elitefts™ Sunday Edition

It's the end of 2014. With this in mind, we should reflect on where we are, reassess our goals and move forward because we are only borrowing this dirt we call Earth for a short time. I won't bore you with ideas for a new year or some “how to dominate 2015” list. Someone else will write these lists and they'll motivate about one percent of the population. Of that one percent, another one percent will actually follow through on the ideas contained within those lists. So I'll explain how I became a better person and coach during 2014, starting with the Robert Morris University Speed and Strength Seminar.

In 2014, my staff and I decided that it was time to revisit the idea of having a seminar. For the life of me, I can't figure out why more people in our industry don't hold these. We didn't want to make money from this seminar because we aren't driven by money and, if we broke even, learned something, gained continuing education credits, made new contacts and passed on knowledge, we had done plenty. We charged $50.00 to attendees and this was just to cover our costs. When it was all said and done, I think my staff walked away with a few bucks to help cover food at the upcoming NSCA coaches' convention.

Rick Daman and Shawn Moody started the day off by talking about how they do speed training with limited space. Rick and Shawn work together training athletes, non-athletes and random NARPS (non-athletic random people) out of their small gym. The biggest take home (other than the fact that Shawn’s filter is broken) was that they never waste time. Attention to detail in things like the warm-up are of the utmost importance. Clearly, these guys have a huge passion for what they do and they realize that you must put the work in every day to improve.

The one and the only Mark (Sir Marcus, Marky Mark) Watts was up next. Mark has been a great friend and a huge influence on me over the years. He is a guy who gets it. He understands the reality of working with large groups in small settings and he knows how to use science but live in the real world. I remember Mark telling me a few years back that he did all his dumbbell work unilaterally. This blew my mind. Clearly, he was on to something dealing with blood flow and adaptations. I pulled out Supertraining and The Science of Sport Training to find the answer. Finally, I broke down and called Mark and asked, "Why do you do all your dumbbell work unilaterally?" His answer was genius in its simplicity. He told me that he has one set of dumbbells, so if he prescribes dumbbell bench and four people want the 70s, there's a line of four. If he has everyone do single arm work, the line goes down to two. It's so simple, but it makes so much sense!

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As for Mark's presentation, my biggest take home was how to adjust weights based on what the athlete did that day. He had a great method for adding if an athlete achieved or had more reps then prescribed, decreasing if the athlete didn’t achieve the reps or leaving the weight if the reps were dead on. It's a simple method for working with a large group.

Nate Harvey was up next, and after watching him pull a fairly easy 705 pounds the day before, it was clear that he knew strength. Nate’s presentation was based on how he runs his training at the University of Buffalo. One thing was clear. If you want to get an athlete strong—and I mean strong—Nate is a great resource. His programming wasn't overly complex and it didn't need to be. He is there to make you stronger and more violent. I'm actually concerned because we have two athletes transferring to his school next year. If I trained them and they aren’t strong enough to keep up, I have to step my game up. The biggest take-home point from Nate's presentation was how to use the max effort method. He seems to do one heck of a job watching the athlete and knowing when enough is enough. He showed an athlete the deadlift and said, “This is the last set because your form is breaking down.” This seems simple, but it takes a ton of discipline and trust for the athlete and the coach.

Prior to lunch, Dr. Daniel Fabricant was the last speaker. Dr. Dan is a great, underutilized resource in our community. I met him when I was working at George Mason University and he used to train with us on Sundays. We had the world's smartest training crew then. We had an MIT grad, Dr. Dan, another Dan who was a lawyer and Bigtime, who was finishing his doctorate. Clearly, I didn't fit in.

Dr. Dan covered many topics from supplements to the drink kombucha. I honestly don’t even know where to start with his talk because it was so good that I can't do it justice. The key point that I have taken many times from Dr. Dan is that everything you take into your body is a drug, which creates many chemical reactions. We must know this and address this before we even start thinking about supplements.

Scott Umberger had the duty of waking people up after lunch. This is probably my least favorite time to speak because people are groggy from eating. Scott covered much of what he does with his athletes. He is as well read as you can be in our profession and very passionate about what he does. I know he feels the way that I do—movement is the key and improvement in the movements improves the athlete. For me, the take-home point from Scott's presentation was similar to what Rick and Shawn covered: don’t waste the athlete's time on drills without any specific goals.

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Into the weight room

The last part of the day was spent in the weight room. Cameron Davidson from Penn State spoke first on teaching the Olympic lifts. Cam is a competitive Olympic lifter and knows the lifts very well. He went through all the positions that he teaches the athletes and how he gets them to do the lifts properly. His five-position German clean progression is good to start with, even though I still won’t have an athlete do an Olympic lift from the floor (sorry, Cam). However, if you aren't like me and you want to do the full lifts, check out how Cam teaches his positions.

The final speaker was Casey Williams and he covered the big three power lifts. Casey is very modest and started with the greatest sales pitch I've ever heard: “So I don't have any experience in teaching the lifts and have never coached any lift, so...umm...yeah, listen to me.” OK, that wasn’t an exact quote but very close.

In reality, Casey is a sponge and has learned more about the lifts in his short lifting career than most will ever learn. The only thing I'll say about his teaching is attend the next Powerlifting Experience so that you can get this hands on. I know that it isn't fair to plug that, but being there is always significantly better than reading about it on the internet or watching some YouTube video.

So that was how my year ended professionally.

Here are some pointers that I learned throughout the year:

  1. Your program isn't perfect because we all have weaknesses in our programming. However, you must believe in your program and get that same belief from your athletes.
  2. Try to meet with every coach you deal with at least once a month. This includes anyone your assistants deal with as well. It's easier to deal with issues before they occur.
  3. We all want the same things for our athletes. It is our paths that are different. Don’t let a different path lead to a poor relationship.
  4. Learn from your adversaries.
  5. Don't try to replicate past success with past work. One flaw in human nature is that when we see a problem, we think of former solutions. The reality is what worked tomorrow will not always work today, so be prepared for new solutions and look for new solutions.
  6. Get stronger.
  7. Load poor movement patterns. I know this is scary, but the reality is no one moves perfectly so eventually we have to get stronger. Load a poor pattern, but correct it at the same time. Yes, this is possible!
  8. Have fun in what you are doing. Often, we see coaches who don’t seem to enjoy what they are doing. How is this possible? We have the best jobs on earth and we get to train at work! Count your blessings.
  9. You don’t control everything. Let go and let the wave take you sometimes.
  10. Finally, thank those who you don’t thank enough. With that said, my thanks go to Dave Tate, Bob Youngs, Erica Hamer, Dr. Dan, my staff and former staff members, Dr. Greg Del’Omo, Buddy Morris, Chad Hutsko, Handy Handerhan, Tim Kontos, Jim Roney, Jay Demayo, Bobby Sepsey, Tim Beltz, Bryan Mann, Casey Williams, Tenzing Hamer and you!