50 Random Thoughts on Strength and Conditioning

Every month I put out a post of a bunch of random thoughts that are bouncing around in my head as a way for me to get my thoughts out there as well as to spark some thought in other coaches. The following is nothing more then a bunch of those thoughts over the last 6-8 months thrown into one large brain dump. Hopefully there isn’t too much redundancy. random thoughts

  1. Racehorses are not workhorses. If you want a fast team, treat all your horses like race horses. Train them for speed, not work. – Tony Holler
  2. As much as I enjoy Olympic lifts and feel they have a place in most all training programs, I’m not sure they are going to carryover to the rotational/frontal plane as much as some people may think or hope. If an athlete requires rotational/frontal power (probably most athletes), I think you need to specifically train that quality. More multi-plane jumping and more multi-plane med ball work is probably a great place to start.
  3. Not an absolute, but I think athletes that can perform sets of 1-leg squats are less likely to suffer from non-contact knee injuries, probably because of an improved ability to handle deceleration/absorbing single leg landings, improved proprioception and improved stability in all three planes of motion, along with other reasons.
  4. The most creative coaches are learners. Because their minds are open to new ideas, because they constantly seek out different ways of doing things, of thinking about things – their minds are constantly active. – H.A. Dorfman
  5. We should train every athlete or adult that we work with to be a better human mover – nothing else is more important then fundamental movements done well.
  6. Coaches continually over-think this stuff. Pat Davidson said something along these lines on the last Strength Coach Podcast; train at different velocities and loads, in various planes, for various periods of time. Seems like pretty simple but logical advice.
  7. Your ability in the frontal plane will dictate your technical ability in the sagittal plane. – Lee Taft
  8. I think dead bugs are an extremely under-rated exercise and something that most everyone can benefit from. Limbs moving while the core is asked to remain stable while also helping to improve anterior pelvic tilt along with many other benefits. Vernon Griffith has done a lot of Instagram by putting out a ton of different variations for those interested.
  9. I am starting to think of athleticism is how well you can move outside of the sagittal plane and our training is built around that. Nothing wrong with bilateral/sagittal lifts, but they are a small part of a well rounded program.
  10. You are allowed to change your mind in this field. Changing isn’t a sign of inconsistency or lack of knowledge, it’s a sign of learning and developing as a coach. Change is simply an indication of learning.
  11. Been rethinking some of the things I do with teams. I’ve always liked and programmed Hang Snatch, but I’m beginning to question if it’s for everyone (FYI I don’t ever hang snatch volleyball). If someone doesn’t have the ability to do a wall slide (which many can’t) I don’t think they have earned the right or have the needed mobility to have a bar over their head. If they don’t have the shoulder mobility they’ll mostly likely compensate by using their lumbar spines – which isn’t good. I am probably leaning towards more DB Snatch (1-arm), Hang Clean, KB Swings and loaded jumps going forward for our loaded power development.
  12. The objective of strength and conditioning isn’t to make people tired and sore, it’s to make them better and more resilient to the demands of their sport.
  13. Don’t sacrifice health for the sake of performance in the weight room. There are ways to have both with smart, well thought out programming.
  14. In the off-season I have been leaning to doing very little running with basketball teams and volleyball teams. Even in the offseason they run/jump way too much. We have been doing more Assault bike work to take some pounding off their joints. We do a lot of slideboard work to get them in the frontal plane and again take wear and tear off their joints. I always try to remember that the training we perform with an athlete is either a negative or a positive – more running/pounding on their joints probably isn’t a positive.
  15. Piggybacking off that thought, our hockey population skates too much even in the summer. We’ve performed less slideboard work for conditioning, less lateral sled work for groin health to try to counteract the skating. We do very little ‘hard’ skating in the pre-season and more tempo based work to help get their skating legs without overdoing things. We plugged slideboard in as a strength exercise wearing weight vest this summer. Even what is thought of as good training can be a negative on an athlete depending on the situation.
  16. I still don’t get why people push back so hard against uni-lateral lower body strength as a method to train max strength. I’m by no means against bilateral lifting, we trap bar deadlift often. We do a lot of power work bilaterally through cleans and loaded jumps. But, the research on the bilateral deficit is real and you can reach some huge numbers on one leg (check out UMass Lowell Men’s hockey RFESS if you don’t believe me). I’ve seen athletes with huge bilateral lift numbers that struggle with split squats at what would be considered light weight compared to their bilateral lifts. Sports are primarily played on one leg and specificity always reigns supreme – so why aren’t we pushing more max effort work on 1-leg?
  17. There are so many benefits to loaded carries. It baffles my mind that they aren’t a staple in programs.
  18. Absorb as much great information as possible from as many great coaches as you can. Filter and then apply that information in a way that works in the situation that you are currently in.
  19. A good coach never stops growing – and there is no reason to stop growing with all the information that is readily available through books and podcasts these days.
  20. A lot of times the team that wins is the team that has the most talent available and healthy on game day.
  21. The off-season programs I have been implementing this year haven’t been very sophisticated and/or complicated. The focus has been on doing less and doubling down on what we consider important, but doing it better then everyone else.
  22. Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. – Jimi Hendrix
  23. If every athlete on a team is doing the same exact program, you are either doing them a disservice by giving everyone the same cookie-cutter program or you have the perfect program/are smarter then everyone else. And I highly doubt it’s the latter of the two. Progress some athletes. Regress some athletes. Lateralize some athletes. At the end of the day, just do what’s right for each athlete.
  24. It takes courage to admit you don’t have all the answers. It’s also what the best of the best do and why they continue to grow.
  25. I’ve been thinking a lot about Charlie Weingroff’s Lowest System Load thought process lately. I think it’s where strength training has gone with some of the best programs and coaches in the world and where more strength programs need to go in the future. I tend to think it is the way athletes should train year round, but if nothing else, it seems like an obvious way to train athletes in-season while keeping them fresh and not sore.
  26. Do less better. Intensity and quality always trump volume and quantity.
  27. The idea of micro-dosing really intrigues me. Having athlete come in more often but doing less seems like a no-brainer. Small but consistent doses probably lead to less fatigue, better training, and a more focused athlete during the shorter time period.
  28. Every single strength coach will do the same things or think the same way as you or the coaches you associate with in the field – and that’s okay. Respect the differences. Learn from everyone. Constantly adapt. It’s not a bad thing that other coaches may challenge your thought process or challenge the status quo.
  29. As a coach, I think you need to constantly seek out ways to connect with your athletes.
  30. “The first rep of the session should look exactly the same as the last rep of the session.” Lorne Goldenberg
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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. It’s hard to argue that athletes that can absorb force will be less injury prone.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. I absolutely love the hockey strength and conditioning field – it’s 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.
  37. 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 – and 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.
  38. For some reason I’ve had the opportunity to see more summer conditioning programs this year then in previous years…and it’s scary to see what coaches are doing.
  39. Vertical Integration Program: we always have a thread of everything in our program at all times. We may be focusing on particular quality more then others, but everything is always in the program.
  40. If you asked me a year ago I would have told you that I do very little specific shoulder prehab work with hockey – but that’s changed. If you work with hockey you realize shoulder issues are common and as a result we do a decent amount of shoulder prehab and T-Spine work. We also have gotten away with doing a ton of pressing with a barbell – though we still do it, we’ve added more shoulder friendly pressing options like dumbbells, landmine presses, and push ups.
  41. Piggybacking off the previous thought, we have also increased the amount of pulling that we do. In the early off-season we are close to 3:1 pull:push and as the off-season progresses we’ll probably end up around a 2:1 ration.
  42. I truly believer arrogance is the number one reason coaches don’t succeed in this field.
  43. Getting strong is a game-changer for many athletes. But blindly continuing to try to add more to someone’s bench press or squat isn’t always the answer.
  44. A question all strength coaches should ask themselves…Is an athlete in a better position to stay healthy and succeed at their sport because of the time they have spent working with you? No one truly cares about weight room numbers, they care if the athlete has gotten better or not.
  45. I really, really, really like landmine presses. One, they are extremely shoulder friendly. Two, you are on your feet like most sports. Three, there is a core component that you don’t get with most pressing exercises. Four, you are essentially overhead pressing in a much safer manner. Lots to like.
  46. There is one coaching cue/tactic that I use that seems to have a very high rate of success – to take some weight off the bar. It’s amazing how often things clean up and look better by simply going a little lighter.
  47. The longer I am in this field, the more I question the value of using 1 rep max numbers to program numbers off of, especially Olympic lifts. The nervous system doesn’t understand percentages, it understands how difficult/stressful and exercise is for the body at that moment in time.
  48. When we learn about muscles actions in our exercise science programs we learn that there are 3 types of actions; concentric, eccentric and isometric. Yet when we develop strength training programs we spend the vast majority of our time development only concentric contractions…not sure that makes a ton of sense to me.
  49. Stimulate don’t annihilate. In my opinion there is zero reason to perform a ton of sets of a specific exercise and would be better off spending that time doing other movements, developing a more well rounded athlete. We rarely perform more then 3 sets of a particular exercise and continue to gains in both power and strength. This is without a doubt a clear example of less being more.
  50. Though some would argue, I am a firm believer that good strength and conditioning will decrease injury rates.

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