2016: A New Year and A New Approach to Research

Coach Shaul executes a military press while we investigate muscle activation using Athos EMG suits.
Coach Shaul executes a military press while we investigate muscle activation using Athos EMG shirts.

Adam Scott, MS, CSCS

With roughly 15 studies in less than 7 months it is no secret that we have made a big push towards research.  In those 7 months we have studied everything from energy drinks to rucking to trigger pull. 

Now, as we look back at 2015 and ahead to 2016, one thing stands-out: The traditional approach to research is not going to work for MTI.  Much like what we found when we started working with mountain athletes in 2006, the conventional rules and approaches just aren’t cutting it.     

Since day one we knew that it would be difficult for us to operate within the confines of traditional academic research.  This is why we have dubbed our approach: Mission Direct.  Admittedly, we are still trying to define the term, but basically we want to balance the rigorous academic demands of clinical research with the practicality needed to make research immediately applicable in the real-world. 

This balancing act means that, at times, we need to sacrifice research controls for functionality.  However, at the end of the day, we must still ensure that these sacrifices don’t work against our mission of providing rigorously research solutions to mountain and tactical professionals. 

I will be the first to admit that finding this balance has been difficult.  We initial started our research deep inside the academic realm.  Take a look a one of the comments we received from our initial Ruck Study:

I feel like the essence of this article was: be whole body strong, if not do your basic lifts and get strong. If you’re already strong get endurance. But with research and fancy words lol  – Military Athlete FB Comment

However, it is feedback like this one which helps us find the best balance for our athletes.  And ultimately that is who we are conducting research for: the everyday, operational mountain and tactical professional.

Looking at the year ahead, we have identified a few areas where we think we can do better in 2016.  Hopefully addressing these territories while help us escape the confines of traditional research and help you build better performance in 2016:

1. Research by Practitioners for Practitioners – For anyone who has picked-up an academic journal lately you are intimately familiar with the fact that research is all too often written for other researchers.  It seems that a good portion of researchers are more interested in showing off what they know to their colleagues and less interested in providing useful information to the reader.

Thus, we want to write our articles in plain, conversational language which is easily understandable by athletes and practitioners.  We have even started experimenting with easier ways to deliver research directly to athletes, like podcast and videos.

At the end of the day we believe in getting easily understandable, useable information into the hands of the athletes who are in a position to do something with it.

2. Crowd Sourcing Solutions – 7 months into our research-pivot we know what we can’t do everything alone.  There are a number of big questions out there for which we are not manned, equipped or organized to address.

One example is our work developing a Work Capacity and Power Standard.  Our continued work on this complex problem means that we are constantly encountering bumps which require growing forms of expertise – biomechanical, physical, technical, etc. 

As I said before, we don’t believe that mission direct research needs to be rocket science, but it also doesn’t hurt to have a few we can lean on (and, surprisingly, we do have more than a few meat-head rocket scientist who are MTI athletes). 

Other areas where we see possibilities for collaboration are: data collection, technology, mission direct questions, problem-solving, and others.

3. Democratizing Research – We don’t believe that research should be confined to an academic ivory tower.   At a fundamental level research is just a systematic way of asking questions, testing possible answers and examining results.

All too often we think researchers want their work to seem mysterious or magical.  They attempt to raise the cost of admission with extremely narrow study designs, complicated terminology, and convoluted statistical terms. 

At MTI we think that, more often than not, the best solutions are generated from the ground up, not the top down.  Thus, we want to empower our athletes to help us generate better solutions.

One of our goals in 2016 is to lower the barrier for entry into research so that any of our athletes or certified coaches will be able to conduct their own mission direct research.  What better way to help our athletes build better performance than by helping them answer their own questions?

Questions?  Comments?  Want to help? 

E-mail: adam@mountaintacticalinstitute.com

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