Archive for November, 2011

Using a Weighted Sled to Improve Speed

Posted in Random Thoughts, Updates, Training, Training Females, Uncategorized, Youth Training with tags , on November 16, 2011 by mboyle1959

I wrote this a few years ago for but, the topic keeps coming up.

Before even beginning, lets clear up one point.

Sport is about acceleration, not speed.

We have a problem in sports. Coaches consistently use the wrong term when discussing the quantity they covet most. Tests like the ten, twenty and forty yard dash are actually tests of acceleration not speed. You only need to look at world-class sprinters to realize that top speed is not even achieved until approximately 60 meters. As coaches our interest is not in top speed but, rather in acceleration, the zero to sixty of the auto world. How rapidly an athlete accelerates will determine success in team sports, not what the athletes absolute speed is.

Why does this matter? Because a great deal of the research on speed development focuses on speed in a track and field context and not in a sport context. In track the shortest event is the 55 meters, in sport the long event is a forty yard dash (although baseball will go 60). The track influence may in fact have limited application to sport due to sports frequent use of acceleration mechanics versus speed mechanics. In training for track, coaches frequently make reference to the pulling action in running and work on drills to develop a pawing action against the ground. In sport the action is primarily pushing with the center of gravity slightly ahead of the feet, kind of a reverse Michael Johnson. This may mean that much of what we currently view as speed development may have limited application to team sport athletes.

Numerous studies have discredited the weighted sled as a tool for speed development citing the sleds limited effect on top speed. In truth, the evidence that weighted sleds may not improve top speed running, does not apply to acceleration and may have led us to undervalue a potentially valuable piece of equipment. In fact many authors who have stated that the weighted sled did not improve speed, do indicate that it will improve acceleration. Our problem has been that we misinterpreted the results of the research. Most coaches spend time working on form running and technique to improve speed. These same coaches also include lower body strength workouts to improve strength. Although these are both obviously important there may be a missing link. The development of specific strength. How often do we see athletes who run “pretty” but not fast? In my opinion many coaches attempting to develop speed spend far too much time on technique drills and far too little time on developing the specific power and specific strength necessary run faster. In fact in 2000 The Journal of Applied Physiology published an article called Mechanical Basis of Human Running Speed. The article synopsis begins with the line “faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces, not more rapid leg movements”. This has become known as the Weyand study after lead researcher Peter Weyand. Weighted sled drills target the specific muscles used in sprinting and help to bridge the gap between form running drills and weight room exercises like squats and Olympic lifts.

Many athletes can squat large amounts of weight. Far fewer athletes seem to be able to run fast. Any student of speed will tell you that many of the strength exercises commonly recommended for speed development work hip extension but, not hip hyperextension. In running fast, all of the force production is from hip hyperextension. The ability to apply force to the ground and create forward movement can only occur when the foot is placed under the center of mass and pushed back Although squats etc. will train the muscles involved, the training is not specific to the act of sprinting. This may be one reason we see a higher correlation to vertical jump improvement than to speed improvement through strength training. A weighted sled teaches strong athletes how to produce the type of force that moves them forward. The sports scientists like to break this down into special strength and specific strength. Although I believe the difference is minimal. It is important to understand the difference between the two quantities.

Special Strength – movements with resistance that incorporate the joint dynamics of the skill. Sled marching would fall into the special strength category. I believe that sled marching may in fact be the best tool available for speed development. An athlete’s inability to produce force in the action of sprinting becomes glaringly obvious in sled marching.

Specific Strength – movements with resistance that are imitative of the joint action. I would place sled running in the specific strength category

In the past coaches have recommended that resisted speed development work must not slow the athlete down more than 10% or must not involve more than 10% of the athletes bodyweight. These recommendations seem to be based on motor learning research that indicated that excessive loads would alter the motor patterns of activities like sprinting or throwing. I have always felt that there was a missing link to speed development but, until a few years ago this so called “10% rule” kept me from aggressively pursuing my gut feeling. Presently, my feeling is that loads up to and exceeding the athletes’ bodyweight can be used for special strength work as long as the athlete exhibits a similar motor pattern. Think of sled marching as a special type of leg press. Athletes incorporate the joint dynamics of sprinting through hip hyperextension against resistance. This can be an extremely heavy movement as long as we get a technically sound march action ( perfect posture)

With sled running, the approach moves toward specific strength. In sled running the loads will obviously be lighter but, I still do not follow the 10% rule. The main variable in sled training is not the weight on the sled but, the motor pattern. If an athlete can hold an acceleration position and run without altering mechanics than this is a specific strength exercise for sprinting. Why should we be limited by arbitrary guidelines like a 10% load or a 10% decrease in speed. Over twenty yards, ten percent is 2 one-hundreths of a second. The key should be to look at the athletes posture and motor pattern. If the athlete has to alter the mechanics to produce the desired action than the load is too heavy. The so-called 10% rule does not allow us to apply progressive resistance concepts to this form of training.

Another obvious but overlooked variable that alters the so-called 10% rule is the surface being run on. Loads placed on the sled will be lighter on grass and heavier on AstroTurf. This simply relates to coefficient of friction. Less weight produces a large amount of friction as the sled moves through grass. On Astroturf or a similar surface, the same weight would be too light. Another variable is a flat sled versus a double runner sled. A flat sled will again produce greater friction and as a result will necessitate a lighter load on the sled to get a similar effect. I have gone so far as to surf on towels indoors behind our athletes in a well-waxed hallway.

The reality is that we may have misinterpreted the message when it comes to resistance training for sprints. Although research shows that sled training may not improve the athletes ability to run at top speed, it will help the athlete to get faster. Remember, sport is about acceleration, not top speed. Very few team sport athletes ever get to the what track coaches like to call absolute speed mechanics. The weighted sled may be the most underrated tool for speed development due to our misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the research and terminology surrounding speed development.

ACL Injury Prevention is Just Good Training

Posted in Injuries, Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags , on November 14, 2011 by mboyle1959

I wrote this a few years ago for

Is ACL injury prevention just good training? I think so. The program we use for ACL injury prevention is actually the same program we use with everyone! The truth is ACL injury prevention programs often consist more of packaging than new concepts. Calling a program an ACL prevention program may be nothing more than a way into the head of the athletic trainer, physical therapist or coach. But, if that’s what it takes, I’m all for it. However, as coaches we have to realize that we should be practicing great injury prevention concepts with all our athletes and our weekend warriors.

Because female athletes are much more likely to be injured, those who coach female athletes tend to be more interested in the concept of ACL injury prevention. However, obviously both genders can be injured. In fact, estimates run to over 100,000 ACL tears per year, with 30,000 of them high school age females. In any case, coaches should still practice these injury reduction concepts with both male and female athletes. Then again, ACL injury prevention may be the thought that gets your women’s basketball coach to buy into the program.

to read the entire article, click here

This Christmas Help an American Business

Posted in Random Thoughts, Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 by mboyle1959

I found this on the internet and edited it . Sorry that I can’t give the author proper credit.

Christmas  2011 — Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant  overseas factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with  monstrous piles of goods — merchandise that has been  produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This  year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans.  There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found  that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think  outside the box, people. Everyone — yes ( almost) EVERYONE gets  their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local hair  salon or barber?

Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who  are thinking about some health improvement. (Editors Note MBSC Gift Certs are available)

Who wouldn’t appreciate  getting their car detailed? Small, locally owned detail shops and car  washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift  certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think  nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a flat-screen?  Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn  mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local  golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all  offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery  sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.  Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about  supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line  to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change  for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by a working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE  the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could  use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get  his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for  something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit  them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden  boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants  and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or  ballet at your hometown theatre.
Musicians need love too, so find a venue  showcasing local bands.

Honestly,  people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand lights for  the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents  stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the  mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging  American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And,  when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the  benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

THIS  is the new American Christmas tradition.

Forward  this to everyone on your mailing list — post it to discussion groups —  throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city —  send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news  departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn’t that  what Christmas is about?

Notes from the Talent Code

Posted in Random Thoughts, Training, Training Females, Uncategorized, Youth Training on November 9, 2011 by mboyle1959

Want to be a Better Coach or Trainer? Read This

Although I already published one post on this blog I wanted to include the longer version of my notes. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle was one of my best reads of the past year. I’m sorry it has taken so long to get these reviews in print but, I have just gotten around to transcribing the notes from pages I folded and highlighted.  As I may have mentioned I now buy both a print and audio copy of every book. That may seem extravagant but, the print copy allows me to go back and review what I heard in the car.

To be honest, I think a lot of the stuff in the beginning about growing myelin was just a hook to get you to read. In fact had it not been for my friend Jim Setters of the German National Ice Hockey Federation, I would never have picked the book back up. I started it and thought the beginning was BS and just put it down. I can only say “thanks Jim” as there were parts of the book that I did not want to miss and would have.

Of particular interest were the sections on Teach for America and John Wooden. I’ve attached a bunch of quotes and page numbers that I highlighted in the book with some heading and comments.

Teach for America and KIPP

The majority of charter schools are built on a foundation: to do whatever it took to get the students into college. Pg141

The is KIPP culture. It covers how to walk, how to talk (they work on the three inch voice, the twelve inch voice, and the room voice)pg 146

“Every single detail matters,” Feinberg says. “Everything they do is connected to everything else around them.” Pg 147

Note- the KIPP lessons can apply to any business but apply well to strength and conditioning.

Coach John Wooden

Wooden didn’t give speeches. He didn’t do chalk talks. He didn’t dole out punishment laps or praise. In all, he didn’t sound or act like any coach they’d ever 167

There were no lectures, no extended harangues… he rarely spoke longer than twenty 168

Gallimore and Tharp recorded and coded 2,326 discrete acts of teaching. Of them, a mere 6.9% were compliments. Only 6.6% were expressions of displeasure. But 75% were pure information: what to do, how to do it, when to intensify an activity. One of wooden’s most frequent forms of teaching was a three part instruction where he modeled the right way to do something, showed the incorrect way, and then remodeled the right way, a sequence that appearedin Gallimore and Tharp’s notes “Wooden”pg 169

Woodens demonstrations rarely take longer than three seconds, but are of such clarity that they leave an image in memory much like a textbook 169

The coach would spend two hours each morning with his assistants planning that day’s practice, then write out minute by minute schedule on three by five cards. No detail was to small to be considered. Wooden famously began each year by showing players how to put on their socks, to minimize the chance of 169

His skill resided in Gatling-gun rattle of targeted information he fired at his players. This, not that. Here, not there. His words and gestures served as short, sharp impulses that showed his players the correct way to do something. He was seeing fixing errors. He was honing circuits. Pg 170

He taught in chunks, using what he called the “whole part method” he would teach players an entire move, then break it down to work on its elemental actions. He formulated laws of learning. Explanation, demonstration, imitation, correction, and repetition. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens-and when it happens, it lasts.. You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned, authored by Gallimore and former Wooden player Swen Nater. “Repetition is the key to Learning” pg 170

Note-I may have learned more from this chapter then from any book I read or listened to this year. This info changed the way we all teach and coach.

Football Coach Tom Martinez

Note- the quote below really shows the essence of coaching. Know who you are coching and what you need to give them. Disadvantaged kids may need more “ice cream”, the rich kids, “more shit”.

Football coach Tom Martinez, whom we’ll meet later, has a vivid metaphor for this process. “The way I look at it, everybody’s life is a bowl of whipped cream and shit, and my job is to even things out.” He said. “ If a kid gets a lot of shit in his life, I’m going to stir in some whipped cream . If a kid’s life is pure whipped cream, then I’m going to stir some shit.’ Pg 185

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary-Thomas Carruthers pg 196

“Get your feet apart-be an athlete now”

“You’re like a waiter. Keep the ball up, deliver it.”

“Your left foot is killing you, know what I mean? You’re understepping. Yu got to roll and pop.” “See how easy it isn’t?”

In thirty seconds he explained the correct dropback motion in four distinct ways:tactile (ball of fire), personification, (waiter), image (airplane), and physical (butt to armpit)

“kids today are hard to reach,” he said.”They know how to give all the right answers, all the programmed answers. So when I see things, I say it so you can hear it. I say it a lot. Each guy has his own button you can tap on. Who are you out here for? Pg 201


Carol Dweck, the psychologist who studies motivation, likes to say that all the worlds parenting advice can be distilled to two simple rules: pay attention to what your children are fascinated by, and praise them for their effort..pg217

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of Talent Code today.

Training the Overweight Client

Posted in Fat Loss, MBSC News, Media, Training with tags , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by mboyle1959

Originally posted October 25th 2010 at 

Training obese clients represents a series of truly unique challenges. Within these challenges lie great business prospects and opportunities to change lives’. However, to succeed trainers need to put a large amount of thought into the process of dealing with an overweight client. Unfortunately as Ben Franklin noted “common sense is not very common”. We constantly see trainers making recommendations for overweight clients that are both dangerous and foolish.

Luckily, as in so many situations, if you look for the answers, they become obvious. If trainers simply copy the foolishness they see on TV they are only going to make mistakes, injure clients and lose clients. The people that produce shows like The Biggest Loser are a huge part of the problem. What is done to the poor people on the show in the name of health and fitness borders on criminal negligence. The worst part is that current and future trainers watch the show and think that abusing and belittling clients actually works.

The truth is exactly the opposite. In the real world psychology is job one when taking on an overweight client. Overweight clients are conditioned to fail. You have to remind yourself that this will probably not be the first time this client has attempted to lose weight or to change their diet. The real key to success in any endeavor is to realize that “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” ( Theodore Roosevelt)! Belittling and embarrassing a client may make for good TV but, don’t try it with clients who are paying you.

If you want to succeed with your overweight clients you must be willing to become the biggest part of their support structure. Daily emails, texts and or phone calls will be essential to insure compliance and encourage continued participation. Very often your relationship with the client may be the only thing that prevents them from giving up.

Note: Before you start, take a look at . Gregg Miele has some excellent self-discipline bracelets that I like to give to my overweight clients to help them remember to eat well when we are not together. Remember, every little bit will help.

Don’t Worry, be Crappy

Want to learn how to train an obese person? Train one. Everyone is too afraid to make a mistake. However, if you make a mistake make a conservative mistake, not a foolish, Biggest Loser mistake. Think ready, fire, aim but, aim a little low with an obese client instead of a little high. I love “don’t worry be crappy” and “ready, fire, aim”. I learn well on my feet. Just remember to use your common sense and keep it simple. These are not athletes. I have said numerous times that the best way to learn to train overweight clients is to do it. Everything I’m writing in this article I learned from training an overweight client. In my case my client Hank Morse was able to lose 125 lbs. in about six months. Nothing fancy, just common sense.

Why Are People Overweight?

I have done a lot of research and have come to a simple conclusion. Overweight people generally eat too much. I know this sounds like an oversimplification but a little reality therapy can be good. It’s usually not glands, and it may be genetics, but most often it is the over-consumption of food. You will not succeed with overweight clients if they do not change their diet. I have adopted a very simple approach to nutrition. I think nutrition is easy, compliance is hard. Science is beginning to agree. A recent study said that simple nutrition information encourages compliance.

Mike Boyle’s Nutritional Guidelines

• If you’ve already met one of these high carb- low fat registered dieticians, run away. High carb- low fat has done two things. One is make us fatter. The other is make us rename adult onset diabetes. It’s now Type 2 because kids get it. Kids get it because of the absolute failure of the high-carb low-fat concept.

• Avoid grain like it’s poison. If you just try to cut all corn and corn products out you will be going a long way toward improving your nutrition. Just look at the label. If one of the first two ingredients is corn or high fructose corn syrup, skip it. Grains are the root of all fat evil. Please note, corn is a grain, not a vegetable. It is also the number one calorie source in America. Worse than corn is the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. It’s in everything and it’s bad for you. I know I will probably get hate mail from farmers in Iowa but, if you want to lose weight try to cut out all grains. Yes, I know grain is considered an essential by many, I’m just not one of them. You can get plenty of carbs without grain.

• In fact, tell your clients to act like they have a grain allergy. I tell people now that grains make you break out in big lumps all over you body. The lumps are most often found on your rear end and stomach but can appear anywhere.

• Read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. It is as simple as it gets. “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”

• To Pollan’s rules I would add eat more protein. So the Boyle interpretation is “eat food mostly plants and animal products, not too much.” Protein is satiating. Think protein at every feeding. While you are at it, forget the term meal. Think 5-6 small feedings a day. Stop using the word meal. When an overweight person hears the term meal they have an entirely different thought process than you or I. We want clients to think about small feedings in the 300 calorie range, not meals.

• Supplement your fats. I know many of you may be confused. Our fat ratios are all screwed up. You need to take a fish oil supplement every day to try to increase the amount of good fat in the systems. Buy good fish oil, preferably Krill Oil. Good brands include ProGrade, Mercola and Nordic Naturals.

Training the Overweight Client

The advice for training the obese client is much like the advice on nutrition. First forget what you know. Remember that these are not athletes. When I began my ready-fire-aim process of training 375 lb. Hank Morse I had an idea in my head. I’d simply take 375 lb Hank and train him like one of my athletes. It was not until I was on the gym floor with Hank getting ready for our first day that I realized what an absolute fool I was. Talk about lack of common sense. As I began the workout I realized that my standard warm-up procedure was not going to work.

Things I Don’t Do With Overweight Clients ( But Thought I Would)

• Foam rolling
• Stretching
• Core work
• Single leg work

I know what many of you who are reading this are saying. “Mike these are the basic building blocks of your programs”. Amazingly, you are right. However, we need to be able to adapt to the needs of our clients, not vice versa. As I always say, I’m not married to any concept. Foam rolling for an overweight client is like working out. I think the effort needed to foam roll can seriously detract from the actual workout. Besides, just the process of getting up and down from the ground adds to the difficulty and embarrassment factor. One thing I realized quickly after watching how difficult it was for Hank to get up or down from he floor was that I wanted to minimize the number of times we got up or down from the floor.

Static Stretching? Same idea. Overweight clients are generally not nimble ballerinas. It can be a huge amount of work (no pun intended) just trying to get an overweight client in position to stretch. Never mind what happens if the client loses balance and falls. The truth is beginning with stretching and rolling can make a client feel awkward and like a failure from the get-go. I want success. I want to make it easy to warm-up.

The same goes for core work. More prescription for failure. Core work for the overweight client should initially be a by-product of exercise choices rather than direct. Planks etc. can be extremely difficult for heavy clients. Remember in many of our basic functional exercises the resistance is bodyweight. For a 375 lb client this is a detriment verses a benefit.

Last but, certainly not least, single leg work. Again a basic building block of our programs fails the common sense test. The first thing an obese client needs to do is learn to squat on two legs and, handle his or her bodyweight. I want to throw myself out the window when I see the things they do on The Biggest Loser. I’m worried about doing a proper squat and they have these people running sprints and doing box jumps.

Developing Confidence

Obese clients need to be confident that you won’t hurt them and confident that they won’t hurt themselves. Proper exercise choices will increase confidence. Fancy things like single leg exercises should come much later. Remember, with overweight clients there is a huge psychological component. It’s like hooking a big fish ( no pun intended). You need to keep it on the line. How do we develop this confidence, by encouraging success. Avoid floor exercises. Getting up and down from the floor is hard work for an overweight client.

Breaking the Warm-up Rule

I have always said that a walking warmup was like stealing money from a client. However it’s OK for an overweight client to walk for 5 minutes to warm-up. I think a client in a normal weight range should begin every workout with foam rolling, stretching and a dynamic warm-up but an overweight client will be fine just walking. From there you can progress to simple standing warm-up exercises like mini-band walks, band pull-aparts and med ball circuits. For med ball circuits it’s more rule busting and improper progressions. When we do our med ball work with our overweight clients we start standing and stay standing.

Designing the Strength Workout for the Obese Client

The primary goal for an overweight client is to keep them moving for an hour. This means that the strength routine should consist of mini circuits of four exercises. Each circuit should consist of:

• A push- modified pushup, pushup, band press
• A knee dominant exercise- bench squats or box squats. ROM first, resistance second
• A pull- band row, pulldowns
• A hip dominant – 2 leg bridge

The circuits don’t need to be done fast. Start with one circuit of ten reps each and add one per day. Work up to four circuits. Let the client determine the pace in the beginning but, stay with the goal of keeping them moving for an hour. The first few workouts may take less time. Overweight clients may not be able to handle an hour of activity but, have that as your goal. If the client finishes early, simply set the treadmill and allow them to walk for the remainder of the hour .


Helping my friend Hank lose over 100 lbs was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It was life changing for Hank and life changing for me. An overweight person has to ready to become a client. If an overweight friend reaches out to you because they know you are in the fitness field, jump on the opportunity. What you will learn will improve their life and, will improve your own. The one good thing shows like The Biggest Loser have done is empower overweight clients to believe they can lose weight. Our job is to help them do it correctly and most important to keep the weight off.

To learn more and to see this in lecture format you can order Training the OverWeight client, a 50 minute lecture presenation given at the Perform Better Summits in 2009.

Interval Training HIIT or Miss?

Posted in Random Thoughts, Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags , , on November 6, 2011 by mboyle1959

This is an article I wrote a few years ago on interval training that we just added to our “public” section on . Thought you might enjoy it. If you want to interval train better click below.

Interval Training HIIT or Miss?

The Week in Review

Posted in Random Thoughts, Updates, Training Females, Uncategorized with tags , on November 4, 2011 by mboyle1959

This was a busy week. Last Friday I got up at 4:30 AM to head for Arizona and the Meeting of the Minds. What a great conference. What impressed me most was that the presenters sat through each others talks. It was impressive to see so many great minds listening and thinking about getting better. It’s always great to be around so many people you like and respect.

On Sunday after a few beers at Saturdays’ social I got up at 4 AM to head back and catch my daughters hockey game. I cam back to an October snowstorm and a power failure. We spent two nights camped out by the woodstove in the living room.

Tuesday I headed down to Quinnipiac University for testing for our US Women’s National Ice Hockey Team in preparation for the Four Nations Tournament in Sweden. Got to see my friend Brijesh Patel and an amazing athletic complex. To top it off, the girls killed the testing again. It is amazing to watch all these women, many of whom benched 135 for reps and did 10 plus chinups.

Wednesday I headed back to Boston and topped off the week with a Wednesday night talk on Training the Baby Boomers at Winchester Country Club ( Kevin filmed this for BodyByBoyle Online).

Finished yesterday with a staff meeting and some TRX Rip Trainer demos.

Last but not least, Episode 91 of the StrengthCoach Podcast is up. Check it out.