Strength and Conditioning Research – Service Review

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So yesterday I was procrastinating by cruising around Facebook and up popped an announcement from Chris Beardsley and Bret Contreras that they’d teamed up to create a monthly research review on strength and conditioning. This immediately piqued my interest as I’d literally just been lamenting to one of my trainer buddies that there wasn’t a good “clearing house” of research in the S&C field. I’m a research nut but always struggle to find time to search out and pour through studies over a wide variety of journals. Given the limits on my time, no matter what I do I’m always a little behind. I know both Chris and Bret are very meticulous in their own study of the research, so I definitely was interested in what they would be putting out.

Given my excitement, I shared the announcement I’d seen on FB and it sparked a little discussion regarding the product, its perceived quality, and whatnot. From that thread Chris shot me a note offering me a month of the service if I’d review it. Needless to say, I jumped on that opportunity, and here’s what I think:

What it is:

Strength and Conditioning Research, by Bret Contreras and Chris Beardsley. A monthly review of newly-released literature regarding the strength and conditioning field. The topics include Strength and Conditioning, Biomechanics, Physiology, Physical Therapy, and a list of other (but unreviewed) studies.

The Pros:

1. First of all, that it exists at all. Seriously, with the number of journals and publications out there it can be a real hassle to keep up with research. If you’re looking to “generally keep up” and not tightly follow a very select niche then it can be daunting to search out all of the available research sources and stay abreast of what’s going on. These guys are doing a lot of that legwork for you.

2. They condense every study down to a page. From citation, abstract, method, results, conclusion, to implications/discussion, they get it onto a page. This minimizes reading if you’re going to skim it, and it allows you to easily print off one page and have the whole write-up if you just want a primer to take with you.

3. They’re charging $10 per month at this point. I can’t say it’ll always stay that price, obviously, but right now $10 is a freaking steal.

4. They are pretty solid on the reporting of the study and thin on the “practical implications” setting. This is good, as it gives you the real information but will minimize the “utility” to those people who are willing to just take someone’s word on information without really digging into their own research. While the “practical implications” section is worthy of consideration since both Bret and Chris are professionals, it’s the job of the reviewer to condense and transfer information, not opine about it.

The Cons:

1. Every study is condensed down to a page. I know, I’m talking a bit out of both sides of my mouth here as I viewed that as a “pro” above, but sometimes that’s the problem with having cake… you want to eat it, too. There’s only so much information that’s going to be conveyed in a page, and if you’re condensing a 50-page study down to one page then there’s going to be something lost.

2. You’re looking at information presented through the eyes of two other people. Now, both are pretty smart guys and professionals, but any time information is presented in a different form then there’s a bit of a “telephone” effect where they’re making the choice of what to include and exclude. This is why it really is important to read full studies for yourself before you come to hard conclusions.

3. They’re pretty heavy on a couple of journals, specifically the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research from the NSCA. Some of this is because it’s highly relevant the topic, obviously, and bear in mind that I’m only looking at one issue of their review, but I think down the road there might be some interesting things in some other medical journals and hopefully they continue to seek new sources of information.

4. The “Other Studies” section, which is a list of papers that Bret and Chris didn’t have time to look at (a “further reading” list, if you will) doesn’t include journal information for all of the studies. Where there is an abstract they kindly provide a link, but where there isn’t there’s nothing but the journal title. Granted, a quick hit on Google can find that info, I’m sure, but it would be great to see it there.

5. It is a scientific journal review. This isn’t really a “con”, but if you’re not into the science of exercise physiology, biomechanics, and the like, then this simply isn’t for you.

Conclusion:

I, and most successful trainers I know, feel that in order to stay the best and continue improve as a professional, you need to continue to grow. This means reading, attending seminars, spending time under the bar, and practicing your craft. The issue is, there’s only so many hours in a day, and when it comes to working on your business as well as working in your business then time becomes a premium.

Anything you can do to expedite the process of acquiring and boiling down information is a welcome aid, in my mind. With this service you’re able to get a lot of your research in one, easy to read package that you can then use to go right to the source rather than wasting more time hunting around for what you should be hunting for.

I’m not suggesting that you should take Bret and Chris’ review, read it, and use it as gospel for your training. But I am suggesting that for as low price and easy to read as it is it should be one of your required readings every month as a fitness professional. If nothing else it’ll give you a great point to jump off into further research.

If you are a fitness professional or someone who’s into the science of performance and body improvement, then at this price I’d consider getting and reading this to be a no-brainer.

Check it out here.

PS In full disclosure, I don’t get a dime if you sign up. I did get my one review copy of this first month’s release for free. I know, being a blogger is all about the big ballin’. I’ll be signing up for sure as I know that I’ll learn at least one thing every month that will make my clients better.

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February 29, 2012

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