Three Questions with Coach Nate Harvey

TAGS: University of Buffalo, Nate Harvey, strength & conditioning,, Elitefts Info Pages

The three-question series is designed to provide valuable insight from some of the top-strength and conditioning coaches in the field. These coaches spend a great deal of time and have unbelievable passion for preparing young athletes to achieve their goals. These coaches are “in the trenches” working with teams around the clock and year-round.

Nate Harvey

Head Strength & Conditioning Coach

University at Buffalo


After working with every sport at the University at Buffalo at one time or another over the last seven years, Nate Harvey is now in charge of all Olympic Sports. The University at Buffalo (UB) is where Harvey earned a masters degree in Applied Physiology while volunteering as an assistant sports performance coach.

Harvey has combined his formal education with his "under the bar" experience to help his athletes reach their maximum potential. Being a competitive powerlifter for 23 years, he totaled 2440 pounds at a body weight of 296. Harvey was a four-year letter winner and all-American while earning his undergraduate degree from SUNY Brockport in Exercise Physiology and Physical Education.

Before coming to the University at Buffalo, Harvey has held positions as a high school football coach, sports performance coach in the private sector, and a fitness director. Harvey has also completed a strength and conditioning internship with the Buffalo Bills.

Nate Harvey has used all of his knowledge and experience to create an outstanding environment for his student athletes and sports teams to achieve success.


Mark Watts: Coach Harvey, how has competing in powerlifting influenced your programming for college athletes? How has being a strength coach influenced your powerlifting training?

Nate Harvey: Powerlifting has heavily influenced my programming for my athletes. Some would say we are "Westside", but you ain't Westside unless you are AT Westside. We do steal a lot of stuff from there though. I actually was exposed to those methods when I read Dave’s Periodization Bible articles back in 2000. These articles completely changed the way I looked at training.  I really believe we can make the most dramatic changes in the athlete’s performance by increasing their power output.  If I need to make a car faster, I’m going to increase the horsepower first, then I’ll worry about tires, gear ratios, etc. I’m also going to use the simplest means possible to achieve this. These kids are here to play a sport not be Olympic lifters, powerlifters or bodybuilders. So I make sure they are technically sound and try to get them as strong, explosive, and as fast as possible. We also train mobility, prehab, and metabolic demands of the sport.  I feel the fastest and most efficient way of improving performance is utilizing the maximal (with modifications if necessary), dynamic, and the repetition effort methods. Depending on the athlete, max effort work could be a 1-5 rep max or heavy sets based off percentages. Dynamic effort includes speed squats, speed deadlifts, jumps, speed bench, or any movement done with the intent to move with maximal speed (and achieving that speed).

We are also starting to use accommodating resistance with almost everyone. We just have to scale it down for the athlete’s strength level. The kids are responding very well to the stimulus and seem to appreciate the variety. Then we use the repetition method to bring up weaknesses. These methods have taken my own personal strength levels to places I didn’t think were possible, so why can’t it work for my athletes? Most of our kids make constant improvements in all of their performance indicators and their sport throughout their whole four years here. You just have to make adjustments to fit your population. If someone tells you to cut down a tree, are you going to use a chainsaw or a steak knife? We’re using a chainsaw here!


My job has a heavy influence on my own competitive training, also. I draw a ton of motivation from my athletes. I feel that if I’m going to ask them to perform, I have to perform. We are in this fight for strength together and I hope they get that. I completely understand where I am on the powerlifting totem pole. I’m basically just making the varsity bus right now. I honestly feel like I’m under-achieving right now with the people and resources I have available. That being said, I hope my athletes see that I compete and respect that we are both chasing goals, no matter at what level. Hopefully, I can get some athlete buy-in from that.  This is a value I have always held in high regard and a huge reason I’ve been such a big fan of elitefts™ from day one. Live what you preach! A handful of my athletes went to my last meet to watch and, I have to say, it got me super jacked up knowing they were there to watch. It was a great day. There are also the issues of finding time to train with your job responsibilities, but everyone deals with that no matter what profession they are in. My job actually helps with my training. I have great equipment, spotters, and training partners. I am very fortunate to be where I am right now.

MW: Coach, what are your core principles when training athletes regardless of sport?

NH: I have two main goals for all my athletes:

  1. Do the best I can to keep them healthy. We’ve all been injured and it sucks. It’s a very dark place for someone who loves to compete but can’t.
  2. I want my kids to be 100 percent confident that their training is giving them every advantage they need. I don’t want any of my athletes wondering if they are strong, fast, or explosive enough to win. They have enough to worry about. I don’t ever want my area to be an area of doubt for them. They should feel it’s an advantage.

MW: What are some of the unique ways you evaluate and motivate your athletes?

NH: I wouldn’t say they are unique, but for evaluation we typically do squat and bench max, pull-up test, vertical jump, body composition and sometimes a deadlift max with certain sports. I don’t do much speed testing because if their vertical goes up so does their speed. I would rather spend time training than testing. However, if a sport coach has other indicators they want to evaluate, we do it. It doesn’t matter if you are the best strength coach in the world, it’s the sport coach’s show and you are there to support that. We’re also evaluating every day while the athletes are training. You can find all sorts of weaknesses just by watching them train. You have to constantly assess and evaluate.

For the motivation piece, at the risk of sounding soft, I like to have what some coaches would consider a more ‘relaxed’ weight room. As a coach, I’m a teacher first, not a drill instructor. I’m not screaming at the kids the entire time they’re in the room. I’m trying to teach our kids how to train, not blindly follow a card like a robot. I think this creates a room where the kids WANT to train. The majority of the kids do a great job of getting after it once they are under the bar. I have a lot of mini-meatheads running around our weight room. They do a pretty good job. I try to teach them to compete with their teammates. We keep things simple so they can do things right. Success breeds participation. I also do a highlight video for the kids each semester. We call it our SFW Video (thanks, Vincent Dizenzo!). The kids see the camera come out and they want to perform. I’ve also recently gotten on the social media wagon. I’ll do an Instagram (@suNYubSTRONG) video then link it to our Facebook ( and Twitter pages. The athletes and their friends and family can follow and see them kick ass. It’s going well so far, I think.

Final thoughts: I want to say what a huge honor it is to have The University at Buffalo and our program shared with your readers.  The amount of information and the number of people elitefts™ has brought into the strength sports world is incredible. Our administrative team  and sport coaches at UB also deserve a lot of credit. The support from the top down is great right now. I also need to thank my mentors: Paul Childress, Buddy Morris, Julia Ladewski, and Ryan Groneman. I’ve been lucky enough to learn from some of the best in the business. Hopefully this is a chance to pass on some of the things they taught me.  Thanks again!!

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