Category Archives: NSCA

What a Private Sector Strength Coach Learned His First Year Training High School Football

Fall 2016 was my first year as a high school strength coach for Pope John High School in northern New Jersey. I have worked in the private sector for my entire career as a strength coach, but I learned there are huge differences between doing the same job in each world.

Like anyone entering a new position, there is a learning curve and I already have ideas for how I am going to do things differently next year based on my first year’s experience.

 

  1. Coaching a Team In-season Requires More Perspective

Coming from the private sector I mostly saw athletes in the off-season which meant my main focus was making improvement and gains in the athletes. My number one question that I would ask myself would be, “Did my athletes get stronger, faster, and will it carry over to a better season?”

 

Being with a team for an entire season is a totally different animal. In a sport like football the athletes take such a beating. I found myself constantly adjusting workouts to the individual athlete or having to switch on the fly because the athletes basically told me I literally can’t do that today. As a coach there is a fine line between knowing what is best and just being stubborn. At times I might have been a little bit stubborn and asked them to do things that they were not capable of. However, as the season went on I now realize that I need to listen to the athletes more about their level of fatigue. I find myself playing physical therapist quite a bit even though that is not my role. Luckily I also work in an incredible facility that hosts some great PT’s that I have learned a lot from. Precision Sports Performance in East Hanover is partnered with Provere physical therapy.

 

This year we took a handful of our athletes to the Precision facility the day after games for a recovery workout and treatment. The athletes who attended have raved about how much better they feel after a recovery session. This is quite a contrast to how I train athletes in their offseason when strength and speed improvements is the number one agenda.

 

  1. Modifying My Program as the Season Wears On

 

After the first few games I pushed them quite a bit. Now that we are down to the last few games and approaching playoff time it is mostly about keeping them healthy. We do a lot of mobility, some light running, lots of stretching and foam rolling, and light body weight work at low volume.

To be completely honest, I am really looking forward to being able to work with the team this off-season and to really dig in and start from scratch. Being a coach is always about learning and adapting. If you stop learning and are stuck in your ways the game will pass you by. Before I can get to the off-season we have a state championship to win!

 

  1. Adjusting My Coaching Style to the Team Setting

 

There is a big difference between working with 5 athletes at a time and 30 at a time. You have to really command attention and get your point across quickly. I learned that I can’t spend too much time talking because there will always be a few who lose focus. Instead I make a few key teaching points and then walk around and help individuals. Another big difference between the private sector and working with a team is that on a team you have a lot of different personalities. Some are workers and you need to talk to them about rest and recovery. Others need a kick in the butt to push him or her harder. I found that I don’t have a lot of time for individual coaching so I quickly need to find the pulse of the team and act accordingly.

 

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“I can’t work out today. I have a game.”

I hear this all the time from my athletes. I can’t workout today because I have a game. Here are four reasons why this argument does not hold any weight.

 

1: Off-Season vs. In-Season

If you worked out all off-season like you should have then your in-season workouts should not be a problem. The Off-Season is the time to make gains. In-Season workouts are designed to maintain what you have gained from your off-season. By using high Intensity but low volume you can maintain your off-season work. Most players atrophy during a long season so being able to maintain muscle mass is critical for an athlete.

 

            2: I’ll be sore or tired

Going back to high intensity and low volume you should not be sore from this type of workout.  If you are sore after every workout you are doing something wrong. A good strength and conditioning coach will know how to program in-season workouts accordingly. As for being tired, several athletes have a routine of working out on game day. Perhaps the most famous was Michael Jordan who always lifted on game days when he was playing for the bulls. In fact you should feel better after a workout. When you get up and get your body moving it primes the central nervous system for activity which gives you energy. Have you ever slept in really late and you feel even more tired throughout the day? The reason for this is because you are being lethargic. Workouts give you energy not take away from it as long as they are programmed accordingly.

 

            3: What games are important?

I often have athletes tell me that they can’t workout out of season because they have a club team game.   In today’s culture where athletes often play year round they have a hard time distinguishing between what games are important and what not. They can’t see the big picture. You can’t spend all of your time playing without training. That is the best way to get an overuse injury. Scrimmages during pre-season are another example. As a coach I am trying to get my athletes to peak. The question becomes when do we want them to peak? During the pre-season or when the games really matter.

 

4: Training to offset overuse injuries

Overuse injuries are at an all time high amongst young athletes. A good training program doesn’t just train the muscles and movement patterns that an athletes uses during his or her sport but they train the muscles and movement patterns that he or she does not use. This is why the concept of sport specific training is often misunderstood and misinterpreted.   An example of this is a cross-country runner who only runs straight ahead and doesn’t move laterally. Part of my programming would be to give them some lateral work to counteract what they do in their sport.

 

 

           

5 Things to Know Before Practice Starts

We are now in August and the fall season for High School sports is about to kick off if it hasn’t already. Here are a few things you should know before you start:

 

  1. Your coach will test you on the first day. It will be made very clear who is in shape and who isn’t after the first day of practice.
  • As a strength coach at the High School level I salivate waiting for the first day of practice because I want to see what my athletes can do. Not to punish them but to test them and create a baseline for where I need to take them to win a title. The better shape the athletes are in on day one the higher their ceiling is for the end of the year.

 

  1. Sometimes injuries are a freak accident but more often they also mean you need more conditioning or more strength.
  • Injuries tend to happen during deceleration rather than when accelerating. The ability to decelerate requires strength (particularly eccentric) because the body has to be able to absorb force. The stronger the athlete the less likely they will get hurt while cutting ort changing directions. Also, injuries tend to happen late in a game when an athlete is tired. When form breaks down particularly in your core is when you get sloppy on the field and put yourself at risk for injury.

 

  1. Urine Color is the easiest way to determine hydration levels.
  • When you go to the bathroom before and after practice take a quick look before you flush. Your urine should be lighter in color if you are properly hydrated. A good way to think about it is that it should look more like lemonade then apple juice.

 

  1. Food equals energy.
  • In its simplest form food is fuel for your body. The higher quality of food that you put in your body, the better your body will feel. Stay away from junky processed foods and eat real food. If you are not sure what that means remember this. Real food will go bad if you don’t eat it. If it can sit in a cabinet for a year and taste exactly the same what do you think it will do in your stomach? That includes things like protein bars that often are processed and have lots of chemicals and / or sugar.

 

  1. If it were easy everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
  • In all of my years as a coach I have learned that there are two types of athletes. The ones who enjoy being challenged and the ones who run away from it. People make mistakes so that they can learn from them and grow. Sports are a grind and if you don’t love the grind of getting better then you will never be successful. So next time you go against a better team or are asked to do something you don’t think you can do. Embrace the challenge and learn from it. Talent is overrated. For every naturally born athlete there are ten more grinders who work their way to greatness.

 

 

  • Joe Lopez CSCS

Strength and Conditioning Coach Precision Sports Performance

Strength and Conditioning for Field Sports

Every strength coach will tell you the same thing.  If you are stronger, you are faster.  That is a fact.  However, there is one part of that equation which is left out.  Your body weight.  If you are stronger at the same weight then you are faster.  For example, if a 200 pound athlete can squat 400 pounds he will be faster than a 200 pound athlete who can only squat 250 pounds.  Acceleration is force divided by mass.  So how does this change our training programs?  Or Does it?

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Football has always been ahead of the game when it come to strength and conditioning.  They adapted it in the 1980’s under the legendary coach Boyd Eply at the University of Nebraska.  Football athletes need to carry mass in order to take the pounding and at the same time they need to be as quick as possible. They need to take a large body and accelerate rapidly in a short amount of time.

While football set the standard other sports have slowly come along as well.  It just took them a little longer.  Sports like baseball, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey and many others now have combine type activities to measure levels of fitness in comparison to others in the same league.

So let’s get back to getting stronger.  Speed is required for whatever sport you play.  I can’t think of a sport where speed is a negative.  However, for several sports body mass is a negative.  You don’t often see 200 pound soccer players or lacrosse players. These field sports require more endurance and the large body mass will hurt that athlete on the playing field.  But we still want them to get stronger.  So the question becomes how do we get them stronger without adding mass and how much mass is an acceptable amount.

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Now let’s get back to football and how they are ahead of everyone in strength and conditioning because they adopted it much earlier.  There are a lot of strength and conditioning coaches that come from either a football background or a powerlifting background.  That is why training needs to be sport specific and position specific.  That is also why group classes or any gym that tries to to group athlete in large sections are missing the boat.  Let’s take hockey for example.  A defensemen might be able to carry a little more mass on his frame and does need to be adequately strong to take and dish out some hits.  At the same time the forwards want to be as quick as possible and too much mass will count against them.

As a coach I know I can put 8-15 pounds on any athlete in a short amount time who has at least one year of training under their belt.  I say one year of training because this program is going to require more advanced lifts such as squats and deadlifts.  I have to make sure that the athlete is physically prepared to undertake such a program without risking injury.    As long as I feel comfortable with that athlete alternating between high volumes of back squats and the other core lifts such as deadlifts, front squats, bench press, and pull-ups for maximum strength. 6 sets of 2 at about 80-85% seem to do the trick.  Using this formula I can easily have an athlete put on that weight in 2 or 3 months.

So what about those previously mentioned field sport athletes who need to get stronger without putting on mass?   Well there are two ways to do it in my experience:

The first is you can write long term programs into periodized blocks with an emphasis on an individual skill set for each block.  For example if you have 8 months of training.  You could do 8 periodized blocks where in two of those blocks you focus strictly on strength building.  That leaves you with 6 blocks to dedicate to speed work, injury reduction, agility, power, and all the other qualities that are needed for that athlete.  Two months out of an 8 month period will only serve to increase strength while reducing weight gain even if it is muscle gain.  Overall mass whether it is muscle or fat will slow down the athlete as previously mentioned.  Obviously muscle is the better of the two options.  These two month long blocks will also serve as a metabolic boost which will increase the athlete’s testosterone levels and allow for lean tissue gains whereas if you had the athlete in a strength / hypertrophy program like I mentioned above for more than a few weeks you run the risk of slowing down the athlete and decreasing endurance capabilities.

The second way to do this is to get rid of the high volume days and instead focus your strength training on heavy weights as long as the athlete can handle it.  Remember I recommend at least one year of training under their belt before attempting to go anywhere near a one rep max.  The high volume days will serve as hypertrophy training which is what we don’t want.  Remember we are looking for strength without size.  So in scenario two we want to focus on speed training, deceleration, agility, injury reduction, power training, and strength all at once.  On the strength days we want to be around 80% of a max and above for multiple sets of low reps.  A good programs that I like is 6 sets of 2 @ 85% then on the last set do max reps.  If you are able to get 5 reps you need to increase the weight.

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A lot of times when an athlete goes to the gym by themselves or they just enlist the help of a personal trainer who uses bodybuilding style training methods.  That athlete will often neglect speed training and conditioning.  Once you develop a tolerance it is easy to just go to the gym and lift weights and do nothing else.  However, when that happens you fall into the same trap of putting on mass and thus slowing you down.  That is why you need to look for a certified strength and conditioning specialist who can help you create the ideal program for you.  Just because a trainer is jacked and looks like a bodybuilder doesn’t mean that their training style is right for you.  Think back to the example of a soccer player.  Do soccer players need to look like football linebackers.  Of course not!

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At inception sports performance we create programs based on the individual’s evaluation as well as their sport and their positions within that sport.  To find out more go to www.MyOffSeason.org

5 Reasons I Like Training Guys Better Than Girls:

Guys are not afraid to “bulk up” With female athletes there is often a selling job that I have to give. “Lifting heavy weights will not make you bulky. In fact, if you are stronger you will become faster and leaner.” Even after explaining that there is a lot of give and take with female athletes. Guys generally don’t have a problem being told to get to the squat rack and lift heavy.

Guys usually have at least attempted to lift before coming to me. Even if their form is not great or they have no clue how to write a workout program if someone comes to me that has already been training for some time it makes my job easier. At that point we just need to tweak a few things and make some minor adjustments.

More guys think they have a chance at playing in college or professionally. Even though the percentages are stacked against them guys often grow up dreaming of playing basketball at Duke or playing football for the Giants. If they have that in them they also have it in them to work for it and do what is necessary.

Guys can survive on less.If I have a male client and all we have to work with is a giant rock, a large tire, and dirty kettlebell in a non air-conditioned hot and sweaty gym they generally will be fine with it. As long as they get results and there are no girls around.

 Guys have the pure ability to throw around bigger weights.Sometimes it’s just fun to lift big weights. Enough said

5 Reasons I Like Training Girls Better Than Guys:

Girls don’t have egos about strength training. In my experience girls won’t put an extra 2.5 pound plate on the bar unless you tell them they are ready. Most girls come in and just assume that I am the expert and I will help them get better.

Girls tend to have better body control and mobility. In my experience guys often want to put the cart before the horse and lift big weights before they have the motor control or mobility to put themselves into proper biomechanical positions. When training young athletes there is always an initial learning curve where gains are made neurologically rather than actual strength gains. In my experience young females have better awareness of their body positions then young males. Females tend to have greater mobility of the thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic complex then their male counterparts. That alone means I can often start females on a true strength training programs where they can squat, hip hinge, or carry weight without worrying about potential injury. Whereas, with guys I often have to teach proper movement patterns before I feel comfortable loading them up with weight. Basically females have a shorter learning curve.

Girls don’t think they know everything because they saw a YouTube video. This relates to the ego thing but girls typically don’t try to bring in ideas from things they saw online. With males I often have to explain that generic trainers or fitness models online have never seen you move and they don’t know what sport you play or what your weaknesses are. I rarely have had to explain to a female why Just because Derrick Henry the All –American running back from Alabama squatted 500 pounds means you should too. Guys tend to want to get “ripped” but it I have to explain that not all positions in every sport needs to look like a bodybuilder.

Girls tend to be more thankful and appreciative.  In my experience females tend to be more appreciative of someone teaching them new skills and helping them game plan for their athletic development. In our culture often everything is for the boys. Everybody thinks of football when they think of strength and conditioning. In schools football and basketball tend to get all of the resources. When a coach such as myself focuses my attention on making a female athlete better it can come as a shock so they are often more appreciative.

 Girls will tell their friends.If a girl loves working out with me and sees results she will tell her friends to sign up too. In fact a girl might tell her whole team. Then before I know it I have a group of girls working out together instead of just the one. With guys if they love working out with me and see results they tell no one. Why would they give up that competitive advantage? They would rather just be better then everyone else and have everyone wondering how that happened.

 

The rise of boutique fitness classes and gym culture.

As a CSCS I am good at what I do which is prepare athletes for their sports. I know what progressions need to happen for youth athletes and I know what programs need to be implemented for older athletes.   That doesn’t mean that I am not still learning and implemented new principles as situations arise. It also doesn’t mean that I am not open to new ideas and suggestions. As a fitness enthusiast I have run several marathons, half marathons, obstacle races, and the like. I have done kickboxing, yoga, and boot camp classes. I currently do CrossFit and enjoy it quite a bit. I love the fact that there are so many classes for fitness enthusiasts such as myself to choose from.  However, as a strength and conditioning specialist all of these specialty classes that keep popping up create mixed messages for athletes.   Sometimes the messages come from YouTube and social media where everybody is an expert. Sometimes the athlete’s parents go to a class and love it so they influence their children to attend. We happen to live in an area where there are lots of high process fitness optons. Things like Barre Mathod, Bari, Soul Cycle, CrossFit, SLT, OrangeTherory, Pilates, PowerFlow Yoga,, and the list goes on and on. I am not saying these are not great classes for general fitness. I am saying that they are not for athletes. Athletes need to train for a purpose with a specific goal in mind. Most often that goal is a combination of strength and/ or speed. Strength and Speed are the two most important factors in determining overall athleticism. At Inception not only will they get the program in place to help them reach their goals they will also get a program that reduces injuries. If an athlete is not on the field then nothing else matters and with the rise of year round sports injures happen at a higher and higher rate among youth athletes.   There are things that can be implemented to help reduce that risk. I incorporate ACL tear reduction drills as part of my warm up for all my athletes.   When baseball players come in I always work on arm care. The shoulder is such a complicated joint that you need to give it specific attention in order to reduce the chances of an injury. The one thing that the entire specialty classes have in common is they are group classes. When you have a group setting you automatically will not get the attention you need because everyone in the class is doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you are a baseball player, a soccer player, or someone coming off an injury. If you are an athlete it is in your best interest to find a qualified CSCS to work with to get better for your sport and not just rely on general fitness classes or personal trainers.

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Strength and Conditioning Thoughts

Olympic lifts are a highly technical movement and a lot of athletes use them to develop power We know that Olympic lifting develops that power in a vertical plane but are they really the end all be all for power development for athletes?   I can find you a lot of really good athletes who are division one athletes and even professional athletes who either have never done Olympic lifting like hang cleans or snatches or they’re not very good at them. There are 6’8″ basketball players at the University of Kentucky who if you watch them do a hang clean it looks really ugly.  At the same time you take a 5’9″ compact kid who played Division III football and he’s placing in the CrossFit games and competing in Olympic competitions. The second guy is a really good weightlifter the first guy is a really good athlete. So what does that tell us? That tells us that Olympic lifting and power development is a means to an end for athletes and not the ends to the mean. Olympic weightlifters who compete that is the end product.  Someone who plays basketball, football, soccer, or baseball yes we want to get them more powerful but are we going to sacrifice important time in the gym to teach the highly technical skills that the Olympic lifts require.  Some coaches will tell you that completing an Olympic lift is not that important for an athlete. So what are we trying to get out of our Olympic lifts? We’re trying to get to that triple extension position of the ankles knees and hips. So that being said all we really have to do is get to that High pull where the bar reaches your sternum before dropping under the bar. The catch is not as important to me when I’m working with athletes.  If an athlete can complete the clean yes that’s great! We’re  going to work on that but if they’re not there yet I’m not going to spend weeks or months working in the catch.  When they get to the triple extension position that’s enough for most athletes. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating bad form. I will still stress back tight, hamstrings engaged, straight bar path and all the things that are required in a good Olympic lift. I have just found that the drop under the bar and the catch are the most difficult for a lot of people so I will not spend weeks and months drilling technique. There is some benefit in completing the Olympic lift mostly in deceleration and controlling the bar as it comes down to and you drop under it but it’s not nearly as important as that triple extension position. I would say 90% of the work is done once you get that bar up to about your sternum as far as an athlete is concerned. Remember this is a means to an end. We are training football players, basketball players, soccer players baseball players.  We’re not training Olympic lifters so if their technique is not 100% spot on as long they’re not going to hurt themselves and they are getting power development that is all we want.  Strength coaches don’t always want to hear this but our best athletes in the gym are often not our best athletes on the field.  Our job is not to create the best workout warrior but to aid the athletic process and keep the athlete on the field.

When training an athlete we try to develop the complete athlete so we work on speed. we work on injury prevention. we work on stabilization, we work on mobilization. All of  these things are important factors so do we have that much time to really go over fine-tuning the clean and power clean positions? Probably not. There’s a lot more better use of our time. So we create programs for the athlete keeping that in mind.  Remember a means to an end and not the other way around. Olympic lifts are important and we do use them but as a part of the whole overall program.

When you’re working with mostly high school and college kids their schedules are really tight. High School kids have practice they have homework they go to school all day. You don’t have a lot of time so what gives you the most bang for your buck? When working with college kids the NCAA restricts hours that the strength coach can put in with the kids so that becomes an issue as well if you are working in the university setting.  A factor in a private setting is money.  Athletes pay per session so they’re not going to come in five days a week most of the time. They’re playing in the off-season and playing in the summer so if they’re playing games two or three times a week plus they go to practice then they have to show up for the weight room there probably only with you two times or three times a week maybe four depending on the time time of year. Keeping that in mind we don’t have time to develop the weight room skills. The more important skill work has to be done within their sport working on becoming a better baseball player, fine tuning their swing and things like that. I would rather put a kid through a one hour hard workout where the kid works really hard then sit there and have them work on skills of a hang clean.  It is just more effective because you have so little time and you really have to give them a good work out that’s going to number one keep them injury free and number two improve performance.

I’ve seen trainers that can dissect anatomy, they can tell you what energy systems are being used, and they can write a program that looks like a work of art. I’ve also seen other trainers who don’t have an exercise science degree really can’t tell you why they’re doing something but their athletes keep coming back because they feel motivated, they feel inspired, they get a good workout, and they know that what they’re doing is working.  Sometimes coaches can really outsmart themselves they try to be too precise they try to get every athlete to be a carbon copy mold of the ideal standard. The reality is there is no ideal standard. Every athlete moves differently every athlete has different body types, different injuries, different pasts that are going to affect their movement patterns.

I try to learn every day. This field is always changing. As a coach if you stop learning then you are doing yourself and your athletes a disservice. Sometimes I look at my programs and wonder what was I thinking but then I remember when all else fails give the athlete a tough workout and motivate them and they’ll come back for more.
Joe Lopez CSCS

How I Write Programs For Athletes

One of the questions I get a lot is how do I write programs for my athletes.  Most people don’t seem to understand how much effort goes into this.  There is a lot of research involved when you work with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. I read the journals every month to keep up with the latest information that is currently in the field.  I am not going to pretend I read every article every month but I pick out the ones that I am interested in or that pertain to an athlete I am working with and make sure I read it. I also like to read blogs of other coaches I respect and websites like T-Nation to keep up not just with the science need of things but what is actually going on in the field. So creating a program for an athlete is not just throwing a few exercises together and see how much they can lift and help them get stronger.  One of my favorite quotes I have heard is “Anyone can make you tired.  A strength and conditioning coach teaches movement and improves performance.” So this post is about exactly what goes into writing a program for an athlete.

What Sport and what position does the athlete play: This is a crucial first step not necessarily because of what exercises you are going to do but also because of what exercises you are not going to do.  For example, I will place a lot of restrictions on an overhead throwing athlete such as a baseball pitcher, volleyball player, or a swimmer.  The Shoulder is the most complex joint in the body and it has to be treated with care.  I also look the sport to see what type of metabolic demands it places on the athlete based on their sport but also their position. Take Football for example.  A Wide Receiver needs to train differently than a lineman.  If you were to give the two the same workout plan.  Chances are the wide receiver would be getting slower or the lineman would be getting weaker.  With metabolic demands I have to consider is the sport highly aerobic or more anaerobic in nature.  Baseball players for example don’t need much in terms of aerobic conditioning but a Field Hockey player would need quite a bit more.  Within aerobic and anaerobic constraints there are also different energy systems that come into play.  The ATP-Pc or phosphogen energy system allows for approximately 12 seconds or less of work capacity.  An sport where this is the primary energy system would be softball.  A softball player would never have to work for more than 12 seconds at a time during a game.  The glycolytic energy system is one of moderate power and moderate duration. After 12 seconds peak power drops and some amount of aerobic capacity is needed.  A sport which demands this energy system would be soccer.  The soccer player needs short bursts of sprinting speed but also a continious motor throughout the game.  Lastly is the Oxidative system which is your highly aerobic athletes.  An example of this kind of athlete would be a cross country runner.  In plain English there is no need for a football lineman to run 2 miles during training just like there is no need for a cross country runner to work on his or her 1 Rep. Max Squat.  Each athlete has different needs in training.

Think about the Individual:  I evaluate every athlete who steps in the door.  Whether that means a formal evaluation before training starts or just by watching them complete the dynamic warmup.  Movement quality is so important not just in term of injury prevention but for growth within training.  Movement quality can mean an injury that is not quite healed or it can just be a result of years of pervious poor movement patterns.  From the ages of 1-5 almost all humans move in similar ways.  These dysfunctions occur later in life from the lives we lead.  So when I write a program for an athlete who has a poor movement pattern I will try to correct that first before I overload that movement pattern with weight.  If an athlete can’t get his shoulders to full flexion overhead.  I wouldn’t have that athlete do heavy shoulder presses.  To be honest an athlete with a poor movement pattern probably would not be able to execute a dynamic and coordinated movement in that pattern under load anyway.  This is something called muscular inhibition. The brain simply won’t allow the body to put itself at risk of injury.  The second part of the evaluation is athleticism.  Is the athlete strong?  Are they quick?  Are they explosive?  My general rule of thumb is to attack weaknesses with training.  For a strong kid who has heavy feet I would program a lot of speed drills and a lot of plyometrics. For a kid who can run all day and has a high motor I would train strength.

Exercise Sequence:  I always start with a  thorough and lengthy warmup that includes dynamic movements, injury prevention drills, core, and glute activation exercises.  Then I have the athlete work on corrective exercises if there are any.  These will include specific mobility or flexibility work that is geared toward the individual.  Finally I will almost always have the athlete perform a core lift first.  I believe bench press, squat, and deadlifts are every athlete’s foundation for strength.  On 90% of my programs written the athlete is doing one of those three exercises first or at least a variation of them and doing multiple sets of at least 4 or 5.   If the athlete is doing an Olympic lift I may substitute that for one of the core lifts as well although some athletes don’t olympic lift and others are just at the point of working on olympic lifting skills. That first core lift is the only one where I have the athlete complete all of the sets without starting another exercise.  I think this sets the tone as to how important this is and requires the athletes full attention.  I also try to incorporate all of the basic movement patterns into the programs.  I believe that for a complete strength training program you need to incorporate squats, presses, pulls, hip hinges, and carries in a equal fashion.  I think this creates a balanced athlete who has total strength and makes them less likely to get hurt. After the initial core lift all of my strength training is usually done in circuits that may include a mix strength training, conditioning, skill work, and mobility.  I will most often save anything that is high intensity for the end of the workout as to not fatigue the athlete for strength training.  So if I program a high intensity interval of wallaballs and burpees or I have an athlete push a sled I will make sure those are done towards the end of the program.  I usually save my core and abs work for a period where I want a programmed break to help the athlete recover and catch their breath.  Sometimes this is in the middle or sometimes it goes last.  At the end of of the workout I have the athlete foam roll and static stretch for at least ten minutes.

Periodization:  Traditionally as a CSCS you are taught that to have an athlete peak for a season you need to follow a linear periodization model that might look something like this:  General Prep period where the athlete is introduced to the basics and is usually performing a mix of strength training work while being re-acclimated to training.  That would be followed by a hypertrophy / endurance phase lasting anywhere from 3-6 weeks. During this phase the athlete would be performing 3-6 sets of 10-20 reps at 50-75% of their one rep max. Then a basic strength phase where the athlete would perform 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps between 80-90% of their one rep max.  That would be followed by a strength and power phase where the athlete would perform 3-5 sets of 2-5 at 75-95% of their one rep max. Then there would a transition period during pre-season followed by peaking where the athlete will perform 1-3 sets of  1-3 reps at 93% and above.  Then in season the athlete would be doing maintenance work  at 2-3 sets of 6-8 at 80-85% of their one rep max.  Lastly that would be followed by another transition period of active rest during post season.  This sounds all well and good if I am training a one sport athlete with a training age of at least two years with no movement deficiencies and lots of free time to dedicate to training.  However, that is not often the case.  An athlete who is new to strength training no matter their chronological age might be better served in a general prep period for maybe almost a full year.  Within those first two years of training I will often program a less traditional non-linear training approach.  I will use those same phases as the linear approach but instead change them from week to week.  The non linear approach instead of building towards a season will have the athlete go up and down throughout.  For example one week the athlete could be in a strength power phase and the next week in a hypertrophy / endurance phase.  This non linear approach allows for athletes to deload from time to time and it allows for active recovery which might be necessary for an athlete who is new to training.  The research shows that non-linear training programs are effective but there is also more research needed.  You can also work your way up to a peak in the non-linear approach as well because your peaking and transition periods would still be written into the programs.

So there it is.  Everything that I take into consideration when writing an athlete’s workout program.  There are a lot of trainers who just show up to the gym and wing it and perhaps this can work for a young athlete for a short period of time.  If you want to find a coach who will use scientific principles, practical information, and has the experience to create a thorough workout program for you as an individual come see us at Inception Sports Performance in Madison, NJ or go to NSCA.com and find a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in your area.

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NSCA National Convention 2014

This year’s National Convention in Las vegas was called Strength innovated and it lived up to the name. I had never been to the National Convention before even though I go to the NJ State one every year. So I decided now was the time to finally get out there. The fact that it was in Las vegas didn’t hurt either. The convention was at the Paris Hotel right on the strip. I mean who wouldn’t want to stay here?

Las Vegas

   Paris Hotel.  Las vegas

The convention itself was really something else. It was the perfect blend of good solid informational sessions and practical information with a touch of hands on workshops that were top notch. The whole thing is a bit of a sensory overload and I tried to soak it all in as best I could. Some of it was mind-blowing and caused me to rethink a few things while other stuff re-affirmed that I was on the right path with some of my athletes training programs.

I wish I could tell you which was my favorite session but I really can’t so I will try to give a brief description of my favorites and what I learned.

Training the Post Rehabbed shoulder by Robert Panariello PT, ATC, CSCS, MS
This was a fascinating topic for me because I hardly know anyone who works out who doesn’t have shoulder pain from time to time. Also, with my baseball background he got into some discussion on training pitchers specifically which I enjoyed. Some of his tips were of hand position for bench press and any overhead lifts based on the posterior or anterior should injuries. With an anterior shoulder injury a close grip would be smarter and a wide grip for a posterior injury. He also suggested starting with floor starts or even racked start lying supine. Another tip that he gave was that volume not intensity caused shoulder injuries. This supports my theory that I would not have pitchers do excessive rotator cuff work in-season because their rotator cuffs are already strained due to pitching itself.

Understanding The Squat in Performance Training. Richard ULM, DC, MS, CSCS
Dr, Richard Ulm was interesting as well because I am not sure if he was a huge fan of the back squat for performance training. Not necessarily because of its benefits but because many people have the limited mobility to get into proper position with spinal compressions. He talked about foot position and being extremely important. He referenced the tripod position that your feet should be in during the squat where weight is distributed evenly on the foot. He said the very common valgus knee collapse which we see a lot of particularly in female athletes is a symptom of faulty foot positioning.

The Art and Science of Small Group Training. Martin Rooney. CSCS, MHS, PT
This just got me fired up. Martin Rooney a local Jersey guy basically talked about passion. Do your athletes have fun when they are training because at the end of the day if they have fun and enjoy working out that’s what will keep them coming back. The fact of the matter is I have never worked with a professional athlete and there is a chance I never will but if I can instill a passion for working out that will allow someone to continue to love fitness like I do long after they are done with me then my job is done. He also brought up the theory of Tired vs Better. A lot of trainers can make someone tired. A CSCS’s job is to make them better at their sport.

What We Say Matters: Uncovering The Truth About Cueing. Nick Winkelman, MSc, CSCS, *D, NSCA-CPT, *D, USAW, USATF
Nick is another legend in the business. He talked about some research on cueing that was very interesting. The research shows that athletes perform better when giving external cue’s as opposed to internal cue’s. For example, when starting a sprint if you were to say to an athlete that he or she should “extend their hips.” That is an internal cue. It won’t go over as well as if you were to say “Push off of the blocks.” That is an example of an external cue which iS saying the same thing but will lead to better performance.

Training the Overhead Athlete: Training Beyond the upper Extremities. Mark Kovacs. PhD, CSCS, *D, FACSM
Mark discussed training baseball pitchers, volleyball players, and swimmers in particular and the unique challenges that those sports present. His main point was that the overhead athlete will never be symmetrical and you have to account for that. For example a right handed pitcher throws with his right arm and lands on his left leg. Therefore that hip on the left side is taking the brunt of that pitching motion over and over again. The coach then would need to train eccentric strength and work on Range of Motion within that joint. Also typically for say a volleyball player they will lack external rotation in their dominant arm while having tight internal rotators. Mark did a great job at demonstrating why training the overhead athlete is very tricky and needs to be handled carefully.

Evident-Based Nutrient Timing: A New Paradigm. Brad Schoenfeld. MS, CSCS, CSPS, NSCA-CPT and Alan Argon, MS.
This one was about the research of the very common belief that a post workout window in which you have a limited amount of time to take in protein to reap the benefits. They showed a funny youtube clip about someone “missing their window” and being all depressed. Basically the research showed that post workout protein has very little effect on muscle hypertrophy. They equated it to maybe one pound of a muscle over a year’s time. Funny enough at the end Brad admitted that he still drink a protein shake post workout because in true meathead fashion one pound a year is not going to waste.

Writing an Off_Season Strength and Conditioning Program: The Entire Process. Bob Alejo, CSCS, RSCC, *E.
Bob Alejo is the former strength and conditions coach for teams like UCLA basketball and the Oakland A’s in baseball. Bob has done it all. He laid out his exact program that he nows uses at NC State and you can really see his attention to detail in planning for every day in a calendar year. That being said Bob said two things that stuck in my mind. Number on is you have to lift heavy. Bob is a fan of sets of 2 or 3 for maximal strength. He talked about having Tim Hudson of the Oakland A’s Benching and Squatting as heavy as possible. The other thing that Bob mentioned that held some weight in my eyes is that he felt like almost all High School athletes regardless of sport should basically follow the same training protocols. His reasoning for this was that strength is first and for most. Before you can work on power or speed an athlete needs to be strong. High School athletes typically have not been training long enough to have that effect yet. Bob said the concept of sport specific training was over-rated and I kind of agree.

Challenging Thought and Practices of Periodization: A Scientific Critique. Michael Zourdos. PhD, CSCS.
This was another one that re-affirmed something that I had been thinking for a while. Michael presented some research for a non-linear approach to strength and conditioning. The CSCS Text book teaches a linear periodized program where you stay in a phase for an extended period of time. For example you would do a endurance phase for four weeks followed by Strength, Hypertrophy, and Power. In a non-linear program you could do all of them in a given week. For example you might have one hypertrophy day, one strength day, and one power day. His research showed that this method actually increased strength. On top of that he theorized that you could probably custom the non-linear approach to the athlete. If you have a football player who needs to get bigger for his position you could perhaps do two hypertrophy days for every one strength and power day. You could also use a taper period before a big event or a season.

Squat Progressions. Joe Kenn. MA, CSCS, *D, RSCC, *E.
Joe Kenn is the NSCA Strength Coach of the year. He currently works for the Carolina Panthers. This one was not what I expected at all. This was a hands on session andJoe spent most of the worksop demonstrated how he got his large frame into drills for Hip Mobility. He also mentioned how he has his NFL lineman incorporate yoga and Pilates movements into their warmups. One of things that stood out to me was how Joe talked about how much he has changed over the years from how he thinks about things. His perception of concepts like hip mobility and foam rolling have changed quite a bit over the years.

Agility Progressions. Tim Morrill. MS, CSCS
This was another hands on session and perhaps this more than any other session the entire weekend kind of blew my mind. Tim and his staff use a logical and progressive way of teaching how to teach agility. In fact the first thing I did when I got home was look up his Twitter and youtube pages. I have started practicing his drills because I want to be able to do them competently before I begin to teach them to my athletes. This sessions probably left me more excited than any other.

I really can’t say enough good things about the NSCA’s national convention. It was a perfect blend of research, practical knowledge, and hands on learning sessions. I attended more sessions than I listed here but these were my highlights. There were also many other great presentations which I did not get the opportunity to see.

Just in case you thought it was all work and no play I did have tons of fun at night. I was able to meet and interact with people from places like Iowa, Cleveland, Maryland, and even plenty of faces from NJ. I found a ton of new people to follow on Twitter from the #National14 hashtag. I hope we can share our work from afar and support each other. Yes I also did some gambling every night and I even broke even which is a win considering how long I was there. I even had legends like Leo Totten and Bob Takano work with me on my snatch technique. These guys are both Olympic Lifting coaches and if that wasn’t fun I don’t know what is. If you need proof that I actually had fun here is a picture of me at the club Chateau which is the rooftop Club in the Paris hotel.

Paris Hotel

Me on the rooftop club at Paris Hotel.