I've spent the early part of the week working my way through Mike Boyle's new resource, Complete Sports Conditioning. To say that I've been impressed has been an understatement, as it's a fantastic resource that offers a nice blend of research, anecdotal observations, actual programming recommendations for those who need to manage energy systems development in athletes. It's on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Friday.
That said, Mike's presentations got me thinking about a variety of conditioning-related topics, so I figure I'd do a bit of a brain dump here to highlight some of my favorite take-home points from this resource.
1. This quote kicked off Mike's initial presentation on the right foot!
Using extra conditioning to try to enhance "mental toughness" might yield some benefits in young athletes who have larger windows of adaptation in work capacity - and because just about anything works for untrained athletes. In more experienced athletes, however, throwing in a bunch of extra conditioning usually just leads to increased injury rates - and the realization that it's super challenging to try to take the spots off a leopard.
2. You don't have to be an aerobic rock star; you just have to be good enough.
I deal with a lot of baseball players, and it's important that they have a solid aerobic base. This allows them to bounce back faster between bouts of intense exercise (i.e., throwing 95mph or running to first base) and training sessions. They don't have to have elite aerobic capacity, though.
We've always used a resting heart rate below 60 as our standard for a "sufficient" aerobic base with the baseball guys, and it was good to hear Mike reaffirm this (referencing Dave Tenney of the Seattle Sounders).
Honestly, most guys show up at the start of the offseason with a sufficient aerobic base (via this measure) because it's something that is relatively easy to maintain once established. As Mike noted, “You can get ten minutes of aerobic work with a good warm-up.”
There has definitely been an industry-wide trend of heavily emphasizing aerobic base work - and that's a good thing - but we have to be careful about taking it too far with athletes who have other important qualities they need to train. That said, remember that very low intensity work (below 70% of max heart rate) affords "easy gains" that can promote recovery and help with long-term adaptations to training, so if folks have the time for it, adding a little bit in won't hurt (assuming the modality is appropriate).
3. Appreciate the interaction between biomechanics and physiology.
It's our natural tendency to get "boxed in" based on our specialty. As an example, I'm a shoulder and elbow guy, so I'm naturally going to be drawn to learning more about those joints as opposed to seeking out continuing education on the foot and ankle, even though that's my biggest weakness. It's just like training athletes; they like to do what they're already good at, and as coaches, we need to be cognizant of giving them what they need.
This has parallels in the conditioning discussion. Many coaches will be incredibly physiology driven, meaning they understand the cardiovascular and (possibly) endocrine responses to a given training protocol. However, in my experience, these folks are often the most likely to overlook the biomechanical side of things, and that has an even larger contribution to injury risk in athletes. Mike demonstrated that he's a guy who understands both sides of the equation well. A few key points that stood out:
a. With treadmills, the athlete isn’t creating hip extension. Rather, the belt moving is creating hip extension.
b. Most "traditional" conditioning - all cardio equipment and straight-ahead sprinting - occurs almost exclusively in the sagittal plane, but most sports injuries involve frontal and transverse plane challenges that go uncontrolled. Incorporating slideboards and change-of-direction work like shuttle runs to conditioning programs is imperative to check both the biomechanics and physiology boxes.
c. Rowing might be blast heart rate up, but from a biomechanical standpoint, it can irritate a lot of lower backs and hips. I've even seen folks deal with forearm/elbow overuse issues from adding in extra gripping with rowing on top of their normal lifting programs. It's probably not an awesome conditioning option for team sports athletes.
d. Shuttle runs are far more intensive than tempo runs because of the deceleration/acceleration components involved with changing direction - but they also allow you to train to prevent injuries better than straight-ahead running (even if heart rates are matched to the tempo approach).
This leads to...
4. Year-round competitive play may have eliminated the need for "conditioning."
When athletes is playing hockey, soccer, basketball, or some other conditioning-heavy sport, they are stressing both the same movement patterns/muscles and the same energy systems. And, if you think extra conditioning is going to help a basketball player who is already playing five games per week, you're sorely mistaken. If you add more in, you're likely going to increase injury risk and lose valuable training time that would be better focused on enhancing other athletic qualities like strength and power.
5. Heart rate based training is superior to time-based interval training.
Time-based interval training prescription is very arbitrary, and Mike demonstrated it in real-time with a collection of athletes from different backgrounds performing conditioning on heart rate monitors. When time during the "hard" portion of the interval is matched, athletes will have a lot of variability in how quickly their heart rates recover. A 15s: 45s work: rest ratio might be a piece of cake for one athlete, but absolutely crush another one.
Cardiac drift - a phenomenon where heart rate will gradually trend upward as a training session progresses - will likely exaggerate this even further. The further up it goes during the "work" period, the further down it'll have to come during the "rest" portion.
The take-home point is that monitoring heart rate allows you to individual conditioning in a way that promotes faster adaptation - and gives you peace of mind that you're actually training what you want to train.
6. Maximum heart rate is highly variable.
At Cressey Sports Performance - Florida, we have a 57-year-old client who is a competitive skisurf (ocean paddling) racer. His max heart rate is 180 beats per minute, which effectively blows the "220 minus age" model for predicting max heart rate out of the water. Mike Boyle is about the same age, and he mentioned that he, too, can get up to the 180bpm mark.
Conversely, I'm sure there are other folks who can't come close to their age-predicted max heart rate. I'm 35 years old, and I'm not sure that I could touch 185bpm, as I always seem to be an "under responder" when it comes to monitoring heart rate.
The point is that you never know unless you measure it and plan accordingly. Having an idea of both resting and max heart rate is really helpful for planning things out.
7. "If I have young kids, the last thing I am going to be worried about is fitness, and the first thing I’m going to be worried about is fastness."
I loved this quote and absolutely plan to steal it (thanks, Mike). If we are talking about SPORTS conditioning, the faster athlete should theoretically always win, and that's why it's so important to start with speed development. This comes through getting stronger and training power.
Starting with speed is also particularly important because fatigue is the enemy of motor learning. If we want young athletes to pick up new skills, we can't introduce these challenges with a huge conditioning element that may impede that development. Sure, aerobic exercise offers benefits for motor learning, but as we noted earlier, most young athletes are already getting an "accidental" aerobic stimulus with some of their other training. As the saying goes:
[bctt tweet="Move well before you move a lot."]
If I had to ballpark an age, I'd say that it would be a bad idea to do targeted aerobic work with anyone under 15 years old. Free play and multiple sports is the name of the game up through age 12, and then the 13-15 year-old athlete has remarkable windows of adaptation for strength and power, making this a perfect time to initiate more targeted strength and conditioning work. Specific low-intensity steady state work just gets pushed out because athletes have to be athletic and work on the most pressing growth areas.
Apologies to all the middle school cross country coaches who are reading this!
8. Good conditioning programming is heavily based on common sense.
If you're ever struggling to really appreciate what athletes need, sit back and watch the sport. Appreciate how much ground an athlete covers, how much time is spent at maximum speed, how many changes of direction take place, and how much time he/she spends with the ball/puck. These observations will tell you just as much as researching the energy systems demands.
These are really just a very small tip of the iceberg with respect to what this excellent resource contains, so I'd definitely recommend you check it out for yourself, especially since it's on sale for $100 off through tomorrow (Friday) at midnight. You can check it out HERE.
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
Happy Hump Day! This time of year, I get Wednesdays off, so after we take our daughters to gym class, I'm getting in a lower body lift and then headed out with my wife and one of our clients for some sea kayaking in beautiful Jupiter, FL.
Complete Sports Conditioning - I'm currently going through this new resource from Mike Boyle, and it's excellent. What I like the most it that it's a blend of research and anecdotal evidence from Mike's decades in the strength and conditioning field. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who works with individuals for whom energy systems development is a significant priority. It's on sale for an introductory $100 off through Friday at midnight, too.
One thing I didn't note in this video is that if you have muscular, capsular, or alignment issues that persist for an extended period of time, you'll eventually develop changes to the joint (bony overgrowth). In a 2013 study, world-renowned hip specialist Marc Phillipon examined how the incidence of femoroacetabular impingment (FAI) - bony overgrowth at the hip - changed across various stages of youth hockey. At the PeeWee (10-12 years old) level, 37% had FAI and 48% had labral tears. These numbers went to 63% and 63% at the Bantam level (ages 13-15), and 93% and 93% at the Midget (ages 16-19) levels, respectively. The longer one played hockey, the messier the hip – and the greater the likelihood that the FAI would “chew up” the labrum.
It's imperative for strength and conditioning coaches to understand these issues. On evaluation, if an athlete already has changes to the joint, we need to create training programs to deliver a training effect while working around these issues. If you squat an entire team of football players even though you know 4-5 of them already have significant FAI and associated pathologies in their hips, you're probably going to be funding some hip surgeon's retirement. Work on deadlifting and single-leg work instead, though, and you'll probably kick the can down the road for those athletes.
Conversely, if your assessment reveals that an athlete is out of alignment and has some tissue density and core control issues that are preventing quality hip flexion and internal rotation, you need to design a program to get to work on those problems before they can develop bony blocks at the hip. As my buddy Mike Reinold often says, "Assess, don't guess."
2. We might be seeing the end of the versatile strength and conditioning coach.
One thing I've noticed in the strength and conditioning field over the past decade is an increased tendency toward specialization among coaches. Over the years, there have some been really bright coaches - Al Vermeil, Mike Boyle, and Bob Alejo come to mind - who've had success across multiple sports at the highest levels. They were few and far between, but it was still something that was feasible if someone was educated and motivated enough. I think that's changing and this versatility will be obsolete very soon.
We're seeing a much bigger focus on analytics in all professional sports; the focus on minute details has never been greater. In college sports, we are seeing more "baseball only" and "hockey only" guys to build on the years of the football strength and conditioning coach typically not working with other teams. At every level, specialization among strength coaches (and rehabilitation specialists, for that matter) is increasing. As a result, if a coach tries to venture out into another sport at a high level, it takes longer to get up to speed.
If a guy leaves basketball to go to baseball, he's got to learn about thoracic outlet syndrome, ulnar collateral ligament injuries, and lat strains; these just don't happen very often in hoops. He won't have to worry much about humeral retroversion in his programming for shooting guards, either - but it has a huge influence on how he manages functional mobility in pitchers.
Likewise, just because I have a solid handle on managing shoulders in overhead athletes doesn't mean that I'm equipped to handle the metabolic demands that swimmers encounter.
Versatility is still important; a well-rounded professional will never go hungry. However, at the higher levels, I just see fewer and fewer professional teams and colleges valuing it highly when the quickest option is to seek out specialists in specific realms.
3. Create context not only to improve coaching, but also to improve adherence.
Recently, I saw a professional pitcher who noted that his team had commented on how limited his extension on each pitch was. For those who aren't familiar, in recent years, teams have started tracking the actual release point of various pitchers. Basically, if two pitchers both throw 95mph, but one releases the ball closer to the plate, the one with more extension is actually releasing the ball closer to the plate, so it "gets on" the hitter faster. All things considered, a higher extension is generally better. You can view it as part of the Statcast panel on each MLB pitchers' page; here's CSP athlete Steve Cishek's, as a frame of reference. Steve's extension is well above MLB average, so the perceived velocity of his pitches are over one mph higher than their actual velocity.
Returning to the pitcher I evaluated recently, he commented that although his fastball velocity is among the best in the minor leagues and he has quite a bit of movement, he doesn't strike a lot of guys out. While there are a lot of reasons for this, one consideration has to be physical limitations that don't allow him to get extension out in front. In his case, on evaluation, we saw a pseudo military posture; his shoulder blades were tugged back into adduction, and he lacked the upward rotation to effectively "get out front."
Additionally, in the lower extremity, he had significant bilateral muscular/alignment limitations to hip internal rotation. If you don't have sufficient hip internal rotation on your back leg, you aren't going to ride your hip down the mound very far. If you don't have internal rotation on the front hip, you won't be able to accept force on the front leg, so you'll effectively cut off your deceleration arc, also shortening your extension out front. These are usually the guys who "miss" up-and-armside, or cut balls off in an attempt to correct the issue.
If I had just told him he needed to fix these for the sake of fixing them - or even just to prevent injury - it probably wouldn't hold much water. However, by relating these movement inefficiencies back to aspects of his delivery with which he struggles, the buy-in is a lot higher. Striking guys out is a lot "sexier" than avoiding injury or conforming to some range-of-motion norm.
4. This is a great weekend to be an up-and-coming fitness professional or rehabilitation specialist on a limited budget.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday might be annoying if you're in stores and dealing with a bunch of crazy Moms who are fighting over the last Tickle-Me-Elmo, but in an online context, it's pretty darn awesome - especially if you're an aspiring coach looking to get your hands on some quality educational material.
I did my undergraduate education at a smaller Division 3 school in Southern Maine. We didn't have a varsity weight room where I could observe or volunteer, and there weren't tip top internship opportunities right down the road where I could've found opportunities like that. Looking back, I realize that one of the main reasons I got on the right path was that I was willing to search high and low for those learning opportunities. I spent hours reading T-Nation and hard copy books I'd bought, not to mention driving to whatever seminars I could find.
Nowadays, education is much, more more accessible. Instead of driving nine hours to Buffalo or dropping $1,000 on a plane right, hotel, rental car, and seminar registration, you can spend 10% of that amount and get an awesome education - and you can pick and choose what you want to learn. This weekend, you can do it super affordably, too.
Looking to patch up the holes in your college anatomy course by learning about functional anatomy instead? Pick up Building the Efficient Athlete from Mike Robertson and me (20% off this weekend; no coupon code needed).
Interested in taking a peek into the mind of a successful NFL strength and conditioning coach? Soak up Joe Kenn's knowledge in Elite Athletic Development (20% off this weekend; no coupon code needed).
It's an amazing age in strength and conditioning; short of actual hands-on coaching experience, all the information you need to be successful is at your fingertips in a digital medium - and this is the weekend to get it at the best price.
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
Back in 2005, I presented at my first "big" event - about 120 coaches and trainers. I spoke right after Mike Boyle, and right before lunch; it was the very epitome of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. You see, Mike was a super polished speaker with many years under his belt, and lunch was pulled pork barbeque, which provided a fantastic scent that easily distracted a hungry audience.
To say that my presentation could have gone better would be an understatement. I believe I used the word "umm" and "okay" a combined 1,500 times in the hour. I had about 75 slides for a 60 minute talk. After the presentation, Mike gave me some great advice; paraphrased, it was: "Relax, have fun, and just be yourself; it's more entertaining if you're talking with them than if you're talking at them. And use more videos."
Needless to say, it was helpful advice that was rooted in a lot of experience, as Mike is one of the more entertaining presenters in the fitness industry. One of the things he's noted for on this front is some good one-liners, so as I went through his new DVD set, Functional Strength Coach 5, I wrote down these gems, which I think you'll appreciate:
1. "It [Training] all comes down to anatomy and physics."
I loved this one because I'm constantly hammering home the importance of having an anatomy foundation. If you don't understand structure, you can't understand function or dysfunction.
2. "We want to be simple, not just safe."
Mike went on to discuss how "safe" alone doesn't get the job done, as a lot of people would argue that machines are "safe." "Simple" implies safety - but with an appreciable training effect.
3. "There are a lot of poor people out there who just want to train athletes."
I cracked up when he said this, as just about every young fitness professional only wants to work with athletes. As my business partner, Pete Dupuis, wrote in this great guest blog almost two months ago, the adult clients you encounter not only help pay the bills, but also have some of the greatest potential to teach you about training and life. Very few people "make it" in the private sector by training athletes only.
4. "The intervention matters more than the monitoring. You’ve got to train."
This was a great point. So many people are wildly focused on monitoring athletes now that the actual training seems to be getting back-burnered. I'm all for monitoring, but if you are willing, able, or qualified to get quality work in, monitoring doesn't really matter.
5. "In culture, there is an asshole-to-good guy ratio."
Mike went on to discuss that if more than 20% of the people in a team setting are hard to deal with, it's going to be difficult to be achieve your training goals with everybody.
6. "You never see anyone who can run or jump who doesn’t have an ass – in any sporting activity."
You need to train ass to haul ass. Enough said.
7. "The two most profitable areas of hospitals in the United States are bariatic surgery and spinal surgery."
Well, this certainly is a sad commentary on our society to wrap up this article, huh?
Looking to learn more about Mike's thought processes - and be entertained with more one-liners like this? Check out the newly released Functional Strength Coach 5, which is available at $50 off through the end of the week.
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
Michael Boyle published this Q&A newsletter about quick feet and agility ladder drills last week, and I enjoyed it so much that I asked him if I could repost it here. Suffice it to say that I am not a fan of "agility ladder" drills, and while Mike does use them in moderation, he makes a great case for why we don't want to go overboard - or expect too much of them.
Q: A couple of threads on the Strength Coach forum got me thinking about the question of foot speed and athletes. I can't tell you how often I hear a parent or a coach ask, "How can I improve my son's/daughter's/athlete's foot speed or agility?"
A: It seems everyone always wants the shortcut and the quick fix.
The better question might be "Do you think you can improve foot speed?" or maybe even the larger question, "Does foot speed even matter?"
That begs the larger question, "Does foot speed have anything to do with agility?" I know coaches or parents reading this are asking, "Is this guy crazy?" How many times have we heard that "speed kills?" I think the problem is that coaches and parents equate fast feet with fast and quick feet with agile. However, fast feet don't equal fast any more than quick feet equal agile. In some cases, fast feet might actually make an athlete slow--often I see fast feet as a detriment to speed. In fact, some of our quick turnover guys, those who would be described as having fast feet, are very slow off the start.
The problem is fast feet don't use the ground well to produce force. Fast feet might be good on hot coals, but not on hard ground. Think of the ground as the well from which we draw speed. It is not how fast the feet move, but rather how much force goes into the ground. This is basic action-reaction physics. Force into the ground equals forward motion. This is why the athletes with the best vertical jumps are most often the fastest. It comes down to force production. Often coaches will argue the vertical vs. horizontal argument and say the vertical jump doesn't correspond to horizontal speed, but years of data from the NFL Combine begs to differ. Force into the ground is force into the ground. In spite of what Brett Contreras may say, vectors don't seem to matter here. The truth is parents should be asking about vertical jump improvement, not about fast feet. My standard line is "Michael Flatley has fast feet, but he doesn't really go anywhere. If you move your feet fast and don't go anywhere, does it matter? It's the old "tree falling in the woods" thing.
The best solution to slow feet is to get stronger legs. Feet don't matter. Legs matter. Think about it this way: If you stand at the starting line and take a quick first step but fail to push with the back leg, you don't go anywhere. The reality is that a quick first step is actually the result of a powerful first push. We should change the buzzwords and start to say "that kid has a great first push." Lower body strength is the real cure for slow feet and the real key to speed and to agility. The essence of developing quick feet lies in single-leg strength and single-leg stability work… landing skills. If you cannot decelerate, you cannot accelerate - at least not more than once.
One of the things I love is the magic drill idea. This is the theory that developing foot speed and agility is not a process of gaining strength and power, but rather the lack of a specific drill. I tell everyone I know that if I believed there was a magic drill we would do it every day. The reality is it comes down to horsepower and the nervous system, two areas that change slowly over time.
How do we develop speed, quickness and agility?
Unfortunately, we need to do it the slow, old-fashioned way. You can play with ladders and bungee cords all you want, but that is like putting mag wheels on an Escort. The key is to increase the horsepower, the brakes, and the accelerator. I think the answer for me is always the same. I wrote an article last year called "Is ACL Prevention Just Good Training?" In much the same way, development of speed, agility and quicknesssimply comes down to good training. We need to work on lower body strength and lower body power - and we need to do it on one leg.
I also love "agility" ladder drills. They provide excellent multi-planar dynamic warm-up. They develop brain-to-muscle connection and are excellent for eccentric strength and stability. We do less than five minutes of ladder drills, one or two times a week. I don't believe for a minute that the ladder is a magic tool that will make anyone faster or more agile, however I do believe it is a piece of the puzzle from the neural perspective. People waste more than five minutes on biceps curls, but we have long debates about ladder drills.
These are also a great tool to show to coaches who want "foot speed." Sometime it's easier to "yes" them than to argue with them. Give a guy with "bad feet" a jump rope and you get a guy with bad feet and patella tendonitis.
For more information on Michael Boyle, check out StrengthCoach.com or the Functional Strength Coach 3.0 DVD set.
A few months ago, I gave a two-day seminar to just over 80 fitness professionals and strength and conditioning coaches. Even with a seminar this long, I can never cover everything I'd like to cover - and it's generally because much of what I'd like to address relies on some prerequisite knowledge that the attendees may not possess.
With that in mind, at the attendees' request, I sent a follow up email to all of them with a list of some of the best resources - books/manuals and DVDs - that I've encountered along my journey of self-education.
Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it does cover what I'd consider requisite reading to get a good foundation in a lot of the concepts I covered last weekend.
1. Any anatomy text will do, but I prefer texts that speak more to functional anatomy. Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy is very good, and I know of many physical therapists in the US who keep a copy of this book on hand for patient education. Kinetic Anatomy is also a solid text that speaks to functional anatomy, and I believe the newer version comes with a tag-along DVD. Lastly, our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set was created in part to educate folks on the functional anatomy side of things that they may miss during a conventional college curriculum. I know of several facilities in the US that use it extensively for staff training.
2. Anything from Stuart McGill - While there are several schools of thought with respect to low back function and rehabilitation (and I'd encourage you to check out each of them), McGill is the one that resonates with me the most. You can find a lot of his research on Pubmed, but he also has several books (and a DVD) available that I'd highly recommend. For those of you who are interested in some science and some applied, go with Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.
For those of you who are a bit geekier and want to learn a lot more about the clinical side of things, check out Low Back Disorders. If you are going to train clients or athletes, you need to understand back pain.
3. Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes by Shirley Sahrmann is probably the book that has influenced me more than any other in my career. It's worth every penny.
4. For shoulder stuff, I think that The Athlete's Shoulder is a great resource. It is written by physical therapists and surgeons, though, so it can get very clinical at times. Those of you who are more interested in actual practical applications would be more interested in our new Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set, which is the video of a seminar I did with Mike Reinold, who is actually one of the co-authors of The Athlete's Shoulder. If you enter the coupon code "reinold200osp" today only at checkout HERE, you can get the DVD set with free shipping today as part of Mike's "sale week" to celebrate his 200th post.
5. Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain - This is a newer version of Kendall's classic text, and it's an incredibly detailed resource that you'll find yourself referring back to time and time again. Several of the screens we use in our everyday assessments with clients and athletes were influenced in part or entirely by Kendall's text.
6. Gray Cook's work is fantastic. If you want quick, practical tips, check out Secrets of the Hip and Knee and Secrets of the Shoulder. Both DVDs give you some tips that you can immediately put into practice.
7. Anatomy Trainsby Thomas Myers is an excellent read to get you thinking more and more about the role of the fascial system. I saw Thomas speak this past weekend in Providence, and he was absolutely fantastic - so excellent, in fact, that I'll probably write up a blog with some quick notes from his lecture. And, I'll be reading this for the third time this week, too!
8. Bulletproof Knees - Mike Robertson wrote this manual and I can honestly say that I haven't seen a better product on the market with respect to information that can be quickly applied to clients with knee pain - both in terms of understanding it and correcting it.
9. Mike Boyle has some excellent products - including all the Functional Strength Coach DVDs (#3 was the most recent). You can always find some good reading at StrengthCoach.com. I believe they still have the 14 days for $1 trial period, and as part of that, you get his Designing Resistance Training Programs and Facilities book for free.
10. Anatomy of Breathing - I think it's valuable to appreciate the muscles involved in respiration and start to put them into your functional anatomy framework as soon as possible. This book is a very quick read, but you'll get that foundational knowledge and start to think about how all this stuff lines up.
11. 2008 Indianapolis Performance Enhancement DVD set - This is a product that has largely flown under the radar because it was overshadowed by several other products that were launched around the same time. However, the short vs. stiff discussion that Bill Hartman presented as part of it is well worth the cost of the entire DVD set.
12. Clinical Applications of Neuromuscular Techniques(Part 1 and 2) - These books read like stereo instructions, but they are insanely thorough. I recommend them to anyone who is really dorky like I am. They will definitely help you to collaborate with manual therapists and physiotherapists a lot more effectively.
13. Assess and Correct - Shameless self-promotion here, but I'm extremely proud of this product. It's a DVD set and four accompanying manuals that cover 27 assessments and 78 corrective exercises we use with our clients and athletes. If I had to recommend one of our products to a trainer, this would be it. Stuart McGill have us some extremely flattering reviews on Assess and Correct as part of his new DVD.
I should note that the countless journal articles I've read over the years are noticeably absent from this list, but you can easily access the abstracts of those pieces at www.pubmed.com if you search by whatever keyword relates to your area of interest. I find myself using it daily, and I'll generally follow up on these abstracts by getting the full-text articles. Also, in addition to the few resources I note below, you can find a more extensive collection of recommended readings on my resources page. This includes a collection of links to free blogs that I read daily. Many of my blog readers don't know that, in addition to this blog, I have a free newsletter where readers get exclusive content and early notice on things - so you'll definitely want to sign up HERE if you haven't already.
It's also been a matter of interacting with as many smart folks as possible, just making (and documenting) observations with our clients/athletes, and going to seminars. This list should get you started, though!
This guest blog comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Sam Leahey.Last time, we discussed circuit training and the validity of whether or not it develops "mental toughness" in our athletes. We then questioned whether this "mental toughness" (however one defines that term) is actually translating into enhanced sports performance. This week's article focuses on the implications regarding circuit training and "work capacity".
Simply type the term "work capacity" into YouTube and you'll end up with tons of videos implementing a wide variety of exercises in circuit training fashion, most which consist of modified strongman events, and every one of these claims the same thing: "it develops work capacity." What does that even mean?
Now, enter "work capacity" into the search bar on a peer-reviewed research journal site (PubMed, etc.) and what are the findings? Nearly every study listed with the term "work capacity" in the title is in direct reference to something specific like "physical work capacity," "anaerobic work capacity," "aerobic work capacity," "wingate test work capacity," "upper body work capacity", "cardio-respiratory work capacity," or "functional work capacity."
Compare and contrast these two discoveries and we are left with the simple conclusion that "work capacity" is specific and using it as a general term is scientifically unjustifiable. In fact, it is pretty much theory altogether unless directly tied to something else. Yet, when looking across the landscape of private training facilities and collegiate Strength & Conditioning settings, we find that most coaches and trainers use the term "work capacity" in the aforementioned grossly-oversimplified way as opposed to a specific type of capacity that actually makes transferable sense. I often wonder why that is?
There are many common arguments in favor of the work capacity idea. Coaches and trainers are now more than ever espousing and raising "work capacity" awareness. Let us look at some of the underlying principles and theories behind the "work capacity school of thought" and try to make sense of it and establish how coaches arrived at the solution of "in order to develop work capacity we need to do circuit training". This will lead into the conclusion of this article.
Principle: Work capacity is developed when the human body tolerates and recovers from a workload. Once adapted to that stimulus they need to be able to work above that "work threshold" for continued success.
I can't believe how much this gets parroted these days. When I think about this statement I am left wondering how this is any different from regular strength training or even a stinkin' bicep curl? It sounds to me like just another way to describe the Principle of Overload, not the "principle of work capacity"! Furthermore, I wonder how it's indicative of the conclusion so many people reach: "I have to do circuit training to develop work capacity?"Theory: If an athlete's general fitness or capacity is low, their specific fitness or capacity will not improve.
So you're saying if I take a highly deconditioned athlete with no general fitness and make him play soccer for one week straight he won't be a better, more conditioned soccer player by day seven than he was on day one because his "general fitness/capacity" was low to begin with? Really?
One more time. . .
Theory: If an athlete's general fitness or capacity is low their specific fitness or capacity will not improve.
Though still a vague statement perhaps, now we're getting closer to something actually definable - "general fitness." Many coaches use the terms "general fitness" and "work capacity" synonymously. Perhaps this is where coaches arrive at the conclusion of "I should do circuit training to develop general fitness."
More importantly, though, do I even want "general fitness" for my? Or, just specific fitness? It seems we need a definition or list of components of "general fitness" before we can answer that question. You might say that the progression should go from general to specific and my response there would be general WHAT and specific WHAT? What quality are we talking about - strength, power, flexibility, speed, or something else? I feel that to simply just say we should go from general to specific may be shortsighted; we need to clarify what quality we're covering.
If you do an internet search or academic search to define "general fitness," you most often times end up at the same thing that is still taught in academic settings today - "General Fitness consists of the 5 Health Related Components of Fitness," which are:
Once here, we can actually begin to clarify the argument. Am I supposed to develop all these above qualities optimally to attain "general fitness"? Do I even need or want some of these above qualities to be maxed out in say, a sprinter? Nope.
If we're talking about Muscular Strength then I totally accept the idea of general strength to specific strength. However, if we're discussing cardiovascular endurance, then I think most of us would disagree with the general-to-specific thought process. Both Charlie Francis and Mike Boyle have obliterated this general-to-specific idea with regards to energy systems years ago. They speak against doing "general running" (aerobic jogging) and then moving into "specific running" (anaerobic sprinting).
Francis has written about how kids need to do enough power related activity in their teen years to really reach optimal performance in sprinting when they get older. What is he saying by that? He's saying we should start specific and end even more specific.
Mike Boyle took Francis' thoughts and began doing tempo runs in early off-season with his athletes to develop a sprinting base, which is still inherently specific, and then progress them to higher intensity sprints. Basically, he started specific in as broad a way as he could and then got even more specific with the training. He did not attempt to develop an aerobic base first by running miles and then gradually move to sprinting; rather, he started the off-season with higher volumes of lower intensity "sprints" (tempo runs) and then moved to lower volumes of higher intensity "sprints" (shuttle runs). A different way Coach Boyle also approached this idea during his career of building proper sprinting work capacity (notice it's specific and not "general") is represented in this graphic:
Though a different order of intensity and volume, all I'm trying to get you to see is the point that it is not developing "general fitness," but instead specific fitness. So, hopefully now we can all see that the general to specific idea doesn't hold up too well until we clarify what quality we're referencing (strength, flexibility, energy systems, or something else).
Theory: Work capacity enhances and coordinates the cardiovascular, metabolic, and nervous systems and it is composed of 2 components:1) The ability to tolerate a high workload by recovering quickly from the stimulus so that another stimulus can be presented on a consistent basis.2) Being able to resist fatigue no matter what the source.
These two points taken alone, I struggle to see how people are lead to the conclusion that they need to be implementing circuit training to develop this so called "work capacity." However, taken all together with the initial mention of the physiological systems, we may have finally arrived at a specific qualitative point - the nervous, cardiovascular, and "metabolic" systems.
Somehow coaches take this to mean that doing circuit training is the best option for coordinating and enhancing these systems. If I take time in my program to do circuit training, will it coordinate and enhance my nervous system optimally with all that fatigue going on during the circuit, especially compared to what I else could be doing instead to prepare my nervous system? I would say "no;" circuit training does not fit the bill optimally.
If I take time out of my conditioning program to do circuit training, will it coordinate and enhance my cardiovascular system better than what I'm already doing? Again I would have to answer "no."
Will circuit training enhance and coordinate my energy systems (metabolic system) better than my conditioning program? Nope.
The point here is the traditional methods you're already using in your strength training, power training, and conditioning program are far superior in developing those physiological systems than doing circuit training.
Here's another definition being thrown around the internet:
"Work capacity refers to the general ability of the whole body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body."
This is probably the best attempt at defining "work capacity." Yet, the question still arises: do I need or want this "general ability" of my body to "produce work" of varying intensities and times? Instead, how about narrowing it down to what specific energy systems I'm going to need to compete in my sport or event and at what intensity or durations? Doesn't that make more sense that just saying to somebody, "Hey, I've got good work capacity because I can do a million sit-ups, a 1RM squat, a bunch of pull-ups, and then sprint 50 yards - all in under 5 minutes!" Does a competitive sprinter benefit from being able to run a marathon, do a ton of pushups, then do a ton of pull-ups, when he's competing in a 55 meter dash? Would a golfer optimally benefit from doing random "general fitness" activities at random intensities and durations as opposed to specific fitness activities?
So, I humbly ask: why are we doing circuit training to develop general work capacity? How did we ever arrive at the conclusion that a general work capacity was needed as opposed to a specific work capacity like linear sprinting or multiple changes of direction or vertical jumping or asymmetrical rotation (golfer/pitcher)?
Instead, can I suggest we seek to develop specific work capacities instead of general ones? How about we develop the ability of a basketball player to reproduce jumping and hopping performance throughout the course of a game. Also, how about we build a golfer's capacity (through corrective exercise) to take all the swings he/she requires without getting hurt instead of running him/her through a modified strongman circuit to build "general fitness" or "work capacity?"
Eric Cressey has good work capacity by powerlifting standards; he can take a lot of singles over 90% of 1RM in a single training session and bounce back reasonably quickly.
Does that mean, though, that Eric can just walk outside and play soccer and be good at it because his "work capacity" is up? I don't believe so, because work capacity is specific, not general. Instead, develop the specific capacity to play soccer! There's no need to develop tons of different, and in many cases competing qualities just for the sake of saying we have a general capacity to tolerate a bunch of random events. All in all, it may be best to simply stick with the traditional methods of training and develop the specific capacities needed for a specific event or sport as opposed to taking hours during the training week for circuit training.
Just think of what higher-yield activities you could be doing instead while you taking hours of time out each week to do circuit training...
Sam Leahey CSCS, CPT can be reached at email@example.com. Sign up for our FREE Newsletter today and and receive this deadlift technique video!
This guest blog comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Sam Leahey.Preface
A qualification needs to be made first. This debate often times confuses people because they don't take the time to qualify what exactly they're discussing. The overriding issue here is on the use of exercise or conditioning circuits in training to develop "mental toughness" and/or "work capacity." Both capacities are actually pretty different scientifically and practically, but too often get thrown into the same conversation. When we talk about using exercise or conditioning "circuits" in the weight room, most coaches rationale for using them is rooted in one of three things:
1) To build "mental toughness" in the athletes
2) To build "work capacity" in the athletes
3) To build both.
I want to be clear here that this article will focus solely on thoughts regarding the first rationale and not the others. This if for clarity's sake, brevity, and quality of analysis. In future blogs, I hope to delve into the other two reasons why coaches/trainers program conditioning circuits and whether or not it has value and/or a desired training effect.
Before you continue reading, I'd pose the title of this article to you again and ask that you take a moment to think about your answer - can YOU develop mental toughness of YOUR athletes using circuit training in your programs?
What is "Mental Toughness"?
The first thing we need to establish is what "mental toughness" really is. Defining the term alone could be another endless debate, so let's keep things neutral and use good ol' dictionary.com as our trusted resource:
Type in the term "mental toughness" and the search comes up empty.
Hmm, this has implications. It seems that the term "mental toughness" as a whole is abstract and inherently debatable because there is no established definition in the dictionary. Disagree with me? If so, then I'd point you to the example of the term "Mc Job", which is a term referring to a service industry job that is unstimulating, pays low wages, and offers few benefits. At one point "Mc Job" was an abstract concept just like the term "mental toughness" currently is. It wasn't until enough people settled on its terms that it went from being abstract to a concrete reality which is definable and published in the dictionary itself, see:
- 2 dictionary results
Mc - Job [muh k-job]
an unstimulating, low-wage job with few benefits, esp. in a service industry.
So, in the same sense, I think the term "mental toughness" will take much longer (if ever) to reach a state of clear and accepted definition. Continuing on, though, what we can establish here is that the words "mental" and "toughness" are separately definable:
m?n tl/ Show Spelled[men-tl]
-adjective1. of or pertaining to the mind: mental powers; mental suffering.
2. of, pertaining to, or affected by a disorder of the mind: a mental patient; mental illness.
3. providing care for persons with disordered minds, emotions, etc.: a mental hospital.
4. performed by or existing in the mind: mental arithmetic; a mental note.
5. pertaining to intellectuals or intellectual activity.
6. Informal. slightly daft; out of one's mind; crazy: He's mental.
-noun7. Informal. a person with a psychological disorder: a fascist group made up largely of mentals.
Spelled [tuhf],adjective,-er, -est,adverb, noun, verb-adjective1. strong and durable; not easily broken or cut.
2. not brittle or tender.
3. difficult to masticate, as food: a tough steak.
4. of viscous consistency, as liquid or semiliquid matter: tough molasses.
5. capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy: tough troops.
6. not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn: a tough man to work for.
7. hardened; incorrigible: a tough criminal.
8. difficult to perform, accomplish, or deal with; hard, trying, or troublesome: a tough problem.
9. hard to bear or endure (often used ironically): tough luck.
10. vigorous; severe; violent: a tough struggle.
11. vicious; rough; rowdyish: a tough character; a tough neighborhood.
12. practical, realistic, and lacking in sentimentality; tough-minded.
13. Slang. remarkably excellent; first-rate; great.
-adverb14. in a tough manner.
-noun15. a ruffian; rowdy.
Combining the first two definitions we could say that "mental toughness" via dictionary.com is a strong, durable, non-tender mind capacity or functioning. So now we have a theoretical foundation from which we can work - and we again arrive at the initial debate: can this "mental toughness" be developed by strength and conditioning coaches using forms of circuit training with their athletes?
Acute vs. Chronic
Here are some classic examples that coaches and trainers (both good and bad) who subscribe to the theory "you can develop mental toughness through circuit training" use in practice. . .
(Each exercise done for 1 minute each, circuit done 2-3 times)(*AMRAP - as many reps as possible)
"Death Circuit Saturdays"
- Overhead MedBall Slam (AMRAP)
- Tire Flips (20 yards)
- Overhead Sledgehammer Tire Hits (AMRAP)
- Pushups (AMRAP)
- Farmer's Walk (25yards down and back)
- Rotational MedBall Throws (AMRAP)
- Vertical Jump (AMRAP)
- Barbell Bench Press (225lbs x AMRAP)
- Barbell Back Squat (315lbs x AMRAP)
- Pull-Up (BW x AMRAP)
- Conventional Deadlift (315 x AMRAP)
- Chest Supported T-Bar Row (70lbs x AMRAP)
- Single-Leg Box Squats (AMRAP)
- 1 Arm TRX Inverted Row (AMRAP)
- Front Plank
- Standing 1 Arm Cable Press (AMRAP)
- Side Plank
- Walking Lunges with Overhead DB Press (AMRAP)
- 1 Arm Chin-Up (AMRAP)
- Farmers Walk (30yards down and back)
- Seated Rope Pull (20yard rope connected to weighted sled - pull to you once)
- Prowler Sled Pushes (30yards down and back)
- Giant Log Lift (AMRAP in 2 minutes)
With this list of random circuits in mind, now let's talk about how and when strength and conditioning coaches implement these circuits into their program(s). If you've been around collegiate strength and conditioning for any amount of time, you'll know these circuits usually get placed at the end or beginning of a training week and sometimes at the end of a training cycle. In the private sector of the strength and conditioning profession (training facilities), there isn't that much separation from that either. You'll find these circuits being sprinkled in to the clients (athletes) programs. The biggest point to consider here is that whenever circuit training is used it's almost never done continually, 100% of the time; it's always used sparingly while the bulk of the training is more traditional.
Conclusion - The Carryover
Imagine if you yourself or an athlete you know did one of the above circuits. How would you feel? It'd be pretty tough wouldn't it? If I told you that you were going to do it again next week, you would be mentally prepared for it, wouldn't you? After doing it every Friday for two months, would you have mentally adapted to the stimulus and find it less of a mental struggle each time? Of course! However, what happens every other day of the week when you don't have that stimulus present? Are you still as "mentally tough" throughout the week as you are on Friday when you are near puking your brains out and have a coach scream at you and blowing whistles? Even more relevant is the perspective of adding up those single exposure circuit days and compare them to all the days in the off-season and in-season you're not doing a circuit. Which of the two sums has the most potential for developing ANYTHING for that matter?
In other words, being "mentally tough" is a LIFESTYLE - NOT A SINGLE EXPOSURE TO SOME DEATH CIRCUIT ONCE A WEEK OR ONCE A MONTH!
Are we forgetting the fact that many collegiate teams implement these circuits to only end up with losing seasons? Meanwhile, on the other hand, you have teams doing the same death circuits and getting to the championship. Did one team not do enough "death circuits" and needed more exposures so they can reach post season play? Or, did the team who reached the championship lead a mentally tough lifestyle off the field/court/ice and not just get "psyched up" for a death circuit once a week or month?
True athletic team success is the result of all the little things added up throughout the week that culminate on game day, not just a mental victory once and while over some weight room circuit.
It's performing every exercise in the weight room with perfect technique that fosters CHRONIC mental toughness in athletes. It's not accepting lousy technique for the sake of putting more weight on the bar that makes the athlete mentally tough.
It's showing up to train on time, every time, over the course of the entire macrocycle that gives us sustainable and reproducible mental toughness that carries over into team chemistry and cohesiveness.
It's going through the full warm-up without skipping steps just so you can get on to lifting heavy weights quicker.
It's only doing the prescribed number of reps and sets that's your given and not letting an athlete do his/her own thing.
It's not missing workouts or having athlete find excuses not to come in and train because it's a "light day" or "regeneration day".
It's a culture, not a single event!
Living a mentally tough lifestyle is what produces long term athletic success. If you want your athletes to reach their full mental potential and, in turn, athletic potential, then find ways to change their LIFESTYLE instead of getting them "psyched up" for your weightroom circuit you worked so hard to design. Furthermore, the mental toughness lifestyle you cultivate in your weight room can carry over into the rest of their lives as well whereas some weekly circuit cannot.
If you develop a culture of mentally tough athletes in your weight room via the little things, their ability to reproduce that (which is the whole point, anyway) can certainly be carried over into the way they approach the sport skills practice and whatnot. If they're showing up to the weight room on time, every time, how much more likely will they be to show up for practice on time, every time? If they're habitually not cutting corners in the weight room and choosing to not take the easy way out, will they make the same decisions on the field/court/ice where they know it has more direct carry over to game day?
You can see that the evolution of leading a mentally tough lifestyle eventually can translate into habitual changes in personal character and discipline. I struggle to see how a weekly circuit or once a month event can have even a remotely similar effect. It is the responsibility of the coach to instill this aforementioned mentally tough lifestyle through cultivated weight room culture.
So the argument is essentially a fundamental disagreement, but I think the answer is quite clear. Even though the term "mental toughness" lacks a true definition, can we as coaches instill what most would agree on as "mental toughness" in our athletes via the weight room? The answer is "yes," but it's not through doing "death circuits." Doing things habitually RIGHT breeds a lifestyle that makes you mentally tough. This chronic mental toughness cannot be accomplished with a sparingly used weight room circuit of exercises.
I wrote this article/blog knowing full well that someone out there would come up with the question:
"What if I have my athletes do circuit training EVERY time we train then, for an entire off-season. This way we're getting the "mental toughness" stimulus constantly. Would that work?"
In response, I would say there is only one man I know of on the entire planet who was inherently ingenious enough to implement circuit training EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT and still not have his athletes overtraining. This way, they were constantly pushing the mental envelope and eventually they went from being a good team to the winning the national championship of college hockey. The strength coach's name is Michael Boyle.
Unless you have the ingenious capability of....
- engineering circuit training day in and day out for an ENTIRE off-season,
- having no one get injured doing so,
- have most everyone on the team get stronger,
- and most importantly find a way to have these mentally tough workouts carry over into the players habitual lifestyles,
....then I suggest you don't even both trying. If you've read the book Outliers you'll understand there's only one Mike Boyle for a reason and you're NOT him.
For the rest of us, I think it's best to stick to the above rationale if we want develop true mental toughness in our athletes that will last a lifetime of athletic competition.
Sam Leahey, CSCS can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Cressey Performance, we have a few interns in the spring (1/5 - 5/10), summer (6/1 - 8/30), and fall (9/1-12/23). Over the past three years, this internship program has "kicked out" some coaches who are doing great things in the industry, including names you'll recognize like Brian St. Pierre (who we wound up hiring as our first employee), Kevin Neeld (now a hockey expert and director at Endeavor Fitness), Kevin Larrabee (now on staff at Mike Boyle's place), Chris Howard (Cressey Performance's newest employee), and Roger Lawson (World-Class Rock, Paper, Scissors Competitor):
There are several more who are either still in school or out in the world doing great things - and we're really proud of them.
In light of the successes of these folks (and, presumably, the outlandish intern-hazing death circuits we've featured in this blog), Cressey Performance internships have become coveted ones. In fact, for the three internship positions we had available for this summer, we had 33 applicants. It proved to be a huge challenge for us to narrow it down to our final few, as we had strong applicants, and many of them came with recommendations from good friends/colleagues of mine in the industry.
With that in mind, since I know we have a lot of industry up-and-comers reading this blog, I thought I'd throw out my top five mistakes that intern applicants make - at least in my experience. Not surprisingly, most (if not all) of these bulletpoints also apply to to the application process for a job.
Mistake #1: Spelling "Cressey" incorrectly. - I'm dead serious; this really happened. One international applicant read about the internships at www.ericcressEy.com and download the application form at www.cressEyperformance.com, but somehow found a way to spell my last name "Cressy"on the mailing envelope and at least 4-5 times in his application essay - which was stapled to the application with the word "Cressey Performance' across the top. Attention to detail and the ability to follow directions are important - and this cut us down to 32 candidates pretty darn quickly.
Mistake #2: Not proofreading your application essay. - This was an issue for quite a few others. It's really unfortunate, as some folks may be great coaches who are articulate in speaking, but just don't come across well in writing. However, we're talking about a 500-word essay. It wouldn't be wrong to ask 2-3 friends, parents, or colleagues to have a look at it to make sure it's clean. So, you could say that in my eyes, a poorly written application essay doesn't just show that you're unprepared in the context of a crucial skill in the working world, but also that you aren't comfortable asking for help. I want all of our interns to be secure (and humble) enough to admit when they don't know/understand something so that we can teach them.
Mistake #3: Glazing right over the application. - We had this issue with a few applicants for different reasons. Two applicants glazed over the application and just included their essay and resume, and while they were good candidates in terms of the essay and their qualifications, the simple fact that they did not include the application added five minutes to our internship coordinator Pete's day as he tried to track down their contact info, references, and desired internship period (spring, summer, or fall). A few others had such poor handwriting that we had to contact them with follow-up emails to determine what they were really trying to relate. Pete is already a super-busy guy with the regular goings-on of CP, so someone who comes up short on such a simple task stands out to us as someone who is going to throw up "inefficiency roadblocks" as an intern down the road, as opposed to becoming a thriving member of the team.
Mistake #4: Acting like an immature bag-of-worthlessness in your social networking profile(s). - Research from the University of Dayton's Career Services showed that approximately 40% of employers check out job applicants on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. before making a hiring decision. CP is proud to be among those 40%. Dropping F-bombs left and right and posting pictures of you boozing are not good ways to win over potential employers and internship supervisors - especially since we know many of our interns become very popular with clients and eventually form Facebook friendships. And, many of our clients are impressionable young athletes; you need to prove to us that you are mature enough to be role models for them.
Mistake #5: Attempting to always go through Eric. - Yes, I just referred to myself in the third person, but that's not the point. We had a few applicants who would call or email constantly to request more information about the internship: dates it runs, application deadlines, housing recommendations, etc. As I noted above, in addition to being our business director, my business partner Pete is also the internship coordinator. He took this position not only because he's beyond qualified for it, but because I don't have the time or desire to manage the logistics of the preparation for the program. My responsibilities are working with the interns once they arrive, and - to that end - I refer all inquiries directly to Pete during the application process. Still, we have had several people call/email who big-leagued Pete by refusing to interact with him, instead requesting to always speak with me. Invariably, when I speak with them (if I do contact them at all), the questions all wind up being ones that Pete could have fielded easily - and with more detail than I could. So, the take-home lesson is to always deal with the internship coordinator - because he a) controls your future more than anyone else, b) will immediately black-list you if you big-league him, and c) will actually give you the best responses of anyone in the process. Remember that there is a difference between being proactive and being a pain in the butt; persistence is fine, but cumbersome is something difficult is another thing altogether.
You'll notice that none of these five mistakes had anything to do with coaching ability, academic performance/GPA, and previous experience. Very simply, we can rule out a good 50% of candidates simply because they haven't established themselves as professionals. As an example, Roger Lawson was one of our most popular interns of all time with clients - and he did it with ZERO academic background in fitness (he graduated with a degree in English Literature). However, his application and essay were thorough and professional, and he was humble and "politely persistent" - so he made it past the first round over people who had as much as six years of experience in the classroom and training world than he did.
Some recommended reading for those out there who are worried about making it past this first stage:
How to Win Friends and Influence People - It should cost you about $1 on Amazon, and you should read it within a day.
Made to Stick- Discusses the importance of first impressions and how to make yourself "stick" in someone's mind during the selection process.
Never Eat Alone- It's about networking, but not the cheesy kind where you just name drop.
Peak- This book explains a lot of why our business (or any business) is successful.
In my next post, I'll talk about what separates the folks in the final decision process after the initial "cuts."
Let's face it. There are so many aspects to Strength & Conditioning that it's easy to be left wondering, "How am I going to fit everything in?" For a young coach, program design can be somewhat of a frustrating process. But, over time, as experience rolls in and confidence flourishes, the program design conundrum dies down. You find that there's more than one way to skin a cat and the concept of simplicity always seems to come to the forefront. Take a look at the following list of potential program components:
Strength TrainingPower TrainingMovements SkillsFlexibility Speed DevelopmentMobilityAnaerobic/Aerobic ConditioningWarm UpStabilitySoft Tissue WorkEtc. . .Etc. . .
Admittedly, I am one of those overwhelmed ones at times, asking myself how I'm going to "fit it all in."
However, as I noted, the K.I.S.S. principle seems to always be the end result of my analysis - KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID! Yet, this simple approach doesn't seem to mesh well with having multiple training goals for one training cycle. This brings me to my main point. You don't HAVE to have a zillion training goals for every day/week/etc. of a training period. It's OK to focus primarily on one or two things only and hammer them home.
Maybe for Athlete A, he doesn't need all this "fancy stuff" and instead just needs to not be as weak as his little sister. Or Athlete B for that matter, who's "strong enough" and would greatly enhance his/her athleticism by focusing on his/her rate of force development.
Here at Cressey Performance, things like plyometric work are condensed into one or two training sessions. Speed development and movement skills are also allocated to particular training days. As the days go by, I'm seeing more and more value of consolidating program components into particular time periods instead of trying to cover all my athletic bases in the same session, month, etc. Another point being that it's OK to let other things slide a bit while you hone in on a higher yield area. Some people may need more corrective exercise at a particular time and less strength work at the moment.
Conversely, even though it would behoove us to simplify our programming approach we must at the same time remember what Albert Einstein said - "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." This is where the Art of coaching comes in, as we find a simultaneous balance between simplifying our programs and having them still be very effective in yielding great results.
During my last internship, with Coach Michael Boyle, I had a coaching epiphany that helped me to realize how my explanation of exercises to large groups needed to be simple if it was going to be effective. I needed to make all my coaching cues much simpler as well. If you haven't read that brief post before you can find it here.
At CP, I find myself in a one-on-one situation a lot more and guess what I found? The concept of simplistic explanations and coaching cues is STILL true! Who would'a thunk it?!?! I realized that just because I can spend more time with an individual doesn't mean I need to talk his/her ear off with long lists of directions. The one client standing there in front of you still responds to the same simple explanations and demonstrations that a group of people do. The biggest difference I can find in this regard is that I might increase my initial number of coaching points to three things when explaining an exercise.
I can remember my football coach saying to me that the average human mind can only remember seven things at once. They're already counting how many reps they're doing as #1, and if I give 3 pointers to remember, that's a total of four synapses. But, let's be honest, we've all worked with clients who seem to "not be present in the moment;" it's like their minds are somewhere else when you're talking to them. So, for this reason, I'll leave the other three synapses open for "whatever." However, I'm very open to hearing what your suggestions are for filling in the rest of the synapses; feel free to post a comment below.
Having said all this, I've found there are two types of clients (as time goes on, maybe I'll discover more): the visual learner and the verbal learner. After you've taken a new client through a warm-up, foam rolling, stretching, etc. you get a feel of their kinesthetic maturity. You can already tell how well they respond to being shown an exercise or being told how to do an exercise. This way, by the time you get over to the resistance training component, you have an idea of where to start - whether it's more demonstration and less verbage or vice versa.
Has the following scenario every happened to you?
A kid or adult you're coaching is standing there watching and listening to everything you say and do. You give full disclosure in your explanations and demonstrations. It's now his turn to attempt the movement and he does EVERYTHING wrong! It's like he wasn't even listening to what you just said and for some reason your demonstrations went right through his eyes and out the apparent hole in the back of his head!
(I apologize, but you'll have to turn your volume up because the audio quality is not that good)
So, I hope you the reader can appreciate my thoughts on the issue. For some, like my mentors Eric Cressey and Mike Boyle, this concept came into fruition many years ago. I'm glad I was able to realize the same thing while under their tutelage and not out on my own. An intern's time here Cressey Performance is very fulfilling and the whole staff has so much to offer that there's never a dull moment in the day.
Sam Leahey can be reached at email@example.com.