Oct 28, 2002

New Coach Seeks Information

"This is a business of breaking hearts." -John Gagliardi, Head Football Coach at St. John's University on putting together the travel list each week
I am the head football coach at Andover HS in Andover, MN. We opened our HS this fall and were just able to get our weightroom running about three weeks ago. The coach that was originally hired used the HIT program before and ordered all Hammer Strength and Nautilus equipment. Since my background was not in this type of program, I am looking for as much assistance as possible.

I am hoping to get information on lifting cycles and protocols. Please point me in the right direction with any information you might have.

Rich Wilkie
Andover High School Football

First, congratulations on the new job. Secondly, it shows an amazing amount of maturity on your part in being willing to learn.

We would love to be of any assistance we could in this situation. Being in Minnesota is your first advantage. You should contact any of the following people and get a first hand look at what they are doing in their weight rooms. I believe Coach Carlson is the strength coach at Chaska High School and his brother Luke is at Blaine High School. Either way I know both of those school train with HIT. Shakopee, Coon Rapids, Buffalo and Richfield also use HIT. Coach Kyle Inforzato is at Richfield, I believe, and would be very helpful. Coach Wetzal with the Vikings would also be a great guy to visit with as he runs a HIT style program at the pro-level.

I am aware of 2 videos that I have seen on sale through Championship Video that were produced by Ken Mannie and another by University of Detroit Mercy Strength Coach Jim Kielbaso. They would be excellent resources to use. Matt Bryzcki's book "A Practical Approach to Strength Training" is a great resource especially as an introduction to the philosophy.

We offer a training manual and video that would at the very least give you something tangible to use with your kids. In a nutshell we encourage coaches to teach their athletes to train to muscular failure in 1 set of each exercise. We emphasize lowering the weight slowly and under control with continued movement throughout the lift. We discourage the use of any momentum as we feel it 1) takes the stress off of the working muscle and 2) could be dangerous.

Depending on who you talk to various movements will be recommended. There of course is no "right" number or certain movements that should be used. We recommend a protocol that hits all of the muscle groups while also being time efficient.

I am of course not doing justice to the philosophy or the what's and why's but this should give you an idea. Look around for strength clinics this winter and spring. We came up to the Strength and Science Seminar last February at Blaine High School. Scott Savor, who is now the strength coach at Mercy-Detroit (I think) hosted that clinic.

We are thinking about hosting a clinic an Kansas City this Spring. My point being that you could find great information at something of that sort. A word of caution. Now that you are open to learning about this philosophy of training, do not let others discourage you from learning as much as you can about it. I coach football too. I used BFS for years with my teams. I just feel that I've found a safer, better way that I am comfortable with. Other football coaches think I'm crazy but it's their loss as far as I'm concerned.

Coach, please feel free to write back with any other questions. There is a lot of information out there on HIT training for football and athletics. You can start with our past articles or the resources I mentioned earlier. Contact those schools in your area and go check out what they are doing.

Good Luck,

Sam Knopik

Oct 9, 2002

Stronger Athletes: Future Strength Coach

"Football players should not do the Olympic lifts. The safety issue is not with the lifts however; the problem is with the generation of coaches who grew up in the Arthur Jones/Nautilus era. These coaches have neither the time nor the coaching ability to teach 85 players the Olympic lifts. These coaches have never learned how to stand on their own two feet, pick a weight off the ground and put it over their head." -Lincoln Brigham, a Olympic Lifting advocate, making a wonderful observation about the relationship between effective coaching and picking up a weight with both feet on the ground then putting it over their head.
A young man from Kansas recently wrote to us asking for help in a class project. Looking at coaching through his eyes has reawakened our own desires to be great coaches.

Dear Coach Rody,
I am a student at Chase High School in Chase, Kansas. I read about you on your web page, and it sounds like you know what you are talking about. We are doing a English assignment and I picked football. So I was supposed to interview a coach and I picked you.

I have a few questions that I would like to ask you.

1.  What would you have to say to young kids coming into High School football that aren't quite as strong as they could be?

If he is an incoming freshman, I would tell him that he should get on a productive strength training program so that he would have an opportunity to be competitive as a Varsity player. The program must be approved by his doctor. Also, I would tell him to develop the skills of the position he would like to play to become as efficient as possible and this will help him to be competitive as an underclassman until the necessary strength can be developed. Good technique at his position is crucial to be an effective player.

2.  What is the importance of weight lifting while playing football?

Strength training will prevent injuries. This is the number one reason why an athlete should lift weights. Next, increases in strength will enable the player to become more powerful and explosive in the skills at his position.

3.  What age should Kids start to lift?

The coach, parents, and the athletes doctor/trainer need to be comfortable with the age to begin lifting. Certainly when starting any weight training program, one needs to lift lighter for a higher amount of repetitions in order to develop efficient neuromuscular pathways in performing the exercises. Perfect form is crucial so the athlete will not get injured.

4.  Should High School kids use any type of weight gainer or muscle mass supplements?

I do not think it is necessary to take any supplementation other than vitamins and minerals if they do not have a balance diet. Getting with their trainer/doctor for the type of vitamin and minerals would be suggested. Most supplements that you find in the health food stores are not necessary and are a waste of money. There is no miracle pill that can replace smart training. What I mean by smart is knowing how to lift, how frequent you should train, etc...

5.  What would you tell a High School Grad that wants to be a coach?

Coaching is a great and very rewarding profession. A good coach will teach his athletes about hard work, how to work with others effectively, and about other aspects of life in general.

Best wishes and good luck on your paper! -Coach Rody
Well I would personally like to think you for you time and I hope you write back with some answers. And keep up the good work on you web page.

Nick W.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note

Oct 1, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes.com: Mature Discourse

 "He's too big and strong. I don't know if I could ever beat this guy." -Mike Tyson concerning Lennox Lewis. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Dear Coach Rody,

It's been a long time since we had a discussion. As I found myself wandering on the Internet I decided to take a deeper look at your web site and send you a few things to chew on. Our discussions have been very cordial in the past, hopefully we will keep in the same line with this new discussion. First I'd like to address a point that was made on your web site (front page actually). Be assured that the quote is integral and not modified:

From StrongerAthletes.com "Momentum generated by these lifts takes tension off the muscle which in turn makes recruiting type IIb, (or "fast twitch"), muscle fibers inefficient."
While I do agree that momentum can decrease muscle tension (because the muscle doesn't need to exert as much force on the bar since momentum contribute to the movement) I do not think that lifting with momentum renders IIb (or any other fiber) recruitment less efficient.

Allow me to make a simple point. Momentum has to be created by an external force, we all agree here. The external force can come from multiple sources, but in the case of lifting exercises it can only come from the external forces applied to the barbell from the human body (unless one is "bouncing" a deadlift on the floor or a bench press off his chest ... which can create momentum). Specifically momentum is created by the action of the muscles. In fact, the force output necessary to produce sufficient momentum to help lift a barbell of relatively heavy weight can far exceed that of any "slow-speed strength" exercises.Let me explain my point. To create momentum you must exert a force high enough to increase the kinetic energy of the barbell a level sufficient to allow the object to continue it's course with the interaction of little additional external force, agree? In other words, if you do not exert enough force the barbell will not continue it's course because not enough momentum will be created.

Now, not only is force necessary to create momentum, the acceleration factor must be very high. Why? Because for momentum to occur, the barbell must have a high rate of acceleration (otherwise it will quickly loose velocity and fall on the ground). So you must be able to create a powerful action (high acceleration).

Since F = ma, we can conclude that creating barbell momentum requires a lot of force because the accelerative need is very very high. The greater the required force output, the greater the muscle tension. The intramuscular tension refers to the effort of the muscle necessary to produce a certain force output.So even if the time under tension is lower in exercises with momentum, the actual maximum tension achieved is a lot higher. This is a powerful stimulus for the CNS and can lead to great improvements in neural efficiency (increased intra and inter-muscular coordination, and rate encoding).

As a result it is unjust to state that lifts with momentum leads to less efficient motor recruitment. Remember that YOU must create the momentum.

Coach Thibaudeau,
You stated, “The force output necessary to produce sufficient momentum to help lift a barbell of relatively heavy weight can far exceed that of any ‘slow-speed strength” exercises. We disagree with this statement . The reason is that to create momentum on the bar, as you have indicated requires relatively heavy weights. That is the point we are making. In order for the force out put to be maximum, the weight should be heavy.

Now we are not saying that one should train with singles, doubles, and triples, we advocate reps ranging from 8-15. Athletes should train to momentary muscular failure.

When performing Olympic lifts, many types of athletes give out because of technique breakdown because of fatigue or for cardiovascular reasons. What muscles are being trained to momentary muscular failure during a clean?

Think about it, we are talking about training high school and college athletes. These athletes cannot efficiently train with these exercises to the point of the desired fatigue level because they do not spend the time to become efficient in these exercises.

Their sport is football, wrestling etc... Ask an athlete, after performing a power clean, how he/she feels. What muscles do you feel like you’ve exhausted? They usually respond be saying, “Well I don’t feel it in any one area but I’m pretty tired after doing them”. Our goal is not just to get an athlete to feel tired. It is to train specific muscle groups to fatigue.

We see the point you are trying to make about maximum force output but must do not believe that research backs it. Muscle fiber is recruited in an orderly fashion from Type I to intermediate to Type II as the body requires them. -S.A.
[Coach Thibaudeau continues...] From StrongerAthletes.com: “The Principle of Specificity rejects the idea that lifts such as the power clean transfer to sport specific skills such as tackling or throwing a shot put”.

I agree that a power clean (or any other lift) cannot improve technical efficiency in a sport movement. However, lifting can improve specific skill performance by increasing the physical capacities of the athlete (no news there!). If a lifting exercise increase the athlete's force output and the rate of force development (which can only be improved by accelerative a load) in the muscles involved in a specific sport skill the athlete will become effective (notice that I did not say efficient) at that skill.

If you have the general capacity to produce more force and produce force faster you will be more effective because you are structurally more solid and have a faster muscle recruitment. I know that you will argue this point, but research has indeed shown that high acceleration exercises can indeed improve motor unit recruitment speed by improving rate encoding, pattern encoding and number encoding.

I have never been one to preach what I call "excessive specificity". There are various levels of specificity. A movement is not 100% or 0% specific to another. A training movement can be specific in structure, pattern, power output level, force output level, etc. I feel that trying to duplicate sport actions in the gym is hogwash, but I believe that trying to train for what you have to do makes a lot more sense than just lifting weights! That means developing the capacity to generate a high level of force as fast as possible.

We will again make the point that even though we train to maintain constant speed through an entire set, it must be understood that as the athlete fatigues as the set progresses, it is necessary to attempt to move the weight faster to maintain the desired rep speed. At the end of the set, the athlete is attempting to move the barbell as fast as possible to maintain speed. This is maximum force and power output.

This is higher than if the athlete used relatively heavy weights creating momentum. If the weight is not heavy enough then the athlete will be expressing power. In other words, if the momentum is created on the bar, the weight is too light. Ken Mannie states this well in his article “Power Points," “Basic neuromuscular physiology indicates that maximum fast twitch fiber recruitment is achieved with maximal intensity, regardless of the movement speed. “Intensity” in strength-training is defined as the percent of your momentary ability to execute a given exercise- that is, the amount of effort you are able to put forth”.

The “Size Principle” of motor unit recruitment-which is one of the most supported principles in neurophysiology-states that muscle fibers are activated from smaller to larger (Type I to Type II) relative to the force requirements, not the speed requirements”.

“The force velocity curve indicates that there is an inverse relationship between movement speed and muscle force production. In other words, slow muscle contractions generate more force. StrongerAthletes.com believes that slow movements can produce more force and recruit more muscle fiber and in turn create more power and therefore is a more efficient way to train. -S.A.
[Coach Thibaudeau continues...] From StrongerAthletes.com "Quick, momentum generating lifts can be unsafe in the short term if not coached and supervised and in the long term in regards to the low back and wrist regions."

I agree. That's why I feel that un-supervised use of the Olympic lifting variations is unwise. However, if properly taught these lifts can be as safer (and even safer as illustrated by the smaller injury rate in Olympic lifting compared to powerlifting)

[FYI- We do not endorse power lifting as a training method for traditional athletes. -S.A.]
than most slow-speed lifts. Furthermore, when properly used they can improve performance more than slow-speed lifting (albeit both are complimentary). However I concede that if a qualified coach is not available, the Olympic lift variations should not be used.

Thanks for listening. Keep up your good job and I wish you well for the season.
Christian Thibaudeau
Qu├ębec Canada

Keep in mind that we may focus on the lifts that power lifters use but we do not train our athletes like power lifters.

We understand the point you are making and will concede that the more efficient an athlete becomes at the Olympic lifts, the more muscle fiber he/she can recruit therefore the more power and force he can develop. But let’s face it, these athletes (high school and college) do not have the time to spend trying to perfect these lifts. They have their season and studies to think about. Even if an athlete performs the quick lifts with perfect form or whether he uses slow movements, power and force can still be developed with either method. Most athletes will not perform them in perfect form, therefore the power developed would be less. Performing the quick lifts is more of a demonstration of power. Remember, developing power is different than expressing it. Look back at our article on "Expressing vs. Developing Power" and you will see what I mean.

We have enjoyed reading your comments and appreciate your professionalism. The goal is to train our athletes in the safest most productive and efficient manner possible. Let our readers decide for themselves which method they prefer.

Coach Rody


***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the StrongerAthlete.com website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***