For this installment of Training With Purpose, I wanted to interview someone who had a large influence on my training. This goes for both my own powerlifting training and how I train my athletes. The individual I chose to interview was Carlos Osegueda, owner of Central Virginia Athletic and Barbell Club in Stafford, VA. For anyone in the area, I suggest that you look up his gym at

CVA Barbell is not only a great place to train for powerlifting but also to train for strongman. It's equipped with many elitefts™ products, such as two power racks, a monolift, an elitefts™ chest-supported row, a GHR, cambered bars, a safety squat bar, a Mastodon, a Prowler®, a sled, bands, and chains, not to mention stones, tires, sandbags, and other strongman implements. Some notable lifters who train at CVA Barbell include Paul Nguyen, who just set the all-time raw world record deadlift at 165 pounds with a pull of 718 pounds, and Rodney Woodward, who has a 1,000-pound squat at 308 pounds.

Carlos also trains athletes from numerous sports backgrounds, and he uses a very analytic and methodical approach that is a breath of fresh air in an industry polluted with gimmicky bullshit that permeates blogs, YouTube, and various forms of social media. Something about Carlos that stands out is that he tells it like it is, and he isn't afraid to let you know if what you are doing isn't working. In turn, he is very humble and doesn't make a lot of posts or videos online. Instead, he prefers to let results and his coaching do the talking. I personally know that if it wasn't for some of his input in regards to my own training, I would not have hit an 800-pound squat or a 600-pound bench due to some substandard form of movements.

carlos gym elitefts equipment gabriel naspinski 040714

In this interview, we talk about a variety of subjects including training for sports, powerlifting, and common coaching or programming errors that many make. Carlos also comments on the reality of many athletes being under-prepared for sports, and the opposite ends of the spectrum that certain sports face.

GN: I wanted to start off by having you give us a little bit about your background and introducing yourself to those who may not be familiar.

CO: My name is Carlos Osegueda. I have a four-year degree in Exercise Sport Science. I own CVA Barbell in Stafford, Virginia. I’ve been powerlifting since 2002, but I haven’t competed in a while—since 2005. It’s my passion, though, and something I love to do. I’ve been personal training with general populations and athletes since about the same time. Like most people, I started in a commercial gym and saw a lot of things that weren't right.  After not agreeing with what was going on there, I went on my own and opened my own place. It took me a few years to get it going, but it brought me to where I am now.

GN: Okay, basically building on what you said there, I guess we will go right for the throat, so to speak. What are some of the mistakes that you see going on with the way people are training? I know that you could probably tell some stories of the stupid shit I was doing when I first started coming to your gym…

CO: (laughs) A lot of the time, I think people just try to do things before they are ready to do them. Let’s use powerlifting as an example. A lot of guys want to come in and squat X amount of weight and bench X amount of weight. But their technique is, well, they can’t even do the lifts right a lot of times. A lot of people make mistakes trying to rush, and they don’t learn to do the lifts right. They have some success doing things wrong, but eventually they hit a wall or get injured. When this happens, if they go to the drawing board and learn to get their technique down and do things right, then they start to see progress. One of the things I preach to the weight training class I teach at the community college is that lifting is a skill like any other sport. If you were going to teach someone to dribble a basketball, you wouldn’t start with the hardest drills. You would progress from the easiest to the hardest. As they get better, you challenge them with harder drills. People try to rush this. In sports, people do the same thing—they try to rush kids into things that they aren't ready for and, at times, they aren't even physiologically ready. Of course, the parents have fault in this, as they want to hear that their kid is the next superstar and try to push them when they aren’t ready. Unfortunately, they end up having a lot of issues where they aren't successful, and we also see a lot of injuries. People are doing things when they aren't ready, and they do things out-of-order.

GN: Building on what you said—with sports, a lot of the problem is coming from both the coaches and the parents, especially at the scholastic levels.  What is your advice for both the parents and the coaches about the whole long-term process of training athletes, and what should they know?

stretching athletes gabriel naspinski 040714

CO: Coaches and parents need to get more educated about what is appropriate for their kids in relation to their skill and age. They need to learn that it takes time. You and I have talked about this before. These guys around here [in Virginia] run speed camps, and they bring out bands and tie kids up and have them run and get tired. Then, when someone throws up, the parents say, “Little Johnny is out of shape, and we need to sign him up for more camps.” You aren't going to develop speed in two weeks. I don’t care what you do. These guys run them into the ground, and the parents shell out the money because they are promised that they are going to get their kid to a higher level. But it takes time to really develop an athlete, and not every kid is going to be a superstar. Some of them will play in high school and enjoy their years, but most won’t play after that. If you can prepare them and keep them safe, then you are doing your job.

Another thing, and I know you see it too, is that a lot of these kids are getting injured because they are under-prepared. Concussions are high, but it is almost like child abuse because everyone wants to go out and play football, but unfortunately not many are actually preparing the kids to play safely. People want to put a little 100-pound kid on the field (with no actual base) and have him play. However, it might not be in his best interest to just go play. At that size, if he is under-prepared and not athletic, then he is probably going to get hurt.

The adaptation and the process to get a kid to a level where he can actually perform takes time. It doesn't take a week, and it doesn’t take a month. It takes years to get people to perform at high levels. Not every kid is going to be a standout, but we need to prepare kids to be able and ready to participate safely in the sport they choose.

GN: I 100% agree with that. You know how it is working with a bunch of different people. On my staff, I know one position coach who will say that we don’t make people sick every workout so it isn't hard enough. Another, however, will say that we work them too hard. So, what we have to focus on is preparing them to be able to do what they need to do in their sport.

My next question is how do you address the subject of preparing athletes for what they need to do, as opposed to wasting an athlete’s time with things he will never have to do in his sport?

CO: A lot of training is general. As far as the selection of exercises, it is a risk/reward for what needs to be done. In my area, some high school coaches are sold on needing to snatch and power clean their quarterbacks, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me from a risk/reward standpoint. You know that this is your starting QB for the coming year. So, what will you get out of the exercise versus what can go wrong? Also, with the Olympic lifts, if you want them to do it even half-assed right, then it’s going to take some time in order to get them to do it correctly. Instead, you can go with different things that might be easier to teach, such as jumps, box jumps, med ball throws, etc. In turn, you can get more out of these with the shorter learning curve, and they can produce higher outputs more efficiently as opposed to something very technical like Olympic lifts. It’s one of those things where it becomes a waste of time. A lot of coaches don’t really know how to do these lifts right, and I’m not very skilled with them myself, but I can get results by using other things.

kids football gabe naspinski 040714

GN: I agree with this on the aspect of being efficient and on the risk/reward standpoint. I also think that people sometimes don’t look at the context associated with Olympic lifts and the explosive outputs resulting when they are performed poorly. Of course, this could be said of any movement that is performed poorly. 

Now, on a similar note, what is your stance on how to progress an athlete and build him? A lot of times we see untrained high school coaches load athletes up with weights when they have no idea how to perform the movements and no base. 

CO: I always have started with just body weight exercises. Of course, it depends on the individual, and some may have more experience and progress than others. But I start with body weight exercises and movement drills, and I watch them move. I also do some low-level jumps and medicine ball exercises before I then progress them to barbell lifts and weights. Of course with jumps, a lot of kids have no idea how to land, so we have to teach them how to land along with how to jump. Another thing, and I know you are a fan of this, is using a higher frequency when teaching lifts. If I have progressed them to weights, and I am teaching them, then I keep the weights light but have them squat, bench, and deadlift three times a week.  Sometimes this is as light as just the bar. Of course, as they progress and get stronger, I can start loading them less times in a week. With running, I like to use tempo running early on and then we progress to higher intensity work like sprints, more intensive plyometrics, and so on. I start as low as I can so that I have room to work with. As far as assessments go, starting out with movement and body weight exercises, at least at the beginning, is all the assessment I need. I can see how they move and if they can control their body weight. Unfortunately, people miss this because they try to skip ahead and don’t end up having any control of their body weight. People make this mistake with bigger kids all the time—looking at body weight and what they think they should be able to do. However, they are setting these big, out-of-shape kids up for injury. I had a bigger kid that had no strength and who was a pretty good D-III football player, but I had to take it slow with him because he didn’t have any base or control over his big body. If I would have pushed him, he would have probably just gotten hurt. You have to take it slow and progress them when they are ready. If their body is going everywhere, then there is no force development. It’s a waste.

GN: You brought up a good point about how people get caught up on a player's body weight and some correlation of "if he weighs X amount, then he should be able to lift X amount in this lift." But what people are forgetting is that 300 pounds of fat is not equivalent to an NFL linemen with low bodyfat and who weighs 300 pounds with high power outputs. Some of this goes to the selection of athletes. A lot of coaches want to find fat, 300-pound kids who have never played a sport in their lives, but they want to make them into linemen. With this in mind, what is your opinion on how we are selecting these kids to play sports? Do you think this leads to some of the discrepancies in regards to what performance should look like along with the injury factor?

kids football game gabriel naspinski 040714

CO: I think that some of it lies in the fact that even if the kid is not really built for the sport, but wants to play it, then he is going to do it anyway. Most people aren't going to convince a parent or his kid that since he is 120 pounds, that he should probably run cross country instead of playing a sport like football. It makes it tough on guys like us or the coaches. However, with no selection process, kids are going to play what they want whether they are suited for it or not. The only thing I can say is that if they want to play, then they are going to have to work to prepare themselves for the sport. For the big, fat kids like you are talking about, well, if they are weak and out of shape, then they are going to have to work in order to be prepared to play. This might mean losing 20, 30, or 40 pounds and coming in lighter, but at least they will actually be able to move and play. Like you said, 300 pounds of blubber...that’s not going to get you anything. It makes it hard because at the high school level because you get the kids regardless, and they will play. At that level, I would rather have a 190-pound kid who works hard and can play, move, and block instead of a 300-pound fat guy who just gets in the way.  It’s hard, though, because at the high school level, you really don’t have a choice. A lot of schools don’t even make cuts anymore, but a lot can’t because they need to have enough kids to practice and to field a team. On the other side, however, you have those kids that are too small. They need to make sure that they can be prepared to play by getting stronger, learning the game, being technically sound, and being able to defend themselves. Coaches and parents need to make the kids understand the importance of being prepared and working in the off-season. It is our job to prepare them the best we can.  Maybe they shouldn't be playing, but as coaches we need to provide them with the preparation to play the game safely and be prepared to perform.

GN: You kind of touched on having kids who can actually play the game. Something that a lot of coaches get caught up on is certain general markers such as strength, speed, size, etc. Other coaches get caught up on technique only.  How do you see the need for each aspect of general versus specialized preparation?

CO: I think that some coaches believe that you can just concentrate on lifting, whether it is Olympic or powerlifting, in the off-season, and maybe just on running and some other things. What if you want to play receiver? Well, you better know how to catch the ball. If you can’t catch the ball, then you aren't going to be a very good receiver. You aren't contributing to the team. Of course, this is individual, and some kids are generally developed in strength and speed and so on. Others are very technical, but under-prepared in a general sense. In a team sport, you need to find ways to incorporate some skill work into your program, even if it is just small amounts throughout the year. You also need to figure out which kids need more general work and which ones need more specialized work. This is hard in a large group setting, but you still have to be able to designate this. As things start to progress, more specialized work should start to be included. Also, like I said, some of this can be included in small amounts throughout the year. Team sports have skills that need to be practiced like anything else. One thing that I don’t understand, and I think you agree with me, is that we have all these seven-on-seven camps for skill players, but people neglect skill development for their linemen. We develop running, throwing, and catching for our skill guys, but the linemen are in the weight rooms and don’t do a whole lot of work for their actual position.

GN: I agree with that because if we look at a lot of the successful teams in the more development levels of football, like high school, the teams with a better group of players up front will usually win. I think a lot of people lose out by not focusing on their big guys, thinking that if they get big and strong, then they will get in people’s way and beat everyone skill gabriel naspinski 040714

CO: I think that is the wrong mindset and a lot of coaches fall into that. Think about if you get those guys more skilled, and they can move better. Think about if your guards can pull efficiently. You may have guys who can get to the next level to block. It opens up a lot more plays. However, this is a skill like anything else, and it has to be practiced and developed—which won’t happen by just lifting or running. They have to be taught to play the position just like the small guys. I know we are talking in football terms, but this happens in other sports as well.

On the other side, you have some sports where they play almost year-round. Soccer players, for example...all they want to do is play soccer all year. Baseball is another one. They do not get a lot of time to focus on rehab, prehab, getting stronger, speed work, or any other general work. All they focus on is playing and skill year-round. Then, they wonder why they have overuse injuries and why some players don’t improve. I had a few kids come to me a year or two ago who were soccer players. Their mother decided that she didn’t want them to play year-round but wanted them to train and have some time away from soccer. They spent about six months working out with me and then went back, and it ended up making a tremendous difference. They went back to the field more athletic and they could move better. They were also stronger, faster, and had less injuries. Soccer and baseball players are notorious for just playing a lot of years with school, club, travel, and so on. They specialize too much and don’t ever focus on becoming an athlete.

GN: Here is a change of subject for a second. In the realm of being a gym owner, where do you see things going? On one hand, we have chains trying to out-price the competition. On the other, we have places like CrossFit charging people $200 a month to…

CO: Exercise? (laughs)

GN: (laughs) Yeah, pretty much. Then, we have private entities like sports performance centers and barbell clubs. What do you see happening from this perspective, and how do you think this will develop?

CO: Well, here is one thing: just because there are gyms like mine or sports performance centers, well, that doesn’t mean that there will be quality instruction at those gyms. A lot of parents don’t actually pay for these types of gyms because it is easier to drop the kids off at school—transportation may be provided and they don’t have to worry about it. As a private gym owner, the other competition is the guys marketing with the, I don’t know, “sexy” stuff. I had a father ask me if I was going to use agility ladders, bands, sleds...whatever. I had to explain to him that his kid didn't need that now, if ever. He named other places using it, but I had to tell him that it wasn’t needed and his kid wasn’t ready. A lot of times, the most basic things get the best results. You have to stick to your guns and do what will get results. Once the results come, people will listen. It is tough, though, because you have to educate people and make them understand that it takes time. People now have smart phones and everything is right in front of them when they want it. Training doesn’t work like that.

carlos gabriel naspinksi student athlete training 040714

GN: Coming full circle and talking powerlifting now, we saw a lot of variations with specialty bars, bands, chains, and different exercises. To bring this back, now we are seeing more stripped down approaches. What are your thoughts on programming for powerlifting and exercise selection, as well as how to approach training with general, specialized, and competitive exercises?

CO: I think everything has it’s place. I've used different bars, bands, chains, and so on. When lifting with equipment, it may help more to a certain extent, but a lot of it depends on where you are (as far as the lifter goes). However, like you said, it comes full circle. If you want to get better at the lifts, you have to do the lifts. Not everybody looks the same. Some guys may squat with their heads down, while some may have heeled shoes. Of course, you can’t squat with your knees shooting in and hovering six inches over your toes, but there may be some difference from lifter to lifter. The big thing to worry about is perfecting the form in the three lifts for each individual lifter. We just had a guy, Paul Nguyen, break the world record at 165 pounds in the deadlift. If you would come by and see what he did, it was nothing fancy. I mean, he used the block periodization model, but there was nothing fancy to it. It was pretty much "put in the work and do the lifts." One thing, and we talk about this all the time...and I don’t know, I’ll probably get a lot of shit about this, but how do you train for 16 weeks, you know—four months, and not do well at the meet? Maybe in equipment...I know shit can happen, but in a raw meet? You should be honing your technique in. If you are doing a block model—accumulation blocks, you should be honing that technique in. It should get to the point where you can do it blindfolded. You shouldn't be bombing out. It really comes back to practicing the lift, and different bars, bands, and chains all have their place. But it all goes back to that risk versus reward standpoint—how much will you get out of them? Are they necessary? Will they beat you up more than help you improve? I can tell you that it beat me up, as it did you, but really that can be said of any training. If you train hard enough, things will hurt. A lot of it comes down to what you need to do in order to get better, and if different exercises are a better choice than keeping it simple and practicing the lifts, then so be it.

GN: Okay, with all the things we talked about in terms of sports training, powerlifting, and so on. How do you feel about some of these guys out there who are talking about how to train for sports or lifting when they haven’t done it themselves? We have guys who have never played or coached football, and they are telling kids how to train for football. Conversely, we have people who haven’t lifted weights or trained, and they are telling people how to lift. What is your stance on this?

CO: I mean, it’s hard for me to respect guys who are trying to teach things they haven’t done in their own lives. I could go on the Internet right now and read a few books on how to change the transmission on cars, but it doesn't make me an expert on it. I mean, if you haven’t played football, how do you know what it is going to take? Do you know the difference between really preparing an athlete and what also happens in August, when coaches just take kids and run ‘em to death? Unless you have been there and know that...and reading and certifications are great, but if you don’t know what happens at practices or have the experience, it is hard to really make an accurate judgment. I mean, I’m sure that there are guys who know and read and are great, but the experience is hard to replace. I mean, if I didn't powerlift myself, then how could I teach people to squat and bench? If you came to me and asked me to teach you to Olympic lift, I would tell you, “Sorry, wrong guy. I’m not that good at the lifts, and I don’t have the experience. You would be better off finding guys that are skilled and can teach you them." If you don’t have the experience, then you need to get out there. You want to coach? Get out there and maybe volunteer to assist a coach at a high school for a few years. You want to train kids for football? Get out there and see what the game is about. See what goes on and talk to other coaches. You want to open your own place? Talk to guys who have done it, and see what they are doing. You learn a lot from practicing, watching practices, and learning the game. Experience goes a long way. I have a hard time respecting guys who don’t have experience but act like they know what it’s all about.

social network facebook gabriel naspinski 040714

GN: Okay, last one. This is something that I always had reservations about when I started writing, and I know you are the same as me. You don’t post a lot on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, and so on. I know we share the same thought as there are a lot of guys out there writing about this, but aren’t really out there coaching and working. Everyone has a keyboard and an opinion, but to me, these guys don’t seem like coaches. With the last statement, is this kind of what you are referring to with not respecting people who are talking but not doing?

CO: I think there are a lot of guys out there who have experience, perhaps in other fields, and this helps them with other things. However, if you have never lifted a weight or played a sport in your life, then you shouldn’t be in the field. You don’t get a certification at your local gym and then tell everyone you know everything there is to know because you learned it from a book. There are two sides to that. Some of this is marketing...some of these guys are legit, but some aren’t. The Internet is very dangerous because anyone can say anything they want. Do your own research and take everything with a grain of salt. Do your own research and realize that everything isn’t on the Internet. Pick up a book, read, and figure it out for yourself.

As far as the Internet, I’m a lot like you—I don’t get on there a whole lot, and as far as my gym goes, I don’t advertise a lot but I probably should do more. The proof is in the pudding. I don’t have the luxury of being in an area with a lot of guys coming into my gym. Most of our guys start out without much experience. For example, Paul [Nguyen] and Rodney [Woodward]. Rodney squatted 1,000 pounds, but he wasn’t always that strong.  Same with Paul. They came in doing a lot of basic things and doing things right, and the strength goes through the roof. To me, this speaks more than any advertisement. People ask why I don’t post testimonials. Maybe I should—perhaps I will, but it isn’t something I like to do. I would rather let results speak for themselves. I usually have guys come in, stick it out, and keep improving. You know this because you were there for a while. Guys come in and improve, and when they move on, they can help others to improve. With guys like Paul and Rodney, I don’t necessarily tell them what to do anymore—just offer suggestions. They can coach themselves, and they also can coach new guys. The same goes for my athletes and my general population clients. With small gyms like this, results have to be your advertising.

GN: Any closing words?

CO: I just think that whatever it is, you need to be educated in what you need to do. Whether that is football, lifting, getting housewives ready for summer, or whatever. Have a passion and find people who are knowledgeable in that field. Learn from them. I know for me it's becoming educated by reading stuff from James Smith “The Thinker”. His posts are what got me started and got the ball rolling on reading different things—not just what everyone else is reading. It wasn't as popular at the time, with things like Block Periodization and other concepts, and I would stay up reading his posts trying to figure out what he was reading.  Now, I even go in and read some of the articles you put out to see who you are reading and ways I can use all those ideas. I think that is where it comes from. The certifications, those just maybe get you in the door for getting a job. You have to put the work in and go above and beyond that. You have to be passionate, and put in the extra hours, extra work, and educate yourself to get better. You have to work to get ahead. I visited colleges, paid to go to seminars, and that is the thing to do.  Figure out what the best guys in the field are doing and that is pretty much how it goes.