Thursday, December 13, 2012

What's Up for 2013 at Soar

I can't believe 2012 is coming to a close.  It has been the best year yet at Soar Fitness  I have more new clients than I ever dreamed of and my long term clients are moving on to play college sports on scholarship.  Unrelated to Soar  - I was lucky enough to marry my tremendous wife in 2012 and that has been nothing other than a blessing.......for me at least.    But how are we going to make 2013 even better?  Well......that process has already begun.

I have said before that the best piece of advice I ever received was to never be satisfied that you are doing the best job possible.  With that in mind, I am constantly learning new ways to provide the BEST service possible to all of my clients.

Recently, I purchased a video seminar  - Strength in Motion.   It featured three of top names in Strength and Conditioning - Charlie Weingroff, Patrick Ward and Joel Jamieson.   I was able to take valuable information from all three of them and it will shape how our training at Soar is designed in 2013.   I am going to summarize what I learned in layman's terms to give you an idea of what my clients will expect.

1.  Charlie Weingroff is my go to guy for information related to blending physical therapy with strength and conditioning.  Since I see tons of injured athletes per year, it is a no brainer for me to look to him for the latest in rehab and training.   I have some of his other products, so I had already heard a lot of what he presented in Strength in Motion.  However, I took one very major piece of information - The Functional Movement Screen is a must if you are training anyone!    I have used FMS for years and a lot of my long term clients have already been screened by me.  However, I somehow got a away from it just like you get away from flossing your teeth a few times per week.   I just simply decided I didn't have enough time to do it  - and that is BS!   All it took was Charlie to say,  "If you are not using FMS, you are on the B team."

That's all I needed to hear!   The FMS is simply a screen that gives a trainer an idea of what is appropriate for each individual client and what is not.  It ensures that you will not hurt a client by putting them in a position that their body is not ready to be in.   This is exactly what is wrong with many school lifting programs.  Many kids are asked to perform exercises such as deadlifts but do not possess the functional movement to do the exercise correctly.   The result is adding strength to dysfunction which ultimately leads to injury.  All new clients at Soar are given the FMS on their first day now.

If you train people and have not listened to Charlie before, I highly recommend it.

2.  Patrick Ward and Joel Jamieson both spoke in different ways about how to manage your training programs in terms of how the stress of training affects them.  Overtraining is something that I have always been very aware of and this seminar reiterated to me that I am on the right track.  The overlying theme of their presentations was that everything (sport practice, school, training, games, ect)  an athlete does during the course of a week takes a mental and physical toll on their bodies.  It is completely unrealistic to expect any athlete to train at 100% intensity day in and day out on a weekly and monthly basis.  Volume and intensity must be adjusted, even on the fly and recovery must be built in to the training model.

One topic that was completely new to me was Heart Rate Variability  - HRV.   I learned that HRV is the biggest indicator of if an athlete is ready to train at a high intensity or not.  Joel Jamieson has a product that measures HRV and I will be purchasing that very soon.   I will begin to implement HRV testing before workouts for a variety of my athletes  - especially when we are in pre-season conditioning.

Remember, this is just a summary of what I learned from the seminar.  If you are new to training seminars and these presenters, you will learn a ton.  I guarantee that if you are looking to improve the quality of training you provide to your athletes and clients, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Preparation for Winter Football Training

Before we get into the videos, I want to congratulate three of my clients - Jason Grote, Andrew Horstman and Austin Schmidt. All three of them received All - Ohio honors this week. Jason and Andrew have been clients of mine since they were in junior high and it is great to see that all the years of hard work had paid off for them. FYI - Jason was a slow, flat - footed, knee brace wearing kid at one time. He made 2nd Team All Ohio at Guard - at a 195lbs! Andrew made 2nd Team All- Ohio at Punter and is also one of the best athletes to ever walk through the doors of my gym. He has a chance to punt or play a variety of other positions at the college level. Austin has only been at Soar for 1 year and made outstanding progress this spring. He is heading to Illinois on full scholarship. Congrats again to all three guys.

 So what are we doing right now to get our football players ready for intense winter training? Boring old GPP - building a base. Remember, these guys just came out of 4 months of collisions. The last thing they need one week into training is a heavy bar on their back or tons of mindless agility training. Here are some videos our GPP

 After 2 - 4 weeks of GPP - its time to move on to getting jacked up and fast!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Assessing Proper Squat Depth

Squatting is without question one of the best ways to develop lower body strength in athletes and the general fitness population.  Its benefits are almost unlimited.  Need to burn fat  - squat.   Need to jump higher  - squat.  Need to run fast  - squat.   Need bigger legs   - squat.     All of my athletes and adult clients squat.   They front squat, back squat, KB golbet squat, high rep squat, max effort squat and dynamic squat.   It all depends on who they are, what part of their off- season they are in and what their goals are.  

One often overlooked or taken for granted part of squatting is the depth.  Different strength coaches and trainers have different opinions on what the depth of a squat should be.  There are those people who believe that Ass to Grass Squatting (femurs below parallel)  is the only way to go.

This kind of squat is accepted in some circles.    Not in my circle.   Ever.  Yes she is low  - but in my opinion the knees are too far forward and her back in flexion.   Keep in mind that is the bar only.

There are others who only believe in  box squats and there are those who think that squatting to a box is for pussies.   To me, it is finding the best depth of squat to for each individual client.  To ensure proper depth of squats at Soar, we use various heights of boxes .  Plus I have found it is way easier to get someone to sit back in their squat confidently when there is a box behind them.

My goal is to always to get my clients to get as strong as they can to the lowest depth that is appropriate for them.  Keep in mind that I am not training power lifters.   Whether or not their squat will qualify in a meet is irrelevant to me.  Making sure they are at their strongest and healthiest to play their sport is my only concern.

The video below shows what I look for when determining the box height for a new client.

Remember - the purpose of the video was finding the proper depth. Breathing, sitting back, keeping the chest up and pushing the knees out are techniques that we are constantly working on as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Training the Athlete that Trains at School Revisited

As a strength coach in the private sector, the majority of my clients are required to train with their teams at school to some degree.  This is something I have dealt with for 10 years and I wrote a blog about it a few years back.

Click here to read.

Like any other solid strength coach, my program has evolved since I last wrote that.  Even though there is nothing in the old article that I don't do, there are many other things I now do more of and some things I do less of.   I have also found that more and more athletes other than football players are required to lift at school.  As a result, I am seeing even more eyebrow raising workouts being put into play and as a result I have gotten more creative with my program design.

Just like wrote before, I must know what my athletes are doing on each day at school.   Sprinting?  Long distance running?   P90X?  Insanity?  Benching?  Squatting?   I need to know all of the particulars and I usually wait to make a program until the athlete fully informs me of their weekly training regimen.  Once I have all the information I need, I make a program that usually contains exercises from the categories listed below.

1. Sled training.    We push sleds and drag them in all imaginable directions.   For one, I know it is not being done at school.  For two, it eliminates eccentric stress so my athletes will not be sore for their school workouts.


2. Bent leg hip extension.    Google that term and you will see many of the top coaches talking about how that movement directly influences speed.   However, very few coaches have their athletes perform bent leg hip extension exercises.  Various forms of bent leg bridges and extensions are performed at Soar on a weekly basis.

 3.  Shoulder and Hip Prehab movements.   Again, very little of this is done at school so they are an easy add in to our program at Soar.

4.  Horizontal pulling  -  In my experience,  the push to pull ratio of my athletes that lift at school is at least 2 to 1.   This means that twice the amount of pressing is being done in comparison to pulling.   Usually they mix in Lat Pull Downs and Chin ups, so I add lots of rowing and suspended horizontal pull ups to offset all the benching.

5.  Submaximal Work on the Big Lifts  -  This has become a staple for me.   So you say you can squat 315 for 3 at school?   Show me 185.   98% of the time, their technique is mediocre at best.   Since their already doing max effort work at school  (with incorrect load), the submaximal lifting just serves as technique practice.  You can squat and dead lift a few times a week if you do it correctly!

6.  Warming Up  -  This one is laughable.   It shocks me how many teams do not go through a proper dynamic warmup before their workouts at school.   Since most of my high school clients have terrible mobility and flexibility, its a no brainer to have multiple warm- ups in place.

7.  Lateral Plyometrics   -  I wrote a blog on this topic a few weeks ago.   Lateral plyometrics are often neglected and very necessary for the any team sport athlete.  Like anything else, volume and progression is key.

I will acknowledge that supervising a weight room full of 40 high school kids of various sizes and strengths is a daunting task.   Even the best strength coach in the world would struggle to give individual attention to every kid in the program.  But, the reality is that most high school weight rooms are supervised by the sport coaches.   I give credit to them for trying to implement a program, but if quality work is not being performed  - are the kids really getting stronger?    Or are they adding strength to dysfunctional movement?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Introducing Lateral Movements to New Clients

During any training week, most of our clients will participate in some form of lateral movement training at least once.   Our sessions are approximately 90 minutes in length and the way the sessions break down goes like this:

10 minutes  - foam rolling, static stretching

15 minutes  - Dynamic Warm up

15 minutes  -   Early in week   -   Linear/Vertical plyometrics,  Linear speed work
                       Later in week  - agility ladder drills,  lateral plyometrics, lateral movement training

50 minutes   - strength and power work

This is just a template we follow for our average 12 - 15 year old client that comes to the gym 2x per week.  For our more advanced athletes that train 3 - 4x per week, their regimen might be different depending on their training cycle.

I feel that lateral movement training is one of the most neglected aspects of  strength and conditioning by a lot of coaches.   As you can see by the template above, we are not spending hours running around cones for the sake of calling it SAQ, Performance Training or whatever BS term is popular to use now.   We are giving kids the right dose of what they need to be well - rounded healthy, strong and fast athletes.  At Soar,  we have a progression of lateral plyometrics that we use to improve lateral explosiveness and deceleration.   Our lateral movements (agility) from week to week could focus on resisted movements, reaction, deceleration or a combination of all.  Typically a lateral day will consist of a few sets of lateral plyos and then 8 - 12 reps of agility work with each rep being 3 - 8 seconds long.

What about our new clients?   Do we just throw them into a class and expect them to keep up in some of our more advanced movement drills?   Absolutely not.    We make sure that the new athlete is first assessed and then prepped with some foundational lateral drills.

This first video is a clip of our two most basic lateral single leg hops.

This next video shows our basic progression for teaching lateral deceleration.

If you are training young athletes as a coach of a team or in the private sector, make sure you are introducing them to all the necessary concepts that will make them a well rounded athlete. The key is using the right progressions and applying the right dose. Remember, less is usually more! Nobody needs 30 minutes of agility ladder training.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Another Case for Getting Stronger

One of my college softball clients came into the gym the other day with the kind of news that I love to hear.

 Her:  Guess What?

Me:  What?

Her:   I ran the fastest 20 yard sprint time on the team the other day at testing.

Me:  Not surprising  - but nice work!

So what did I have her do this summer that brought about this increase in speed?

Mondays  -    run 50's 100s and 200s

Tuesdays -  Total body strength circuit

Wednesdays   -  Run Stadium Stairs until her legs felt like they would fall off

Thursdays  - Core

Fridays  - Long distance running

If you believe that, then surely you have never read my blogs thoroughly before.   That would be a recipe for being the slowest and weakest girl on the team.  Unfortunately there are way too many female athletes training like that for power sports just as softball.

Not hitting many homeruns this season!

What did I really have one of my longest standing clients do this summer?

First of all, she had a lot of conflicts with work this summer that shortened  our sessions.   There were some weeks that we didn't have any time for speed work  (if time is an issue, I always go for strength work over speed.)   For the most part, she made it to the gym 3x per week from June to mid - September.   Here is a overview of what her weekly workouts looked like:

-   Full Dynamic Warm up each day

- Linear, vertical and lateral plyometrics

- Sled pushes, sled resisted sprints and short burst sprints  (when we had time).   At no point did she sprint over 20yards.

- MB throws, weighted jumps and snatchs

-  Dead lifts and squats  - both max effort and dynamic

-Single leg lifts and posterior chain  exercises

- Upper body presses and pulls.

-  Core work  (bridging, chops and other necessities)

  This is just another case of an athlete maximizing their training time in the off-season by getting stronger.  The strength and power that she gained transferred right onto the field for fall ball. What's great about this case is that we have all winter to get even stronger and more powerful!

Are you a coach looking for the same results for your team in the off -season? 

Are you unsure of how to put together a proper strength and power program for your team?

Look no further than Soar Team Strength!   

Imagine if you had all our exercises and programs at your fingertips.   The best part is that all workouts can be performed in any high school or college weight room.

Here is an example of a Soar Team Strength video from our exercise library.


If you know any team that needs to gain strength and power, then they probably need a complete overhaul of their off -season program.   Please pass this blog onto any coach that is willing to make a change for the better.

Soar Team Strength

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Improving Your Bench Press

It's no secret  - every man that lifts weights wants to get stronger at the bench.   Almost every high school kid I train is obsessed with their bench press max.   I have said it before  - bench press max determined who suited up for varsity football at my high school!

As a strength and conditioning coach, I am fully aware that bench press does not have a whole lot to do with performance on the field or court.  Vertical leap, sprint time, conditioning shuttles, pull ups and squat/deadlift max are probably much better indicators of who the best athletes are.   However, it is never a bad thing to be really strong in the upper body.   Even if you are a weekend warrior or a fitness enthusiast   - getting stronger should always be your focus in the gym.

The video below will show you a few basic mistakes that I see most kids and adults make when they bench press.   If you are looking for specific power lifting advice, I would seek advice elsewhere from the many power lifting experts available on line.   If you have been benching the same weight for the last two years and have never addressed your technique  - definitely watch this video.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

3 Questions Any Legit Trainer Should Answer Easily

 Walk into any large indoor sports complex and I guarantee that you will find some sort of SAQ or Sport Performance program.  Search online and you will find any person who was ever fast or big and they will give you their expertise for a price.   When I started this business 10 years ago, I could count on my hand the number of Strength and Conditioning businesses in Central OH.  In 2012, I can't count on my hand the number of Strength and Conditioning programs within 10 miles of me!

On top of that, more and more high school sport coaches are now providing strength and conditioning programs for their athletes.   I have heard of everything from popping in P90X DVDs to hiring sound Strength and Conditioning coaches.   I give any coach credit for taking time to try to help their athletes get stronger and faster.   Not all families can afford expert training and as a result the coach has to have something in place at the school. 

I am not saying this growth is a bad thing  - it definitely means that the fitness industry is growing by leaps and bounds.   However, there are a lot of pretenders out there.   A LOT!!!!  

I will give you a very simple analogy. 

I used to play baseball and I was pretty good.   I know how to hold a bat and swing it.   HOWEVER, I would be flat out stealing money from clients if I started giving hitting lessons in here.   Why?   Because I am a Strength Coach, not a Baseball Coach.

The opposite also applies.   There are a ton of coaches/trainers who were great athletes, ran fast and used to lift weights.   They have bench pressed and squatted before.   But, have they performed over 10,000 hours worth of research in the Strength and Conditioning field?

  In my opinion, ANYONE who is in charge of supervising lifting and conditioning sessions is a trainer.  It might not be there full time gig, but if they are training athletes a few times a week, they are a trainer to some degree.  

How can you tell if your trainer is legit?    Here are 3 very simple questions that any knowledgeable strength coach or trainer should be able to answer with ease.

1.   What is your warm up?

Acceptable answers:   Anything that has to do with mobility and elevating body temperature or heart rate.
Unacceptable answers:    Nothing,  jogging, static stretching or they are already warm from open gym 

A good trainer has a very sound warm up system.   If they can't tell you about it, they don't have one.

2. What is the template for your program?

There are a lot of right answers here.    It could be as simple as Upper body on Monday, Legs on Wednesday  and Total Body on Friday.   Whatever it is, the trainer should be able to lay it out for you and demonstrate balance in program design.  The template should allow for progression and will include a combination of strength and explosive exercises.   Here are few things to look for:

Upper body pulling volume should at the very least equal pressing volume.

Sets and reps should change from week to week.

There should be a progression of exercises that are rotated every couple of weeks.

There must be posterior chain exercises  (butt, hamstrings).

Here is an example of a typical dry erase board workout I have seen in a lot of high school weight rooms.

Bench 3x10
Lunge 3x10
Chin ups 3x10
Curls 3x10
Dips 3x10

This workout is not bad, but it would be if it was your workout every Monday for 8 weeks.   Anyone, and I mean ANYONE can write a workout on the board for 30 kids to follow. 

3.  How to Assess Squat Technique

The squat is a crucial exercise.   Do it correctly with the right amount of weight will most definitely lead to increases in speed, strength and power.   Doing squats with shitty technique will lead to weakness and probably aches and pains.   It is that cut and dry.   A good strength coach will tell you exactly what they look for when watching an athlete squat  (back flat, sit back, push knees out, breathing, ect).  They also know the progressions to take with a young athlete who struggles with their squatting.    A pretend trainer will allow mediocre or shitty technique to slide over and over again.

 I have said it before, Quality reps breed quality athletes.    Shitty reps breed..........

If you are concerned about the level of training your young athlete is receiving either at school or in a private setting, try asking these questions to the coach or trainer.   Don't look for elaborate scientific answers.   Do look for confident answers that make sense and show knowledge.    If they can't answer these 3 questions, they are pretending!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fictitious Maxes and the Percentage Problem

Maxing out to some degree, whether it is a 1 rep max, 3 rep max or just max reps at a certain load is a staple in just about every high school and college weight room.  Some strength coaches live and die by percentage charts that spit out the weights each athlete should lift for a a number of reps based on their "Max".  A typical strength day could be 5 x5 with weights ranging from 80 - 88% of each athlete's 1 rep max.  If you lift dynamically (for speed) then the percentage could be as low as 30 - 50% for a rep scheme of  10 x 2.  

All of these percentages, charts and rep schemes are great if one very golden rule is followed.   THE MAX MUST BE PERFORMED WITH SOLID TECHNIQUE.  Solid does not have to be perfect, but it can't be mediocre and it most certainly under any circumstance can't be shitty.   If the strength coach, sport coach or whoever is chosen to supervise the weight room allows shitty technique for maxes, then the whole thing is a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME!

In my 10 years of strength and conditioning, I have had many kids tell me their max on squat was over 400 lbs but couldn't correctly squat 200lbs in front of me.  Sadly, some of these kids are college athletes from big time universities.   This poses 2 major problems.

1.  The obvious.......Lifting heavy weight with bad technique adds strength to dysfunctional movement which will eventually lead to injury.   I won't even get into the implications of allowing bad technique for adolescents that are still growing.  If you read my blog or have heard me speak, you know my thoughts on that topic.  Common sense  - Lifting with good technique gets you big and strong.  Lifting with bad technique will leave you weak and probably injured.

2. If your maxes are fictitious, the use of percentage charts and dynamic lifts are useless.   Think about this.

Lets take a 16 year old kid who has a true squat max  (done in front of me and probably estimated) of 200.   His max at school is 300 and that number is used for percentages.    Let's say on a dynamic day (again - lifting for speed) he is to perform 10 sets of 2 reps at 70% of his 1 RM (300). 

First of all, in my research, dynamic should be 30 - 50%, not 70%.   But, for some reason 70% is the number most of my high school clients give me so that is what I am using in this example.

70% of 300 is 210.

210 is 10 lbs. higher than the correct max that I assigned him.

Do you think he is moving 210 for speed?   UGH ABSOLUTELY FREAKING NOT!  Its more than his actual freaking max!

Even at 50%  - the number is 150.   That is 75% of his actual max.   That is still not going to be lifted for speed.

Let's use the same maxes now for a strength workout.  To keep it simple, lets use 5x5 at 80%.

80% of 300 is 240.    240 is 40 lbs. higher than his actual max.  That would 5 sets of 5 reps at a weight higher than his actual 1 rep max.  That would be 25 shitty reps.   That my friend is not how you get strong.

Hopefully this blog helps you see how detrimental bad lifting form during maxes can be to the growth of a young athlete.   If you let it happen, it will screw up your entire training process.   Please let common sense prevail!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Progressing into "True Plyometrics"

I have written a few articles before in regards to proper jump training or plyometric progressions for young athletes. Click here to read about our beginner plyometric progressions.

As I have stated before, we must work on proper landing mechanics before we start working towards reducing ground contact time. Young athletes have to learn how to absorb the force of landing before trying to produce force in a repetitive and quick fashion.  Elasticity, stretch shortening cycle and amortization phase are all fancy terms used when talking about true plyometrics.   To keep it simple, the goal of a true plyometric is to jump as high as you can while being as quick as you can off the ground. 

The thing is that most growing 12 - 16 year olds are not ready for the kind of impact that true plyometrics bring to the body. If they still struggle with landing a box jump, they definitely are not ready to do tuck jumps. I know jumping seems simple and harmless, but have you ever watched a big 12 year jump and land? Sometimes it makes my knees hurt just watching them.

Is there middle ground? I would like to think that there is. A few months ago I started to have my more advanced younger clients do plyometric jumps in reps of 3 - 5. The video below will give you a good idea of what I am talking about.

We are still working on being quick off the ground without trying to jump over hurdles or dropping off boxes. Proper landing mechanics are still being enforced after the 3rd jump of each rep. I have the athletes perform 9 jumps, broken down into 3 short sets of 3 reps.

This is this just one example of intermediate plyometrics that I use with my athletes that are ready for this kinds of training.

Monday, June 18, 2012

College Football Conditioning - Week 1 at a Glance

We are winding down Week 1 of Summer Football Conditioning at Soar.   On Monday, the guys ran some times 10's and then finished with a lower body strength and power lift.   On Tuesday, the focus was Upper Body lifting and core.

On Wednesday, we shifted focus to position drills and conditioning.  Below are some video clips.

This is a clip of a sled push and sprint interval. Each 5 yard sled push was followed immediately by a 10 yard sprint. Rest was 25 - 35 seconds between reps. This is a lineman specific agility drill. We performed 8 reps of drills with 30 seconds rest in between. We then headed outside to the hill. We ended our hill workout with a series of 10 hurry up sprints. The sprints were about 7 yards in length with 15 seconds of rest in between. On Friday, the workout began with 8 sets of 3 MB throws paired with 8 sets of 10 yard sled pushes. Rest was 30 seconds after the throws and then 45 seconds after the pushes. The second "quarter" of Friday's workout consisted of crossover sled drags. The athletes performed 4 sets of 15 yard drags in each direction with 30 seconds rest. We then finished Friday off with some conditioning shuttles and then some hip extension and knee prehab work.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Get Jacked Revisited

I dug up a blog from 2 years ago entitled "Get Jacked!"   Click here to read it.

Since 2 years has past since I wrote it, there are a few small things that I felt like I needed to add to it.  Besides, I don't train any male athletes that are not looking to put lots of lean mass on.  Just watch any football, basketball or baseball game.  There aren't many skinny fat guys running around out there.

The bulk of this information is for the skinny guy who is looking to put mass on.  If you are carrying too much fat, there are some steps we need to take to lean you out so some of this does not apply to you.

1.  If you want to be slow, skinny and weak, keep going for long runs.   If you want to be jacked up, start sprinting.   If you are an athlete, you are probably getting enough calorie burn from your practices and game regimen.  

2.  Get every rep of every set with good technique.  If your lifting partner is pulling 3 reps of every set off your chest, then you are spinning your wheels in the mud.   Check your ego and make sure that you get every rep cleanly.

3. Drink Real Gains from Universal Nutrition.  Its the only shake that I have sold for 10 years.   It works.  Drink it post workout and drink it before bed.   Also add fish oil supplement, vitamin D and multi - vitamin.  Save your money and avoid gimmicky pre - workout drinks.  Look to solid sleeping habits to promote energy and have a small coffee before your workouts if you feel the need.

4.  Squat, press, dead lift, jump and pull.   Those are the staple lifts and the one that bring about the most gains.   If you are not sure how to squat or deadlift, consult a professional like myself.  Add biceps, triceps and shoulder raises at the end of your workouts for 2 - 4 sets.

If you think I am possible full of it, check out these before and after shots.   This is Adam in November of 2011 at 118 lbs.

This is Adam 6 months later at 145lbs.  3 to 4 day a week of intense lifting and a solid diet will do that do you!

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Strength Training Biography Part 2

I can sum up my early years of lifting pretty quickly.

I was skinny and weak but I played a lot of sports.   My knees started to hurt.   I tried to squat, but I sucked at it and my back hurt.   I benched a lot and mixed in some leg extensions.

To read the full version of Part 1 of My Strength Training Biography,  click here

Fast forward to 1996 as I was closing out my less than impressive high school career and getting ready to be a college "student" at Ohio State.   I can easily sum up my training regimen in between 1996 - 2002 with a few sentences.

Monday  - chest , arms
Tuesday -back
Wednesday -  legs..... no squats.   Leg press and my staple leg lift  - leg extensions.
Thursday - chest again
Friday - arms again and maybe back

I am sure I mixed in some spinal crunching from time to time.

As I started to earn some money from working, I began to venture out of the cavern that was Larkins Hall  (OSU rec) and headed out to Gold's Gym.   WOW, my mind was blown by all the beautiful machines!   I could do chest every day and still not use all the machines in the gym.  Surely, my training was going to reach a whole new level and at one point in 2001 it did when I picked up a medicine ball in the aerobics room.  I am going to hold this and do abs because that's what boxers do  - for some reason I thought that and I have no idea why.  I looked at the ball and it had a website on the

I headed to the computer lab on campus and searched for the website.   Jumpsoles?   Plyometrics?   Add 8 inches to my vertical leap?  Holy Shit!   Where was this when I was in high school?   Of course I ordered the $80 pair of Jumpsoles and within a week, they were delivered to my campus apartment.   I began to do the jump program that was included with the shoes on a twice per week basis.  The program even included lunges and step ups which was a dramatic increase in leg training intensity for me.   In a few weeks, I was jumping off two feet and grabbing the rim with 2 hands.   I was never able to do anything more than touch the rim with one hand.   These shoes are miracle workers!

The timing of this jump miracle was impeccable because I began doing some basketball instruction with my student teaching mentor, Demond Dubose.   The company was called G2 (Grades and Game) and we used his Columbus middle school gym to do the instruction.  I started to incorporate some agility and foot quickness drills in conjunction with the Jumpsole training.  The kids seemed to be benefiting from the training so I began to buy some more books and study the craft of training athletes further.

From 2001 - 2005, I was an elementary PE teacher in Columbus Public Schools and continued to coach basketball.  In 2002, I formed Soar of Columbus with my college classmate/post college roommate Nate Fugitt.   Nate had lot of personal training experience in commercial gyms, so it made a lot of sense for me to team up with him.  Our mission:  To bring Jumpsole training to all of Columbus.   We decided that we would rent space at one of the Columbus Park and Rec gymnasiums and we would just load up our cars with equipment.  We used a PO box as our official mailing address and put an add in local This Week News publications.   In the summer of 2002, I remember getting our first ever check at the PO box.  In total,  we had 3 athletes registered for our 8 week camp.  Three weeks in, Columbus closed us out of the facility and we were left to do training outside in a park. 

Between 2002 and 2004, we began to pick up some more clients by exhausting all of our resources.   We were mostly using Power Shack Gym in Hilliard as our main training location.  It was at this point in time that my training regimen shifted from body building machine lifting to extreme core training.  If it didn't involve sitting, laying, kneeling or standing on a stability ball, I didn't have any use for it.  In addition to the circus style lifting, I had added many new tools to my speed and agility training.   Jumpsoles, agility ladders, cones and bungees were now part of my weekly regimen with myself and my clients.  Even though Nate and I did not fully understand progressions, we were becoming good speed coaches and learning by the day.  Both of us became certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and we both had plenty of teaching and coaching experience.   Even I was beginning to gain an understanding of squatting!

Late in 2004, I split off from Soar for a while and took a personal opportunity to work with high level Tae Kwon Do athletes at Team Players in Hilliard.  This was my first official experience with designing and implementing strength and conditioning programs for larger groups of athletes.  It was at this point that I began to read the works of Mike Boyle, Lee Taft and Mark Verstegen.   My goodness was I way off with my strength training!   I studied Boyle intensely as I found his books simple and very easy to read.  I also subscribed to an online training forum which was once called   I was obsessed with obtaining all of the training knowledge that I could so I asked tons of questions on their online forum.   I was starting to gain confidence that I actually knew what I was doing.  Soon after, I became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

In 2005, I reunited with Nate and moved our training show to Ohio Sports Plus Academy in Worthington.   We had an area for speed training and a pretty nice weight room that we built a wall around.  This is when we really got it clicking on all cylinders.  Most of the training programs in the area were solely focused on SAQ training  (Speed, Agility, Quickness).   Obviously, Nate and I were big on SAQ, but we were also learning that strength training was just as important, if not more important.  Most of our clients only did two 1 hour SAQ sessions per week while a few added 1 or 2 strength sessions per week.  We began to notice that the kids who were strength training in addition to the SAQ were blowing the SAQ only kids away.    This is when and where our current set up was born:  The 90 minute session  - 45 minutes of speed and agility, 45 minutes of strength.  If you trained 2x per week, you were still getting enough speed training and enough strength training to make a significant difference.

In 2006, I decided to leave Columbus Public Schools after 4 years of teaching and put all my focus on training athletes full time.  It was a tough decision, but ultimately I knew that I did not want to be a teacher for 30 years.   I learned a ton from my student and professional teaching work and I am certain I would not be where I am today without those experiences.  Teaching is coaching and coaching is teaching.   You can have all the training knowledge in the world, but it is meaningless if you can't instruct.  Looking back on it now, coaching 6 - 15 athletes in my facility is nothing compared to teaching 25 inner city second graders with minimal equipment in a gym that was also the cafeteria. 

It was late in 2006 that Nate and I opened our first official facility in Lewis Center.   We have done nothing but grow and evolve since.   I still spend a part of every day researching the best methods for training athletes.  My personal workouts look nothing like my workouts did in 2002.  Mike Boyle says it take 10,000 hours of research and coaching to become an expert.  I am proud to say I surpassed that mark in 2011.  No, I never played Division 1 college football.   No, I never squatted 450 lbs.   But, yes I have coached/taught people from every possible background and level of ability.

Evolution is a beautiful thing if you take the proper steps and apply what you have learned along the way.  I wonder where I will be in 2022?   Perhaps back to pressing a chair in my basement.

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Strength Training Biography - Part 1

I see around 40 - 80 middle and high school kids per week at the gym. It has become very easy for me to identify the teen who has been training poorly and eating poorly. Why? Because I was the same kid. Hell, I was that guy up until the age of 24! How did I get to where I am now? Lets take a look at a chronological history of my strength training.

From the ages of 5 - 13, I was a good athlete. Whether it was baseball, golf, football, basketball or tennis - I picked it up quickly and was usually better than all my friends at it. I played so much that there was no way that I was eating near enough calories to grow muscle. I was skinny and my lack of strength caught up to me at 14. My diet of Poptarts for breakfast, God knows what for lunch and Bob Evans sausage for dinner was not quite putting the mass on me.

My parents didn't let me play football, so being skinny was not a huge deal in junior high basketball or baseball. In fact, my dad DISCOURAGED any form of strength training. He is a great man, but taking strength training advice from an accountant is like letting a strength coach do your taxes. I can remember him telling me, " That muscle will just turn to fat. You don't want to lift weights it is bad for you." Hmm. I didn't believe it and I decided to take matters into my own hands. This is where it all started for me. A wooden chair, my dad's 14 pound bowling ball and anything else that had some weight to it. I would put the chair upside down against a wall in my basement and then would stack the bowling ball and other stuff on the bottom of the seat. Then I would lay under it and press it - pretty much a terrible version of a floor press. Oh well, I was getting jacked! I would then take the bowling ball and curl it a few times. Forget the legs, I was all upper body!

I can vividly remember playing football in my friends yard the summer before my freshman year in high school. This is when it call caught up to me. I was usually the best player on the field - we won't get into why my parents didn't let me play actual football. On that day, my knees felt like someone was jamming knives into them. I couldn't run. I couldn't even jog. What the hell happened to me? I was worthless athletically. With a few months before freshman basketball tryouts, this became a concern. My mom took me to a doctor and he basically said I was weak and it was time to start strengthening my legs. Now this was 1992 so strength training information for youth was very limited. The doc told me to start lifting 1 lb soup cans for leg extensions! Even to a 14 year old, the thought sounded ridiculous.

At the same time I made the freshman basketball team by wearing neoprene knee braces and running up and down the court like Patrick Ewing, I also decided to join the high school football weight lifting club. BIGGER, FASTER, STRONGER baby! I paid my 10 bucks and got my book from the football coach. It worked out great because basketball was at 430 so I could lift and then go to practice.

The first day I headed down to the weight room with my friend and had no idea what to expect. There were about 40 other kids, most of them varsity football players. We started with bench. I did 65 for 10 reps. I felt pretty good about that because my only other benching experience was with the chair in my basement. At some point that first week, we also squatted and cleaned. I am sure it was ugly as I could not have possibly possessed the hip mobility and strength necessary to do those exercises correctly. Soon after, I started to shy away from those exercises because I knew I wasn't doing them right and my back was hurting.   Nautilus leg extensions for me  - no soup cans!

Here is where it gets weird. My freshman basketball coach came down into the weight room and said " Kozak, you are not to be lifting for football during basketball!"

Me: I don't play football

Coach: It doesn't matter, you are not to be lifting before practice. You are benched.

That's right, I was benched for trying to get stronger in my free time before practice!!

Now I didn't play much anyways, so it really wasn't a terrible punishment. My mom got a note from the doctor the next week and I gave it to coach. He then apologized to me in front of the team and started me the next game! Great coaching huh.

Basketball passed and I began to solely focus on the lifting. Testing was done on a monthly basis and I was all about the bench. I got my freshman max up to 145lbs by the end of spring. The football coach used to say, " Kozak, you are gonna be the world's strongest golfer." (I was also on the golf team and there is no reason to elaborate on that pitiful experience.) When it came time to max on clean and squats, I was nowhere to be found.

When summer came I began to freak out because I could not go to the high school weight room with the football team. I begged my mom to let me buy a weight set from the store up the street. I had an adjustable bench, a 25lb bar, about 100lbs in plates and small bars that I could make DBs out of. Of course the bench had a leg extension/curl attachment on it. I hit those weights hard. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was getting stronger and a little bigger. Sometimes I would have my little sister spot me - talk about serious training! By the fall, I had to go to the store to by 2 more 25lb plates.

After my sophomore year of basketball, I emerged from my basement and returned to the high school weight room with a vengeance. My bench max was 205! What! I could dress for the varsity football games if I actually played. Yes, sadly benching over 200 was the only factor used to determine who was on JV and who played under the lights. I tried to go back to squatting but I still sucked.  I had skinny legs and no ass and no hope of learning how to squat properly.  My pride and joy was that was my top 10 rating on pound for pound bench (bench press max / body weight).

Junior year went on in the same fashion except I no longer played hoops. Sadly, I was golf only. Our golf team was so bad that I was our best player and often times the team we played had 6 guys better than me.

In Part 2 we will look at my post high school lifting until I actually learned how to lift.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Evolving as a Strength Coach

Like any other occupation, you either evolve as a strength coach or you dissolve. People who trained with me in 2005 might be shocked to see the things that we are doing none of right now at Soar. I took today's blog to write about 5 training concepts I used to use frequently and don't use at all now.

1. Jumpsoles.

I actually decided to start training people back in 2001 because I bought a pair of Jumpsoles and saw immediate results. What I did not realize it that is was more due to the actual exercises and not the shoes. I don't think Jumpsoles are bad or dangerous, I just don't think they are necessary anymore. Plus, it took a ton of time for kids to take them on and off.

2. Crunches, Sit - ups or any kind of spinal twisting or flexing.

This is a widely debated topic in the world of strength and conditioning. The guys I follow and highly respect (Boyle, McGill and Weingroff to name a few) say that repeated flexing of the spine will eventually lead to back pain. I have not found any reason to go back to the traditional crunch and sit up.

Here is a good analogy. Stand up and put yourself into a position that you would be in if you were finishing a sit up or crunch. Is that good posture? Does and athlete look like that? Should anyone be performing any exercise that ends with that position?

3. Upright rows

The upright row with a straight bar is a staple in any commercial training center. Hell, I used to them every week when I was younger. Eric Cressey, a strength coach that I consider an expert on shoulder health, makes the point that upright rows lock the humeral head in to internal rotation thus increases impingement. If you want to hit the traps, dead lift, shrug and carry heavy stuff. If you want to eventually have some shoulder pain, keep pulling that bar under your chin.

4. Forced Reps

Slow grinding reps are basically like spinning your car tires in the mud and standing on your gas pedal. They kill your system and your workouts. Finish every rep of every set with good technique. If your spotter on bench press is pulling the bar off your chest, then you are making your spotter do and upright row......and I just said we don't do upright rows anymore! Respect your spotter and your body!

Get stronger with quality reps!

5. Mindless amounts of Agility Ladder Drills

There was a time when regardless of who you were, we started every session with agility ladder footwork. Then we did agility ladder hops. BLAH BLAH BLAH BORING! Ladder work is not necessarily a bad thing but there comes a point when you just simply can't get any better at the ladder. In reality, it is a secondary warm up. Great for footwork and great for coordination but worthless for learning how to put force into the ground. Currently, it is used 1 - 2x per week for warm - up purposes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Soar Dry Erase Board

My New Year's Resolution for the gym this year was to give my clients some new challenges that would create some excitement in the gym and increase their level of fitness at the same time. I decided to bring in a dry erase board and that would have 3 challenges or tests that would change by the week.

#1 Weighted Carry of the Week. The more I read, the more I liked the idea of Farmers Walks for my athletes and my general fitness clients. Its great core work, great shoulder work and great conditioning all at the same time. Plus, people carry heavy stuff almost every day. Below is a video of an Uneven KB carry.

#2 Performance Test. Instead of having one day every 6 - 8 weeks dedicated to boring "testing", I decided to have one performance test per week. We have used Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, 15 yard sprint and agility courses. I have found that results have been better with random weekly tests vs. having 1 full testing day every month.

#3 Strength and Conditioning Test of the Week. This has become the best thing I have ever added to our training regimen. I choose 1 random "balls to the wall" challenge per week that is performed at the end of our workouts. As I have stated before, I am not a train till you puke kind of strength coach. However, I think it is important to test my athletes both mentally and physically and the "Strength and Conditioning Test of the Week" accomplishes exactly that. In fact, the kids come in each week asking what the test is. Here is a list of tests I have been using.

1. KB goblet squats - Max Reps 1 minute

2. Push up Isometric Hold - As long as possible

3. 45 second sled push - Max distance on our 20 yard track. The record was 80 yards with 135 on the sled. This was by far the hardest test.

4. Push ups - Max reps 1 minute

5. Forward and Backward sled drag medley

6. MB ball throw and suicide - max throws in 1 minute

7. Bent arm hang. Video below

Thursday, January 26, 2012

5 Rules for the In - Season Athlete

Spring is right around the corner, and almost every athlete I train is In- Season to some degree (Lacrosse, Club Soccer, Club Volleyball, Track, Baseball/Softball, AAU Hoops). Some of my athletes are involved in two of these sports during spring or are trying to train for football while playing one of them. Here are 5 Rules for the In - Season Athlete to live by.

1. Lifting 2x per week is better than lifting 1x per week. BUT, lifting 1x per week is better than lifting ZERO times per week.

I have said this before, the biggest mistake I see kids make is neglecting their strength training during the season. You do not have to go into the gym and do your full off- season routine. However, hitting a few sets of the major muscle groups 1 - 2x per week will go a long way towards keeping you strong and maybe even getting you stronger. Don't be the athlete who gets weaker when the playoffs come around!

2. In - season = more practices and games = more running = more calories burned = the need to hydrate more and eat more.

This is pretty simple. If you don't lift weights and don't eat or drink enough, you will lose mass. Keep healthy snacks such as bars, fruits and other hand food in your bag. Drink Gatorade before practice and on the way to your next workout or practice. Keep taking your nutritional shakes and maybe even drink more of them on days when you have lots of games or activities. Think about an AAU basketball tournament where you might play 3- 5 games in one day. How many calories do you think you are burning on that day?

Here is an old blog with a calorie calculator I use.

3. Anything that you do athletically requires the need for an athletic warm - up.

Proper warm -ups are all over my blog STS warm - up. Just jogging around the track or even worse doing nothing but getting in lay - up lines is a recipe for nagging hamstring pulls and other injuries. All warm - ups should elevate body temperature and heart rate and move joints in a full range of motion.

4. If it hurts or it is swollen (knee, shoulder, hip, groin) ICE IT!

Ice is a magical thing for sore joints and it is FREE! Fill up an ice tray with water, put it in the freezer, take the ice cubes and put them in a bag. Put the bag where it hurts. AMAZING!

FYI following rule #3 will reduce the need to do #4.

5. Sleep

I would like to see all my athletes get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, ideally closer to 8. This means that if you are up at 7am, you are in bed by midnight at the very latest.

Follow these simple rules and you will see how much better your body feels throughout the season.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pre - Season Lacrosse Training

The boys from Olentangy High School's Lacrosse team have been going hard in the gym since September. Last week, we started Week 1 of our 6 week Pre - Season block. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have the team broken down into two groups.

Group 1 - Monday - Power and High Speed Work, Lower body strength, Upper body pulling

Group 2 - Monday - Shoulder prehab, Upper body pressing, core, arms - Then they warm up and go through lateral plyometrics and multi - directional conditioning.

On Wednesdays, the groups flip - flop.

Fridays consist of various circuits, sled work and medicine ball throws.

Here is a video of our circuit from last friday.

Here is great training video of one of our speed/ power days.

Click over to the Olentangy Lax facebook link to view some photos.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Putting Mass on the Athlete

Wow it has been a crazy few weeks and now I finally have some time to write.

Almost every call I get at the gym revolves around parents wanting their kids to improve sport performance - run faster, jump higher, ect. Along with that, I have a ton of adolescent boys who simply need to get bigger. They want to get bigger to get better at their sport (football, lacrosse, soccer, ect). Let's face it, they also want to get bigger because its cool to be "jacked up".

So do we just bodybuild the heck out of these kids with no regard for their sport performance? Uh no. The ultimate goal is to put mass on a kid AND have them get faster. It happens a lot with my clients who have never trained in a comprehensive system like ours. If you are skinny, weak and slow, there is a good chance you will get a lot faster by getting stronger.

But, what about the kids who are already fast for their position but need to get bigger? Now, I am not in the business of making kids slower, but what if their speed stays the same? This is when we consult the magic Force equation.

Force = Mass x Acceleration

Think about it like this

Who would you rather be in a collision with?

A 160 lb running back that runs a 4.7 40.


A 190lb running back who runs a 4.7 40.

I think the answer is pretty obvious. Even though the number is the same on the stop watch, the amount of force the kid can produce now will pay major dividends on the field. Plus, size is one of the major things that college coaches look for when they are recruiting. A lot of kids are automatically excluded because they are too small.

So before spending your entire off-season running with a parachute on you, analyze if getting bigger will be an even more effective way of improving your performance.

In team sports, more times than not, BIGGER IS BETTER!

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