Heart Rate is Heart Rate – Whether you are running your athletes, doing a circuit, riding bikes or just doing super or giant sets – as heart rate responds to the workload, fitness (work capacity) is being trained. Can you be in great shape running but not in doing agilities? Yes! Doing distance work but unable to maintain tempo in executing a giant set workout (legs, push, pull)? Yes! In post season – general physical preparation (GPP or working to work) is very acceptable. Even in very early off-season it is OK. But, with time becoming such a cherished commodity, special fitness / work capacity training focused on the energy systems of the competition is the key to elite performance preparation.
How Much Fitness is Enough? – Aerobic Base is a waste of time. Distance in virtually every sport has NO place in the preparation plan. A recovery run for soccer or basketball in the post season around campus wearing your gear to have fun and look good is great. But the other 11 months of the year distance is compromising speed and power. Building the intervals of training, be it short burst agilities or long intervals of 1:30 – 2:30 in order to train the energy system to work and recover is critical. What is the rest interval? It can be heart rate (recover to 121) OR just watch the quality of the work. The quality MUST remain high or you are doing crap reps. A competent coach would never load a bad squat pattern, so why continue to do reps when the speed, turnover and quality is less than optimal? To make them tougher. . . . ? On occasion, yes. I think that if you want tough people, recruit tough people.
Frequency and Dosage of Training – Physical preparation is like medicine. It must be the correct amount, taken in the correct timing for the optimal period of time. Training fitness and work capacity is easy. More is better in terms of volume. Less is more in terms of rest. However, what if you are training speed, acceleration and power? Then the QUALITY of the rep is the MOST important factor of training. How do I increase quality? Rest longer or break the reps up into sets. How do I rest longer when sport coaches are watching? Make the groups bigger, add planks, or insert shoulder body weight alphabets or stretching between work bouts. The athletes are “working” but are recovering the energy system and nervous system for the next rep. Muscles and fitness take more reps and fewer sets while the nervous system (speed/power) require more sets and fewer reps.
Training Effect – It takes about 6 weeks to effect a training effect that will be a long-term change in the status and abilities of the athlete. Anything less tends to be temporary. Recovery is critical to the training effect. If the athlete is not allowed to recover, the rebound effect to the training stimulus is muted and the results of training are dampened. This in turn will create less buy in as testing results will suffer. And, of course the sport coaches will not think you know your stuff if your numbers are not outstanding!
Rest – In training volume, once the volume goal is attained in terms of distance, loads, sets/reps, etc. the next step is to begin to shorten the rest bouts. In sport, it is generally not who can dothe most work in the shortest time (crossfit, cross country, distance racing) but rather who can do the highest quality work and recover in the time allotted in order to be ready to perform again at an elite level (this is also the definition of work capacity).
Running – Most sports are based on running and sprinting. The nervous system must be re-set after a heavy leg session to be elastic and dynamic in the run/sprint pattern. If the athlete is allowed to do nothing after a heavy leg session, the next days workout is compromised and over time, the athlete will begin to lose the elasticity required to run, jump, start, stop and change direction in a fluid, dynamic and explosive ability. So, run what after a heavy leg day? 6-8 x 50m, 6-8 x 100m or something in that volume range (300 – 800m). Run, walk, run walk and as the athlete loosens up, the speed will come to them and make their last one their fastest one and look like a sprinter again.
Running II – If you are working with an older population and doing interval ladder sprints (50-100-150-200) or pyramid interval sprints (50-100-150-200-150-100-50) always go from long intervals to the short interval in order to protect the calf from strains and pulls. If you want to work on speed and turnover, start short in terms of distance and go up because when you prescribe the workout this way, the athlete will maintain the faster turnover through the longer intervals. When the workout is prescribed from long to short, the athlete will tend to run rather than sprint the shorter distances.
Special Strength – Special Strength is loading an athlete so that the rep is above 90% of the best effort in terms of speed, power and quality. Hill sprints and agilities, loaded jumps, sled and parachute sprints, resisted starts. The load is usually 10% or less of body weight.
Volume – Many injuries are a result of volume. Generally, only in competition will accidental injuries occur (getting rolled up, shoved, tripped, etc.) or catastrophic non-contact injuries happen (the dreaded ACL). Training injuries are almost always volume related. Volume is training age and sexual maturation age related. A novice emerging athlete that is a late maturing child will need much less volume than a child with a training age of 3 years and is an early maturing child.
These are some of the things I have learned over the years in training athletes of all ages. I hope it helps! Robb
WOD Circuit 1 Dakota Meyer
MB Scoop Toss
Feet Up Push Up
MB Chest Pass (off floor)
Tubing Speed Pulls Horizontal
DB Push Up + 2 Rows
2:00 Cardio (Row-Run-Bike-Etc)
Recover for 2:00
All Reps are 10
Do 3 – 4 Rounds
WOD Circuit #2 Paul Ray Smith
Plate Chops Rt/Lft
Plate Overhead Lunges Rt/LFt
Plate Squat Jumps
Plate Sit Ups
DB Hang Snatch
DB Push – Up + 2 Rows
1 DB Turkish Get – Up Rt/Lft
MB Push – Ups
MB Twist Toss Rt/Lft
Pull – Ups
Reps are all 10
Rest is 2:30
Do 1 – 2 Rounds
WOD Circuit #3 Michael A. Monsoor
TRX Push – Ups
TRX Pull – Ups
TRX Curl Unders
KB Cln+ Sqt+Prs Rt/Lft
KB Turkish Get Up Rt/Lft
MB Scoop Toss
MB Twist Toss RT/Lft
All Reps 10
Do 3-4 Rounds
by Andy Koen
(This was done when I was at the NSCA – When I was still a member and a proponent of that organization . . . Robb)
If carrying 70 pounds of body armor and tactical gear wasn’t physically strenuous enough, then the stress and adrenaline that flood the bodies of SWAT team officers while working a volatile crime scene can be downright exhausting. That is why members of the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit (SWAT) rely on Coach Rogers and staff at the National Strength and Conditioning Association to keep them at their peak physically and mentally.
During the past four years, the NSCA and the CSPD have blazed a cooperative trail in developing a series of specialized workouts just for the SWAT Team. It’s called functional fitness. Crouched in a firing stance, the officers cross the gym floor carrying 25 pound weights in place of an assault rifle while their partners use resistance bands to pull against them.
Coach Robb Rogers says this is just one of multiple exercises used to strengthen the muscle groups the officers rely on most to keep them healthy and safe in the field. “Core strength and stability becomes critically important with this type of athlete.”
Commander Thor Eels first initiated the partnership when the police department began looking for ways to improve their physical fitness testing program for selecting SWAT officers. One of the earliest benefits of the program has been the drop in work related injuries. However, Eels says the biggest benefit has been the improved ability of his officers to remain calm under pressure. High stress situations can easily force a fight or flight reflex that can cloud a person’s judgment. “A SWAT officer in a hostage rescue scenario only gets one chance to get it right, and they have to make the right decision,” Eels said. “I wanted them to be operating at the highest physical level possible to make good decisions.”
The training regiment has become a benchmark for fitness training within the law enforcement community around the country. Coach Rogers also consults with the California Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to restructure the training manual and exercise protocols and procedures implemented at all Police Academy’s in the state of California. Robb also uses similar exercises to create a specialized training regiment for Special Forces soldiers from Fort Carson.
Most novice lifters train from a canned program which usually consists of bilateral lifts using two arms and/or two legs. These exercises traditionally are presses, pulls, squats and occasionally bendovers. The compensation pattern for these lifts are to move the core forward or backward as the load increases or fatigue begins to set in. Most people are more challenged in terms of core strength and stability in the lateral plane, let alone the challenges of diagonal/rotational motion. In order to increase the core challenge on one side or through one hip to the same side or opposite side shoulder, consider adding single arm and/or single leg training.
Single Arm Presses
Single arm presses will make the core stabilize in order to prevent rolling off of the bench when doing decline, bench or incline.
When doing single arm overhead presses, the stance should be with one foot elevated onto a short box. This will unload the hip compensation pattern front to back and load the hip side to side compensation pattern. If the pressing arm is on the straight leg side, the load will seem heavier. On the bent or elevated leg side, the load will seem lighter as the hip will shift underneath the pressing shoulder. Most of the core training will take place above the hip when using a bench for support. Standing as in the shoulder press or when using a cable trainer or tubing for incline, the bench pressing pattern will engage the glutes and depending on the stance, other parts of the hip and core musculature. The decline will place more front side core load than normal single arm pressing while in a standing stance.
Single Arm Pulls
Single arm pulls will also add to core training while training the back and shoulder musculature. When standing the entire posterior core from the hamstrings, glutes, QL and erectors will definitely be involved to provide stability as the pulling motion is engaged. The stance (parallel, diagonal, linear) will influence the amount of stress through the posterior core as will the angle of the elbow in relation to the floor. The wide elbow, abducted away from the body will cause relatively greater stress through the core as the resistance is farther from the midline. An elbow near the body will feel stronger on each rep as the resistance is near to the midline. The linear stance will be easiest to execute one arm pulls from as it is in line with the line of stress. The parallel stance will be perpendicular to the line of stress and will cause a feeling of greater stress through the body.
When seated and doing one arm pulls as in a lat pull or low row, most of the core stress will be above the hip. To counteractthis, a small ball can be placed between the knees and squeezed to engage the inner sling adductors and low abs or an ankle band can be put around the knees and pushed out in order to stress the outer sling. I personally prefer training the inner sling with this exercise for most of my people. The opposite arm should punch forward as the pulling arm pulls back and the posture should be emphasized with a big chest attitude.
Single Leg Squats
The single leg squat is excellent for training the legs while not stressing the back. If the single leg squat is prescribed as a split squat with the rear leg elevated rather than as a pistol type squat, the balance is better and the core training can be pretty intense. In order to elevate the core involvement, I will assign a weight held in front, much like a steering wheel. This will make the front side core engage. If I want to stress the lateral core, I will assign a weight held in one hand at shoulder height on the opposite side of the leg squatting, as if preparing to do a shoulder press. This will create resistance above the hip on the opposite side forcing the hip, core and shoulder to stabilize against the forces. The front foot of the squatting leg should be turned in slightly in order to add more balance and the back knee should almost touch the ground, enhancing thigh separation needed for acceleration and sprinting. In addition, with the weight held in front, the resistance can be pressed to the right or left by a partner which will add rotational stress through the core.
The single leg sit back squat is executed just like a normal sit back box squat, the difference being the stance is very narrow and the opposite leg is extended in front to create a counter balance. The weight resistance is loaded in front in the hands or in the case of extremely strong athletes, the addition of a weight vest. Additional stress can be added by pressing right and left on the weight held at arms length, thereby adding rotational stress as in the split/pitcher squat. The addition of a partner will create vertical resistance as well as rotary resistance to the person doing the exercise which, at the hip, knee and ankle will cause the lower limb system to stabilize against this rotational resistance and familiarize the nervous system with this type of feedback. Rotational stress at the hip, knee and ankle is a prime cause of injury when coupled with a loss of stability in this system.
Step – ups
Step – ups are an excellent exercise to add opposite arm, diagonal core stress through the body in order to foster strength and stability on single leg movements such as running, walking, hopping, bounding and jogging. The weight will be held at shoulder height and at the conclusion of a short (4 – 8 inch), medium (12 – 16 inch) or tall (above 16 inches) step up, the weight will be pressed or just held at the shoulder pressing position. The hip is not allowed to “drop” upon the step down portion of the movement and is encouraged to drive through the shoulder in order to execute the step up and press portion of the pattern. Most people just limit their training to linear step ups. Lateral step ups and crossover step ups will enhance hip and ankle mobility and help to spare the knees and low back.
Single Leg Bendovers
Single leg bendovers are one leg good mornings, one leg RDL’s or one leg stiff legged dead lifts. No matter the range of motion,
the knee is flexed to some degree, the load is in the hand(s)s or on the shoulders and the hip is pushed back with a hinge motion in order to foster the hip hinge action, braced core, pillar posture that is a key to low back health. Single leg bendovers (as opposed to double leg bendovers) are usually much more stressful to the inside hamstring adductor area (especially when lifting the swing leg up for thigh separation) and much more challenging to the balance and stability system. If the weight is in the opposite hand and the swing leg is moved out in order to move the weighted hand inside the support foot the rotational stability and strength required is very demanding, even with very light loads. Posture is paramount. The back should be flat, the abs braced and the pillar core maintained throughout the movement. The foundational movement pattern of the bendover should have been mastered prior to assigning this exercise. If the swing leg is rotated the other way and the hand(s) go outside the support foot, this move is similar to the follow through on a throw and is slightly easier to accomplish.
Adding some single leg and single arm training to your workouts will accomplish many things. It will add core stress, lower loads, are safer, creates a greater neural load, will increase balance/stability and are more functional, more akin to the normal movement patterns of the body in normal life skills as well as sport skills. Try it – you just might like it!
Many people like to resistance train 3 days per week as a part of their lifestyle training program. I believe that 3 days per week of resistance training done in the giant set or circuit style training program which will keep your heart rate up while you are training for strength, thus accomplishing two things at once. If the Giant Set philosophy is utilized, where a push, pull, leg and sometimes core and/or total body exercise are added to the training session, strength and power can be emphasized at the same time fitness is being improved. The key is how to periodize the strength training program when not using percentages of your max.
When resistance training (using bodyweight, DB’s, KB’s, bars, etc.) and not using a one rep max to figure the percentages OR with a mixed group showing up to train that are at a variety of strength and fitness levels this system is relatively easy to implement. It does not utilize a set time per set, rather it uses the fitness of the athlete to determine the pace and tempo of the circuit. The fitness level, exercises and loads will determine the pace of the circuit for each individual. Next, the ingenious part of the formula for maximizing the strength gains for each individual without spending hours on programming.
Each day will have an emphasis based on the exercises selected and instructions imparted to the group. The heavy day will use big muscle group, heavy lift type exercises such as squat or dead lift (basically the same lift), bar bench press, pull – ups, for example. The rep scheme will be moderate such as 4-6 reps, a pyramid (8-6-4-2-4-6-8), work up/work out sets (10-8-6-4 5×5), etc. The loads will be determined by the individual as they move from the squat/deadlift to the bench to pull-ups (usually done with rubber band assistance for the weaker people and with added load or pauses on the way up and way down by the stronger people). This is the heavy day of training.
The medium day utilizes medium loads, but the time under tension for the muscle will go up. The athlete will control the tempo of the lift by pausing/holding half way up and halfway down on the movement as well as at the top/bottom of the lift. The load is medium, so posture, form and quality of the pattern should not be an issue but as always is critical. For example, the pause/hold workout will be written 3 hold bench press 5 x 5 – 4 second hold. In this workout the athlete would lower the bar halfway, hold for 4 seconds, lower to the chest, holding for 4 seconds, come ½ way up and hold for 4 seconds and then finish the rep. This will make the time under tension for each rep 12 seconds, much longer than most 1 rep max attempts. As the reps go up as in 4 x 8 hold for 3 seconds, the hold/pause time will go down. As the rep scheme prescribed goes down, the hold time will go up as in 8 x 4 hold for 6 seconds. This will also control the load the athlete puts on the bar. These giant set circuits will also be controlled by the athlete and their choice of loads. If the load is too heavy and/or the form is compromised, then the athlete will lag beyond the group and have trouble finishing.
The light day will utilize much different implements for resistance. However, the pattern and angle of the exercise will remain essentially the same. The bench press would become medicine ball bench (where the athlete will lay on their back with their legs bent and as a partner drops the ball to their chest, the athlete will catch the ball, bring it to their chest and punch it up to the ceiling), clap push-ups (done on their knees if they are not strong), tubing punches from a standing position, etc. Air squats or squat jumps will replace back squats or the dead lift and tubing pulls for speed will replace the pull-up. The pattern of movement is the same, but the stimulus will be quite different. This is the day the timer is used and the work bout is controlled by the instructor/coach. The work bouts should be no more than 20 seconds with up to 60 seconds to recover. Why such heresy? They won’t get fit you say? This is not about fitness by the work bout, it is about quality of the work bout and can the athlete recover in the time allotted to have great quality in the next work bout. As time progresses, the work bout remains 10-20 seconds and the rest can be squeezed down to 40, 30 and for short sets, even 20 seconds.
Why do such training for “normal” clients?? I believe we can all agree fast twitch fibers have been proven to respond quicker to hypertrophy training and are designed to contract quickly and with high force for short bursts of time. Slow twitch fibers respond poorly to hypertrophy training and contract with relatively low force for long periods of time. Intermediate fibers can mimic either fast or slow twitch fibers, correct? Now, just based on looks alone, which type of fibers will make you look better – slow twitch or fast twitch? Do you want to look like a muscled up, cut up sprinter or a smooth, skinny long distance athlete? Easy answer – muscled up, cut up for any of our people, whether they are athletes or soccer moms. So, if we always train at the same speed, using relatively the same loads, the fast twitch fibers never get stressed and the intermediate twitch fibers will begin to take on the characteristics of the slow twitch fibers. So, the programming, over time, will create fit people that can work for 30 – 60 seconds at a time that have fewer and fewer fast twitch acting fibers to call upon in training, performance and life.
So, to summarize, have a heavy, slow big lift day; implement a medium load day with extended pauses and holds; and have a fast explosive day with light, fast explosive exercises and reps done for short burst intervals (think Tabata style training, but with breaks if needed for fitness levels) and the emphasis is on quality, quality and quality!!
After just a month of this change in quality and emphasis of training, you will find your muscles thicker and dense (thanks to the holds and explosive reps) and your fitness and strength levels breaking through to new plateaus due to the giant sets increasing the tempo of the workout and training all the muscle fibers!!
Remember . . .
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
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.
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
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.
What emphasis do you put on core training and when and where does it fit in your program?
Core training is done at the beginning, middle and end of all of our strength workouts performed in the weight room. At the beginning of our workouts we may do chronic abs which are a series of on the floor sit –ups done either coach directed or at the athletes direction targeting all areas of the abs. We may also do hanging abs, where we hang from the racks and lift our legs, knees or feet up to our stomach, chest or hands in a variety of exercises. We may also do some swiss ball exercises, some mediball drills or some rubber band or tubing exercises for our core. I always assign some type of core training prior to the work out in order to awaken and stimulate the core in order to foster correct neural recruitment to protect the core as the heavier exercises are executed. Years ago it was recommended that no core work be done prior to heavy weight training in order to prevent core fatigue and possible injury. I have found over the years that some core work at the beginning actually seems to help foster better mechanics during the lifting workouts.
At the end of our workouts we assign more ab/core work and a lot of this is of the weighted or heavier variety. We repeat our pre workout chronic abs but add ankle weights and a plate or mediball in our hands for extra resistance. We do burnout sets with the mediball. We prescribe swiss ball exercises for stability and strength when the athlete is already fatigued. We do more rubber band or tubing ab drills. I also have found that if I break up the ab work I can get better compliance from my athletes, especially when it is not coach directed.
Many of the exercises our athletes perform call the core into play. When an athlete cleans, snatches, squats or does combination lifts, the core is being called upon in order to support and stabilize the load. Many of our circuit workouts with dumbbells have an extreme core component in the execution of the individual exercises. In essence, any time our athletes are standing and lifting loads that are in their hands or on their shoulders, their core is involved to some degree. The higher the load is over their shoulders and the lower the hips are in the movement, the greater the core is being called into play. Going from bilateral support to unilateral support increases core involvement. Decreasing the stability of the athlete or increasing the instability of the surface the athlete is on increases the demand on the core.
In summary, the more ways we can target the core, the better we get at just about everything we do.
Is warm-up that important?
Warm – up is a critical component of the training and conditioning process in my philosophy as a coach. Warm – up will set the tone, tempo and attitude of the individual, group or team for the entire workout. If the warm – up is slow, methodical, sloppy, half – hearted, mechanical, or non – existent, then the workout, practice or competition will reflect that type of warm – up. However, if the warm – up is up tempo, crisp and possesses variety, then the following session will begin will reflect those same attributes.
I try to accomplish several things during warm – up. I want to warm the athletes up. But, I also want to create suppleness throughout the body, turn the neuromuscular system on, properly prepare the athletes for the workout to follow and progress the warm – up to the point the athlete is ready to handle the stressors of the upcoming workout. I call this sequence warm – up, loosen – up, turn – on, build – up and workout.
Warm – up consists of a variety of exercises and drills I implement in order to create an athlete that is prepared for the workout. When I was coming up, warm – up used to consist of “run around the goalpost” or “3 times around the gym” or “give me a lap around the track” and that was it. Today, warm – up is utilized for pre – hab injury prevention exercises, neural innervation to “turn on” the proper musculature, agility, mobility, core strengthening, joint loosening, balance enhancement, spatial awareness training, as well as building up to the speed, power and strength in the ranges of motion needed in the workout itself. In other words, as Vern Gambetta queried many times,
“Where does warm – up end and the work out begin?”
The warm – up is crafted based upon several parameters. The type of workout that will follow the warm – up, the sequence of the previous workout, the warm – up menu for the training period, the demands of the sport and the needs of the athlete. If the workout is a horizontal speed session, then the warm – up is more like a “track” warm – up, with lots of sprint technique drills. If the workout is a lateral speed and agility session, the warm –up is designed to prepare the athlete for hip, knee, ankle flexion, rotation and extension at the proper speed and depth. If the work out is a strength, plyometric, conditioning or work capacity session, then the warm – up will again reflect those differences.
During warm – up I prescribe lots of pre – hab drills in order to foster injury prevention. Things such as neck for football, multi – planer balance single leg squats and single leg good mornings as well as rubber band walks for ACL protection. Slide board drills for groin development/protection, hamstring slow speed strengtheners on glute hams, physioballs and with partners to name a few. Loosen – up consists of dynamic movements to prepare the joints and the body for the full range of motion demands of the workout. I do not do a lot of “stretching” prior to a training session. Old timey stretching/flexibility is saved for post workout time.
Turn – on is a reference to incorporating the neural component of the neuromuscular system. Many of my athletes have been in bed sleeping or sitting in class just prior to the training session. Many of the muscles have been somewhat dormant and need to be awakened or “jazzed up” for the workout. The core needs to be addressed, the glutes need to be made to function and on some specific athletes, the abductors and adductors of the hip need remedial work. I assign specific drills and exercises in order to get these areas fired up and functioning as they were designed.
Build – up refers to the athlete continuing the warm – up to the point in which they are prepared to move at the speed needed for the session and in the manner required for the drills assigned. If the athlete is doing an agility workout, they need to be prepared to bend, rotate, extend and explode in and out of cuts. If the training session is a horizontal conditioning session, then the athlete needs to be prepared to run at the tempo required for the sprints assigned. If the athlete is going from warm – up to the platform, then they need to be ready to pull and rack quality weight with posture, power and technique.
My warm – ups are generally 10 – 20 minutes in length and consist of a variety of drills, modalities, techniques, planes, tempos and ranges of motion. It is imperative the athlete be prepared for the upcoming session. I look at it this way. If the upcoming training session were a competition, would I want my athletes prepared to start fast, with great focus, function and fundamentals? I think we all would respond with a resounding “Yes!”
How do you test athletes for camp? How do you hold them accountable in todays culture in which they want it all? Jobs, social life, family time, hobbies and sports all vie for their limited attention spans and quality time. Larry Smith, the head coach at Arizona, Southern Cal and Missouri first introduced this to me as my boss at USC. After spring testing, the scores are set and the goals for the fall are determined for the fall. I have used this system very successfully with men and women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and football at the collegiate level. IF the head coach buys in, it is very easy to get athlete buy-in. I have had various head coaches put their own spin on the test so that it better reflects their culture and system. For example, in soccer, the 110’s were 1:00 minute turnovers in which after running the distance, the athletes had the balance of the minute to return to the starting line. We did not max basketball athletes in the clean at times so we did a trap bar pull off of boxes (like a dead lift but more centered with the trap bar and from a higher starting point than the floor).
I feel this system works very well as the lifters need to run and the runners need to lift. Everyone needs to be aware of their body weight and body composition. Great performance is rewarded and laziness is penalized. In case of injury, the test that is not allowed will be thrown out and the scale will reflect the change in total points possible as well as the passing score. In the spring, we encouraged our athletes to test for max effort lifts. In the summer, we counseled them to max for points. Once you max out on points – why go higher? It is time to play ball. We squatted all summer, but on Fridays we did leg circuits as well as some type of total body circuits (dumbbells, kettlebells, bar, body weight and mixed methods circuits). With camp approaching, I was not as concerned with how much weight an athlete could lift in the squat as how much work the legs could handle and recover in a short time bout and hit it again.
PRE-SEASON REPORTING POINT SYSTEM
1. BODY WEIGHT – IF YOU ARE WITHIN 2% OF YOUR GOAL WEIGHT WHEN YOU REPORT YOU GET 1 POINT.
2. BODYFAT PERCENTAGE – IF YOU ARE ON OR BELOW YOUR ASSIGNED BODYFAT PERCENTAGE YOU GET 1 POINT.
3. STRENGTH TESTS – IF YOU ACHIEVE YOUR STRENGTH GOALS YOU WILL GET 3 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU WILL GET 4 POINTS, 10 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU RECEIVE 5 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 – 10 POUNDS BELOW YOU ONLY GET 2 POINTS, 15 – 20 POUNDS BELOW IS 1 POINT.
PTS. POWER CLEAN BENCH PRESS *LEG CIRCUIT
5 +10 POUNDS +10 POUNDS 5 SETS IN 90 SEC.
4 +5 POUNDS +5 POUNDS 4 SETS IN 90 SEC.
3 GOAL WEIGHT GOAL WEIGHT 3 SETS IN 90 SEC.
2 -5 POUNDS -5 POUNDS 2 SETS IN 90 SEC.
1 -15 POUNDS -15 POUNDS 1 SET IN 90 SEC.
*YOU WILL BE EXPECTED TO PASS ALL 5 LEG CIRCUITS IN 90 SECONDS W/2:00 REST!
4. CONDITIONING TEST – 16 TIMES MODIFIED 110 TEST IN 15 SECONDS. LINEMEN RUN 90 YARDS; QB, LB, TE, FB, K, RUN 100 YARDS; SKILL RUN 110 YARDS. EVERYONE FINISHES @ GOAL LINE IN 15 SECONDS WITH 45 SECONDS RECOVERY TIME.
5. YOU GET A FREE POINT IF YOU HAVE NO MISSES FOR THE ENTIRE SPRING. IN HIGH SCHOOL YOU COULD REWARD SUMMER TRAINING. IN COLLEGE, SUMMER REWARDS AND/OR PUNISHMENT IS FORBIDDEN.
YOU MUST SCORE 23 POINTS OUT OF A POSSIBLE 33.
THAT IS A SCORE OF 70% IN ORDER TO PASS.
IF YOU FAIL TO PASS, EACH POINT YOU FAIL BY WILL BE AN EXTRA DAY OF RUNNING AFTER PRACTICE.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU SCORE 20 POINTS YOU WILL RUN EXTRA THE FIRST 3 DAYS AFTER PRACTICE.
THE HIGH POINT ATHLETE WILL RECEIVE THE BEST CONDITIONED ATHLETE AWARD ! !
I hope this sparks you to create your own system of testing prior to camp. Over the course of almost 15 years of collegiate coaching after I was taught this system, it worked for us. Good luck! Robb