No idea’s original, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s never what you do, but how it’s done.

—the wise words of Nas

In early 2004, I committed myself to reading something regarding strength and conditioning every day. I learned a lot from books and websites such as EliteFTS, but one thing I found was that most articles I read were not “original.” Not to take credit away from anyone, but good writers usually draw from someone else and make improvements on that other writer’s concepts. And this was what I found.

This “borrowing” has lead to several great programs and ideas, and I think it helps advance the field and keep everyone in check. So I felt it was only appropriate for me to contribute what I have learned in my experience as a strength coach. Here are some of my ramblings (in no particular order). Hopefully they will continue this trend of unoriginality.

1. Keep track of EVERYTHING. I started working at VCU with our men’s basketball team in May. I knew that this first year would be a learning process and boy have I made mistakes. I found out quickly that if every single detail is not accounted for, chaos ensues. Most athletes I’ve worked with will find a way to take the easy way out. A few examples of things to keep track of include:

  • Write down the box height for box squats: All you have to do is take one day to measure what it would take for each athlete to reach parallel and write it down. Then keep it in the weight room for reference. This is very important for basketball players. It seems like every time I have them squat, the guys complain about the boxes suddenly being too low. Then I tell them to check the sheet and stop bitching. Problem solved. This also applies to pin heights for stuff done in the power racks.
  • Store each athlete’s past training logs somewhere: This is important for lifting but even more important for conditioning workouts. Variables such as weight, reps, and time are important to keep track of every year. The ultimate goal is to improve every year, right? Well, it’s hard to do that if you don’t know where the athlete was last year. This isn’t to say that each year the weights should be higher and the times faster throughout every phase. But in terms of conditioning, it’s important to keep the athletes accountable.

Next year, the first time that we test the 300-yard shuttle, I’ll tell each basketball player what time he has to match from the previous year. If he doesn’t match it, there will be consequences. This will ensure maximum effort (even if the guy is out of shape/run down, and can’t make his time). It will also prevent me from getting the false sense that he has made a great improvement in the off-season if he just ends up where he was last year or worse.

  • Log every disciplinary action: Everywhere you look, there are programs that get rid of athletes for disciplinary reasons or something related. Most good coaches won’t tolerate an athlete who breaks the rules or who will be a detriment to the team’s progress as a whole, regardless of how good of an athlete that person is. In one experience, I was told about an athlete who had been trouble in the past. I immediately brought him in and talked with him. I told him that he would have a clean slate, and I would never judge him for anything he’d done in the past. After a few weeks, it became clear that he wasn’t going to change. So I kept a log of every rule he’d ever broken and every single thing he’d done wrong over a span of four months. Sure enough, he was let go. Having my information available helped our head coach make his final decision. It’s important to keep track of these violations in case this information is needed in the future.
  • Go over your rules early on: Taking disciplinary measures is inevitable. At some point, you will have to punish your athletes. This could be due to a mistake they made while with you or at the request of the head coach. My system at first was pretty simple—first offense, the individual pays; second time and on, the team pays. With different degrees of severity, it’s important to have standards and rules for every situation. Unfortunately, this only comes with experience, and I’m still learning.
  • Monitor volume and intensity of every workout: Here’s something that I don’t think many people do. Yes, most strength coaches monitor these variables in every workout they design, but what about what the athletes are doing on the court? This may not be possible if you don’t have the time to be at every practice or if you work with other teams. Matt Herring, the basketball strength coach at the University of Florida, informed me of a great system for monitoring the volume and intensity of basketball practices, games, weightlifting, and conditioning workouts. All these things fit together, and even if your workouts aren’t causing the athletes to overtrain, when combined with brutal practices and games, they still may be doing too much. At practice, I rate each drill on a scale of 1–10. This is how it looks:



Change of direction



1/4 court








> 30sec


1/2 court








10–30 sec


3/4 court








<10 sec


full court




So I would rate a game situation with a 10. The athlete is playing full court, full contact, and full speed with little recovery. I multiply each drill by the amount of time it’s done in and get a number. After each practice, I get a total number, average intensity, and duration. I add up all the numbers for the week, and depending on the number, the volume is low, moderate, high, or extremely high. This is helpful in many ways, especially if you have a coach who wants to know if he can crush them at practice that day. It may take a whole season for you to develop a system that works for you and your sport, but it will give you a more detailed picture of what your athletes are going through.

2. Create a year-round plan for training. It’s important to have your training goals written out instead of just having them in your head. My plan for next year is to write a list of goals for each phase of training throughout the year (off-season, pre-season, in-season, and post-season) and have some more structure to my programs. A little too much chaos is one thing that can happen when using the conjugate method. This isn’t inherent to the method but just happens when it’s put to practice incorrectly.

Coach X’s GPP Manual is a great example of what should be done in terms of planning for the off-season. Without getting into specifics, let’s just say that it’s important for one to do a “needs analysis” for their particular sport and take into account the uncontrollable variables for each phase (i.e. practice, games, summer leagues, etc.). Make sure it fits with your training. This will prevent overtraining among other things. You can also ask each athlete what his or her goals are for the year. These could be in the weight room, on the court, or in the classroom. Constantly reminding the athletes of their goals will help them make sure that their behavior matches their goals.

3. Change things up OFTEN. This mostly applies to the warm up. Whether they’re lifting, conditioning, or getting ready for practice/games, I change my athletes’ warm ups as much as possible. I’ve found that if the athletes do the same warm up a few times, they have it memorized and just go through the motions. Before a practice, this is the worst thing that can happen because the coach is going to expect them to be mentally and physically ready when the first whistle blows. Changing the warm up often makes them think and stay sharp so they’re focused mentally and physically ready. I also rotate my cool downs after practice.

4. Require your athletes to perform recovery measures. This is especially important in-season. We use several forms of recovery throughout the week. In-season, we perform two full body lifts a week. At the end of each workout, each athlete must do a recovery/injury prevention workout. We rotate five different workouts, and athletes do the next one the next time they come in. For example, if an athlete did recovery workout #1 on the first lift day, that athlete would do recovery workout #2 on the second lift day. Next week, the athlete would start with recovery workout #3 and so on. Here are some examples of the workouts they must do:

Workout #1

8–10 minutes on the bike at level seven

Workout #2 (dynamic flexibility)

Knee hugs, 10 yards

Heel to butt, 10 yards

Heel to hip, 10 yards

Straight leg march, 10 yards

Iron cross, 10 each

Prone scorpion, 10 each

Rollover to V-sit, 10

Workout #3 (injury prevention)

Band good mornings, 20 reps

TKE X 25 each

Hurdle hip mobility X 2 trips

Overhead band pull-apart X 10

Side lying external rotation X 15 each

Workout #4 (SMR)

8–10 minutes of foam rolling

Workout #5 (static band stretching)

Leg up

Leg across

Leg out

Figure 4


*switch legs

In-season workouts last about 45 minutes, including the warm up and active recovery at the end. Two other recovery methods we use are massage therapy and cold tank. All players who have played ten minutes or more in a game must hit the cold tank for ten minutes on our off day of the week. The same rule applies for massage. They are massaged twice a week after practice. One session is early in the week and one is the day before the game. This system is thrown out the window during tournaments and when we’re on the road. In these cases, we get them in whenever possible.

The freshmen are encouraged to hit the cold tank and get massages, but sometimes there isn’t enough time. Nutritionally, they receive post-workout shakes after every lift and practice. Nutrition for basketball players is a nightmare for a strength coach. Many times, especially on the road, the only places open after games are fast food and pizza places. There is also limited time because we have to hop on a flight or hit the road. Planning ahead will help with this. I just call some restaurants in the area where we’re traveling ahead of time and find out if they deliver.

5. Be prepared for every situation. There have already been a few times when I’ve been caught off guard and haven’t been prepared. Strength coaches often have to adapt and think on the fly, but it’s important to have a plan when possible. One example is injuries. I’ve begun to make a list/progression of exercises by movement (hip extension, knee dominant, etc.) so that an injury won’t prevent me from getting what I want. Another way to be prepared is to have alternative workouts for injured players during practice. At the University of Florida, the injured football players would spend the whole practice in “the pit” with Coach Balis, their strength coach. Needless to say, the pit was not a desirable place. The athletes would be forced to use every single muscle and joint in their body that wasn’t injured. These workouts were great for two reasons. They discouraged athletes from faking injuries (athletes would think twice about leaving practice to go to the pit), and they kept conditioning levels up until the player was ready to play again.

I’ve made several alternative workouts for injured players and keep them in my binder. The athletic trainer and I crush the injured athlete for the duration of practice, and then the athlete leaves for treatment. This system has worked wonderfully. Surprisingly, we haven’t had an injury in months. These workouts MUST be EXTREMELY HARD, and they must be done in a place where the injured athlete can see practice. If he’s faking, he’ll realize that practice is much easier than what he’s doing. Obviously, this applies to small injuries. Athletes with serious injuries may not be able to do this. Some examples would be an injured lower body limb (knee/ankle), upper body limb, low back, etc. Here’s an example of a lower body alternative workout. This workout is 25 minutes and can be repeated as many times as needed:

Single limb lower
One-leg mountain climbers (non-injured leg) 1:00
MB sit-up and throw 1:00
One-leg burpees (non-injured leg) 1:00
Push-ups 1:00
MB Russian twist and throw 1:00 each direction
360° push-up walk 1:00 each direction
Rest 1:00
1-leg squat (non-injured leg) 1:00
Push-up 1:00
Wall sit 1:00
*Dribble series 2:00
One-leg mountain climbers (non-injured leg) 1:00
MB sit-up & throw 1:00
1-leg burpees (non-injured leg) 1:00
Rest 1:00
Arm ergometer or bike >75rpm 6:00
Rest 1:00

*Using two heavy basketballs, the athlete is in an athletic stance and practices different dribbling moves for two minutes. On your call, he can slam them, alternate, dribble in circles, etc.

That’s it for now. I hope these tips help you. I’d like to thank Matt Herring, Matt DeLancey, Tim Kontos, Jason Ferruggia, and all the authors at EliteFTS who have helped me since I arrived at VCU. Your help has been invaluable.

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