By: Cal Dietz
Biometrics are variations of cybernetic programming, which were first invented in the Soviet Union. It essentially is a regulatory process used to figure out how much training and stress an organism should use on that particular day.
Parametric biometrics is the use of another motor skill to regulate how much training should take place for a different task. Traditional biometrics, for example, could be using plyometrics (or any exercise) and measuring its parameters with some type of tool (i.e. a v-scope, Tendo, and/or force plates) to regulate how much speed, force, etc. is taking place. This allows you to gauge when the drop off is of a certain percentage, wherein you would stop training on that particular exercise for that day.
When using isometrics and eccentrics, however, you are unable to use biometrics for those particular exercises because obviously you are changing the tempo such that it is no longer a concentric based movement. What we use here is a separate measuring aspect of the same motor skill to regulate how many sets and reps should be done in an isometric or eccentric lifting exercise. I will give you the following examples: in using the back squat or leg press in the isometric or eccentric phases of training, you would perform an eccentric or isometric back squat and then rest 3-4 minutes (or whatever is prescribed). You’d then perform the motor tasks that you are regulating. For example, this could be a squat jump with a measurement tool; every time the athlete starts to drop off from their best effort you would essentially stop squatting or doing the leg press isometrics. I often start with the parametric using the best results I can get for that particular day. For example, if the athlete jumps 30 inches and then goes over and does the back squat, as long as the athlete can keep repeating the 30 or 29-inch mark, I will have that athlete keep performing the squat.
One of the ways I usually have my athletes perform a parametric motor task for the lower body is using Vertimax belts hooked to Tendos such that so that I can measure the percentage of their best squat jump. The key to many of these parametric measurements that we are using is that you take all the dynamics and variables out of the motor tasks. For example, in the squat jump I often have them put their hands at their hips, don’t swing their arms, and I will try to have them jump straight up and down. What can happen if they start to jump more horizontally is that they will actually pull more wire out of the Tendo unit and thus get a higher reading. By taking away as many variables as possible you get a more accurate parametric reading. One suggestion may even be to constantly set their depth with a high box at the right level and go from a pause so that you can get a more accurate reading on the parametric relationship exercise.
Another example is the bench press. We take a very lightened load, 45 – 65 lbs with female athletes, and 95lb with males. Usually we do 2 reps; I rarely have found to get much after the second repetition as far as max speed. The third can be the same usually but anything after 3 will often result in a decline on any particular motor skill dealing with max effort. Again I usually do the plyometric exercise first and then perform an isometric bench press for 6 seconds; do one rep, then follow that with a few prehab exercises. Right before going to the bench press again, I will do the plyometric exercise to regulate and see if the athlete can get within 1-4% depending on the training frequencies and how often we will train.
Many times people ask me where the drop off percentage comes from. I found this through basic trial and error experiments with many athletes and observing how much they could perform one day with a certain percent drop off, and then how long it took them to heal so they could perform at the same level again. Essentially, it started with an article on cybernetics which has not been found in the English language (I only found it in the Russian language), which noted that an athlete’s best effort should be within 1.5-2% of that at any given time. Now this 1.5-2% was done on the sports skill and not necessarily the training skill so I believe you can expand the training skill to the point where there are a bit larger margins for error. The sporting skills in this sense were done every day so within 1-2% of training every day, whatever your training focus was, should have been 1-2% of the main sports skill. With lifting and strength training this would be a greater percentage just because of the fact that the frequency isn’t completed every day. You train one day and take a few days off, which is why I saw an increase in the percentage and margins for drop off in this biometric training method.
Coach Dietz is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Olympics sports at the University of Minnesota. For more information on his methods and programming, check out www.xlathlete.com. Please post comments and questions in the space below, and we’ll be sure to cover them in our podcast with Coach Dietz.
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