Saturday, December 25, 2010

Evolution: Thoughts on Training

I've been thinking lately about how my perspective on training has changed over the years. I started as a high school athlete trying to just "pump some iron" to get big and strong, while trying to learn as much as I could about general health.

I then moved to bodybuilding once my athletic career had ended and I went on to college.This is when I started learning through course work, personal reading, and actual training, how the body responds and is stimulated by training. However, because I only trained with the usual moderate to high repetition, one day per week for each muscle group mentality, I didn't see the whole picture of training. And so the learning continued...

I moved to weightlifting, a.k.a. Olympic weightlifting, after completing a practicum for college credit with a local sports performance center which used this style of lifting as the main focus of their program. I figured that in order to properly coach the athletes how to perform the lifts, I would have to be able to perform them correctly myself. And, as they say, the rest is history. As many of you know, this is the style of training I use for myself as a means of competition (and breathing).

Now I am more focused on my career. As I continue to wade through informational overload on a daily basis, I continue to learn what to trust and what is just plain ignorant and misguided. There are those sources that should not be trusted and those that should be checked regularly because of the wealth of information that is provided. I have been very mindful within the past year of where I read my information. It would be a HUGE waste of time to read something and find it to be complete garbage. So, be wary of where you get your information. Don't believe everything you read just because the author has a few letters behind their name. Always ask "who", "what", and "why" when you are reading new information. If these answers check out, you have a good start for learning new, useful information.

It is interesting to look back on where I started and where I am now within my own training. As my thoughts on what it is to be big and strong have changed over the years, I have come to realize that these have meant very different things. I once thought that big and strong was a professional bodybuilder strutting around at 285lbs with 2% body fat. Through the years I've learned that some bodybuilders are strong, but they cannot compare to strength athletes. If we're talking relative or absolute strength, strength athletes will win out nearly 100% of the time. I won't get into the physiology behind it, but suffice it to say that there are two types of hypertrophy adaptations in training and strength athletes get the better end of the deal.

I will continue my relentless pursuit for every detail within the realm of strength training. I know this is something that cannot be accomplished realistically, but my dad had always said that I am stubborn (and a smart-ass). Therefore, I put my head down and keep pushing for more! I suggest you do the same. Train hard, train smart!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Training 12/1 - 12/20


DL - 70x5,4, 110x3, 132x5, 140x5, Belt -->150x10, 175x3x1
Hang Power Snatch - 40x4x4
Snatch RDL (straps) - 80x6, 90x6, 95x6, 100x2x6
SL Rev. Hypers - 90x12, 140x2x10


P Snatch - 50x3x3
P Clean - 60x3, 65x2x3
Bench (lbs) - 95x3, 135x3, 185x3, 205x1, 225x1, 235x1, 250xmiss


Snatch - 60x2x2, 70x2, 84x3x1, 88x3x1
C&J - 60x2x2, 84x2, 102x6x1

12/6 (Start of new Pendragon program)

Snatch - 50x2,1/2, 60x2, 72.5x2, 77.5x1, 82.5x1, 87.5x4x1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 102.5x1,missJ,1, 110x1
Squat - 90x3, 110x3, 115x3, Belt-->120x8, 130x3x2
WG Pull-ups - 2x12


Snatch - 50x3, 60x2, 72.5x2, 77.5x1, 82.5x5x1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x5x1
CG RDL - 110x6, 120x3x6
Press - 50x3, 67.5x3, 72x3, 76x2
Ring Shoulder Flx - 3x12+3s hold
Hang Rope Leg-lift holds - 3x10s


Snatch - 50x3, 60x2, 72.5x2, 77.5x1, 82.5x1, 87.5xmissF, 1,1,1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 102.5x4x1
DL - 120x3, 140x3, 148x3, belt-->157.5x9, 180x1
KB Ring Pull-ups - 10, 16x3x8, 10


Snatch - 40x2, 50x2, 60x1/2, 72x0/2, 77x1, 82x5x1
C&J - 70x2, 80x2, 90x1, 97x5x1


Snatch - 50x2, 60x2, 72x2, 77x1, 82x1, 87x4x1
C&J - 60x2, 72x2, 85x2, 92x1, 97x1, 102x4x1
Squat - 70x3, 90x2, 107x2, 122x2, 130x3x2


Snatch - 50x3,2, 60x1/2, 72.5x2, 77.5xmiss, 82.5x1, 87.5xmiss,miss, 80x2x1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 102.5x2x1, 110x3x1
Squat - 60x3, 100x5, 115x3, belt-->127.5x5 <--ugly...felt shitty


Snatch - 50x3, 60x2, 72.5x2, 77.5x1, 82.5x5x1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x5x1
CG RDL - 90x6, straps-->120x5, 140x3x3


Snatch - 50x2x2, 60x2, 72.5x1/2, 77.5x1, 82.5x1, 87.5x1, 92.5x1,missF,1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 102.5x1, 110x3x1
Squat - 92.5x2, 107.5x2, 120x2, belt-->130x2, 135x2, 137.5x2
Rope Hangs - 3x15s
BH Sit-up holds - 3xALAP


Snatch - 50x2x2, 60x2, 72.5x2, 77.5xmissF,1, -->DL Pause to PS - 60x3x2
P C&J - 60x2, 75x2, -->only PC no jerks -->85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 90x3x1
Ab wheel RO - 3x12

Snatch - 50x2, 60x2/3, 72.5x2, 77.5x1, 82.5xmissF, 87.5xmissB,missF, 92.5xmissF,missF,missB, 60x2
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 102.5x1, 110x3x1
DL - 70x4, 100x3, 130x5, 150x3, belt-->165x7, 190x2x1
WG Pull-ups - 12, 25#x3x6


       8 Sledge slams, 3 tire flips, 6 sledge slams, 3 tire flips x 6


Snatch - 50x3, 60x2, 72.5x2, 77.5x1, 82.5x1, 87.5x4x1
C&J - 60x2, 72.5x2, 85x2, 92.5x1, 97.5x1, 102.5x1,1,1,missJ
Squat - 92.5x3, 107.5x2, 122.5x2, 137.5x2, belt-->145x1, 152.5x1<--ties my PR to date
NG Pull-ups - 12,12,9+3

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lazy or Smart?

It is 5:49pm EST. I'm sitting in my living room watching TV as I write this blog. I haven't done much since yesterday morning, when I conditioned at 8:30am. Sure, you could call me lazy, but do you know what I did during the week? I busted my ass! I deserve to be lazy!

We all get so wrapped up in our training programs that sometimes we forget how important rest and recovery can be. I know this all too well, having just embarked on a hellish training program. Don't forget that recovery is just as important to the overall plan as training and nutrition are. I won't get into all the scientific jargon, but I will send you to an excellent article written by my friend, Ryan van Asten. Check out his article on RECOVERY.

I should have my previous training sessions up by tomorrow morning if I find the motivation to post them  :)
Ah! Motivation, another topic for another blog. Soon to come!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Training

This week I started a new training plan. I got the template from Mark Cannella when I went through the USAW level 1 course. It is actually from Pendragon weightlifting out of Youngstown, OH. It's a very simple program, but I believe I will make great gains from it. It is very weightlifting specific...5 weeks/6 days per week. Mostly snatch, clean and jerk, and squats. I'm adding a few things to it, but it is very simple. I haven't followed a program with this much frequency, so I plan on easing into the 6 straight days of training. I'll get there need to rush.

On another note, I will post my training sessions from the past couple weeks with this new plan soon. Train hard, train smart!

Monday, December 6, 2010

USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach Course

Hello, All! I just attended the USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach Course this past weekend in Mentor, OH. It was held at The Gorilla Pit and led by Mark Cannella, with help from Dan Bell, Chelsea Kyle, and Mike Cerbus. I have been lifting in the style of weightlifting for over three years now and, while I knew I didn't know EVERYTHING on the subject, I thought I would come into this with little else to learn because of the level of the course. I was definitely wrong! The course started with some lecture, where we learned specific warm-ups and biomechanics of the lifts. After each section, we moved to the practical side of the course. This is an excellent method...learning the material in lecture format and then IMMEDIATELY putting that information into practice. As we all know, there are three styles of learning: tactile, auditory, and visual. The format of the course puts each individual in the best advantage possible to absorb the information through all three styles of learning.

We broke for lunch and I stayed behind to train with Mike Cerbus and Chelsea Kyle, who were there to help Mark with demonstrations and coaching for the course. I haven't been exposed to this level of lifter while training myself too many times, so it was pretty cool. I only worked up to about 88kg in the Snatch and 102kg in the Clean and Jerk, but this was a very helpful session. Mark came in at the tale end of my Snatches and quickly corrected my technique. I am quick under the bar, but do not use my arms enough to pull myself under. He believes if I can fix this I will ad a few kilos to both lifts instantly! I believe him and will definitely start working on this fix!

After lunch, we went through the basics of the lifts and sequences of each. Again, we practiced what we learned in the lecture. We did these for the rest of Saturday's session. Sunday's session focused on strength movements, including squats, pulls, and presses. We also went over program design generalities, such as exercises to include, exercise order, volume, intensity, and progression. Mike and Chelsea commented on their programs, which was most intriguing to me. Mostly this is because, while nearly the same age as them, but of a different experience level, they train completely different than I do. I would like to start training similar (if time permits). Although, I know myself and the volume I can handle right now id nowhere near their volume. I think I could probably handle somewhere in the 5-7 sessions/week range, where they are around 10-12 sessions/week.

A special thanks to Mark, Dan, Chelsea, and Mike for all the fine work you did!

I will be working to increase my training volume/frequency until I am around 10 sessions/week. I think that is a good goal to hit within the next few months. Until then...train hard, train smart!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Effects of Training Methodologies on Power Development

The following is a review article I wrote for my graduate Exercise Physiology course last year. It's long, but a good read none-the-less. Maybe you can be as powerful as Superman when you're done absorbing the information. Enjoy!

The development and output of muscular power is very important in the training of athletes, no matter what the level of play. Mechanical power can be described as the rate of doing work, or how much work is done in a specific amount of time (16). There are many studies that have looked at power production during different activities, but many of them do not compare the activities or methods to each other for their abilities to cause such adaptations in power. The goal of this review paper was to look into the research that has been done on power development to find what training methods are the best for producing the most gains in this area of muscle physiology/performance, and how these variables affect power development. The review of the literature shows that there are many training variables to consider and they should all be taken into account when developing a program. These variables can be combined to develop a maximal amount of power in athletes of all levels. The most important thing a coach can do is to find what works best for the specific population in question and fit that “best” program into the time available. Future research should compare as many differing methods as possible and try to match the best variables that produce the most power. This is a continuing area of research that can only improve as technology and training methods become more advanced.
The amount of force generated in the smallest amount of time possible is becoming greater and greater as training methods become more advanced. The development of muscular power is very important in the training of athletes, no matter what the level of play. Mechanical power can be described as the rate of doing work, or how much work is done in a specific amount of time (16). Power includes two components, force production and velocity of movement (12).
Crewther et al. referenced that in order to adequately train for power, movements producing high power outputs with high contractile velocities are thought to be important (6). Kawamori and Haff’s work concurred with Crewther et al., stating that because power is the product of force and velocity, both components must be addressed in a program to develop power (12). The higher an athlete’s force production or velocity of movement, the more power that athlete can produce. Using these two components, a strength coach can develop an effective program to increase power output.
The importance of program development is often overlooked as a factor of improving athletic performance. Correct programming sets the stage for an athlete’s development on all levels. It is the author’s belief that training methods involving Olympic weightlifting movements and other movements involving the stretch shortening cycle; high force, low velocity strength movements (i.e., back squats and deadlifts); hypertrophy periods; sufficient rest periods between sets and between training sessions; the use of optimal training loads and velocity of movement for the specific training outcomes desired (increasing force development or velocity of movement), and using the proper amount of repetitions per set will induce the biggest performance gains in power development/output.
Research has shown that Olympic weightlifting movements are an effective means of training when the outcome desired is increased power (9, 10, 12). There have been many studies done on heavy resistance exercises and their effect on power development that have reported positive outcomes (5, 19, 26). Squats are an effective heavy resistance exercise for increasing power (5, 26). These examples may be effective because they both require the use of type II muscle fibers, which are known to produce higher forces than type I muscle fibers (24). Resting for sufficient lengths of time is needed in order to recover adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PCr) stores (23). If rest is too short, the energy systems will not recover and the muscle’s force production will be markedly decreased, especially if using higher loads.
The load used in each training set is one of the most important variables that can be investigated. If too much load is used, the force-velocity curve will be shifted too far on the force side. If too little load is used, the curve will shift too far towards the velocity side. There has to be an optimal load that allows for maximal power production. Also, the optimal load really depends on the exercise being performed. This optimal load training is called maximal power training (15).
Lastly, while performing an exercise, one has to perform the proper amount of repetitions in order to gain the desired benefits. If too many repetitions are performed, the wrong energy systems (oxidative over PCr) and muscle fiber types (type I over type II) will be utilized, which will not allow the proper adaptations to take place. Therefore, the best range of repetitions for increasing muscular power is between one and five repetitions (3). However, there have been studies that have used higher than normal repetition schemes for power development (6+ reps) (18).
There are some researchers who believe that plyometric programming along with heavy resistance training is enough to elicit muscular power development (10, 19, 26). Others believe that there are optimal loads to develop power that fall in the range of 30-70% of 1RM (15), while others believe it is higher (>80%), or lower (10%) (12).
The purpose of this review paper is to look into what research has been done on different variables of power development and bring these variables together. With the most important variables brought together in one review, we can look at how they affect power development. We can also see which variables are more important to the development of power and which variables are still being debated. Consequently, all of this information will show us what program variables need to be used together to develop the most power in the athletes we train.

Olympic Weightlifting
The Olympic weightlifting (referred to as weightlifting from here) movements are thought, by many coaches, to be highly transferable to various athletic skills. This is especially true of any sport requiring a vertical jump (9) because of the similar joint kinematics involved, or any sport requiring the simultaneous extension of the hip, ankle, and knee (triple extension). Some background on the weightlifting movements is warranted.
Garhammer has found weightlifting to involve very high power outputs for both men and women (9). The relative power output (watts per kg body mass) has been recorded at about 34.3 W/Kg during the entire snatch or clean pulling movements (10). That is a great deal of power, considering that the relative power outputs for the deadlift (similar to the pull in weightlifting) and bench press have only been measured at about 12 W/Kg and 4 W/Kg, respectively (10). The competition lifts (Snatch and Clean and Jerk) and their component lifts (Snatch Pull, Hang Clean, Box Jerks, etc.) are often used for power development because the required combination of strength and velocity of movement is unmatched compared to other lifting movements. However, Kawamori and Haff (12) claim that very few studies have actually measured the power outputs of differing loads during the weightlifting exercises.
The snatch starts with a wide grip on the bar in a deadlift-type stance. In one fluid motion the bar is lifted from the floor straight overhead, as the athlete pulls himself/herself under the bar into a squat position, locking out the elbows. Then, once steady, the athlete rises from the squat position and returns the bar to the floor.
The clean and jerk begins in the same position as the snatch, except the hands are moved in closer to each other. From the starting position, the bar is lifted to the clavicle, where the athlete pulls himself/herself under the bar into the squat position. The athlete then rises from the squat, takes a breath, dips the hips and knees, and then violently explodes upward and jerks the bar overhead, locking out the elbows at the top.
There are six phases of the snatch and clean: Pre-lift-off, Preliminary acceleration, Adjustment, Final acceleration, Unsupported squat under, and Supported squat under. The jerk also has six phases. They include the Start, the Dip, the Braking phase, the Thrust or Explosion, the Unsupported squat under, and the Supported squat under (7).
Tricoli et al. compared a weightlifting group and a vertical jump training group, which included different plyometric exercises, in the effectiveness of the training styles to elicit power production and found that the weightlifting group produced more performance improvements than the vertical jump group in physically active subjects (18). This is an excellent example of why it is beneficial to use the weightlifting movements, rather than just plyometric movements (vertical jump training), to elicit power output. The movements are very similar, but the weightlifting movements have the added benefit of increasing both factors, force and velocity, of the power equation.
Unless an athlete would be carrying an extra load while performing plyometrics, they are only going to be working towards enhancing their velocity of movement. More research should be done to examine the best loads to use during weightlifting, depending on the sport and time of season.

Stretch Shortening Cycle

Elastic energy use, also known as plyometrics, have been known to be a large contributor to power production (4, 15, 25). After a muscle is stretched, using the mechanical energy stored as elastic energy is very important to increased force output (4). The stretch shortening cycle (SSC) uses elastic energy, much like a rubber band, to create rapid force after being stretched. Wilson and Flanagan defined elasticity as “a measure of how readily a body will reform after it has been deformed by being stretched, compressed, or twisted” (25). So, after a muscle is lengthened (stretched) it has the ability to shorten or contract (reform) back to normal length. This creates a large, quick production of force, which we all know as power.
A successful SSC requires three critical elements, including “a well timed preactivation of the muscle(s) before the eccentric phase, a short and fast eccentric phase, and an immediate transition (short delay) between stretch (eccentric) and shortening (concentric phase)” (25). Blakey and Southard describe this SSC process in greater detail:

The first phase is called amortization and occurs as a result of yielding work forcing a rapid stretch of the lower body extensor muscles. In the second phase, muscles perform a reactive switch from yielding work to overcoming work to initiate a positive vertical velocity. The third phase is the phase of active take-off. The extensor muscles contract to perform the jump. The first phase stretches the extensor muscle groups, the second is a reactive recovery, and the third uses the benefit of a reciprocal increase of force during contraction (4).

There have been many studies on the outcomes of power development, including groups combining resistance training and plyometrics, resistance training alone, and plyometrics alone. Blakey and Southard did an 8-week study on the effects of depth drops, a plyometric exercise, combined with resistance training on lower body power development (4). They found that the combined programming of these modes (resistance training + plyometrics) improved leg strength and power. They also found that the height of the drop jumps did not alter the resultant training effects. This finding, in itself, is helpful to know because this could save athletes from taking the beating of increasing ground reaction forces (GRF) when a coach increases the height from which they have to drop.
Lyttle, Wilson, and Ostrowski performed a similar 8-week study, comparing a maximal power training group with a combined resistance and plyometric training group (15). They found that both groups were equally effective in improving a variety of performance measures such as jumping, throwing, cycling, and lifting. In contrast, Kubo et al. (13) investigated the effects of plyometric and weight training protocols on jumping performances. The study lasted 12 weeks, training four days per week. Each subject performed plyometric training on one leg and weight training on the other. They compared baseline measures to the results at the end of the study in both legs to find which training method worked best to improve performance in several jumping-related tasks. Their results show that jump performance was improved only by plyometric training, with no changes from weight training.
Plyometrics are shown to be an effective way of using the stretch-shortening cycle for enhanced power output, but more research is needed in this area to find the benefits over resistance training alone. While some studies (4) show a significant benefit to combining these two modes, others show no difference (15) or even a benefit to just performing plyometric training (13).

High Force, Low Velocity Movements for Increased Power
Because power is the product of force and velocity, it is quite obvious that strength movements of high force and low velocity would help, in some way, to increase the development power. Several studies have looked into this theory and there are contradicting results.
Wenzel and Perfetto quoted Verkoshansky, stating “it has been established that absolute muscle strength has a negative effect on movement speed and on the ability of a muscle to display explosive effort” (20). However, Young, Jenner, and Griffiths found that performing a set of squats with a 5-RM load prior to a set of loaded countermovement jumps dramatically improved power (26). This contrasting of heavy and light loaded movements is called postactivation potentiation (PAP). PAP is defined as “referring to the enhanced neuromuscular state observed immediately after a bout of heavy resistance exercise” (19).
Weber et al. performed a study similar to Young, Jenner, and Griffiths, looking into the effects of PAP on squat jump performance (19). They found that performing heavy-load back squats before a set of consecutive squat jumps may enhance acute performance in average and peak jump height, as well as peak GRF. Chatzopoulos et al. investigated the PAP effects after a heavy resistance stimulus (back squats) on running speed. They found that the heavy back squats improved 10 and 30 meter sprint performance when performed five minutes after the squat set (5).
In contrast, Wenzel and Perfetto studied the effect of a speed group (speed of lifting) versus a non-speed group (traditional repetition velocity) in developing power and found that there were no differences between the two groups on any performance measures (20). This means that the low velocity group/non-speed group did not gain any significant edge in power or strength compared to the speed group.
Kawamori and Haff claimed a study by McBride et al. found Olympic lifters who used heavy training (low velocity, high intensity) and explosive-type (high velocity, low intensity) training gained greater results in jump height and muscular power measures than power-lifters who only used heavy resistance training (12). The majority of studies have documented increased performance in power with increasing levels of maximal strength, but there is still much research needed in this area of performance.
Hypertrophy is the enlargement of the physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) of a muscle or, simply put, the growth of muscle fibers. The ability of a muscle to produce force is directly related to its physiological cross-sectional area (1) regardless of age (2). Because power involves a strength component, strength gain from hypertrophy could lead to a gain in power production (12). However, there has been discussion on how much this relationship really does affect force production.
Akagi et al. established a new index of muscle cross-sectional area with its relationship to isometric muscle strength (1). They discovered that muscle thickness (MT) multiplied by circumference (C) reflects muscle cross-sectional area and can be used as an index for determining muscle cross-sectional area. They also found that when this index was measured at maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) it was more closely related to force production than when measured at rest. This would indicate that muscles tend to be more closely related to their force production capabilities when they are examined in their fully contracted state.
Another study by Akagi et al. (2) looked at similar cross-sectional characteristics in older individuals (age range 51-77 years) and found the same results: muscle cross-sectional is more closely related to muscle force production when examined at MVC than at rest. This is helpful to know because of age-related changes in muscle performance. We now know, at least from a PCSA point, that force production relationships do not change with age.  
Type II muscle fiber proportion has been significantly correlated with training-induced hypertrophy and increases in strength. It has been suggested that type II fibers have a greater specific tension and combining that with their greater hypertrophy response would likely contribute to increases in whole-muscle specific tension (8). This means that type II fibers have a greater potential to contract harder (greater specific tension) and they are able to hypertrophy at a greater rate than type I fibers.
More research is needed in this area to find how muscle size and strength compare in different movements, within individual muscles, and within different sports. It is well-known that more muscle leads to more strength, but sometimes getting bigger is too much of an expense to an athlete because of weight classes. If researchers can find how to improve strength at a greater rate without too much hypertrophy, it will help athletes in all sports with weight categories involved.

Sufficient Rest
It is a problem in the strength and conditioning world when a coach has a group of athletes and a limited amount of time to train. The goal is to get the best results in the shortest amount of time, but to also be able to let the athletes have the proper rest periods as well. This has been a double-edged sword in the strength and conditioning world for quite some time and much research has been done to find answers to this problem.
Willardson states that since blood flow to the muscle is occluded at intensities as low as 20% of maximal strength, a rest period is essential to reestablish intramuscular blood flow and oxygen delivery that allows for the replenishment of phosphocreatine stores, restoration of intramuscular pH, removal of metabolic end products, and return of muscle membrane potential to resting levels. He also goes on to say “the selection of appropriate rest intervals becomes crucial to maintain high velocity, rate of force production, and power throughout a set” (22). Resting for sufficient lengths of time is needed in order to recover adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores as well (24). If this rest does not take place, there won’t be enough recovery of these muscular energy components, which means that there will not be enough intramuscular stores to produce the required force/power necessary for the remaining sets of a training session.
Larson Jr. and Potteiger compared three different rest intervals between several sessions of squats (14). They mentioned that, as a general guideline, rest intervals between sets are progressively reduced as the body adapts to certain training loads, and lengthened as training loads increase. The three rest intervals they used were a fixed three minute time interval, achieving a specific postexercise recovery heart rate (post-HR) of 60% age-predicted maximum, and a fixed work : rest ratio of 1:3. During the three exercise sessions, the subjects performed four sets of squats to voluntary exhaustion with 85% of their 10-RM (10 repetition maximum). This study found no significant differences between repetitions to exhaustion, blood lactate concentrations, or RPE among the three rest conditions.
Willardson and Burkett also did a study on three rest interval components (21). They compared rest intervals of 30-seconds, one minute, or two minutes on five consecutive sets of the squat and the bench press (15RM for both). The purpose was to find which rest length had the best sustainability on the number of repetitions performed. They found that that, for each exercise, the number of repetitions performed on the first set was not sustained throughout all five sets, no matter which rest interval was used. They thought that the intensity (weight) should be lowered with each subsequent set to be able to sustain the desired amount of repetitions.
While both of these studies do well on questioning which rest intervals are best to improve performance, neither of them found any significant results. Also, they are not exactly comparable to training for power results because of the load and repetitions that were used. Nevertheless, they do give us knowledge into specifications about rest intervals for strength gains in secondary exercises such as back extensions, reverse hyperextensions, and abdominal training that use higher repetitions per set.
Studies with heavier loads and fewer repetitions are needed in order to apply results to power-type training. One such study focused on comparing squat strength gains and volume components with rest intervals of two and four minutes between sets over several mesocycles (23). In this study, 15 trained men were randomly assigned to either the two minute group or the four minute group. Both groups performed the same training program, with the only difference being the rest interval. Each week had two sessions, a heavy session (70-90% 1RM) and a light session (60% 1RM). The groups made significant strength gains, but there were no differences between groups. However, the four minute group did demonstrate significantly higher total volume for the heavy workouts. This finding is noteworthy because if higher volumes of high intensity (heavier weight) can be obtained, this will lead to continued increases in strength gains. The primary finding of this article was that large strength gains can be achieved with a minimum of two minutes rest between sets, and little additional gains are made from resting four minutes between sets. Coaches can use this information for their programs and significantly cut the amount of rest time between sets, which will give them more time to add extra exercises into the program for increased volume.
Again, significant rest must be allowed in order for the best adaptations to take place. However, coaches have limited time to make these adaptations occur with training because most athletes do not have all the time in the day to train. Thus, rest research and findings should be followed heavily when trying to train athletes toward a certain goal. Without resting enough or resting too long, the desired adaptations will not take place and training will be a waste of time.

Optimal Training Loads
It cannot be stressed enough how important using proper loads is on training results. This training variable has a direct impact on both components of power development (force and velocity of movement). Mentioned earlier was the fact that certain loads elicit the best results for power (maximal power training/loads). This is where a person produces the most power in a certain movement. Once this load is figured out, a coach can use this load as a baseline to start training.
Harris et al. declared that some researchers claim the use of 80% of 1RM is recommended to improve power characteristics, while others suggest 50-60% of 1RM and below (11). Kawamori and Haff (12) agreed with Harris et al., stating that there is inconsistency in the optimal load to produce the highest power. They claimed that some studies that used untrained subjects, single joint exercises, and upper-body exercises reported 30-45% of 1RM, while others using trained subjects, multi-joint exercises, and lower-body exercises reported 30-70% of 1RM.
It appears that trained subjects and lower-body exercises produce the greatest power outputs at higher percentages of 1RM than untrained subjects and upper-body exercises. More research is needed in this area because of the large range of percentages still being used at this current point in time.
Because of the similar kinetics and kinematics, Tricoli et al. (18) compared vertical jump training and Olympic-style weightlifting and their affect on power output. Although they did not measure percent of 1RM used, the weightlifting group improved on all of the performance tests (10- and 30-meter sprint, agility test, and clean and jerk) except one (1RM half squat). This shows that using an external load is more beneficial than just using body weight in improving power output.
There is much controversy surrounding this area of training among strength and conditioning coaches. That is why it is so important that researchers find definitive values for what training loads improve power output the best. At this point in the literature, there is a large range of percentages that is being tested on power output. Once the correct load parameters are discovered, coaches can put research into practice.

            Athletes must possess the ability to produce large forces in short amounts of time to plateau at their highest potentials. This is why power is so important in sports. Strength and conditioning coaches need information at their disposal to invoke the best adaptations to power training in their athletes as possible.
            There are many training variables to consider when developing a program and much controversy surrounding these training variables. The development of a program should question whether all aspects are being considered. Most importantly, what types of lifts are being done in the program; is there any use of the stretch-shortening cycle; are there high-force, low-velocity movements to develop maximal strength; is there a hypertrophy period; are the athletes resting the appropriate amount of time; and are the athletes using the optimal loads to develop power?
            These variables can be combined to develop a maximal amount of power in athletes of all levels. As mentioned throughout this review, a program that utilizes the weightlifting movements, squats, and plyometrics, with the proper loads and rest periods, as well as some hypertrophy exercises could lead to a superior amount of power development. Thus, leading to superior athletes thanks to the proper combination of training variables in a program.
            Coaches can get carried away with all of the training methods at their disposal. The most important thing is to find what will work best for the specific population in question and being able to fit that “best” program into the time available. Working smart is just as important, if not more important, than working hard. Remember, there are certain things that are hard to get wrong in training, but there are even more things that are easy to get wrong. It is a waste of everyone’s time if things are being done wrong in a program. Programs should be developed so that every aspect can be backed by peer-reviewed research.

Practical Applications
            It is the author’s recommendation that all strength and conditioning coaches review the current research material on all of the aspects of training that are available to them. It is better that a coach have the research to back up what he is doing if their methods are questioned. They could be blindly developing programs, not knowing what or why they are doing certain things with their athletes. Education is always going to be a crucial part of a coaches’ repertoire.
Future research should compare as many differing variables as possible and try to match the best variables that produce the most power. This is a continuing area of research that can only improve as technology and training methods become more advanced, but it will only improve if strength and conditioning coaches allow their methods to change with time.


1.      Akagi, R., H. Kanehisa, Y. Kawakami, and T. Fukunaga. Establishing a new index of muscle cross-sectional area and its relationship with isometric muscle strength. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(1):82-87. 2008.
2.      Akagi, R., Y. Takai, E. Kato, M. Fukuda, T. Wakahara, M. Ohta, H. Kanehisa, Y. Kawakami, and T. Fukunaga. Relationships between muscle strength and indices of muscle cross-sectional area determined during maximal voluntary contraction in middle-aged and elderly individuals. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 23(4):1258-1262. 2009.
3.      Baechle, T.R., and R.W. Earle (2000). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2nd Ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
4.      Blakey, J.B., and D. Southard. The combined effects of weight training and plyometrics on dynamic leg strength and leg power. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 1(1):14-16. 1987.
5.      Chatzopoulos, D.E., C.J. Michailidis, A.K. Giannakos, K.C. Alexiou, D.A. Patikas, C.B. Antonopoulos, and C.M. Kotzamanidis. Postactivation potentiation effects after heavy resistance exercise on running speed.  J. Strength and Cond. Res. 21(4):1278-1281. 2007.
6.      Crewther, B., J. Cronin, and J. Keogh. Possible stimuli for strength and power adaptation: acute metabolic responses. J. Sports Med. 36(1):65-78. 2006.
7.      Drechsler, A. (1998). The Weightlifting Encyclopedia: A Guide to World Class Performance. Flushing, NY: A IS A Communications.
8.      Folland, J. and A.G. Williams. The adaptations to strength training: Morphological and neurological contributions to increased strength. J. Sports Med. 37(2):145-168. 2007.
9.      Garhammer, J. and R. Gregor. Propulsion forces as a function of intensity for weightlifting and vertical jumping. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6(3):129-134. 1992.
10.  Garhammer, J. A review of power output studies of Olympic and Powerlifting: Methodology, performance prediction, and evaluation tests. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 7(2):76-89. 1993.
11.  Harris, N.K., Cronin, J.B., Hopkins, W.G., and Hansen, K.T. Squat jump training at maximal power loads vs. heavy loads: Effect on sprint ability. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(6):1742-1749. 2008.
12.  Kawamori, N. and G. G. Haff. The optimal training load for the development of muscular power. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 18(3):675-684. 2004.
13.  Kubo, K., M. Morimoto, T. Komuro, H. Yata, N. Tsunoda, H. Kanehisa, and T. Fukunaga. Effects of plyometric and weight training on muscle-tendon complex and jump performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 39(10):1801-1810. 2007.
14.  Larson, G.D., Jr., and J.A. Potteiger. A comparison of three different rest intervals between multiple squat bouts. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 11(2):115-118. 1997.
15.  Lyttle, A.D., G.J. Wilson, and K.J. Ostrowski. Enhancing performance: Maximal power versus combined weights and plyometrics training. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 10(3)173-179. 1996.
16.  McGinnis, P.M. (2005). Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
17.  Miranda, H., S.J. Fleck, R. Simao, A.C. Barreto, E.H.M. Dantas, and J. Novaes. Effect of two different rest period lengths on the number of repetitions performed during resistance training. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 21(4):1032-1036. 2007.
18.  Tricoli, V., L. Lamas, R. Carnevale, and C. Ugrinowitsch. Short-term effects on lower-body functional power development: Weightlifting vs. vertical jump training programs. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 19(2):433-437. 2005.
19.  Weber, K.R., L.E. Brown, J.W. Coburn, and S.M. Zinder. Acute effects of heavy-load squats on consecutive squat jump performance. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(3):726-730. 2008.
20.  Wenzel, R.R., and E.M. Perfetto. The effect of speed versus non-speed training in power development. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6(2):82-87. 1992.
21.  Willardson, J.M., and L.N. Burkett. The effect of rest interval length on the sustainability of squat and bench press repetitions. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 20(2):400-403. 2006.
22.  Willardson, J.M. A brief review: How much rest between sets? Strength and Cond. Journal. 30(3):44-50. 2008.
23.  Willardson, J.M., and L.N. Burkett. The effect of different rest intervals between sets on volume components and strength gains. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(1):146-152. 2008.
24.  Wilmore, J.H., and D.L. Costill (2004). Physiology of Sport and Exercise, 3rd Ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
25.  Wilson, J.M., and E.P. Flanagan. The role of elastic energy in activities with high force and power requirements: A brief review. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(5):1705-1715. 2008.  
26.  Young, W.B., A. Jenner, and K. Griffiths. Acute enhancement of power performance from heavy load squats. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 12(2):82-84. 1998.

Training Methodology

Do you have one? Basically, do you have specific ideas that you adhere to while training/programming? Many of us train blindly, even if we have the most immaculate program mapped out. From one cycle to the next we may focus on certain areas of the program, while ignoring others. It would benefit every one of us to have a specific methodology on training that we follow.

Methodologies include many areas related to training, but are not limited to ideas that only focus on training. They may also include thoughts on recovery and nutrition as well. My understanding on what makes a good methodology is that everything it may include are based on solid findings. You may follow specific 'rules', but each component must be back up by evidence. This evidence could be from scientific studies you have read/performed, or through trial and error in your own training. If they are not based on evidence, there is no point in using that idea/method.

You can play around with variables to program one hell of a cycle. Many methods come to mind when I think of HOW to program a training cycle. These include high reps, lower intensity; low reps, higher intensity; ascending waves; descending waves; accomodating resistance (chains or bands); post-activation potentiation (follow a heavier movement with a lighter, similar movement); and many, many more.

My point is that you can use many different methods of training, but you should be consistent with your beliefs in HOW training and programming should be handled, and what works well together. There should not be a huge discrepancy in methods from one cycle to the next, otherwise certain performance characteristics may be lost. A good example would be doing extremely high repetitions, using only unilateral movements, while being performed on unstable surfaces for one cycle. Then, after completing this cycle, performing heavy singles with the 'big three' movements (squat, bench, and deadlift). My problem with an example like this is simple. WHY would you follow an unstable, lighter cycle with an extremely heavy cycle? What's the reason? What are you trying to accomplish? You might believe that using unstable surfaces has proven implications for increasing joint stability. Is that stability supposed to be transferred to the 'big three'? What strength have you built to help with this new, heavier cycle? What does the research say? Is it beneficial to do an entire cycle on unstable surfaces, or would it be better to just do a few exercises within a cycle using this method? Only you can be the judge of your training and how you program your cycles...just be smart about it.

Sorry for the rant, but I really believe that everything within a program should be backed up by evidence in some way or another. I'm sure Mariusz followed through with his methods and stuck to his beliefs without straying off course to delve into the new fad workout.

Be attentive to everything you do and results will surely follow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Training 11/10 - 11/29


Snatch - 50x3,2, 60x2, 70x2, 80x1, 85x1, 90x1, 92.5x1, 95xmiss,1, 97x1
C&J - 60x3, 80x2, 90x1, 100x1, 105x1, 112x2x1, 116x1, missC, missC
KB WG Pull-ups - 7, 16x6x4, Bwtx13


Snatch - 50x3, 60x2, 70x2, 80xmiss,1, 85xmiss,miss, 90xmiss, 85x1, 87.5x1,miss,1, 90xmiss,miss, 87.5x1, 90x2x1
C&J - 60x3, 80x2, 95x1, 100x1, 105x1, 110x1,1,missJ,1, 105x5x1


Snatch - 50x3,2/3, 60x2, 70x2, 80x1, 85xmiss,miss,1
C&J - 60x3, 80x2, 90x2, 100x1, 105x3x1
Squat - 60x5, 90x2, 110x2, 120x2x1, 130x3x1
OHS - 60x6, 80x3, 90x1/2,2, 95x1,1,2
KB Prone Row - 24x8, 32x5, 40x3, 48x2x1
Hanging Leg Raise - 12,10
Roman Chairs - 15, 5#x2x12
Grippers - #1x3+Tx10 --> 4 sets


Snatch - 50x2/3,3, 60x2x2, 70x2, 80x2x1
C&J - 60x3, 80x2, 90x2, 100x1, 105x2x1
WG Pull-ups - Bwtx3x10
Front Squat - 90x3, 100x2 ---> stopped b/c of knee pain
CG RDL - 90x6, 110x5, 115x6

11/20 - 2010 Iron Egg Fall Classic (I won the best male lifter award)

77kg class (weighed in at 74.5kg)
Snatch - 92, 97, 102X
C&J - 112, 118, 122X
TOTAL - 97+118 = 215

11/21 (trained only b/c the track team and coach were training together)
I felt surprisingly great

Pwr Snatch - 60x2x3, 71x2, 84x2x1
Clean Pulls (w/ straps) - 116x3, 125x3, 134x2x3
Squat (in lbs) - 135x6, 225x3, 245x2, 275x3, belt-->295x2, 310x2, 325x1, 225x12

11/23 - Conditioning

8 Tire Flips + 140# Prowler Pushx25yds (H/L) x 6 sets

11/24 (came in and did whatever)

Deadlift - 70x6, 100x4, 120x3, 150x4,6, belt-->170x1, 180x1, 190x1, 160x6
KB Step-ups - 12x3x10
Rev. Hypers - 90#x2x15
Press - 50x5, 60x3x5
KB Prone Rows - 20x10, 24x8, 28x2x6, 24x10+4
Ring Pull-ups - 2x10 SS--->Tire Flips - 2x10
Bruce Lees - 10, 5+Hold ALAP, 5
Standing Cable Crunch - 140#x3x12

11/28 (Start new 531 cycle)

Snatch - 50x2x2, 60x2x2, 70x2x2, 80x4x2
Squat - 60x4, 87.5x5, 101x5, 110x11or12(lost count) <--should have been @ 115!!! Hang Snatch High Pull - 80x3, 90x3x3 <--straps CG RDL - 120x10, 130x2x6 KB Prone Row - 20x10, 24x3x10 Pball Praying RO - 3x10x5s holds 11/29 Session 1

Pwr C&J - 60x3x2, 80x2, 92x5, 97.5x3, 100x3x1<--caught almost in full clean :/ Snatch - 50x3, 60x1/2,2, 70x1, 80xmiss,miss,1, 75x3 Press - 55x5, 64x5, 72x3 :( Session 2

Ring Pull-ups - Bwtx3x12
Roman Chairs - 2x12
Standing Cable Rotation - 40#x2x10

Prowler 2 + 90#x25yds D/B x 8 sets
Sledgehammer OH Slams - 4x16#x8

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kind-of- Active Rest

This past weekend I made a trip to my best friend's 100 acre farm in Southern Ohio (Coshocton county). We were going bow hunting for deer, which is a close second to my passion for weightlifting. His farm is loaded with deer and I always have a blast down there. I hunted Saturday morning and then helped mill some trees the rest of the daylight hours. I hunted most of Sunday as well. In essence, this was a good use for active rest. Carrying around lumber isn't the most taxing activity, but it definitely gets the blood pumping. To go along with this, the farm's acreage consists of hills. Walking these extremely steep hills helped my legs recover from the previous week of heavy training (I'll post the training log from last week soon). Not only was this a good few days to recover physically from training, but it also gave me time away from the platform psychologically. My favorite place to ponder things is in a treestand. To me, there is no better place to think about things and relax than in a treestand. The peacefulness cannot be matched. So, next time you want to recover, both physically and psychologically, try taking up some time in the deer woods. Oh, and if you were wondering, I didn't get a shot this trip. That doesn't really matter to me as much as it used to though. I just enjoy being in the wilderness away from the city life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Training 10/26-11/8


Snatch - 50x2x3, 60x3, 70x3, 80x1, 85x2/3,3,3, 90xmissF,missF,missF (missed forward)
Squat - 70x5, 90x2, 104x3, 110x3, 117x6,1,1,1
CG RDL - 110x6, 120x2x6, 125x2x6 (no straps)
KB WG Pull-ups - 6, 16x6x4, Bwtx12


Snatch - 50x2/3,2, 60x3, 70x2, 80xmissF,1, 85x2x1, 90x1,missF,missF
C&J - 60x2x2, 80x2, 90x2, 97.5x2x2, 105x2x2, 100x2/3
BB Walk Lunges - 65x2x8, 67.5x8
KB Prone Rows - 20x5, 28x5, 32x4x5

Prowler Push + 140# x 40yds (L) x 2
Sledge Slams - 20#x8ea. side x 3
KB Swing - 24x3x12
Prowler Push + 140# x 40yds (H/L) x 1


Snatch - 50x2/3,3, 60x2x4, 72.5x3x3, 77.5x3x2
C&J - 60x2x3, 85x3x3, 95x3x3
Bottom-up Front Squat (BUFS) - 135#x4, 195x6, 200x6,5+1,4+1+1
Press - 50x4, 67.5x3, 72x3, 76x3
Pull-ups - 4x10

11/1 - Conditioned (forgot what I did)


Snatch - 50x2/3,3, 65x3x3, 75x2/3,3
Squat - 70x4, 100x5, 110x3, 123x6(belt),1,1,1
CG RDL - 110x6, 120x5, 125x5, 130x2x5
KB NG Pull-ups - 8, 24x2x4, 28x4x4, Bwtx13


Snatch - 50x2x3, 60x2, 70x1/2, 80x2x2, 85x1/2,1/2, 80x1/2, 85x1/2,2
C&J - 60x3, 80x2, 92x3x2, 97x2x2
BB Walking Lunge - 65x8, 67.5x2x8
KB Prone Row - 28x4, 32x4, 40x4, 32x3x4(3s holds at top)
Roman Chairs - 12, 5#x3x10


Snatch - 50x3, 60x2, 70x2, 80x1, 85x2, 87.5x1/2, 90x0/2,miss,miss,1, 95xmiss, 92.5x1
C&J - 60x2, 80x2, 90x1, 100x2, 105x2, 107.5x2, 100x2, 105x2, 107.5x2
Snatch Pulls (straps) - 100x2x3, 105x3x3
BUFS - 205#x2x4, 210x3x4


C&J - 60x2x3, 80x2, 90x2, 100x1, 105x1, 110xmissJ (missed jerk),1, 115xmissJ, 1, 100x1
OHS - 60x6, 80x3, 90x3x3, 95x2x3
Good Morning - 50x8, 60x2x8
Press - 50x3, 64x5, 72x3, 80x2
NG Pull-ups - 6x10
Glute/Ham - 10, 40#x3x8


Snatch - 50x3, 65x2x2, 75x3x2, 80x5x1
Squat - 77.5x5, 85x5, 90x5 (Deload week)
CG RDL - 120x4, 130x4x4
KB Prone Row - 20x5, 24x5, 28x3x5


Prowler 2 + 90# x 40yds (H/L) x 8 Not sure what the rest was, but it kicked my ass

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Interesting Interview

Here is an interview did with my friend and colleague, Ryan Van Asten. I did my internship at Athletes' Performance in Gulf Breeze, Florida with Ryan during the summer of 2008. I had, quite possibly, the best time of my strength career down there, learning from some great coaches and Ryan as well. He's a great coach to learn from and an even better friend outside of the weight room. Check out the interview HERE.

Ryan's website can be accessed at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Double Time

Here is a video of my first successful snatch double at 90kg. I attempted two doubles before this set too. These were my last two reps for a training session that had 36 total reps! I think I must have been on overdrive that day :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Strength and Power = LIFE

I always wonder what it would be like to be a 'normal' person. The kind of person that is not on this relentless pursuit for gaining the most strength and power possible. The kind of person who doesn't even think twice about missing a training session for that movie their friends or significant other wanted to see. The kind of person that parties every weekend and is too hungover the next morning to get their ass in the gym.

These people are not ruled by the inner-struggles of lifters. If you are a serious lifter, you know of the inner-struggles I speak of. I'm talking about the struggles of balancing a well-rounded training and nutrition program with the 'normal' activities of life. This is especially hard for the younger lifters, who seem to always have those few friends trying to enable behaviors inappropriate for making progress. For example, deciding not to attend a party with your friends because you have a heavy session the following morning. Choosing not to eat ice cream with your friends because you might have a meet in a week and you are close to weight.

These inner-struggles are what make being a lifter hard sometimes. But, now that I've thought about it, I'd rather not be a mediocre, 'normal' person. I'd rather spend most of my time in the gym making myself better. I'm getting stronger everyday and have no problem staying out of normal activities of people my age. Train hard, train smart!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Delay Your Feedings

I've recently been trying a different approach with my own diet. I used to eat as the present knowledge of proper dieting would have all of us do. That is, eat many small, healthy meals spread throughout the day. This was fine and I have been doing this for many years, but I was ignorant to a different approach that may be much better for all intensive purposes. This different approach is called intermittent fasting.

I started researching this idea about a month ago. One of my friends has been following this eating method for quite some time and has been smashing personal records in the gym to go along with a hard-earned physique. I thought it would be worth giving a try, and I have been following it for about 3-4 weeks now. I have noticed that my body fat has dropped some despite the fact that I have not lost any weight. Also, I do not train to lose body fat; I train to gain strength and power for weightlifting competitions. This is a good thing...I might have gained some muscle!

One of the reasons I like this way of eating so much more is because I am not preoccupied by what my next meal will be or when I will have it. Also, when I eat, I eat big. I may on;y have two meals some days, but they are large enough to satisfy my hunger and hold me through the fasting state. Don't take my word for it...listen to the experts and try it out for yourself to see if you like it! It has worked well for me, so I will continue to use intermittent fasting.

You might be asking yourself, "what is this intermittent fasting all about"? I cannot explain all the technical physiological and psychological responses behind it, so I will just refer you to some very good articles from a first-hand source. Just click below for some background information on intermittent fasting.

A very good interview with Martin Berkhan, who is one of the most knowledgeable sources on intermittent fasting.

An article on the myths of fasting by Martin on his website, Lean Gains.

Alan Aragon's objective look at intermittent fasting.

Another article on intermittent fasting.

There are a few books that are worth looking into on this subject as well.

- Eat Stop Eat: Expanded Edition
- The Warrior Diet
- Martin Berkhan is coming out with a book (if it's not already out) that I suggest reading because of his practical and applied knowledge on the subject

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Little Science Never Hurt

Here is an excellent video detailing the specifics of weightlifting. This is a great source for lifters, or anyone interested in learning more about how the Olympic lifts are performed. Pay close attention!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interview with a Friend

I recently did a short interview with my close friend, Paul Schmid, on excuses in training. This interview was originally posted on his website,, where I sometimes write guest articles. Paul's views are very similar to mine in that we both want to see the outdoors community become more active to better their overall lives and outdoor experiences. Check out the interview HERE.

Get Your Mind RIGHT!

Just yesterday I competed at a weightlifting meet held at Synergy Sports and Performance in Toledo, OH. This was nothing new for me, having competed for the last 3+ years. I did my own thing, listening to my ipod, relaxing, and waiting to start my warm-ups. I realized, watching the lifters that were new to the sport, just how important the psychological aspect of the sport of weightlifting comes into play. It takes a lot to clear your mind before/during a lift. This is especially true in competition. Nerves and adrenalin are set on high as friends, family, coaches, and teammates may be there to watch.

I watched as one younger, very strong lifter muscled through his lifts with raw strength and aggression. This is, by no means, a bad approach to lift, but only if it can be controlled. This control must be shown with technical application. If aggression is not controlled, technique fades very quickly. When attempting maximum weights for the Snatch and Clean and Jerk, strength, power, and technique are all relied on heavily. If one of these components takes a back seat, the attempt will most likely be missed.

Having said that, each lifter will have his/her own superstitions or nuances in their preparation before an attempt. Some may say a specific cue, while others may just give a grunt or keep a calm face. Whatever it may be, they must feel as though they are set and ready for the attempt. In my opinion, this is where the psychological state of the lifter is the most important. If they miss something in their normal preparation for an attempt, this alone may ruin their chances of completing the lift. Most likely because they will immediately know they skipped a part of their ritual and cannot redo it. This also is the time that the mind must be cleared of all thoughts and environmental stimuli.

Back to the younger lifter I mentioned. He did well in the meet, but nearly dropped a jerk on his head. His approach to the bar is simple...the more anger, the better the attempt. However, this angry approach was not controlled. Again, if he can learn to control his approach to the bar and keep his mind right, his technique will stay consistent and his lifts will improve markedly.

In essence, this post is just to inform those who are not aware of how much PSYCHOLOGICAL STRENGTH is involved in weightlifting. It is not always the strongest, most powerful lifter who wins their weight class. Some may fold under the pressure, while the lifters with the 'controlled mind' will come out on top.

Here are my Snatch and Clean and Jerk 3rd attempts from the meet...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wise Words from a Wise Man

Recently I was having trouble with my training and looked to a friend for some advice. Actually, it was more than simple advice, but a re-evaluation of my training all together. He helped me realize that I was including too much into the amount of time I trained. In other words, for what I was doing, I could have turned it into a 5 day/wk program. Instead, I was doing a 4 day/wk program.

Many times you will read about quality over is no exception to the rule. The older an athlete gets, the less they should actually train. When I say less, I mean less total volume or time spent in training. I do not mean that they lose focus from training. On the contrary, they actually should be more focused because the intensity of training will be increased markedly. This is due to the decrease in volume.

So, when looking to start a new training cycle, pay attention to the quality of the exercises you will be performing. Are they worth the time you put in to complete them? Do they give you that "bang for your buck"?

Focus on the big exercises (Olympic lifts, the big 3, lunges, presses, etc.) for the bulk of your program and you can't go wrong. Keep your volume in check and don't go too long without a deload. If you follow these simple, wise points, progress should be right around the corner.

One last thing...don't leave out your 'core' training. This should be trained directly. Yes, you do activate the trunk musculature when doing lifts such as squats and deadlifts, but it can be stimulated even more so by direct training. I recommend training the abs and low back with moderate to heavy weight for low to moderate repetitions.

Here is that friend who gave me the advice...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Come, All Ye Faithful

Training is NOT a hobby. It is NOT a way for me to get away from other problems. It IS oxygen. It IS life. You may be reading this thinking I am insane, but it is true. At least for this very moment in my life. I'm sure my priorities will be changing very soon, and I'm okay with that. I will be finishing my Master's degree in May and my career will come first. Although, my career as a strength and conditioning coach is STRONGLY correlated to training, wouldn't you say? Ha!

This blog is dedicated to the faithful that live and breathe training. Those that never miss a beat. Those that can relate to everything I have said and am about to say. It is not an easy thing to do, but someone has to do it! Train, that is, especially those of us that train day in, day out; week after week. Those that fight through the physical and psychological discourse of the low periods of a hard, heavy training cycle...only to take a short deload before beginning another training cycle.

You might live the life of a lifter if...

1) you are so beat up that you have to take some ibuprofen just to get through a training session

2) you have to use icy hot, or an equivalent, to get through a session

3) you think about your next training cycle more often than you think about...well, anything else

4) you think about how awesome it would be to just put 5lbs more on your lifts, while "normal" people think adding five pounds is not hard (we know what five pounds more could do for us)

5) you have been training so long that you can not stand to take more than a few days off before hitting it hard again

6) you absolutely HATE deloads, but know how important they are to progress

7) you've trained through several injuries and continued to make progress without getting checked out, while a "normal" person would have stopped training all-together

8) you plan to 'bloat' before a heavy training session

9) you constantly visualize yourself performing big lifts

And the list goes on....

Please, feel free to add yours to the list.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Knowing Capabilities?

During my undergraduate Biomechanics course, I once wrote that I thought I had a very good sense of knowing what someone was physically capable of, as it pertains to athletic performance, just by looking at them. This included taking in a picture of their anthropometrics (height, weight, body fat %, joint lengths, etc.) and also seeing how they move. While I may be able to realize how easy it would be for a person to squat, snatch, clean, etc. just by looking at how their body is built, I now know this previous statement is completely idiotic. Now that I have been working with athletes at all different levels for a few years, I have come to realize that people will always surprise you. This goes for many things in life, but especially when it comes to physical capabilities. I once worked with a very young athlete who had never done any kind of lifting. On her first day of learning the snatch and clean and jerk, she picked up the technique extremely well within the first ten minutes. This was a 10 year old who had just come in for the first time! If memory serves me right, she learned how to do both, full Olympic lifts and front squat in that session and she rocked it. I believe she ended up snatching around 25kg, C&J around 35kg, and front squatting around 40kg. This just goes to show that you can never assume anything until you see for yourself what someone is capable of doing. Train hard, train smart!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Training to the Beat of a Different Drum

Recently I've been helping with the training of the BGSU sprinters and throwers. This has been an excellent experience for me. This marks the first time I have worked in a college setting, though I have worked with several college athletes in the private setting. The college setting is much different. There are many rules that must be followed that the private sector has no need to even have, such as wearing the proper colors within the facility. I find this to be annoying, but at the same time, respectful and unifying. I can understand why this rule is in place and I'm sure every college and many professional team settings have this same rule. Another difference is the time constraint. This is the main reason why I wanted to get experience in the college sector. To this point in my career, I have not been handcuffed to the extreme with time constraints. I wanted to see just how the program was put together with the limited time around the athletes' class schedule, practice, and NCAA regulations on time allowed within the weight room. It is going great so far, and the athletes seem to be receptive to my help. I'm enjoying the new training methods I'm learning as well. We were using extreme, unorthodox, full-body circuits for the last few weeks. Though these circuits would be thought of as endurance-type sessions, they have absolutely increased the work capacity and strength of these athletes. Now we're transitioning into classic strength methods. This includes increased intensity (weight used) and rest with decreasing repetitions and volume. It's going to be fun to see where the training will go from here. I'm excited to watch as these girls progress their strength and power. Go Falcons!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Program: Squat to the Top

I was just looking through some of my files and came across a squat program I wrote up a couple months ago. I have not tried this, so I'm not sure how it is. I thought I'd throw it out here if anyone wants to try it out, or at least look it over. That way maybe you can make adjustments to it for yourself. This could be the best, or worst, squat program ever made. Who knows? It has to be completed and tested before anyone can say either way.

Squat to the Top

Program Considerations
- 6 week, repeating program
- 3 Work weeks, 1 Deload week, 1 Max week, 1 Speed week
- 2 days back, 1 day front per week (except deload and speed weeks)
- Combination of Smolov and 5/3/1 programs
o Use of volume/intensity of Smolov
o Use of simplicity of 5/3/1
 Half of sets straight ( a la Smolov), with last two increasing intensity/decreasing repetitions ( a la 5/3/1)
• Opposite with front squats
• 7% difference between first half and second half of sets
- Rotate Back and Front squats within week (always 2 days back and 1 front)
- Perform higher intensity sets first
- Each week you add 5% and keep sets and reps the same (similar to Smolov)
- For week 4, only perform light, unilateral work for the lower-extremity
- For week 5, first 2 days maxing out…3rd day %’s based off of new max
- Week 6 is a speed week. Again, %’s based off new max in each lift
- After week 6 is complete, repeat the program

The Program

Week 1

Day 1

Back Squat (L) – 3x8 @ 75%, 3x4 @ 82%

Day 2

Front Squat – 3x5 @ 80%, 3x8 @ 73%

Day 3

Back Squat (H) – 5x3 @ 85%, 2x1 @ 92%

Week 2

Day 1

Front Squat – 3x5 @ 85%, 3x8 @ 78%

Day 2

Back Squat (L) – 3x8 @ 80%, 3x4 @ 87%

Day 3

Back Squat (H) – 5x3 @ 90%, 2x1 @ 97%

Week 3

Day 1

Back Squat (L) – 3x8 @ 85%, 3x4 @ 92%

Day 2

Front Squat – 3x5 @ 92%, 3x8 @ 85%

Day 3

Back Squat (H) – 5x3 @ 95%, 2x1 @ 102%

Week 4 (Deload week)

Week 5 (Max week)
Day 1
Back Squat – 2-3x1 @102-105%

Day 2
Front Squat – 2-3x1 @ 102-105%

Day 3
Back Squat – 3x5 @ 80%, 3x2 @ 87%

Week 6 (Speed week)
Day 1
Front Squat – 4x3 @ 55%, 4x2 @ 62%

Day 2
Back Squat – 4x3 @ 55%, 4x2 @ 62%

Squatting Screw-up

As some of you may know, I have recently finished a 4 day/week squat program called the Smolov squat program. It's base cycle is three weeks straight, with the fourth week used as a deload week before beginning the next cycle. I only went through the base cycle.

Recently, since finishing the Smolov, I have not been squatting up to par. This includes both not being able to work at the intensity I want, and not hitting the volume at lower intensities I'm working with.

Therefore, the purpose of this post is to evaluate the previous two months of squatting sessions to find when my squat mojo left, and what caused it to leave. First I will include my thoughts on what is going on. Then I will list each of my squat sessions from the last couple months.

I will warn you before reading any further...I am one of those kinds of people that over-analyzes EVERYTHING. Training is not exception to this either. That is problem numero uno, but it is certainly not the cause of this mishap because I have always been this way. My second thought is that my motor patterns have changed because of tightness in my right leg. Since I've finished the Smolov, my right sartorius has been extremely tight to the point of pain at it's origin (my right ASIS/hip bone). In my opinion, this is probably the culprit because the posterior chain of my right side has not felt right since this started. Anyone who has squatted can attest that if your glutes/hamstrings aren't firing, you're in for some sub-par performances. Another thought that I have been having is that my right triceps surae (calf muscles) are overactive, which could be causing some improper motor unit firing patterns. This thought came to me because I always feel my right 'calf' over my left when I'm walking...and I feel my left glute over my right while walking. Therefore, this could very well be adding to the problem as well. Are you still with me? I told you I over-analyze! These top the list of my thoughts (believe me, there are more). I've tried everything to fix these...stretching, strengthening, foam/ball rolling. Nothing is working!

Here is the list of my squat sessions (used belt all days except first):

7/26 (Start Smolov) Bwt = 167lbs
60x4, 90x3, 107x4x9

7/28 Bwt = 164.4lbs
60x5, 90x3, 105x2, 114x5x7

7/30 Bwt = 168.4lbs
60x4, 90x3, 110x2, 122x7x5

7/31 (#)
135x5, 185x3, 225x3, 245x1, 275x3x3, 2+1,",4x3,2+1

8/2 (#)
135x5, 185x4, 225x3, 255x4x9

8/4 Bwt = 168.6lbs
70x5, 90x3, 110x2, 124x5x7

60x5, 100x3,2, 110x2, 120x2, 130x1+2,2, 125x2, 122x1, 110x4,5,2
This was easily the worst day of the program. My R quad was cramped and tight.

70x5, 100x2, 110x2, 125x10x3

60x5, 90x4, 110x2,9, 112.5x3x9

70x5, 90x4, 110x3, 115x7, 120x7, 122.5x3x7

8/13 Bwt = 168.6lbs
70x3, 100x3, 110x3, 120x1, 130x5,5,4/5, 127.5x4+1,",4/5,2+1+1/2, 120x1
By the last few sets, I wasn't able to finish the sets. The last set with 120 was just to make up the few reps I missed, but probable would've failed beyond one rep.

8/14 (Last day on Smolov) Bwt = 169.4lbs
70x3, 100x3, 110x2, 120x2, 130x3x3, 132x3, 130x6x3

8/20 (Max attempt)
70x4, 90x2, 110x2x1, 120x1, 130x1, 140x1, 110x5
This was a horrible day...140 almost crushed me. This was actually 12.5kg less than my previous max before starting the Smolov. My hope was to get around 160kg. This will have to happen another day.

Hopefully this will paint a picture as to what is going on with my squat. If you see anything, let me know! Until this gets worked out, I will be putting my head down and pushing forward to get back to where I was just a few short weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Always Have a Choice

I've been thinking recently about my progress in training, as well as in life. It is so crucial to look at the little things you are doing in the present that will lead to future occurrences. Remember, as the title of this blog says, you always have a choice. The choices we decide on can make or break anything you are trying to accomplish. I am writing this as a short reminder to stop and think before you make your next decision; whatever it may concern. Remember to think of the little things as well. In training, this may be doing those couple sets of prehab/rehab on a certain smaller muscle group. For work, it may be staying those few extra minutes each day to help a boss or co-worker. Whatever the situation, take a moment to stop and think about what outcome your next decision will help create. Do the little things right and you will progress faster than you think in all aspects of life!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Complete Failure

Today was a day that was supposed to be record-setting. Instead, it turned out to be one of the worst failures I've had in training in a long time. I was supposed to set a new PR in the back squat, following the Smolov program I finished last week. My goal was to hit AT LEAST 160kg. What I ended up getting up to is almost too disturbing to say aloud, let alone share in writing. I barely made it to 140kg, when just a week ago I was at 130kg for sets of 5. The moral of the story...don't be an idiot weakling like me. Also, don't waste a training day. I knew warming-up that I wasn't 100% ready to go for a new max. Therefore, the SMART thing would have been to wait another day before trying for a new personal record.

Then least I'm not this guy :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Smolov: Reflection

I finished the Smolov base program on Saturday. This last week was, by far, the toughest to get through. More importantly, Friday, day 3, was the worst of the week. I had to get through 7 sets of 5. I was supposed to be working with 137kg, but started at 130kg. I did the first 3 sets with 130kg, failing on the 5th rep of the 3rd set. From there I dropped to 127.5kg and finished the rest of my sets at that weight. I did fail on two other sets as well, but finished all but three reps in the session. Saturday I finished the program with 10x3 @ 130kg. Yes, I know it was the same weight I used the day before, but this was as high as I was able to go while still completing all the reps. Saturday's prescribed weight was 144kg, but there was no way I was using that weight. I'm working at higher reps with weight I'd normally only get for 1 or 2 reps. I'm very glad I did this program and plan on doing it once per year from here on out.

Here is a video of the 2nd day of the last week (5x7). Pat knocked over the camera on the second rep, but I can assure you all 7 reps were done.

Monday, August 9, 2010

High School Happenings: Part II

In the first part ( of this blog, I described a trip to my old high school. On this trip I observed some of the football team in their training and added my two cents where I thought was appropriate.

In this blog, I plan to take you through my thoughts on what is specifically needed for a solid, complete strength and conditioning program (not just at the HS level, but at all levels). This will include both HOW these should be implemented, and WHY they should be implemented. It should be noted that these are not in order of significance because they are all equally important in building a solid athlete.

THE List of Program Essentials

1) Assessments (Pre and Post)

This is the time when an athlete first comes in, whether for the first time ever or a returning player at the beginning of another season, and you must assess where they stand with various physiological, anatomical, and performance traits. A good idea for most coaches who don't know much about this would be to purchase Gray Cook's Functional Movement Screen items ( Andrew Paul also has a great two-part article on his approach to a modified assessment protocol that suits his needs ( (

The assessment process helps the coach find an athlete's strength and flexibility imbalances, as well as helping to prevent injuries that would occur as a result of these imbalances. After all, if the coach finds these imbalances, he/she can prescribe the appropriate program to fix the problem areas. The performance areas that need to be assessed will depend on the sport for which the athletes are participating and that sport's physiological requirements. An example of a testing battery for football, after an appropriate warm-up, would be as follows:

1-Broad Jump 2-Vertical Jump 3-40 yd dash 4-Pro-agility 5-Power Clean 1-3RM 6-Squat 1RM 7-Bench 1RM 8-Deadlift 1RM

This is a lot for one day and can be broken into two testing days for better results. The same movements for both the Functional Movement Screen and the pre-tests should be done at the end of the season as a post-test as well. They could even be done during the season at some point. This is a good idea if the strength coach wishes to evaluate their program's effectiveness at different stages throughout the entire season. We all know tracking progress is a big part of the game and, in doing so, this allows us to evaluate if any changes need to be made in our programs.

2) Warm-ups

Warming up could possibly be one of the most important components of a program. This includes warm-ups before any activity has begun, and warm-ups for specific lifts. Warm-ups are essential to do exactly as they are aptly warm up your muscles. This makes the muscles that are to be used in activity more pliable and able to withstand repeated high-force contractions. Warming up also allows the joints to move in a greater range of motion once the muscles become more loose. Greater ranges of motion between joints benefit the athletes to be able to move in positions which they could not reach in a cold state. There are two types of warm-ups, general and specific.


General warm-ups are those that are performed before beginning any other activity. These can be done with many different exercises, as the main idea is to just get the blood flowing and the muscles warm (as stated above). It is a good idea to perform movements that involve the muscles and joints targeted for the exercises prescribed on that specific day. For example, a great way to start a training session, and one thing we do frequently at Synergy Sports and Performance, is to perform what we call the hip circuit. This circuit includes hip circles (forward and backward) and hydrants. We also like to do clams and glute bridges. Bret Contreras is well known for his glute activation techniques and I highly recommend reading any articles he has written on the subject. Once you're done with the hip circuit, you can move on to other general movements such as spiders, the world's greatest stretch (reach lunge), sumo squats, butt kickers, etc. The main thing is that the athletes are moving dynamically and all the joints and muscles that are to be used following the warm-up are targeted. The movements I described are types of dynamic stretches. Before activity, dynamic stretching has proven to be more effective than static stretching in research over the years. Static stretching is said to reduce the amount of force that a muscle can produce by way of a reduction of musculotendinous stiffness (Samuel, 2008). Therefore, it isn't a good idea to have athletes statically stretching before activity if force production is required.


Specific warm-ups are those that are performed before getting to the working sets of a lift. It is important that progressions of weight are not rushed too quickly or taken too slowly. If there are too few warm-up reps done before the working sets, the central nervous system may not be ready to perform up to standard (recruitment may be slow to respond). If there are too many warm-up reps done before the working sets, the CNS may be too exhausted, or there may not be enough ATP generation, to complete the working sets. Be smart with warm-up sets. It will take some playing around before you know what is good for you. Everyone is different and even your body can change how many warm-up sets are needed from day to day. Just make sure you listen to your body!

3) Balanced Training Program

As I've said, I believe many high school programs in this country are sorely lacking a good program. Though, not only are they lacking a "good" program, but some may not have a set program at all. I know my school did not. How can you have the athletes just coming in and doing whatever they want and expect to do well, or even prevent injuries from occurring? Having a balanced training program is dire to being successful in sport. This idea will encompass some of the individual ideas that follow in this article because this is the 'big picture' topic. This idea of a balanced training program means that all the ducks are lined up. The program involves all areas of performance and recovery. Following is a list of components that a balanced training program should have and WHY it is important to include these components.

Assessments - Mentioned above

Warm-ups and movement preparation - Mentioned above

Speed & Agility - It is important to include these components to ready the athlete for competition and develop these skills necessary to perform at a high level. These skills may include cutting, jumping, backpedaling, cone drills, sprinting of various types, etc. These are the types of movements many athletes become injured by performing. If we can have them performing these in a controlled environment, at first, and then progress to an open environment, we reduce the risk of injury. This is because their movement patterns to perform these specific movements become second nature. The point is that they are performing these movements regularly and not just lifting weights all of the time. Lifting is just one component to the overall scheme.

Lifting - This is obviously one of the most important components of the program. Without this component, athletes would not be able to develop the appropriate levels of strength and power necessary to perform at higher levels of competition. Whatever program template is used (Smolov, 5/3/1, Conjugate, German Volume, Sheiko, etc.), you must make sure that every muscle group is worked. This is not saying that muscle groups should be trained like bodybuilders, because I do not believe in that type of training for athletes. I believe movements have to be trained but, while training movements, each muscle group should be worked to an extent. I like to call this the 'No Muscle Left Behind' method of training. I'm not sure if anyone has coined that title yet, but I find it to be a good fit.

Agonists and antagonists (opposite muscle groups) should be trained equally. An example would be training the quadriceps and hamstrings groups equally, so a strength imbalance does not come about. Again, this is where injuries become more prevalent. Problem areas (areas that often are injured) of specific sports should be targeted. Again, the hamstrings can be used as an example. We often see hamstrings problems in many sports, usually because of a strength or flexibility issue. Erik Minor wrote a great article on hamstrings training ( Another problem area is the back. Obviously this is an area of the body that cannot be taken for granted. Eric Cressey wrote a great two-part article on T-Nation titled "Low Back Savers" ( & ( Also, any work done by Dr. Stuart McGill is a must read because of his expertise on this subject.

With lifting comes the ultimate possibility of volume, mixing sets and reps. How many sets and reps of this exercise, you may ask. It all depends on the sport and time of year. Are you in-season? Pre-season? Off season? I've seen a lot of times where coaches have their athletes performing what would normally be an off season program during the season. This isn't a good idea because in-season work should be devoted for more skill sessions and less lifting/training sessions. In other words, more time should be devoted to skill development during the season, and less time spent on strength/power development. The in-season is more of a maintenance phase in this regard. I believe more sport coaches need to understand this aspect of training. I also think it necessary to mention the weightlifting movements of the Snatch, Clean and Jerk, and their variations. These are explosive lifts that, if performed properly, can develop very powerful athletes. Many coaches do not use these lifts because they claim they take too long to teach, but I can assure you that if you have a qualified, knowledgeable coach come in and help out, it won't take more than 20-30 minutes to teach the basics. I urge you all to at least contemplate using some of these lifts in your program. You won't regret it! In the September 2009 issue of MILO, former Olympic team weightlifting coach, Jim Schmitz, wrote a great article titled "Twenty Reasons for Doing Olympic-style Weightlifting". It's a great read and very informative. Check it out if you're still skeptical on using the lifts in your program. I shouldn't have to mention the powerlifting movements, as these are what most coaches use in their programs. These movements should definitely be used as the base of the program, especially if used during a strength cycle.

Technique - This cannot be overlooked. Technique is a huge part of how athletes become better. We can call this movement efficiency. Basically, this is where an athlete's muscle physiology becomes more adept at performing. The same movements can be made with less effort and less energy expenditure, saving energy for other movements. Dr. Michael Yessis provides a further explanation of movement efficiency in his blog ( Not only will improved technique help performance, but it will also help prevent injury. By being in the correct position, the athlete shifts the stresses of the weight to the correct areas of the body that can handle said stresses, limiting potential injury. Another point worth mentioning is the quality of a repetition. Yes, I'm talking about each rep in the program. I talk about this later, but EVERY rep should be treated as it's own set. This way concentration and technique are high, and risk of injury is low.

Flexibility and Mobility - Mentioned below

Conditioning - Mentioned below

Recovery - Mentioned below

Details - Paying attention to the small things is what separates the champions from the rest of the pack, so to speak. From time to time a coach will have a few athletes that are just "not feeling it" on that particular training day. They must allow these athletes to deviate from the scheduled plan a little. This way they can bounce back from whatever is bothering them...physically and psychologically. A few days of rest or lighter work load could mean the difference between the worst and best performance of an athlete's career. This is part of monitoring all of the athletes' day to day conditions, which is a good way to make sure none of them fall into a state of overtraining syndrome, or burnout. These cases are fairly rare, but they can and do happen. Remember, it never hurts to ask how your athletes are feeling on a daily basis. You just have to trust they will be honest with you!

Personal Equipment - It is generally difficult to prescribe programs that utilize more expensive equipment, or equipment bought in bulk, to those schools that can't afford it. However, it is much more affordable to ask that individuals buy their own equipment. This equipment may include knee sleeves/wraps, lifting shoes, wrist wraps, lifting straps, chalk, tape, etc. You get the the long run, it is much more affordable this way.

4) Proper Progressions

You've all seen this happen, but I'll paint the picture.

Dan, comes in with a friend, Josh, and they are squatting. Dan has never squatted a day in his life, and Josh has been squatting for 2+ years. They immediately put 135lbs on the bar, without any type of warm-up. Now, Josh has no problem with this, but Dan has never worked so hard in his life.

This is what should have happened:

Dan and Josh come in and perform a general warm-up for about 10 minutes, after which they perform a specific warm-up of squats. This is where they deviate because Dan is so far behind Josh. Josh should be teaching Dan how to squat with bodyweight, progressing to a stick, and then to the bar. This is all before adding any weight! Josh would then perform his specific warm-up, squatting with the bar, then adding weight as his warm-ups progress. In the meantime, Dan is still getting the basic movement pattern down with the empty bar.

Big weight will come, but athletes have to realize they must be able to properly perform the movement before they add massive amounts of weight to the bar. Progressing in this nature will not only help motor function, but will also provide another way to stave off injury. Progressions do not always have to be with the same exercise either. Maybe an athlete's goal is to be able to learn the proper flat bench technique, but has never done any kind of bench work. You might use a progression such as push-ups, barbell floor press, barbell bench press. There is really no set progressions that have to be used because every person learns at a different rate and by different methods. Therefore, you can be as creative or simple as you want, as long as the athlete is able to come to their final goal.

5) Specific Conditioning

This is an important topic to discuss because so many coaches these days use conditioning as punishment. Remember that activity depends on what energy system one is primarily utilizing. If all the energy systems are tapped because the team had to run gassers for the first part of practice, how can a coach expect his/her players to perform at their best? I believe other forms of punishment should be used, so as to not affect performance in practice and game situations.

On another note, I say "specific conditioning" because that is what conditioning needs to be...specific. Specific to the sport being played. If a football play lasts an average of 3-5 seconds, why would a coach have his/her players running around the track for long periods of time, at a slow pace none-the-less? I have actually seen, and been a part, of this type of absurd conditioning! This is not specific at all! Those players might as well trade their pads in for some track shorts and run the mile. What I'm getting at is that in order to develop the energy systems used for that specific sport (football = ATP & creatine phosphate), you must have the athletes performing the activities that specifically utilize these systems. Rest is also a key factor in developing these systems. A work:rest of 1:4-5 is generally used for sprinting activities in order to regain the energy substrates needed for the next sprint. In order to improve overall conditioning, the rest can be manipulated (shortened). In this way, the athlete is working harder, but still utilizing the primary energy system the most. Whatever kind of conditioning you choose, make sure it matches the time and speed at which the sport is played. Also, make sure the rest periods are appropriate to what you are trying to accomplish (improved work capacity vs. speed/agility/acceleration).

6) Recovery

Recovery is such a HUGE component of a training program it could have it's own week of articles. Recovering from prior training allows the athlete to work harder in the present training session. This leads to greater intensity, enhancing the impact of adaptation for that specific training session. Recovery weeks (deload weeks) should also be scheduled to allow the athlete to recover before beginning new phases of higher intensity training. There are many types of recovery methods known today. Some may work better for person A than person B. As in training, people recover differently as well. Again, this is something the individual must use trial and error with to find what works best for them. Some of these methods include ice baths, water contrast therapy, analgesics, ART, massages, compression clothing, and many more. For more information, consult Bishop et. al., who wrote an interesting review article on recovery from training.

7) Concentration & Awareness

This is a big pet-peeve of mine, and should be of most coaches. Here is the have an athlete that comes in for training and every five minutes they walk over to check their phone. Really?! Not only is this distracting to their training and progression, but it is distracting to their teammates as well. This activity should not be allowed in any training facility. Cell phones should be checked at the door, so as not to get in the way of valuable time the athletes could be using to adapt to hard training. This is a piece of concentrating on what should be done in the training facility. Next, concentration on EVERY rep of EVERY set. Reminding athletes that every rep counts helps their overall development and technique to execute exercises. If they start to drift off and just go through the motions, their risk of injury vastly increases.

Awareness deals with the athlete's attention to what is happening around them. This is especially important if the training facility has weightlifting platforms where the weightlifting movements (Snatch and Clean and Jerk) are being performed. Many, many times I have seen younger athletes walking right across the side of a platform while another was getting ready to lift, bar-in-hand. This amazes me! What could possibly be going through their mind to think "I could just cut right through here...they won't mind". It's not so much of an etiquette thing (even though it really is), but more of a safety issue. This is extremely dangerous, especially if the bar is loaded heavier and the lifter happens to catch the person walking across the platform while in the middle of the lift. It is dangerous for both parties, and this is something that can definitely be avoided. Safety should always be kept in mind in all facets of training!

8) Flexibility

I will touch on this briefly. I believe flexibility is important to keep the range of motion appropriate for most athletic movements and to keep muscle imbalances at bay. Many of us know if one muscle is tight, it's antagonist will shut down. The most popular occurrence is that of tight hip flexors causing the glutes to weakly contract. For situations such as this, stretching MUST be done. However, if an athlete does not feel tight anywhere, and does not show signs of tightness in movement screens, I believe full ROM movement and foam rolling can keep flexibility levels relatively stable.

9) Proper Nutrition

This topic is a no-brainer for most of us. To continue to progress performance, the athlete must be consuming the correct foods (and the correct amounts). Too many times I have seen high school athletes eating garbage for their pre-game or pre-training meals. It is not a preference for most of them, but just a habit because most don't know any better. I'm positive if they were more knowledgeable in the subject, they would make a better attempt to consume smarter foods. As coaches, we can sit the team down and educate them on what, and what not, to eat before training and games, as well as after these events. Always, always push water on the athletes! Hydration is also very important to performance. It would be a wise decision to guide athletes in their eating habits for all other times of the day as well. But, if we had to just pick a couple of times during the day, those times around performances would be the most important. There are many great sources to choose from here (

10) Support

I believe support from teammates and coaches is a HUGE part of success in a strength and conditioning program. This support drives competitiveness between players of the entire team and within the same positions. Without that competitive edge, many players would just go through the motions, never getting better. We don't want that, do we? Some things that may help teams struggling to support each other are as follows:

1-Events outside of football (i.e., team dinners, movies, etc.)
2-Fund raisers for the team
3-Raising funds for the community
4-Community service

With this bonding, the coach will start to see attitudes of the players begin to change for the better. This is especially true for players who did not really know each other before joining the team. As they get to know each other, they will become part of the team's 'family', and will behave accordingly. This is when you see players protecting each other on and off the field, as if they are a family. Once this happens, team chemistry is on high and support becomes second nature.

11) Competency of coach

The players will follow what their coaches have to say. If the coach is not willing to educate him/herself enough to better the team, the team will not progress. This is half the battle with many schools that don't have the equipment or other resources (strength coaches) necessary to get better. Some teams can get by with coaches that don't give them enough guidance because they have the equipment available to them to goof around and halfway train. But the teams who have a program in place with a knowledgeable coach will always out-perform the other teams. If you are a coach, do yourself a favor for your team's sake and read up on training every once and awhile. At least enough to put a program in place.

Thanks for reading! Most of you probably already knew most of this, but if I reached even one coach that will use this information, I've done my job. Knowledge is power! Train hard, train smart, get strong!


Bishop, P.A., E. Jones, and A.K. Woods (2008). Recovery from training: A brief review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(3), 1015-1024.

Samuel, M.N., W.R. Holcomb, M.A. Guadagnoli, M.D. Rubley, and H. Wallmann (2008). Acute effects of static and ballistic stretching on measures of strength and power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(5), 1422-1428.