A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Earners are Learners. The post originated from the book Aspire- Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words. I always think the best recommendation for a book is when I buy it for my staff. I bought 25 copies of Aspire for my staff and just counted over 30 dog eared pages in my copy. If you don’t have an Amazon account, open one today and make Aspire your first purchase.
Archive for the Random Thoughts Category
The following is excerpted from a piece I wrote previously and is used with the permission of http://www.strengthcoach.com
Training for the forty yard dash is an interesting process and has become a near obsession in football. The reality is that most athletes are looking to reduce the forty-yard dash time by as little as .1 to .2 seconds. In order to accomplish a one to two tenths of a second reduction I have always advocated training for the first ten yard segment of the forty yard, as this is the area of greatest potential change.
In fact when training athletes for the NFL Combine I have never had an athlete run longer than a twenty-yard dash. Our athletes routinely have gone to the NFL Combine without ever having run a forty-yard dash. To some this may seem foolish but I prefer to view the process as both intelligent and cautious. Athletes rarely injure themselves running a ten-yard dash but often seem to incur muscle strains from repeat forty-yard dash attempts.
In fact, in a race that takes from 4.3 seconds to 5.3 seconds to complete at the elite level, the first ten-yard segment takes the longest time and by default is the easiest to impact. Ten-yard dash times range from 1.5 seconds to 2 seconds.
Each proceeding ten yard segment taking roughly 1 to 1.1 seconds to complete. By simply improving performance in the ten-yard dash, we can easily take off the elusive .1 seconds that so many athletes are looking for. In fact for most elite athletes the forty-yard dash is actually a test of acceleration and not one of speed. I believe we mistakenly use the term speed when in fact we are referring to acceleration. When we say an athlete has great speed we actually mean that he or she has great acceleration. In the famous Ben Johnson versus Carl Lewis races top speed was not reached until the 60-meter mark. This means that the athletes continued to accelerate for a full 60 meters. An athlete that runs a 1.5 second ten yard dash may be capable of a 4.3 second forty yard dash. However, the athlete may run a 1.5 second first ten segment and 2.6 second twenty. This means that the acceleration pattern is as follows:
0-10 1.5 sec
10-20 1.1 sec
When looking at the chart above it becomes glaringly obvious that the initial segment takes 1.5 times the length of the other three. As a result it is obviously the segment most apt to be altered.
Think about this. The forty-yard dash should be run in approximately seventeen steps. Simple. An athlete with a normal stride length will measure out at about 7.5 feet. This means that a reasonably good sprinter will cover 15 feet, or five yards, every two steps. I believe the big key to the forty yard dash is to get the athlete to develop stride length in the first ten yard segment by pushing, not overreaching. Why seventeen? The first five-yard segment should take three steps; the remaining seven segments would take two steps each for a total of seventeen steps. Is seventeen the magic number? No. The key is to teach athletes to push, not reach and to minimize stutter steps. We try to get our athletes to master three steps for five yards and five steps for ten yards and, to do it without a reaching action. We continue to emphasize that stride length is a function of back-side action-reaction and not front side reach. We teach lots of push with no emphasis on stride length from the front side mechanics. In fact we never do B-skip type drills, as I believe they teach improper mechanics and are not appropriate for forty-yard sprinters.
Here are the keys to the first ten yards.
- Is the athlete moving quickly or does he look like he is moving quickly? What does this mean? Many athletes come out of the start with great turnover and go nowhere. They remind me of the Roadrunner from the cartoons. Wheels spinning and going nowhere fast. Often these guys look fast and run slow. Generally these guys are fast twitch athletes who do not like the weight room. The great accelerators often look slow coming out because they are producing great force and minimized steps. Running is all about Newton’s First Law. Action-Reaction. Force placed into the ground produces motion forward, very simple. The start is clearly not about turnover or frequency but about force into the ground. This is the reason there is such a strong correlation between vertical jump and forty-yard dash times. Vertical jump is simply a measure of Newton’s First law. When an athlete applies force into the ground, the ground applies force back in an equal and opposite manner. More force, more vertical displacement.
- Have you timed your athletes for a 10 and 20-yard dash? As I said in the previous paragraph I’ve seen slow guys with lots of turnover and very little movement? Try being objective versus subjective. Time your athletes not just in the forty, but also in the ten and twenty. 1.5 sec hand held is fast. 1.8 is average for a ten (adult male).
- Next, video the ten yard dash and the twenty yard dash. See how many steps it takes an athlete to run ten and twenty yards. Don’t tell the athlete to cut down steps, simply tell him to push the ground as hard as possible. Simply telling an athlete that you are counting steps will cause over striding. You want to see how many steps it takes. This will tell you if you have an athlete who is moving his feet but not applying any force. A good sprinter will run the 10 in 5-6 steps and the 20 in 9-10 steps.
- Also look at the video and see the first step. Does the athlete gain ground? A good indicator of a powerful start is that the foot taking the second step does not touch the ground while the front foot is still on the line. In other words, after step one you should not see two feet in contact with the ground. You will be amazed at how many guys simply step out of the start instead of pushing out of the start. Just as we confuse speed and acceleration, we often confuse first step and first push. A quick first step does nothing. It is the push that creates the action-reaction, not the step. What you want is great push, not a great step. This also relates to stride length. Stride length is accomplished by great forces placed into the ground, not by things like knee lift.
- Another great indicator that the athlete is beginning to understand powerful starts is when the athlete appears to be falling forward out of the start, almost out of control. I tell my athletes to drive themselves out of the start so aggressively that they almost fall flat on their face. I cheer if they look like they are going to fall. That shows me great aggressive push.
- Time each test three times. Either average all three or take the middle, throwing out the high and low. You don’t want to record a mistake. Electronic timers don’t make mistakes unless there is a malfunction. Throw out scores that are obviously wrong.
- Weight is on the front hand and foot. This is not track. There is no block. The back foot can be minimally helpful.
- Hips are low, don’t raise the butt. You can’t push out from straight legs.
- Never take instructions from a track coach on forty technique. They are used to blocks, you don’t have them.
- Eyes are between the hand and foot. Don’t look up. The head should be in a normal anatomical position
- Weight should be so far forward that if you don’t run, you would fall.
1. Dive Starts- have the athlete dive into a crash pad from the start position. This is a great drill for teaching first-push power
2. Timed 10’s- I love timed tens. I try to watch the start and count the steps. We use a Speed Trap timer and don’t watch the clock. We will time every week, sometimes twice a week. A few rules.
• Tell the athletes only three attempts per day. This leaves time for the athlete to ask for “one more” at least twice. I really want to time five reps but, always tell them three.
• Try to get the athletes to forget about the timer and concentrate on the technical things you want done. Big push out of the start, great hip extension etc.
• Please note: – the use of a timer is an excellent way to reduce anxiety about being timed. My athletes are very comfortable about being timed by the time the Combine or Pro Day comes around. It also should be noted that many athletes will choke and revert to old patterns as soon as a timing device is presented. Timing early and often allows the athlete to see the changes in pattern like stepping out of the start or stuttering. The timer also generally reinforces that these behaviors are slower, not faster. Frequent use of the timer does what the book The One Minute Manager calls “catching someone doing something right”. We focus on execution, not time. Great execution will lead to better times, which will ingrain proper habits.
3. 3 for 5, 5 for ten (this is a tough drill as you will constantly have to emphasize that stride length comes from push, not reach, be careful with this drill) I view this as an advanced drill and one that must be monitored constantly. Success is not accomplished by number of steps or strides but quality of strides.
4. One Leg Starts- this is another great drill to teach the athlete how to use the front foot in the start. Simply ask the athlete to run a series of timed tens using only the front foot. This will teach the athlete how to focus on exploding of the front leg. Often our athletes will move from abysmal at this drill to being able to run as fast as from a three point start.
Just a reminder, these drills will improve what you already have. They are teaching drills. The real key to speed lies in increasing force production. To really improve speed these drills and cues must be combined with a lower body strength and power program that emphasizes maximal strength. Don’t underestimate the value of force production in the forty.
Another reminder, if you really want to understand speed, pick up a copy of Charlie Francis Training for Speed. Charlie Francis hits on basic concepts in a way no one has before or after. In spite of any perceived scandal Francis is still the best sprint coach of all time.
I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all yelled at a ref or “car coached”. I can tell you that my daughter once told her friends that it was important to play well if the ride home was long. I guess I’ve “car coached” too much already.
This is a good reminder from the folks at USA Hockey
I don’t get excited about a new product very often but the Assault Air Bike is the souped up AirDyne we always wished someone would make (and it’s not a Schwinn). I know, it looks just like the AirDyne but that is until you look closely. Every part of the old AirDyne that broke down has been changed. The pedal assembly is one piece which is key. I’ve been on it for three week and love it. A word of caution, they changed the gears and it is much harder. By my estimates 40% harder. This means harder workouts and more durability. The bike has a built in Tabata ( 20/10) and a built in 10/20 for quick, tough rides. Get one and ride it, you’ll be sold. We are going to get 9 more soon.
The following is an excerpt from my second book Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities. You can get a copy for free when you join StrengthCoach.com
We are strength and conditioning coaches. I don’t know if I really like some of the fancy terms like “performance enhancement specialist” or some of the other names that have been developed to describe our profession. I understand that the intent is to give us a more professional appearance. I say this only because the key is coaching. I like the term coach. My father was a coach. Jack Parker, the longtime Boston University hockey coach is always referred to as “coach” by our current and former players. Although I have known him for twenty years I have never called him Jack. It is in my mind one of the greatest signs of respect to be referred to as “coach”. There are many intelligent people in our profession who can write a good program or give a good presentation. However, there are only a few great coaches. The great coaches produce great results. They produce great technical lifters and great performers on the field or court. I have often been asked what I think has made me more successful than the average person in our field. I don’t think that I am smarter or work harder than some of my peers. My answer to the question is that I can get people to do what I want them to do. I make them understand the importance of being attentive to all the details. The information that follows is information we give to all of our coaches prior to the start of our sessions. I believe that anyone who coaches or personal trains will find it valuable. To read more go to www.strengthcoach.com .
This is one of the best articles I’ve ever written and I like to post it as a reminder every year.
25 Mistakes- 25 Years
This year I’ll enter my twenty-fifth year as a strength and conditioning coach. Last month I watched Barbara Walters celebrate her thirtieth year with a special called “30 Mistakes in 30 Years.” I’m going to celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary by telling you my top twenty-five mistakes. Hopefully I’ll save you some time, pain, and injury. Experience is a wonderful but impatient teacher. And unfortunately, our experiences in strength and conditioning sometimes hurt people besides us.
Mistake #1: Knowing it all.
I love Oscar Wilde’s quote, “I’m much too old to know everything.” Omniscience is reserved for the young. As the old saying goes, you have one mouth and two ears for a reason. I’d take it a step further and say the ratio is four to one: two eyes, two ears, and one mouth.
To continue down the cliché road, how about this one: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” When I was young I had many answers and few questions. I knew the best way to do everything. Now that I’m older I’m not sure if I even know a good way to do anything.
Mistake #2: Not taking interns sooner
I was so smart that no one was smart enough to help me. (See mistake number one.) My productivity increased drastically when I began to take interns.
Note: Interns aren’t janitors, laundry workers, or slaves. They’re generally young people who look up to you and expect to learn. Take your responsibility seriously. Remember the golden rule.
Mistake #3: Not visiting other coaches
God, it seems everything goes back to number one! I was too busy running the perfect program to attempt to go learn from someone else. Plus, when you know it all, how much can you learn?
Find the good coaches or trainers in your area (or in any area you visit) and arrange to meet them or just watch them work. I often will just sit with a notebook and try to see what they do better than I do.
I can remember current San Francisco 49′ers strength and conditioning coach Johnny Parker allowing us to visit when he was with the New England Patriots and then asking us questions about what we saw and what we thought he could do better. Coach Parker is a humble man who always provided a great example of the type of coach and person I wanted to be.
Mistake #4: Putting square pegs in round holes
The bottom line is that not everyone is made to squat or to clean. I rarely squatted with my basketball players as many found squatting uncomfortable for their backs and knees.
It killed me to stop because the squat is a lift I fundamentally believed in, but athletes with long femurs will be poor squatters. It’s physics. It took me a while to realize that a good lift isn’t good for everybody.
Mistake #5: Not attending the United States Weightlifting Championships sooner
My only visit as a spectator to an Olympic lifting meet made me realize that Olympic lifts produced great athletes. I know this will piss off the powerlifters, but those Olympic lifters looked so much more athletic.
I remember being at the Senior’s when they were held in Massachusetts in the early eighties and walking away thinking, “This is what I want my athletes to look like.” Understand, at that time I was a competitive powerlifter and my programs reflected that.
Mistake #6: Being a strength coach
How can that be a mistake? Let’s look at the evolution of the job. When I started, I was often referred to as the “weight coach.” As the profession evolved, we became strength coaches, then strength and conditioning coaches, and today many refer to themselves as “performance enhancement specialists.”
All these names reflect the changes in our job. For too many years, I was a strength coach. Eventually I realized that I knew more about conditioning than the sport coaches did, so we took on that responsibility. Later, I realized that I often knew more about movement than the sport coaches too, so we began to teach movement skills. This process took close to eighteen of my twenty-five years. I wish it had been faster.
Mistake #7: Adding without subtracting
Over the years we’ve continued to add more and more CNS intensive training techniques to our arsenal. Squatting, Olympic lifting, sprinting, pulling sleds, and jumping all are (or can be) CNS intensive.
I think I do too much CNS intensive work, and intend to change that. My thanks go out to Jason Ferrugia for pointing out this one.
Mistake #8: Listening to track coaches
Please don’t get me wrong. Some of the people who were most influential in my professional development were track coaches. I learned volumes from guys like Don Chu, Vern Gambetta, Charlie Francis, and Brent McFarland.
However, it took me too long to realize that they coached people who ran upright almost all the time and never had to stop or to change direction. The old joke in track coaching is that it really comes down to “run fast and lean left.”
Mistake #9: Not meeting Mark Verstegen sooner
Mark may be the most misunderstood guy in our field. He’s a great coach and a better friend. About ten years ago a friend brought me a magazine article about Mark Verstegen. The article demonstrated some interesting drills that I’d never seen. I decided my next vacation would be to Florida’s Gulf Coast as Mark was then in Bradenton, Florida.
I was lucky enough to know Darryl Eto, a genius in his own right, who was a co-worker of Mark’s. In the small world category, Darryl’s college coach was the legendary Don Chu.
Darryl arranged for me to observe some training sessions in Bradenton. I sat fascinated for hours as I watched great young coaches work. Mark was one of the first to break out of the track mold we were all stuck in and teach lateral and multi-directional movement with the same skill that the track coaches taught linear movement. This process was a quantum leap for me and became a quantum leap for my athletes.
This was my step from strength and conditioning coach to performance enhancement specialist (although I never refer to myself as the latter). The key to this process was accepting the fact that Mark and his co-workers were far ahead of me in this critical area.
Mistake #10: Copying plyometric programs
This goes back to the track coach thing. I believe I injured a few athletes in my career by simply taking what I was told and attempting to do it with my athletes. I’ve since learned to filter information better, but the way I learned was through trial and error… and the error probably resulted in sore knees or sore backs for my athletes.
Track jumpers are unique and clearly are involved in track and field because they’re suited for it. What’s good for a long jumper is probably not good for a football lineman. It took me too long to realize this.
Mistake #11: Copying any programs
Luckily for me, I rarely copied strength programs when training my athletes. This mistake might be beyond the statute of limitations as it was more than twenty-five years ago.
I think copying the training programs of great powerlifters like George Frenn and Roger Estep left me with the sore back and bad shoulders I’ve carried around for the last twenty-five years. What works for the genetically gifted probably won’t work for the genetically average.
Mistake #12: Not teaching my athletes to snatch sooner
We’ve done snatches for probably the last seven or eight years. The snatch is a great lift that’s easier to learn than the clean and has greater athletic carryover. Take the time to try it and study it. You’ll thank me.
Mistake #13: Starting to teach snatches with a snatch grip
When I realized that snatches would be a great lift for my athletes I began to implement them into my programs. Within a week some athletes complained of shoulder pain. In two weeks, so many complained that I took snatches out of the program. It wasn’t until I revisited the snatch with a clean grip that I truly began to see the benefits.
Just remember, the only reason Olympic lifters use a wide snatch grip is so that they can reduce the distance the bar travels and as a result lift more weight. Close-grip snatches markedly decrease the external rotation component and also increase the distance traveled. The result is a better lift, but less weight.
Mistake #14: Confusing disagree with dislike
I think it’s great to disagree. The field would be boring if we all agreed. What I realize now is that I’ve met very few people in this field I don’t like and many I disagree with. I probably enjoy life more now that I don’t feel compelled to ignore those who don’t agree with me.
Mistake #15: Confusing reading with believing
This concept came to me by way of strength coach Martin Rooney. It’s great to read. We just need to remember that in spite of the best efforts of editors, what we read may not always be true.
If the book is more than two years old, there’s a good chance even the author no longer agrees with all the information in it. Read often, but read analytically.
Mistake #16: Listening to paid experts
Early on, many of us were duped by the people from companies like Cybex or Nautilus. Their experts proclaimed their systems to be the future, but now the cam and isokinetics are the past. Just as in any other field, people will say things for money.
Mistake #17: Not attending one seminar per year just as a participant
I speak approximately twenty times a year. Most times I stay and listen to the other speakers. If you don’t do continuing education, start. If you work in the continuing education field, go to at least one seminar given by an expert in your field as a participant.
(Note: Mistakes 18-25 are more personal than professional, but keep reading!)
Mistake #18: Not taking enough vacation time
When I first worked at Boston University we were allowed two weeks paid vacation. For the first ten years I never took more than one.
Usually I took off the week between Christmas and New Years. This is an expensive week to vacation, but it meant that I’d miss the least number of workouts since most of my athletes were home at this time. I think the first time I took a week off in the summer was about four years ago. My rationale? Summer is peak training time. Can’t miss one of those weeks.
I think there’s a thin line between dedication and stupidity, and I often crossed it. I think in my early years I was more disappointed that the whole program hadn’t collapsed during any of my brief absences. I felt less valuable when I returned from a seminar and realized that everything had gone great.
Stephen Covey refers to it as “sharpening the saw.” Take the time to vacation. You’ll be better for it.
Mistake #19: Neglecting your own health
This is an embarrassing story, but this article is all about helping others to not repeat my errors. Every year in February I’d find myself in the doctor’s office with a different complaint: gastro-intestinal problems, headaches, flu-type illnesses, etc. I had a wonderful general practitioner who took a great interest in his patients. His response year after year was the same: slow down. You can’t work 60-80 hours a week and be healthy.
Like a fool I yessed him to death and went back to my schedule. After about the fifth year of this process my doctor said, “I need to refer you to a specialist who can help you with this problem” and he handed me a card. I was expecting an allergist or perhaps some type of holistic stress expert. Instead I found myself holding a card for a psychiatrist.
My doctor’s response was simple. I can’t help you. You need to figure out why you continue to do this to yourself year in and year out. I went outside and called my wife. I told her it was a “good news-bad news” scenario. I wasn’t seriously ill, but I might be crazy. Unfortunately, she already knew this.
Mistake #20: Not recognizing stress
Again I remember talking to a nurse who was treating me for a gastrointestinal problem. I seemed to have chronic heartburn. Her first question was, “Are you under any stress?” My response was the usual. Me? Stress? I have the greatest job in the world. I love going to work every day!
Do you know what her response was? She said, “Remember, stress isn’t always negative.” It was the first time I’d really thought about that. My job was stressful. Long days, weekend travel, too many late nights celebrating victories or drowning sorrows. A part-time job to make extra money meant working at a bar on Friday and Saturday until 2 AM, and that was often followed by drinks until 4 AM.
Sounds like fun, but it added up to stress. The lesson: stress doesn’t have to be negative. Stress can just be from volume.
Mistake #21: Not having kids sooner
As a typical type-A asshole know-it-all, I was way too busy to be bothered with kids. They would simply be little people who got in the way of my plans to change the world of strength and conditioning. I regret that I probably won’t live to 100. If I did I’d get to spend another 53 years with my kids.
Mistake #22: Neglecting my wife
See above. It wasn’t until I had children that I truly realized how my obsession with work caused me to neglect my wife. I have often apologized to her, but probably not often enough.
Mistake #23: Not taking naps
Do you see the pattern here? Whether we’re personal trainers or strength and conditioning coaches, the badge of honor is often lack of sleep. How often have you heard someone say, “I only need five hours a night!”
In the last few years I’ve tried to take a nap every day I’m able. As we age we sleep less at night and get up earlier. I’m not sure if this is a good thing. I know when I’m well-rested I’m a better husband and father than when I’m exhausted at the end of a day that might have begun at 4:45 AM.
There’s no shame in sleep, although I think many would try to make us believe there is.
Mistake #24: Not giving enough to charity
Most of us are lucky. Try to think of those who have less than you. I’m not a religious person, but I’ve been blessed with a great life. I try every day to “pay it forward.” If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it. The more you give, the more you get.
Mistake #25: Reading an article like this and thinking it doesn’t apply to you
Trust me, denial is our biggest problem.
Read this Mercola.com piece on the number one use of corn. The number one calories source in our diet and, guess what else…
( the following is reprinted for a third time. Back in 2009 I might get a few hundred views. This time I might get a few thousand. I’m not sure where I posted it first by this is the third time on this site.)
Imagine you are sixteen years old and your parents give you your first car. They also give you simple instructions. There is one small hitch, you only get one car, you can never get another. Never. No trade-ins, no trade-ups. Nothing.
Ask your self how would you maintain that car? My guess is you would be meticulous. Frequent oil changes, proper fuel, etc. Now imagine if your parents also told you that none of the replacement parts for this car would ever work as well as the original parts. Not only that, the replacement parts would be expensive to install and cause you to have decreased use of your car for the rest of the cars useful life? In other words, the car would continue to run but, not at the same speed and with the efficiency you were used to.
Wow, now would we ever put a lot of time and effort into maintenance if that were the case.
After reading the above example ask yourself another question. Why is the human body different? Why do we act as if we don’t care about the one body we were given. Same deal. You only get one body. No returns or trade-ins. Sure, we can replace parts but boy it’s a lot of work and it hurts. Besides, the stuff they put in never works as well as the original “factory” parts. The replacement knee or hip doesn’t give you the same feel and performance as the original part.
Think about it. One body. You determine the mileage? You set the maintenance plan?
No refunds, no warranties, no do-overs?
How about this perspective? One of my clients is a very successful businessman. He often is asked to speak to various groups. One thing he tells every group is that you are going to spend time and money on your health. The truth is the process can be a proactive one or a reactive one. Money spent on your health can take the form of a personal trainer, massage therapist and a gym membership or, it can be money spent on cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and plastic surgeons. Either way, you will spend money.
Same goes for time. You can go to the gym or, to the doctors office. It’s up to you. Either way, you will spend time. Some people say things like “I hate to work out”. Try sitting in the emergency room for a few hours and then get back to me. Working out may not seem so bad. Much like a car, a little preventative maintenance can go a long way. However, in so many ways the body is better than a car. With some good hard work you can turn back the odometer on the body. I wrote an article a while back ( Strength Training- The Fountain of Youth) that discussed a study done by McMaster University which showed that muscle tissue of older subjects actually changed at the cellular level and looked more like the younger control subjects after strength training.
Do me a favor, spend some time on preventative maintenance, it beats the heck out of the alternative. Just remember, you will spend both time and money.
Here is a simple horizontal push progression in our continuing series of progressions. We like to look at “loading tools” and “teaching tools”. For teaching tools we like planks, squeezing an airex between the knees to tighten the core, and chin tucks. I like to cue “chest down, not chin down” as most people “peck” with their head.
For loading we use both weight vests and plates. Plates are quicker, vests work better. Depends on your situation.
1-Incline Pushup- my standard joke, “the only good use for a Smith Machine” Make sure the wrist stays stiff.
Heres another version
2- Pushup- nothing fancy here but we want to get to flat ground with great form.
a simple progression is to add a weight vest
3- Feet Elevated Pushup- an exercise bench works great here
4- BOSU Pushup ( feet elevated)- I’m not a huge BOSU fan but I do love upper body instability.
5- Weighted Pushup ( feet elevated) -
6- BOSU/ Weighted/ Feet Elevated- heres one of my 60+ clients with a great demo
7- Rings/ Weighted/ Feet Elevated
The bottom line is you can really progress pushups. Don’t view them as a bodyweight exercise, view them as a strength exercise. If you can do ten, make it harder.