Exercise Comments - The Box Squat

Last week I posted a picture of the Dutch BMX cycling team doing box squats. I was asked at that time to comment on the exercise. In the spirit of Eric Carr’s suggestion I will always head these observations as Exercise Comments. Also recognize that this is my opinion based on my experience and research where available.

I assume the rationale for using the box squat with this group of athletes was to work on basic strength in the acceleration phase of the start. The BMX rider must go from a dead stop up to top speed in a very short period of time. There is fairly high resistance during this time, hence the assumption that this would be more concentric strength dominant. All of that being said I would not use the box squat for this. I think traditional squatting starting with bodyweight moving across a spectrum to heavy external resistance would be more appropriate. When they could handle 5 to 6 sets of 4 reps with a relatively heavy load then I would introduce six second isometric hold squats (holding at bottom position) and exploding out. Following that I would progress to squat jump with no counter movement with about 50% of body weight for three to four sets of six. The last step in the progression would be de loading squats with a heavy sandbag. Sandbag on the lowering and drop off on the jump.

Personally I have never used box squats because I have always felt that there are better ways to accomplish the objective of what box squats are supposed to do. In my opinion the loading on the spine when on the box is not worth the risk. I know this is a very popular exercise in certain schools of training, but I think there are better ways to achieve starting strength.

Observation/Ideas Stimulated by the Coaches Platform Conference in Holland

These are not necessarily original ideas, but the experience in Holland stimulated me to reflect on these. I certainly will post more detail on many of these in the next few weeks.

Ø It is what you do with what you have. Holland is a nation of around of 14 million people. They do more with what they have than many other much larger countries. It is really about optimizing and directing your resources.

Ø Coaching is the key. Facilities are nice, but human resources trump facilities.

Ø Good coaching demands a blend of art and science. Coaches must have an eye and a feel for movement. You do not learn that in the lab or the classroom, you learn it through practice. To a certain extend you have it or you don’t, but it can be improved.

Ø Innovation and change is not always comfortable or popular. Innovators can be even less popular.

Ø The ability to see the same problem with different eyes is essential for progress.

Ø Monitoring training is essential. Now the challenge is to agree on what is meaningful to monitor.

Ø Inactivity and decline of fitness is not just a US problem.

Ø Good coaches are generalists who have a broad base of preparation that allows them to see the big picture.

Ø Early specialization causes more problems than it solves.

Ø Management of the extended competitive season is one of the biggest problems in sports today.


Latest Downloads

The whole six months of the the Outside Magazine training program is now downloaded. In addition I have downloaded the latest version of the Athletic Development Model. www.gambetta.com/resources

Odd Exercises

I really do not know exactly what Eric Carr meant by “odd exercises.” I assume he meant exercises like standing on a Swiss ball. Does it really matter why he calls something an odd exercise? What if I said that all exercises are odd until they are put into a specific context? I do not really believe that, but that could serve as a provocative discussion point.

Sid Gilman/Alvin Roy Book

Chip Morton, the Strength Coach for the Cincinnati Bengals just sent me a photocopy of the book. This was a book that was given to me by high school football coach when I was a sophomore in college. As I recall it had a lot of great information, I am looking forward to reading it again. What is amazing is that it was written in 1964! Alvin Roy has to be the first person who actually had the title of Strength Coach. I know he was the first in the NFL and he was at LSU before that. Here is a quote from Sid Gilman, the head coach of the Chargers: “Strength is an important of agility. Increase the strength of a football player and you will increase his AGILITY.” Gilman was a real innovator in the game; it is obvious that he put a lot of stock in physical preparation.

More on Tag

A friend of mine sent me the following editorial from the Los Angeles Times.

Tag‹you're illegal!

Banning 'contact' or 'chase' games so neither students' skin nor psyche can be bruised is silly. Stop the coddling!

October 28, 2006

THE LIST OF WAYS in which children's skin and psyche can be forever bruised is apparently endless these days: dodge ball, kickball, any game in which they chase or touch or aim at one another. It's hard sometimes to tell whether schools are graduating students or growing orchids. An elementary school in
Massachusetts that banned tag, dodge ball and all other "contact" or "chase" games this month was only the most recent of a growing list. Another school in the same state outlawed touching altogether.
Georgia resolved the problem ‹ until public outcry forced a change ‹ by eliminating recess, on the notion that if you cramp children's bodies into chairs long enough, with no break time for activity or relaxation, they will somehow become better learners too.

School officials cite the injured feelings of children who might be singled out, and the possibility of a lawsuit if children are physically hurt. It's a wonder any kid escapes recess without being traumatized for life.

Life is indeed perilous for children and principals alike. But if you make recess boring enough, kids will sit it out like field potatoes ‹ and then sue anyway because all this enforced inactivity led to childhood obesity.

The notion that children can endure a certain amount of discomfort still bears truth, though we admit to being unfashionable in stating it. Thus our own discomfort at the sort of thinking that has banished scorekeeping from some youth soccer leagues. Winning isn't supposed to matter, no matter that competitive games were invented for, well, competition. Maybe adults can sustain that particular fantasy, but 5-year-olds are way too smart. So while mom and dad pretend that goals are just another artifact of the game, children who haven't even learned how to count are keeping perfect score.
Minor injuries, physical and mental, are unavoidable on the playground (take the monkey bars, if any still exist). A child who avoids being targeted by a dodge ball now will feel the sting another day in another way.

The real lesson schools are teaching here is that solving minor roughhousing problems calls for all-or-nothing strictures, and common sense no longer is trusted. We, and most parents, expect reasonable teachers to spot and stop bullying or break up a third-grade game gone rough. But if the world of tag simply proves too cruel and bloody, they can always equip kids with copies of "Grand Theft Auto."

US Soccer Coach Search

I have followed the whole search for the new US coach with more that a passing interest. I have been very involved with soccer the past ten years both nationally and internationally at the professional and at the youth development level. Recognize that my perspective is from one whose responsibility and interest is in the physical preparation of the athletes to play. In that role it is unrealistic to not have some awareness of the technical and tactical aspects. That is necessary to do a good job of preparing the players for the style of play demanded of them. I had the opportunity to work with the 1998 US World Cup team for the final six months of preparation. I felt that the approach we were taking at that time could at best be described as naïve from all aspects of the game. For example in my area ten to fifteen minutes a day was not enough to prepare the players for the physical demands of the tournament. When I see that Mr.Gulati has listed the criteria as having someone who “would have to be familiar with the game and the players in the United States, be fluent in English, or willing to learn, and also be willing to learn Spanish.” This makes me question if we really have progressed, it sounds like the same naïve head in the sand approach we have taken before. We need to have someone who has great communication skills, someone the soccer community can rally around. This person should have extensive experience in player evaluation and long term preparation in all aspects of the game technical, tactical, physical, psychological and developmental. He should be given a long term contract, at least eight years. We are now no closer to top four in the world cup than we were in 98. The 2002 finish in Korea was an aberration that set us back more than it helped us. It gave us a false sense of the status of our devolvement. The problem was many of those young players failed to keep developing because they were not continually challenged. The new coach must be integrally involved with the developmental levels of the game. The whole youth system is corrupt (there are good programs, but there are not enough of them). It is a system not designed to develop players as much as it is to make money. At the youth level they play too much and train too little. As far as speaking English that is a must, Spanish would help, but I am not sure why from a soccer perspective. I do not think there was one Hispanic player on the World Cup and very few in the National team pool. This will be very interesting to watch. To me there is a clear choice between marketing and gaining some instant credibility and thinking for the long term development of the sport. It is not my place to even offer an opinion on the names that have been mentioned, but I do think we must cast a wider net and be willing to think more about the big picture to enable soccer to go where it is capable of going in this country.


Blog Suggestions

Eric Carr wrote me the following in an email: “Something that I think would continue to be useful for all your readers is more critical examination of why you feel different coaching or exercise sequences make sense / do not make sense. I feel the best way of addressing the marketing hype of gurus and other sub- optimal programs out there would be to continue to use the blog to critically examine why different approaches work / do not work. A blog is an ideal medium to walk your readers through how you are thinking about each exercise, how it fits into a broader program, and how the overall program is structured to address specific goals.

There are underlying reasons why these odd exercises are being created. I think you breaking them down and identifying the goals and suggesting better approaches at thinking about the goals would be the most valuable thing I could get out of your blog.”

These are certainly very good suggestions that I will take to heart. The biggest struggle I have is making sure that individual exercises are put in context, the context of the workout, the microcycle and the whole plan. It is so much more that the exercise. There are no magic exercises just like there are no magic muscles. As an evaluative criterion is I ALWAYS try to keep the picture in mind. I have found that over the years when I have lost sight of the big picture that is when the exercises and the program did not work.

Dinner with Frans Bosch & Ronald Klomp

Frans is an artist (to my left) who has had many professional exhibitions, his are is biomechanics and Ronald (second from right) is an exercise physiologist. They both teach at a
Sport School that is roughly equivalent to our teacher colleges. Also joining us for dinner was Dick Lam,(right) he is a coach of youth and masters runners and works for A Film the distributors of the running DVD. (Go to wwww.gambetta.com/web specials for the running DVD) Frans Bosch has come up with a new interpretation of what the top sprinters are doing, he calls it positive running. I am not sure I can do it justice with a proper explanation at this time, because we touched on it briefly. Suffice to say he feels there is less of backside emphasis and more emphasis on hip position. This seems to be a logical extension of the ideas presented in their book. In our conversation they seemed to stress the role of coordination as a key element. The elastic ability is very important. They feel that stiffness is key and that it can be trained. Again unfortunately we did not get into more detail.

This was very stimulating visit. These guys are true forward thinkers and innovators. They have generated a lot of controversy with their ideas. I really think they are onto something. It is not a quantum change but it requires some lateral thinking to look at running the way they have looked at it. I am looking forward to a continuing dialogue with them and hopefully another opportunity to visit more at length and go out on the track and try some things and sit down and analyze video.


Back in the USA

Back home in rainy Sarasota Florida, in fact it looks a bit like the weather I left in Holland, jut a bit warmer. No real content today, except to say that I had a great visit Thursday night with Frans Bosch and Ronald Klomp. I will post on this in the next few days as well the lessons that I learned or things that were reinforced during my visit. Wanted to correct the comment on the population of Holland, it is 14 to 15 million range, that makes thier accomplishments even more remarkable. Flying in coach in a semi fetal position for a total of eleven and one half hour flight time and a total of about eighteen hours travel time really wipes you out. No upgrades on this one. Also getting back to the hassles of flying within the US is a real contrast to the airport at Amsterdam. At times I am not really sure what the role of the TSA is. They certainly do make me fell safer and they are very annoying. All said it is good to be back.


HOC*NSF Coaching Platform Congress – Day Two

I presented a workshop for team sport coaches in the afternoon. I was interesting. There were several vocal differences of opinion from my point of view. I think it stimulated some good discussion and solidified some people’s thoughts. The dissenter’s opinion was that you did not do anything outside of practicing and playing the game. The felt you could get as strong, fast, explosive and fit as you needed to be in that manner. Obviously that is not my point of view. Many people here feel that is one of the things holding back certain Dutch team sports at present time. The majority opinion was that we most work to better integrate more sport appropriate activities to achieve the desired end result. My main thrust was to reinforce this and to present some models on how to achieve this. It really requires a paradigm shift. It is a shift away from separate 90minutes workout to an infusion of various training modules designed to stabilize various physical qualities.

One other though hit last night when I got back to my room and reflected on the conference and the day. I am really lucky to have had the background of training as a coach in track & field. It really has given a broader perspective because I always had to deal with all components of the athlete’s preparation and performance. What has struck me here is that so many of the coaches I have met here have similar backgrounds and the same in England. (Example Luc van Agt was a hurdle coach and coached a decathlete who scored 8400+ points) Maybe everyone needs to go through the USA Track & Field coached education process –just a thought.

I meet with Bosch and Klomp tonight. Should be interesting. They are outside the loop of the national coaches. It should be very interesting. Probably no blog tomorrow as I leave here at 4:00 am.


HOC*NSF Coaching Platform Congress

I am in coaching heaven right now. Totally immersed in coaching, interacting with a group of coaches who are interested in getting better and innovating. This has been very motivating for me. This morning I spent two hours talking with Luc van Agt who is an exercise physiologist, former track & field coach and the conditioning for PSV Eindhoven soccer team. He is also the conditioning coach for the Dutch National Soccer team; he has served in that capacity since 1998. In addition he does the dryland training programs for PSV Eindhoven swim team, including the great Pieter van den Hoogenband. It was quite interesting to discover that we use a similar Periodization scheme for our dryland training. It is very different than traditional models, so it was good to compare notes. We agreed to continue to exchange ideas on this to cross check each other. I am really looking forward to that exchange. We certainly share many common experiences and a common background with our foundation in track & field. Last night he did a presentation on the physical preparation of the Dutch National Soccer team for the World Cup, the presentation was in Dutch, but the messages were quite clear. We are having our players play more games, expecting top performances more often and not allowing adequate time for training preparation.

Yesterday I presented the keynote talk for the conference entitled “Fit for Gold.” The talk was well received, as they share many of the some problems in preparing their athletes as we do. Today I will follow up with an afternoon form with the team sport coaches to address the specific conditioning demands of team sports in an extended competitive season. Based on the questions and comments I have already received it should be a spirited and stimulating session.

Last night I met with Jim McCarthy, who is in charge of strength & conditioning for the Netherlands Olympic Committee and his staff. It was fun discussing training and the practical issues we all must address daily. Their program is new so they have many exciting opportunities ahead. I tried to emphasize to them to learn form others mistakes and not repeat them because they have the opportunity to really innovate in the design and delivery of their training programs.

One of the biggest issues of concern to the coaches here is the trend toward early specialization. I have had many coaches ask me if this was also a problem in the United States. I guess it is reassuring to know that we share common problems.

One last thought – “Sometimes the new is the long forgotten old” this seems to be a recurring theme for me over the past several months and certainly has been the case here at he conference.


Papendal Training

Papendal Track & Field Facility

Papendal Hotel Pictures



Last night I had dinner with Mr. Frans van Dijk of the Netherlands Olympic Committee. It was a very interesting and stimulating evening. They really have a detailed plan – the goal is to be in the top ten in the Olympic Games. This is a very lofty goal for a country of approximately 60 million people, but they have achieved that goal in Atlanta and Sydney, even though they fell short in Athens they continue to forge ahead with their plan. The conference where I am speaking, is a key part of their plan to get all the coaches on the same page. They are adding sports and have a multi tiered process to bring them up to the standard of top eight in the world. If a team or athlete is not in the top eight they will not be chosen to go to the Olympics. That is a tough standard, but unlike other small countries I have observed, they set a tough standard and do EVERYTNIG to help the teams and individuals to reach that standard. It is very apparent that this program is athlete centered, coach driven and administratively supported. The attitude is that it is not about facilities, it is about coaching. That was music to my ears

As an aside one topic discussed was China. Frans and several others had just visited and their observation was that China very could dominate, because of the emphasis they are putting on medal production.


Let get something straight right now- I never personally attacked Lee Taft. I do not know Lee Taft from the man in the moon. I have not seen the video. I picked the low box video analogy out of hundreds of examples, it could have the Essence of Air Training, it really does not matter. Try to focus on the point of the original post. If Mr. Taft took it personally then I apologize. This is not an industry for me. Coaching is about teaching. Three or four years ago I pulled myself out of the national dog & pony show stuff simply because I felt it was confusing people not helping them. We all have to do what is right for us. People have the right to market anything they want, but I am not about hype and marketing. My goal always has been and always will be to provide the highest quality COACHING information. I want to help people not repeat the mistakes I have made by providing this type of information. If anyone wants to continue this dialogue please email me at www.gambettasports@hotmail.com, it is time to move on.


Holland - Papendal

Just arrived at Papendal, the National Training Center Very picturesque setting. Toured the center, nothing spectacular but efficient. Tomorrow I will watch some training and meet with some coaches. I will post some pictures tomorrow.

What a can of worms

First of all I am not going to defend the videos I have made. They are all part of a system of training. When we started making them way back in 1991 or 92 the idea was that they would all be connected and have progressions. They were made for professionals not kids, that is a huge difference. You guys can do anything you want, but I pride myself on being an educator and I will always provide high quality information that fits into a system. If you look at the stuff I give away for free I think that represents where I am coming from. I am going to define this field. I am not a personal trainer, I am coach who was trained as a coach, so I will provide coaching information. It is amazing to me the response the original post has received, way out of proportion to its importance. It is amazing how sensitive people are. Is it because the truth hurts? It is clear to me that many people are in this solely for the money. I am going to share as much as I can. Charge for what I have to in order to pay the bills. I do not want to end up like Mel Siff, a bitter critic of everyone else. I hope all of this has made everyone think and analyze a bit more.



I am leaving for Holland this morning. I will be there for five days. I am honored to be giving the keynote address at the Dutch National Coaches conference sponsored by the Holland Olympic Committee. The title of my is “Fit for Gold.” Go to this link http://www.papendal.nl/default.aspx for a virtual tour of Papendal, the National training center. I am also looking forward to getting the opportunity to meet with Bosh and Klomp the authors of the book on running

More Hype & Marketing

My post yesterday seems to have touched some tender nerves. My intent is not to bash anyone; my intent is to provoke some critical thinking. We need clarity to define this field. As far as I am concerned there is a direct contrast between traditional thinking and Functional Path thinking. Functional Path thinking is big picture, conceptual based thinking that views the world through a telescope not a microscope. I think in terms of systems and combinations of exercises into modules to achieve a specific training effect. You can make all the Low Box videos you want, but where does it fit into the big picture, how do you use it, in what phase of training is it appropriate, how do you progress or do you need to buy the next DVD to find out. I want to see people contribute knowledge not just information. Information is noise, chatter, frankly that is one of things that is holding back today’s generation of coaches. They rely too much on fast “information” gathered from the internet. You must seek out knowledge, to do that you must study the past, study journals, read classic texts, look at many sports and other disciplines and get out and gather experiences. Remember there are no magic potions or exercises that can make you better with quick fixes. Crash programs usually crash, I had to learn that the hard way in my first few years coaching.

This reminds of a conversation I had with a young French conditioning coach when I was in England. He just could not grasp the concept I was presenting about certain combinations of exercises at a certain phase of the year to achieve a certain training effect. He kept insisting but you must do it this way, you can never do speed later in a cycle or after strength. Since he was French I asked him if he was familiar with the work of Giles Cometti, a French professor who has published extensively on all aspects of training, but must specifically the combinations I was talking about. He said he had never heard of him. He knew all the popular Russian gurus, but Cometti is up to date, the real deal here and now. I don’t read French ( so I got his works in Spanish), but I have tried to get my hands on everything he has written because he has moved the thought process of training forward, he provides knowledge not just information.


Hype & Marketing

I do not know about you, but I really get tired of a lot of the hype and marketing I am seeing trying to sell training programs. The claims are so far out there I can’t believe that people fall for this stuff. I know people have to make a living, but how about truth in advertising. I saw an ad for a DVD on Low Box Training. I am sure that soon there will be on high box training DVD and then a sequel for higher box training. I do have my own videos and books that I have sold for years, I think the difference is that they are loaded with information and low on hype and smoke and mirror stuff. Folks there are no secret training methods. When you travel around the worlds as I have had the good fortune of doing you see more commonalities than differences. At the end of the day regardless of the method it must be done consistently for a long enough period of time to obtain a positive training adaptation. In my experience the minimum amount of time to get any significant speed gain is at least 8 weeks training five to six days a week. The caveat to that is that if you are very slow anything you do will improve your speed. That is why I laugh at these football combine prep situations where they brag about .3 improvements. What they don’t say is that the guys started at 5.5 for a forty. In another post I am going to list the criteria that I would use to evaluate a program. By the way check out the new download of the Basketball program - that program worked! Those girls kicked ass and took names.

Where are going?

This was sent to me by Will Kirousis and a comment was posted on the blog - The North Attleboro (town in south east MA just north of the Rhode Island border) school department has decided there will be NO tag or other UNSTRUCTURED games played during recess or gym class to “reduce the odds of lawsuit as a result of injury”.

In many ways this summarizes the whole problem. The other day I was driving somewhere and the kids were getting out of school. All the kids were carrying their bike helmets (not wearing them). Why do they need them? I am all for safety but how we all survive growing up without bike helmets. It is another excuse not to exercise. Liability is the reason much of the playground equipment has been taken off of school grounds. What can we do? It is a real dilemma; I certainly do not have an answer or even a suggestion. Some way, some how we need to get back in touch with reality.

I also saw where the NFL had given money to provide a grant that would provide exercise programs for the school curriculums. That is great, but why do we need to reinvent the wheel. Let take that money and hire more qualified PE teachers. There are great curriculums out there; they are just not being implemented. To get this turned around is going to require very dedicated individuals in the trenches working their butts off every day with great administrative support. The time for talk is over, now is the time for action!


The Chinese – Rising Giant!

“It was a great day for the Chinese, who finished seventh at the Athens Olympics. They haven't won a medal at worlds since 1999 and in 2003, they infamously gave away the bronze when an athlete was penalized for warming up for her beam routine on the podium near the beam, which wasn't allowed.” This is a portent of things to come. We all know that China will host the Olympics in 2008, what many people may not be aware of is the huge commitment they have made to sporting excellence. They will be a factor to be reckoned with in all sports, not just the sports where they have traditionally done well. They just had excellent success at the World Rowing Championships. I have spoken to several coaches and sport scientists who have been there is the past year and the word is scary. They have taken talent identification to the max. One story is that in men’s volleyball if you are not 2 meters tall they will not even look at you. Let’s not be naïve, doping is probably a factor, but when you have large and diverse a population and coaching you can’t help but be successful. They have taken the systematic approach of the former eastern European countries and invested huge sums of money and human resources to achieving world domination in sport.

Good Resource Site

I saw this site recommended this morning on a list serve I subscribe to. It appears to be a real good resource for research information on balance. The name of the is – Prevention of Falls Network Europe http://www.profane.eu.org/
The facts on balance training without the BS.


Steroid Injections – Long Term Effect

This article appeared in the Science Section of yesterday New York Times. It certainly made me think of all the steroid injections I have seen during my involvement in sport. Sort term gain, for long tern loss, unfortunately in professional and high level collegiate sport this goes on all the time.

“Treatment: Tennis Elbow, Advice: Spare the Steroid Injections

Steroid injections for tennis elbow are largely ineffective in the long run, a new study has found. Australian researchers randomly placed 198 people with tennis elbow, ages 18 to 65, in one of three groups: the first received eight 30-minute physiotherapy treatments over six weeks, the second received a corticosteroid injection (with a second injection a week later if deemed necessary) and those in the third were told to wait and see how the injury healed while using analgesic drugs and avoiding activity that would aggravate their pain.

The study appears in the Online First edition of The British Medical Journal. The group that received the injections showed significantly better effects at six weeks than the other two groups, but the recurrence rate thereafter was 47 of 65 subjects, or more than 72 percent. Recurrence rates for physiotherapy and for wait-and-see were less than 9 percent.

“Most people ask about an injection,” said Bill Vicenzino of the University of Queensland, the lead author of the study. “I tell them that in the short term it may be helpful, but there’s a high probability of recurrence, and the long-term outcome is not that great. Based on a number of studies, I would recommend avoiding corticosteroid injections entirely for tennis elbow.”

After one year, 90 percent of the wait-and-see group rated themselves as either much improved or completely recovered. So did 94 percent of those who received physiotherapy. But only 68 percent of those who received an injection thought they were that much better a year later.”

Even More Dysfunctional Training

This is really amazing, funny in a perverted sort of way. A friend of mine who is a PT told me about this one. He had a patient who was working with a personal trainer at a local gym. The personal trainer was having her put a green mini band around her neck. That was secured to a fixed point and then she would step out and do side lunges. He told her this was to fire her glutes! Just think about that for a minute. After I stopped rolling on the floor laughing I started thinking about the implications – WOW! If you are in that environment you have to weird stuff to market yourself to stand out from all the other tricksters. Where are we going? I think we need to do something I saw on the Colbert show – Have a fact zone where truth is unfiltered by rational argument. I wonder who certified this guy.

Dysfunctional Training

I was sent this picture this morning. This is precisely why we need to bring a degree of sanity to what we are doing and define the field. THINK. I really can see no place for this exercise unless you are a circus performer. This is taking the idea of instability way beyond where it needs to go. What you are doing here is creating an entirely new skill set. In addition this is a high risk exercise as one of the famous “functional” training gurus found out when he tore his ACL standing on a physioball (in front of an audience). There are so many better and simpler ways to train balance.


Where does it stop?

Plagiarism is stealing!! I just got a phone call from someone giving a heads up that someone had copied one of my articles word for word and posted it on a web site as their article. This is highly unprofessional and illegal. The person who did this is named Scott Feldman and the website was firstathlete.com

This kind of stuff has to stop. This has happened to me in many shapes and forms over the past ten years. Every time it happens it gets a little harder to take. If anyone knows this individual please clue him in. He owes me an apology and should be reprimanded by whoever certifies him if he is certified. If you want to use something I have produced, write and ask permission. Many people have done this and I have hardly ever denied anyone permission. Also remember just giving someone credit is not a license to steal, you must first seek their permission, preferably in writing.

More Sissy Squat

Why is that such a good exercise? I have always thought of sissy squat as a body building exercise. Frankly knowing what I know today, I would not have had those girls squat. Basically I am not so sure that that a middle distance and distance runner needs to do much more than bodyweight squats if that. Today I would have them doing lunges and step-ups. To answer your question – no none of them had an injury history. They were all athletes who were very active, very different from today’s kids.

Sissy Squat Continued

I am being dogmatic. There are many better ways to progress someone to being able to squat than using a sissy squat which is only an enabler as mentioned in the earlier post. This was presented as an exercise for middle distance and distance runners, a group for which it is highly inappropriate. See Tracy Fobers blog http://ironmaven.blogspot.com today on the whole article. She critiques the article better than I can. Thought I would toss in a picture from the good old days. This is a picture of the Santa Barbara High School Girls Mile relay that was Sixth in the 1976 California State meet. Each of these girls could squat between 200 and 225 and not one of them was over 125 pounds in body weight. They never did sissy squats. Ignorance is bliss.

Hurdle Mobility Tests

Go to www.gambetta.com/resources and see the download on Hurdle Mobility tests. These tests were developed by Steve Myrland and Bill Knowles with a little input from me. The thought behind this was that we do some kind of hurdle mobility two to three times a week, so why not measure progress in hip mobility by testing it using the hurdles. I personally think this could be a very good flexibility test battery. Your input would be appreciated. These are presented as a work in progress, certainly not as the answer.

Sissy Squats

If you can’t squat then don’t squat. Do not do stupid enabling stuff that looks like a similar movement but does not solve the root of the problem. One of the biggest problems I see today with virtually every athlete under 30 in the inability to squat without their heels coming off the ground. Much of this comes from the amount of sitting they do and the dress shoes they wear with elevated heels. Doing a so called sissy squat with the heels elevated will enable you to squat but does nothing to address the lack of mobility at the ankle manifested as a lack of functional dorsiflexion. If they are so tight that they can’t squat then do more three dimensional stretching of the calves, more backward running and walking. You will have to do lunges and step–up for strengthening until they gain that mobility at the ankle. Then when you begin to squat, start with bodyweight and progress incrementally to external loading.



I am looking for a book co-authored by Sid Gilman and Alvin Roy. The title was something like the Strength Training Program of the Champion San Diego Chargers. I cannot find it on the internet. Does anyone out there have a copy that I could photo copy. It was published in 1965 or 66, obviously not a major publisher. It had some interesting training ideas. Alvin Roy was a pioneer in strength training, who to my knowledge was one of the first strength coaches in football at any level.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T & Sportsmanship

Where has respect and sportsmanship gone? Now we are seeing taunting in cross country races. The headlines in our sports page on Sunday were “North Port’s Grantham puts a spin on his victory.” It turns out this kid was on his way to winning his fifth straight invitational (Whoopee – in a time that girls are close running in California) when he decided to showboat and spin a 360 in front of the fans cheering him on. They actually quoted him in the paper as say it was getting boring so he had to something. He ended winning the race by a whooping 9 seconds – a real dominating performance! This kind of behavior should not be tolerated at any level. If I was his coach he would be suspended at least for the next race. This shows no self respect much less respect for his competition. He ran an amazing 16 minutes 39 seconds for Five Kilometers on a billiard table flat course. Down here they are talking about him as the next Steve Prefontaine – can you believe it! Even if he were running 14:39 that kind of behavior in intolerable.

A Few Random Thoughts About The Blog

This blog reflects my interests. I am a coach who is constantly trying to improve my skills and increase my knowledge. I am willing to share my success and my failures, because you learn from both. I do not have all the answers and I do not pretend to have all the answers. In so many ways this is the anti guru blog. My goal is to present the big picture, to get you to think about what you do. I want to provoke you to do something, anything that will make you better at what do. Strength and conditioning has outlived its usefulness, we need to move on. The future is now and the future is Athletic Development. I am going to do everything in my power to help to define the field of Athletic Development. We need change in order to progress. I am fortunate to have coached for 37 years, but that certainly does not mean that I have 37 years experience. It is probably more like 25 years because I am sure that I wasted at least 12 years repeating the same experience. I thought I knew everything, and stupidly I would tell anyone who would listen and some who would not listen what I knew. Now I have it figured out, there is a lot more that I do not know than I do know. That is what sustains me and I believe is what will keep me relevant as I progress in my career. I will share information and ideas on this blog and my web page. In many cases I will not charge for the information (not that I do not need the money) but because it is information that I think might help define the field. If you want more then you can have me consult or you can come to one of my seminars. I seldom hold anything back. Check out the resources page in the redesigned web page, I will put downloads of things there that I think can help you or provoke discussion. All I ask from you is feedback.


Baseball Playoffs

I do not watch too much baseball. I am not a big baseball fan but I am a fan of certain players, in fact I cherish the time got to work with certain players. It has been really neat to see Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers and Jose Reyes of the Mets shine. I got to work with Jose only for the short time I was with the Mets. He is a great athlete and a great young man. Jose Vazquez (The assistant strength & conditioning with the Mets and now the head S&C with the Texas Rangers, who is also a physical therapist) and I worked with Jose to get him back after a series of injuries that had everyone in the organization doubting his heart and desire. In the last two years I believe he has only missed one game. He has led the National League and triples and stolen bases the last two years, obviously the adjustment in running mechanics had a beneficial effect. He is a very good worker who loves to play. That smile you see on his face is not a put on, it is general he really PLAYS baseball. ( I will put Joses training program from the 2004 off season on my web page downloads later this week)

I first met Magglio Ordonez when he was a sixteen year old kid from Venezuela in Spring Training. He was a hard worker from the very beginning and he continues that in his big league career working very closely with Steve Odgers to keep working on his athleticism. In the time from the start of spring training when he first came to the White Sox to the start of Rookie ball in mid June. Magglio gained 14 pounds of muscle. His skin folds did not change but his bodyweight increased from 167 to 181. He was strength training four to five times a week and fed lunch and breakfast at our complex. It is great to see him excel.

Baldemar Huerta aka Freddy Fender

Only the true aficionados of his genre of music know who Baldemar Huerta is, many of you in your fifties will know Freddy Fender from his big crossover hits “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” This hit came in 1975 after years of regional recognition. He had to take the name Freddy Fender to gain access to the wider Anglo rock and roll market of the fifties. He died yesterday on Corpus Christi Texas after a lengthy bout with cancer. In many ways he was a pioneer. We recognize the African American routes of rock and roll but the Latino/Mexican influence is largely ignored. He represents a whole genre of music that was regional and ethnic in nature, commonly called Tex Mex but more properly called Conjunto music. This music represents the cultural melting of the southwest borderlands, most specifically the Texas hill country and south Texas. Here there was a blend of the German Polka from the German settlers and the corridas (love songs) of the Mexican cowboys. It is a beautiful music blending the guitar and the accordion. In the 1950’s led by Freddy Fender, Richie Valens of La Bamba fame, Little Joe and La Familia the sound began to find its way into rock & roll. Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (Wooly Bully), Sams real name was Domingo Samuido along with the Sir Douglas Quintet are good examples of the sound infused into rock and roll. In the nineties Freddy Fender (far left), Augie Meyer (back in sun glasses), Flaco Jumenez ( on the the right - Best accordion player you have ever heard, has played backup to many of the great musicians of our time) and Doug Sahm (front) formed the Texas Tornadoes (see picture) I was fortunate to have dinner with Augie Meyer a few years ago and spend several hours talking about the music, Freddy Fender and how it all evolved. What an experience! If you get a chance you listen to Baldemar Huerta sing “Noche de Ronda.” I am going to listen to it now Freddy thanks for a great life, your music lives on.


Lance Armstrong & the Marathon

It was interesting to read an Interview with Lance Armstrong about his preparation for the New York Marathon. First I was struck with how haphazard his preparation was compared to his methodical preparation in cycling. On second thought it makes sense in that he is now a ‘retired’ athlete. What really jumps out is that this guy is all about competition. He competes in everything he does. This is certainly a characteristic in all the champions I have been around. This actually could hurt in the marathon where he will have to hold back and not race too early. (Now, I must say I have no infatuation with the marathon, no desire to ever run one. I find t hard to relate to why the average person would want to hurt like that for four hours.)There is speculation on how he will do. I think if he finishes he will run 2 hours and 52 minutes. He has the engine, the aerobic capacity, you do not lose that. Much has been made about him not doing a run longer than ten miles,that is another myth in marathon preparation. He knows what it is like to concentrate and endure discomfort for long periods of time. I think what will eventually hurt him will be the repetitive impact forces. The eccentric loading from the pounding is the opposite of what his training has been the last twenty years.


Coaching – The Management Function

Coaching is so much more than writing workout. I was reminded of this again this week when I started working with the Sarasota Exiles Rugby club. With out managing the workout properly a great workout can quickly turn into chaos. To be the best you must go the extra mile and do things other people cannot be bothered with, the areas of coaching management are often neglected.There are three realms of coaching management:

1) Training session Management – This is managing the structure and implementation of each and every training session. I know personally I spend up to 40 minutes before certain workouts setting up and making sure all equipment is working, everything is where is it needs to be. All personnel need to clearly know their responsibilities. Everyone must have a copy of the workout with everything detailed as to time segments, responsibilities etc.

2) Injury Management – Unfortunately athletes at all levels get hurt, as Athletic Development coaches we must learn to help those athletes manage their injuries. Most injuries in prolonged seasons or contact sports are of the nagging variety that must be worked around in the training. Our job along with the Physical Therapist and ATC is to keep the player fit to play and not make the injury worse. It sounds harsh, but that is the reality of big time sport.

3) Competition Management – Folks this is where the rubber meets the road. Pre competition warm-up should be orchestrated like a fine symphony. In competition warm-up and attention to player needs is essential. I am appalled that in the NFL, the “strength coach” is often used as the “get back” coach to keep players away from the sidelines. That is demeaning and has no place in the profession. There has to be more to do during the game than that. Also in competition determine individual routines as to hydration and nutrition. Be sure to have a warm-up again before the second half or a break in play. For example when Steve Odgers was Director of Conditioning for the White Sox, all bench players went into the locker room after the sixth inning and warmed up in anticipation that they might pinch run, pinch hit or be a late inning replacement. This also goes a long way toward preventing injury.

All three management realms will go a long way toward determining your effectiveness as an Athletic Development coach

Wisconsin National Guard Training

This is amazing. The Wisconsin National Guard
training in Baghdad using Smart Hurdles, medicine ball and an ABC ladder. I certainly wish them all the best. I am very antiwar but very pro the troops. Hopefully this will help them. Steve Myrland had worked with them on their physical training.

Good Title IX Article

This may get to the real issues. Very thought provoking article http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/10/03/jmu


Redesigned Web Page

Check out our redesigned web page. www.gambetta.com I think you will find it easier to navigate and read. I will post some new downloads in the next few days. Also keep an eye for our new Coaches chalk talk seminars that will be announced soon. That is something you will not want to miss.


As coaches we tend to use words that take on a life of their own. I know I over use the word spectrum and spectrum training. Another word that I am getting a lot of questions on is matrix. When everything is a matrix then what is a matrix? Remember words create images and images create action. In my mind I Have a very well defined use for the word matrix in my system, it is a particular dumbbell routine that Gary Gray and I developed in 1996. It simply consisted of three different exercises, done in all three planes for three repetitions, repeated three times. To me it is nothing more than that. As far as spectrum I define spectrum as a broad range of related values or qualities or ideas or activities. Each physical quality that we train is trained across a spectrum. For example with the strength training spectrum according to Zatsiorsky “Exercising at varying levels of resistance causes differences in metabolic reactions, intramuscular coordination, & biomechanical variables and intermuscular coordination.” The goal here is not to criticize anyone or say that my ideas are right and someone else is wrong, rather it is to simplify and be exact in terminology to facilitate communication to make teaching and learning easier.


Thought Provoking Read - The Medici Effect

I am just finishing reading the Medici Effect by Frans Johansson for the second time. I have this habit of reading really high impact stuff a second to cull even more detail. This is not about the Italian Renaissance it is about ideas, creativity and innovation.

The basic contention of the book is that breakthrough ideas occur at the intersection of ideas, concepts and cultures. I guess we are always looking for verification or affirmation, but this is certainly the approach I have used throughout my career. I have learned and adapted across sports and disciplines. For example, many of my current ideas on planning come from business planning and forecasting. In order to be the best it is imperative to look across disciplines and even cultures. It is too easy to get locked into one approach or one method and become very narrow. This does not challenge you or your athletes. Too many people get limited by their knowledge. Our current knowledge should only serve as a starting point not an anchor holding us back. I know throughout the years when I thought I already knew something I was beat. The author feels that broad education and self- education are two keys to learning things differently. Johansson says”…we must employ tactics that allow us to learn as many things as possible without getting stuck in a particular way of thinking about those things.” (Page 50) Assimilating and applying the ideas presented in this book will definitely allow you to see things missed by others. I really think this what Bosh and Klomp have done in their book and DVD on Running.

Bill Knowles Interview

Bill Knowles is an ATC and CSCS who is one of the most innovative people I know. His knee rehab ideas and progressions have really opened my eyes. Bill is at iSPORT TRAINING-Vermont Orthopaedic Clinic in Killington, Vermont (www.isporttraining.com). I first met Bill when he was at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. He did the conditioning for Hanah Teeter, Gold medalist in Snowboarding at Torino.

What are the most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program?

Experienced staff to design and implement it.

A spacious and motivating environment.

The ability to put the athletes needs first.

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning?

Failing to plan.

What is “functioning training” from your point of view?

Applying resistance or load to a sport specific movement pattern. Perhaps instead of “functional training” we can call it movement specific strength and conditioning.

What do you do to make your training more functional?

I watch a great deal of sports, and I continue to play or practice multiple sports. This experience is critical to feel what the athletes feel. You then need to be confident and innovative to apply resistance to what is really going on in the sport.

How important is specificity?

That depends on the sport. If it is the javelin throw, you need to be very specific. Field sport athletes have more room to develop strength that will benefit them for multiple movements…which is specifically what they do! The higher the skill level of the athlete, the more specific the conditioning needs to be, and visa versa.

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it?

Accepting mediocrity.

I don’t accept it anymore

With the plethora of information available how can you determine what is best?

Experience. You must slowly work through training concepts and program designs to gain the experience and learn what works best. There is no ONE right way. And there are no shortcuts.

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can training make?

Everyone has genetic potential. Training has the opportunity to develop that potential fully. But, there are large disparities in genetic make up. This usually surfaces as the athletes mature. Training can make an average athlete become above average. Genetic make up allows an individual to become “above” above average. Training is crucial to support this as well.

What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice?

That they have the answers, or the “best” method to develop athletes. I once heard a top professional say their program made a “humongous” difference in an athlete’s situation. I’m unaware of that term in the research literature. Unless it is grouped up with a “shit load” as degree of measurement.

What do you do differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning?

Slightly higher feedback and consistent positive responses. Although, when an effort is poor they will hear about it. I also address the concerns in the research in regards to knee injury prevention training, etc.

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes?

The biggest innovation is education in the field of performance training versus strength training. This has allowed us to utilize what looks right in athlete development versus what have been the most accepted (traditional) methods to develop athletes.

The most room for innovation is in education. We must develop innovative ways to convince S&C coaches; and more importantly, those coaches who have little or no formal education in S&C that the WHY is significantly more important than the HOW! I am frustrated when coaches ask “what are the reps and sets” after I show them some new strength routines. So they now know HOW to do the exercise, but they don’t know WHY you perform 4x8 versus 5x25 seconds. Therefore, educate coaches and they will be more innovative in training athletes.

What’s the biggest issue in training athletes today?

Planning and program design. This is directly related to implementing an S&C program for a year-round female soccer player. When does she take the time strength train? Having a year-round plan is critical for the long term development of this individual. Especially when we consider injury prevention issues.

Who has been a role model in your career and why?

My first boss at a ski racing academy in Vermont. He was a former Olympic ski coach that had an unparalleled ability to instill passion and motivation with young athletes. His motivational speeches and lectures on being a good person, having self respect, respect for others, working hard, etc. were chilling at times. Another role model is a close friend of mine in Sarasota, Florida. As a strength coach he has given me the WHY, and I have run with it!

What are the biggest professional challenges you have had to face?

Justifying progressive rehabilitation and reconditioning programs to the medical profession. Traditionally most rehabilitation protocols are surgeon/physician driven. Their experience and understanding in how reconditioning principles can be applied safely and effectively is limited to their education in med school and current research. Sharing experiences of effective programs that are outside of the box has been a challenge, but none the less valuable experience. Fortunately I have surrounded myself with innovative and progressive surgeons on a regular basis.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Dislike?

Well, I am sitting in Austria looking at the glaciers as we speak. Say no more! Additionally it is the satisfaction of teaching or coaching athletes into correct movements. If this produces gains in strength and ability to allow a return to performance after injury, or gets them a gold medal in the Olympics; the feeling is the same. It is the results of the athletes that make me the proudest.

Dislike: when you love your job it is easy to be totally committed to it and forget to take the time you should for yourself and family. Focused and committed athletes ask a lot of your time as well. The solution is simple; it’s all about balance.

Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a “fork in the road”? If so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or didn’t make?

Yes. Developing progressive and innovative rehab and reconditioning programs always puts you in a position to be criticized. It is the occasional failure that others remember, not the dozens of successes. My programs are well planned and thought through, therefore I have no regrets of decisions I have made. Occasional failures are a critical part of moving forward if you are to stay on the cutting edge.

What inspired you to get into the field you are in?

I was inspired to get into Athletic Training through the interest of staying involved with athletics at a high level. I finished playing college soccer and wasn’t interested in stopping an athletic career.

As a rehab, reconditioning and strength training specialist: I moved into this field out of the necessity to provide a fully comprehensive program for athletes following injury. I was also surrounded by injury in an athletic environment and felt the need to develop better injury prevention training. This was accomplished through setting up sound S&C programs. Today I equally balance my time between prevention and recovery from injury.

Is failure ever valuable?

It is not only valuable, it is necessary. Hopefully the level of failure is not damaging to the athlete long term. Learning from yours and others mistakes only makes one stronger. Just don’t make too many!

Which change is now taking place in your field that should be encouraged, and which resisted?

Encouraged: The relationship between S&C and injury prevention, and S&C and performance enhancement.

Resisted: Only teaching the HOW to do something without the WHY behind it. We should also resist the temptation to become a “specialist” by taking a weekend course or mail-in program. We should resist the fact that a chart or book does not replace COACHING! Errors in movement patterns are not typically because of muscle tightness or weakness, but due to poor coaching and athlete preparation. Assessing movements is a coaches responsibility, not a therapists.


Title IX – Shame

In the Saturday New York Times sports page there was an alarming article on James Madison University and their solution for compliance to Title IX. This whole issue of title IX compliance is not something I fully understand. How can it be equal when it is just men’s sports that are being cut? The sports that are being cut, men’s swimming, gymnastic, wrestling, track & field and cross country are not sports that cost very much. Women certainly have equal sports opportunities. I think the real issue that everyone is afraid to address is the 800 pound gorilla of football. No one wants to take this on. In most institutions football is a drag on the budget. Most DI football programs run in the red. Despite the commonly propagated myth they do not support the rest of the athletic programs, in fact most are incapable of supporting their own bloated budgets. Have you ever heard a football coach speak out against the cuts? Never! If football were taken out of the occasion then there would be no problem with Title IX compliance in most instances. Why does football need the number of scholarships they have. Cut football scholarship to 75. Limit the football coaching to seven fulltime and two grad assistants. For example James Madison has 11 football coaches and one additional strength and conditioning coach for football – why? That represents a significant expenditure in and of itself. College sports and for that matter high sports have lost their compass. I thought it was abut providing an opportunity for an education with sports participation being part of that opportunity.


Recovery Reference

Real Functional Training

I received this email from a friend of mine, Bob Helfst. It speaks volumes about things that used to be done and why we have the problems we have today.Watch old for those old farm guys!

I spent most of the afternoon with my 70 year old father-in-law bailing, stacking and putting up the last cutting of hay from his fields. We stood on a wagon that swayed and shifted as it was pulled around the bumpy field by the tractor while we lifted, carried and stacked the 40-80# bales of hay while the tractor and wagon were in motion. We then unloaded 200 bales and stacked it in a barn. This involved carrying those same bales while walking across bales you have already stacked. Obviously modern technology in the form of tractors, hay balers and elevators make the job easier, but it occurred to me that the balance, power and strength endurance necessary to complete this task is considerable and my 70 year-old father-in-law who weighs all of 145 pounds was right in the middle of it with me. As he puts it, he doesn't work as fast as he used to, but he can still get the job done. At a time in life where I begin worrying about my patients falling and breaking a hip, he's riding a wagon and carrying bales of hay. If a sailor has "sea legs", my father-in-law has "farmers' legs". I look at the things I do with the patients I see and the folks I train and much of it is based on development of some of those same qualities.

“Following the Functional Path” Baltimore November 4 & 5

This seminar is open to the public.

“Following the Functional Path”


8174 Lark Brown Road, Suite 101

The dates are November 4 & 5, 2006

8:00 am to 5:00pm each day

Phone: 410-799-9988



Cost $300.00 if registered prior to 10/1/06 or $325 after

16 contact hours for CEU’s

Seminar workbook provided

Anyone interested in hostong a seminar please contact me at gambettasports@hotmail.com

Answers to Various Questions

So what you recommend for recovery between sets of working with say a basketball or soccer player for sprinting?

Proper program design and practice organization. If it is speed work longer lines for longer rest. Carefully sequence activities leading into and out of the speed work. Follow speed work with a drill that emphasizes speed of movement and thought in a tactical situation.

This rest debate brings to my mind another subject, the Barry Ross method of training his sprinters. Vern, if you are familiar with it would you mind commenting?

Someone sent me the book about a year ago. I read it, but did find it anything revolutionary. Perhaps I missed something. Maybe I should go back and read again. I know my colleagues Dave Reddin and Calvin Morris visited him and their feelings were much the same. What do you think?

Patrick McHugh asked me to comment on my statement "I have a system that I have evolved over the years. It works for me, in the situations where I am able to apply hands on."

Patrick as you know having worked with you and your staff for a year consultation, there are things that I can do that are not repeatable. It is sum of my experiences. That does not mean that a system cannot be repeated, it should be repeatable or it is not a system. The mistake people make is to copy everything in detail, you have taken aspects of the system I introduce and added your personal and knowledge to make it better and a system that works for North shore Country Day school.

What would be the ideal curriculum to prepare someone for a entry-level athletic development/strength and conditioning job? Besides the usual anatomy, biomechanics. Maybe this is something your book will address, but would like to know what you think the young professional needs to know upon leaving college.

This is a very good question. First of all extensive hands on practical experience under direct supervision of a trained professional in an athletic setting, not a Golds Gym or health club. There should be extensive course work in applied Biomechanics. Several courses on training theory including training plan project. Each student should have to produce a training video or an instructional package on an area of their choice. They must take what in the old days we used to call "activity classes" where they have to show fundamental proficiency to be able to demonstrate movements. Long on practice supported by theory. These are some quick thoughts.