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Finish First Insider, Issue #49
March 16, 2009
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Please enjoy another issue packed with evidence-based information about sports performance training and news about current events at Finish First Sports Performance. If you find value in this e-newsletter, please forward this message to your teammates, coaches, or other parents of hard working athletes.

Interview with Coach Hoy

By Coach J. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Recently, I was interviewed by a high school strength coach and I wanted to share it with you. The high school is located in a small town in central Pennsylvania.

HS Strength Coach: Coach thanks for taking the time to answer some of our training questions. Talk about the philosophy of Finish First Sports Performance and how you are different than just any “sports performance” company.

Coach Hoy: Since you said to talk a little bit, I’ll try to keep this short. (I think that was hint). Finish First Sports Performance has a philosophy that the best prepared athletes will always prevail. Athletic preparation consists of physical training, mental training, technical training, and tactical training. As a performance coach, I focus primarily on physical training, but sometimes delve into mental training as well. A sports coach is responsible for teaching the athletes proper technique for each position, and tactical (plays, strategies, etc.) specific to the game, position, etc.

We systematically train athletes using a variety of programming methods, training apparatus, and specific exercises for each ATHLETE. The key here is that each athlete undergoes a kinetic chain analysis and functional performance assessment to determine any specific weaknesses or imbalances that need to be addressed IN ADDITION to specific programming for athletic development and performance enhancement for his/her sport. All of these factors make us different.

Also, our facility is designed to resemble a major college weight room—no distractions, no fluff, no gimmicky or catchy equipment—but rather all training, all the time. At any given time, there may be pro athletes working out at the same time as a 10 year old soccer player and a 16 year old basketball player. When an athlete sees how hard the pro athlete pushes himself and how determined he is, it really motivates everyone else to elevate their game. The training environment is one of the best I’ve ever been around.

HS Strength Coach: You mention on your website you also assist athletes with vision and sleep. How important are these to an athlete.

Coach Hoy: Vision training and sleep are extremely important to athletic performance. It used to be believed that some athletes just had better awareness or vision during competition, and that it couldn’t be trained. Research over the years has shown that great improvements can be made in an athlete’s ability to react, judge distances or anticipate movement positioning, and have awareness of other players on the field, court, or ice, just by participating in a specific dynamic vision regimen.

Sleep is an extremely important component of athletic performance. In addition to playing a crucial role in muscle tissue repair, normal wakeful rhythms, and the ability to concentrate, many studies have suggested that sleep also affects movement by affecting the nervous system’s ability to control advanced powerful movement patterns.

HS Strength Coach: Growing up an athlete in rural, central PA and now working with athletes in the city most of your adult life, what is the biggest difference in the training habits of the athletes?

Coach Hoy: I’d have to say the biggest difference is the use of the resources available to them. There are great athletes born all over the country; it’s the ones that find the value in professional resources and then apply these resources to their athletic development that really get ahead.

Cities in general are usually more progressive, and as a result, most of the sports coaches no longer have the old school mentality that they should do everything. The coaches here understand that they are hired to take care of the technical and tactical aspect of the team, and strength and conditioning coaches will take care of the physical preparation aspect. It also helps that there are several universities in the area. Coaches and athletes see how important performance training is and also see that each college/university has its own strength coach. Again, the sport coach delegates all physical training responsibilities to the performance coach. There are a lot of coaches clinics that expose the sport coach to what many different successful athletic programs/schools across the country are doing.

Also, because there are so many schools, there are also so many great athletes; which means that there is also fierce competition. If an athlete wants to be good, they know they have to put in the extra time and effort.

Average training and average work ethic produces average athletes and average results.

HS Strength Coach: What is the biggest misconception about youth sport training in America?

Coach Hoy: Wow, this is a loaded question. I want to say that despite what many of us were taught growing up, resistance training is safe for young children and adolescents. Take, for example, a young boy growing up on a farm (yeah, this one’s close to home!), that is carrying 50-100lb bags of feed, carrying 50lb buckets of water, throwing heavy bales of hay or straw, or carrying heavy logs or brush. Does this boy suffer from growth plate issues or tissue dysfunction as a result of the heavy ‘resistance’ training he did? No! Certainly not! However, the boy didn’t start by lifting heavy objects, but rather started with what he could handle, and as he got stronger, was able to carry or lift heavier objects. Notice there is a progression here. Resistance training for children is safe as long as it is properly progressed.

Additionally, many parents think that speed is something that you are either born with, or you won’t have it. To some extent, genetics do play a factor. However, speed is a learned skill that can be trained and taught. An athlete can become faster, just as he can become stronger. Teaching an athlete proper running mechanics is best done with children and adolescents—before the improper mechanics become habit.

Youth sport training is important to proper athletic development. Children should be trained like children, and not little adults. It is not a good idea to take a program that a major college or professional team uses and give to a child, or even an adolescent (including high school athletes). Programs at the college or professional level are designed for athletes who have already built the foundation of performance fundamentals—they are now ready for more advanced, specific training. Youth athletes need to spend time developing the fundamentals and correct techniques/mechanics of exercises and movements. These athletes should also spend time learning the sport—spending time with high level coaches.

I’m going to stop with that. There are a handful of misconceptions about youth sports and sports in general here in America, but that will have to be a whole other interview.

HS Strength Coach: Resistance training for football and track throwers is widely accepted, but explain why resistance training can be beneficial to basketball players, soccer players, field hockey, etc…

Coach Hoy: This one can be explained with simple science. Power is one of the most important traits of successful high level athletes. Power is important in every sport. It is crucial in running, jumping, shooting, tackling, changing direction, etc. Power is a product of strength and speed (Power = Strength + Speed). Power is the ability to produce maximum force as rapidly as possible (contracting muscle as fast as possible). Resistance training helps recruit more muscle fibers (which results in the ability to produce more tension/force) and using certain training methods can also help the nervous system send signals to recruit these fibers more quickly. Like I said earlier, speed is a skill and can and should be trained accordingly. By combining BOTH resistance training and speed training, an athlete can produce more power, helping with higher jumping, faster running (more explosive pushes with each step), better acceleration, etc.

Resistance training also has been proven (by peer-reviewed scientific research) to increase bone mineral density (BMD), increase muscular strength, decrease the risk/relief of low back pain, increase glucose tolerance and sensitivity, decrease blood pressure, reduce body fat (decrease in fat mass), increase basal metabolic rate, produce muscular hypertrophy, improve blood lipid profiles, increase muscular power and endurance, improve balance and coordination (through motor performance), increase independence and participation in physical activities, reduce psychological depression, and improve sleep. I think you get the point.

HS Strength Coach: Some coaches still feel that in-season training negatively affects their sport performance. Comment on this and explain some important things to consider when designing an in-season program for young athletes.

Coach Hoy: In-season training is necessary for athletes to perform optimally. I am always amazed that a coach would have his team prepare in the off-season and then stop training once the season starts. The team usually starts off playing strong and is physically able to compete with anyone. Unfortunately, because they stop their performance training, the team will actually get weaker as the season goes on—leading to an increased risk of injury as the players become more fatigued. Athletic performance actually decreases as the season progresses, and, when it matters the most, in the post-season, all of the gains made during the pre-season training are lost. However, teams that participate in in-season training programs will retain their strength and ultimately be stronger and better conditioned for the post-season, especially when compared to a team that does not train during the season.

Also, take a close look at college and professional sports teams. They all participate in year-round training. Why? Because they know it works. They know how beneficial it is. Studies have been done that showed that if an athlete goes one week without training, performance can be decreased by up to 50%, and it takes 5 weeks to get that 50% back. Who wants to work hard during the pre-season only to lose all the performance benefits?

Remember, though, that in-season programs need to address the specific needs of the team, and need to be carefully designed and monitored with the sport coach to prevent overtraining or over-reaching. Too much volume may produce negative results. Travel, sleep, and nutrition also need to be considered to make sure the athletes are getting ample recovery from the workouts. Workouts don’t need to be as long as during the pre-season, but need to be just long enough to address the needs of strength, speed, power, flexibility, balance, stability, etc. and to help correct and injury issues or imbalances that may be occurring from sport training.

HS Strength Coach: Coach Hoy, Thanks for your time and valuable information.

Coach Hoy: As always, I am honored to share what I can in any way that may benefit others. Thanks for allowing me to share some info and all the best with your training programs!

Does Supplementing the Diet with Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Improve Exercise Performance?

By: Heather R Mangieri, MS, RD, LDN Finish First Sports Performance Nutrition Advisor

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), leucine, isoleucine and valine, are among the nine essential amino acids. Unlike the other essential amino acids that are catabolized mainly in the liver, BCAA’s are oxidized in skeletal muscle. They account for more than 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins. It is well accepted that exercise greatly increases energy expenditure and promotes the oxidation of BCAA’s. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that supplementing with BCAA will increase availability. The question is, does that lead to an improved exercise performance?

A review of a few websites allowed me to evaluate and review the claims made by supplement manufacturers on the marketing of BCAA’s.

According to my three sources, BCAA’s can:
*decrease mental fatigue,
*maintain muscle tissue,
*prevent muscle breakdown and promote protein synthesis,
*be used as a fuel for energy,
*support lean muscle mass growth, and
*improve exercise performance (1-3).

I am not anti-supplement; I am however, pro-fact! In order to keep this article to a reasonable size, I am going to choose one of the claims. I will discuss the physiological rationale behind the claim then I will discuss the research that either supports or disproves the claim.

The claim
Decrease mental fatigue therefore improving exercise performance.

The Rationale
The central fatigue theory or hypothesis, proposed in 1987 by Blomstrand, et al, suggests that oral ingestion of BCAA would reduce central fatigue and would enable athletes to maintain a higher pace during prolonged competitive exercise (4). This rationale predicts that during exercise, free fatty acids are mobilized from adipose tissue and transported via the blood to muscle to be used as fuel. Because the rate of mobilization is greater than the rate of uptake by muscles, the blood FFA concentration increases. Both FFA and the amino acid tryptophan bind to albumin and compete for the same binding sites. Tryptophan is prevented from binding to albumin by the increased FFA concentration and so fTRP concentrations plus the fTRP:BCAA ratio in the blood rises(4-5). This is confirmed by experimental studies (4-5).

The central fatigue hypothesis predicts that the increase in fTRP:BCAA ratio results in an increase fTRP transport across the blood brain barrier because BCAA and fTRP compete for carrier-medicated entry into the CNS by the large neutral amino acid (LNAA) transporter (4). Once taken up, the conversion of serotonin occurs and leads to a local increase in this neurotransmitter (4). Because serotonin plays a role in the onset of sleep and is a determinant of mood and aggression, it MIGHT also lead to central fatigue. This hypothesis also predicts the ingestion of BCAA’s will raise the BCAA concentration and hence reduce fTRP transport into the brain. This reduction in fTRP and increase in BCAA will reduce the formation of serotonin and alleviate fatigue, in turn improving performance (4).

With that said, the rationale is very clear for why this may improve exercise performance. Now let’s look at what the research shows.

The research
Most questions that I receive regarding the branched chains are from body builders, track and field athletes and other strength trained athletes. However, most of the research in this area is studied in endurance activities. Therefore, the only conclusion’s that can be drawn from the (limited) research that is available (looking at exercise performance) is in regards to endurance activities.

Because the majority of athletes want to know “how much” and “when” to take supplements, I focused my review on these two factors. This review included six studies on BCAA that are relatively comparable in methodology and design. Blomstrand, et al, gave 90 mg/kg body wt (average intake 6.7 g of BCAA) to subjects 15 minutes before exercise and every 15 minutes during exercise via a 150-200 ml BCAA solution. No difference in physical performance between the BCAA group and the placebo were identified (7). Another study by Hall, et al, separated his subjects into two groups, a low group (7.8 g of BCAA) and a high group (23.4 g BCAA) (8). He too had subjects ingest the BCAA solution before and during exercise. Neither a positive or negative effect on performance during prolonged cycle ergometer exercise was observed (8). Watson, et al gave 12 grams of BCAA solution (total) during rest and 5.4-18 g BCAA during exercise via a BCAA solution (9). Exercise capacity was not influenced by BCAA ingestion (9). Two more studies evaluated both giving BCAA supplementation alone and with carbohydrate solution to evaluate the differences. Both failed to show an exercise performance benefit to supplementing with BCAA (10-11). The ingestion of BCAA seems to cause increased concentration plasma BCAA during exercise and at the moment of exhaustion (4-11). Exercise capacity and/or performance do not appear to be influenced by the supplementation of BCAA (6-11). Although the benefit of BCAA supplements on exercise has been stated in reviews as being inconclusive, the majority of the randomized controlled trials, which are well designed fail to show any performance benefit to the supplement. Of interest, many of the control trials have the subjects taking the BCAA solutions during the activity, which may or may not be realistic for many athletes.

An important component to consider when reviewing the research is the difficulty comparing one study to another. There are other studies available on the use of BCAA; however, many studies include BCAA supplementation with other possible performance enhancement aids (carbohydrate beverages, creatine, glutamine, arginine, etc). Another variable is the comparison between trained athletes and untrained athletes, since it is well understood that well-trained athletes often utilize fuels more effectively than untrained athletes. For the sake of this review, only studies examining BCAA supplementation alone in relation to performance enhancement were used.

In conclusion, it appears clear from research that supplementation with BCAA prior to and during exercise bouts will improve plasma BCAA concentration during and after exercise. This does not however appear to have a performance benefit for athletes. There seems to be a true disconnect between the claims made by the manufacturers of BCAA and supporting research.

Currently, research is being conducted to identify the role of BCAA supplementation in relation to immune function. Lastly, supplemental BCAA, often consumed 5 to 20 g/day in divided doses seems to be safe.

4. Blomstrand, E., F. Celsing, and E.A. Newsholme. Changes in plasma concentrations of aromatic and branch-chain amino acids during sustained exercise in man and their possible role in fatigue. Acta Physiol. Scand. 133:115-121, 1988.
5. Blomstrand, E., P. Hassmen, and E.A. Newsholme. Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on mental performance. Acta Physiol. Scand. 136:473-481, 1991.
6. Blomstrand, E., P. Hassmen, B. Ekblom, and E.A. Newsholme. Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise—Effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 63:83-88, 1991.
7. Blomstrand E. Hassmen P. Ek S. Ekblom B. Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on perceived exertion during exercise. [Clinical Trial. Journal Article. Randomized Controlled Trial. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] Acta Physiologica Scandinavica. 159(1):41-9, 1997 Jan.
8. G.van Hall. Ingestion of branched-chain amino acids and tryptophan during sustained exercise in man: failure to affect performance. Journal of Physiology. 486.3:789-794, 1995.
9. Watson, Phillip, Shirreff’s Susan. The effect of acute branched-chain amino acid supplementation on prolonged exercise capacity in a warm environment. Eur J Applied Physiology. 93: 306-314, 2004 July.
10. Madsen, Klavs, et al, Effects of glucose, glucose plus branched-chain amino acids or placebo on bike performance over 100 km. J Appl Physiol 1996; 81: 2644-50.
11. Davis JM, et al, Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Carbohydrates on Fatigue during Intermittent, High-Intensity Running. Int J Sports Med 1995; 20: 309-314.

Scheduling for ALL Workouts

Effective April 1, 2009, all athletes will need to be scheduled for ALL workouts.

By scheduling all workouts, we will be able to better plan to prevent overcrowding and allow for optimal training conditions.

If you have any questions, please call Jeremy (412-787-5070).

Motivational Quotes

Knowledge is power and enthusiasm pulls the switch.
-- Steve Droke

People with goals succeed because they know where they're going.
-- Earl Nightingale

Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.
-- Fitzhugh Dodson

All right Mister, let me tell you what winning means… you're willing to go longer, work harder, give more than anyone else.
-- Vince Lombardi

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Thank You for Your Support

Thanks again for subscribing to this free e-newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I look forward to your feedback as I continue to research to bring you the most current scientific training information available.

Should you have any specific article requests or questions, email me at Please visit for detailed sports performance training information and programs offered exclusively by Finish First Sports Performance.

Yours In Training,

Coach Jeremy S. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Jump Stretch, Inc. Certified,
Elite Performance Scientist

Finish First Sports Performance

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