Making Student-Athletes Stronger and Faster
Dr. Alan Walker, assistant professor of exercise science and a certified strength and conditioning specialist, wants to give students in the new M.S. in Exercise Science—Sport Performance degree program a sports science edge.
His current research focuses on the LVC men’s ice hockey team and is a prime example of how Walker balances strength and conditioning testing with scientific methods. “I conduct systematic performance testing throughout the year and track overall athlete metrics to make sure the programs we implement are actually doing what we think they’re doing—that they’re getting stronger and faster,” he explained.
By tracking performance metrics and training demands on LVC’s ice hockey players, Walker can make recommendations to their coaches to optimize training schedules in relation to game day. His study with the team is just getting off the ground, but Walker, who completed his Ph.D. at Rutgers University, feels confident that the coaches see the value of having an in-house CSCS. with a background in sports science.
“I implemented a degree of sports science in a wide range of populations while at Rutgers,” he said of his doctoral research. In the past year alone, Walker has co-authored three studies in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. “I’ve worked with traditional multi-sport athletes, as well as youth and professional athletes and what I term alternative athletes, like soldiers and first responders,” he added.
At Rutgers, Walker examined how season-long training loads affected physiological responses in male and female soccer players. He used this data to evaluate the sex-specific response to the stresses of a collegiate season.
As students join the sport performance master’s program, Walker is excited to help them develop the application skills he brings to his research. “You can learn different techniques and the exact science behind them, but if you can’t apply techniques to a population to improve outcomes, then it’s kind of useless,” he said.
More than anything, Walker wants his students to discover what kind of coach they’ll be after they earn their LVC degree. “I want students to think critically about their coaching ideology,” he said. “How do you want to run a strength and conditioning gym? What techniques do you want to use? There are many successful and appropriate techniques you can apply, but it’s about finding the technique that will maximize the question you want answered.”