Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting After It

One thing I have noticed when working with youth athletes (and even general population clients) is that most of them never “get after it” when they are lifting.

What I mean by “get after it” is putting forth a maximum effort to drive the weight through the concentric portion of the lift. A lot of times, they just seem to go through the motions and perform the repetition with enough effort to move the weight.

I don’t know if it is being apprehensive or nervous about the weight on the bar, or if it is just that they are not 100% mentally focused on the lift; but it drives me nuts to see someone take a lazy rep. Things like power cleans, DB snatches, Squats, Deadlifts, and bench press are not about “taking it easy.” You need to focus on the lift, get violent with the bar and try and accelerate and put forth as much force into the bar as possible.

Just explaining the concept of “getting after” each repetition to your athletes can help to boost numbers and help to teach them how to put forth a maximum effort (even if the weight is not maximal weight).

Take a look at some of your athletes and explain the concept of getting after it to them and see if you can maybe set some PR’s in the gym next workout.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hello Everyone!

Things have been really busy. I was out of town for a little bit and this week I have finals at school, so I haven't had much time to post a new blog entry.

After this week, I am looking at a 2 week break before the next semester begins, so I will be back to regular posting. I have been reading a bunch of research lately, so I will do some research reviews that will hopefully be helpfull to you.

In other news, I just signed up for my first ART course (later this summer). For those that don't know, ART stands for Active Release Techniques and it is a soft tissue technique which deals with scar tissue and adhesions. So, I am really pumped about that. Also, starting next semester, I will begin my student clinic work at the school, which should be really exciting! It will give me a great opportunity to work with different people every week and apply some of the soft tissue treatments that i have been using with my clients now, on a much great scale. Should be a fun learning experience.

Other than that, I have just been training people, reading and learning.

Hope everyone is doing well,


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Trouble Shooting Your Speed Workouts

As the track season is just beginning in the high schools, I have been speaking with some coaches and athletes about their current training programs. I wanted to get an idea about the type of workouts the athletes are being asked to perform and the reasoning behind their current set up. There are a few common flaws I have been seeing in the workouts, so I will outline a few trouble shooting tips to hopefully help you better prepare your athletes. These ideas don’t only have to apply to track athletes, but can also be used for athletes in any sport where speed is a necessary quality for success.

1) Warm Ups

I have seen both extremes when it comes to warming up for your sprint workout (or any workout for that matter). Everything from not enough warm up to too much warm up (consisting of long distance jogging). The important things to target with the warm up are first doing something general to help raise core temperature and promote blood flow (I like calisthenics or anything that gets the kids up and moving), followed by some very specific (like teaching proper sprint mechanics and working on technique based drills). Always be sure to choose movements in the warm up that re-enforce good sprinting technique, as the last thing you want to do is program bad habits into your runners. Put some thought into what you are doing and why you are doing it. I can’t emphasize enough how important warms ups are.

2) Teach Arm Action

Arm action can help dictate lower body mechanics when sprinting, so it would be wise to spend some time teaching your athletes about proper arm mechanics. This can be part of the warm up (the specific part) and can help to trouble shoot problems your athletes may be having with their sprint. Remember that the arms want to be moving in a straight line (not across the body), with the elbows bent at about 90 degree angles (there is some variability here, as the elbow angle may open up more during the back swing), and the movement should be coming from the shoulder. The movement should look relaxed and comfortable. Try and teach the movement by having the athletes do slow at first and really learn what it feels like to have proper arm mechanics, before asking them to bring it up to full speed.

3) Sprinting and Running Are Not the Same Thing

A lot of coaches have their sprinters run some distance in order to help enhance their overall conditioning. While I understand the importance of conditioning, running (or should I say jogging) and sprinting are not the same thing. They have different mechanics and they utilize different energy systems. Instead of having your sprinters run distance, it would be more advantageous to have them perform tempo runs to increase their overall work capacity. Tempo runs, for those that are not familiar, are sub-maximal runs interspersed with either walking/jogging or body weight movements (medicine ball circuits, abdominal training, mobility exercises, etc.). They can be performed for time or for distance and it is important that during the running portion (even though it is to be sub-maximal) that the athletes obey proper sprinting mechanics and try and make each run as perfect as possible.

4) Poor Organization of Intensive Training

Coaches of all high school sports seem to break this rule a lot. They believe that they are working on “speed training” when they are having their athletes doing maximal effort sprints everyday. In reality, this is the equivalent of performing maximum effort squats everyday. How many days in a row do you think you can do this before your body finally breaks down and revolts against you? Along with running their athletes hard everyday, coaches seem to think that it is important to have them run their actual event distance everyday (again at maximal speeds). What is really happening is that the coaches are breaking down their athletes and, instead of working on “speed training” (the true intent of the program), they are just teaching their athletes to run with poor form and programming poor motor patterns. Instead of burning your athletes out with hard maximum effort sprints for competition distances, it would be wiser to use sub-maximal runs at a pace that is your athlete can maintain proper technique, but is not a 100% all out sprint. Also, use shorter distances to help the athletes achieve technical mastery in their chosen event. As well, look at your overall training program. Are the athletes doing 100% effort every day? If they are, you may want to consider organizing training in a way that places their intensive training on one day (sprints and weight training) and then their less intensive training on the next day (tempo runs, body weight movements, abdominals) to ensure that your athletes are fresh and each training day is of high quality. The quality of training is essential.

5) To much training

Overtraining is a huge problem in high school athletes these days. Coaches need to be more efficient when organizing the training day. Have a plan, be specific and carry the plan out. Try and be detailed down to how much time you have to spend on certain tasks. Don’t spend unnecessary time in the weight room. I have seen everything from high rep circuit training for 60min. straight to high volume strength training on machines or using exercises that are a waste of time (biceps curls and triceps pressdowns for sprinters). Choose your exercises wisely, and remember that the athletes are going to be lifting after their sprinting workouts. There is no need to do a million sets or a ton of exercises. Choose a couple of important exercises, use low volume, and get right to work. Just like with sprinting, teach proper technique and enforce that technique (don’t let the athletes get away with anything. If you give them an inch, they will take a foot). Keep in mind Tip# 4, that intensive training should be organized on the same day to allow for optimal recovery between training bouts.

Hope these tips give you some ideas when planning for your next competition,


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Responses to the “You Can’t Handle The Truth” entry

About a week ago I made a blog entry titled, “You Can’t Handle TheTruth.”

I got some feedback on that entry, so I decided to talk a little bit about it:

I can’t believe that you posted that. It really is harsh and you come across as very negative and cynical. Even if it is the truth, it is really mean.


Ivonne, thanks for the feedback. I understand that it does sound negative and cynical. Then again, show me a trainer that has been working with overweight housewives for several years that ISN’T negative and cynical. I don’t know what it is about that population, but they really drain the hell out of you. Oh wait, I do know what it is about that population but I don’t want to sound “really mean.”

In all honesty, I don’t think the statements were mean. They weren’t meant to be mean or hurtful towards anyone. The intention of the post was to voice an opinion that many people in this field have…People who don’t want to work hard and complain SUCK. They are a drag to work with and you shouldn’t have to put up with them. I sure as hell don’t want to. Most people get in this field with the intention of helping others reach their goals and attain optimal health (with the exception of a few, like myself, that get into it to work with athletic populations and work towards a specific goal or competition). It is really upsetting to show up at work everyday with the idea that you want to help change someone’s life, only that person doesn’t want it as much as you do (AND IT IS THEIR LIFE!). How can you get excited about that? I know I don’t.

I don’t mind working with weekend warriors or general population clients, as long as they come in knowing that we are going to WORK and not play games. When they start annoying me, they have got to go.

I really do wonder what would happen if they did hear the truth? I wonder if these very same people have walked through life without people being straight up honest with them. Their families and friends have made excuses for them or felt bad for saying something. Maybe we are all at fault here for being too gentle, too politically correct, and too damn dishonest with them.


Nick thanks for your reply. I agree 100%. Their families and friends have made excuses for them their entire lives. They have allowed them to be lazy and go through life acting like nothing is their fault. It is always someone else’s fault that they are overweight and out of shape. No one takes responsibilities.

I think we may be a little at fault for being too gentle with them and to politically correct. I mean, what is the worst that happens if we told them the truth? Maybe that would actually light a fire under their ass to get up and do something. If I am going to be working with an athlete and I tell him something like “wow, you are pretty athletic but you are weak as a kitten,” or “your work capacity really sucks.” Do you think they want to hear that? If anything, they want to do whatever it takes to improve. Their question is along the lines of “What do I have to do to get better? That is why I am here.” So maybe you tell “miss insanely obese twenty something year old” that she is 50-pounds over fat and totally deconditioned. Maybe for once in her life, she would say “Your right. I am not happy with my body. Help me make it better.” I think that when working with these people the first step is making them see what their problem is, and the second step is making them commit to a concrete goal and then give 100% effort to get there.

It's a damn shame is what it is - I wish I had that kind of money where I could afford to train with a good trainer.

Obviously I do what I can thanks to IM forums, but it's still nothing compared to what I could be doing with someone who does it for a living.


Dan thanks for writing in. I applaud your efforts. Not only are you in the gym training yourself; but, you are reading and educating yourself on how to improve on what you are doing. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Now that we have this squared away, I think my next few entries will be back to training and discussing some program design ideas.

Until next time,