Q and A with Neil Welch: NW Conditioning
Neil Welch is an ex university colleague and friend of mine based out of St Mary’s in London. He works with some interesting athletes…read on to find out more!
Q: Can you fill us in on your strength and conditioning background?
A: I have a few years studying behind me, 6 years in total for my udergrad in sport science and physiology and my masters in strength and conditioning itself. During that time I’ve designed programs for athletes from multiple sports including rugby, rowing, cricket, weightlifting and triathlon. I currently provide strength and conditioning support to the British alpine development ski team and run a consultancy called nwconditioning.
Q: Where are you based and how can people get in touch with you?
A: I am based in Twickenham and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website www.nwconditioning.com
Q: You have spent time working in Italy with the British Apline Ski Team, can you tell us a bit about what you where doing out there?
A: During the season the race schedule is very tight making it difficult to get a volume of dryland (off snow) training in.. The last trips coincided with gaps in the technical training and race schedule that allowed for a week of high intensity dryland training each time,, the last opportunities for some adaptation before the race program started in earnest. I took the guys for their strength and conditioning sessions and assisted with some of their on snow technical training
Q: What are the key qualities to develop in the snow sports?
A: Neuromuscular patterning and movement skills are vitally important, once that base is there it’s much easier to build the other necessary qualities. Lower body and postural strength are also important as, particularly during the longer speed events, some very large ground reaction forces are generated through the turns and technique has to be maintained throughout.
Q: What sort of injuries do these athletes encounter and how do you train for these?
A: The majority of injuries experienced are as a result of trauma from crashes (check out the Daniel Albrecht crash last year for an idea of what can happen) or impacts from hitting the gates. Outside of that, knee injury would the main area where we have to address prevention ensuring strong alignment during all movements so plenty of hip abductor work.
Q: What does a typical training day look like for these athletes?
A: For a day including technical on snow training, it would be an early start aiming to be on the hill for 8 (which takes a certain amount of travel to the hill; a drive then gondolas and lifts to the training course). The guys will go through their warm up routines while the course and timing gates are set by the coaches. After that they’ll take between 6 and 8 times runs (for giant slalom) and that will take them to lunch. The late afternoon will generally see a s+c session of lifting, conditioning or a lighter stretching and core session before dinner and video analysis of the day’s training.
Q: What are your ‘go to’ exercises for these athletes and why?
A: That would have to be the clean and it’s derivatives. It’s a very versatile exercise, for example by putting different loads at either ends of the bar, it’s easy to increase recruitment of core musculature or by changing to a split catch position target knee mechanics and move it to a more unilateral exercise. Also from a logistical point of view, the guys don’t always have a fully loaded gym to lift in, the bar and plates go in the van and often it’s a garage or an underground car park that becomes the gym, they may not always have a squat rack but they always have a floor to lift from
Q: Do you have plans for them in the coming months/years and can you share any of this info?
A: I have some ideas that I hope to research regarding increasing training and testing specificity with some innovative exercises, as always it’s a work-in-progress but skiing isn’t heavily researched and I’d like to improve the efficacy of the training I’m prescribing.
Q; Moving away from the snow sports, I noticed you have some interesting research reviews on your site. What are your thoughts on conditioning for field sports? What are the key areas to work on and what methods do you utilise?
A: Firstly you need to know the demands of the sport well, so a thorough needs analysis a must as there will likely be varying positional demands. Obviously each player is different and has their own area to improve but from a pure conditioning perspective, high intensity intervals are a must, they are very adaptable depending on your aims and allow plenty of room to be creative by including sport specific technical and reactive drills.
Q: You also have some info on overtraining syndrome, how do you work to prevent this in your athletes?
A: For me it’s all about monitoring the athletes and carefully keeping an eye on training volumes. By looking out for symptoms of overtraining through brief questionnaires and talking to my athletes I can match that information with their training volume, it’s then possible see when the volume becomes too much. If aiming for some functional overreaching, ensuring that this is followed by a lower volume transition is definitely a useful way of preventing overtraining.
Q: What are the key qualities required to be a successful strength and conditioning coach?
A: For me it has to be the willingness to learn. By speaking to other coaches from other sports and backgrounds, reading journals and books and just getting into the gym and having a play around you will always pick new bits up that will add value to your programs and get the most out of your athletes.