Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beijing '08

A look inside the Polish National Team training hall.

... pure focus.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Truth

I've probably read this article over 20 times now, and it never gets old. It is by Chris Shugart, a writer for T-nation.

Modern life: busy, hurried, hectic. The modern attention span: short. This new blog series: pithy.

The Hurried Man's Guide to Training

By Chris Shugart

*There are muscle groups you can't see in the mirror. Train them anyway.

* Use barbells and dumbbells a lot. Use machines a little.

* Racking your weights is great for forearms and grip strength. You'll burn extra calories too. Also, we won't kick your lazy no-weight-racking fat ass.

* If you need a spot on rep #2, then trying for 10 reps makes you a dork and your training partner a fool.

* Think of the exercise you hate the most. Maybe you feel humiliated in the gym you're so bad at it. Now, do that exercise first in your workouts for the next 8 weeks, you wiener.

* You know that hottie in the gym you're always staring at while she trains? That sexy, beautiful creature that you want to talk to so badly it hurts? Don't. Let her train, frat boy.

* Try a little of everything. Try not to become a cult member who worships any one lifting style or training implement. Try not to plug your umbilical cord into the latest fad. There is no single best way.

* Cardio: Do a little. Not a lot. Jogging for miles? No. Do sprints, intervals, or strive to increase NEPA (non-exercise physical activity.)

* Sex = Best. NEPA. Ever.

* Do pull-ups, rows, deadlifts, dips, bench press, overhead press, and squat variations. The rest is just details.

* Be aggressive without sacrificing form. Do not just "go through the motions." Strain, sweat, focus, suck wind.

* There are some crappy training methods out there, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.

* Never stop learning, but avoid analysis paralysis too.

* There are genetic freaks out there who can grow and get stronger with shitty training programs. You're probably not one of them.

* Lift more. Talk less.

* If you're a fat guy who can bench a lot because the bar only has to travel two inches down to your tittie-pecs, then don't brag about your bench press max.

* If you can do a lot of pull-ups because you weigh 115 pounds, then we don't want to hear about that either.

* It's a squat rack, not a curling cage.

* Lifting gloves: Because pansies like soft hands.

* Dave Tate has been known to smash his forehead into the bar before a big squat. You have been known to match your lifting straps to your workout pants. Notice any other differences?

* Don't take diet advice from fat guys.

* Listen to those in the trenches. They don't have to be super huge or super perfect or super strong, but they must be doing it and applying it to themselves and others on a daily basis. Beware the eunuch in the harem.

* Asking most heavy steroid users how to train and eat is like asking a crackhead for investment advice. They may offer some, but don't listen to it.

* Asking a genetic mutant lifter or gifted natural athlete how to train and eat is like asking a racehorse how he runs fast. He couldn't tell you even if he knew.

* Recovery: You're probably not paying enough attention to it.

* If you added 90 pounds to the squat bar but squatted three inches higher than before, you did not get any stronger. Moron.

* The best ab training exercise involves pushing yourself away from the dinner table.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't Believe the Hype

Please don't tell me about your 55 inch box jump.

Now I am all for box jumps for training purposes. They take away the eccentric load of landing and are great for teaching athletes how to land while not having to worry about the eccentric stress, but don't brag about them. Hey, if they get your athletes to put 100% effort in to jumping, I am all for it... just don't brag about it.

All a box jump proves is that you are good at bringing your legs up to your chest after jumping. The athlete with the highest inseam is going to have the greatest advantage. So tell me... how do I train my inseam?

For example, let's say I were to practice my box jumping and got relatively good at them. I build my way up to be able to do a 60 inch box jump. That's right 60 inches! Boo yaa! Youtube baby!

Ok... 60 inches.

I just measured my inseam and it's right around 33 inches, maybe it would be less, but it is REAL cold today.

So let's work the math, 60 - 33 = 27. So really if I work on my technique all I technically might need is a 27-28 inch vertical. 28 inches... wow.

So what do I post on youtube... a video of my 28 inch vertical, or... my 60 INCH box jump!

Like I said, box jumps can be a great training tool; just, please, don't tell me about yours.

Happy box jumping!


Friday, February 8, 2008

Activation Exercises

There seems to be a lot of discussion about activation exercises recently. Is there a benefit of doing such exercises? How long do the muscles stay activated? Does it make a difference if an athlete or client does them?

For what it’s worth, my take…

I have had the same question: Is there a benefit to these simple, isolative exercises, which rarely use any load? Do activation exercises like a glute bridge really prepare or fix a problem that is often only going to show up at full speed and higher intensity voluntary contractions in an athletic movement?

This past off-season, I have made some changes in my programming for soccer. The very first thing we do is activation drills focusing on the torso and hips.

-Get key core muscles turned on = better movement in the dynamic warm-up.

-It’s damn cold in North Dakota, and our workout sessions start real early. I want to warm-up and turn the neural switches on before we try to move through full ranges of motion. Isometrics and low level activation drills don’t induce a lot of joint stress and warm up the body quickly.

Basically I want to turn on the mid-section and hips before we start in on our dynamic warm-ups, other than that I save the activation work for the strength portion of the training session.

After the activation and dynamic, we go into plyos and then movement skills (linear or multidirectional, depending on the day), similar to probably most coaches.

The strength work has been where I have now put most of the activation exercises.

We do more of an upper/lower split.

My feeling with the prehab/activation stuff, which is often done at the beginning, basically "wears off" by the time they are into their strength work, where we are trying to strengthen fundamental movement patterns. If this excitation falls off, the athlete may quickly drop back into their habitual movement patterns. Obviously I am constantly cueing athletes how to move better, but sometimes pre-activating certain muscles gives the athlete a better feel.

So what we do now is pre-activation exercises prior to our main lifts. By implementing pre-activation exercises, like X-band walks, Mini-band walks, front and side bridges, prior to lifts such as front squats, single-leg squats, lunging, RDL’s, we continually get an improved pattern we're looking for and hit the correct muscles with more "bang".


1a Side Bridge X :30
1b X-band walks X 15e
1c Front Squat X 5


1a Mini-band Hip external rotations X 20
1b SL Squats X 6e

So if our lower body strength exercises are always technique sound, my thinking is we must to be laying down improved motor patterns with quality strength. S.A.I.D. principle.

It's like Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-health says about how strength training "cements" your neural patterns. So to me, it makes sense to use the activation exercises right in with the strength work, to "cement" down what we are trying to accomplish.

Plus, most activation exercises are either concentric or isometric in nature, with very little eccentric emphasis. By doing the activation exercises prior to the strength work, hopefully with a better “feel” for the right muscles, the athlete will use, say the glutes and hips, better in an eccentric fashion. The activity in muscles such as those that surround the hips are much needed for eccentric control of the femur and low back. And with torso stability work prior to a lower body exercise, we could possible get better relative stiffness, to “free up” the hips to move better.

No injury issues to date, since we have been doing this.

I guess just my thoughts, and so far has seemed to work well for me...

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, February 7, 2008


I've never played organized hockey in my life, but being from the great state of Minnesota, I have played in my share of pick-up games. Yes, I can skate; my Dad used to make us an ice rink each winter growing up.

Hockey, however, is one of the many problems, of youth athletics. Ask any serious hockey player or parent of one, when they or their child started to play hockey, they will probably say something along the lines, "well, I learned to skate when I was 2, and started playing mini-mites at 7 or 8".

... 2?!... 7, 8?!... crazy!

My daughter is four months away from 2 years of age, she still can't jump, and still trips and falls just running around... do I need to put the skates on her already? Am I missing something?

Then to top it off, these kids parents are their coach. Think about that for a second... their parents usually have no idea of the needs of young athlete. (Notice I didn't say hockey player: you are not a hockey player at age 7, you are a young child)

These so-called coaches of these youth hockey programs take it to the extent of having early morning hockey practices before school, in-season training after school, and then spinning classes at night, because the fools for coaches think their "athletes" need to be in great shape for their WEEKLY, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tournament. (this is a true situation, as a matter of fact)

I've worked with many hockey players... you should see some of them run. You'd swear they had skates on, but they do squat well.

This problem isn't just related to hockey however, it is everywhere. Many other sports are being played year round. Every parent thinks they have the next Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Lebron James or Serena Williams.

As strength coach, Mike Boyle, has said before, it's organized child abuse.

Then to top it off, we have sports training centers popping up, to cash in on the overzealous parents and their little "superstar".

Now I am all for increasing the activity of our youth, as obesity is an getting to be an insurmountable problem in our society, but most of these centers are just glorified conditioning conveyor belts. They are running kids through the assembly line like bottles of Coca-Cola. C'mon, any body can condition someone.

I would bet most of these places aren't teaching the fundamentals of quality movement. This could start another rant about sport-specific training. If I hear some place offers sport-specific training, I know it's crap. Kids need the fundamentals of movement and lots of play.

I don't know if I will ever coach an athlete who needs something beyond the fundamentals of movement and training. It's rare that athletes are at the level of movement efficiency that they can move beyond the basics.

This also brings me to another thought. Working at the collegiate level it seems to be the norm these days to have movement dysfunction. There seems to be more "jacked-up" individuals than decent functioning ones. Every athlete seems to have a shoulder, back, or knee issue, or all three.

Just as we are rapidly advancing our knowledge in the area of performance enhancement, there is a just as rapid decline in athletes who are truly athletes. Maybe the all the dysfunction is forcing us to get a better understand? But I do know the young specialization and the age of technology are definitely to blame. I sit here at my computer.

I guess it's an inverse relationship, the more we learn and understand, the more "jacked up" we are getting. This isn't even considering the general population. I have spent time working with the general public, and I learned more about dysfunction in that time than I wanted to.

All this leads me to the question: Where do we start?

Obviously this is a loaded question.

My thoughts immediately go to our school systems.

My undergraduate degree is in physical education, and I spent over a year and a half substitute teaching in numerous schools in 10 different cities in Minnesota and North Dakota. Each school is in the same situation; less P.E., more classroom time. Are our youth getting that much smarter from the extra class time? Carla Hannaford's Smart Moves should be required reading for anyone who has a pulse, but especially if you work with kids or are a parent. Hannaford covers every detail on why movement is so important to learning and the well being of everyone.

Plus, I hate to say it, most physical education curriculum's don't do too well in teaching movement, and if they do, it isn't being kept up, because most schools only require P.E. through 9th or 10th grade, and sometime only two times per week for only a 1/2 hour. I guess when we are 16 we don't need to exercise anymore.

The great majority of the athletes that we see excel today, are doing so on top of movement dysfunction. It's rare for an athlete to go through their sporting career without some sort of non-contact injury. But does it really have to be this way?

What if our youth were allowed to grow up without the "coaching expertise" of their parents, and allowed to play the way they want?

What if a child wanted to play in an organized sport, they were required to play in 4 different sports throughout the year? They couldn't sign up to play basketball or soccer, they could only sign up for sports.

What if quality movement was the basis for all physical education curricula? Students were required to learn how to hip hinge, squat, lunge, jump, run, land, change direction, and just to stand properly, to name just a few. Hey... we require kids to learn algebra, write, learn science and history, why can't they be required to learn movement.

What if you had to be able to do all the previously mentioned movement at an acceptable level to graduate?

What if physical education was required everyday of the week for a student's entire academic career?

What if all this were true? What kind of athlete might we have to work with at the collegiate level and beyond?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking. But what if?


Wednesday, February 6, 2008


It all comes down to movement. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

-Movement range of motion
-Movement speed, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction
-Movement stability
-Movement strength, power, endurance
-Movement elasticity, rate of force development
-Movement efficiency
-Movement quality, quantity

At the end of the day, if somebody asks me what I do... I guess I would have to say:

I coach movement.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Any Given Sunday

Well the Giants did something not many thought they could and would do. Goes to show; it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

My game MVP goes to the Giants defense and David Tyree. Don't get me wrong, Eli Manning played a great game, but the Giants D played solid all day and it was Tyree who scored their 1st touchdown and ultimately saved the day with his ridiculous catch over the middle on 3rd down, on the Giants game winning drive.