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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Conditioning vs. Cardio

Chris Shugart put up an entertaining article last week on T-Nation about conditioning vs. cardio. This got me thinking of some of my favorite conditioning exercises and how I implement them into my athletes' training. Rather than calling it predator conditioning (though I could be persuaded with a kickass name like that), I generally stick to metabolic conditioning, METCON, or blitz workouts.

1. Ropes - Two hand slams, alternating slams, jumping jacks, mini waves, side to side, internal/external rotation, and wax on/wax off circles are some of my favorites to use with an anchored rope. Other drills I like are rope rows (with a sled or heavy kettlebell), fireman's carry, rope chin ups, and tug of war, but these typically require a lot of space.

2. Sleds - Great for pushes, forward drags, and sprints. Sleds become an even greater conditioning tool when combined with a TRX - walking TRX rows, chest presses, rotations, and walking anti-rotation holds. 

3. Sledgehammers - Overhead and rotational slams are great for developing upper body power while taxing the entire body.

4. Sandbags - A 50 pound sandbag always seems heavier than a 95 pound barbell. Front squats, offset (on one shoulder) squats, Zercher squats, lunges, or even just carrying the bags without handles are excellent ways to incorporate sandbags into conditioning.

5. Slideboards - Great for lateral shuffles, they can also be used for push up variations, ab rollouts, body saws, reverse lunges, and mountain climbers. 

These are just some types of equipment I use with athletes, depending on their ability level, sport demands, and time of season. If you're looking to build a strong conditioning plan, start with the basics (push, pull, squat, carry), try a variety of tools (any of the above, plus dumbbells, barbells, TRX, landmine, etc.), and make a circuit out of it. A simple solution is to pick a couple of exercises and go :20 on, :10 off for a few rounds. Other work:rest ratios I like to use are :15/:5/:15 with :30 between exercises (so two rounds of one, then switch) and :30/:10/:30/:60. One other way is to pair up and go for a specific number of reps, but when in doubt, I stick with the Tabata protocol. 

Personal Favorite METCONs (with rounds before switching exercises and reps/rest or time on/time off/time on/transition):

Upper Body Blast (:20/:10/:20/:10)

  • Overhead Rope Slams
  • TRX Rows (or TRX Sled Pulls)
  • Slideboard Push Ups
  • Rotational Med Ball Wall Slams

Legs & Lungs (1 set of marked reps/distance, then next exercise, resting after each round. Can also be done with partner, 2 sets, switch exercises, then 2 minute rest after each round)

  • Heavy Sled/Prowler Pushes - 25 yards
  • Zercher Sandbag Walks - 20 yards & back
  • Stadium Farmer Walks - 3-5 flights (partner goes at same time, no second set)
  • Sprint - 50 yards, walk back
Total Body Shredding (best with partner - as many sets as possible in 5 minutes per exercise, 1:30 to switch)
  • Over the Shoulder Sledgehammer Slams - 5 each side
  • Zercher Hold Walking Lunges - 20 yards & back
  • TRX Sled Rows - 25 yards
  • Rope Jumping Jacks - 20
There are an infinite number of possibilities to play around with, which should help eliminate the boredom typically associated with conditioning. It's important to remember to recover - if you're training heavy & hard every day, and trying to add in these METCONs, it can result in overtraining or worse. Be smart in your training and allow your body to recover between training sessions. 

All the best,


Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, FMS-1
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Simple Strength & Size Workout

One of the best lessons I've learned is simpler is almost always better. With that in mind, here is a program I have used off and on with pretty decent results. I call it "On the 5's and 10's" and it's pretty simple - pick two exercises and do one for 4 sets of 5, the other for 4x10. I have also played around with 5x5 & 5x10, which works, but I don't notice a big enough difference to dedicate the extra time for the sets. If I have the time to do two lifts for five sets each, I can usually make a better workout.

There are two common ways this can be utilized - either you're pressed for time each day and can't spend an hour in the weight room, but still want a quality lift, or you want to improve a movement/muscle group that is lacking. 

Example 1
You can get to the gym every day, but only have about 20-30 minutes, but still want to focus on mass and strength.

Set Up - After a warm up, these two lifts are done as a superset, with only as much rest as needed between rounds to get the reps at your weight.

Lift 1: Deadlift - 4x5
Lift 2: Military Press - 4x10

Lift 1: Bench Press - 4x5
Lift 2: RDLs/Glute Bridge - 4x10

Lift 1: Squat - 4x5
Lift 2: TRX Rows - 4x10

Lift 1: Chin Ups - 4x5
Lift 2: RFE Split Squats - 4x10

With Lift 1, we hit the king exercise of each movement, then use less demanding exercises for reps. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but if you only have time for two exercises, you can do much worse than deadlift and military press.

Example 2
For whatever reason, you're not where you want to be for your squat. You can deadlift a semi, but struggle coming out of the bottom of your squat. 

Set Up - In addition to your normal workouts, add this in on an extra day where squat isn't emphasized (while still allowing recovery - remember, the issue may be overtraining and under-recovering anyway).

Lift 1: Barbell RFE Split Squats to Airex Pad - 4x5
Corrective 1: Hip Flexor Stretch

Lift 2: Dual KB Goblet Squat w/ Pause at Bottom - 4x10
Corrective 2: Ankle Mobility

In addition to improving strength out of the hole, the corrective work will help with mobility and limit internal resistance during the movement.


All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Better Way to Test Power

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend the Perform Better Summit in Providence, RI and was constantly putting pen to paper in an attempt to bring as much to my training as possible. One of the most fascinating lessons I picked up at the conference was from Greg Rose of Titleist Performance Institute. During Greg's hands-on session, he showed us four power tests he uses with his athletes, how they relate to performance, and what they reveal in the athlete. 

Important note: for male athletes, use a 4kg med ball and for female athletes, 2kg.

Test #1 - Seated Med Ball Chest Pass
This is a common exercise that I have used with hundreds of athletes, both as a test and in training. Have the athlete sit on a plyo box (about 18" seems to be right for most people), and throw the med ball as far as possible while keeping their hips on the box the entire time. Distance in feet = #1


Test #2 - Supine Chop Throw
Begin in a sit-up position while holding a med ball, arms extended overhead on the ground. Perform a crunch/sit-up/chop throw, while keeping feet and hips on the ground throughout the throw. Distance in feet = #2

Test #3 - Vertical Jump
Nothing fancy here, a standard counter-movement jump for height. Feel free to use whatever equipment you have at your disposal - Vertec, Just Jump, etc. Height in inches = #3

Test #4 - Rotational Shot Put
Similar to the MB chest pass above, this is one of my favorite upper body power exercises (though, as a former thrower, I always hesitate when labeling it as a shot put...feels wrong on some level). With the athlete in an athletic stance, body perpendicular to the direction they will be throwing, have them throw as far as they can. There is no step into the throw or jump while throwing, the feet can turn and the back leg can come forward, but remember this is a test - tests are only beneficial if executed properly. Repeat with each arm. Distance in feet = #4

Here is where things get interesting, those numbers should all be connected. #1, #2, and #3 should all be equal or close to it, and #4 should be about 1.5 of the other numbers. For example, if an athlete has a 20" vertical, they should have a chest pass and chop throw distance of 20', and their shot put distances should be right around 30'. This shows a well balanced power profile of an athlete. If one or two of these numbers are below this ratio, it shows where training should be modified to improve total body power.

This is another demonstration of the body being a single unit instead of a collection of pieces - everything is connected. If you want powerful athletes, be sure they are powerful throughout their body and not just in common movements. If an athlete can generate sufficient power with their legs (let's say a 30" vertical), but are unable to transfer that power to their upper extremities (due to weak core/rotational power), their performance will suffer. We will always be limited by our weakest link, these tests can help reveal and remedy those weak links and improve performance.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, FMS-1
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
  


Friday, June 7, 2013

Perform Better Summit - Quick Recap of Day 1

As expected, day 1 provided an excellent group of speakers on numerous topics. Unfortunately, the internet in my hotel isn't cooperating, so I'll be brief in my recap as I'm writing it on my phone.


  • It was great seeing Mike Boyle again. Last year at spring training with the Red Sox, Mike was an excellent resource and mentor to have. As expected, his lecture on functional coaching didn't disappoint.
  • Thomas Myers had several amazing insights, but his top moment was his explanation that "bones 'float' in a sea of soft tissue, not stacked upon one another as a single structure."
  • Jon Torine shed some light on the "why" of programming in the FMS "Every 'what' needs a 'why' to flourish." Hopefully I can explain that better next week with my full article on the conference.
  • Gray Cook broke down the three basic movements against resistance: locomotion - moving yourself, manipulation - moving an object, and combative - moving another person. 
  • Finally, Dick Vermeil was an incredible finish to the night with some of the best lines I've heard. Excellent motivator and easy to see why he had the success he did as a coach. "There is no such thing as a coach without problems. However, a problem in the right hands is a wonderful asset because it leads to a solution."
That's all for day 1. On the docket for tomorrow - Charlie Weingroff, Duane Carlisle, Al Vermeil, Nick Winkleman, and Martin Rooney.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Perform Better Summit Introduction

Just arrived in beautiful Providence and wandered around the convention center where the Perform Better Summit will be held the next three days. This will be my first PB Summit and I am looking forward to an amazing lineup of presenters.

Here's a short list of presenters this weekend:


  • Michael Boyle
  • Alwyn Cosgrove
  • Thomas Myers
  • Lee Burton
  • Gray Cook
  • Mark Verstegen
  • Jon Torine
  • Charlie Weingroff
  • Al Vermeil
  • Robert Dos Remedios
And that's not including the keynote speaker who was just revealed recently - former NFL Coach of the Year and Super Bowl Champion Dick Vermeil.

It's shaping up to be quite a weekend. I look forward to sharing as much information as I can pick up from all these great minds.

-DH

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month

I recently learned May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system, specifically the pancreas, with build-up of abnormally thick mucus. Because of this build-up, CF patients are prone to multiple and severe lung infections, as well as the inability to properly digest and absorb nutrients from food.

Well, a close family friend, Jamina "Lil' J" Winston, has CF and in January, had a terrifying experience while visiting New York City. I received a frantic call from my sister saying she was flying out to NYC and let me know Jamina was in the hospital and it didn't look good. I am about 2.5 hours away from the city, so I told my bosses that I would likely be disappearing for a few days (I am very lucky to have the supportive network here that I do). 

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides Walk 2009
My sister is the pink one (fundraiser) with Jamina kneeling just behind her left shoulder.
After a few scares and crashes, Jamina was able to communicate via notepad (she was on a ventilator and unable to talk). Even though she had been close to death for a week, down to 65 pounds, and filled with tubes, she was still able to crack jokes and (silently) laugh while I was with her. Amazingly, her sense of sarcasm was still evident in her writing and body language. To illustrate just how amazing of a person she is, Breaking Muscle had an article on Jamina and her battle to continue swimming with CF. 


Lil' J in her full hospital get up, yet still chipper.
Now time for the good news. This past weekend, Jamina received a double lung transplant and within 24 hours, she was off the ventilator, sitting up in her chair, and able to walk. This is an exciting, but expensive, development for Lil' J, as her main caregiver (her mother) had to leave her job to move closer to the Duke medical facilities (one of the top CF/lung transplant facilities in the country).

I believe we will find an answer for cystic fibrosis in my lifetime, however this will not happen without increased awareness throughout the public. Please take the time to visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website and Jamina's fundraising site to help cover medical expenses, and help spread the information available. I am not asking for anything more than your time to learn more about this disease. Everyone has a cause they fight for, and this is mine.

If you are able to help support Jamina and her medical expenses, please visit her donation page here. If you would like to donate to the CF Foundation, you can contribute to the 2013 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Great Strides Walk. Please share this post with family, friends, coworkers, and as many people as you feel would be interested in learning about it. I appreciate your time and interest in this matter.


All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

26 Training Lessons From 26 Years - The 4 Rules

Parts One, Two, Three, and Four, in case you missed them)

The following four lessons are what I refer to as my "4 Rules" of training and life. A key part of training all of my athletes is ensuring they learn the 4 Rules, in order, and can recite them at any time...which isn't too hard because there are only four, they are quite basic, and I am frequently yelling "Don't break rule number __!" In retrospect, I should have done a countdown style format building up to this post (as these are by far my top lessons), but hindsight is always 20/20.

Training lessons 23-26:

Rule #1 - Don't Die
Simple enough. If you die, the game is over - it's pretty tough to come back from that without luck, a defibrillator, or divine power.  

How it applies to training: Push yourself, but don't kill yourself. Remember, sometimes less is more, and more is too much. I'm as big a fan of gut-check workouts as anyone, when they are used in moderation and programmed appropriately.

How it applies to life: Pretty self-explanatory. But in a less literal sense, don't kill yourself with stress or reckless decisions (smoking, drinking in excess, etc). Live a little, but don't break Rule #3 (see below).

Rule #2 - Breathe
Another simple rule that most people do without worry for most of their lives. 

How it applies to training: It amazes me how frequently people will hold their breath while training until their face turns red and they get light headed. Taking in and holding a deep belly breath is an excellent way of increasing intra-abdominal pressure while handling heavy, heavy weights, but working with 5+ reps is too long to hold your breath. If you're working with 2-5 reps, take breaths between reps to make sure you don't end up like this guy (skipping past the horrible deadlift technique).

How it applies to life: Other than a necessity of life, breathing can help control stress and anxiety. A saying I learned a long time ago was "Control your breath, control your mind." Don't forget to breathe through the tough times, it will help more than you think.

Rule #3 - Don't Be Stupid Just Because It's Easy
As mentioned above, it's still important to take some risks, have some fun, and do some stupid things from time to time...but for the right reasons. What are the right reasons? If you're going to be stupid, it better be for one of four reasons: it's going to be fun, you have a chance to make some money (bet you twenty bucks you can't _____), you are paying up on a lost bet, or you have a chance to get the girl. You can usually tell when someone was stupid just because they could be by how they tell the story. If it starts with "So this one time, I thought it would be a good idea to..."

How it applies to training: Don't screw around in the weight room. Don't try a max without a spotter. Don't be reckless. There really isn't a better way to put it than don't be stupid.

How it applies to life: You'll have plenty of opportunities to be stupid. Don't take them all, avoid the unnecessarily dangerous or foolish opportunities. If it's fun, profitable (not an investment that is just as likely to cost you money), or can get you a date, go for it. You only live once.

Rule #4 - Don't Suck
An excellent quote describing rule #4 - "If you go outside, meet twenty people, and one's a jerk, you met a jerk. If you go outside and meet twenty people, and they're ALL jerks, then you're the jerk."

How it applies to training: Hold yourself accountable, be a good teammate, and apply yourself to your training. Don't act better than everyone else, show up on your own schedule, or disrespect those your sharing the weight room with (rack your weights, don't go around shouting, clean up after yourself).

How it applies to life: You won't get very far in life if no one can stand being around you. If a friend asks a favor, don't turn them down just because it requires you to get off your couch. The more you help and support those in your life, even casual acquaintances, the more likely you are to succeed.

I hope you enjoyed this series and if you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 4

If you missed them, here are parts one, two, and three of this series. 

18. Spend the Time & Money to Learn
This is a huge one. As I mentioned before (#14), everyone thinks they know how to be a strength coach. The truth is, there is an infinite amount of detail that can be seen in every rep of every lift. Learning to recognize these subtle cues requires experience and, more importantly, a teacher. I have been very fortunate to learn from some excellent coaches and mentors in this field. One of the best investments I have made as a coach was attending a USA Weightlifting certification course. Two days of hands-on experience, working with former Olympic Weightlifting coaches, as well as thirty other coaches with various levels of training the Olympic lifts, was an incredible learning experience that no amount of textbooks or videos could duplicate. If you want to become a better coach, invest in yourself and learn from everyone you can.

(With that said, I want to take this chance to thank those in the field who have helped me along the way thus far. Alan Stein (first mentor and helped ignite my passion for this, I can't thank you enough), Brett Fischer (and his entire staff at Fischer Sports), Frank Renner (If anyone has taught me how to coach, it is Frank - couldn't have asked for a better mentor), Taylor Kleinschmidt/P.J. Fabritz/Taylor Janowicz (being able to bounce ideas off you guys has helped tremendously), Mike Boyle (the resources he provided, in addition to learning from him for a month was unbelievable), Dan John (if you haven't read Never Let Go, quit reading this until you do. Seriously, go buy it now.), Dr. Erson Religioso (who has amazing content over at www.themanualtherapist.com), Ben Bruno (your assistance/referrals with my site has helped more than you know), all of the ATHLETIC trainers and physical therapists I have been fortunate enough to work with, as well as my current colleagues - I learn something new from you every day and become a better coach with every bit of it. Thank you all for your help.)

19. Don't Major in the Minor
Several athletes and coaches are interested in perfecting tiny details, but fail to see larger issues that demand attention. A quote I really like is, "Don't be too busy mopping the floor to turn off the faucet." and I think it's an excellent way of saying fix the problem and the residual issues will take care of themselves. A good example is training accessories - weightlifting shoes, bands, chains, etc. These are great for the individual who knows what he/she is doing with them, but just frills. If you can't deadlift at least twice your body weight, don't worry about adding chains or bands to improve your lockout. Master these movements - squat, hip hinge, push up, plank, and rowing/chin ups to be able to retract your scapula. Once these are under control, then get more creative, but the secret to an effective program is simplicity - do the basic movements, do them well, and progressively increase resistance to improve.

20. Do More Ground Work
A couple months ago, I wanted to incorporate more ground work and became interested in learning more about Primal Move workouts. I found an amazing set of videos at Breaking Muscle by Andrew Read and starting implementing the movements into my own warm up. I noticed a big difference in my lifts with these warm ups - I felt like I got rid of my "old man syndrome" while I was rolling around and working my way up off the ground. I don't have any research or evidence other than personal experience, but it's something worth trying if you are looking for a change in your workout.

21. Give it Some Time
Training is an investment, not a pay day - it takes time to see the benefits. One workout is enough to make you a little better, but it takes several to see any real gains. If you are trying a new training program, commit to it for a few months to allow it to work. You can't expect results if every other week you bounce from 5/3/1 to triphasic to Power to the People to whatever else catches your eye. If a program is going to work, it is going to require time - think big picture.

22. Learn to Schedule, You're Going to Need it
I've worked in private business, professional, and college settings and can say the most consistent aspect of all three is time demands. Your daily schedule will be like Tetris - find the perfect slot for Team A or Person B, then realize Group X needs to get their time pushed back to that day because of Random Event Y... then flip your desk over and shout profanity at your computer screen. Basically, as a strength and conditioning coach, your rank of importance on some one's schedule is pretty low. For an athlete it goes - games, practice, extra individual work, eating, training. Students are similar but add in their classes, enough time for homework, and group meeting times. Then team coaches have to take in these factors plus weather (if their sport is outside and susceptible) and availability of facilities. Your perfect schedule will get changed every way imaginable and if you can't roll with it while staying on top of everything, it's easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the mix. Learning to communicate with your athletes and coaches (and doing it consistently) is the best way of keeping everything humming along.

Next week, I will wrap up the series with my big four rules of training.


All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES



Monday, April 8, 2013

26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 3

In case you missed them, here are parts one and two of my "26 Training Lessons from 26 Years" series. 

13. Shut Up and Listen
I have been called a chatterbox, longwinded, and an annoying jackass who doesn't shut up (among other things). It's true - I enjoy talking and feel I can have a conversation with nearly anyone I share a language with, but at times it has been detrimental to my career as an athlete and now as a coach. When I was an athlete, I was certain I knew more than enough and could succeed on my own. It wasn't until I learned to listen to my coaches that I began to truly succeed and my performance improved. As a coach, I have been fortunate to learn from some great mentors in the field. I never would have learned anything from them if I was doing all the talking - it's not about showing off how much you know, it's about taking in as much as you can.

14. You Don't Know a Damn Thing
Going off of number 13 above, it's unfathomable how much information is out there in strength and conditioning alone, never mind other related fields such as physical therapy, athletic training, etc. I have my methods and training preferences, but they are changing every year when new research comes out or I've added a few new wrinkles to my program. With that said, I trust my abilities as a coach to stay up to date with techniques and research, as well as rely on my support network of coaches, athletic trainers, and therapists to provide the best coaching I can for my athletes. Strength and conditioning is one of those professions everyone seems to think they can do, thanks to an occurrence called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I like to relate it to an athlete telling an athletic trainer what their injury is and the form of treatment they need or a patient looking up their symptoms online and telling the doctor what medicine they need. If you are going to a professional, let them do their job - I wouldn't be half the coach I am today if I stayed convinced I knew everything as an athlete.

15. Don't Overlook Recovery Work
I touched on this with #5 - Plan Recovery into your Programs, but recovery work is not given enough attention. Training for an hour a day still leaves 23 hours remaining, this is when gains are made. Your training program is the spark of a match whereas the recovery is the wood and coal that actually burns. Individually, they aren't useful at producing results, but when properly combined you can have a successful training career. Self-myofascial release, hot tubs, flexibility/mobility work, nutrition, sleep, and recovery aids like the EDGE Mobility Bands can help improve results by assisting with recovery from training.

16. Learn to Cook
I was fortunate enough to go to college away from my parents and began living on my own before assuming all of the responsibilities of adulthood. This gave me a few years of practice taking care of things around the house, paying bills, and most importantly, cooking. I am far from an elite chef, but after spending two years as a college student working in a restaurant and preparing my own meals for years, I can cook up my meals for the week without eliciting a gag reflex. For students, being able to cook for yourself will help you eat clean and healthy (aiding in recovery, as mentioned above) and save you money. Learn how to use a grill, oven, stove, and how to cook meat/vegetables properly - pink in a steak is fine, pink in a chicken breast is not - and you'll be less likely to be stuffing your face with deep fried crap from a fast food restaurant when you're hungry.

17. Make Every Rep Count
It's easy to get distracted in the gym - cute girl on the treadmill, your teammate cracking jokes, the song playing on the stereo... - but it's important to block all of that out when it's time to do work. If you're going to have a conversation, use your rest time. As soon as you approach the bar, lock yourself in on the task at hand and focus on getting the most from each rep. A wasted rep or set can never be gained back - have a reason for everything you do and be able to focus exclusively on that goal while training. Don't let distractions ruin your training because you can't block them out for thirty seconds.


All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES



Monday, April 1, 2013

26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 2

Last week, I listed my first 6 training lessons and here are another 6 to help you in your training, programming, and coaching.

7. Learn the Olympic Lifts
Most of my training programs are designed around the O-lifts and their accessory movements. They are some of the most beneficial exercises for improving strength, power, and performance in sports, however they must first be properly learned. In order to fully benefit from the exercises, you need to learn the technical aspects of the movements. For example, a hang clean isn't just getting a bar from mid thigh to a front squat position, it's doing so with the correct muscle firing pattern. Hip hinge (not squat), pulling yourself under the bar (not jumping), pushing your elbows through (not perpendicular to the floor), and catching in the racked position (instead of landing on the wrist) are all important details to performing a proper clean.

8. Do More Turkish Get Ups
Other than the above mentioned Olympic lifts, nothing hits the total system quite like a Turkish Get Up. Ground movement, unilateral training, mobility, shoulder stability, and overhead work are all included in a single movement. In terms of programming efficiency, very few exercises hit as many categories as the get up.

9. Be Brilliant at the Basics
This goes hand in hand with two of my previous notes - simplify and know your progressions. The best powerlifters in the world base their programs around three lifts - squat, deadlift, and bench press. Everything else is supplemental and if you look at programs like Jim Wendler's 5/3/1, you realize the importance of mastering the basics. Compound movements, varying intensity depending on goals, and giving the program time to work are the keys to successful training. If you can't perform a push up with perfect form, you shouldn't be maxing out on bench.

10. Battle Ropes are a Beautiful Thing
There are several ways to condition the lower body - Tabata squats, stadiums, hill sprints, etc. - and fewer options for the upper body that provide a similar effect. My personal favorite  is the battle rope. If you want to blast your shoulders like you've never experienced, 20 second reps of slams, alternating slams, circles, and jumping jacks can work the shoulder stabilizers and total body better than most alternatives.

11. Seek Balance
I don't mean do all of your exercises on a BOSU ball or Airex pad. Balance means maintaining the relationships in your training program. The first comparison that comes to mind is upper body pulling to pressing. For athletes who spend most of their time focusing on their anterior musculature (mirror muscle/beach body workouts, sitting at a desk, poor posture, etc.) and it's important to balance out everyday life by increasing posterior work in training. Likewise, balancing squats and hip hinge movements is important in developing lower body power and decreasing knee imbalances.

12. Don't be Afraid to Try Something New
I recently started playing around with primal move workouts and realized something interesting...they make for an incredible warm up. I like how they can flow from one movement to another, building upon itself similar to a yoga/pilates flow. I was skeptical at first, but after playing around with the movements, I discovered a flow I like using as a warm up or mobility circuit. There are thousands of great ideas out there and without experimenting a little from time to time, you're limiting the tools at your disposal.


I hope these help you in your training. Next week I will put up part three of the series.



All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES


Monday, March 25, 2013

26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 1

In celebration of my 26th birthday, I have decided to blatantly copy use an idea from an excellent strength & conditioning resource, Ben Bruno (his second part can be found here). With that in mind, here are my first six lessons.

1. Simplify
Training doesn't need to be complicated. Build your base with compound lifts, balance hip hinge with squat movements, upper body presses/pulls and you have the makings of a solid program. Add in the extras after these basic movements are established, not as the foundation. Master the basics before trying to get complicated.

2. Know Your Progressions/Regressions
This is especially important for coaches with athletes of different levels. Just because the workout calls for back squats doesn't mean that's the proper lift for all athletes. An exercise is only as effective as the athlete performing it. If an athlete can't perform a body weight squat with proper form, don't advance them to a loaded squat. Here's a simple progression I like for the above example: body weight squat > goblet squat > front squat > back squat. Likewise, if you are working with a group of athletes that have a low training age, but an individual would benefit from more advanced exercises, it's important to know the "next step" exercise for each movement.

3. Include More Unilateral Work
A lot of coaches have been switching to more single leg work in place of constantly programming heavy squats/deadlifts. The reason being the combined weight of each leg trained individually can be greater than with bilateral exercises. While you may be able to put more stress on the leg musculature, I prefer single leg work for its core activation and reduced stress on the lumbar spine. This goes beyond single leg exercises and includes the arms as well. Single arm dumbbell military press is a shoulder-friendly vertical press with a heavy demand on the trunk to prevent lateral flexion. I don't program in much strict ab work, so being able to include it with other movements help improve time efficiency in workouts.

4. Plan Ahead...in Pencil
Even the greatest training program can fall apart if unexpected obstacles come up. Changing schedules, injuries, etc. can disrupt a training program. It's important to be able to change on the fly and maintain progress towards your goals.

5.Plan Recovery Into Your Programs
I learned an excellent programming tip from Coach Mike Boyle - build recovery and mobility into workouts. Mobility is frequently overlooked as a part of training and can help improve results and performance. By including mobility work with your lifts allows enough time for recovery after heavy lifts or speed movements. Too often, power developing exercises, such as med ball work or jumps, athletes tend to move on to their next set before allowing proper recovery. By introducing mobility drills as interset rest work, it forces extra time for recovery and maximum force production.

6. Don't Overlook the Warm Up
Looking back on my teenage years, what I miss most is the ability to jump right in to a workout without warming up. Maybe a light set or two before my working sets, if that, and I was at full blast. Now my warm ups take nearly as long, if not longer, than the working sets. Foam rolling, stationary mobility work, activation exercises, dynamic mobility work, then progressing to a complex or other self-limiting exercise to start with low resistance.

Next week, I'll post the second part of the series. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Great Kettlebell Workout

Sticking with the trend of keeping things simple, here is a great circuit using nothing but a single kettlebell.

Turkish Get-Ups x 5
Single Arm KB Swings x 5
Goblet Squats x 5
KB Snatch x 5
KB Military Press x 5
Waiter's Hold Reverse Lunge x 5
Repeat on opposite side

The reps can be played around with (I like the flow of 5 reps per exercise), but this is a great all-around workout if you're pressed for time. With the exception of the goblet squats, all of the exercises are unilateral and require additional stabilization. Your shoulders will be smoked after this, just a heads up.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. Any questions or comments, feel free to shoot me an email.

All the Best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley




Monday, February 4, 2013

Simple Training Philosophies

"We're not reinventing the wheel here."

I can't tell you how many times I have heard coaches (including myself) say that exact phrase to athletes, sport coaches, parents, etc. It's true - nearly every break through in the field of sports performance happens when complex ideas are brought back down to Earth in a simplified context. Sure, we get new tools to use these ideas - such as TRX or Tendo units - but the ideas behind them are still simple. We want to be able to move and control our bodyweight (with devices like the TRX) and be able to train speed with a quantifiable result (I haven't found anything comparable to a Tendo unit for this, but it is an incredible tool). Simple ideas, only with better technology to train with. Keeping that in mind, here are some simple training philosophies that help me get back to basics when I get too wrapped up in trying to, well, reinvent the wheel.


If It's Important, Do It Every Day - Dan Gable (via Dan John) has provided me one of the best philosophies for my programs. While I don't get to work with my athletes every day, I make sure to hit on the key aspects every training session. Lift heavy, train unilaterally, use the entire body at once, train basic movement patterns, lift/move your own body, stabilize what needs stability and mobilize what needs mobility. 


If You're Not Deadlifting, You're Not Lifting - This is my favorite line from everything I've read from Pavel. Maybe it's because deadlift was always my best lift (I am a little biased), but I've noticed a correlation between strong deadlifters and athletic ability. Maybe it's the fact they have well-developed posterior chain musculature - recognized as an important piece of athletic performance and force production - or maybe it's that athletes who deadlift usually take their training more seriously than their "bench and biceps" counterparts.


Have A Reason For Everything You Do - Since day 1, if I try something new in a program, I make sure I have a reason for including it (other than it looked neat on YouTube). If, once it has been introduced, doesn't yield results, no matter how badly I want to include it in training, it is gone. This was a frequent point of discussion with Mike Boyle when I had the fortune of working with him last year. After his decades of experience, he still trains by the KISS mantra - Keep It Simple, Stupid. 


Train To Perform On The Field/Court/etc. - Unless the athlete is a competitive Olympic lifter or powerlifter, their competitive is outside the weight room. With this in mind, lifting the most weight isn't always the best sign of productive training. If I have a 6'8" basketball player, I am less interested in improving his bench numbers and more focused on his agility, mobility, speed, and explosiveness. Simply making athletes stronger isn't a job well done - those gains must apply to their sport performance.


Think Big Picture - Small Steps Lead To Big Gains - I covered this before, but I love Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 and the concept of small, continuous gains over a long period of time. Most of the workouts athletes see in magazines or online advertise "Add 50 Pounds to Your Bench in 6 Weeks" or "Bigger Biceps in One Workout" - immediate results. Other than making it difficult to coach athletes who see (and believe) these ads, they also shift the focus to the short term benefits. If I want a new car, I could sell my computer, tv, furniture, rob a convenience store, and drive off the lot with a shiny new truck by the end of the week.  However...that short term benefit came at a cost - I don't have a bed to sleep in, money to pay for the gas my new car needs, and I'm probably a day or two away from being caught for robbery. The costs associated immediate benefits from training are only slightly less damaging - overtraining/injury - and result in prolonged gaps in training. What good is a huge gain if you're forced to quit training and fall back to square one? Plan for where you want to be a year from now, not a week or month, and keep the goals realistic. 

These are simple concepts, but when new research and ideas are introduced into the field on a weekly basis, sometimes simple is the way to go.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES