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This is part 5 of the Freelap Friday Five Series, Season Three. To review the past 36 interviews, click here.
Part 1 was Jeff Cubos, Chiropractor and Performance Therapist
Part 2 was John Godina, World Athletics Center founder & Elite Shot Putter
Part 3 was Questions & Answers from Peter Weyand’s Research
Part 4 was Dr. Thomas Lam, focusing on Movement Based Sports Science
Landon Evans is the Assistant Olympic Strength & Conditioning Coach, Nutrition Coordinator, and Adjunct Lecturer at University of Iowa Athletics.
His primary sports are Men’s Sprinters, Throwers and Women’s Cross Country. Prior to joining the Iowa staff, Evans has been the Director of Sports Nutrition and Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Illinois State for the past two years.
Evans received a bachelor’s of Science in Health & Human Performance from Iowa State in 2005, a master’s of Science in Kinesiology and Recreation from Illinois State in 2007 and DPD Concentration in Family & Consumer Sciences, with emphasis on food, nutrition and dietetics from Illinois State 2011. He recently completed a dietetic Internship at Utah State as well.
Landon has also worked with a number of professional athletes who previously or currently compete in the NFL, CFL, AFL, NBA, WNBA, NPF and the Olympics Friday Five is sponsored by Freelap Track and Field, a leader in electronic timing.
Interview with Landon Evans, Strength & Conditioning Coach
Question 1: Landon, monitoring athletes is very fatigue based and coaches tend to look at drop of power versus monitoring their training programs. You have used different physiological methods such as Heart Rate Variability, PNS fatigue tools, and power tools such as Gymaware. To make things clear, how do you make decisions and revaluate training programs based on day to day information?
Landon Evans: I like to tell people that our decision making processes is organic and evolving. We have no secret algorithm or “high-tech” sport science lab. We utilize the information for what it is, we rely on good training theory, and we stand by our experiences to help guide our intervention. We have day to day modification athletes and we have athletes that we simply watch trends and pick-up big read-flags in these individuals if they present in an odd form.
The day to day modification athletes are generally experiencing high variability with the metrics we follow. These athletes are usually young, or athletes that struggle with the outside elements.
The reality is that we are trying to manager a lot of athletes. When dealing with the number we do, there is an unfortunate reality associated with it. In the future, this process will continue to be strengthened and the struggles we face today will not be as apparent. That is our job to continue working towards this.
“No athlete left behind.”
The goal is to continue to utilize our metrics to our advantage, but ensure we are honest with each other through our communication channels. We are support teams for our coaches, and most importantly, for our athletes.
Question 2: You assess a player’s linear speed with electronic timing to see how the training as a whole is working. When you analyze data what do you look for over the course of a season? I am sure a dozen short sprints will give you some insight beyond just numbers on a watch or screen.
Landon Evans: I use it because speed is a precious biomotor quality. The assessment of linear speed has many biomotor relationships, has close ties dynamically with most sports, and in a balanced program that performs speed work yearly, it is naturally a great key performance indicator that has a relatively low cost of prescription.
With teams outside of track & field, what I look for is simple — change. Acute drop-offs and spikes are important indicators at certain times within the year. During the preparation period, the acute changes can provide some clarity in adaptation shifts and readiness for the day. Chronic changes during the preparation period provide some validation of meaningful progress.
When performing this as well as a few other things on Monday, I can get a crude estimate of neuromuscular cost to the lower body from the previous weeks load.
Since I use the FreeLap Timing System, besides the obvious, it accomplishes two things for me that I think are important in our environments where numbers are becoming more and more important but can be distracting in team situations.
First thing is that I can watch the athletes run. Without commenting on technical analysis (which I don’t claim to be an expert in), I also pay attention to their facial expressions as well. I see four things usually: Focused/relaxed, rigid, possible pain, and unmotivated/sluggish. This only helps validate what I’m seeing in the warm-up.
The second thing is it allows the athletes to be aware of their outputs.
Some don’t care to share information with their athletes, but if the education is done up front, I see no issue with this. If athletes are running fast, or significantly off their mark, I always ask them the same question, “What do you think of that time today?”
I try to let them ask themselves questions and search for answers as to why they are running fast, or slow that day. I don’t do this for them to get caught up in the number, but more so to get caught up in the process and begin appreciating the many inputs that affect that number. Can help assist behavior change; something that I battle with all the time with these 18-22 year old “kids”.
Question 3: You are using TMG and other technologies to evaluate muscle readiness. What type of impact are you seeing with therapists? With many palpation and tissue courses, subjective feedback is sort of a closed door summary instead of something more collaborative, how have your early experiences confirmed or surprised you?
Landon Evans: The reliance of therapist and athletic trainer subjective feedback is valuable, but precision can be tricky and there are many inputs to subjectiveness. TMG helps validate the subjectiveness. Great feedback for the therapy and hands.
Pre-test TMG, Pre-test hands —> Therapy —> Post-test TMG, Post-test hands. Can go a long way to help rewire the subjective and therapy skill-set.
The earlier experiences provide better use of Electrical Muscle Stimulation, help decrease therapy intensity, extend what has been previous practiced, continue as planned, and provide better communication to the other parties involved in the physical training. Each athlete is definitely a N=1.
EMS is a great tool, but we can get more precise with particular muscle groups with what type of action we should take. Before TMG, we utilized EMS for two roles; addendum strength stimulus, and for tone reduction. This was applied to the entire muscle group. For instance, we are going after the vastus medialis (VM), rectus femoris (RF), and vastus lateralis (VL) in the quadricep group. This is assuming these three muscles need the same stimulus.
With the TMG, it has changed how we apply the strength stimuli with EMS.
Perhaps the RF and VL are in great shape (good contraction time, and good displacement), but the VM showcases weakness per TMG information. We can adjust the training, but we can selectively utilize EMS on the VM to improve the synchronization between the quadricep complex and improve left to right asymmetric differences.
One interesting case was a female sprinter that came to us this year as a freshman that has been dealing with RF issues for years. All parties were involved with this case, but it wasn’t until we utilized the TMG and found out her VM was in poor shape. We performed 3x / week max strength sessions with our Globus units and her pain went away after a couple sessions. We continued for 2 weeks with EMS sessions and now we monitor her with the TMG frequently to ensure she stays within her optimal “band”.
We owe a lot of our TMG knowledge from the TMG-Si company and Jose Fernandez.
Question 4: Staying injury free is beyond just managing the training load. What type of things can we implement that are more universal with core training and strength training that may reduce adductor pulls. We see a lot of posterior chain talk but very little “internal” chain discussions. Any insight here?
Landon Evans: I don’t have all the answers when it comes to why people get injured. Managing training load is sure helpful, but the management is still secondary to how we come up with the training load in the first place. Performance is a multidisciplinary entity.
The demands these athletes go through are not going to be enhanced with therapeutic loads. In the physical training domain, they need to train, and they need to train consistently hard. When following sound training theory that involves all parties, balancing orthopedic stressors, demanding a slow cooked approach, and simple things like squatting deep can go a long way. On top of this, setting up a practical and consistently applied monitoring battery can help.
Question 5: Collaboration and communication with medical staff is important, how do you work hand and hand with medical professionals that are sometimes unaware of the training demands of strength coaches and tend to do therapeutic loads that are great for early post surgical needs but rot the strength levels of athletes. What are some ways we can do better here?
Landon Evans: In order to effectively collaborate, we need to understand one another first. At first this seems obvious, but when there are a lot of moving parts in the NCAA, sometimes we just go with the flow. I really find this slows down progression and positive evolution in programs. Doctors need to understand strength coaches and vice versa. Athletic trainers need to see things through a strength coach’s perspective and vice versa. This takes time, and it takes a lot of communication.
Second one is breaking down job title stereotypes. Perception of what each party does can throw a sometimes unwarranted road block in the way of athlete development. Again, this ties back to my first point.
Third one is to get closer to everyone involved. Meeting as frequently as possible with your the sport coaches, doctors, athletic trainers, and dietitians to ensure everyone is moving cohesively towards the same goal, winning. This closeness builds great relationships and enhanced trust. They become a second family that ultimately continues to build you up.
Fourth one is to demand excellence by administrative parties. Listen, athletics is a cutthroat business. Becoming complacent is not only lame, but it is negatively affecting everyone else that is involved. Someone’s complacency can get you fired.
These four things are continually being worked on every day here at Iowa. It is a phenomenal place to be working because of the people. Let me say that again, it’s because the of the people.