How The Fitness Industry Has Changed Over My 30 Years

The Walkman

In the 80’s, when I began my career as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, the field was new to college and on the private side powerlifting, bodybuilding, jogging and aerobics ruled the world. Strength training technique in the weight room was everything. Outfits, shoes and beats per minute were the keys to jogging and aerobics. The legends were in their prime in power lifting and bodybuilding. Amazing as it sounds, people worked out without personal music and ran without any music at all back in the “olden” days. The Walkman was just beginning to be the thing for personalized music on the move. As the 80’s evolved, the National Strength Coaches Association was growing from its inception (1979), created a certification and began to court the non-strength coach, thus evolving into the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Several other organizations began to pop up to serve the private side of the industry that was based on memberships and fitness rather than performance and winning. However, everyone still seemed to be focused on the technical aspects of what to do and how to actually do it properly. In performance, the big argument was powerlifting, bodybuilding and Olympic lifting versus Nautilus H.I.T. (High Intensity Training) or one set to failure that was the training style at various universities, most notably Michigan and Penn State. The inference was since Michigan and Penn State were good, H.I.T. had to be good, regardless of the fact that H.I.T. was a style of training unique to the United States. The NSCA decided to wage a scientific battle against the “HIT” philosophy and ran the coaches at the “HIT” programs out of the organization.

Steroids were a part of the sports culture of the 80’s. Some football athletes dabbled in them or used them at one time or another. Were they isolated to football athletes or running rampant in colleges? In my opinion and experience, no. However, they were being used by some and a very few collegiate coaches were even jailed or sent to prison for possession or allowing their distribution.


Toward the end of the 80’s and early 90’s, the importance of nutrition and speed began to become apparent in performance. The winning teams in football (most notably the University of Washington at the turn of the decade and Miami University throughout the 90’s) were extremely focused on recruiting speed and Nebraska had retained a nutritionist on staff to assist the dining hall in refueling the players at meals as well as creating a refueling station in the weight room for immediate pre- and post-workout protein and carbohydrate ingestion. The better the nutritional support, the faster the athletes recovered. The faster the athlete recovered, the more quality work they could do which in turn led to better quality performances and fewer injuries. Many performance-enhancing drugs lead to better quality recovery and are not for the performance itself. The private side of the industry was beginning to realize that gyms that were franchised (Gold’s, Bally’s, etc.) were opportunities to sell memberships and make lots of money. A few privately owned gyms were beginning to realize the opportunity that existed with the death of Physical Education in the school systems, but the concept of performance training for hire had yet to make it into the mainstream of our culture or the private side of the industry. Certifications for strength coaches and fitness professionals began with the introduction of a certification by the NSCA. A written test without a practical test (the NATA had both written and practical), it was designed by P.hD.’s and some coaches that had some weight room knowledge, but was rapidly changed by P.hD.’s that had less and less actual coaching and fitness training knowledge. However, as it was first and the NSCA had the money to get it accredited, it became the gold standard.

Periodization become huge with the introduction to the industry of computer programming that can control exercise selection, sets, reps, rest time and even rep execution time. Periodization became the buzzword as it came out of the former USSR, which had great success in the training and competition of their athletes. The USSR also had complete control of their athletes 24/7 and a cutting edge drug program. They selected for talent, trained the selected athletes and those that survived were national, world and Olympic champions. With the fall of the wall and the collapse of their system, several of their coaches and sports scientists came to our country and Canada and began to teach and write. This information enlightened performance coaches that with great quality of repetition execution and additional volume over time, the athletes could indeed get bigger, faster, quicker and stronger. However, the problem with true periodization as espoused was that in our system, we do not have control, only influence over the athlete and drugs are outlawed and tested for by the NCAA, USOC, etc. In the private industry, there is even less influence so the ability to sequence and order the exercises on any given day in order to create a training effect become paramount to the training process.

The 90’s saw the advance of the association focused on servicing the needs of the members of the fitness, private performance and rehab/reconditioning industry. The medical trainers had the National Athletic Trainers Association, which with the backing of the team physicians had tremendous influence with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The collegiate strength coaches were now beginning to feel the pressure that could be exerted when they had no voice and no one to support them. By now, virtually every pro team and university had at least one strength coach. 70-80 hour weeks were the norm and the coaches were not only in the weight room but out on the track, field and court teaching speed development, plyometrics, agility and conditioning for a variety of sports in addition to football.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine became an organization focused on the health and well being of the individual for

Certification for $

movement as well as performance. The NASM created education based on injury prevention for coaches and trainers that came from the world of physical therapists rather than from the world of sports and its coaches. The collegiate strength coaches were fed up with being used by the NSCA and broke off to found the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association – the CSCCA, which was later changed to the CSCCa due to pressure from the NSCA of the threat of a lawsuit for name infringement. Since the CSCCa had little in terms of resources, they changed the big A to a little a. This action by the NSCA was followed in the early 2000’s by a lawsuit to force the separate NSCA certification agency to come under the wing of the NSCA, effectively ending the NSCA’s presence in Lincoln, NE after almost 30 years. IHRSA, IDEA, ACE and other organizations began to support the private side business owner and trainer, thus diluting the field and creating a myriad of certifications, many of which became accredited by the 2000’s when the accrediting agencies began to realize that volume creates revenue.


The 90’s were also the era of the supplement. Supplements were running wild. From supplements that were laced with steroids to steroid pre-cursers, speed mixes for weight loss and various proteins for weight gain to the latest supplement that had that secret ingredient (always from another country, usually in a difficult to reach area that no one had visited and backed by a guy from that country with a sweet accent). Today that secret ingredient is termed a proprietary formula if you read labels. Some ingredients were outlawed (such as ma huang) and several were banned by organizations due to knee jerk reaction (androstenedionne – (doesn’t really do much if anything) and creatine (has many positive effects and no known negative side effects)) due to public or organizational pressures. Drug testing and suspension became a common headline as noted by the even the most casual sports fan.

During the late 90’s, franchising of performance venues began to be introduced. By the early 2000’s they were beginning to gain traction as they gained support by investment capital or by word or mouth. Velocity, a big box concept was sold to many franchisees but died a death of natural causes, as the box was too big to generate the volume/revenue needed for sustainability. Parisi Speed School, an additional revenue stream of curriculum and some equipment that could added to or built into many an existing club has become very strong in the private industry. Athlete’s Performance has become a leader in the performance industry. This company was founded on the business model goal of training the top 5% of athletes in any given sport. It has grown over the past several years to a handful of franchises scattered across the Sun Belt from LA to Florida. Perform-Better, an equipment company that added an educational component with great speakers, great service and top notch content began to make huge inroads in the educational market of performance, fitness and business in the industry as Perform-Better let the market set the speaker line-up.

The business of combine’s and combine prep became very strong in the 90’s. Training the young stars of college to perform well at the NFL Combine first burst upon the scene with the performance of Mike Mamula at the NFL Combine when he sprinted, jumped, and drilled at a level of performance that scored so well he created a huge buzz. Today, the combine training concept has infiltrated the NBA, MLB and the NHL and trickled down to the high school level as athletes prepare for the opportunity to pursue their dream of scholarship at the school of their dreams.

By the 2000’s, certification became the key to additional revenue. Kettle bell certification, NASM Certification, CSCCa certification, Titleist Performance Institute, NSCA – Personal Trainer Certified, Idea, ACE, etc. had all created certifications as well as several high profile trainers. While the NSCA still felt they were the gold standard, many professionals began to question the validity of a test that had no practical aspect and an organization that was centered on the squat and power clean as the answer to many if not most (all?) training protocols.

In the 2000’s, it became apparent that salary caps, luxury taxes, scholarship reductions, and Title IX had made quality athletes a premium in any sport and keeping them healthy became a priority. Injury prevention, screening (both the NASM Body Map and the FMS – Functional Movement Screen) became a tool in which the patterns of the body could be quantified and qualified in a subjective – objective scoring system. Thus, a baseline could be found and the concept of “corrective exercise” could be introduced to the warm-up, cool-down or exercise session in order to keep the athlete healthy. The corrective exercise toolbox is still developing for all health, fitness and performance professionals. The key, knowing when to refer the client, patient or athlete to the proper professional in order to stay centered on correcting the problem rather than treating the symptom.

MTSU Game Day

In the 2000’s, a new organization came to the forefront in which high intensity circuits are the foundation of the training. As it evolved, certifications were rolled out in several areas and Crossfit became the hottest new franchise opportunity. Crossfit attracts highly motivated individuals and is executed as a group exercise concept, which makes it attractive for gyms and trainers. The tactical community is attracted as it is an intense “smoke session” that takes relatively little time. The only drawback at this point (in my opinion) is when it is done with poor technique or when technique breaks down due to a lack of fitness or endurance, either of which can lead to problems.

Finally, the era of allowing the athlete to have it all whether it was in terms of guaranteed money, no cut contracts or work hours and jobs and time off in college have created a situation in which the coaches are under pressure for performance of the team and athlete. The athlete in college and the pros (in many cases) wants to do as little as possible in terms of physical preparation. Collegiate strength and conditioning coaches are only allowed 8 hour, 8 weeks in the spring and 8 optional weeks (for the athlete) in the summer and are not allowed to punish the athlete outside that 8 hours of work. Therefore, some athletes are not prepared for the volume or intensity of the workload in a given workout. Athletic dorms were outlawed decades ago so many student athletes live off-campus and eat poorly, under sleep, under recover and try to force their body to improve in off-season. Sadly, in some cases, the athlete is caught in a situation in which the workload overloads the body to such an extent that the athlete cannot handle it and gets into a life threatening state in which some young men have even died. Was the workout too much? It was not for the other young men and was not over the course of the career of the coaches involved. Why this young person on this particular day? In my opinion, too much regulation by people in charge that do not understand, no voice by the professionals in dealing day to day with this in many/most cases (collegiate strength coaches) and mainstreaming of the intercollegiate athlete. In pro sports it just ruins the sport. Guaranteed money makes athletes lazy, selfish and bad team members.

In 2010, the United States Special Operations Command began to hire strength and condition professionals for each and every Special Forces team in order to keep the warrior athletes healthy. Looking at the professional and elite (BCS) collegiate model, they understand that with better physical training methods, quality recovery and optimal nutrition, the warrior athlete will better be able to execute his/her job and fulfill the mission. With the amount of training the SF community receives over the course of his/her career, many of these warrior athletes are truly million dollar athletes, just like our sports “heroes”.

The tools the fitness professional learns over time that when put into play can influence, recondition, train for performance or prevent injury in the population that the trainer or coach comes into contact each and every day is the key. In my opinion, it has become a time in which you study, practice and train to learn the skills needed to become a proficient coach or physical trainer in order to serve your population. Your ability to understand and lead, train and groom a business is different than the ability to lead, train and groom a staff at a university or in the Special Forces community. The tools needed (periodization, reconditioning, speed, weight loss, client recruitment, marketing, speaking, teaching, technical expertise, etc.) may be similar in many cases, but while some are sharp and shiny from use other will rust due to lack of use, as some tools are not needed in a particular arena.

Much as a professional martial artist or MMA athlete may study with a variety of teachers and coaches over their career in order to learn various skills, it is time for the coach and trainer to study and learn from a variety of professionals in order to learn skills, concepts and techniques in order to better serve the community in which he or she practices.

What is the next concept, franchise or era of performance training? I think it is just that . . . performance training. Using all the

A. Karelin World's Greatest Wrestler

tools at our disposal to train, recondition, prehab, teach and inspire our scholastic, collegiate, professional and amateur athletes to greater heights and more enduring careers.

Special Operations Doctrine Applied to Sports

I just finished reading an excerpt from a book about Special Operations Doctrine. It reads like a theory of sport. Here are the basic 6 steps to achieve success over a numerically stronger opponent (or in sport, a physically superior opponent).

1. Simplicity (of the plan – which improves the odds of success)

2. Security (of preparation and practice)

3. Repetition (focused, game speed reps encompassing/addressing all most likely scenarios)

4. Surprise (game planning specific for this opponent)

5. Speed (of execution – which is a relative speed – speed of play calling, processing and execution, transition)

6. Purpose (Goal – Marty Schottenheimer called it the game with in the game – the goal for Offense, Defense, Special teams and individuals limited to no more than 3 items, that if achieved, will result in success).

If you counsel or interact with sport coaches, give them this simple checklist for examining their strategy for the season. It may pay off big if applied to individual situations by astute coaches.


  Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity,

To seize everything you ever wanted,

in one moment . . .

Would you capture it,

or would you let it slip . . .

Eminem 2004



One shot, one moment, one opportunity is easy. Everyone in the world has the ability to go for it, let it all out, give it their best for the big chance with no regrets. But that moment comes only with hours, days, months and sometimes even years of preparation to create the opportunity, that instant in which for a fleeting moment of time the window is open, the stars are aligned and the moment is ripe to seize the day and become recognized as the winner and even champion that you have become. The grind of preparation creates the winner, the focus and execution day in and day out creates the opportunity and knowing in your heart of hearts that you have earned and deserve the mantel of winner, of champion, will determine the outcome of the moment.

Talent is a precursor to success in any field in which physical skill is the dominant trait.  However,

Vladimir Horowitz

talent alone is greatly overshadowed by a willingness to grind out preparation in the form of quality, focused practice repetitions. Several different studies as well as a book by Malcolm Gladwell have documented many elite musicians and athletes that chose to practice basic fundamental tasks such as musical scales, core training, footwork and balance drills in order to keep the foundation solid on which the talent is allowed to flourish. This commitment to repetitive, daily basic skills is the key for successful elite artists and athletes. As legendary pianist Vladimar Horowitz was quoted, “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.” On the Today show when ask what it takes to be such a prolific writer, John Grisham responded that you must write a page a day, every day. Some days it may take five minutes, some days five hours, but you must write a page a day.

To become accomplished in any endeavor, practice is critical. But how much practice, what kind of practice? It has been theorized in many articles, books and studies that it takes 10,000 hours of focused, deliberate practice effort to become accomplished or elite in any endeavor. Your ultimate success is influenced by genetics, timing, opportunity and location. Several studies in piano, swimming, violin, diving, weightlifting and other sports have found that 10,000 hours of practice over 10 years is the minimum time required to achieve international levels of expertise. National levels were recognized at 7500 hours of deliberate practice and regional champions were crowned after 5000 hours of practice over 10 years time. This means that an athlete intent on becoming world class would need to commit an average of 1,000 hours per year, 20 hours per week (assuming 50 weeks of training) and 3-4 hours per day (assuming 6 days per week – 5 days would require a solid 4 hours per day). This is focused, deliberate practice not including competition. The intensity of training preparation will build layer upon layer of skill, one quality repetition at a time in order to make seemingly impossible execution look effortless. Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes for perfect execution.

Fitness Knows No Holiday

In today’s society another challenge is to find time to recover. Many elite athletes studied engaged in a full eight hours of sleep each night as well as a 30 minute nap between practice sessions in order to maximize recovery. Many times overtraining is a function of under recovery rather than too great a stimulus in terms of volume and/or intensity. For today’s athlete, this recovery means shutting down the laptop and phone and resting. In addition, quality nutrition is also a challenge in our hurry up, fast paced society. Fast food is also fat food if you drop the s – which means many times athletes must take time to prepare snacks and pack food and water with them in order to have quality choices throughout the day. As the athlete ages and the quality of training increases, finding time for active means of recovery is vital. From various massage styles and hydrotherapy baths to post training stretching and tempo running, recovery is the vital compenent for elite athletes in heavy training phases. In fact, recovery at the end of one training session sets the stage for and is the beginning of the next training session. When the stress of our culture, intense training volumes, lack of adequate recovery and poor nutritional choices collide, that is when injury and illness rear their heads and put the process off course for days, weeks and even months.

Desire, even passion, burning white hot in the belly of the performer day after day makes preparation a joy, not a chore.  Many champions relate stories

Teachable moment w/focused audience

of despair in the journey, setbacks in training, injuries, and lost opportunities in which they contemplated just quitting. Many times it was at this critical time a coach, mentor, parent or chance meeting with a person of stature in their endeavor who said just the right thing at just the right time to reignite the flames of competitive passion and rekindle the fire of preparation.

Michael Johnson World Record 200m

In order to become a world class performer it takes a lifestyle commitment by the athlete and their family and at least 10,000 hours of focused, deliberate practice over a full decade. It is easy for distraction, lack of will, loss of desire, injury, and just plain old life to interfere with the path to the prize. However, overcoming these obstacles is what separates a guy from THE guy, a winner from a champion. Being a winner is a daily choice. Becoming a champion is a journey, expressed in a moment of confluence of preparation and opportunity that only a few will ever experience, which is why we find it so compelling.


Protein, Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and YOUR Daily Diet Plan

The keys to weight loss and muscle gain is three things. Those are proper nutrition fueling at the correct time, the burning of calories and resistance exercise. We all know some or all of those principles. Let’s look at them a little closer.

Proper nutrition – Protein First
Proper nutrition is protein first. Many people do not eat breakfast. We KNOW it is THE critical meal, but many people choose not to eat first thing in the morning. Ok, how do we overcome this for real people in the real world? Have a snack. Then have another mid-morning. This will make up for no breakfast at all. The patterns of eating fall into two general paths. Three meals and a snack or two OR two to three snacks and two meals would be the best of choices. Both of these patterns will allow for optimal fueling patterns for the body IF the proper food is chosen in terms of quality. The key is protein first. Every snack should have a minimum of 10g of protein and every meal should have 20g of protein. That is the key. Why only 20g at any given meal? The body can only metabolize and utilize about 20g at any given time. So the excess is excreted or stored. The quality of the protein is the next critical factor. Breakfast meats, many protein bars and other choices will have too many other ingredients that will overload your system in terms of sugar, fats or calories. READ THE LABELS!! If you have three snacks and two meals with the minimal optimal protein content you will ingest a minimum of 70g of protein. If you choose 3 meals and two snacks of the minimal optimal protein content you will have 80g of protein. Keep your protein levels constant throughout the day, much like when you have to take medicine 2 – 3 times per day in order to keep the levels high enough in the blood stream to create an effect! If you just keep your protein levels optimal and your sugar levels optimal throughout the day, your health will improve almost immediately in terms of how you feel, energy levels and frame of mind. Here are some common foods with calories and protein content listed.
PEANUTS, OIL ROASTED, SALTED                  1 CUP      840      39

CASHEW NUTS, OIL ROASTD,SALTED          1 CUP       750      21

ALMONDS, SLIVERED                                        1 CUP       795      27

CHICKEN, STEWED, LIGHT + DARK             1 CUP      250      38

ICE CREAM, VANLLA, REGULR 11%   1/2 GALN     2155     38

TUNA SALAD                                                         1 CUP      375      33

CHICKEN, CANNED, BONELESS                      5 OZ       235      31

COTTAGE CHEESE,LOWFAT 2%                     1 CUP     205     31

HAMBURGER, 4OZ PATTY                          1 SANDWH 445    25

TURKEY, ROASTED, LIGHT MEAT                  2 PCE       135    25

PORK CHOP, LOIN, BROIL,LN+FT                  3.1 OZ      275    24

BEEF STEAK,SIRLOIN,BROIL,LN+FT             3 OZ         240   23

GROUND BEEF, BROILED, LEAN                    3 OZ         230   20

OYSTERS, RAW                                                  1 CUP      160   20


REFRIED BEANS, CANNED                               1 CUP      295   18

When choosing to eat what we eat, this will give you a great idea on how to choose protein first.

Proper Nutrition – Portion Size

There are many little tricks to eat less. One of the best is to drink lots of water each and every day. Many times when we are hungry, we are really just thirsty. Drink a large glass of water before any meal or snack. The second trick is to make sure that the first meal or snack of the day has the optimal amount of protein. If you have carbs first then your body will want carbs first the rest of the day! Another trick is to eat a small salad first. This will tend to fill you up with less caloric dense foods. Watch the dressing choice! When you finish eating, get up and get busy with something. Don’t linger and graze as you will end up eating more as you talk and watch others eat. The last trick is when eating, just eat, do not ever eat and do something else (especially something quiet like read or watch tv!!). This is a killer for max caloric intake. Finally, order the smaller portion. Sounds easy, but it can be difficult to do. If it is not available, share one entre as this will cut the portion size for both of you!

Proper Nutrition – Timing

Set your watch and have a snack or a meal every 3-4 hours. Eat when you are NOT hungry, but eat small portions with adequate protein numbers. When you workout, make SURE that you have protein and sugar available for the muscle cells and get some protein and sugar back into your body as soon as the workout is over. Try half of a bar or drink before and half after, as this will be more in line with what your body can utilize. MORE IS BETTER – but it is more often, not more quantity!

Resistance Training

The key to adding muscle mass is resistance training. Just getting up and moving will tend to add mass to your lower body which are some of the largest and dense muscles in the body. You can choose to lift weights or just do body weight resistance training as either will tend to add muscle to your body if the volume of the training is more than you are used to and adequate nutrition is available to the cells during and immediately after the workout.
The key to resistance training is to do circuits that push you beyond your comfort zone. If you do a long run, a long bike ride, a long elliptical session you will certainly burn calorie during the session. However, AFTER the session, your body will quickly return to homeostasis and its’ resting state. If you choose to do a circuit or interval sprints then not only do you burn calories during the session, but for HOURS after the session, the body will need to repay the debt incurred during the intense training session in terms of increase heart rate, increase metabolism and increase respiration. You can actually DOUBLE the amount of calories burned in one half hour session in an intense circuit or interval workout over a steady state “distance” workout. Yes, you read correctly – DOUBLE!! The trade off is that the intensity is difficult to maintain. So, how do YOU incorporate this into your exercise program? Do a circuit 1-2 times per week and keep up your normal long, slow, mental health session. Then, after your work capacity and ability to recover gets better, then do 2-3 circuits in one week and then 1-2 sessions the next, so every month you go from 4-8 circuits up to 8-12 circuits. Now you will see big time results IF you combine it with your optimal nutrition program. Remember guys and girls, it is thong and speedo season!! Good luck!

Perform Better Summits

I have had the honor of contributing as a speaker on the Perform Better Tour every year since its inception save 2010. (In 2010 I was told by the President and the Executive Director that I had to chose between my job and Perform Better – even though I had vacation time approved to go and speak). Anyway – I feel the best, most usable, unbiased source of information for performance coaches in the land is the Perform Better Summit series.
The speakers are top notch, the service is great, the support of the Perform Better team is without equal and the entertainment combined with the educational content is unparalleled.
If you are involved in rehab or reconditioning, sport coaching, performance training or personal training, I can highly recommend, without reservation attending a P-B Summit. If money is an issue and you are a CSCS and NSCA member, drop your membership (unless you can find value in it) and use that money to help fund your trip to the Summit. You will not regret it.

Deadlift Tips

The deadlift is much like a squat. The weight is resting on the shoulders. (The hands attach to the arms, which attach to the shoulders!). The load is through the core, hips, legs and feet into the ground. The hips are higher in the start position of the deadlift than in the bottom position of the squat. The deadlift uses starting strength where as the squat utilizes a somewhat elastic component in coming out of the bottom, unless one is doing pause squats. Those are the major differences.

The first tip is when doing the pull from the floor one should cue/focus leading with the heart. The hips and shoulders should rise from the bottom position at the same time. Novices and tired lifters tend to lift the hips first, which puts too much load onto the lower back. When leading with the heart is the focus and coaching point, the hips will follow in the optimal sequence if the one is strong enough in the core. If core weakness is present, then the core will collapse in front and the back will round putting undue pressure onto the discs of the spine.

A related tip is to focus on pushing the feet into the floor. When the focus is lifting the weight, novice lifters will tend to dip and attempt to jerk the bar free from the ground. This “technique” will tend to collapse the core and raise the hips. If, on the other hand, the focus is to first push the hips through the floor and then lead with the heart, optimal technique as well as the lowest risk for injury can be maintained while one pulls the bar to a full upright position.

The next tip is how to address the bar. The bar should be over the toe foot junction with the feet turned out at 7-15 degrees. An over under grip is used in order to lesson the chance of a weak grip allowing the bar to drop. Pull the hips low and the shins forward in order to pull with the hips and the back. When the focus is to “bend over” in order to deadlift, the hips tend to start too high. When the focus/cue is to “pull yourself under the bar” the hips tend to be in an optimal position.

The chest should be “big” with the shoulders back and a large breath of air locked into the lungs in order to create pressure within the core in order to resist core collapse. Just like in a heavy squat, a heavy deadlift needs big intra-core pressure in order to resist core collapse and possible back injury.

Over all, the deadlift is a safer lift than the squat as the bar is in the hands and can be dropped at any time. The big risks occur when the hips rise first or the bar drifts away from the shins as the load is lifted. If this happens it is very common to feel a shift in the low back and the back will spasm with the muscles locking in order to protect the spine from injury.

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches


The goals of our in – season football training program depend on who is doing the training.  For the upper classmen that have been in the program and are playing, the focus is injury prevention and strength maintenance.  For our underclassmen that are not competing as much, it is strength/power improvement as well as injury prevention.  The athletes that are not competing but are red shirted or on the scout team will spend time on fitness as well as strength/power development.

Typically we train strength and power on Monday with snatches, squats and bench being our big lifts.  We follow that up with power and speed on Thursday with cleans, single leg lifts and incline presses.  We always include lots of back pulling in order to prevent imbalances in the shoulder girdle. The modality will change from bars to dumbbells, the loads and volumes will fluctuate and the exercises will also change.  For instance, in an in-season cycle that changes every 3 – 4 weeks, we could do the following:

Exercise                        Week 1 – 3                 Week 5 – 7                     Week 9 – 11

Monday – big lifts

Snatch                        Bar – hang                     1 Arm DB – hang                 Bar floor

Squat                           Safety bar                        Back squat                         Front squat

Bench                           Bar                                    Db’s                                     Floor

Thursday – big lifts

Cleans                        Bar – floor                        Bar – hang                        Db’s – hang

Single leg                  Bar squats                        Db hi box step – ups        Db 3 way lunges

Incline                        Db’s                                   Bar                                       Db alternate

We keep the sets and reps low as we are attempting to keep our strength and power levels high while not wearing out the athletes with the volume. Typically, our in-season volume is about 35 – 45% of an off – season workout.  A Monday workout will be about 45 – 60 minutes depending on the work capacity of the athlete.  A Thursday session will typically take 30 – 45 minutes.  The fitter and fresher the athlete, the quicker the athlete will finish.  The prescribed loads will be in the mid to upper ranges (80 – 90%) on occasion.

Weeks 4 and 8 are transition weeks.  They typically coincide with exam weeks in school.  The coaches cannot pull off on practice and the game is the game.  Therefore, we give our athletes off Thursday from lifting.  This allows for mental, physical and emotional recovery as well as some extra time for studying.

The athletes in football not involved in competition will workout Friday either at 6:00 am if the game is away or at 2:30 in the afternoon if we are at home.  This workout is purely for fitness.  We emphasize strength with dumbbell and bodyweight circuits and conclude with a big interval sprint session. For most of this group, this is the hardest day of the week.

The practical goals of our program depend on which athlete we are focused upon.  For our upper classmen it is constantly adjusting the training modalities from bars to dumbbells, machines or tubing in order to accommodate the various injuries, bumps and bruises the game of football imposes on the human body.  For our new players it is adjusting to the demands of scheduling their time and getting accustomed to actually lifting weights in a scientifically designed, demanding program with structure.  For our non – competing athletes we are training toward a max in the strength/power lifts while attempting to build upon their foundation of fitness.

Each athlete gets an individualized workout based upon his or her maxes sport and position.  This workout prescription is further adjusted on the floor in consultation with the strength coach as the athlete begins their training session.  We have set times for each team or group to train.  Most of our athletes train before practice.  Occasionally we have teams that train post – practice.  At the end of each training session the athletes are required to get their workout sheet initialed upon completion.  This insures one on one interaction between the coach and the athlete each and every workout.  At the end of every workout the athletes will get a recovery drink and stretch for 5:00 to aid in restoring their body to pre – workout levels in time for practice


During the summer months we usually have 65 – 75 football athletes here, depending on the summer school schedule.  By July both basketball teams are here in full force and we generally have 30 – 40 athletes from other teams that are here for various reasons.   We open at noon since the morning is devoted to classes and have our first group of women athletes at 1:15.  Our first group of football players is at 2:30.  At 4:00 we have our second group of women, at 5:00 our men’s basketball team and at 5:30 our second group of football athletes.  This allows for plenty of room, good safety and lots of coaching, instruction and supervision. We usually wrap up the day between 7:00 and 7:30.

We are a “mid – major” school and our athletes are in summer school or, in the case of some of our athletes, working.  Therefore, our athlete’s mornings are taken up with class or work.  That is the reason for the late schedule.  Other schools I have coached at had all of their athletes in summer school, which caused our football schedule to be a 1:30 lifting/running group followed by throwing at 3:30 and a 4:30 lifting/running group.  On that schedule our day wrapped up about 6:00.   In that model the morning was again slotted for classes, tutors and studying.  I know some of my colleagues have early groups or are exclusively early workout teams with football finished by 10:00 a.m. each day.  We do that in the winter, on Fridays, but in the summer we generally become an afternoon and evening team.

The athletes that go home are given a separate workout plan that is more generic in nature.  This is due to the fact that they will not have access to the same type of modalities (sleds, chains, rubber bands, hills, sand pits, etc.) that we have access to here.  However, when they return they are accountable for their level of fitness by the point system we use as they begin their workouts for the fall.  Larry Smith, my head coach at the University of Southern California taught me the point system.  I thought it was an ingenious way to help make competitive what could be a negative at the beginning of the year.   It is evenly weighted with 15 points for the weight room and 16 points for the running.   Each athlete must attain a score of 23 of 33 points or 70% in order to pass.  We accomplished all of our testing as a part of the voluntary training program so no practice time was used.

During the summer we use a lot of variety to foster compliance and excitement.  We expect our leaders to lead and our followers to follow.  We have always built in breaks and use every toy that we can think of to make it different and fun.  We have watermelon on occasion and Popsicles after big running days.  I have had guys go to nearby schools and throw with their guys and it is generally a fun time of preparation.

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

What is the importance of plyometric training and where does it fit in your program?

Plyometric training is one way to bridge the gap between the strength training program and the field of competition.  It is essentially speed – strength training, with the load fairly constant (bodyweight) and the training stimulus being speed of movement and volume (sets times reps).  Several years ago I was talking to some of the coaches at Nebraska, Mike Arthur and Brian Bailey and they had instituted an outstanding concept with their linemen.  Instead of a lot of traditional plyometrics, they implemented more agility training due to the size of the athlete they were dealing with at the offensive and defensive line positions.  They quantified the plyo’s by sets, reps and foot contacts and the agilities by sets and reps in order to keep track of training loads and volumes.

Since plyometrics are from track and field, which is a predominantly linear sport, they tend to develop speed and acceleration linearly.  Agilities are traditionally rooted in court/field sports that involve change of direction and acceleration.  Garret Giemont, the long time NFL strength coach organizes his agilities into speed angles and shuttles.  Angles being the W drill, the L drill, etc. which tend to conserve speed through the angles of the cuts.  These drills tend to be less demanding than the shuttle type drills (the 5 – 10 – 5 20 yard short shuttle) that require the athlete to change direction and come back down a line that is 180 degrees opposite of the one he or she was originally on.

Implementing these two concepts into the training program has elevated our return on training.  This coupled with the influence of Mike Boyle’s concept of a predominantly lateral day alternated with a linear day have produced even better results.

Our training progression is landing first emphasizing bend at the hip – knee – ankle and land soft. This is followed by the simple drills such as box jump – ups (and step down), which are done year round.  In the off – season we implement hurdle jumps and for the lighter athletes we also include hurdle hops.  The heavier athletes (football linemen) do more agilities.  In our total program, time – wise or rep wise, plyo’s only comprise a minute share of emphasis.  We implement a lot more agility training into our program because we feel we get more bang for our buck with agilities than plyometrics.  The ability to maintain speed through a cut or change of direction while maintaining a low athletic position is much more important than the ability to generate speed linearly.  We use the plyo’s to develop elastic strength in our athletes more than to enhance their ability to accelerate or develop speed.

What is your philosophy of training to develop power in your athletes?

Power development is of primary importance for athletes of virtually every sport.  The ability to generate force in a short amount of time in order to accelerate the body and/or an implement is central to most sporting endeavors.  In designing a program, there are many variables, but only a relative few will create a training effect of power.  Power development involves some load/resistance and a lot of speed of movement.  The load can be as light as body weight or as heavy as up to 60 even possibly 70 percent of a one rep max in certain speed – strength exercises.

In Olympic style weight lifting (which is speed – strength in nature) as the load increases, the nature of training will move from speed – strength to strength – speed as the movement slows with the corresponding increase in resistance.  In order to maximize the power output (or the speed variable in speed – strength) then two things are paramount in selecting the exercises, drills, protocols and modalities.  These are the load, which must be kept relatively light (depending on the exercise/drill selection) and whether the skill involves release of an implement or leaving the ground.   If at any point in the drill the movement slows more than 10% from optimum then the power output drops dramatically.  In the case of release skills such as throwing a medicine ball or squat jumps, the power output can be dramatic and measurable.

Any type of plyometric training is by its very nature power development.  Boiled down to its simplest form, almost every sport is based on some type of jumping, hopping, bounding and throwing.   Sprinting is bounding from foot to foot.  Cleans, snatches, jerks are jumping with weight.  Squatting is a very similar movement, but you don’t leave the ground.  In order to create power, you would need to do squat jumps, the same movement as squats, but with “release” off of the ground and a much greater power output.  Medicine ball training can be plyometric in nature such as mediball bench press, twist toss and crunch sit – ups with a toss.  Mediballs can also mimic cleans with forward and reverse scoop tosses.  The load is much lighter than cleans and snatches and the implement is released so the power output is greater with a very similar movement.

As with any quality training parameter, the rest/recovery bout should be long enough to allow for maximal restoration in order to keep the quality of the efforts very high in regards to speed and/or distance.  The volume is relatively low in total and especially within each set.  Remember, less is more in regards to volume in relation to power development.  In Olympic lifting the optimal rest is 2:00 for snatches and up to 3:00 minutes for heavy cleans.  Sets in Olympic style training usually have reps that are generally 2 + or – 1.  I have taken the same approach with mediball training, if it is total body exercises.  Remember, power training is for quality, not quantity of effort.  How many times do you come out of your stance as a football lineman every 40 seconds?  How many times do you come out of the blocks as a sprinter in 2:00?  How many times in a row do you jump for a rebound if you were a basketball player? 3? 5?  If it’s 10, maybe you are training the wrong basketball team.

The order of training is critical in a day as well as within the week.  In a workout, the order is warm – up, loosen – up and build – up to sport speed.  This warm – up is followed by technique work, speed training, and power development. Strength training and work capacity, fitness or conditioning is always last.   In any particular week, the order is speed first, followed by power second.  After this (or the second day) then there is some leeway in the composition of the final days of the workouts based on time of the year, training age of the athletes and number of days left in the program for the week.  If it is based on the European week, then Wednesday is fitness, Thursday is recovery, Friday is strength and Saturday is fitness, again.  In America, it usually is Wednesday is recovery, Thursday is strength and Friday is fitness.

Agility Loads and Progressions

In my experience of training athletes the need for a progression of individual agility/mobility drills as well as a generalized load progression is very apparent. Garrett Giemont was the first individual that enlightened me to the concept of agility drill progressions. Mike Arthur and Bryan Bailey of the University of Nebraska also helped shaped my thoughts as they felt that agility/mobility drill for sport are nothing more than multi-directional plyometrics. Melding these concepts with the experience of observing literally thousands of athletes executing millions of reps have created the following progression examples.

Level 1: Linear Movement requiring various forms of locomotion.

Shuffle into a run carioca into a run backpedal into a run
Butt kick into a run crossover run into a run backward skip into a run
Slide kick into a run Lateral skip into a run backward butt kick into a run
Cycle kick into a run shuffle skip into a run

All of these movements require coordination and varying levels of impulse into the ground. However, depending upon the distance of the run and the violence of the transition to sprinting, these drills are relatively safe to prescribe to an athlete early in the preparation process.

Level 2: Speed Angles 1 – Drills requiring a change of direction of less than (or more than, depending on your orientation) 90 degrees requiring various forms of locomotion (such as crossover runs, carioca runs, sprint – shuffle – backpedal runs, etc.).

Circle drills “W” Drill “L” Drill

Level 3: Speed Angles 2 – Agility drills requiring a change of direction of more than 90 degrees, but less than 180 degrees (down & back shuttle type drills), while utilizing various forms of locomotion.

“T” Drills “V” or Triangle Drills and Square Drills

Level 4: Speed Angles 3 – Shuttle type drills that are down and back in nature on the same path that also utilize various forms of locomotion.

5 – 10 – 5 Short shuttle suicide/jingle-jangles and Sprint/Backpedal Drills

The load of these drills must be figured much as you weight strength training exercises.
The total volume is figured as sets and reps and will suffice in order to quantify how much work is done from a volume standpoint. Generally, most drills are shorter in nature, generally in the 5 – 10 yard range of acceleration before the athlete must decelerate, change direction and re-accelerate. Depending on the number of legs there are in the drill combined with the number of trips per leg will generate the distance load.

For example, if I prescribe a square or box drill and the athlete will be required to run 4 legs with each leg being 7 yards in length, the entire drill will be 28 yards per repetition.  If the athlete executes 6 reps at this particular station, then the volume load for this drill is 6 reps and the distance load is 168 yards. Some rules of thumb I gathered over the years of assigning agility training sets and reps for athletes and teams concerning yardage are as follows:

Sets            Reps           Volume           Yardage

Level 1           2 – 4           2 – 4             4 – 16          160 – 640

Level 2           3 – 5           3 – 5             9 – 25          360 – 1000

Level 3           4 – 6           4 – 6            16 – 36         640 – 1440

When developing the training session for the day, the work load for the week and the program for the month I found it better to begin with a large number of lower level drills and very few if any of the more stressful level drills. At the beginning of the training session the athletes will be less fit, experience more soreness and be more prone to injury and subsequent loss of preparation time. As the athletes progressed in response to the demands of training, the stress of the load in both volume and intensity levels of the drills would be increased.

As always, you must determine the ability of your population to handle the load prescribed. The above chart is for collegiate and professional athletes. For high school or middle school athletes, the total loads will be less in volume, probably 30-50% less.

Another factor to consider is what type of coaching is gong on during and after the drill for each athlete. Are they being coached on movement mechanics, posture, footwork and angles of attack or is most of the coaching “c’mon, get after it boy, you’re moving like molasses” type of instruction.

Remember to keep in mind the overall effect of the training load for each week and month. Sprints, plyometrics, speed development, strength training, and medicine ball drills all need to be factored into the equation of the training prescription. In and of itself each training parameter may look like just enough. However, when examined with the overall program in mind, it is easy to over load the athlete with too much cumulative training stress. Combine training with too little focus on recovery/regeneration and the injury bug will soon rear its’ head in the form of shin splints, low back problems, impingements, illness and the various forms of the itis’s.