Our Hierarchy

As a strength coach you need to balance the risk:reward with the athletes that you are working with. The goal should be to keep athletes as healthy as possible while improving their performance – but health has to come before performance. Our hierarchy should be;

Prevent Injuries Caused by Training 

If you are doing things in the weight room that leave you athletes in pain or worse injured, you are defeating the purpose of training. Athletes train to perform better at their sport and help to prevent sport related injuries. Getting hurt in the weight room is completely ass backwards.

Prevent Injuries in Competition

I don’t care who you are, whether you have the “perfect” program or something terrible, injuries in competition are going to happen. But, I am a firm believer that a good strength coach will generally have healthier teams…and even though some people may argue, a healthy athlete is always better then an injured athlete..seems like common sense.

Improve Performance 

Finally, improve performance. Build those faster athletes. Build those more powerful athletes. Give them the conditioning to play the entire game at full speed. Do it all. But it’s third on the list.

The point is this; if you get out of order, you have key players out missing games. Key players missing the games mean the team is less likely to win. Teams that aren’t winning much have staff turnover, and your left looking for a job. I don’t know about you, but I like having a paycheck.

Monday Musings

Happy Monday! Here are a few thoughts bouncing around in my head after a week of reading, podcasts and other continuing ed. Enjoy!

  1. The idea of micro-dosing strength training is really interesting, especially when it comes to in-season training. Essentially, instead of training two times a week with 45-60 minute sessions you train most days for 10-15 minutes. The team would come in and warm up, perform 2-3 lifts of 2-3 sets, then go to practice. Would this keep athletes fresher because you never perform a lot of work? Will this decrease any potential soreness because you aren’t doing a ton of work? Will this help athletes stay focused because the session is extremely quick? Will this have athletes buy-in to the strength program more because they are in the weight room almost daily? All questions I have but I tend to think ‘yes’ to all of them.
  2. A lot of people have been talking about KPI’s (key performance indicators) recently and what they are for the sport they coach. I think its simple, health is the biggest KPI. Nothing matters more then the health of the athletes you are working for. A healthy team will always have a better opportunity to succeed then an un-healthy team will be. Yes, athletes need to get stronger. Yes, athletes need to move better. Yes, athletes need to become more powerful. All this is irrelevant if athletes aren’t healthy. That being said, if I were to dial in on one athletic quality, I’d say the biggest KPI is eccentric strength and/or stability. Athletes need to be able to decelerate.

Weekend Week in Review

Another week, another group of podcasts and articles to read and listen to that I have dived into this past week. There was some really good stuff put out there, especially podcasts.

For podcasts, I really enjoyed the HMMR Podcast with Matt Price. Matt is the strength coach for the LA Kings and his thoughts on hockey were interesting. Bigger then that, Matt spoke a lot about micro-dosing, training with the athletes almost daily but only 2-3 exercises and 10-15 minutes of lifting each day. I find this micro-dosing thought process interesting and something I’d like to learn a lot more about.

For articles, Eric Cressey always makes me think. His article on how lower body exercises can impact upper body functional is excellent. One thing I’ve learned from Eric is that arm care programs aren’t just about band exercises and switching from barbell to dumbbell bench press – they are full body programs.

Enjoy!

Podcasts

HMMR with Matt Price

Pacey Performance with Brett Bartholomew

Performance Concepts Chats with Don Saladino

Strength Coach Podcast #233 with Sue Falsone

Articles 

New Rules for Being a Strength Coach by Todd Hamer

How Lower Body Exercises can Impact Upper Body Performance by Eric Cressey

You Still Have to Train During the Season by John Cissik

Very Stable Idiot Week 25 by Stu McMillan

Training in the Frontal Plane

I think it’s imperative that athletes train outside of the sagittal plane, whether you are trying to improve sport performance, keep them healthy, or trying to develop enhanced movement quality. It’s hard to argue that athletes need a healthy dose of multi-planar training.

Here are 5 non-sagittal staples in our training programs and their benefits;

  1. Lateral Bounds: developing stability/eccentric strength to jump but more importantly land safely in the frontal plane
  2. Side Toss: developing/linking power from the ground through the core/hips in the frontal plane
  3. Sled Crossover: improve groin health along with sport specific speed/acceleration mechanics
  4. 1-leg Squat: though you are technically training in the sagittal plane, the muscles surrounding the hip are doing a ton of stabilizing in the frontal and transverse plane, which is huge for injury prevention – the same could be thought for other pure 1-leg exercises like a 1-leg RDL
  5. Slide Board: large stress on the adductors and abductors for improved groin health

Monday Musings

Happy Monday! Here are a few thoughts bouncing around in my head after a week of reading, podcasts and other continuing ed. Enjoy!

  1. One thing I have been thinking about more and more is the value of bench pressing and wonder if it is something that most athletes need to be doing. Yes, we can move more weight when we bench press then we can when we are performing dumbbell pressing variations or push ups, but I also think we check more boxes with dumbbell pressing variations or push ups. The straight bar locks us in one plane – dumbbells allow our shoulders to work through a natural range of motion. 1DB Bench adds a huge core/shoulder stability component to the movement that we don’t get with the straight bar. Alternating DB bench also has a large core/shoulder stability component to it. Eric Cressey has written a lot about the benefits of loaded push ups. Seems like other movements check a few more boxes then benching with the straight bar.
  2. I find it funny that some coaches scoff at the idea of other coaches putting themselves out there on social media. It is without a doubt the best way for coaches to show the world what they are doing, share their thoughts with other coaches, and help develop the field. It is a great way to connect with other coaches and build relationships with coaches you would otherwise never get to know. I have learned so much from people I never would have known existed if it wasn’t from social media and been able to tweak what I do based on their thoughts. Also – its funny that these same coaches that complain about social media and don’t put out any content are online consuming everyone else’s content as a means of continuing education – can’t have it both ways.
  3. Though this time of the year is much slower in the weight room, its fun because I get more time to catch up on some reading, listen to a few more podcasts, and its seminar/conference season. It seems like every weekend there is a conference somewhere with great speakers sharing their thoughts. My Twitter feed is full of quotes from speakers in real time by attendees of the conference. Its great – I obviously can’t get to every single conference but I still get a few takeaways thanks to the people in attendance. Its a fun time of the year where a lot of learning takes place.

Weekend Week in Review

Another week, another group of podcasts and articles to read and listen to that I have dived into this past week. Also, for all the fathers out there – Happy Father’s Day!

For podcasts, I really enjoyed the Physical Prep Podcast with Dan Sanzo. Dan is a great strength coach that not many people may know about working at Northeastern University. Lot of good thoughts and takeaways from Dan.

For articles, I enjoyed Carl Valle’s article on horizontal speed development. I am a firm believer that power is plane specific, which means that hang clean may not be transferring over to athletic speed as much as we may think or we may want. Interesting stuff.

Enjoy!

Podcasts

Physical Prep with Dan Sanzo

Strength Coach Podcast #232

Erica Ballard Health with Kevin Carr

Articles

Rhythmic Stabilizations by Eric Cressey

Top 10 Takeaways from Track Field Consortium by Keir Wenham-Flatt

Do Horizontal Plyometrics and Weighted Exercises Develop Athletic Speed? by Carl Valle

Transfer of Training is So 1960s by Resilient Performance

Random Thoughts – June Edition

Another month, another handful of random thoughts that are going through my head. Enjoy!

  1. As a coach, you need to constantly seek out ways to connect with your athletes.
  2. “The first rep of the session should look exactly the same as the last rep of the session.” Lorne Goldenberg —— Quality over quantity.
  3. The information has been out there for years – the job of the core is to prevent motion, not create motion – yet the coaches that train the core with that in mind still seem to be in the minority.
  4. Always be open minded and look to see what you can do better with your teams and your training program. As a coach you’ll benefit from having a little humility.
  5. As coaches we get tunnel vision trying to make athletes more explosive and powerful, which is great. But don’t forget about the other end of the spectrum, being able to throw on the brakes. Its hard to argue that athletes that can absorb force will be less injury prone.
  6. Though I do understand and generally agree the ‘your sport isn’t different, you just think it is’ quote, I don’t completely agree. All sports need to push and pull things. All sports need to perform knee dominant and hip dominant movements. All sports should carry things and perform stability based core work. But on the other hand, I think you need to understand the sport you are working with. What are the injury concerns associated with that sport? For example, I work with volleyball and hockey – two vastly different sports when it comes to injury concerns. Be proactive in fixing those issues before they arise by programming movements within those previously mentioned patterns that agree with the population that you are working with.
  7. All successful strength coaches have a plan. All successful strength coaches aren’t afraid to abandon that plan based on what their eyes and intuition is telling them on a specific day.
  8. I absolutely love the hockey strength and conditioning field – its getting more and more advanced on a daily basis and doesn’t look like its going to slow down anytime soon. A lot of cutting edge coaches working in hockey.
  9. We use the Functional Movement Screen to assess athletes movement capabilities, which seems to strike a nerve with a lot of people. The screen itself doesn’t change injury rates – it never claimed to. But what you learn from the screen should change the way you train certain athletes or movement patterns – which can potentially change injury rates. The screen doesn’t tell us what to do, it tells us what not to do.
  10. For some reason I’ve had the opportunity to see more summer conditioning programs this year then in previous years…and its scary.

Monday Musings

Happy Monday! Here are a few thoughts bouncing around in my head after a week of reading, podcasts and other continuing ed. Enjoy!

  1. Coaches constantly talk about the importance of getting athletes to train in the frontal plane, and for good reason – I think it is extremely important to get athletes to do more then train in the sagittal plane and on two legs. But I wonder if we actually train as much in the frontal plane as we claim we do? Are we including lateral squats in the program? Med ball side tosses? Med ball scoop tosses? Slideboard for conditioning? Pure 1-leg strength exercises like 1-leg squats or 1-leg RDL’s that may not be specifically or exclusively frontal plane but are asking the hip the stabilize in all three planes? Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a place for both sagittal and bilateral exercises, but it should be a part of a well rounded strength training program, not the majority of a strength training program.
  2. Lorne Goldenberg said something along the lines of the need of the last rep of a set needs to look exactly like the first rep of a set – which I couldn’t agree more with. If reps start to look like shit, shut the set down. Technical failure – once technique starts to fail you are getting better at performing crappy reps. Quality over quality.
  3. Along the same lines as potentially not training enough in the frontal plane, I wonder if we do enough carries in our programs? Don’t take this too literally – I don’t think we should be performing carries for an entire training session or anything close to that, but I find it hard to believe that doing some type of carry every single day would be beneficial for both athletes and general population clients. Gray Cook says that we don’t want to train beyond our stabilizers – and carries are one of the best ways to train our stabilizers to fire and do their jobs.

Weekend Week in Review

It’s Sunday which means I review some of the podcasts I listened to and articles that I read throughout the last week.

When it comes to the podcasts it was pretty light this week as I caught up on a lot of reading. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t listen to anything worth listening to. Anything with Dan Baker is worth a listen, but the CVASP with Chris McCormick was really good. Can’t go wrong with either.

For articles, read them all and for different reasons. We all need more sleep for health reasons. We all need to learn to eat healthier. Read about a 69 year old coach that is out there learning every single day and keeping himself as relevant as ever. Read about shoulder health, cause not many people have it.

Enjoy!

Podcasts

Athletic Lab with Dan Baker

CVASP with Chris McCormick

Culture Chats with Kevin Carr

Articles

How Science Helps the Warriors Sleep their Way to Success by Robbie Gonzalez

Shoulder Health: Where Small Hinges Swing Big Doors by Eric Cressey

5 Healthy Eating Lessons I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Being a Dietitian by Abby Langer

At 69, This Coach Lives on the Front Line of Baseball’s Revolution by Tyler Kepner

Monday Musings

I think I am going to try to start a new series here, calling it Monday Musings (obviously). Here is my thought; after a week in the weight room, listening to podcasts and reading, I’ll dump a quick thought or two or three things that are going through my head.

  1. Lots of really smart people keep talking about Isometric work. Anthony Donskov did in the Hockey Strength Podcast. Matthew Van Dyke and Max Schmarzo did on Robbie Bourke’s All Things Strength & Wellness Podcast. One of my goals this upcoming year is to try to strategically place more isometric work in training programs throughout both the in-season and off-season training cycles because I think most athletes could benefit from performing more isometric work.
  2. A minor programming change we’ve made this off-season is adding vertical pulling to our lower body days (4 day lifting schedule). I think it is safe to say that athletes need more pulling then they do pushing to help keep shoulders healthy, potentially going as far as saying I may recommend all athletes performing a 2:1 pull:push ratio in their strength program. In order to do so, we do vertical pulling on our lower body days and only horizontal pulling on upper body days. Do I think this will eliminate any and every potential shoulder injury? No. But I do think more pulling and/or pulling strength will doing nothing but benefit athletes from both a health and performance perspective.
  3. Sean Skahan posted something about no longer performing chin ups with bands for athletes that can’t perform the programmed number of reps. Jon Blair, Assistant Strength Coach at UNH, really pushed me to do this about a year ago. What we’ve done is added eccentric reps if an athlete can’t get the desired number of reps. For example, if 3 sets of 5 is programmed and the athlete can only complete 2 body weight chin ups, they finish the set by doing the other 3 reps by doing eccentric only chin ups. It is still yet to be determined if this is working, but I am confident that having athletes use bands doesn’t work very well, so this is worth a try.

That’s it for this week, Happy Monday!