Development of the Russian Conjugate Sequence System
by BendtheBar 05-31-2012, 08:40 AM
by Tom Myslinski HPR-Ed 2990 Spring Term, 03-2 Dr. Robert J. Robertson, Advisor
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A significantly unique method of developing the strength of a nation through its population ignited the era of potent physical education program in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Victories were a reflection on the country, not on the individual. However, the demise of the Union in 1991 foreshadowed the end of the reign of athleticism.
Prior to this, their hold on athletic supremacy was undeniable and can be best explained by the following comparison. At the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, in which the USSR and its Eastern Bloc allies boycotted, the American athletes captured 174 total medals. A few weeks later, the boycotting countries staged the 1984 Friendship Games in Moscow and the following results were humiliatingly noteworthy. In track and field, of the forty-one gold medals in Los Angeles, twenty-eight of those final results were surpassed at the Friendship Games. In addition, in the swimming competition, five world records and a total of forty swimmers exceeded the time of their American competitors (74). The difference was a superior methodology of training.
Known as the Conjugate Sequence System, the Soviets were able to develop it so thoroughly that results as above were commonplace. Initially, the System involves a concurrent training of several motor abilities (means) or a wide multi-lateral skill developmental approach. This provides the base framework for the neurological construction of all subsequently developed motor skills. As the athlete passes through maturation and is able to functionally specialize, a foundational motor skill pool exists from which the athlete is able to pull. Future adaptive restructuring is highly specific and is dependent upon the ability to maintain strength and skill qualities already gained while raising limiting motor qualities. The Conjugate approach is employed to control and consistently redirect the desired specific training-effect. This is preservation procedure and is accomplished by simultaneously training all necessary motor abilities with a constant renewal and reestablishing process, promoting a steady, permanent adaptation while securing the desired training-effect, thus elevating the athlete’s functional potential.
The concept of the conjugate sequential system is translated from the Russian coupled successive system. This system evolved from the concurrent system, or the multi-lateral skill developmental approach found in the sport schools of the old Eastern Bloc countries, and most recently in China (7)(16)(18)(21)(27)(40). As an objective, these schools’ goals were to identify, select, and train, young athletes with the potential to succeed in regional, national, or international arenas. They believed that if children were encouraged to develop a variety of skills, they would quite possibly experience success in several sporting activities. As the developing young athlete displayed further interest, and demonstrated and displayed potential, they were nurtured along the path of athletics. Through systematic identification and recruitment, priority was given to the selection of those young athletes thought most likely to benefit from intensive sports training and to produce championship results in top-class competition (8)(9)(10).
The schools’ selection was based upon the assumption that the requisites for a sport can be identified at a youthful age and subsequently perfected through general to eventual specific training. As the child biologically develops, their ability becomes much more dynamic. This allows the coaches to identify the pre-pubescent athlete’s developing traits and place him/her properly within the sport that meets their individual qualifications. Further selection, assessment, and evaluation were a continual process, each time resulting in a greater refinement of direction and level of training for the young athlete. This process was the first step in the development of the Process of Achieving Sports Mastery (PASM, based on the Russian abbreviation of PSSM)(48)(59).
The foundation of the Russian PASM is rooted in the research of A. Novikov, “the father of Russian physical education,” and N. G. Ozolin’s research on the concurrent system of long- term training (32)(34). This systematic type of application is valid only for athletes of lower qualification and “involves the parallel training of several means or motor abilities, such as strength, speed, and endurance, over the same period, with the intention of producing multi-faceted development of physical fitness. This method is based on experimental evidence that adaptation elicited by the separate components of the complex training work is not simply a summation of the separate training effects, but the synergistic result of the interaction of the effects of each stage of training. This interaction produces a new physical state with a significantly greater work potential than would have resulted from the non-systematic use of the same means, even at increased volume” (49).
Simplified, this multilateral approach consists of the utilization of many different methods by many different means in order to foster and develop the young sportsman’s adaptation level. The rationale underlying this system was as the pre-adolescent athlete developed a well-rounded athletic base rooted in general physical preparation (GPP); his overall motor potential would correspondingly rise. Over time, this stimulus would trigger a response of adaptation, so that the demanding training loads that eventually occur during specialized physical preparation (SPP) would not distress the body. This direct relation between the central nervous system (CNS) and physical training plays a paramount role in the athlete’s adaptation to the stimulus because new training loads create new coordination’s. This neurological supercompensation forms the basis for the developing motor skills and perfects the cooperation among the various systems of the body including the athlete’s metabolic mechanisms. As the young sportsman matures and attains higher stages in the PASM, the foundation of all subsequent motor systems evolves from the solid establishment of GPP, thus the concurrent system (9).
GPP – The Growth of Trainability
At an early school age (approximately 6.5-9 years old ± 1 year), the initial preparation stage begins. This stage is the cornerstone in the pursuit of PASM and is characterized by the progressive development of motor skills through a traditional multi-faceted motor preparedness and the creation of a functional groundwork for specialized perfecting of motor abilities. Its exclusive goal is to expose young athletes to a wide variety of physical fitness skills, thus stimulating a healthy development and increasing their functional capacities, motor abilities, and knowledge base. Additionally, exposing the pre-adolescent sportsman to a well-rounded curriculum negates the effects of early specialization and elevates their overall adaptation level.
For example, an extensive range of calisthenics, exercises from many different sports, and children’s games are introduced at this stage. Particularly, preference is given to the elementary movements that provide low neurological resistance, but serve a foundational role, such as running, jumping, climbing, tumbling, swimming, and throwing. The amount of sport-specific exercise is limited and constitutes only a 5-10% of the total training volume. Within this percentage, the objective is on education and the gradual introduction of the sport specific basic fundamentals and techniques (24).
Harre, from the former East Germany, conducted an experimental longitudinal study, while Nagorni, from the former USSR, carried out a descriptive longitudinal survey regarding youth developmental programs. Their results yielded similar, significant findings. Over a period of 14 years, Harre sampled a large population of children, from the ages of 9 to 12 years old, dividing them into two groups. The first group was exposed to the traditional North American, early specialization program. While the other group followed the general, multilateral approach and developed their sport specific traits simultaneously. The results, found in Table 1, conclude that a multilateral training regimen is superior in the early stages of development and promotes a strong, stable foundation for athletic success.
The authors Haubenstricker and Seefeldt state that, “…readiness to learn is unique to each individual,” and “Individuals are always in a state of readiness to learn something at any point during their lifespan. The challenge is to match an individual’s readiness with appropriate learning tasks (17).” In support of this view, Filipowicz and Turowski, determined that among children, physical qualities that determine sport talent are poorly differentiated, thus all athletic abilities highly correlate. As the maturation process begins, these abilities gradually diverge so there is a lesser correlation among them. This naturally occurring separation is similar to what occurs in the initial preparation stage. Initially, all abilities improve due to physical training and with gradual adaptation over time, the progress slows down and ultimately limits itself to the specific exercises trained (13). In other words,as the level of trainability increases,the transference of physical traits decreases resulting in specific adaptations (76). Therefore, through the incorporation of a multi-faceted physical education program, a wide training effect is realized. Prescribed exercises that are general in nature, but specific in function, allow improvements even though they are different than those of the desired sport type. This eliminates the hazards of repetitive stresses, early specialization, and the potential losses from focusing on short-term gains at the expense of long-term goals.
In contrast, as the athlete matures and advances into PASM years, the role of GPP changes but the thought process “get fit to train before training for competition” remains the same. Gradually, the amounts of GPP exercises are reduced, become more difficult, and reflect the contents of the athlete’s specialty. Contents or means, in this sense, do not indicate sport-specific, but rather they are selected on the basis of the changing needs of the developing athlete (41). Medvedyev (28) describes the exclusive role GPP plays in the overall training regimen with the following three functions:
“the formation, strengthening or restoration of the habits (skills), which play an auxiliary, facilitatory role in sport perfectioning.”
“as a means of educating abilities, developed insufficiently by the selected type of sport, raising the general work capacity or preserving it.”
“as active rest, assisting the restoration processes after significant, specific loading and counteracting the monotony of the training.”
Essentially, these exercises consist of any means that elevates a certain trait developmentally required within the athlete, or characteristically found within the sport itself. This secures the multilateral development of physical abilities, especially the abilities neglected by sport-specific exercises (61).
PASM’s structure and success ultimately depends upon the functional base provided by GPP. All ensuing content of SPP is constructed on the framework provided by GPP, while the continuous content of GPP depends on the requirements of SPP. Therefore, GPP must guarantee constant progress for PASM to continue and flourish. But the rational combination of the two methods must be regulated. Any excessive volume of GPP work causes a reduction in the necessary volume of SPP and results in deterioration of the mature sporting form. And any excessive reduction in GPP volume at the expense of SPP reduces the functional base, restricts progress, and results in elementary movement illiteracy (24)(73).
The underlying principle surrounding the creation of GPP can be found in the fundamental element governing all sports – movement. In Verkhoshansky’s original research on the biodynamical structure of movement, we find the Principle of Dynamic Organization (68). Within this, he describes athletic performance as a complex interaction of many movements, and sport now becomes a problem solving activity in which movements are used to produce the necessary solutions. Since these movements are created and regulated by the CNS, our goal in training should be to enhance that efficiency in order to solve the problems associated with learning a new motor task. The ability to create and recreate successful, rhythmic motor programs changes continuously while the body consistently searches for a more efficient interaction between the structures of the motor complex. The effectiveness to use one’s motor potential to achieve success is the essence of skill acquisition.
Initially these motor programs are weak and unpredictably scattered across the movement spectrum. Not only is the gross motor act as a whole dynamically unstable, but also so is the young athlete’s perceptual ability. Then, as adaptation occurs from the imposed loading, the ability to effectively manage the new motor skills develops. Now, with repetitive practice of a motor act, the range of variation decreases, and the interaction between the neuro-muscular systems can be coordinated through specific patterns of simultaneous and sequential actions, and accurately regulated over shortened periods of time.
As this motor system becomes integrated, it is now able to react and functionally evolve as a whole. It possesses a certain flexibility that allows it to now cope with strong external stimuli without disrupting its functional effectiveness. This becomes possible because of the biodynamic structure’s ability to adapt to the internal effects caused by external events. In general, the biodynamic structure consists of the sum of all external and internal forces acting on the body while it performs a specific motor task.
Even though these conflicting interactions appear to operate independently of one another, they react simultaneously and are dependent upon one another, to an extent that increases motor learning. The total sum of external interaction forces the dynamic or reactive adaptability of the internal system’s structure, whereas the internal interaction forces the reactive adaptability of the external system’s movement over time. But the control of the external interaction on the motor complex is only possible through the internal biodynamical structure (48)(68).
Each of these previous discussed factors is involved in the process of solving motor tasks and directly influences the results. Therefore, each must be considered when one is analyzing the biodynamical structure and it’s influence on the working-effect of the movement. From this, one is able to select the special motor skill tasks to facilitate learning.
Applying the Principle of Dynamic Organization to the research of Shumway- Cook and Woollacott, who proposed a three-stage model of readiness for the acquisition of motor skills for children, we find a step-by-step progression that takes into consideration the internal and external interaction forces on the development of a motor skill (45). As a side note, I felt the authors’ suggested progression was to condensed for beginners. Initially, there should be a greater separation of stages to account for the development of the simple motor act to a complete motor system. Revised and in sequence, they are now as follows:
Repetition of the fundamental motor act using the proper form.
Repetition and implementation of the motor act into the complete motor program using proper form.
Repetition and implementation of variations (drills) of the motor program using proper form.
Repetition and the introduction of simple environmental changes using the proper motor system.
Repetition of variations under environmental changes using the proper motor system.
Continue and introduce problem solving and sport specific strategies in a competitive setting.
Introduction of the actual sport, only if the individual is developmentally ready. The one common element that is consistent within the list is the word “repetition.”
It is important to remember for effective learning to initially occur, the learner must be able to pay attention to the proper form of the fundamental motor act. Only then is the learner able to proceed to the next stage of skill development. Repetitions that are inefficient result in wasted practice, time, and an incomplete motor program. However, repetitions that are developmentally appropriate, yielding positive feedback on the knowledge of results, generate advances towards skill acquisition and perfection.
“Transfer of Trainedness”
“Were it not for this power, every sensation would leave no track, no trail; every sensation would be perceived the same way on the millionth time as on the first time…” I.M. Sechenov (43).
While the fundamental physical qualities that are biodynamically developed under the concurrent system are displayed at a rapid rate during the initial years of PASM, the young athlete’s body reacts to any stressor with all of its survival mechanisms and emerging motor abilities. This biological ability of the body to acclimatize itself to the various external and internal influences is the physiological foundation of long-term training. By fully and effectively raising the functional specialization of the motor apparatus with an optimum level of stimulation through a progressively sequenced choice of training means, the biodynamic structure is undergoing adaptation at successively higher levels of performance. This process of adaptation has been studied extensively through the research of Folbrot’s, Weigert’s Law, and Selye’s, GAS Theory (14)(44).
Applying these models, Soviet psychologist L.A. Orbelli (33), described the adaptation process as the essence of all physical exercise in the statement “transfer of trainedness.” It has generally been defined as the inherent ability of all living organisms to master new activities, and within this structured process the organism adapts and elevates itself to a higher level. This naturally occurring dynamic process constantly strives to attain a state of equilibrium. As long as the self-correcting individual system maintains a balance with the environment it can grow and thrive. When its stability is disrupted, the organism ceases to develop and progress.
Relating this phenomenon specifically to athletics, Charlie Francis (personal communication September 12, 2002), Canada’s premier sprint coach, discusses adaptation and the ability to control these variables under cause-effect relations.
“A body under recovery will always seek homeostasis. So it is always better to undertrain than to overtrain. You will still supercompensate, but not to the degree. Once you overtrain, your body will plummet and fight to retain a balance. Smaller CNS demands over a longer period of time result in more acceptance and greater improvement. While the rush to get more done leads to uncertainty down the road.”
“Transfer of trainedness,” according to Zimkin, is positive initially due to the high correlation between homogenous and heterogeneous motor skill development in beginners. But as sporting proficiency grows and qualification levels rise, this transfer phenomenon fades away because of the length of time the specific exercises are used, and the narrow specialization in developing the mature sporting form. As the adaptative responses become more selective to the specific components of the training stimulus, they result in a lesser effect on the development of the unique, desired physical traits. A negative “transfer of trainedness” is now observed, which allows improved performances in variations of the main exercise, but not within the main exercise itself. This transition signifies a turning point within the development of the young athlete from the general multilateral program to an initial specialization stage, and interestingly, corresponds with the middle of puberty (approximately 13±1 years old). Now, as the rate of “trainedness” grows, the principle of specialization increases as well as the means used to develop it. Thus, the internal effects on the biodynamic structure will be reflected externally and determine its final function (5)(9)(79).
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