Mar 31, 2003

Teach Athletes the Right Way

"You can't make a great play unless you do it first in practice." –Chuck Noll
We at observe athletes in-season and off-season quite frequently. Many of these athletes really do not understand how to properly get in shape for their sport. For example, any coach that sees a football player running lap after lap on the track should be stopped and taught the correct way to train, assuming the football coach has not not instructed the athlete to run those laps. The athlete would be much better off doing sprints of varying distances with varying recovery periods between sprints. These athletes are very appreciative of coaches that take the time to help them.

Another example. We heard a baseball coach proudly claim that he made his athletes run 5 miles yesterday. Why? Wouldn't they be much better off running sprints at the distance that are required in their sport? Also they can do shuttle type of agility drills for movements that they will do in baseball.

Now, we do feel there is a general need for fitness and continuous aerobic exercise is one way to achieve that.  Some coaches use distance running to develop an athlete's mental stamina as much as his sport-specific ability. However, it is important that the coach have a plan and understand why he prescribes certain workouts for his athletes.

Many athletes have the greatest intentions but are often led in an unproductive way on their own or by suggestions of others. If your sport requires quickness and speed then train to get quicker and faster. Doing a low intensity exercise such a jogging around the track will do NOTHING for your speed. It will recruit Type I (slow twitch) muscle fiber and never recruit the Type II muscle fibers that they need to use.

Coaches, do athletes a favor and set them straight in their training so they can achieve the goals that they set for themselves in their sport. They will become better athletes and will appreciate your suggestions in the long run.

Mar 24, 2003

Dear Stronger Athletes: Squats

"The outcome of the war is in our hands; the outcome of words is in the council." -Homer
Dear Coach,

Thanks for your article on the squat. [March 8, 2003] I concur with you. The potential danger with this exercise is two-fold, I believe. First, compressive forces are placed upon the spinal column due to the nature of the bar on the shoulder. Our disks are like shock absorbers and compress with force. 
Over time, excessive compression could lead to bulging disks. Second, again due to the nature of the bar placement, as the load increases the trunk must work harder to prevent flexion or forward lean during descent. This also places stress on the vertebrae. However, it is the combination of both compression and flexion during descent that creates the most problems for the lower spine L-4, 5, 6 and S-1.

I'd like to share a brief story. Several years ago, I was discussing strength training with a friend of mine who is an assistant football coach for a large, suburban Chicago high school. During our discussion, we began to talk about leg / hip development and I made some suggestions for exercise selection regarding his strength program. 
He stated that in order for his players to be competitive they had to perform the squat and the power clean. I related the potential dangers with these exercises to him, but he insisted that his team would be at a disadvantage if they did not perform them. He went on to say that all the teams in his conference performed these movements for "power and explosion." I then asked him if he was able to perform these movements (we are both 37). What he then stated to me is the epitome of the strength psyche, "No, I can't power clean or squat anymore because my back pain is so bad." I then asked how his back became injured. He replied, "Well, I know it was from all of the heavy squatting and power cleans I performed in high school and college." I answered, "Why would you want to set anyone else up for back pain later in life or maybe even in the present." He stated, "My high school coach said we could not be the best without these exercises. I want my kids to be the best, too." 
Sometimes, we have to reconsider what it means to be the best or what it takes to get there, especially when we have to sacrifice our health or the health of others to do so. God bless, keep up the good work.

John Mikula, CTRS
Certified Recreational Therapist

Mr. Mikula,

Thank you for the comments and the story. We too hear similar stories. Many coaches are ignorant to the safety and science of exercise. We know of a coach whom told a story about when he coached in college they were testing the athletes on the 1 rep-max. The athlete injured himself while lifting. This coach's reasoning for never using the 1RM anymore was that he did not have a back up for this injured player! Ignoring the unfortunate fact that the athlete got injured and ignoring the fact that he was training the athlete in an unsafe manner. It seems his lack of having a backup was of primary importance to him.

Thanks again for your comments. Please feel free to sound-off on any other safety concerns.

Jeff Roudebush

Mar 17, 2003

CCU Joins Our List

Happy St. Patrick's Day

CCU Joins Our List of Teams Using Safe Training Methods

Hi Coach,

Would it be possible for you to add us to your college/university list of schools. We too subscribe to this type of training and have been associated with many coaches of the teams (pro and college) that you have listed on your site.

Al Jean
Head Coach, Strength and Conditioning
Coastal Carolina University

Al, You've been added. S.A.

Mar 9, 2003

Another Safe Training College / Squat Update

"Associate with people of good qualities: it is better to be alone than in bad company." –Proverb
Dear Coach,

I just happened to come across your web site and wanted to let you know that Fairfield University up in Connecticut has been training safe and effective for two years now. I am the Director of the Strength and
Conditioning Program and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the field: John Philbin, Dan Riley, Mark Asanovich and Jeff Watson. All of these individuals have helped me become the Strength and Conditioning Coach that I am and I have continued to use what they have taught me. Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that there are more of us out there.

Professionally Yours,

Mark Spellman
Director of Strength and Conditioning
Fairfield University

Mr. Spellman,

Thank you for the information. We'll add Fairfield to our Teams Page. We are finding more and more Teams all the time that have the same philosophy. We have had great support from Ken Mannie, Matt Brzycki, Tom Kelso, Jim Bryan, Fred Cantor, Mike Lawrence and many others like you mentioned. If you have any other information or any success stories etc... we would love to hear about them and post them for our viewers.

--SA Exercise Update - Pre-Exhaustion

As we further our research in strength training and the training of athletes we would like to add additional thoughts to our first printing. The training program in our manual is designed for the weight room that may not be able to afford modern training machines. For this reason, we include strictly free weight exercises except for the leg press and pull down.

In this regard we strongly suggest that the coach take a concerned look at the squat. We would like to emphasize that there is nothing magical about placing a bar across one’s back to develop lower body strength. Please understand that there is some risk in placing a heavy load on the athlete’s vertebra. If one has access to modern leg press equipment this would be a super alternative to the squad.

However, if a coach needed or wanted to use the squat movement with his athletes there are some steps one can take to help reduce the risk. First, we suggest that the athlete pre-exhaust the legs with leg extensions, leg curls, and perform the leg press first. This will lessen the weight the athlete can use in the squat and still make the movement productive and intense. We also suggest a slower cadence 4 or 5 seconds for the eccentric and 4 or 5 seconds concentric part of the lift. This will allow the athlete to use less weight, which will alleviate some of the strain that might be put on the vertebral column.

We simply want for coaches to know why they do what they do in the weight room. “To squat or not to squat,” that is the question. If coaches can create as safe an environment as possible, that is the answer. Let us know what you think.

Mar 3, 2003

More Teams Training Smart

"An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." –II Timothy 2:5
Some followers of our website have recently become concerned that we are being misleading with the purpose of our Teams Page. We feel that it is important for readers to understand that we are not affiliated in any way with the teams listed, except for the two we directly coach. If a school or team is listed it simply means that they currently, or at one time, have trained with methods similar to our own, NOT our own. These teams have had coaches who believe in safety, efficiency, and strength productivity while producing better athletes.

We include some new teams to add to the list:

  • "Could you add Minnetonka High School to the list of non-Olympic high schools... thanks." Luke Carlson, Strength & Conditioning/Fitness Coordinator, Minnetonka High School, Minnetonka, MN
    Coach Carlson and his brother Ryan are hosting the 2003 Strength & Science Seminar in Minneapolis, MN. He writes, "The clinic will be held Saturday, April 12th at Minnetonka H.S. in the brand new 5,400 square foot Pagel Center. If you can imagine, it's much nicer then the Blaine H.S. weight room. Speakers will include Tom Kelso (Illinois-Chicago), Tim Wakeham (Mich. St.), Dr. Ted Lambridines, Matt Brzycki (Princeton), and Jim Flanagan. The seminar will include practical breakout sessions lead by me and Scott Savor (Detroit-Mercy). " Please contact Coach Carlson for more information.

  • Scott DiNardo gave us this scoop, "Hey, I talked with my guy from Siena College, Justin Livezey, and he said that all the teams use [safe, efficient and productive training]. So you can add another to the list.Coach DiNardo is currently seeking an opportunity to work in the collegiate strength and conditioning field. If any of our readers have any information in this regard please contact Coach DiNardo.
  • Coach Kelso, of University of Illinois at Chicago, informed us of Coach Ray "Rock" Oliver, who works with the University of Memphis basketball team and Coach Mike Bradley who also works with the basketball team at Florida State.Coach Kelso will be speaking at the Minnesota clinic along with other distinguished speakers. Don't miss the opportunity to learn from these coaches.
  • Two more local Kansas City high school track and field programs also train with safe, efficient and productive methods: Lincoln College Prep and St. Theresa Academy.
If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note.


***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the 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.***