As both a ‘personal trainer’ and strength & conditioning (S&C) coach into my 4th decade of work, my view of the profession is broader than what any “soundbite” or general observation can provide.

A recent article from USA Today (from August 19, 2015) highlighted a common aversion that sport team coaches, especially in football, have regarding their players training with personal coaches to improve their individual performance and potential. I am going to present a balanced, counterpoint to the “case” made in that piece.

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I’ve addressed the role of a personal S&C coach on podcasts, in articles, and even recorded an audio product a few years back about the ‘state of the union’ in today’s fitness and S&C fields and the benefits of a qualified private coach.

Editor’s note: For sake of this article, coach and trainer can be used interchangeably although there can certainly be a discernible difference in the two. As well, it is known that there are both  men and women as qualified coaches.

Though we’ve made undeniable progress in the field of athletic preparation, in regards to attaining scientific validation of many of our chosen training methods, and in ‘program design’ for greater work/recovery efficiency, there’s also a most evident downside that has “progressed” as well—

The dilution of a field, once consisting of a streamlined group of coaches in it for the primary purpose of developing a healthier and better performing athlete.

As with most any vocation that involves personal service, ulterior motives such as image, ego, and financial gain will be the attraction for those who are purely self-serve-driven. For more than half a century, the world of competitive sports has attracted plenty of “characters” into an athlete’s entourage so this is certainly nothing new or surprising. The place where the line is crossed is when any professional outside the structure of an organized team or individual sport is thrown into the same category as a posse of opportunists.

Make no mistake, one of the incentives of a personal S&C coach is ‘to be in business’ to make money, to handle their personal, family, and business financial responsibilities, and that’s certainly not a problem. The problematic issue arises when a coach is using an athlete, or athletes, to create an “image of relevance” and build a career that would not be there otherwise. When this is the case, there is a certain conflict-of-interest that occurs as the personal coach becomes a “pimp” of sorts and a subsequent divisive component in the athlete’s development and relationship with his/her team.

Fortunately, this scenario is not the rule but the exception, yet it is becoming increasingly more common. And, when it does occur it gives credence to team coaches for being suspicious, and often times downright antagonistic, to any coach in private practice.

As with most career choices, when quantity substantially increases, quality substantially decreases. In my assessment, nowhere is this more evident than in the S&C industry. And, reality is that it’s an industry where someone can learn just enough technical jibberish and apply a heavy dose of charisma and marketing to deceive a large percentage of young athletes and their parents into thinking they are the answer to fulfilling their dreams.

Considering that “trainer certifications” can be obtained literally in a matter of hours at a weekend workshop, and considering anyone who “benches and squats a lot”, does 50-inch box jumps on YouTube, has a few tattoos along with the Mr. Clean hair style,  and a social media account can call themselves an “expert”, it’s easy to understand why we are headed on a clear path of compromise in an ever-increasing, watered-down genre of performance coaching.

As I’ve sincerely stated many times, I can teach a 5 year-old how to just wear someone out.

I realize that bringing up this issue will necessitate a “well, what’s the solution?” response. The answer lies in awareness and accountability. It’s the responsibility of each authentic S&C professional to uphold personal standards of commitment, integrity, humility, respect for colleagues, and the insatiable desire to be a better coach with continuing education. And, this continued education has little to do with letters after your name and everything about understanding that you never stop learning.

Adhering to the above principles will insure that we keep industry standards where they need be, and that itself can go a long way in warding off those with less than the respect, dedication, servility, and diligence essential for true success and longevity in the field of athletic preparation.

As well, the coaching circle must tighten-up. Coaches are better when viewing each other as associates, a part of the progressive process, where each of us brings unique qualities and assets to the coaching continuum. The childish criticism, biases, jealously, and back-biting often seen tends to manifest when there’s a gap of insecurity in the coaching circle.

Social media and marketing has plenty of positives, yet can also lead to an atmosphere of who can throw around the most technical, yet confusing and inapplicable, terms, “recruit” the most followers, bash the most competitors, and pander to people’s sense of ambition through their feelings of insufficiency and inferiority. As tempting or justified as you may deem it, success in the S&C field is never about impressing people with what you think you know or trashing other coaches or their methods, but about minding your work with a spirit of humility, clarity, and confidence.


As cliché as it may sound, coaching is best when it’s a brotherhood. It’s a mature coach who understands that we train the person first, then the athlete.  This coach will have trusted go-to colleagues to call on to help produce a more complete product, a better result, and be quick to return the favor when called upon.

Every training principle in existence has been around long enough that only a fool would believe otherwise. Thus, egos can take a rest when someone thinks they’ve originated anything along the lines of training methods and techniques. The individuality is purely in the realm of application of these principles.

Individual coaches may have developed certain “systems” and programming that are more proficient or efficient than another, and each coach has areas they are more skilled in as well as those aspects of the athletic preparation spectrum they need more assistance in. The tighter the circle, the stronger the circle. This can obviously lead into an entire topic of its own for a future article. Suffice to say, confidence is needed in coaching though it’s value is entirely dependent on humility and mutual respect for colleagues.


Exhibit A: There are people in ‘any’ personal service profession that are in it for self-serving reasons and the S&C industry is not immune to that.  It may sound self-righteous to point out there are those in “training business” purely  for the incentives of making money and making-a-name. Notice I did not say these reasons are “wrong”, as for those individuals it may in fact be their best rationale. That’s reality…and simply put,  ‘client/athlete’ beware.

Exhibit B: There are people in a specialized personal service business with the primary incentive being to serve the specific needs of others. There are potentially major performance-enhancing, injury-preventive, and yes, psychological advantages and benefits in hiring, and working consistently with, a qualified personal performance coach. There’s no arguing that a sport like football is a team sport, however, the best teams are made up of individuals that are at their best for the team by taking accountability to be at their best.

Even the best ‘in-team’ training programs– at the most elite high schools and colleges– are limited in what they can address for the individual in regards to optimizing their fullest potential. Qualified personal coaches can assess and address specific attributes of the athlete in a way far beyond the scope of a team setting. Key areas like mobility, speed and agility mechanics, and even lifting technique get little to no attention in the team environment due to logistics or fact that even the best football coaches are not necessarily qualified S&C coaches and lack the skills to teach these techniques.


That said, the value of ‘in-team’ workouts at school need not ever lose their significance. It’s not an “either or” issue. I prefer to call the training an individual athlete does “on their own” as beyond the team responsibilities as opposed to “outside” of it. Consider it in the same perspective of an athlete staying after practice for extra work while his teammates may have hit the showers. It should not be a divisive measure, but observed as one that inspires teammates and positively impacts the team.

It’s understandable that a team’s head coach, and other members of the coaching staff, will be hesitant to jump on board with someone “on the outside” influencing their kids. This is especially true in football as the in-team weight room and conditioning workouts are used, to a large extent, as a place to galvanize, discipline, and even punish the kids.

Over the years, I’ve had a relatively small group of head coaches who take the time to actually investigate the benefits of a non-staff S&C coach. Much of this hesitancy comes from failure to differentiate between a team’s performance and discipline. It’s similar to how any parent would feel if someone ‘outside the home’ came in to discipline their kids. It’s an understandable misperception, yet with a solution better than ignorance and settling for sub-optimal performance.

A qualified personal coach will understand the necessity of designing the athlete’s work done beyond the team in a way that complements the in-team workouts and never compromises the authority of the team’s coaching staff or the unity of the team. I personally communicate with each of my athletes that they are not to standout in any fashion that alienates teammates, but to take accountability as a leader to a whole new level.

The personal coach can be a significant asset to not only individual players but also the team in general with a greater presence of leadership. As well, the coaching staff can benefit by focusing more on what their speciality is, the actual sport. Again, it’s not an ‘either or’ dilemma but a healthy integrated approach, with communication that eliminates the unnecessary confusion and conflict. And, this all begins with the maturity of the personal S&C coach and willingness of team coaches to become better educated. When this understanding is in place, the bottom line is:  a better prepared individual will not only be helping their future but also be a stronger component for the team.


Commitment or Contradiction?

Posted: September 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

Over the years I’ve witnessed a significant percentage of men and women try to destroy themselves in their workouts all with the intent of either attaining a high level of fitness or feeling like they’ve done enough to have earned the ambiguous “rite of passage” to compare themselves to others by.

It’s not just ironic, that this same group has an ever-enlarging incidence of chronic injuries, burnout, or at best, lack of progress/result for their efforts. With the advent of YouTube and other social avenues to training practices, this issue is well on its way to becoming epidemic.

Tempting as is, I’m not going to take the easy path here and start slamming certain training methods or organizations. The reality is, all training systems can work to your benefit when applied with regulated progressions and the secret ingredient of…common sense. It’s the people involved that “fail” training systems with their flawed instruction and/or application.

Very frequently I’m asked, “What’s the most important thing in getting leaner, more fit, less pain-riden, stronger, greater endurance, more mobile, etc, etc.” They expect some coded, underground, scientifically-inspired gibberish that will take an interpreter to understand…But, the answer is so simple it’s typically discounted and ignored. Write this down, store it in your smart phone…


Going to extremes in exercise will certainly provide immediate feedback in regards to whether something is “working”… but that’s really not all that impressive when you consider a 10-year old could be taught– literally in minutes– how to “coach” a group of adults into exhaustion via certain elementary exercises done to quite severe levels.

“Wow, that was a killer workout!” is the most overrated endorsement of a fitness trainer I can think of.

Consistency in applying sound principles on a regular basis, with deliberate and modest progressions, is the most valuable characteristic of an individual committed to a lifetime of fitness.


Now, let me clarify that if you are a competitive athlete and your chosen “sport” happens to be a form of what the majority think of as “a fitness routine” (i.e. PowerLifting, Bodybuilding, Olympic Weightlifting, and yes, CrossFit), this article is not as relevant to you as it is the overwhelming majority of general population. No matter your chosen competitive sport, there will always be some level of extremity involved in training.

However, even then, you are best to understand the value of biofeedback and workload regulation. This is especially true when your training program is outside the practice of the actual sport. For instance, few sports require more off-field preparation than football. The work in the weight room is important but still must not become more so than the on-field product. Thus, football athletes must be coached in the weight room to challenge their current strength and conditioning levels to make progress but never to the point where the carry-over to the football field suffers. 

Now, when your chosen sport is the training itself (i.e. CrossFit), it’s more about achieving  “peak performance” rather than a life of ‘optimal performance’. This isn’t to say you can’t use some of the principles of a dedicated sport to build an overall functional training program. The key is to consciously select these methods, in scaled-back fashion, and fit them in as part of the program as opposed to the program.

When your competitive result literally takes conscious valid precedence over other stuff in daily life such as a job, career, family, or being able to fully function as your chronological years compile, then have at it. No argument here that achieving your greatest potential physically must sometimes entail pushing the boundaries beyond what makes for a mostly-sane individual. But, for the vast majority, I digress…

The actual functional view of training understands you are only as “good” as your NEXT workout. Whereas the “dysfunctional” view believes you are identified with your previous session(s).

To be truly “committed to” the fitness lifestyle, and to experience the full benefits of training for strength, conditioning, and mobility there are two prerequisite understandings:

#1 You expect to train for a lifetime.

#2 You view each workout as a vital investment that sets the stage for your next workout. You’re only as good as your next workout.

In reality, it takes more discipline to train deliberately this side of the proverbial cliff of “extremes” and to be consistent day after day, week to week, month after month, and year by year than to always just pin your ears back and “go for it”.  For argument’s sake, even if you could take the flight of stairs in one leap, is the risk worth the reward especially when the small margin-for-error can leave you in condition not even being able to take a single step? Unless you’re a competitive “flight-of-stairs racer”, it’s likely best to consistently take it one step at a time.

Commitment is demonstrated by your having a plan, making minor adjustments as needed, being technically sound, and remaining consistent in training accuracy which includes  leaving “something in the tank” to build on workout to workout, knowing those specific times to take it nearer the “redline”, and to pull back just enough to live to train another day with purpose and passion.

To repeat, 

Consistency in applying sound principles on a regular basis, with deliberate and modest progressions, is the most valuable characteristic of an individual committed to a lifetime of fitness.

“Go heavy or go home!”
“If you’re not adding another plate, you’re wasting your time.”
“If your numbers are not increasing,  you’re workouts are useless.”
“You can’t build muscle without moving more weight.”

“You gotta do “fill-in-blank”  if you want to build your ________.
“If you don’t__________, you won’t develop your________”
“You______, if you don’t______with at least______, you are a worthless _____”

Alright, these are just a few of the common statements parroted in our wonderful expert-filled fraternity of resistance training…and as if absolute, irrefutable laws in the world of fitness/bodybuilding/strength & conditioning. If you’re reading this you’ve probably heard a few of them, said a few of them, and may even still believe a few of them. Far be it for me, or anyone else, to try and convince you otherwise.

As with all of my writings and teachings, my objective is to contribute in a manner that  helps you with the next step no matter where you currently are as opposed my trying to appear smart, be argumentative, authoritative, or condescending. All of my work is based soundly on, ‘there’s science in what we do but the application is not a science’. Take from it what you can use, and set aside or discard the other. There’s more than enough confusion in our industry and my hope is to help eliminate some of it and shine light on a path free of fitness legalism.

This article is for those who have hit a proverbial roadblock (or desire avoiding one) in their training for whatever reason, no matter if injury, chronological age, or simply personal inaptitude regarding certain exercises.  As well, it’s for those who want to minimize wasted time and make their training, and/or their clients’, more efficient. As with any productive read, if you get even one good idea to implement, in my estimation, it was well worth your time investment.

To illustrate the few (but key!) points of this article, I’m going to use my 30-year career working with competitive athletes and general clientele, as well as my own experience in actual dedicated training over the past 36 years, and counting. If doing the math, that’s no typo, I started training at the mature age of 12, and began working with actual clients at 18.

My clientele has ranged from 6 years of age to those into their 90’s. Currently, the range is 7 to 86 years of age. Obviously most of my work is between those bookends, and personally, that’s about where I am currently as I’m now closer to 50 than 45. This particular article is geared towards those in the “over-35” demographic but the principles can certainly apply across the board regardless of the number after the comma after your name.

The majority of my work with clients who are non-competitive-athletes  is beyond the designed program and whiteboard. It’s the session-by-session feedback and subsequent tweaks that are as much a part of a client’s success as them showing up to work. And in my own training, it’s the biofeedback aspect that is, in my opinion, the most valuable skill one can possess and sharpen, and that is developed only through years upon years of applied training, study, experience, and some admitted trial and error. It’s one of those things in life that takes you experiencing it… to know it. It’s a 6th sense that truly becomes a “new kind of intensity”.  I call it Kinesthetic Sense.

Your discipline at earlier stages might have been to push yourself to the obligatory “cliff’s edge”, or to be determined to add another plate as if your self-worth depended on. But, now, that discipline has matured (if not yet, it will), and you realize that you don’t want your “training life” to flat line at the not-so-ancient age of 30. You now understand you are only as good, or fit, as your next workout. Trust me, no one cares if you “benched 315 back in the day” or “squatted 8 wheels in college”. Guess what? There’s always someone with a better, uh, heavier, story. By the way, the ones who are impressed…..oh, I’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say, how you feel, function, and look speaks louder than any jacked-up stat sheet covered in dust.

Back to the skill of that 6th…Kinesthetic…Sense

No,… so sorry,…there’s no shortcut, …no matter weekend certification, business seminar, or lobotomy that will circumvent that reality.

Moving on…

My background in training covers many different modalities as part of performance enhancement for various sports. Over my 3 1/2 decades of training, I’ve worked through periods of dedicated powerlifting (to clarify, for those inquiring any lightweight bias, no 315 bench but did squat 545), olympic lifting, and gymnastics.

I’ve put some serious time in with most training implements common today including kettlebells, clubbells, suspension trainers, resistance bands, tubing, sandbags, various “odd objects” seen in Strongman competitions. The point to this point? They all “work” and can serve an individual in realizing their particular goals. However, none of the aforementioned methods, systems, or tools are essential to an individual unless the goals of that individual include high-level proficiency with that specific implement or sport. Aside from that specialty, these tools are all just potential players in helping you realize your bigger-picture objectives.

There are plenty of men and women who’ve gotten great results, according to their fitness objectives, without doing a single olympic lift variation, heavy single in the bench press, squat, or deadlift, and having never used, or heard of, many of the “tools of the trade” that have become rhetorically standard in the last 5-10 years. Hence, there’s science in what we do, but it’s application is not a science.

We must always first ask, “what is my primary objective?”. Then, “what do I need to do to realize that?”,  “what are my options to progress towards that objective?”. And, “what is the most efficient, and practical, way(s) of getting the job done?”. Many times, it’ll simply be that you connect with a certain piece of equipment or a system and that personal preference absolutely works for you in actualizing your larger vision in an unrelated sport. For instance, you may find that you have a natural aptitude for olympic lifting, competitive kettlebell sport, or powerlifting. Consciously check your true priorities  (and ego) at that gym door, and then proceed with confidence.

Now that we touched on the relevance, or lack thereof, of the particular equipment or exercises you choose to use, what you do with these weapons is the real matter of importance in you striking the target of your goals.

I’m going to touch on a few points that should be obvious but are typically ignored. I will dig into each of these points in upcoming blog posts, as to attempt that here would cause much to be missed or overlooked due to length of an informative-purposed article:

  • The resistance used on an exercise is only one vital component contributing to workload of an exercise
  • The amount of dead weight only contributes to the actual resistance experienced by targeted muscles or movement pattern. Quantification of poundage is only part of actual tension muscles experience. Numbers can lie in this instance
  • For muscle hypertrophy, workload (or density: amount of work within certain time) is the most important factor. Not absolute strength or 1RM
  • The volume of reps and sets of an exercise is a vital component of workload
  • The amount of rest between sets is a contributing factor in total workload
  • The manner of performance of a set, repetition by repetition, is a contributing factor in total workload. No, this this is not just “using strict, robotic form”
  • The frequency a muscle group is trained is a contributing factor in overall workload
  • When basic exercises, with most bang-for-buck (i.e. squats, deadlift), are avoided by  individuals physically capable of performing the exercise, it’s typically for 1, 2, 3, or all-the-above reasons: 1) not knowing how to perform the exercise with optimal mechanics, 2) It’s darn demanding, 3) being identified with how much weight you think you should be lifting in order to “qualify” to do the exercise.
  • There’s a point where the actual amount of weight lifted does not need to increase in order to make progress in your goals
  • The more proficient you get in performing an exercise correctly (not same as just moving A to B in  easiest path), the more you get out of each rep with a given poundage
  • There are certain applications of certain exercises that are contraindicated for certain people but this does not mean goals and objectives can’t be attained by variations of those exercises
  • There’s no magical duration a workout must last in order to contribute to your goals and objectives. It’s all cumulative.
  • Mobility, stabilization, and activation drills are important precursors to “the main course” of workouts and certain ones should be part of your daily checklist like…brushing your teeth
  • The more proficient (and consistent) you are in mobilizing, stabilizing, and activating targeted muscles and movement patterns, the less time you need spend on that aspect pre-training
  • The older you get in training age, the more important it is to emphasize strength training, and sustaining fat-burning muscle tissue to keep metabolic integrity at optimal levels. Muscle-wasting activities and nutritional practices are best avoided. In other words, contrary to “the older you get, the more you need focus on CARRR-DIO”, IF you are determined to include it, perform just enough of specific cardiorespiratory, or endurance, exercise to get job done (a lot less duration than you probably think)
  • Dual or multiple brief workouts in a day can be more effective than longer single session even for non-competitive athletes. Again, it’s all cumulative
  • Outside of sports of weightlifting, powerlifting, or CrossFit (yes, I see it as a sport –and demanding one–and NOT a form of general fitness or preparation for other sports), you can look and perform significantly better by using sub-maximal loading and doing less total work (sub-submaximal) on a consistent basis.

In Parts 2 and beyond, I’ll begin to expand on each of these points and suggest a few ways of efficient application of these principles to help lead you to a lifetime of productive training according to your current primary goals and objectives.

As a professional in the fitness and athletic prep fields for 3 decades and counting, I’ve witnessed enough fitness trends and fads to build a pretty good sitcom on. Working with both competitive athletes and general clientele offers me plenty of perspective across the demographic scale.

And, YES, now that I have your attention with this article’s title…I personally love kettlebells and have used them in my own training for over 12 years as well as with probably 95% of my programs with all clients. I believe them to be a key part of any strength and condition and fitness program.

Back to topic …

Working with a college athlete compared to a mother of 3 has it obvious differences but there are plenty of common denominators especially when it comes to progressing in strength. Where a program tends to veer off the parallel is in the area of ‘fat-loss’ or “metabolic” training. With competitive athletes, the program design is driven by performance enhancement objectives whereas with a businessman our goals are nearly always about body composition/ appearance of physique, or what we used to refer to as “bodybuilding” before people started saying that term was “too hardcore” and they wanted nothing to do with it. Yeah, right.

Now to the specifics of this month’s article…

With the constant influx of “THE Best” metabolic (re “cardio”) or mobility exercises or systems (re “products”) it makes one wonder if it’s a never-ending matter of who speaks most recent gets most attention, and subsequently the “most validity”. The “fitness fads” used to revolve around certain pieces of equipment that you’d have to find out about well after Letterman or Leno had called it a night. Then it was the “anti-machine” but armed  “special forces” tools and “underground tricks” to use your bodyweight. Now it’s the “anti-equipment” trend that is basically  80’s aerobics with Flashdance, tights, and leg warmers replaced with drill sergeant chants, Eminem, and a 4-pack of Red Bull.

No apologies here, but to clarify, I am NOT an opponent of capitalism or entrepreneurialism in any way. However, the simple reality when it comes to ‘metabolic training’, ‘mobility’, or any aspect of fitness is that it’s a simple set of  scientifically-sound *principles* put into action on a regular basis throughout the next 365 days. Rinse, and repeat.

When marketing “geniuses” (again, no disrespect in itself here) are able to get your attention with headlines of exaggerated hyperbole, they have accomplished what “Marketing 101” has taught them: a potential customer is just that… until you influence their next thought. If you’re selling something, and you do your job, you’ll either offend or recruit them with your ad copy.

Either way, you’ve gotten their attention and the next step is your appealing to a sense of lack, dissatisfaction, or at least a  curiosity within the range of what you are promoting. Make sure you throw in some “research data” (incomplete, biased, or what have you) and just a few technical words (you know, stuff your physical therapist might say that you Googled-up) and you’re set. Remember, go right to the edge with technical jargon but do not make them feel confused, condescended, or God-forbid, ‘more’ indecisive or they won’t bite. Speak in absolutes because generalities and gray area have common sense and probably will not get their credit card out.

Again, nothing in itself criminal or unethical  with that agenda no matter if selling a flat screen TV, a sports car, or a training program. Where things start to venture into the shady, seedy region is when a fact that has some truth in it is turned into “THE truth”. Reality is that even the biggest lie has some truthful fact(s) in it.

However, when armed with actual ‘truths’ you can then make wise decisions based on facts that will not leave you feeling like a kid who just missed winning the stuffed elephant at the county fair.

Bridges are wonderful  in times of need but not best place to take residence

Truth #1: There are no “magic” exercises, equipment, combinations, frequencies, intensities, etc. All of “THE Best” are omitted by at least ‘many’ who’ve experienced immaculate results in regards to their fitness goals with out that “must do” component. A new product of programmed exercises, combinations, and frequencies for “metabolic burn” is limited only by the professional’s basic understanding of physiology and creativity.

Truth #2: The aforementioned *principles* will only work for those who put them into deliberate action on a regular basis. And, IF a certain “product” that coordinates these principles appeals to you in the way these principles are applied then it may well be worth ten times its value.

Truth #3: Understand that ANY product has “fine print” and/or complementary components that must be applied to get the best result out of the product. For instance, no  “Tabata Combo” to finish a workout will erase crappy daily nutrition.

Truth #4: You are only as good as your NEXT workout. Any program that gets you on the road must also help you navigate the path of the continued journey. Regardless how “killer” a 6-12 weeks you had, you gotta wake up to Week 13– and beyond– to sustain what you value so highly. Yes, my experience has shown that it is easier to remain on course once you have gotten there than it is to get there in the first place. But “getting there” is more a matter of being consistent over the big picture than it is any ‘one’ workout. Unless you are a competitive athlete in a short-term peak phase, train with a telescope rather than a microscope.

Truth #5: Any ‘packaged program’, no matter how effective in the initial phase, is simply– at best– a “bridge” to get you going, or keep you progressing, in a productive manner relative to your specific goals, and more importantly, general objectives and overall lifestyle. Bridges are wonderful in times of need but not best place to take residence.

Truth #6 Biases effect “what works” for each of us. I personally detest running (as in jogging) as a means to get leaner. By contrast, I love sprinting. It’s easy for me to recommend against depending on jogging to produce your desired result of a leaner body, and to advise for implementing sprint intervals. As well, my personal and professional experience has observed countless failed attempts of “hard working” men and women who hit the running trails for hours every week for years with hopes of a leaner physique.

Also, my personal observation shows that athletes in sports that require running speed, quickness, and agility in brief bursts (football, tennis, basketball) actually have a tougher time improving those specific skills when steady-state running (or any version of slow-steady paced cardio) is a regular part of their regimen. In addition, the frequency of injuries incurred by dedicated runners is relatively high. As you can see, that’s plenty of “evidence” for me to be anti-running and be an advocate of other means of improving fitness, speed/agility performance, and one’s physique. There’s plenty of “science in” my observations and experiences. But, is that enough to make my evidence a scientific truth?

What if these same men and women applied optimal strength training, sound nutritional practices, less workload, and recovery into their running program? Could their experience have been different? Or was it purely the fact that they ran regularly that caused their lack of desired result?

There’s two schools of thought regarding there being “bad” and “good” exercises. Yes there are some unwise exercise choices and/or combinations. And, there are times that a “good” exercise for most may be “bad” for you. However, there’s no benefit in universally villain-izing certain exercises or systems based on correlation to the experience or appearance of a certain profile of individuals. There are way too many variables in motion (or lack thereof) to make a substantiated fact out of pure observation or personal experience. As saying goes, correlation does not equal causation.

In coming weeks, I will address the various “best” ways of getting stronger, building muscle, and becoming leaner according to your level, age, or aspirations in a way that can free you from unnecessary ‘Strength Conditioning Legalism’.


Priming the System

Finally…our blog is back! And, each week our purpose to to shine light on key topics, and hopefully give you insight that contributes to solutions on your behalf in your athletics preparation and fitness endeavors.

And, it all starts RIGHT NOW!

As a competitive athlete, or just someone wanting the most out of your workouts, your potential is only as good as your ability to tap-into it. An area frequently misunderstood, or outright ignored, is the role of the neural aspect (central nervous system) to your muscles’ contraction and performance.

Accurate quality trumps defective quantity

You don’t have to make major changes in your current program in order to take advantage of this training principle. It’s as simple easy as the addition of a few specific NSD drills (NSD-Nervous System Development) towards the end of your dynamic warmup can get the job done with huge benefits to your overall progress and results. As is our standard at McConnell Athletics, accurate quality trumps defective quantity.

Simply put, proficiency of your neural development reveals the degree of signal from your brain to your muscles to fire and contract. Regardless of your training goals, your nervous system is a key player in the realization of your desired results.

For information on this application, please go to:

Through faith–in strength & health,

Coach Vince

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Link  —  Posted: March 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Training or “Entertaining”?

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

As a fitness professional working with a clientele that crosses numerous different genres– from relative beginner adult to the “hey, I’m  also a trainer, already know everything, but need something new”, from dedicated working women and moms to driven-to-succeed businessmen, from youth to pro athlete, and all the way to seniors well into their 80’s–I am confronted with some interesting challenges when it comes to program design. This not to mention the typical physical impairments many of these clients deal with on a daily basis as well.

When you’ve trained individuals and small groups for nearly 3 decades, no matter how much you truly love what you do there is the tendency to become a bit bored (not complacent, mind you!) with the basics. However, reality is that these foundational (albeit mundane) components are essential to true progress and desired results. And, unless human physiology gets altered…that isn’t changing.

In years, and decades past, if was a much more efficient task keeping a client or group motivated by making progress in the basics on a regular-and-consistent basis. The results spoke for themselves, and these individuals were healthier, moved and performed more efficiently, AND even looked better.

However, with the over-reliance on “fit media” (you got a smart phone?…you’re a potential fitness expert), the over-saturation of weekend or online “personal trainer certifications”, and self-appointed gurus with all of their training tenants, rites-of-passage, and cult-like disciples, the task of keeping clients attentive, interested, on track, and accountable to the PRINCIPLES THAT MATTER has become as challenging as keeping a first grade class focused on mastering addition and subtraction with clowns in the room.

Admittedly, in the past, I, too, have taken the plunge into the ‘attention deficit’ ocean (fortunately I was able to swim to shore) and thought I had to come up with something different on a very regular basis to keep the interest of the client(s). The self-inflicted stress of “out-thinking” an already successful program was both exhausting and humiliating. It was one of those situations where I was torn between giving a client “what they wanted” while still getting the true job (re progress) done. This reminded me of getting our kids to eat healthy foods while also giving them  a little of what they wanted to eat while making sure the overall objective of nourishment was satisfied.

It would get to a point where when a client or group had been with us for a certain length of time, I could get-a-sense a few of those individuals were growing stale with just ‘making progress” (why that can be boring is beyond me!). Yes, as backwards as that sounds, some people would truly rather be “pushed to the brink” so they’d leave with immediate gratification feeling as though they’d paid their dues no matter what subsequent result. Still others simply wanted to be entertained with some “new stuff” that fulfilled their inability to simply get better at the basics. Or as Charles Staley so astutely says, “If it hurts (sucks) it’s gotta be working”.

What I found is that many clients cared less about getting stronger and actually making positive, and lasting, changes in their body as long as they were doing what they were assured of was going to give them what they wanted about of the session: the feeling they were doing something that “sucked” while providing some sense of “entertainment”.

Now, I am definitely an innovative trainer/coach, and have been since I got my start training athletes back in 1983 with drills and methods that were then observed as bizarre and outright silly-looking. These same drills are now commonplace such as lifting odd objects, kickboxing and grappling drills, sled pushes, gymnastics drills, sandbags, bands, medicine balls, resisted sprints, and dedicated mobility and activation drills. I used these methods with everyone from housewives to professional tennis players to businessmen to golfers to football, baseball, soccer, and basketball players and beyond.

There are plenty of advantages to the plethora of good training resources out there today. I’m the first to say I LOVE talking training with colleagues and people in general. The fact that there are ways not yet uncovered to make our work even more efficient is one of the inspirations in my starting each day with great expectation. However, beyond that, it is absolutely imperative that we refuse to allow that mission of becoming more ‘proficient in efficiency’ to compromise the proven, time and again, benefits of sound training principles of progressive mechanical overload (intensity) in combination with regulated technical workload (volume).

Whether you choose to lean towards the “it’s a science with some art in it” or “it’s an art with some science in it”, is not a life-and-death issue. As in centuries before us, the study, innovation, experimentation, and application of physical training and human performance is one of the most basic, yet exciting, endeavors on this planet.


Injuries: Beyond the Obvious

Posted: September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

When it comes to athletics, especially team sports, it’s hard to disagree that the sport of football brings about the highest degree of emotion in players, coaches, and fans. To be a truly successful football team, physical and mental toughness, accountability, and unity are standard requirements that surpass that of other sports.

Beginning early on in a youngster’s playing days, football, more than any other sport, has a way of being somewhat of a testing ground to reveal a young man’s willingness and ability to work with teammates in a way that not only brings about their best performance but also positively impacts their teammates and coaches.

With all of the aforementioned great things about football comes the least-desired aspect that is way more challenging than a tough loss in overtime. Injuries.

Unfortunately, injuries are a common occurrence in football, as they can be in any sport. The type of injuries seen in football tends to run the gamut from minor ‘bumps and bruises’ to those extreme enough that they can adversely affect a player’s life from there on. Fortunately, the later is the exception rather than rule although any injury to an athlete that causes limitation in performance or takes the player off the field for extended periods of time brings with it mental, emotional, and physical pain. I firmly believe that, at the collegiate and professional level, the physical pain pales in comparison to what is going on inside the athlete’s psyche.

When an athlete who has invested years of his life (no matter how relatively young he may be at the time) and spent countless hours of off-field training, film study, meetings, and on-field practice and competition, to have that, brought to an abrupt halt, if not a total end, it is an intimidating reality. This is especially true when you add in the longer term personal goals, aspirations, and dreams of a young athlete. There is no warning and no direct preparation to handle this as the proverbial rug is yanked out from under you.

Just the physical challenge of going through hour upon hour of lonely, humbling rehabilitation is significant. However, it’s the emotional confrontation an athlete faces that tests character to an extremely high level. Thoughts of “what if I don’t make it back?”, “what if I’m not as fast?”, “what if my teammates lose confidence in me?”, “what if I don’t fulfill my dreams?”, “what if?”, “what if?”, WHAT IF?”, …

With all due respect to the people who face challenges every day that are much more serious than those related to a sport and an athletic career, when a competitive athlete has the medium they use to express themselves and “make something of themselves”, taken away  from them, their life seems to flash before them. Another reality that hits home quickly is that you find out who your true friends are. People who were only interested in you when you were on the field are quickly exposed.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, many times the better the  competitor you are the more significant your positive impact on your team even when you are not able to hit the field.

When an athlete is not able to get on the field and contribute to the team in the way they are accustomed, much is revealed about the type of teammate, and person, they have been up to that point. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, many times the better the  competitor you are the more significant your positive impact on your team even when you are not able to hit the field. One of the best examples I have personally witnessed in my career happened in the last week.

On Saturday September 8, an athlete I have worked with since he was in high school, Jalston “Nudie” Fowler, who plays for one of the top college football programs in the country, was injured late in the game on what could be called a “freak occurrence”. Though knee injuries are commonplace in football, manner this injury occurred is rare. It’s beyond the scope of this article to get into the exact diagnosis but suffice to say that it’s not one of those you want to watch more than once (if at all). The immense physical pain alone from this type of injury would make most men cry but the pain seen on Nudie’s face was the deeper discomfort coming from his realization that his season was probably over.

Jalston is one of the most humble young men I’ve ever known and he’d certainly not ask that I write an article or shine light on him in any manner. However, what happened immediately following the injury reveals much about the teammate and human being this young man is to not only his teammates, coaches, family, and close friends but also his coaches’ families, fans of the program, opposing players and coaches, and simply people who may have had the opportunity to meet him on occasion.

In my nearing 30 years of work as a fitness professional and strength coach to athletes from many different sports, I’ve never observed the show of concern and love for an athlete as I have for Nudie. This was not about people “feeling sorry” for him but an honoring of the way the young man influences the circle around him.

Leaders lead 24/7

I say this not so much to give Nudie the attention and appreciation he deserves but to make it clear to other athletes that what you dohow you do it, and who you become in doing it all influence those around you one way or the other. You are either impacting others’ lives for the better or you aren’t. There’s no in-between. Leaders lead 24/7, and the fact that the soft-spoken Nudie sets such a strong example to his teammates, coaches, and all of those who know him  means that even when he is not on the field he is a positive, constructive force that is beyond his powerful 250lb frame.

I confidently expect Nudie to make a full recovery and bounce back better than he was simply due to the character, and more importantly the faith, that resides within him. Though his knee was injured and he’s  removed from being ‘on the field’ to contribute to his team’s performance this season, his determination, will, and leadership were only “shaken up” a bit.

True leaders lead not just by their performance but simply by their presence. Genuine leaders don’t just get up after being knocked down and try to get back to status quo. They look fear in the eye, capture any thought of defeat, and replace it with a resolve to move forward in expectation of a better product than before the roadblock. They realize their mission is more than about themselves, and are fueled by the ‘inner knowing’ that they are simply taking another unchartered step, and claiming new ground, in leading others to overcome any challenge they may face.

The constructive influence Nudie will continue to have on the overall program will go a long way in positively impacting his success in rehabilitation and return as a better version of one of the best, albeit underrated, football players in the country. You’ve heard the term “player’s coach”. Nudie exemplifies “coach’s player”. There are many athletes I’ve worked with that I’d be proud to call my own son. There is not one that I am more proud of than Jalston “Nudie” Fowler.