External exercise cues and dual task ability during gait in people with PD

Beck, Intzandt & Almeida (2018)

Gait, or walking, is a well-learned series of movements, achieved with little attention (so mostly subconscious), and facilitated by the basal ganglia. In particular, the dorsal striatum is implicated in the process, with loops to and from the sensorimotor cortex. The dorsal striatum is also the initial area of degeneration in Parkinson’s Disease, and so it makes sense that people with PD shift to a more conscious control of walking.

However, controlling gait more consciously increases the demand on attentional resources. As a result, when walking while completing a secondary task, people with PD display worsened gait – increased step time, percentage of time spent in double support, step-to-step variability, and decreased step length.

Cues can influence how movements are controlled. External cues, those that direct attention externally to the effect of an action on the environment, utilise automatic process, and sensorimotor cortical areas. Conversely, internal cues direct attention to one’s own limb movement, relying on conscious processes that linked to the frontal cortex. Continue reading “External exercise cues and dual task ability during gait in people with PD”

Lefaivre and Almeida (2015): Sensory integration exercise and balance control

A particular type of exercise therapy has been developed at the Movement Disorders Research and Rehabilitation Centre (MDRC) in Waterloo, Canada, which has been found to improve symptom severity in people with Parkinson’s Disease. The programme encourages greater utilisation of proprioceptive information by reducing the reliance on vision and drawing greater attention to body awareness, and was thus termed sensory attention focused exercise, or PD SAFEx for short. Despite the success of PD SAFEx, it hadn’t been determined if the exercise programme positively impacted balance in participants.

And this is where the Lefaivre and Almeida’s 2015 study comes in. They also attempted to provide support for the theory that PD SAFEx worked by stimulating depleted populations of dopaminergic neurons in the basal ganglia  to cause an adaptation, as opposed to bypassing the dysfunctional basal ganglia with a cortical pathway. This is important as the former process is more likely to give rise to better long term improvement in motor symptoms, as Sage and Almeida (2010) found only the PD SAFEx group (vs the non-SAFE group) maintained symptom alleviation following a six week washout period.

Continue reading “Lefaivre and Almeida (2015): Sensory integration exercise and balance control”

Frans Bosch: Fine-Tuning Motor Control

In the book, “High Performance Training for Sports”, renowned strength coach Frans Bosch outlines his methodology and philosophy, specifically for optimising running performance.

Bosch considers – though not in great depth – the motor control theory behind his coaching practices, to provide insight into why some exercises are effective at improving performance and others are not. Two control systems exist: one fast and unconsciously controlled, and one slow and consciously controlled. Many movements in sport are required to be performed so quickly and with little warning or notice that they can only be executed automatically, and without input from the working memory or executive parts of the brain. This is important when attempting to maximise transfer of training to an athlete’s sport.


Specificity and Transfer

Bosch outlines 5 criteria for specific transfer, whereby to enhance transfer and thus sports performance, there must be similarity in the following areas:

  1. Muscle action
  2. Limb motion
  3. Sensory information available
  4. Dominant energy system
  5. Movement result (there is better transfer when there is a clear difference between a successful and unsuccessful movement, e.g. clean > high pull in terms of transfer)

Continue reading “Frans Bosch: Fine-Tuning Motor Control”

Nick Cooper: Programming for Speed

Strength and conditioning coach for the English Institute of Sport and head of S&C for TASS Nick Cooper provides a succinct overview of the components needed to enhance an athlete’s speed. He covers general and specific preparatory exercises, the components of actual running training, a brief discussion of why weightlifting and plyometrics transfer to running speed, as well as a few extra tips such as markers to progress to running drills.

General and specific preparatory exercises are the two distinct categories of strength training for speed. General preparatory exercises are those that build an ability to tolerate the forces of running, but can also utilise movement patterns similar to running to benefit speed. They include olympic lifts and their variations, as well as dynamic lower body exercises such as jump squats and loaded single leg landings.

Continue reading “Nick Cooper: Programming for Speed”

Kjær et al. (2009): structural changes and function in human tendon

Tendons are pretty important. They are the connective tissue that help transfer force from the muscle to create movement of the skeleton, or in fact prevent excess movement if the body is subject to external forces that need to be resisted. Tendons withstand huge mechanical loads, and there tends (haha) to be higher tendon injuries in athletes who do a lot of jumping (example used in the article is elite volley-ball players).

The authors (of which there are many) discuss how tendons respond to loading, with a particular focus on collagen. Collagen is the predominant matrix protein found in tendon tissue. Quite simply, acute exercise increases the rate of collagen synthesis. The more collagen, the stronger the tendon right?

Continue reading “Kjær et al. (2009): structural changes and function in human tendon”

Little intro

I’ve been pondering.

Pondering. What a word. I’ve been thinking about starting to write things on this blog page of my website for a little while. Was planning on writing a little bit each day about the EXOS Performance Mentorship I recently undertook in Budapest, Hungary. The way it turned out though… A combination of a not-so-compatible sleep pattern and long days spent in lectures and working out (both of which I loved), meant my evenings were sleepily spent eating and watching Peaky Blinders. Imagine – season 3 is available in full on Hungarian Netflix, but when I get back here and try and watch the 4th episode, not only is it not on UK Netflix, but only two episodes are on BBC iPlayer.

Anyway. I decided today while reading an article about tendons, collagen and contractions, that I will start writing little summaries/commentaries on articles, books, book chapters.

One of the reasons I can’t be bothered posting on social media is I’d rather spend the time, however little it would take, doing something else. Not that I always use time productively, but filming and editing a video then posting it on Instagram with an insightful caption takes a small bit of conscious effort and time. I guess I’d rather enjoy my gym session and really engage with the training techniques I’m using without thinking too much about having to film it. And then I’d rather use the little bit of conscious effort for reading or learning.

I probably will get back into it at some stage but with work at the gym (personal training), and work at home (programming and postgrad applications), taking up a fair portion of my time, I’d rather prioritise growing myself than growing a social media following, which just the thought of it feels draining.

So. The thinking (pondering) is that writing a quick commentary on a piece of reading I’ve found interesting will be useful. I often write scribbled notes in a notebook anyway, so this is just an extension of that process. Reflecting on what I’ve read and putting it into my own words is an invaluable part of learning. Then maybe it will turn out to be of interest to some people out there. And if not, the time has still been well spent, and I can look back through a now public notebook and remember all the cool things I’ve learnt about.

First post – the article about mechanical loading and tendon structure. What an exciting start. Phenomenal.