Strength Coach: A Call to Serve

During the Christmas break I always have a little more free time than I do during any other time of the year. Because of that, I always seem to spend a lot of time listening to and catching up podcasts like the Strength Coach Podcast or Ron McKeefery’s Iron Game Chalk Talk, but even a little more time is spent reading. One book I made my way through over the break was Strength Coach: A Call to Serve by East Carolina Director of Strength and Conditioning Jeff Connors.

SC A Call to Serve

Since the book had such great reviews, when it arrived I started reading it the same day. When you have heard that it was such a great book you tend to not waste any time. And I have to admit, it didn’t disappoint at all, it was an awesome book. I think it literally took me two days from start to finish, I just couldn’t put the book down.

The book is essentially a memoir of Coach Connors coaching career coupled with some theories and strength training programs that Coach Connors has used and currently uses with his football team at East Carolina University and during his time at the University of North Carolina. The book takes you step by step through Coach Connors career, from his young days growing up in a hard working family in Pennsylvania, to his days as a police officer in Florida, to his first job as a Head Strength Coach at Bucknell, to his days at East Carolina and North Carolina.

An aspect that Coach Connors talks about a lot in the book is forging the character of athletes through their time with him in the weight room. Much like Joe Ehrmann’s thoughts on coaching in his book InsideOut Coaching, Coach Connors places a great emphasis on developing good people, not just good athletes. Athletes should not only improve their athletic performance and decrease the potential for injuries because of the time spent with their strength coach, but athletes should also become a better person for spending time around any coach, whether it is their sport coach or their strength coach, an aspect that has not been lost on Coach Connors throughout his coaching career.

Jeff Connors ECU

From an actual strength and conditioning standpoint, Coach Connors lays out his year-round program at East Carolina. One thing that I found very interesting was that Coach Connors typically implements a three day strength training program in the off-season when most college football programs implement a four day off-season program. On the other hand, Coach Connors spends more time developing linear and lateral speed as well as conditioning, aspects that he feels is somewhat under-trained in many programs and what helps develop his athletes.

All this being said, I highly recommend this book to any strength coach. Not only does Coach Connors do a great job laying out his thought process when it comes to the science of being a strength coach when it comes to his programming, but also his thoughts on being a positive influence on all of his athletes. In my opinion, any Director or Head Strength Coach should seriously consider buying a copy of the book for all of their members on staff – it’s worth it!

Move Better, Feel Better – Improving Tissue Quality

One of the biggest reasons people don’t move well is because they have very poor tissue quality. Because people sit so much, whether it be at work, in the car, or watching television, our muscles become tight and as a result we move terrible.

In order to counteract this we need to perform a little tissue quality work everyday to keep up with all our sitting. Simply grabbing a foam roller and going through a full body roll will do wonders to improve your tissue quality.

foam rollers

Spending 10 minutes going through a foam roll hitting all of these areas is both simple and extremely helpful when it comes to moving and feeling a little better. Hit each area for 30 or so seconds. If a certain area is extra tender and painful, don’t hesitate to spend a little extra time on that area and work the gunk out. Furthermore, don’t be limited to the areas below as these are just general guidelines and areas that traditionally need a little TLC. Following is also a quick foam rolling video done by great strength coach Matt Skeffington.

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Quads
  • T-Spine
  • Rear Deltoid

After finishing the foam roll I highly recommend going through a quick static stretching session. I am well aware of the fact that there seems to be some debate on the importance of static stretching – some say to do it, some say its a waste of time. Either way, anecdotal evidence suggests that people feel better after a quick static stretching so I would still recommend performing it.

Again, spend approximately 30 seconds in each position unless you feel extremely tight and need a little more time. The best part about this stretching routine is that you can incorporate your foam roller and just move right into the stretching series after you finish up rolling.

  • Hip Flexors
  • Hamstring
  • External Rotators
  • Groin

I should note that this is very similar to the rolling and stretching series that was performed at MBSC while I was an employee there. It is very simply, straight forward and to the point, yet very effective.

I would highly recommend running through this routine either before you train or on an off day to help recovery from previous days training. So many injuries and other muscular issues can be alleviated and avoided if we did a better job taking care of ourselves through improving our tissue quality.

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 1/8

It’s Wednesday which means another group of good reads from the last week or so. Enjoy!

Good Reads 1

Interview with Mike Boyle Boyle by Mladen Jovanovic

7 Lessons Learned in 2013 by Jason Ferruggia

Like ACL Prevention, ACL Rehab is Just Good Training by Charlie Weingroff

Dorsiflexion and Glute Activation by Charlie Weingroff

Best of 2013 by Eric Cressey

Best of 2013 by Tony Gentilcore

How to RDL by Mike Robertson

The Top 10 Articles of 2013 by Mike Robertson

5 Things I Learned in 2013 by Anthony Donskov

The Wisdom of Dan John

Out of all the strength coaches out there, Dan John has to be one of my favorites. I mean honestly, how can you not love someone that has two first names? Anything Dan writes I read. Whenever he does an interview, I listen. Thankfully, I am not the only one that feels this way and Dan gets plenty of opportunities to speak at conferences and in interviews.

Dan John

One of the biggest reasons I love Dan John is because he keeps everything so simple. Dan definitely lives by the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Beyond that, everything he says and writes is always spot on and hard to argue with. Yes, a lot of his programs and philosophies are simple, but they are also extremely effective and fun – his programs add a little spice to your boring training.

Because of this, I wanted to share with you some of Dan John’s training programs. Like I said, he keeps things so simple but the programs are still effective and challenging. Try them out and see how they work for you, I’m willing to bet you will find them extremely challenging but also fun! Enjoy.

Barbell Complex

One of Dan John’s staples is the barbell complex. The awesome thing about a barbell complex is there are so many ways that you can go with it. What a barbell complex is a series of exercises that you perform with a barbell, one right after another. For example, one of my go-to’s is a deadlift to RDL to hang clean to front squat to overhead press complex. Complete that five times, rest for 60 seconds and repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds. It’ll take 10-15 minutes and you’ll be gassed – it’s a great finisher at the end of a training session.

100 Reps

This program might not be a true Dan John program, but it is something that I have seen him write about. This program is about is simple as it gets: pick an exercise and perform 100 reps in a little amount of sets as possible. For example, you may toss 135lbs on the bar and start benching until you hit 100 reps. Maybe it takes you 5 sets, maybe it takes you 15, who knows. The only real rule is to never hit failure, always leave a rep or two in the tank.

8 X 3 on the Minute

Another really straight forward but fun program. Again, pick an exercise and a moderate to moderately heavy weight. Simply perform a set of 3, on the minute, for 8 minutes. The first few rounds may not be terribly challenging, but it gets tough. I typically like to do this with something like chin ups – for some reason I think it works well.

Cluster Challenge

Now here is a real fun program. A cluster challenge works a little something like this. You pick an exercise and a weight…we’ll stick to the bench press and start at 135 again. You then perform a set of 2, a set of 3, and a set of 5, resting about 15 seconds between sets. Once you complete that, you add weight to the bar and go through the sets again (2,3,5). You then complete this cycle again, adding weight to the bar. Finally you reach the 4th and final cluster, which is the “challenge cluster”. By this point you should be somewhat tired from all the benching (or squatting, or chin ups, or whatever) and at a relatively heavy weight – hence the “challenge cluster”. Enjoy this one.


One of my favorites is a ladder. A ladder is somewhat similar to the cluster challenge with a few differences. Again, pick an exercise and toss a moderate weight on the bar. Perform 1 rep, rest, 2 reps, rest, 3 reps, rest, 4 reps, rest, 5 reps rest and then start back at 1 rep again. Go through the ladder 3 times. You could pick other rep schemes, something like 2-3-5 or 5-7-10 or really anything you would like. Again, effective and much harder than you think, especially if you pick an appropriate weight.

10 Rep Countdown

The final program is really straight forward. Pick an exercise and weight and then perform 10 reps and rest. Then 9, rest. Then 8, rest. So on and so forth until you hit a single rep. Again, not very difficult to understand but a total ass kicker to actually perform!