Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Once Again, Back Is The Incredible!"

A few weeks ago I saw the all time greatest rap group and one of the best and most influential bands of any genre, ever; Public Enemy. It's quite possible that I have seen more concerts than anyone on the planet but that was by far and away the best. If you don't have any PE on your training mixes you are seriously missing out. Some must have, immediate downloads are:
-Lost at Birth
-You're Gonna Get Yours
-Bring The Noise
-Night of the Living Baseheads
-Rebel Without a Pause
-Terminator X to the Edge of Panic
-Party For Your Right to Fight
-Can't Truss It
-Fight the Power
-Brothers Gonna Work it Out
-Burn Hollywood, Burn
-Son of a Bush
-Welcome to the Terrordome

The New York Jets head strength coach, Sal Alosi, Performance Coach, Keith Scott, "Rob The Bouncer" aka "The Doorman" and I have all had thousands of great workouts to the sounds of Chuck D and Flavor Flav. I highly recommend you do the same.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Speed Training Secrets

Today we have a great interview with my buddy and world renowned speed expert, Patrick Beith. Check it out...

Question: Patrick, please tell us a little about your background coaching speed and who you have worked with?

Answer: I graduated with my Bachelor of Science from the University of Massachusetts. Right after graduation I started working as an intern, to who I feel is the top strength & conditioning coach in the world, Mike Boyle. From there I went to get a few certifications from the NSCA (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist), ACSM (Health/Fitness Instructor), NASM (Performance Enhancement Specialist) and USA Track & Field Level II Sprint coach certification.
Since interning for Coach Boyle, I have always been passionate with working with the youth athletes. I mostly work with the junior high and high school level student-athletes. It’s an amazing feeling to see the changes and how your ‘kids’ develop as athletes and people.

Q: What is the state of the speed industry in your opinion?

A: The speed industry is blowing up right now. It’s great to be apart of that but I have also seen many problems that happens with this sudden growth. Right now, you are seeing high schools hiring strength and speed coaches, which was almost unheard of a few years earlier. The problem is that every person who has ever run or ever thought about running before is claiming to be a speed expert. As an athlete, you just have to be careful who you take advice from.

Q: What are the top two common myths that coaches still believe in regarding speed development?

A: There are so many myths regarding speed development and proper training but I will give you some that I hear all of the time from coaches.

1. Speed work is running 100 yards or 200 yards or repeat 40’s with little or no rest.
This is False. I have coaches tell me all the time that their athletes are doing speed work and then goes into telling me that his athletes are running beasts, suicides, repeat 100 meters, or repeat 40 yards dashes with their rest period is turning around and walking back to the line.
True speed work is performed at 90-100% intensity for 2-8 seconds. You also need to be fully recovered before you start your next repetition if you want to get the full benefits of speed training. I use 1 minute of rest for every 10 meters run. I think I got the rest recommendations from speed coach Charlie Francis.

2. You can’t train speed.
This saying is in the news, in the newspaper and in magazines all the time. I don’t want people to misconstrue this. You can’t train an athlete’s natural talent. Deion Sanders, Maurice Greene, Darrell Green, etc are going to be fast no matter what. Does that mean they can’t get faster? Of course they can. If they couldn’t then we would both be out of a job. Speed is a skill that is trainable and needs to be trained to improve it.

Q: In general, how many days per week should athletes train speed?

A: Two to three days per week. I wouldn’t train speed more then 3 days a week, 2 days is more the average. Performing more then 3 days of speed work or even too many weeks of 3 days of speed work can cause your body to break down. I believe that you get faster recovering from the speed work you did so you must not overdo it.

Q: Conditioning for speed is often a confusing topic for many new coaches. What is your approach to improving conditioning levels for speed events?

A: Most speed and power athletes hate conditioning work. This is because most of them had a coach who on a conditioning workout day would have his/her athletes go out on the roads for some distance running. If you see a 270 lb. lineman out on the road, it looks ugly. These athletes or any speed and power athletes do not ever need to be out running on the roads. This would cause unneeded pounding on their joints and they will not benefit form this type of exercise, in fact it might cause set backs!

For conditioning work, I really like to use general strength circuits. General strength (GS) circuits are usually bodyweight exercises that involve no external loading. I use them to help maintain healthy joint and soft tissue strength, provide some aerobic capacity work, is a good recovery workout, is core strengthening, helps with balance/coordination/proprioception and enhances gross motor performance. So, you get the aerobic conditioning work in and reap all of these other great benefits. More bang for your buck which we as coaches are always looking for.

Q: What might be a sample preseason routine for conditioning for the 100m or 200m event?

A: In the preseason I use more volume of conditioning work then decrease it throughout the periodized season as the training emphasis changes.
Here is a basic example:

Perform on a football field. Jogging 65% on the sidelines each corner. Do one exercise in each corner. Or if you don’t have the room have your athletes jog 50 meters in between each exercise. Rest 3 minutes then repeat the circuit.

Split squats - 10 each leg
Rotational push-ups - 8 each
Bicycles - 1x30
Burpees - 1x10
Staggered push-ups - 10 each
Russian twists - 1x25
Backwards lunges - 10-each leg
Lateral lunges - 10 each leg
Reverse crunches - 1x20
1 Leg squats - 10 each leg

Q: What about conditioning for field and court sports? Is your
approach the same?

A: I use the same approach with my field and court sport athletes. Some exercises change and volume changes depending on the sport. Again, GS circuits work on everything to help develop each athletes work capacity. Also, depending on the sport, I use intensive tempo or interval work to help build the necessary lactic tolerance needed for a specific sport. Always look at your energy system demands of your sport before you start putting together your workouts.

Q: In your opinion, is sport specific speed even necessary? (Basic acceleration and change of direction skills versus sport specific movement patterns)

A: I think that the skills must be taught in order for an athlete to excel. We first need to teach the athletes to cut properly, apply force correctly, and show them what we are looking for when they change direction etc. If they master the drill, 9 times out of 10 they can carry it over to their sport. It’s hard to really get sport specific with an athletes training without playing their actual sport.

We can add soccer balls if they play soccer, add different audio and visual cues, add contact to certain drills, put them in different situations, etc. but there is nothing like the real thing. We should worry more about teaching the correct movement patterns and speed mechanics and let the athletes carry it over to their sport. As speed coaches, we don’t always have a say in what the sport coach is doing for in season practice, so we need to be able to prepare our athletes for everything and give them the skills needed to shine in their sport environment.

Q: What's the best age to begin formal speed development?

A: Formal speed development, that’s a good question. I use a lot of speed games with my younger athletes where we are working on speed development without them really knowing it. I use the same rules (intensity, volume, rest) with my speed games so they can still reap the same benefits as ‘structured’ speed training but I make it more fun. Actually, I use speed games with all of my athletes, it really can change the whole dynamic of training that day and makes it a lot more enjoyable for all age athletes. High school is where I start to break down form and really work on mechanics.

Q: Should girls train differently than boys when it comes to speed development?

A: With my female athletes I work a lot on strength development and body awareness drills. When it comes to speed development, I use time more of a marker then gender. So, I still use my 2-8 seconds for pure speed work (acceleration and maximum velocity). It’s going to take a female longer to run 30 meters then a male so you need to make adjustments in rest, reps, volume and progression. I hope that makes sense.

To learn more about Coach Beith's speed training system and for a free report - 'Secrets to Developing Dominant Speed' go to

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Can't Truss It"

So I ran out of protein powder about two weeks ago and decided to take a quick ride to the supplement store to grab a new bottle. The choices were limited and I was in the mood for something different. In a lapse of judgement I bought a bottle from a company that I shouldn't have. It's not the most reputable company and the owner has a history of dabbling in illegal activities. So it's really my own damn fault.

For the next five nights I hardly slept a wink. I found out that this was because there is something in the bottle that's not listed on the label. I haven't been sick in a few years but five all nighters in a row brought that streak to an end and crushed my immune system. I woke up early last week with my throat swollen shut and spent the rest of the day hacking up a lung.

Now I have been sick and getting smaller and weaker for the last seven days.

The point is this; only go with reputable companies that have been around a while and that are lab tested and that you know can be trusted.

I have been saying that for years but unfortunately didn't take my own advice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Stretching The Truth

By now everyone knows how much I like to expose each and every scam in this sick industry of ours as often as I can. I like to try to provide some light of truth in this world of darkness. Today I'd like to discuss some more lies that have been perpetrated on all of us for way too long.

When it comes to stretching, flexibility and mobility, it seems that quite a few experts are very confused. They have taken that confusion and spread it to the masses and now nobody has a clue what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to this topic.

What exactly am I talking about? Well about this statement, for one…

“There is absolutely no correlation between static and dynamic flexibility.”

Uhh…ok, sure.

Then why is that dancers and martial artists stretch until they are blue in the face every day of the year?

I remember a funny (not humorous in the least, but funny) little strength coach used to try to prove this point to be true by saying that he knew a martial artist who could kick Shaquille O’Neal in the head but couldn’t touch his own knees. Of course this is a ludicrous (not Ludacris) statement and like everything else that ever came out of his mouth was a complete made up lie.

What about if a guy could do a split but was not a martial artist? Yes, the first time he attempted to kick someone in the head he might be at risk of injury because it is a new range of motion and is an explosive movement he is not used to. But he is going to fair far better than my fat uncle who hasn’t stretched since glutamine was still a popular supplement that supposedly helped build muscle… wait, is glutamine still a popular supplement that supposedly helps build muscle? God help us.

Anyway, it’s no different from a 600 pound squatter who has never done a plyo exercise in his life, attempting to do five sets of depth jumps off a four foot box. Maybe he should technically be able to do it, but it is a brand new stimulus and something he has never done before so the risk of injury will still be very high. This is not a good enough reason to throw static stretching out the window.

They say that static stretching has no carryover to the playing field. Again this is ridiculous. The best way to gain flexibility is to train flexibility and the best way to do that is by doing hours and hours of static stretching just like a dancer or martial artist. If your hamstrings are about as tight as the virgin, Connie Swale and then you stretch the shit out of them for three months straight you are going to feel a lot better both on and off the field. If you tried to break out into a sprint with your extremely tight hammies, there would be a good chance of pulling or even tearing them. If, three months later, you possessed the kind of flexibility that would make a Cirque Du Soleil performer jealous, I guarantee you that your chance of a hamstring injury will be greatly reduced and your recovery time will be drastically improved.

If a running back can do a full split, is that not going to improve his ability to safely and efficiently hurdle an oncoming tackler? According to some misinformed people who are trying to trick you, said running back would tear his hamstring to shreds attempting that move because static flexibility has no correlation with dynamic flexibility.

If I gave you a list of pro athletes who do numerous hours each week of static stretching and even participate in (dare I say it?) yoga or ballet, you would see that their incidence of injury is very low. Coincidence?

If you are over the age of thirty you may remember a wide receiver named Willie Gault who was a Chicago Bears wide receiver on the '85 Super Bowl team. He was known for being a dancer and doing tons of static stretching. He was never injured and was also the fastest man in the NFL and even had a tryout for the US Olympic Team. Coincidence?

A common problem that many people encounter when squatting is that their ass “tucks under.” This causes a great amount of undue stress on the lower back. The reason this happens is because the hamstrings are too tight and thus pull on the pelvis causing it to rotate. As you descend in the squat, the hamstrings lengthen. When they are too tight they can only go so far. The cure for this problem? Static stretching.

Useless? I think not.

For chronically tight areas like hip flexors and piriformis, there is no choice but to static stretch. You can do all your little kicks and leg swings from now ‘til Chingy or Young Cheesy or whoever comes out without a record that can touch anything ever done by Public Enemy (eg. ‘til eternity) but it’s not gonna do a damn thing to help. The only way to improve those areas and to lessen the lower back pain that can be caused from those muscles being tight is to do a whole lot of static stretching.

Like I often ask, who comes up with this shit?

Stay tuned for much more on this subject.

And remember: linear periodization still works, static stretching still works, the basic exercises still work, food is still better than protein powder, and most supplements still suck. The more things change the more they stay the same…

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Age is No Excuse

I would like to start by thanking everyone for all the positive responses to the last post on using age as an excuse.

Here is just a small sample of what you guys had to say...

"Good rant; problem many have is that the medical /allied health community sets the bar way too low. Unless there are serious orthopedic issues or other serious medical issues then most people underestimate their physical capabilities. Our job is to enlighten them and show them the way. Many of those medical conditions are diseases of misuse/ disuse, anyway. Use it or lose it, baby."
Bruce Kelly,M.S. CSCS,NSCA-CPT

"As they say in the Bronx...not for nothin'...but I was almost a pro baseball player ( Pirates' minor league system 1967 ), was D-III ECAC offensive player of the year 1966, ran 6 marathons b4 I turned 35...and I believe that over the last 5 years I have been in the best shape of my life! Used to bench 350 lbs @age I can do 225 lbs 27 reps ( I don't even care about 1rm's any more...never did body fat measurements in my youth ( did anybody? )...but last year I had a body fat of 9%...and I even did pretty well 2yrs ago in avoiding being robbed by 2 young guys in a Citi Bank - I walked out...they did not...

Jason, as you may remember, I am 58 years old...and I am Sly's biggest are so right that you are not limited my age so much as attitude and commitment...

Love to hear stories about people who refuse to be bound by stigma or pre-conceived notions of others...or my their own laziness."
Jan Rovelli

"Great write up. I too have a client who uses age as a way of bailing out of goals he sets for himself. I do understand that as we age we must restructure our training a little, but for me who will turning 40 this year, I look forward to taking off my shirt and showing other 40 year old men that with smart training and nutrition and dedication you too can look like your 35 instead of your age.
Thanks for the motivation Jason.
Keep up the good work coach,
Richard Bell

"Jason, glad you brought this point up! I hear people say all the time "I'm old" or "I'm getting too old to do this!" We are only as old as we let ourselves become, strive to be your best at whatever age you are. It is my hope that more people will come to realize they are never "too old" to try to be their best."
Aaron Pickens
South Carolina

"You probably won’t get to read this but i wanted to comment on your last email...
This email was incredible. I can’t agree with you more. I absolutely can’t stand the age / time excuse.
You can MAKE TIME and the body can BE TRAINED at any age.

Here is one to ad for you.. My grandfather ( Robert Shellenberger, of Columbia, Pennsylvania) was still WALKING ON HIS HANDS at 70 years of age. SEVENTY AND WALKING ON HIS HANDS. not just handstands, actual walking around on his hands. He turned 93 this past January and STILL rides his bike to breakfast 3 x a week.
Joe Defranco's dad is another example; he’s probably still stronger at 60 than most 22 year old college seniors!!
Keep up the awesome work!!!"

"Fuck did I need to hear this today. I'm 36 and an ex JR/Semi-Pro hockey
player who has let the corporate life get the better of me, I'm soft.
Started training Jan 8 this year and have dropped BF by 6% and weight by
15lbs so far but was beginning to feel a bit sorry for myself cause I got my
ass kicked last game in my beer league... playing a group of younger guys...
maybe I am too old... I've lost too many steps to compete at this level...
boo fucking hoo... I'm out of shape and I deserved what I got. I'm more
motivated than ever to come back next year and take these young shits to
school... in shape they can't hold my jock.

Thanks for the kick in the ass."

"I'm no Superman but at 54 I still play squash, play baseball (not softball!), run in Masters track meets, and can ski any black diamond ski slope in New England. Certainly the fact that I've been active my entire life plays a huge role in that. Obviously, I've been working out pretty hard for all of these years to maintain my ability to do these things.
Keep up the good work."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Not Bad For An Old Man"

Last night, UFC legend Randy Couture came out of retirement and won the world heavyweight title at 43 years old.

And your excuse for why you are not stronger or biggeer or leaner or a better athlete is because you are... too old? How sad and pathetic you must be.

Last night was like watching a real life version of Rocky Balboa and the only way not to be motivated by it was if you slept through the fight.

Sylvia was the odds on favorite against the older Couture yet he was completely dominated from start to finish. Randy trained his ass off in preparation for this fight and entered the octagon in the best shape of his life.

Sure, we all don't have the luxury of being able to do nothing but train, eat and sleep like many pro athletes do but to use that as an excuse is unacceptable. To use age as an excuse is beyond unnaceptable.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard the age excuse used. And every time I hear it, it makes me sick. I once had a client who came to my gym to train at the same time as a particular group of high school kids. The kids were significantly stronger than him on every exercise they did. He used to look on in awe and tell me, "there's no way I can compete with these high school guys, I'm way too old for that."

He was 34, and I was completely nauseated by his statement. Being the politically incorrect straight shooter that I am, I immediately snapped at him, "You have got to be kidding me, right? You're using age as an excuse at 34?! ? You should be ashamed of yourself. They should be saying there is no way they can compete with you because you should be dominating them. "

I couldn't look at him for the rest of that workout without wanting to throw up.

I had another client around the same time who displayed the exact opposite attitude and proved what's possible when you don't set limits or make excuses. Mark Crook hired me to train him shortly after his 41st birthday. He had barely touched a weight in his life up until that point but was determined to get in shape and give it his all. Once he got a taste of the intense training atmosphere in my gym he was hooked and wanted nothing more than to dominate everyone in his path. He set his sights on some of the young bucks who were significantly stronger than him and vowed to outlift all of them within a year.

With determinatinon, laser sharp focus and ample amounts of hard work Mark went from barely being able to bench press 135 to easily handling 275 in his first year at my gym. In the process he left many of the younger guys who were benching 50-100 pounds more than him when he started, in the dust. Mark went on to become a very good friend of mine and still trains hard to this day. Not once in the entire time that I have known him did I ever hear Mark mention his age and use it as any kind of excuse.

I have another good friend from Arkansas named David Larkan who is one of the most inspiring people you will ever meet. Dave is close to 50 years old and still plays in a wide variety of semi professional sports leagues and trains as hard as anyone I know. I received a phone call from him recently and he told me that despite the numerous injuries he has accumulated over the years he had decided to go back to playing semi pro FOOTBALL for one last season and wanted to know if I could help him get in shape for his last hurah.

In case you missed it, Dave is nearly 50. What's your excuse again?

Why do some people think that the day you graduate college your ability to do anything physical is automatically rendered useless? It is assumed by a large portion of the population that after college you have to get serious about life and grow up. This usually means giving up sports, sitting in front of a computer all day, getting in terrbible shape, taking up golf and basically turning into a complete pussy. Intense physical activity and competition is beneath them apparently.

Get over it and start living.

I recently saw some friends from high school and they confessed that they have not done much physical activity since we graduated fifteen years ago. It showed.

On the other hand, I am a far better athlete today, at 32 then I was back then at age 17 and I am only getting better. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I refuse to stop.

But I'm still young so some of the older guys will use that as an excuse. "You're still in your thirties, wait til you get to be forty, then you'll see."

Well then what about Brett Favre, still playing at close to 40?

Ric Flair is still wrestling a full time schedule and taking bumps off the top rope and steel chair shots in his mid 50's.

Louie Simmons is still powerlifting with the best of them in his 60's.

And Randy Couture just competed in the most physically demanding sport on earth last night and won the world heavyweight championship at age 43.

Now tell me one more time, what's your excuse?