Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Why Jamaica Rules the World of Sprinting

I returned last night from one of the most incredible trips of my entire life.

Phil, the CEO of Stronger Experts, and I have been talking about a trip to Jamaica from the very moment I joined the platform. For all of you who don’t know what Stronger Experts is, I will give you a brief explanation. Phil gathered some of the world’s top experts in the areas of weightlifting, powerlifting, strength and conditioning, speed training, nutrition, injury prevention, and rehab. The platform is a one-stop shop for young and aspiring coaches to learn from the best in the business.

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One of the coaches on the platform is Coach Jae Edwards. Jae is a big part of the reason why I joined this platform. He works with some of the top sprinters in Jamaica – including Yohan Blake. I’ve been fascinated by the Jamaican sprinters for quite some time now. I have been dying to understand their training and their mindset. Phil gave all of us that chance.

I was able to arrange for Doug Larson and Anders Varner, my friends from Barbell Shrugged, to come along to document the journey. This guaranteed we would come away with some moments that would encourage and inspire all of you. It also allowed me to co-host one of the most amazing podcasts of my life with Yohan Blake, which brings me to the point of this story.

No Other Option

Yohan explained to us life growing up on the island. Yes, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, life on the island for the locals can be one of the hardest existences in the world. Yohan grew up in a one-room house with seven siblings and his parents. Food was hard to come by, which made athletic endeavors much harder for him than the athletes here in the United States.

He didn’t even start out as a sprinter. When he was 16 years old, he was playing cricket and decided to try his hand at sprinting. Luckily he was really good right out of the gate. It’s actually hard to imagine how good he would be if he had started earlier like most of the children in Jamaica – talking to the other track coaches, they start them between four to six years old.

Once Yohan realized he had a gift, he knew he had found a way to change the lives of his entire family. He worked harder than everyone else on the island, to the point Usain Bolt gave him the nickname Beast. He still trains with the same tenacity, and is currently the world’s fastest man after winning the world championships. Yohan also holds the second-fastest time ever recorded for the 100-meter dash – 9.69 seconds. After talking to him over the last few days, there is no way I would vote against him. If you want to hear the entire story, just wait for the episode of Barbell Shrugged to drop.

Here’s my point in telling you this story. Yohan approached sprinting with no other alternative. There was no fall-back plan and no other options. Back at home there was only a one-room house and several disappointed family members awaiting him if he failed. He told us about praying multiple times God would grant him speed. He told us about his mother telling him he was their only hope.

As an athlete growing up in America, I can’t imagine having that kind of pressure on me. He felt the weight of the entire world on his shoulders, and he didn’t let the weight crush him. It’s that pressure that made him unbeatable. Yes they have good coaching in Jamaica, but so do we in America. It’s the fact they don’t have any other option that drives them to succeed at such high levels.

The problem with options

In America, our athletes have so many options. If their sport doesn’t work out, then they will go on with their lives. Heck, most of them realize they will be more financially stable when their sport is over. That really makes it tough for them when training gets hard, and training gets hard for everyone no matter the sport. ‘Options’ are the very reason why athletes fail more often than not in America. Let me explain a little more.

Every year, I have an athlete who reaches out to me about wanting to be an Olympian. I often wonder how they get to that goal. I mean did they watch some old Cal Strength videos, or did they stumble upon some old videos of Pyrros Dimas? Who knows? Yet here they are reaching out to me, saying the exact same things as so many before them. It used to be, if they had a little bit of talent, I would get all excited and have them visit the gym. After my trip to Jamaica, I have a new plan for all the people who reach out to me.

Now I am going to rant a bit, so get ready. Athletes tell me all the time they are willing to do anything to become the best, but their actions don’t match their mouths. Don’t tell me you want to be the best, and then proceed to go out drinking and partying every week. You’re lying to me and to yourself. Don’t tell me you will do whatever it takes, and then quit when training gets hard. If you really want to be the best, keep reading.

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What it takes

If you really want to be one of the best athletes in the world, you are going to have to give up all partying. You are going to have to take responsibility for your own nutrition. You are going to need ten hours of sleep every night. Recovery is your responsibility. You will need to find the best chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist. You will need to buy Marc Pro for the inflammation. If you aren’t getting something in practice, you will need to do whatever it takes to understand the deficiency. Maybe you need some extra practice. Maybe you need two-a-days until you get it. Maybe you need to do a little extra homework.

You will need to practice harder and smarter than every other person on this planet. Things are going to get hard, really hard. That’s a promise. You are going to regress at times. You are going to plateau at times. Some of that is a planned response by your coach, and some is a dark place where all athletes will venture. It’s in the darkness where you will experience pain and sadness. Your body will hurt like you are a 50-year-old crippled person. You will get depressed. You will think it’s never going to happen. All of these things I promise are going to happen.

It’s in this darkness you will come face to face with the true you. This can be the loneliest place in the world because you are going to be faced with questions some of you don’t really want to answer:

  • Am I really good enough to be at the top of my chosen sport?
  • Am I really willing to do what it takes to make it in my chosen sport?
  • Is my sport worth pushing through this terrible pain?
  • Am I tough enough to push through this plateau?

Making that decision

For some of you, it’s simply a reality check. You might not be cut out to be the best, and that’s okay. Some of you will learn to simply enjoy the sport. However, for all of you who really have what it takes, you will be faced with the hardest decision of your life. If you quit now, you will probably quit when things get tough for the rest of your life. Nothing great in life ever comes easy, and that’s why athletes who make it to the very top are so darn special. They are special in the same way amazing entrepreneurs are special or incredible inventors.

The rest of this article is especially to the athletes who are about to reach out to me in the future. I want you to contemplate this article and the question above. I know it seems sexy when you see my athletes wearing Team USA on their chests. I know it seems cool traveling around the world lifting weights against the best athletes in the world. However that’s less than 1% of what really goes on. Are you ready for the work that’s really required? Are you willing to stay at home while others go out partying? Are you willing to take control of your nutrition and recovery?

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Here’s the thing. I am no longer willing to coach someone who isn’t willing to match their action with their goals and talents. I have too many great athletes who are willing to put in the work and time. I don’t have the time for trouble cases who aren’t willing to accept the help and coaching. The Jamaicans are willing to do whatever it takes. Are you? I mean are you really?

Yohan Blake didn’t have a choice. That makes it a bit easier to stay focused. For the rest of us who have choices, we must be disciplined. You have to want to succeed more than anything else in the entire world. If there is something else you would rather be doing, then go do that and forget about sport.

I know this article isn’t my normal science based ‘how to’ article, but it’s the truth all of you need to hear. Don’t tell me you were already thinking like this because I watch too many of you come and go. Be honest with yourself! It’s okay to play a sport for fun. However, when you tell a coach like me you want to be the best in the world, then I expect the best work ethic and discipline in the world. If I don’t get just that, you can find another coach.

Dane Miller of Garage Strength – The Barbell Life 256

Dane Miller gets people snatching to increase their bench press. And he’s a proponent of getting athletes snatching right away.

He’s setting off Lunk Alarms all over the country.

He joins us on the podcast today to talk about training throwers, wrestlers, football players, and all types of athletes.

Dane also owns Garage Strength and is part of Earth Fed Muscle, so we talk about the brutal realities of business.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Snatching to increase your bench press?
  • The realities and difficulties of starting a business
  • Combining training for throwing and Olympic lifting at the same time
  • The bad aspects of training football players
  • The missing factor of rotational and anti-rotational work
  • and more…

Tales from the Front Line of Coaching with Steve Brown – The Barbell Life 255

Steve Brown thinks D3 coaches are better than coaches at D1 schools.

And he would have a great perspective on that because he’s been a strength coach all over the place. He’s coached in the private world and in schools. He’s coached men and women. He’s coached all sorts of sports, he’s coached high school, and he’s coached at the D1 and D3 college level.

So he joins us on the podcast today to talk about his experiences, what he’s learned, the problems he’s encountered, and how you can be a better coach.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Why D3 coaches are better than D1 coaches
  • His Twitter battle on being sport specific
  • What grew him as a coach
  • Parents with unrealistic expectations
  • Single leg strength and posterior chain work
  • and more…

Using Prilepin’s Chart Post Rehab

About the author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist and Strength Coach in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of chronic musculoskeletal pain, sports rehab, and strength and conditioning. He’s also intermittently involved with the University of Waterloo Kinesiology program and the Western University Physical Therapy program. He also competes as a powerlifter and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop and Seminar.

During the time period between my performance in Coach Mash’s Feats Of Strength meet and my previous meet in December 2017, I took time away from competing to work on rehabilitating some chronic patellofemoral pain. I wrote about the process of getting pain-free on my website.

After getting pain-free, the next step was to get stronger. Needless to say, my squat was in desperate need of improvement. So I needed a plan to get from Point A to Point B without rushing so aggressively that I re-aggravated my symptoms. This plan came from the use of a tool, originally intended for Olympic lifters, that I have used both for myself and for other clients recovering from weight-training injuries – Prilepin’s Chart.

What is Prilepin’s Chart?

Prilepin’s Chart is a chart designed in the former Soviet Union to manage the training of Olympic weightlifters. It provides recommendations based off of the percentage of your one-rep max, for optimal repetitions per set, and optimal total repetitions per workout.

Who is it for?

It is for people who have no major orthopedic or medical pathology, can do everything in their work and activities of daily living pain-free, and only have pain (or form breakdown) past a certain weight.

If you still have pain with these other activities, and/or you have other orthopedic or medical issues, those need to get dealt with first. Just saying.

How do I apply it?

I use it for the big barbell lifts – squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press – as well as Olympic lifts on occasion.

The key is having a proper 1RM. This requires putting the ego in park and using a max you know you can hit properly and pain-free. Just because you squatted 700 pounds before the meet doesn’t mean you can squat it now. Use a one-rep max (either taking it directly or from a calculator) from the best performance you can do properly and pain free in that exercise.

For instance, if you can squat 300 pain-free but 315 gives you trouble, 300 is your training max.

From there you use the percentages in the chart. A strength-based workout may be 80% of your max (240 pounds in this example) for 2-5 sets of 2-4 reps. A hypertrophy or accumulation-based workout may be 70% of your max (210 pounds in this example) for 3-6 sets of 3-6 reps.

What are the advantages of this approach?

1) Keeps the athlete in check
Most athletes, especially us studly powerlifters, like to push weights and push the envelope to get back to where we were before.

A flaw I see of people who do programs like 5/3/1, Conjugate, or 10/20/Life is that they become “PR happy” and want to break a PR week after week – eventually leading to stagnation or injury. This isn’t a flaw of the programs themselves but rather how they’re used.

A fixed max and percentages keeps us in check.

2) Flexibility with sets and reps
A flaw of fixed percentage based programs, particularly linear periodization models, is they don’t allow for flexibility in sets and reps. This is a problem for two reasons:

  • Some lifters are more “fast twitch” than others and can’t do as many reps at a given percentage of their 1RM compared to other “slower twitch” lifters. Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld did an experiment where they had subjects perform an all out set at 75% of their 1RM. The top lifter did 21, the bottom lifter did 7. So telling an athlete they must do 3 sets of 10 at 75% of their 1RM might be impossible for the bottom lifter and too easy for the top lifter.
  • If you’re having a bad day, 3 sets of 10 at 75% may be too hard … or if you’re having a good day it’s too easy.

Having a flexible range of sets and reps helps minimize these issues by enabling you to auto-adjust your sets and reps for the day.

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3) Emphasis on proper form
For technically complex lifts – such as the powerlifts and the Olympic lifts – it’s hard to maintain good form past a few repetitions unless you’re someone who is very technically sound. While singles are optimal for technique, doing lots of singles in a workout can get pretty time consuming and pretty monotonous. As such, I prefer the 1-6 rep ranges used in Prilepin’s Chart.

How do I know when to bump the training max up?

If you can hit (or exceed) the top end of Prilepin’s Chart on a consistent basis without pain or excessive fatigue, then you can recalibrate your training max and begin again. I usually use the following recommendations based on how many repetitions you’re consistently (key word) hitting in your workouts compared to those recommended in the chart:

When in doubt – start light and increase more slowly. The big thing is to keep everything pain-free and use proper form.

What about lifters who are short on time and can’t do that much volume?

The one downside, from a practical standpoint, is Prilepin’s Chart can lead to a fair amount of volume in a workout.

For people who are short on time, I recommend Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program – which should be used in a similar manner of using a training max that you can hit properly and pain-free.

With Jim Wendler at SWIS 2018

Wendler’s Variation

Wendler recommends sticking with your current training max and increasing it by 2.5-5 pounds for upper-body lifts or 5-10 poounds for lower-body lifts every four weeks until you stall and can’t hit the prescribed sets and reps. Wendler is way smarter than I am, so I can’t argue with him. My only suggestion is to start with a super conservative training max.

If you use a methodology that is not percentage-based but involves working to a top set on your main movements, such as the Max Effort component of Conjugate training, I still recommend you only increase your weights at a maximum of 5-10% per month (again – if in doubt, less is better). For some, increasing weights that slowly may not feel like a true “max effort” strain. Some ways to make a max effort exercise more difficult without adding weight:

  • Adding in some slow eccentrics and/or isometrics to the lift
  • Doing more warm-up/working-up volume prior to your top sets

Prilepin’s Chart can be applied in many ways outside of Olympic lifting and can be a useful tool, when applied appropriately, in the late rehab stage and post rehab stages of an athlete.

As always – thanks for reading.

The Science of Training Children with Keegan Martin – The Barbell Life 254

Keegan Martin was the original functional fitness kid.

His parents developed a very famous program for training children, and he refers to himself as the “crash test dummy” for the program.

Now he’s spearheading the Brand X Method, which trains young athletes and “builds formidable humans.” Keegan brings science into a field where he feels science is really lacking.

So we talk all about that today – about his past… and about what so many people get wrong when it comes to training youth.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • How almost everyone gets youth training wrong
  • The three stages of training young athletes
  • Can your kid REALLY play for a D1 school?
  • Why he made the hard decision to shut down his physical gym
  • The most important physical skill
  • and more…

The One Common Trait in Winners

Last week I was in Guatemala with Team USA at the Pan American Championships. Instead of hanging out and doing the normal chit-chat with coaches and athletes, I decided to take advantage of having so many champions in one place. I wanted to find out if there were any obviously similar characteristics between the most successful athletes. I interviewed and quizzed the coaches and a few of the athletes who I am most familiar with. The results were quite eye-opening to me, and they might be to you as well.

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Here are the athletes/coaches I talked to:

  • Jourdan Delacruz and her coach Spencer Arnold
  • Boady Santavy and his coach/father Dallas
  • Kate Nye and her coach Josh
  • Wes Kitts and his coach, the Godfather Dave Spitz

Plus I will give some insight from coaches of a few other athletes and some insight regarding athletes outside of weightlifting.

A common bond?

I’ve been curious for a long time to see if there was a common bond between successful athletes, and I think I have found it. The common trait, which I will reveal later in this article, is something we can all work on. However, it might require a few of you to get out of your comfort zone. My hope is that all of you will read this with an open mind because I think there is something a lot of you can learn and apply. Now let’s learn about these amazing athletes.

Jourdan Delacruz

Her coach is one of my best friends, Spencer Arnold. His programming is a combination of velocity-based training, linear periodization, medium intensity (rarely going even close to maximal), and a lot of accessory work to strengthen the body with a holistic approach. He’s also known as a sort of data-driven coach, collecting as many data points as possible to predict future outcomes.

Jourdan is a calm, yet confident athlete. Her teammates joke that she is dead inside because of her never changing facial expressions. She likes a calculated approach, which she explained in a story. When she was younger, she bombed out of two big meets in a row – the youth Pan Americans and the American Open. From that point on, she vowed to never let it happen again. Her confidence comes from a feeling of preparation along with steady improvements, versus big jumps from meet to meet.

This approach has her constantly hitting personal records from meet to meet in the range of one to four kilograms, which over time adds up to massive improvements. She only goes for maximal lifts during competition, so it appears she is never truly at maximum. This leaves her knowing she is good for more. I think this approach will prove to be good for her especially when she is required to go all-out when it counts. I believe she will approach every lift with the confidence she can make it.

Boady Santavy

I got to really hang out with Boady’s father, Dallas, in Guatemala at the 2019 IWF Senior Pan American Championships – just a few days before writing this article. Dallas is also Boady’s coach, so he filled me in on their program. They train four days per week, about four hours each session. There are percentages laid out in each of the snatch and clean and jerk, but the percentages are there to ensure enough volume is being performed to get better at the lifts. There is an element of the Bulgarian Method or Max Effort Method because Boady has a green light at all times to push the percentages to as close to 100% and above as possible. It’s actually encouraged to push past the programmed percentages.

They stick to the main lifts of snatch and clean and jerk, and mainly from the floor. They will use variations only if there is a movement flaw or weakness that is standing out. They are very much sport specific to the sport of weightlifting.

Boady’s biggest quality that sticks out is his confidence and mindset. He doesn’t look at other Canadians. He compares himself to other weightlifters from around the world, which is exactly what other athletes should be doing. If your ceiling is other athletes in your country, you definitely will never get past those numbers. Boady actually seeks out some of these lifters, and then he travels to train with them. For example he traveled to Qatar to train with Meso Hassona. This allows him to learn, and it puts him in the same room with one of the best weightlifters in the world. Most great athletes will rise to the level of performance of those they are around. Boady has done just that. His expectations are that of a 182kg/400lb snatch. Most good weightlifters in America or Canada think about 160kg or 170kg as the big number. That mentality keeps them from ever excelling on the platform.

Kate Nye

I talked to Kate and her coach Josh the morning of her massive performance at the Senior Pan American Championships. She totaled an American Record of 245kg, which is mind-blowing. Her coach told me they definitely go heavy the last few weeks before competition. It appears he programs with a type of linear periodization along with an element of the conjugate method. They use a lot of boxes and blocks for maximum effort work leading to the full movements, and without a doubt it appears to be working. Her 110kg snatch and 245kg total is the highest in American history.

What impresses me the most about Kate is her ability to perform on the platform. I’ve personally watched her miss a 90kg snatch three times in warm ups – and then she went three for three in that same meet, hitting an all-time PR. Her face literally transforms when she walks onto the platform. She goes from a nervous girl to a fearless killer. If you are going to beat her, you are going to need to go six for six and straight up out-lift her. If you’re hoping she misses, you are probably going to lose.

Wes Kitts

I’m Wes’s number one fan because of his attitude. I am also besties with his coach, Dave Spitz. Dave is probably the most popular weightlifting coach in the entire world along with the most well known gym in the world, California Strength. It’s easy to identify Russian and Bulgarian influences in the Cal Strength program. Wes rarely maxes out the lifts during the majority of his training. However, during the last few weeks of his training program, they will spend a solid block of four or more weeks going up near Wes’s maximum and sometimes above. I’d definitely say they use the conjugate method, using different variations to target maximum effort. They will use a lot of block jerks, cleans/snatches from blocks, and some clean-only variations.

The advantage Wes has is he has been a high-level athlete his entire life. He played running back at a Division I University, and he made a close run at the NFL. He is used to winning – and that’s exactly what he did last week, snatching 176kg and clean and jerking 223kg for an American record total of 399kg. Wow! Wes approaches the bar with a calm yet focused demeanor much like a star quarterback approaches the Super Bowl. I believe this approach will lead him to an Olympic medal someday soon.

The Athlete’s Advantage

As you can see, the only similarity between these athletes is confidence and attitude. Each of these coaches works with other athletes who are nowhere near the level of these athletes. These coaches also work with athletes who sometimes bomb out, go three for six, or worse. A solid program is absolutely crucial for the success of an athlete. However, if the athlete doesn’t have a good mindset, it’s not going to matter. It won’t matter if the athlete has the most potential of any athlete in the world. It won’t matter if the program is the most scientifically based program in the world. It won’t matter if the athlete is the most technically proficient athlete in the world. If the athlete isn’t confident and focused, they will inevitably fail miserably.

It baffles me when athletes spend so much time on mobility, nutrition, technique, and recovery – yet they spend zero time trying to work on their mental performance. This article clearly shows the importance of a solid sports psych program. There is too much literature out there, and too many great sports psych doctors out there for athletes not to be taking advantage of the information.

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This doesn’t just pertain to weightlifters. This goes for all athletes. Why was Michael Jordan the best basketball player? Yes, he was skilled, but his mindset was head and shoulders above the other player. Why does Tom Brady dominate? All you have to do is watch how the man carries himself, and I am not even a fan. However, you have to recognize greatness when it’s right before your eyes.

I hope this article opens the eyes of many of you. There are a lot of great athletes in America who have everything except a solid mindset. I can’t express the importance of a solid sport’s psych program enough. If you aren’t working with someone, you can read our book Performance Zone to get a solid base. However, every athlete should strive each and every day to improve their mental game much like they work on the other elements of their game. I recommend closing this article and immediately taking action on this one element which will take you even closer to becoming a master of the mundane tasks that losers will always avoid.