Jan 31, 2003

Testing Athletes / Dear StrongerAthletes: Neck Work

"I've never let formal education interfere with my learning." -Jim Bryan

Testing Athletes

Now that many schools and teams are well into their strength programs coaches are turning to various means of measuring progress. Many will have their athletes perform a one-rep max (1RM) all too often to check their strength. We feel that this may not be the wisest choice for measuring progress, primarily for safety reasons.

If you are training your athletes for traditional athletic competition and not power meets you could be putting your athletes at risk for no reason.

However, progression is important and should be consistently checked. We monitor to see that our athletes are either lifting more weight (in an appropriate rep range) than the workout before, or they are lifting the same weight for more reps. This should be sufficient.

We have observed another problem with checking the 1RM's. The athletes tend to focus on that particular performance too much and thus lower the focus away from the rest of the workout, or send the message that the rest of the workout is not important.

Not to open another can of worms, but… we also feel that many coaches put too much emphasis into testing vertical jump, long jump, 40 yard dash, etc... We believe the focus should be on strength training exclusively in the off-season. The real test is how well they perform at their specific sport, not vertical jumping, long jumping, or sprinting 40 yards in a straight line.

Dear StrongerAthletes: Neck Work

Coach Rody,

Is it safe for middle school athletes to do neck work on a four way neck machine. If so, how many sets and reps for these exercises. Thanks for your web site. I have learned a lot from it.

Steve Noland

Coach Noland,

We think the neck machine is safe for the middle school athlete. Overall training however should focus on developing the skills of strength training at that age. If some kids can develop efficient neuromuscular pathways in the eighth grade they are in good shape.

We recommend sets of 8-12 for the neck machine movement. We like to work the neck through manual resistance early in our workout.

Hope that helps.

Another School On TEAMS Page

Coach Rody,

Please add Fowlerville H.S., Fowlerville, MI to your list of high schools who employ a non-olympic, non-plyo, safe, and sensible strength training and conditioning program. We have run this "non-traditional" type of program for the past 17 years. All our teams (especially football) have been very successful using these methods. I have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience from Mike Gittleson (Univ. of Michigan), Ken Mannie, Kim Wood, Dr. Ken Leistner, Dan Riley, Matt Bryzcki, and many others along the way. Our athletes learn how to train hard, and get the most out of each rep and set! You have a great site, enjoy reading it on a regular basis. Keep up the good work and spreading the word that: you don't have to follow the crowd to get the job done and be successful.


Scott Hays
Football/Strength Coach
Fowlerville High School
Fowlerville, MI

Thanks for the support Coach!

Jan 27, 2003

Clinic Update/Video Review/Another Plyometrics Concern

"No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office." -George Bernard Shaw

Clinic Update

2002 Missouri 4A State Champion, Coach Mark Thomas from Kearney High School will join our list of featured presenters. Coach Thomas will speak on "Staff & Practice Organization." We feel that Coach Thomas’ presentation will have much to offer those in attendance as football practice will be starting soon afterward.

Coach Thomas joins Sam Brown from Shawnee Mission North, Mike Lawrence from Missouri Southern, and Fred Cantor from the University of Maryland Baltimore-County.

In addition, area high school football coaches will benefit from attending the Kansas and Missouri Football Rules Interpretations Meetings. Ours will be one of the earliest offered from either states' athletic associations.

Video Review

Coach Rody,

I have a snow day from school here in N. Indiana so I finally had some time to review the video tapes and manual. You all have done a really good job on the material. It lays all the facts and philosophy out clearly.

I enjoyed the non-inflammatory exchange and differences in philosophy between you and your fellow coach. I too am in a situation where I feel like I am from Mars when training philosophy is discussed. Teaching and talking to someone about common sense training and High Intensity Training can be exasperating at times. None of our coaches had ever heard of the High Intensity Training concepts prior to my arrival. I will be showing the tape to members of our coaching staff and our AD.

I worked in the commercial, corporate, and clinical health/fitness settings prior to returning to teaching. My time included working as an exercise specialist at Texas Back Institute in Plano, TX. I saw MANY former [athletes] who had injuries directly related to improper exercise practices, ballistic lifts, and plyometrics.

The thing is most of their attitudes were [that training injuries are] just part of the sport! Working in medical related settings has given me a different outlook on the [load of bunk* StroungerAthlete’s words] of these accepted training practices. I saw many individuals who had life altering, NEGATIVE consequences from this nonsense.

I plan to organize my own web site in the future focusing on this injury aspect exclusively. I believe there are many credible individuals and orthopedic surgeons who believe as we do.

I will look forward to attending your clinic and meeting you guys. Tim Wakeham at Michigan State would be a good one to have on your agenda. Ken Mannie is usually swamped with football that time of year. Take care.

Coach Frank Severa

Thanks for the support. First, we are finding out about more and more people who are realizing that injury in training is so unnecessary. We think your idea about a website focusing on that topic is well needed and will help anyway we can.

Coach Wakeham and Coach Mannie would be awesome presenters. One of the hardest things we have discovered as we are putting this program together is "who not to ask". We just hope that there will be an interest in doing this clinic annually so we can invite more great speakers in the future. Looking forward to meeting you in August.

Another Plyometrics Concern

This e-mail was sent to us way back last May. For some reason it was "lost" in our mailbox before we could post it up. Sorry about the delay Coach Durell.
Dear Coach Rody,

Regarding your discussion on plyometrics several days ago, I have personal knowledge of a male varsity basketball player at Southern Connecticut State University shattering his femur doing single leg bounds on a basketball court. Southern CT is my alma mater (Bachelors) and this incident was reported to me by an Athletic Trainer who was on the scene at the time. How would you like to be the one who had to call that kid's parents?

I share your views on ballistic training and do not perform any such techniques with any of my personal training clients, which include an NFL starter and a scholarship collegiate golfer. Nor did I use those techniques when I worked with Tom Kelso at Southeast Missouri State or with Mark Asanovich at Tampa Bay (Buccaneers). Many things work in terms of productivity, not everything is safe. Coaches in charge of strength training athletes are responsible for the health and well-being of the athletes under their care. My advice is to think about having to call the parents of that basketball player when selecting training techniques.

Keep up the great work on the website.

Dave Durell, MS, PTA, CSCS
Sports and Fitness Training Systems

Jan 20, 2003

Clinic Update and Squatting Form Question

"You can't ever work too much because there is no such thing a being in too good condition. You can't ever lift too many weights because you can't ever be too strong. You can't ever wrestle too much, because you can always do better" -Dan Gable

Clinic Update

We are proud to report that Sam Brown, Head Football Coach at Shawnee Mission North High School (Shawnee Mission, KS) will be speaking at the 2003 StrongerAthletes.com Strength & Conditioning Clinic. Coach Brown brings over 30 years of football experience into the 2003 season. Coach Brown will help to give football coaches that last minute idea to take into football season.

In addition to Sam Brown, area high school football coaches will benefit from attending the Kansas and Missouri Football Rules Interpretations Meetings. Ours will be one of the earliest offered from either states' athletic associations.

Shawn Hannagan and Fitness Showcase of Kansas City have offered to sponsor this event. Shawn serves high schools and fitness centers throughout the Kansas City area.

  • "Fitness Showcase is the oldest Specialty Fitness Store in Kansas City, and now we've brought our experience to the St. Louis, MO and Seattle/Tacoma, WA areas. We provide only the highest quality equipment and service available. Our trained equipment and fitness consultants and personal trainers have over 250 years combined experience in the industry, and we understand the fitness equipment shopping experience. With questions to the shopper and our knowledge of the equipment, we can match customers with the correct equipment to help you reach your goals." -Taken from Fitness-Showcase.com

Give Shawn Hannagan an e-mail to see how he can help your school or training center.

Squat Question

Dear Coach Rody,

Is it good or bad for 8th grade football players to point their toes in and/or out while performing knee curls/knee extensions and full squats? A friend of mine told me they should do this for complete development but I thought it might be harmful, especially with toes in.

Thanks, Coach Ed Tyree

Coach Tyree,

First, you should be congratulated for trying to find the safest training methods for your athletes, especially the young ones.

You ask about the squat, which is a great exercise, however you should be aware that there are some growing safety concerns with this movement. We were unaware of these concerns until last winter when we met with the staff at the 2002 Strength & Science Seminar in Blaine, MN. Some schools have completely gone away from the movement while others, like Penn State, prescribe it with extreme caution.

Matt Brzycki's book, A practical Approach To Strength Training, identifies the strain placed upon the lower back is much greater than the actual bar weight placed across the shoulders.

We are not trying to talk anyone out of using the squat movement, however, we want you to be aware of some of the rising safety concerns.

In the squat, we recommend that the athlete place their feet in a comfortable position. This is usually with toes pointed slightly outward because it is a more natural position. The athlete should never point the toes inward because it puts the knees in an unnatural position which could lead to injury. If an athlete is comfortable with his toes pointed straight, then that is fine. Development will not be affected by minor changes in foot position. Do not let anyone tell you different. Many people do get caught up in these type of details but I believe it is unnecessary.

As far as leg extensions and curls, I recommend the toes face straight. Pointing them slightly inward or outward will not cause harm to the athlete because their weight and the load is not put on the knees like in the standing position. But even then, I believe pointing them straight is the best way for overall development.

Hope this helps.

Coach Rody

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

Jan 17, 2003

Dear StrongerAthletes: New High School/Training Question

"Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do." -Dale Carnegie -Emerson

Dear StrongerAthletes: New High School/Training Question

We have two e-mails. The first from Coach Bill McGee, from Lake Forrest, Illinois who has received help setting up his school’s program from some of the best strength coaches in the business. The second is from Chris Rowley, an athlete looking for training advice.
Dear Coach Rody,

Please add Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois to your list of high school athletic programs that promote a safe, non-Olympic, minimal-risk of being sued programs. I have had the pleasure of receiving much help from the likes of Kim Wood (Cincinnati Bengals), Ken Mannie (Michigan State), and Dan Riley (Houston Texans, formerly Washington Redskins) over the years in formulating, developing, and implementing our strength and conditioning programs. All of these individuals have never hesitated in taking time out of their busy schedules to teach me many valuable things.

Great site, Coach. Keep up the good work!

Bill McGee
Strength Coach
Lake Forest Academy

Coach McGee

Thanks for the support. We will add Lake Forest to our Team's Page.
Dear Coach,

I am 19 years old and want to develop functional strength and power in my whole body. I would class myself as an intermediate athlete as I have always been involved with sports, and their training since a young age. However my training programs, particularly in the weight room have up to now only relied upon my limited knowledge and I think they have not been as effective as they could be.

I wanted to know your advice regarding a resistance training program that would be suitable for me.

I would really appreciate your advice on a topic, which to me seems to be surrounded in contradictions. Thanks a lot.

Chris Rowley


Since you consider yourself an intermediate athlete and have lifting experience and want to lift 3 days per week, I suggest that you train your body over a 3 day/week program splitting your body parts having a push and pull day. You should respond to this type of split well. I would definitely limit your sets and do suggest the 1 set protocol for all exercises. If you choose about 6-8 push exercises and 6-8 pull exercises, I think that would be sufficient.

The keys to a successful strength training program would be training with as high intensity as possible, getting adequate nutrition, and getting sufficient rest. Do not underestimate the importance of recovery. It is absolutely crucial to making progress. The above suggested split routine provides enough rest because you are training each muscle group every 4-5 days. After using this split for a while and find your gains slowing a little then it will be time to reduce the frequency a little training each area less often. In other words, the harder you train and the more experience you are in lifting the more rest you may require depending on the individual. When this time comes get in touch with us again and we can lay out some details for the reduced frequency approach.

As far as exercises are concerned, we do suggest exercises that train multiple muscle groups being the primary exercises that you perform. Single joint exercises can also be incorporated but must be limited for reasons of the possibility of over-training the small muscles.

The squat can be a very productive exercise. The leg press is also a good exercise if performed on a good machine. We do advocate the use of free weights or machines or a combination of both. Do not let anyone tell that machines are inferior for gaining strength for sports because it is just not true. Muscles don’t have eyes. They don’t care where the resistance comes from. There is nothing magical about a bar.

Be very careful not to perform too many exercises per muscle group. For example, do not perform the bench press, incline press, and decline press. This is way to many exercises for that particular muscle group. Just because an exercise exists does not mean you need to do it. Variety is over-rated. Stick to some basic exercises and if you want to switch after 3-4 months then that is fine. That way you can track your strength gains efficiently.

If you come to a point where you are not progressing, let us know before you reduce your frequency, we might be able to offer some advice to kick start your gains again. Another thing we will address is that a progression chart should be used. It is the goal of the athlete to increase the reps or weight or both every time you train a particular muscle group.

We believe that strength training is strength training regardless of sport. We do not believe an athlete needs to perform certain exercises for a certain sport. It is important that you train the entire body, concentrating on strength in all exercises and then go out and practice your sport.

With sufficient practice, the added strength will allow you to perform those skills with more power and explosiveness. Training the neuromuscular system to become efficient in certain skills is crucial if you are seeking to be the best you can be at that sport.

Lastly, it is difficult to lay out all the details of the program through e-mail. We do provide a manual if you are interested in those details. See our resources page for details.

Hope this helps and good luck in your training. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to e-mail us. We will be happy to help you in your quest for strength.

Coach Rody

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

Jan 13, 2003

Dear StrongerAthletes: Success Story

We were pleased to receive the following e-mail. From Jim VanSchoonhoven, a mountain bike coach.

About a year ago I started looking in to strength training for my athletes. Of course I kept hearing about the greatness of plyometrics. I almost fell for it. Instead, I kept researching until I found a sensible approach that is safe and effective. I work with Pro riders and most of these kind of guys have done lifting before, and most have never seen any results. Boy do they see results now, and it only takes four or five times of lifting.

One of my riders is an observed trails rider. It would be thought of as trick riding on a mountain bike. It takes a lot of explosive power. From right next to your car, he can jump his bike to the top of your car. People that see what he does, can not believe their eyes. At the age of 19 years old this rider is the only 3 time US rider to represent the USA at the UCI World Championships. He also placed the highest ever for an American at the World Championships (16th) , and this is a sport where riders do not peak until they are 28-32 years old.

All of this just to say thanks for your web site!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!! I believe what you are doing could save 1000's of kids from getting hurt.

It was sites like yours that helped point out the stupidity of ballistic lifting and plyometrics. And of course strength training slow and in control manner helped [my son] to develop his explosive power.

By the way he was just recently mentioned in an Outside magazine because style of strength training and how much it has helped him.

So keep up the good work, I am sure there are a lot of mean, stupid people bad mouthing you and trying to harm your reputations. So make them mad, by spreading the truth.

My son and most of my other athletes seem to do better lifting only once every 7 to 10 days. This is in the off season. Sometimes during the season they must lift less, but they still show improvement almost every time they lift.


Thank you for the kind words. We are happy you like the website. We really are not far off on frequency though. Our advanced athletes do not train as often either. Our beginners start 3 days per week and reduce from there as they become more intense and learn the movements. We actually decrease our frequency quite a bit in-season. It varies though with the individual athlete. Good luck and hope you have continued success. Please let us know more about how your athletes are doing in the future.

Safety: Swiss Ball Example / Power Formula

"Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect." -Emerson

Safety: Swiss Ball Example

We make no secret about our emphasis on safety in the weight room. In the past we wrote a brief commentary on the use of the Swiss Ball in strength training. We felt that is was just another gimmick as well as a serious risk in weight room safety

It seems that Juan Carlos Santana, a highly respected strength trainer from Boca Raton, Florida thought it would be a good idea to depth jump off of a plyometric box onto a Swiss Ball. Obviously he suffered injury at the hands of unsafe training methods. Now, we mean absolutely no disrespect to Mr. Santana however we will use his folly to make our point. Why jump off anything? Why use a rubber sphere as a base of support? Why use both of these together to train?

We admittedly know very little of this event. However, the details are not our point. Our point is that safety should be #1. If it looks dangerous it probably is… so don’t ask your kids to do it!

A certain message board has begun asking, "What are some of the dangerous lifts done in weight rooms?" We were amused with the following exercise called, "The Jefferson Lift". The following photos and instructions were found at Chap.com

Straddle barbell on floor, feet about 24" apart. Bend and hold front of bar with right hand palm down, rear of bar with left hand, palm down. Squat until upper thighs are parallel to floor. Keep back nearly vertical, head up.

Rise with bar at arms' length until legs are straight, knees locked. Keep bar at arms' length, elbows locked. .Do all lifting with thighs and lower back..Return to starting position. Inhale up, exhale down.

We think there might be some issues with performing the "Jefferson Lift" explosively!

Take a look at The Swiss Ball Plyometric Depth Jumping Experiment. This is a very funny example of the absurdity of many training methods. Keep in mind this website is not related to StrongerAthletes.com and we do not condone these activities.

We reported last year about a trainer who had his athletes performing an explosive bench press. He would actually drop the loaded bar from above the athlete who would catch the bar, lower it to his chest, and then rapidly push the bar up and throw it back to the coach. Wow.

So we ask our readers to help us find the craziest, most unsafe movements you have seen done in the weight room. In the meantime we encourage coaches to ask yourself why you are doing each exercise and most importantly, is it safe?

Dear StrongerAthlete: Power Formula

Coach Chris Thibaudeau has recently pointed out that our formula for Power that we use on our F.A.Q. is not accurate.

He writes, "You use the formula Power = strength x distance/time to prove your point, stating that you can increase power output either by increasing strength or reducing time. Your formula is inaccurate.

The real power formula is Power = FORCE x distance/time, similarly you say that Work = strength x distance while it really is FORCE x distance.

So doesn't it make a lot more sense to try to accelerate a load rather than lift it slowly?

Not trying to be confrontational, but if you are going to utilize biomechanics to prove your theories, at least use proper biomechanics. There are some coaches with no knowledge of the domain that can be fooled to believe something that isn't true."

We think Coach Thibaudeau is right on with his remark about coaches with limited knowledge will believe anything even if it is not true. That is the whole purpose of our website. We want to inform coaches who already have too much to do than get degrees in Exercise Science about safer ways to train than what is generally believed.

We use the term Strength as opposed to Force for a simple reason. When we first used that formula in an article we were attempting to make a point about the inefficiency of using momentum in developing strength. We wanted to use terminology and research by authors that are highly respected by the Olympic Lifting world. Thus the formula we used, which included Strength as opposed to Force, can be found in "Complete Conditioning For Football," by Michael Arthur and Bryan Bailey from the University of Nebraska. The University of Nebraska is widely recognized as the leading promoter of quick lift training for football. So, despite any other reasoning we may have for using the word Strength, we encourage you to take up your debate with Nebraska not us.

Furthermore, Olympic lifting advocates like yourself ignore the fundamental difference between developing and expressing power. To say that lifting slowly with little acceleration will lead to a very low force output does not take into account that towards the end of a working set, the athlete has the intention of lifting the weight rapidly.

Lastly, to increase force one must increase strength levels. They are directly related. Strength is the ability of muscle to produce force. If you increase your strength, you increase your ability to produce force. An increase in the ability to produce force results in an increase in athletic power. This is why we write the formula he way we do and the relationship between force and strength is indicated throughout various places in our website.

Jan 9, 2003

AFCA Convention Report and Workout Individualiztion

 "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." -Abraham Lincoln

AFCA Convention Report

If you have been checking in and noticing that we have not updated the website in a few days it was because we were in New Orleans for the 2003 American Football Coaches Association National Convention.

While aimed at recognizing the college football coaches the AFCA has made an attempt to include high school coaches more and more. I would encourage all coaches who desire to contribute to their profession, outside of their own environments to get involved with their professional organizations. I think we all need to realize that as coaches we play an important role in developing the total athlete, not just his strength or abilities.

I enjoyed getting to meet some of the coaches who read our website as well as hear many of the outstanding speakers a the event. 2004 is in Orlando, hope to see you there.

How To Individualize a Workout

We believe it is crucial that athletes be consistent in their training. Along this line of thinking many coaches require their athletes train 4 days per week never taking into account the athletes' individual needs.

This goes back to individualizing each athletes' program. Do not treat all athletes the same. Many of them recover at different rates especially as they get more experienced in training. Some of your athletes may have more going on in their life than others. Some may not get good sleep for a period of time because of studies or some other aspect of their life causing them to not get sufficient rest. All these things need to be taken into consideration when making adjustments in an athletes training. This is very necessary if you want your athlete to get the most gains from the program.

Many coaches dismiss this indicating that it is not reasonable to individualize each athletes workout because it is too time consuming. This is not the case. Sure, it will require the coach to work harder but our athletes want this effort by us to ensure that they are getting the help they need to be successful. They trust us, and we owe that effort to them.

Start each beginning level athlete on the same program and as they get more experienced, make adjustments. These adjustments are made easily by brief discussions with the athlete and usually by assessing their workout progression chart. Each athlete needs to be told that their workout may be a little different from everybody else's. If an athlete is not recovered by the next training day then why make him/her train?

The adjustments that are usually made are the frequency of their training days or exercises. At times, adjustments might have to be made so it is best not to ask athletes to train on any given schedule like M-W-F. Do what is right, train them individually so they can get the most gains.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a not


***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.***