Tag Archives: strength and conditioning

Consistency is the Key

25 Feb

Consistency[1]I have a few clients who show up to train, sporadically, and are puzzled as to why they don’t seem to make any real progress.  I’ll see them maybe once or twice over the span of weeks or months.  Some of them think their exercise selection is the problem.  They want to try all kinds of different modes of exercise (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but they don’t stick with any of them on a regular basis.

The reality is, you don’t have to take an extreme or fanatical approach in the weight room to be productive.  Same goes for your speed training and diet.  Establish a goal, create a plan, ensure that your plan is aligned with your goal, and commit to it on a regular basis.  I realize that’s easier said than done, but the process itself is not complicated.

Strength and Conditioning

Research shows that strength training two days per week — about 30 minutes per session — can help individuals build strength, power, muscle mass, and endurance.  Focus on exercises that work large and multiple muscle groups like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and row.  As a rule, choose free weights over machines.  Free-weight exercises generally require more balance and stability to perform, increasing the intensity level and degree of difficulty.

Speed and Agility

Strength training plays a key role in the development of speed and agility (remember, speed and agility is largely impacted by the amount of force you can generate against the ground; stronger legs generate greater force).  You can be more efficient with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), regardless of your mode of cardio training (run, bike, elliptical, treadmill, etc.).  Try this 10-minute approach: go hard (aggressive pace) for 30 seconds, and easy (very light pace) for 90 seconds.  Repeat four more times.

Diet and Nutrition

Follow the 80/20 rule.  Adhere to your diet and nutrition plan, strictly, 80% of the time.  Allow yourself a “cheat” meal every fifth day.  I’ve read about a physician who recommends 10% discretionary calories, every day, for his patients.  For example, on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, you could eat 200 calories worth of whatever you want, every day — but only 200 calories — as long as you stick to your plan for the other 1,800 calories.  This plan allows his patients to reward themselves for “good” behavior (positive reinforcement).


Your thoughts?

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

8 Feb

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!


Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.


Your thoughts?

Avoid These 3 Overrated Exercises

16 Jan

qa-what-are-the-most-overrated-exercises1[1]Whether your goals include improving athletic performance — through strength and conditioning — or improving your overall fitness, changing your workout, from time to time, is necessary if you want to continue to see results. Performing the same exercises (and movements) all the time is boring and ineffective because your body adapts, which limits your results. Additionally, there are some exercises that provide very little return on your exercise “investment,” and probably should not be incorporated into your regimen, at all.

Try swapping some of your old exercises for some new ones.  Here are three examples of “overrated” exercises, and alternatives:

  • Traditional crunches (pictured) can be tough on your neck and back, and only target a small portion of your abs (and not your entire core).  Try the Plank with Knee to Chest (mountain climbers) instead, and work your entire core — shoulders, torso, and hips — while improving your stability and posture.  Start in a push-up position with your hands beneath your shoulders and feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your hips and torso still, draw one knee toward your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
  • The Seated Machine Chest Press “locks” your body into a fixed path, limiting your range of motion.  This exercise neglects important stabilizing muscles of your shoulders because, when the machine provides the stability, your body doesn’t have to.  Replace this exercise with the 1 Arm Dumbbell Bench Press, which  places the weight on one side of your body, forcing you to stabilize your body using your core. You’ll develop core strength and upper-body power that transfer to everyday activities and the sports court or field.  Here’s a video to get you started.
  • The Seated Knee Extension is low-functional and limited focus, isolating the quadriceps.  Swap this exercise for the Bulgarian Split Squat, which provides a superior total-body workout.  This video provides a detailed, “how-to” demonstration.


Your thoughts?

The One-Percent Rule

9 Jan

change-management1[1]You’ve probably heard of the 1% rule (or something similar).  It’s all about accountability, responsibility, and self-improvement.  The 1% rule means you should try to be 1% better today than you were yesterday — in the gym, at practice, as a competitor, at work, at home, and in life.  But improvement involves (requires) change and change requires work.  Basically, there are three types of change:

  • Steady-state change
  • Incremental change
  • Quantum change

Steady-state change is about maintenance.  Although there is little or no change, work is required.  For example, if you want to keep your house looking a certain way, you have to do dishes, wash clothes, vacuum the floors, etc. on a regular basis… and that’s just to keep it looking the same way, day after day.  The same applies to your strength & conditioning and sport-specific skills.  You need to commit yourself  to working out and practicing just to maintain your level of performance — consistency is the key.  Failure to work will invariably lead to a decline in your performance (and the appearance and condition of your house).

Incremental (small-scale) change is the key to improving performance.  This is the type of change to which the 1% rule applies.  Incremental change is realistic and attainable.  It obviously requires effort, but incremental change also encourages progress.  If managed properly, incremental change can lead to significant results.  As with steady-state change, incremental change requires consistency and discipline.

  • Healthy Weight Management.  If your goal involves losing a few pounds, break it down into a reasonable weekly or monthly goal.
  • Diet and Nutrition.  To improve your diet, don’t completely overhaul your eating habits all at once.  Try changing one thing per day (or week) — for example, eliminate one sugary drink per day or add an apple every day.  Then, aim to change (add or eliminate) more things over time to create better habits.
  • Strength and Conditioning.  In order to improve your strength and speed — or your overall level of fitness — you must do something differently than you’re currently doing.  That usually means increasing the overall intensity level of your training (more resistance, sets, reps, and/or volume).
  • Sport-Specific Skills.  Want to improve your ball-handling or shooting?  Find some new drills, instead of  — or in addition to —  the ones you’re currently doing; and commit more time and effort (more repetitions) to your skills practice.

The new year is a time of change for lots of people.  My first blog post of 2013 referred to new year’s resolutions.  I’ve read that most people give up on their new year’s resolutions by the end of January, and that trying to accomplish too much, too soon (unrealistic goals) is the primary reason.  Challenge yourself, but take “baby” steps, and you’ll find the change process much more manageable and attainable.

Quantum (large-scale) change takes time, and is the result of lots of incremental change.  Regardless of your goals, it’s unrealistic to think you can make huge gains in performance in a relatively short time.  If you want to achieve big things, you need to do diligence to the incremental change process.  Be aggressive and realistic.  And be patient.

What will you change, and how will you improve, today?


Your thoughts?

Everyone Wants to Win, But Not Everyone Wants to Prepare

19 Nov

“Winning is not everything, but the effort to win is.” – Zig Ziglar

Winning is not an accident.  Neither, for that matter, is success.  Look at a winner and you see the surface, the “tip of the iceberg.”  What you don’t usually see is the effort that was responsible for, and contributed to, the end result.

Winning, at every level, is the result of preparation.  Work ethic, achievement drive, innovation, communication, and teamwork are essential components of the process.  Preparation is the key to success – winning – in sports, school, in business, and in life.  Success typically comes to those who are best prepared.

Physical Preparation is training the body for successful performance.  “Today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement.” – Unknown

  • Sport-specific skill development – blocking and tackling (football); ball-handling and shooting (basketball); hitting and fielding (baseball); etc.
  • Strength and conditioning – improve performance by developing strength, speed, agility, and athleticism.
  • Nutrition – fuel your body for optimum performance.
  • Sleep – proper rest is essential to the recovery process.

Mental Preparation is training the mind for successful performance.  “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

  • Goal setting – motivate yourself with realistic, challenging goals.
  • Visualization – use your imagination to train by creating a mental image of success.
  • Focus on execution and practice to eliminate distractions.
  • Have Confidence in your skills and prepare to cope with adversity.
  • Commit yourself to your game plan or strategy.


Your thoughts?

You’ve Got to MAKE Time for Strength and Conditioning

14 Nov

“I don’t/didn’t have time.”  As a Strength and Conditioning Specialist who works with hundreds of athletes/clients, I hear that frequently.  Oddly, I rarely hear it from my goal-oriented, high achievers.  It’s one thing to know what needs to be done; it’s another thing to do it.

Here’s the key:  You can’t wait until you “have” time, and/or conditions are “perfect.”  There are going to be days when your schedule is hectic and/or you don’t feel like working out.  If it’s important, you’ve got to make time.  Here are some tips:

  • Rise and shine.  Early AM workouts are a great way to start your day.
  • Workout with a buddy or group.  This strategy is motivating and keeps you accountable.
  • Cut out distractions.  Scale back the time you spend on your cell phone, computer, social media, and television.
  • Make it a priority.  Schedule exercise into your day/week as you would any other appointment.
  • Use time wisely.  Be efficient, and focus on quality over quantity.  Even an abbreviated workout is better than none.
  • Break it up.  If you don’t have time for a complete workout, try scheduling shorter intervals throughout the day.
  • Add some variety.  Try different workouts, like cardio or yoga.
  • Chart your progress.  Keep an exercise journal.
  • Be realistic, but challenge yourself.
  • Get help from a qualified, experienced Strength and Conditioning Professional.

Write down your goals and revisit them often.  Refocus on your priorities and stay motivated.


Your thoughts?

3 Pillars of Athletic Performance

3 Aug

At APTC, we believe there are three (3) essential pillars to athletic performance:

  • Sport-Specific Skill Development
  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Diet and Nutrition

This list is not meant to be all-inclusive – and I’m sure others could make a case for adding to it – but it provides a reasonable foundation.

When I talk about sport-specific skill development, I’m referring specifically to the skills necessary to play a particular sport.  For example, a basketball player’s sport-specific skill development would focus on ball-handling, shooting, passing, defensive stance and footwork, etc.

I would describe Strength and Conditioning to include the following:

  • Strength and Sport-Specific Power
  • Speed, Agility, and Endurance
  • Balance, Coordination, and Flexibility
  • Injury Prevention Strategies

I have also witnessed that confidence is a by-product of both sport-specific skill development and Strength and Conditioning.

Nutrition Education is also important to athletic performance.  Pre- and post-activity (workout, practice, game) nutrition are important for fuel, as well as recovery, repair, and regeneration.  A healthy, nutritious diet can help support energy level, metabolism, and weight management.

But back to Strength and Conditioning.  When two athletes/teams compete – all things being relatively equal from a “skill” perspective – the stronger, faster athlete/team usually has an advantage.  Strength training can give you a competitive edge… it can be a “difference maker.”

Staying competitive means more than just adding another layer to your offensive and/or defensive schemes.  Skills practice, in and of itself, is not enough.

Continuous improvement in athletic performance, through the development of strength, speed, agility, and athleticism, will make the difference in playing time for individual athletes, as well as wins (and championships) for the team as a whole.  Programs that win year in and year out know that superior athleticism is the key to becoming dominant… and maintaining it.
Your thoughts?

What is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

2 Aug

 What is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)?

The Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) is an individual who has attained certification and accreditation through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); at least a bachelor’s degree, from an accredited college or university; and certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and in the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

The CSCS has studied, completed extensive coursework, and been tested and certified by the NSCA, in the following areas:

Concepts and Applications of Exercise Sciences

  • Muscle Physiology
  • Neuromuscular Anatomy and Adaptations to Conditioning
  • The Biomechanics of Resistance Exercise
  • Bone, Muscle, and Connective Tissue Adaptations to Physical Activity
  • Bioenergetics of Exercise and Training
  • Endocrine Responses to Resistance Exercise
  • Cardiovascular and Respiratory Anatomy and Physiology: Responses to Exercise
  • Physiological Adaptations to Anaerobic and Aerobic Endurance Training Programs
  • Age- and Sex-Related Differences and Their Implications for Resistance Exercise
  • The Psychology of Athletic Preparation and Performance: The Mental Management of Physical Resources
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances: Effects, Risks, and Appropriate Alternatives
  • Nutritional Factors in Health and Performance
  • Eating Disorders and Obesity

Testing and Evaluation

  • Principles of Test Selection and Administration
  • Administration , Scoring, and Interpretation of Selected Tests

Exercise Techniques

  • Stretching and Warm-Up
  • Resistance Training and Spotting Techniques

Program Design

  • Anaerobic Exercise Prescription
    • Resistance Training
    • Plyometric Training
    • Speed, Agility, and Speed-Endurance Training
  • Aerobic Endurance Exercise Prescription
    • Aerobic Endurance Exercise Training
  • Applying Exercise Prescription Principles
    • Training Variation: Periodization
    • Rehabilitation and Reconditioning

Organization and Administration of the Strength Training and Conditioning Facility

  • Facility Layout and Scheduling
  • Developing a Policies and Procedures Manual
  • Facility Maintenance and Risk Management

What to Look for in a Trainer

2 Aug

I’m occasionally asked by relatives and friends, who don’t live within a reasonable proximity of my facility, what they should look for in a trainer.  Naturally, I have somewhat of a bias.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the field of Strength and Conditioning is not regulated.  This means that anyone can hang a shingle and claim to be a personal trainer or strength coach.  And, like any other profession, there are some very knowledgeable and reputable trainers and some, uh… not so good.  The internet age has certainly facilitated this phenomenon, enabling anyone to search Strength and Conditioning videos and implement what they see, without really understanding any of the foundational exercise science or practical application.

Here’s a short list of selection criteria for a Strength Coach/Trainer:

  • Educational Background (should include Exercise Science and Physiology)
  • Accredited Certification (through an organization like the NSCA)
  • First-Aid, CPR, AED Certification (better safe than sorry)
  • Personal Liability Insurance (it’s expensive, but protects both trainer and client)
  • Experience, Expertise (knowledgeable, reputable, credible)

I hope that’s helpful.  The list is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be absolute; just a starting point.


Your thoughts?

Welcome to My Blog

1 Aug

Well, after much thought and discussion (and some prodding), I’ve decided to start a blog.  I plan to share evidence-based, Strength and Conditioning information to help others reach their goals.  The information I share won’t necessarily be the “best” way, the “only” way, or the “right” way; but it will be supported by credible, reputable data from the field of Exercise Science and Physiology.  My blog will focus on (but not be limited to) Strength and Fitness; Speed and Agility; Diet and Nutrition; and I’ll also incorporate some Inspiration and Motivation.  Ultimately, I hope my passion, enthusiasm, experience, and expertise can benefit others to improve athletic performance, fitness, and/or nutrition.  You can follow my blog by clicking on the “Follow” button, and each new post will be sent directly to your email address.  You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please let me know what you think… I welcome your comments.  Thanks!


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