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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