This interview was conducted with Coach X by Ryan Williams as a preview to their manual on American football, American Football Physical Preparation Manual. 

RW: To the best of your ability, describe your philosophy when training a football player.

Coach X: Training is a long-term process. Training specific to the bioenergetic requirements of football is alactic aerobic. It isn't anaerobic lactic, so please tell people to stop telling their athletes that they lift weights the day after a game because of lactic acid. The sport isn't lactic.

Train specific to the positional requirements. We all know that all positions don't have the same requirements on the field. For example, for a defensive or offensive lineman, the greatest external resistance that he has to overcome when the ball is snapped is his body weight, as does everybody. Linemen are 300, 340, and 350 lbs. Now skill and defensive backs are anywhere from 172 lbs to 225 lbs, which is a significant difference.

Not only that but a lineman must encounter an opposing force that is as big if not bigger in a split second. Linebackers, defensive backs, receivers, quarterbacks, and running backs don’t, so why do you train everybody the same? Not only that but look at the volume of speed work. Obviously, skill guys can handle a lot more volume than big guys. It takes big guys much longer to recover between bouts of intense activity than it does a skill guy, so you have to adjust your volume to the positional requirements.

Look at the individual because no two people respond the same to the same program. I don’t like cookie cutter programs. Cookie cutter programs are just lazy people training everybody the same. Don't get me wrong. They will work for some, but for the vast majority of us they won’t.

Take into account the individual, the position, and bioenergetic requirements and realize that training is a long-term process. There aren't any quick fixes. Everybody wants a quick fix, but there aren't any.

We are overvolumized in this country. All components must be raised constantly throughout the year. The problem is everybody just wants to keep the same volumes for all the components, but you can’t because they all compete for the same central nervous system resources. So you have to be intelligent with your programming and training.

Just because you write it on paper doesn't mean you have to do it. Your athletes will display to you what they can’t handle on a daily basis because training readiness fluctuates on a daily basis. So if you start to hear heavy foot contact during speed work, it’s time to shut it down. Just don’t continue because you want to do what’s on the paper for the day. That’s ridiculous.

Programming is adjustments. I don’t care who you are. Nothing goes as planned. You can write it on paper and it looks great. Something Charlie Francis told me—“If you get bored reading it or if you get tired writing it, just think how your athletes will feel doing it.”

Always borderline on less is more. Stimulate but don’t annihilate. What’s the minimum effective dose that I can get away with and accomplish all my goals with the athletes? Just like the group (of NFL players) today—after high volume speed work and jumps, they did one set of barbell glute bridges balls to the wall, one single leg activity for two sets, and they were done. Then they did ab work.

The volume and intensity of speed work is too great for me to come in here and say, "OK, now we’re going to come in here and do a ton of weight work." Their outputs are so high and they’re all going to compete for the same central nervous system resources. All I’m going to do is fry them.

When an athlete comes to you at the end of a workout, he should say, “I feel good.” Their outputs at this point in time are so high that you can’t come in and do heavy weight work. These aren’t high school kids. They can get away with it because they don’t produce the same force.

You look at any college athlete who’s trained for three to five years. Their outputs are greater right now in their lives than they’ve ever been. So why would you want to fry them speed wise and then come in and kill them in the weight room? If it was all about strength, it’d be easy. We’d have the easiest job in the world. But it isn’t about strength. It’s about a bunch of other components that must be raised and a bunch of other bio-motor abilities that must be addressed to make a complete athlete. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re training an athlete. I’ve seen guys who could bench 500 pounds and couldn’t play the sport of football.

I got into an argument with a guy. He said, “Look what (Anatoli) Pissarenko could do.” Pissarenko (a world champion Olympic weightlifter) couldn’t snap a ball. He didn’t have to snap a ball. That wasn’t his sporting requirement. What is the sporting requirement?

The whole goal is to increase the biological output of the organism, which just means improving the working ability of all the systems of the body as a whole or increased power output of the competitive exercise, movement, or activity. I don't care how you do that. It isn't written in stone that “in order to increase power output, I must Olympic lift.” Bulls***. I can throw a medicine ball. There’s a lot of different ways.

Who says I have to squat? It isn't written in stone, but everyone wants to say, “No, this is the only way to do it.” No it isn't the only way you can do it. There are a thousand ways to do it. The goal is to increase the biological output of the organism and the power output of the sporting activity or exercise. That’s what it’s all about.

How do you choose to do that when there are so many different ways to do that it isn't even funny? You know, you just have to be smart with your programming. You have to look at the fact that you can’t just run a cookie cutter program, which is what everybody wants to do.

RW: I mean I just write (programs) in generalities anymore.

Coach X: That’s all. Then just go from there.

RW: Then once you get to actually see someone move, that’s when you select exercises.

Coach X: That’s exactly right. That’s why I’m not into the functional movement screen as we’ve talked about before.

RW: Right.

Coach X: First of all, how can you use the same screen for the general population and the athletic population? That drives me nuts.

RW: Right.

Coach X: The general population doesn’t have the number of requirements that the athletic population has. The athletic population has so many requirements—skip, run, change directions, accelerate, decelerate, jump. Just watching an athlete move as he warms up gives you an indication of what needs worked on. You don’t have to screen. I wish there was a screen that did all that. I really do.

There is a book called Movement Dynamics. It's pretty good. The screening is much more in-depth and can be used in many different ways. But again, using the same screening for the athletic and general population is absurd in my opinion. That’s my biggest strike against the functional movement screen. How could you use the same screening for (a general population trainee) and for the guys who are getting ready for the NFL draft?

RW: Yeah.

Coach X: I don’t understand that. You know?

RW: Right.

Coach X: It’s all just basic human movement. When you’re a baby/kid, you squat down ass to heels. When you’re a baby, your tissue is so supple. Environment has dictated how you move. Remember this, it all happens in the brain. The brain patterns movements based on safety and stability. You feel good, you move good. It’s that simple.

Everything starts in the brain, Ryan. We forget about that. Educate the brain, make the individual aware of movement—proper movement, ingrain it into his nervous system properly, and you won’t need a screen. Everybody wants to do a screen and I’m not going to pay a thousand dollars on the weekend just to get certified. I need my thousand dollars.

RW: So do I.

Coach X: There’s the Postural Restoration Institute.

RW: Yeah.

Coach X: There’s the functional movement screen. There are a million different screens/certifications that you can get on a weekend. I think the Postural Restoration Institute is good. I think people are just starting to bring up the stuff that Feldenkrais talked about years ago.

RW: Yep.

Coach X: So I’d rather read Feldenkrais and the website and get out of that because nobody else addresses that. Feldenkrais was ahead of his time.

RW: Yeah, I have his books.

Coach X: Dan Pfaff said that he feels like what everybody is trying to bring up is what Moshe Feldenkrais did years ago. That’s what they’re trying to do. It’s been talked about before. Let me tell you something—there isn't anyone reinventing the wheel.

RW: No.

Coach X: Look at the top athletes in the world, your elite athletes, and look at the different types of sports from the perspective that there are early specialization sports and late specialization sports. Early specialization sports are those that are more artistic in nature. Those skills must be developed before the onset of puberty so that they're engrained in the (nervous) system.

They train very basic using a very direct approach or, like Louie always said, very “unidirectional.” Let me ask you a question—when was the last time you’ve seen Usain Bolt pull out a foot ladder?

RW: (laughs)

Coach X: You’re going to pull out a foot ladder and talk about speed improvement? Are you kidding me? When do you take short, choppy steps like that?

RW: Never.

Coach X: Like Bondarchuk said, does it transfer to the sporting activity on the field? If it doesn’t, it’s a waste of time. The exercises you do early in your career may not be the ones you do later in your career. That’s what people don’t understand. As the body changes, programming must change and exercises must change. What got you to where you are at now won’t get you to where you want to go and that’s what people forget about. Remember, train optimally, not maximally.

Something else to think about when it comes to speed work—60 percent of maximal speed is achieved in the first 10 yards. Eighty percent of maximal speed is achieved within 20 yards of running. So why do people skip over 10s, 15s, and 20s and jump right to 30s, 40s, and 50s?

Also, when we think about the difference between off-season and in-season training (for college football), think about this—67 percent of our time is spent in preparation, so you'd better enjoy the process of training as much or more than competition!

In this country, we’re great and stimulating and adapting. It’s a constant cycle—stimulate, adapt, stimulate, adapt, and so forth. But we forget a very important part—stabilizing! Dan Pfaff has mentioned this all the time with his sequencing of stimulation, adaptation, stabilization, and actualization. Make sure you do your athletes justice and remember the last two parts. Give the athletes the ability to actually go out on the field and utilize the skills and outputs they developed in training!

Another thing to remember is that if you train hard, you will get hurt or injured at some point. The higher the reward, the higher the risk. It doesn’t matter how much prehabilitation, rehabilitation, or mobility work you do. It will happen. Unfortunately, we all (myself included) constantly want more in one form or another and that desire often causes us to push too far. All athletes (should) only get injured in SPP. (If you hurt an athlete in GPP, you'd better go back to the drawing board!)

When it comes to competition, I tell my athletes this—“Do what you’ve done in training a thousand times. The day you try and do something special is the day you will fail or get hurt.” You have to be relaxed when it comes to any activity that is highly dependent on central nervous system activation and neuromuscular control.

Timing 40-yard dashes for agents and collecting data on metrics and trying to track everything moves us closer to getting too fancy with our programming. Remember, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We can’t see the forest for the trees.

Lastly, remember that training by nature is incomplete. You should always search for the Holy Grail and realize that there isn't any magical formula. As Bruce Lee said, “Have no way as way and no limit as limit.” There isn't any perfect training variable or perfect exercise. They are all just a stimulus to be used. All programs will work but not forever. Adaptation isn't an equilibrium process. There are those who the difference between them and God is that God knows he isn't them.

As I’ve said over and over, the human body isn't anything more than an interdependent matrix system that communicates with and among itself all day long through electronically charged molecules. You're an ever evolving and fluctuating organism that is self-regulating and supercompensating. You are nothing more than a bioelectrical field hell bent on one function—survival!

Buddy Morris is a strength and conditioning legend, bodybuilder, and rehab specialist who will run our Performance Center. He has over 31 years of experience in the strength and conditioning field. He has worked as the Head Strength Coach for the NFL Cleveland Browns as well as the Head Strength Coach for the University of Pittsburgh for 20+ years. He has coached 5 NFL Hall of Famers and trains NFL players year round.

He is known nationwide and has contributed to numerous fitness magazines, books, and articles. His weight room at the University of Pittsburgh “The Pitt Iron Works” was named one of the top ten toughest gyms in America by Muscle & Fitness Magazine.  Buddy  was recently named one of the “65 Most Influential Strength Coaches of All-Time.”  Recently Tony “Goose” Siragusa, spoke highly of Buddy on Howard Stern’s radio show and in his new best selling book, “Goose.”