Archive for October, 2008 Wrapup and Preview

Posted in Updates on October 31, 2008 by mboyle1959

Next weeks Strengthcoach Podcast features Matt McGetitgan from Air Force you can go to to listen . I’m really looking forward to that interview. This week on we had great articles. If you have a minute log on. You can try the site for 14 days for $1.

Jonas Beauchemin of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning and Todd Hamer’s of Robert Morris articles both have generated some great buzz. Next week we have a follow up to my Are You Afraid of Deadlifts article by Dewey Nielsen of Impact Ju-Jitsu. I had a chance to read it already and it is excellent. In addition, I just finished a very video-heavy article on ACL injury prevention called Is ACL Injury Prevention Just Good Training? In addition we will run the last article in Adam Feit’s How to Make it Big Series, How to Make it Big Part 3. If you haven’t read the series, search for parts 1 and 2 before you read three. This is an excellent series for any young person looking to enter the field of strength and conditioning. Have a Happy Halloween and a great weekend.


Concussions and Return to Sport

Posted in Injuries on October 29, 2008 by mboyle1959

My staff and I listened to a great, but disturbing presentation yesterday on concussions in our staff meeting. The presenter was Chris Nowinski, a former client. Chris played football at Harvard and then briefly became a professional wrestler. During a match Chris sustained a concussion but, continued to attempt to train and to wrestle. The result was a four year odyssey into the world of traumatic brain injury. Chris has since written a book, Head Games- Footballs Concussion Crisis from the NFL to Youth Leagues

as well as founding the Sports Legacy Institute . If you deal with athletes in any sport i urge you to check this out. I can guarantee it will change the way you think about concussions and potentally help some kids.

Nutritional Ah-Ha’s

Posted in Nutrition on October 28, 2008 by mboyle1959

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize I don’t know.  In a recent article I wrote called My Ah-Ha Moments I mentioned that corn is not a vegetable. I felt really stupid when I realized this. I have eaten corn my entire life and just assumed it was a vegetable. Now I know it is in fact a grain. Not only a grain but, the number one calorie source in the American diet. I picked up  a cereal box the other day and looked at the ingredients. Corn, sugar, high fructose corn syrup. Wow.

The makers of high fructose corn syrup ( the singular greatest source of calories in the American diet) have actually started an ad campaign based on the idea of “a little can’t hurt you”. Where have we heard that before. Someone wrote the other day that any time a company advertises that something is good for you there is a problem. Food for thought ( pun intended). Next time you pick something up check and see if it contains high fructose corn syrup.

Want good nutrition info, read The South Beach Diet. It’s an amazingly accurate book for such a cheesy name. Bottom line, Barry Sears has been right all along so while you are at it, read The Zone.

Early Specialization Part 2

Posted in Youth Training on October 25, 2008 by mboyle1959

In case you don’t read the comments, this was posted after part 1, I usually will not repost a cooment but, this leads to my next point

“Great article and I agree in principle. However, considering

soccer in the UK many of the development programmes for

talented kids are run by professional clubs and they force

the hand of children and parents. The clubs recruit players

at under 9 or younger as part of the Football Association

player development scheme. The numbers who actually

come through this system and play soccer for a living

are tiny! That is not to say that those who do not play

as their job drop out (no stats). My point is the early

specialisation in soccer has been made almost essential

for those who want to play at a high level. Individuals

who stay on a recreational team will be disadvantaged

when it comes to coaching opportunities and time with

a ball at their feet. I assume that it has become far more

difficult to play at the highest level without the systematic

training offered by Football Academies and Centre

of Excellences throughout the UK.”

This is exactly what is wrong with hockey in the US. It’s not pro clubs but youth clubs encouraging specialization. The “specialization” is why we have less and less skilled Americans in the NHL. The Europeans play a 40 game season and dominate the game currently. My guess is the UK will need to look outside the country for impact players as the system fails them.

Youth Sports- Early Specialization

Posted in Youth Training on October 24, 2008 by mboyle1959

There was a great article in the NY times about Elena Delle Donna,

It prompted me to post an old article I wrote. PS- Youth sports

is a mess we may never be able to clean up,

kind of like the economy.

Early Specialization

I’m not sure when the phenomenon of early specialization was born.

At some point a parent decided

“why not just fast-track our kids right past Little League and Pop

Warner and right into the Pros”. Parents in all sports felt

they could follow the lead of Earl Woods ( Tiger’s dad)

or Richard Williams ( Venus and Serena’s dad) and

just concentrate on one sport. I love to tell parent groups

that I speak to that for every Tiger Woods

or Venus Williams there are probably 5000 kids who hate

sports and resent their parents for all the pressure.

As a parent, ask yourself this question. Have you ever told

anyone “ I don’t push _(insert your child’s name)____ he/she

really wants to do this?” The latest one to fuel the early

specialization fire is tennis star Maria Sharapova.

The TV folks couldn’t wait to tell us at Wimbledon that she

had been holed up in Fla since age 7.

Check out this quote from LA Lakers Coach Phil Jackson:

“40 million kids play sports, and most of them are between

7 and 12. By the time they are

13 more than 70 percent of them have stopped playing

because it’s not fun anymore. All of a sudden when

kids get into junior high, we feel this need to have them

become professionals, and the coaches

become professionals… The message I’d like to get

out to them is to honor the game. The goal, or the victory

is important, but team sportsmanship, the

athletic endeavor itself is just as important.

One of the problems is that most team sports are what

are called late specialization sports. This mean that early

concentration/ specialization has actually been shown to

slow development rather than speed it up.

Historically the great players in team sports seem to hone

their competitive instincts and develop their athleticism

in a number of sports and then begin

to specialize in their teens. In addition early specialization

often leads to dysfunctional parent/ child relationships.

The early search for the Holy Grail places undue pressure

on a young athlete who should be learning that sports are

actually fun, not just about winning. Believe it or not,

kids play for fun and, will actually attempt to make the teams

fair and encourage competition when

left to their own devices. Remember when you were a kid

and the teams were uneven. You made trades to create

a competitive game. The thrill was competition, not winning.

For many youth sport parents the idea

of fair teams is an anomaly. Stack the team. Get the best

players. Annihilate the competition. Get a scholarship.

Make money.Lets look at the following examples

Nomar Garciaparra ( Boston Red Sox)- played football,

soccer and baseball in high school. He actually attempted

to play football as a kicker while on a baseball

scholarship at Georgia Tech

Mia Hamm ( All Time Leading scorer in US soccer history)-

multi-sport star in high school

Kristine Lilly ( Leads the World in International Soccer Appearances)-

captained three sports at Wilton, Conn HS.

Brendan Shanhan ( Detroit Red Wings) outstanding

Box Lacrosse player prior to entering the NHL.

Katie King- ( US Women’s Ice Hockey, two time Olympian,

current Boston College Women’s Hockey head Coach)

played both Ice Hockey and Softball at Brown University in

Providence, R.I..

And the list could go on forever. Early specialization

is a phenomenon created by self-interested and financially

motivated adults. It has little basis in fact and, the data

seem to support the opposite. This is just

some parental food for thought. There is no evidence t

o support the theory that early specialization leads to

long-term success. In fact, there is evidence to the

contrary as stated above. If you want your

child to be a great athlete, don’t focus on one sport,

play a different sport each season. The people who

encourage early specialization are all people with a

financial interest in your child playing

one sport year round. Those encouraging early

specialization usuallyrun the leagues, camps and skill

sessions and they fill the parents full

of ideas that have no basis in fact. None of the

players mentioned above left home at 14 to go to prep

school or, just played one sport from

age 6. The definition of insanity is doing the same

thing over and over and expecting the result to change.

Maybe we should just try the way that

worked in the first place?

Trauma Injuries versus Overuse Injuries

Posted in Injuries on October 22, 2008 by mboyle1959

Trauma versus Overuse?

There are two types of injuries, trauma and overuse. Our sports medical model is based in the trauma model. The trauma model works great if you sustained a sports injury from a collision etc.. It doesn’t work as well for gradual onset injuries like tendonitis.

The problem is if the mechanisms have nothing in common, chances are the treatments are not going to be similar either. Trauma treatment revolves around the RICE concept. ( rest, ice, compression, elevation) or possibly surgery. The overuse model involves much more. If your problem took time to develop, it will probably not be solved with a conventional approach. Rest and ice will only cure your tendonitis until you start working out again.

Just remember, cleaning up the puddle is not the same as fixing the leak. If you have water on the floor, you’d better look on the roof. The solution is not on the floor.

We posted three articles about Sports Hernias that illustrate just this concept at

This Week on

Posted in Updates on October 21, 2008 by mboyle1959

If you like what you see here, you can log on to We generally have three new articles per week, all dealing with strength and conditioning. This week we have:

Brett Klika of Fitness Quest 10- Conditioning Young Athletes – Tired vs Trained
Michael Boyle – In Season Training Part 2 ( we already excerpted this but ,the program is posted on the site w/ the article)
Jonas Beachemin from Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning- Comprehensive Training Program for Knee Rehab Continuation
Jonas’ article is a detailed look at knee rehab for the strength and conditioning coach.

In- Season Training

Posted in Training on October 20, 2008 by mboyle1959

As I always say, I love the forum at The posts and threads seem to provide a wealth of article ideas. A recent post on in-season training made me aware that, in spite of writing 3 articles in the past year dealing with in-season training, I still had left some ground uncovered.

Consecutive Days?

On question that came up centered on training on consecutive days. I have always recommended two day in-season programs. One reader took this to mean that it would be OK to train two days but to use consecutive days and do an upper-lower split. This in my mind defeats the purpose. Let me clear things up, In season training should consist of two non-consecutive total body workouts. Doing a split routine is actually like training once, not twice.

Sets and Reps

Sets and reps is easy. I like to undulate my reps every three weeks and, I like to keep sets low. Three sets of an exercise would be very high volume for us in season. Most often we do 1-2 sets. We rarely go beyond 10 reps in-season. We also rarely do less than three reps. For power exercises we simply alternate between 3 sets of 3 and 3 sets of 5. For strength exercises we will use 3×3, 2×5, or 2×10. Most assistance type exercises wil be done for 2 sets of 10 all through the in-season period.

Ladders, Plyos, Agilities etc.

Another question that comes up frequently is “what about ladder work, agility, plyos?” The in-season program is a strength program. If we lift post practice we don’t do any pre-workout, preparatory things. We come off the ice, we pick up pour sheets and we begin lifting. If we lift prior to practice we follow our “normal” pre-practice routine of foam rolling, static stretching and dynamic warm-ups. However we rarely do any speed, agility or quickness exercises in season. I’m not sure if others do but, my goal is to use the time allotted to work on strength.

I’ll be posting this as an article this week at along with a sample of our inseason program.

Psychology Trumps Physiology Every Time

Posted in Training on October 19, 2008 by mboyle1959

My friend Alwyn Cosgrove has a way with words. He has the ability to succinctly sum things up. Last year I was describing some training results that did not seem physiologically correct. I had been doing circuit training with my athletes, primarily for teambuilding purposes. However the circuits we were doing were causing excellent strength gains. I was dumb founded. I was doing things that should not produce strength gains yet they were gaining strength.

Alwyn summed it up simply by saying “Psychology trumps physiology every time”. As usual, I grabbed my notebook and wrote Alwyn’s thought down. Sometimes as a coach we can’t see the forest because of the trees. I was trying to design the perfect program with the perfect balance of sets, and reps. What I wasn’t getting was the effect of peer pressure. Athletes pushing each through a circuit was causing an increase in effort.

I think it is easy to get caught up in concepts. How CNS intensive is the training, how much rest between sets etc. etc.? However, what we often miss is the human element. When I think of many of the coaches I know who are having great success with strength increases one thing they all have in common is the emphasis on effort and environment. If you read Jason Ferrugia’s work or Joe DeFranco’s work or any of the WestSide info wordslike effort, intensity and environment always seem to come up.

This past summer I experimented with a combination of HIT and peer pressure. We did a “test” almost every day. Tests could be 1 RM, 5 RM, or 10 RM but, what they had in common was an attempt to get as many perfect reps as possible with all your teammates watching. It was both fun and productive.

I think it is way too easy to get caught up in the science and forget that young athletes will respond under pressure. Next time you think program design, remember Alwyn’s words “psychology trumps physiology every time”.

MBSC Winter Seminar

Posted in Seminars on October 18, 2008 by mboyle1959

My friend Kevin Larabee of the FitCast fame (, I think) made the observation that I had left off our annual Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning Winter Seminar from the speaking schedule. I commented but, figured that a longer explanation might be needed. I left it off because we haven’t set up a website to take sign ups and we hadn’t finalized topics. That was probably short sighted so, here is what I do know.

The speakers will be Eric Cresssey, Mike Robertson, Brijesh Patel, and John Pallof, in addition to me. Topics are trickling in. We should have a more formal announcement in a week or so.