Make Solutions, Not Problems.

As strength and conditioning coaches we need to remember we should be problems solvers for our athletes. We should make what we’re trying to accomplish so simple that if the athletes grandma walked in the room she would be in agreement because the expectations are so obvious. I think this holds true especially on the male side (being simple) as female athletes are better listeners. Being complicated with our words and making our athletes scratch their heads thinking “this guy is crazy…” is not a good thing. The athletes also don’t really care about anything strength and conditioning related anyway; they just want to get better…

Be simple, positive, hold your athletes accountable, increase performance, and have fun. Keep it simple folks 💪🏼

Mindset

One of the four pillars to success in training is mindset. Mindset will dictate the outcome of long term success. It was once said that you will be successful 80% of the time by just showing up. I have seen this to be true for my athletes and adult fitness clients. The people that show up on a consistent basis and get a workout completed that they were scheduled for typically are more successful than the ones that don’t.

Success is subjective in most cases during the strength and conditioning process. Truly analyzing what success is for you individually is the key to applying proper mindset and staying focused in that mindset. Analyze what you need to improve and meditate on that improvement area. For some staying healthy for four years is a goal, for the outliers it’s to be he strongest athlete on campus, and for others it’s simply to lose weight and feel better from exercise.

Whatever the goal is for you personally make sure your mindset matches up with those goals. Everything matters, every word, every action, and every non-action. Everything adds up and makes your mindset and outcomes in life.

Importance of Assessments

A test is how someone is judged on their ability to be proficient at a task. In fitness or strength & conditioning we refer to complete assessments on athletes and clients. In sport the “test” is actually playing the game and the outcome of that game.

Im the strength & conditioning (S&C)/fitness industry the amount of assessments out there are overwhelming. Like everything else in the industry things have been blown out of proportion…

Keeping it simple, I will go through why assessments ARE important and how to make the most use of your time with them.

First if you have a personal client and/or have the time to assess an athlete, do it! You will learn more about that person from just asking questions then the actual assessment itself more times than not. I prefer the functional movement screen (FMS) for the in-depth efficiency of the test. Only take some about 12 minutes to complete for most people and I now know what they can and can’t do while training. I would use the FMS on anyone that I could get my hands on…

The second set of assessments that need to be considered are performance assessments. The majority of adult fitness clients want weight loss, so their performance test may be body fat percentage or if you have decide that they do indeed need to lose weight than the scale is their performance indicator. For athletes just beginning a program performance assessments can be very misleading because of the enormous gains they’re going to experience from starting a lifting program. I will typically weight until I feel like that athlete or group of athletes has overcome initial gains and then begin a testing period. Performance tests I would use with athletes would be vertical jump, broad jump, and a 10 yard dash test. All of the strength work is tested in the weight room through the training program every 8 weeks during he off-season.

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Two Jumps that Make You Faster.

Speed kills.

And the ability to produce force at an incredibly fast rate is the key to athletics. Besides sprinting, plyometrics (specifically jumping), is one of the best ways to train an athlete to produce more force. In a 2017 study athletes who had higher peak power outputs in the vertical jump also ran faster 40 meter dash times (Reference: Loturco, I. et al. (2017) Jump-Squat and Half-Squat Exercises: Selective Influences on Speed-Power Performance of Elite Rugby Sevens Players. PLoS ONE. Ahead of print.). So if training the ability to jump higher will produce faster sprint times then that immediately tells coaches and athletes that plyometrics are extremely important.

Speed kills.

So if jumping is important than what kind of jumping should our athletes perform in training programs? A 2016 study compared the effects of horizontal (ie. broad jump) and vertical jumping. Both jumps showed to increase sprint times, jump height/distance, and change of direction times (Antonio, D. I., Martone, D., Milic, M., & Johnny, P. (2016). Vertical-vs. horizontal-oriented drop-jump training: chronic effects on explosive performances of elite handball players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. In Press.) So athletes need both vertical and horizontal jumping to increase power and speed on the field of play.

So performing both the vertical and broad jump in your programs will increase overall speed, but when should these jumps be completed? Performing plyometrics before sprinting has shown to increase 20 meter and 40 meter sprint times dramatically according to a study from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. The increases were shown to be as high as .46 seconds in the 20 meter sprint and 0.41 in the 40 meter sprint. These are significant increases in speed!

Performing these exercises immediately after a dynamic warm-up is ideal to central nervous system adaptation.

A sample workout routine would be:

Soft Tissue: Foam Roll

Movement Prep: activation, mobility, & dynamic warm-up

Plyo Prep: Toe Drop-double leg to single leg 2X5ea

Plyometrics: Non-Counter Movement Vertical Jump 4X4

A sample week of plyometrics could be vertical jumps on Monday, horizontal jumps on Wednesday, and lateral jumps on Friday. After jumping technique is mastered, depending on the age of the athlete, load the athlete with a bungee or weighted vest for increased power output. Plyometrics should be completed almost year around except for sports with high volume of jumping/running in their sport such as basketball, soccer, or volleyball. All other sports plyometrics would be a part of there programs year around. Staying under

Jump higher. Run faster.

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Systems Based Training

As an athlete you want your strength and conditioning program to give you results. With the YouTube generation of athletes among us, our athletes tend to gravitate more towards exercise programs or exercises that look “cool”, but don’t actually produce results. YouTube box jump and you will see all kinds of ridiculous videos of crazy feats of jumping that’s not actually helping the athlete jump higher. Instead of throwing an exercise or workout on the board for an athlete or team and hoping it sticks. Having systems based training gives athletes the movement patterns they need to develop, and also builds strength in the proper muscle groups to prevent injury. This is the key to taking your athletes training to the next level.

Prior to periodizing a program we need to have assessments, muscular strength testing, and (if proper equipment is available) speed testing. Assuming that all of those boxes have been checked we can now look at our training system. When designing your training system considering equipment, space, and overall facilities that you have at your disposal is going to dictate what lifts are in your programs. For example, if you don’t have bumper plates and platforms and you’re an Olympic lifting guru… either use dumbbells, kettle bells, or find another way to emulate the Olympic lifts. Being principle based as a strength coach and not letting our “philosophy” or pride get in the way of training our athletes will help reproduction of results as well. After considering facilities we then have to look at the sport the athlete plays, how long we will be training that athlete or athletes, and how many times a week they will be training.

Our system for athletic performance training is as follows:

Soft Tissue

Movement Prep

Plyometrics

Movement Skill (Speed Work)

Med Ball Throws

Power/Strength Lifts

Conditioning

What makes a systems based training program is an exercise protocol that has different exercises within it, but stays within its own written principles. The way that this program is structured has a mix of influences within it. Influencers like Joe Kenn’s Tier System, Mike Boyle’s thoughts on program design, Mark Verstegen’s speed tactics, Gray Cooks thoughts on movement, and many of my personal mentors help make the programs that I write for my athletes. Use these programs for your athletes, but make sure you find a training system that fits your program, your athletes and fits YOUR principles. If you’re an athlete, seek out your strength coach and have them build a program for you if they haven’t already. If you’re going to be anything with your workouts athlete or strength coach, BE CONSISTENT!

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5 Ways for beginners to Test Max Strength (and not get hurt).

Do you want to know your one rep max? Or maybe you just want to know your baseline strength level? I’m going to give you 5 exercises that give you a baseline of your strength level. These testing protocols work for athletes (high school, college, or pro)  and general fitness enthusiasts. No matter your your fitness level these exercises have proven to be extremely safe and effective.

For the lower body we will look specifically at the rear foot elevated split squat (R.F.E.S.S.). This exercise specifically tests single leg squat strength. Testing single leg strength in my mind, is a huge plus. For most situations individuals are on one leg (running, jumping, etc.) so testing single leg strength is a bit more practical. Although I do believe for someone with an intermediate level of training experience the typical barbell back squat reigns supreme. For the R.F.E.S.S. continue to load as much weight as possible for a single rep until you can’t complete a single repetition.

For upper body max strength testing we will test the pull-up, push-up (or bench press), and inverted row. For all of these upper body tests technique has to be completed correctly. Full extension and full flexion of the limbs are required for the exercises. Pull-up: arms must be fully locked out at the bottom of the exercise to count. Push-Up: chin must touch the ground. Bench press the bar must touch the chest and be fully locked out. Inverted row: legs are straight and body is parallel to the ground. All of these tests except the bench press are completed for reps to failure. Bench press we are putting on the maximum weight for one single repetition.

These tests are best suited for someone who’s at a beginner to intermediate level of training experience. Give these exercises a try and continue to test them in the future. Train Inspired!

Why you shouldn’t believe the “personal trainer” stereotype for all fitness professionals.

Strength coaches in the collegiate setting and personal trainers in the private sector tend to get a bad rap. Let’s be honest… when you think of a personal trainer you probably think self consumed, chicken breast eating, meathead… Strength coaches are more on the side of eating a ton of food, being super obnoxious, and lifting really heavy weights. If you go to any private gym you will most likely encounter a lot of bro science and tight t-shirts from trainers. Typically stereotypes have merit, let’s be honest. But as we all know, not all stereotypes are true.

There are a lot of individuals in the fitness industry that are not in this group of stereotypes that we typically think of. A TRUE strength & conditioning or fitness professional looks at their job the same as someone who wears a suit and tie to work everyday. I know myself personally, I typically  go to at least 4-6 conferences every year. Being around other quality individuals in the industry at these conferences, you realize that there is an abundance of real professionals in the industry. There are also so many companies and organizations that bring extremely high quality training to their facilities. Companies such as EXOS, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, and 95% of the collegiate strength and conditioning programs in the United States provide the standard in our industry.

When looking at hiring someone as a trainer or an employee I think looking for the 7 C’s in a candidate will give you your answer if they’re qualified to guide you in your health or be a part of your team. Going through the 7 C’s according to Forbes Magazine: 1.competent 2.capable 3.compatible 4.commitment 5.character 6.culture and 7.compensation. I think if we dissected all of these sub-points in further detail we will find all of the answers we need to see a quality individual. Next time you see a trainer that fits the stereotypes listed above, know that there are just as many quality individuals who DON’T fit the “fitness” stereotype. Train Inspired!

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