event with the majority of the weight on the end of a lever arm that is 41 cm long, resulting centripetal forces from the implement during a throw are much greater than the initial weight of the implement.
Some debate exists among the coaching community concerning the validity of the use of overweight implements in training and during the throwing warm-up in the weight throw before competition (14). The biggest criticism is the effect on the rhythm and timing of the movement (6). Critics believe heavy implements may disrupt the timing of the movement, train the athlete to develop motor patterns at lower velocities, and possibly overfatigue the athlete in practice and before competition (14). According to Bondarchuk (2), there is a high correlation for success for advanced throwers related to repetitive throws with overweight implements. Despite promising findings from current research, some coaches may be reluctant to implement SPPC in practice and before competition. Some critics note the obstacles and barriers that some track and field officials might present at the competition site when presented with an overweight implement for certification at the weights and measures area (12). Athletes can legally bring an overweight implement (i.e., a heavy weight) into the ring for the warm-up as long as the implement meets specifications listed in the rulebook. In the rulebook, there is a minimum weight and specifications on implement shape and maximum diameter (16).
The use of overweight implements as part of the precompetitive warm-up in the weight throw event does appear to have some practical merit. Additionally, the modality of SPPC chosen for this study is practical and could actually be implemented in the warm-up at a high-school weight throw competition. However, prior resistance training experience appears to play a strong role in an individual's responsiveness to SPPC. Therefore, the athlete's training background and the weight of the overweight implement should be taken into consideration when applying SPPC to the precompetitive warm-up. Individuals who are moderately trained can benefit by throwing a weight that is 1.37 kg heavier than the standard competition implement in warm-up to help improve competitive performance. The transition from throwing the heavier warm-up implement to the lighter standard competitive implement can produce some very good results on competitive performance.
Nevertheless, before using this technique in a competition, it is also important to introduce the SPPC concept in training by incorporating overweight implements as part of the practice regimen (14). Technical development is an integral part of the daily training routine of a thrower and must be periodized like all the other aspects of training. When introducing the SPPC, keeping the weights within approximately 10% of the competition implement will allow the beginner to adapt to this type of training system and will not disrupt the competition rhythm (12). Coaches can observe the athletes to determine the proper weight of the overload implements and determine if the athletes are strong enough to benefit from the SPPC training modality (14).
In summary, the research shows coaches that the use of SPPC with high school-aged male and female track and field weight throw athletes should be considered as an effective preactivity tool for enhancing subsequent competitive performance. Because general knowledge of the weight throw event at the high-school level is limited, it is an incredible advantage when a coach invests himself or herself in and uses methods that are in line with current research. Success in the high-school weight throw can lead to future scholarship opportunities for prep athletes and satisfaction for hard-working coaches.
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