Carmen Bott On Flywheel vs. Traditional Training on Change of Direction Ability
In her latest Youtube video, Coach Bott discusses how flywheel resistance training stacks up against traditional resistance training for improving power and change of direction ability based on a systematic review of the Effect of Flywheel versus Traditional Resistance Training on Change of Direction Performance in Male Athletes by Chaabene et al. (2022).
Coach Bott has been in strength and conditioning for 25 years and has worked in sports performance at all levels- from youth development to the Olympic games. Having specialized her entire career working with athletes that have to change direction efficiently and quickly, Coach Bott has always been curious about the methodology and equipment to help them achieve that.
Coach Bott's interest in flywheel training also stemmed from being an aging former adult athlete wanting to preserve muscle mass and some spine-sparing strategies to continue to train and be strong.
This meta-analysis looked at studies using the flywheel methodology to improve power and strength in the lower body, which is directly related to change of direction ability. Chaabene et al. (2022) systematic review covers seven studies' findings.
This study reviewed the literature that contrasts the effects of flywheel resistance training on traditional training on change of direction performance, keeping in mind it was done on male athletes ages 13 to 24.
That's typically an age at which most male athletes are doing some form of structured training. These male athletes were also actively competing in their sport, so these were not recreationally trained people, kids, and young adults that are physically superior to a person that would be sedentary.
The research found that athletes that change direction quickly and efficiently tend to do well in sports where that's required, such as football, basketball, lacrosse, etc.
Any time athletes have to decelerate and re-accelerate their mass in another direction rapidly; they're demonstrating change of direction ability. The term ability is used because the change of direction ability can be coached and improved.
The results suggest that both flywheel resistance training and traditional resistance training have a significant impact on change of direction ability and performance, so using either one of those modalities does work, but what has been favored based on those seven studies is flywheel resistance training.
The main findings of this analysis indicated an advantage of flywheel training versus traditional resistance training on change of direction. They measured change of direction by looking at the Illinois agility test and the t-test.
Another interesting finding from the study was that less than or equal to two sessions a week seem to result in more significant effects.
Change of direction performance seems to be determined by lots of factors. If one were to tier those factors, eccentric strength would come out on top. It is key to helping the athletes put their brakes on.
If they can put the brakes on faster, the theory is that the re-acceleration phase will be much quicker, and change of direction tasks seem to benefit from eccentric overload exercises. Flywheel training was found to be a greater eccentric overload than traditional resistance training.
If someone lacks change of direction ability in a sport like soccer, where they have to do over 600 cutting movements in a men's game, that will be to their detriment. It is vital to ensure that athletes are doing training sessions that mimic the demands of their sport.
For example, soccer players jogging in a straight line like running a 10k or a marathon isn't preparing them for the muscular demands of changing direction in soccer.
Leg muscle quality seems crucial in change of direction ability. Hence, things like reactive strength (the ability of the muscle to put the brakes on and contract against a rapid stretch) involve the tendon and other proprioceptors (mechanoreceptorsthat sense the position that joints are in). These can be trained using the flywheel by doing plyometrics.
The flywheel pulls the user down with a lot of ferociousness because it capitalizes on the amount of force they have generated on the way up. So the concentric strength will dictate how much force will be generated on the way back down. That's eccentric strength and a key player in any athlete's ability to change direction.
“If we are trying to improve the athlete's ability to store elastic energy, greater eccentric strength also facilitates faster performance. So it's not just that we can put on the brakes better, we can put on the brakes faster. If we can put on the brakes faster, we can hit the gas faster. Flywheel training improves the ability to also tolerate greater loads that are associated with higher velocities.”
The flywheel teaches the nervous system to tolerate these aggressive velocities as the body, e.g., descends in a flywheel squat. Flywheel training can also improve muscle power because the body moves high forces at high speeds.
“That's your recipe for power, so if you're looking for a huge return on an investment and you want power as well as strength, you know flywheel training is going to be superior. Things like squatting and deadlifting are important for building general maximal strength, but don't have the same capacity to build power as a flywheel could.”
“The most interesting side effect I've observed from flywheel squatting is the next day your legs do feel heavy almost if you've run stairs or done a heavy biking workout, but they're not sore, which is kind of interesting. It's very muscle intense, not back intense, so you put the harness on your squat and your spine is spared. If you're working with athletes over a long career and you need to spare their spine, it is the best way to do that. In all honesty, I kind of have always had such a huge influence on myself by Dr. McGill on spine-sparing strategies that I would choose them even with younger athletes if I could.”
Coach Bott finds that one to two sessions a week might be enough stimulus to improve change of direction performance and to put some muscle. She and her athletes can work maximally with one or maybe two warm-up sets because they can do build-ups in their sets without changing the weight on the flywheel.
Carmen Bott holds a Master's Degree in Exercise Science. Under the supervision of Dr. Jack Taunton, her research focused on load monitoring and physical performance indicators in University level Basketball athletes. Carmen has evolved into an International Educator. She is sought after for her methodology & coaching tactics in preparing Combative & Repeat-Sprint Team Sport Athletes. Carmen is also a Term Lecturer on applied kinesiology at Simon Fraser University. As a Physical Performance Coach, Carmen has 20+ years of hands-on experience from the learn-to-train level to the High Performance & professional level.