Training Tips

Go to www.gambetta.com (For some reason this link is not working so you have to copy the URL into your browser and go to resources/downloads, we are working to get this fixed) for downloads of the following topics:

Dumbbell PPS (Pull/Push/Squat) System by Vern Gambetta

This is the basis of my strength training program. The Dumbbell PPS Program represents the emphasis during the Foundation phase of strength training. This outline will introduce to the concepts of the PPS System.

Misuse of Strength Training Programs in Athletic Training by John Jesse

This is a classic article from Physician and Sports Medicine written over 25 years ago. The issues raised by John Jesse in the late 1970’s are just as relevant today.

Warm-up Study by Warren Young and Dean Benton

If you are still static stretching as warm-up this will convince you to change. This is a very good pilot study that substantiates the necessity for active warm-up.

Evaluating Training Programs

I have received several emails asking to comment on various training programs. I always find this difficult. Often when you see a program posted on the internet in these various discussion groups or published in a journal the workouts are taken out of context. By that I mean you cannot see the phase that preceded the workouts, and often it is not very clear where the workouts are leading. Also important is what population, in terms of developmental age, is the workout aimed at.

Much of the recent discussion on sprint mechanics is a good example of another problem, that is taking someone else’s ideas or research and putting your on twist on it. To combat this I always try to go straight to the source, personally if possible. Frankly that is what I found discouraging about the argument. I visited with Bosch and Klomp, I visited Peter Weyand. I was involved in Ralph Mann’s original research. All of them have been misinterpreted. Read the research and stop and analyze it logically. I still have not met a scientist who innovated a training concept. They follow coaches and verify or refute.

I think it is important to understand that there are no MAGIC training programs. Many times people succeed in spite of, not because of what they do. I also know that there is often a big difference between what athletes or coaches say they do in training and what they actually do. I have observed that phenomenon first hand many times. Once again use common sense, and think about what they are saying.Beware of the monkeysee, monkey do syndrome.

Remember another key point. Training is more that getting tired. Anyone can design a workout that will kick an athletes butt or devise an exercise that really burns, but where does that fit. Keep the big picture in mind. Who are you working with? What is their training age? What is their lifestyle? Are they fulltime students or professional athletes? It is more than a training method or a training program it is a total commitment to personal excellence. To be an effective coach is not about searching for secrets, because there are none, it is about keeping an open mind, continual learning and innovation. Follow the Functional Path!


Visit with Peter Weyand - Rice University

Yesterday was able to meet with Dr. Peter Weyand of Rice University. It was really interesting getting to talk to him directly rather that depending on someone else’s interpretation of his ideas. After talking to him it was clear me that he and Ralph Mann were essentially saying the same thing in regard the importance of ground contact time. He also clarified his position on running technique modification; his opinion is that it can’t be significantly changed. I certainly understand where he is coming from, but I am not sure I agree. He made a couple of real key point regarding two myths that keep being passed around. First, the undue emphasis on dorsifelxion of the ankle, there is no basis in biomechanics for this. The ankle dorsiflexion occurs because of what happens at ground contact. Everything happened too fast to be able to think about this. Personally this was a vindication because I feel like I have a voice crying out in the dark on this one. Take home point on this one forget cueing all the stuff on dorsiflexion. The other one was in regard this idea of pawing. It does not occur; you can’t do it, so forget it. I am looking forward to further dialogue with Dr. Weyand. He is a very gracious individual, willing to share his ideas with coaches. This is the kind of sport scientist we need more of.


It is about the Calories

I saw this in the Saturday NY Times. It reminded of the player with a team I was working with who was trying to lose weight. He used to a eat package of low fat Oreos because he thought it was the fat that was making him fat! No man, it is the calories!

From Saturday November 25, New York Times

Given an equal number of calories, fruit juices and smoothies — and particularly the “super premium” ones made by Naked Juice and Odwalla — are certainly healthier than sugary, nutrient-free soft drinks.

But calories aren’t always equal. The amount of sugar in a bottle of fruit juice or a smoothie may far surpass the amount of factory-made sweeteners found in a bottle of cola. While a 16-ounce bottle of regular Pepsi contains about 200 calories, a 16-ounce bottle of Naked Juice’s Chocolate Karma Protein Smoothie contains 380 calories, according to calorie-count.com.

Most of Naked Juice’s products have fewer calories than that — often amounts comparable to those found in nondiet soft drinks.

But childhood obesity — not a lack of vitamins — is the primary reason cited for ridding schools of soft drinks. Replacing them with sugar-laden juices might be more of a marketing move than anything else. A Marketplace reporter, Lisa Napoli, said the juices were “virtuous looking,” because they “make you feel healthy.”

The products may have lots of vitamins, but those amount to “calorie distracters,” wrote the nutrition professor and author Marion Nestle in her recent book “What to Eat” (foodpolitics.com). The nutrition claims may be valid, she wrote, but they “make you forget that juice has calories and is best consumed in limited amounts.”

Sprint Mechanics

I wish it were as simple as dead lifting more weight. Improving maximal strength is one factor, not the only factor. Anyone who is trying to make someone faster knows that that ultimately it is about where the rubber meets the road, ground contact. The goal is very simple, put more force into the ground in a shorter amount of time. Strength is a key factor, but there are a multitude of other supporting factors. I do not want to try to oversimplify this, but to make this complicated is also a mistake. There is no doubt that getting someone stronger in terms of maximum strength will make one faster, especially at younger training ages, but my experience has shown that you soon reach the point of diminishing returns. More time in the weight room will NOT result in more improvement; it must be coupled with sound overall approach. Running mechanics must be trained. They must be trained to take advantage of the body’s natural reflexes, the stumble reflex and the cross extensor reflex. Technique training should not be mechanical and cognitive, rather it should tune into the wisdom of the body to improve body awareness and posture to help improve efficiency. When I look at the sprint, I look at four zones: 1) Starting 2) Acceleration 3) Top Speed 4) Finishing. Each zone has different technical requirements that must be addressed. Supporting those technical factors are various approaches to strength and power development to enhance each of the zones. A major goal of technical training is to link those zones into a seamless whole that rhythmically flows into the unified whole, the 100 meter sprint. In order to do that I use a systematic approach that I have evolved over the past twenty-five years – The PAL Paradigm. (For a detailed explanation see our book Sport Specific Speed - The 3 System) PAL is an acronym for posture, arm action and leg action. All technique work is based on this paradigm. Rather that breaking the sprint stride into too many parts the PAL paradigm focuses on larger movements that are natural and take advantage of the wisdom of the body. Gerard Mach, former National Coach of Canada, has been a big influence on my thinking in the evolution of this system. Most of his drills are NOT technique drills; they are drills to develop specific strength. My interpretation of Bosch and Klomps drills is the same. I am relatively sure that they are not designed as technique drills. Every time you sprint you should be working on technique. Underlying technique is rhythm and relaxation. Everything must be done in a smooth flowing manner. The key is to work on mechanics without being mechanical.


The Obvious

Look for the obvious first. What made me think about this was an incident that happened the other day. My wireless mouse on my laptop was not working. Panic ensued, because without my mouse I have to use the touch pad, which dives me nuts. So instead of looking at the most obvious thing the surface the mouse was on, I started resting the mouse, checking connection, I even changed the battery, to no avail, it still would not work. Then I did the most simple and obvious thing I put a notepad on the glass surface and low and behold it worked. How often do we do similar things in coaching? The moral of this story is that before looking for exotic solutions look for the obvious. Sometime the answer is right in front of you, it does not require biomechanical analysis, it requires simple powers of observation and common sense.



One of my favorite authors is George Leonard. I was inroduced to him when I was coaching at Cal Berkeley in the late 70's. The other night my son and I were discussing some of the people who played a role in the human consciousness movement. I was telling him about George Leonard, I thought you would be interested in his thoughts on Mastery. To understand his thoughts on Mastery it is necessary to learn a bit about the man.

George Leonard, is the co-founder (with Michael Murphy) of Integral Transformative Practice, and the author of numerous books on human possibilities and social change, including Education and Ecstasy, The Transformation, The Ultimate Athlete, The Silent Pulse, The End of Sex, Mastery, and The Way of Aikido. The 1995 book, The Life We Are Given, co-authored with Esalen founder Michael Murphy, reports on a two-year experimental class in Integral Transformative Practice (ITP) created by the authors for realizing the potential of body, mind, heart, and soul. ITP groups are now practicing not only throughout the U.S., but also in many other countries. The Stanford University School of Medicine has conducted a $500,000 study of the effectiveness of ITP in enhancing health and well-being.

During World War II, Leonard served as a fighter pilot in the southwest Pacific theater, and as an analytical intelligence officer in the Korean conflict. From 1953 to 1970, Leonard served as a senior editor for Look magazine. He produced numerous essays and special issues on education, science, politics, the arts, the Civil Rights Movement, and foreign affairs. A collection of his Look essays was published in 1970 as The Man & Woman Thing and Other Provocations. His articles on education have won eleven national awards. Articles by George Leonard have also appeared in such magazines as Esquire, Harper's, Atlantic, New York, Saturday Review, and The Nation. During the 1980s, he wrote 42 pieces for Esquire, more than any other writer.

Leonard holds a 5th degree black belt in the martial art of aikido, and is co-fouder of an aikido school in Mill Valley, California. He is founder of Leonard Energy Training (LET), a practice inspired by aikido which offers alternative ways of dealing with everyday life situations. Leonard has introduced LET to more than 50,000 people in the U.S. and abroad.

In 1977 Leonard created the The Samurai Game a leadership and team-building intensive where participants form two teams and are asked to assume the role of a 16th century Samurai. The game then evolves into a series of challenges where participants compete against each other while learning to recognize the principles and values in which they lead and participate.

George Leonard received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina (1948) and Doctor of Humanities degrees from Lewis and Clark College (1972), John F. Kennedy University (1985), and the Saybrook Institute (2003). He is a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology; during his tenure, the Association's membership reached its all-time high. Currently, he is president emeritus of Esalen Institute. Leonard’s adventures along the human frontiers of the 1960s are described in his 1988 memoir, Walking on the Edge of the World. He is married and has four daughters and six grandchildren.

George Leonard has been called "the granddaddy of the consciousness movement," by Newsweek, "the poet-philosopher of American health in its broadest sense" by American Health, and "the legendary editor and writer" by Psychology Today. While serving as senior editor for Look magazine from 1953 to 1970, he won an unprecedented eleven national awards for education writing. His coverage of the Civil Rights Movement (praised in the February 10, 2003 New Yorker) contributed to Look’s being awarded the first National Magazine Award in 1968. His harrowing 20,000-mile journey around the Soviet border with photographer Paul Fusco just after the Berlin Wall went up provided the first reportage showing that the Iron Curtain was an actual barrier of barbed wire, mine fields, and watchtowers rather than a mere figure of speech.

In a sense, Leonard discovered the Sixties. While other media were still decrying the silent or cautious generation, he produced a special Look issue called "Youth of the Sixties: The Explosive Generation" (Jan. 3, 1961) which foretold the idealism and turmoil to come. His special issue on California (Sept. 25, 1962) was the first to put forth the thesis (later adopted by all media, to become conventional wisdom) that what happened in that state would happen later throughout the nation. In the 1960s, Look had a readership of 34 million and won more national awards for excellence than any other magazine.

Leonard coined the term "human potential movement" and first used the term "The Transformation" in a book of that title to describe a shift in the way industrial culture deals with matter and energy, organizes social forms, and shapes consciousness. His bestselling 1975 book, The Ultimate Athlete, helped shape the fitness boom. His 1983 book, The End of Sex (the cover article for the December 1982 Esquire) was the first published requiem for the sexual revolution.

His scenarios for interactive multimedia education in Education and Ecstasy and Esquire are still considered state of the art by educational technologists. Dr. Alfred Bork of the Educational Technology Center at the University of California, Irvine has stated that "Many of the features that Leonard describes seem to me likely to characterize almost any school of the future that uses computers effectively as tools for learning."

Leonard’s more recent books, Mastery (1991), The Life We Are Given (1995, with Michael Murphy), and The Way of Aikido (1999) have helped create a nationwide movement towards long-term practice, as opposed to the quick-fix mentality. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Leonard has been right so many times about prevailing zeitgeists that you have to wonder if he has a third eye."

He also enjoys a lifelong devotion to music and occasionally plays piano with jazz groups. He wrote the music for a full-scale musical comedy, Clothes, based on "The Emperor’s New Clothes," which was produced as Marin County’s Mountain Play.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Burr_Leonard"

The following are the five steps of mastery from his book Mastery:

“How can I describe the kind of person who is on a path to mastery? First, I don't think it should be so dead serious. I think you should understand the joy of it, the fun of it. Being willing to see just how far you can go is the self surpassing quality that we human beings are stuck with. Evolution is a whole long story of mastery. It's being real. It's being human. It's being who we are.”–George Leonard, Author, Mastery

“I started Aikido at age 47, got my first black belt at 52. In the process, I learned what this business of mastery is all about. For example, it once was thought that talent was absolutely important. The Greeks talk about this “divine spark.” That's why you can become great.”
George Leonard

“What if you're practicing wrong? Then you get very good at doing something wrong. If we don't get good instruction, then we don't notice when it's a little out of round. Surrender yourself to your teacher. That's doesn't mean you turn over your life to the teacher - you don't want a guru. You have to keep the autonomy within yourself. You are finally the ultimate authority on your own practice. ”
–George Leonard

"Now here is a key: you want to make it real and present in the realm of your consciousness. You don't say “I'm going to do such and such” - it already has happened. Now, is consciousness real? It exists and it is very powerful. The idea is to have this mesh between your consciousness - your visualization - and the so-called material world.” –George Leonard


“There is a human striving for self-transcendence. It's part of what makes us human. With all of our flaws we want to go a little bit further than we've gone before and maybe even further than anyone else has gone before.” –George Leonard


Rich Coach – Poor Coach

Last week there was a series of articles in USA Today, November 16 & 16, 2006 www.usatoday.com/sports/col about coaching compensation in college football. This article in light of the massive cuts that have occurred in so called “non-revenue” sports in the last twenty five years this just made me think of the role big time football plays in higher education. It is to the point where gymnastics and wresting are almost dead and swimming and track & field are in critical condition. Before going on let me give you a little background. I am not a big fan of football because I have always felt that it was a budget buster. Without personalizing this too much I was a member of the football team at Fresno State College from 1964 until one game into my senor year, when I finally saw the light and quit. Most of what I learned was not to do. I was subjected to terrible coaching that relied on brutality and mental manipulation for “motivation.” The positive was that it made me determined to learn to be the best coach I could be. I knew that what I had experienced there was not the way to do it. I was fortunate to end up with a good education; despite the dummy class scheduling that was imposed upon us by football. After two years as an indifferent student, I began to take school seriously, which made me question even more my football experience. I graduated and moved on to coach.

In the subsequent 38 years I NEVER received anything from Fresno State requesting contributions to anything but athletics. Last week out of a clear blue I received a fund raising letter to solicit donations to help raise Fresno Sates academic standards. (This from the school that hired that distinguished alum, Jerry Tarkanian, to bring the basketball program back to prominence. His record at Long Beach, UNLV showed no record for academics. That was just something that interfered with basketball practice. The university president signed off on his hiring). This came the day before the USA Today article.

The point of all is this is to put the USA Today coaching compensation articles into context. One of the sidebars in the article was about Pat Hill, the current Fresno Sate coach. He makes $1,231,421which is significantly more than the president of the University that was soliciting the alumni for funds to help with academics. What is wrong with this picture? Fresno state has also dropped several sport programs in the last four years due to budget shortfalls; Pat Hill never stepped up to donate a dime to try to help save any of those programs. 25% of his salary would have easily saved one of the sports.

This is the rule not the exception at schools trying to break into the big time and the schools already there. Sport is supposed to be part of the educational process not outside and independent of it. If you read the article most of the football coaches make more than their college presidents and significantly more than professors entrusted with educating the students, which I thought was the main mission of the college or university. For every Joe Paterno has donated money back to the schools there are five who are ripping off their schools holding them hostage for more money. Many also receive bonus for graduating players, but isn’t that their job? I do not think the professors receive graduation bonuses! Here is an example of the type of bonus agreement some of the coaches have written into their contacts:

Clean living: Central Florida's George O'Leary gets $50,000 every year there are no violations of the student code of conduct; no arrests, indictments or convictions of crimes; and no "neglect or willfull conduct" in violation of NCAA rules.

Minority emphasis: Washington State's Bill Doba gets $10,000 each year that Cougars' minority player graduation rate is at least 5% higher than the grad rate for minority males in the school's overall student body.

The shoe companies and equipment companies are equally responsible for this excess. In many cases it is their money that is actually paying the majority of the coaches compensation package. Is it fair to ask then whom the coaches are accountable to, the shoe company or the university? These companies should be made to give two dollars to academics for every one dollar they give to sports. Sports should stand on their merits. You do not need eleven or twelve football coaches.

Where does the NCAA stand in all of this, they are certainly not without fault as they have stood back and let this spiral out of control. Could it be that these excesses help line their pockets? As you may be aware congress is looking into the tax-exempt status of the NCAA and they should. The NCAA exists solely for the major sports and to make money. Why haven’t they taken a stand as sports are cut? Stop hiding behind Title IX and look closely at the Saturday afternoon roman circus that is draining the system.

I realize this is an idealistic and emotional argument but lets think about the bigger picture and give more athletes an opportunity instead of the pampered few that are using the college game as preparation for a pro career. The Saturday afternoon gladiators do not represent what sport is about in my mind. When I watch Fresno State on television, as they were last night, I think about the other programs that were dropped and think this a system needs to be fixed.



We (my wife and I) will be going to Houston for Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with our children. My son is in his second year of architecture school at Rice University and my daughter works for the Huston Dynamo in the MLS. I am really looking forward to the trip to see the kids and spend time with them. I am also going to Austin for a day to visit some colleagues and on Tuesday will meet will meet with Peter Weyand. I probably will not post everyday until next week unless I get some tremendous brain cramp that might change the world. I want to wish everyone (even the non US readers) a Happy Thanksgiving. We really do have much to be thankful for in this chaotic world.

More Thoughts on Running Mechanics & Technique Training

I went to the Bear Power site and as soon I clicked on it I recognized it. I actually read the book by Barry Ross last year. I hope this does not offend anyone, but I could not see anything remarkable or particularly enlightening. ( I will go back through it again to see if I missed something) Strength and force application are a big factor but not the only factor. Sure everything is centered ion optimizing ground contact, but you must address technique. The question is how to address technique. Pawing drills are not technique drills; you do not paw when you sprint. That is one example. Getting too far away from actual sprinting with too many segmented drills does not help technique. They may indirectly help technique by strengthening through larger ranges of motion. In fact if you really study Gerard mach’s writing his drills are not technique drills, they are for power endurance or specific strengthening. For example the “B” series of pawing type drills are for functional hamstring strengthening, not technique. We also need to differentiate technique during different Zones of the Sprint. Starting and acceleration demand different drills and different training emphasis than do top speed. There is so much crap out there that creates confusion, that I think we need to go back to the basic action of sprinting and thoroughly understand that and compare our sprinters to what we know of proper mechanics and derive a plan to improve that individual. Remember it also changes with regard to level of development. How you work on technique is important. Without a good foundation of strength it is difficult to achieve sound sprint mechanics. The argument then becomes how do you work on strength? A hint it is more than a dead lift and it is more than weights, there is one hell of a lot of remedial work!

Athletic Darwinism – Last Man or Women Standing

Since last year I have been following the results of the teams and individuals from the NCAA Division I Cross country championships. Many people have bemoaned the fact the fact that we cannot produce distance runners in this country. In my opinion you need look no farther than the NCAA Cross Country meet. Cross Country has take on a life of its own, with a rankings and a point system to help earn at large berths to Nationals. This forces teams to compete more than they should which eventually takes it toll. That toll is taken during outdoor track season. It will be interesting to see how many of the top twenty five male and female runners are running effectively by outdoor nationals in Track or even running at all. By effectively I mean make a final at NCAA's. I know as a collegiate coach, cross country was a step in preparation for outdoor track. Fortunately we were not forced to run indoors which helped put the focus on results were they counted, outdoor track. With the focus on continual performance, development takes a back seat. Only the naturally strong and gifted will survive. Survive not thrive, is that what we want?

Seth Godin

Joe Przytula sent me this in response to my post about Seth Godin’s book: “Please elaborate on what you like about Seth, and what separates him from other motivational speakers out there. You and he are both Stanford alumni, no?” I was turned onto Seth by my friend Kevin McGill. Kevin was always talking about him and how stimulating his writing was and how relevant the ideas were. That being said, I have been a big of Seth Godin for the past three years. He is far from a motivational speaker. He is a real thinker who clearly communicates his ideas. His writings have been centered on his concepts of “marketing.” I use “Marketing” in quotation marks because for me he provides insights on how to better communicate ideas and concepts. He definitely gets me thinking. Godin was my inspiration for starting this blog. Read today’s post on his blog, it is simple, straight forward and above all good sound advice. He is not too complicated or impressed with himself, which also impresses me.

Yes we both did go to Stanford. I just found that out last week that he went to Stanford Business School. I went to the significantly less challenging but equally rewarding School of Education.


Anson Dorrance

Last night I finished reading The Man Watching, a biography of Anson Dorrance Women’s soccer coach at University of North Carolina. It was an interesting read on many levels. I have been a close observer of Anson for years. Certainly you have to admire his success in terms of winning, numerous NCAA Championships and 94% winning percentage in all games played. Anson certainly has his detractors, which the book addresses; I am not one of them. We all have our faults and he readily admits his. I had the opportunity to work with his team in spring of 1997 and then again in the winter of 1999. It was great to see the system in operation. It was a great experience. He is always looking for an edge, which is one example of what it takes to be great. UNC is not for every girl, there is an emphasis on toughness and competitiveness that runs contrary to the accepted role of female in society. He works hard to encourage competition and physical and mental toughness through his famous “competitive cauldron.” Everything in practice is recorded, an idea he picked up from Dean Smith. The players know where they stand at all times in the ranking system he has devised. This is a system that works for Anson at UNC with his assistants and his personality. If I have one criticism, which in many ways is also a complement, is that the players who played for him try too hard to institute the UNC system in toto at their schools. There is only one UNC and one Anson Dorrance. He has the ability to get players to fit his system, that is crucial and he always has great depth that other schools cannot match. He can get girls who are willing to walk on and sit for three or four years to wait their turn to play. This does not happen at other places. Those women who sit at other places quickly become malcontents or quit. My other personal experience was getting to see the recruiting process from a personal perspective. My daughter was recruited by UNC, clearly as a walk on, but one of the fifty girls each year that receive recruiting letters. It was amazing to read those letters, he is a great communicator. He was very gracious in recommending my daughter to one of his former players who is the coach at Rice University. It was the right school for her, but I know the experience of the Carolina soccer camp and the interaction with Anson was very special to my daughter. I know as parents my wife and I appreciated his candor and honesty with our daughter. If you are interested in excellence you need to read this book. The following quote sums up what he is about and his approach: “I saw that my strength in coaching is having the courage to constantly deal with the athletes that unconsciously try to take things a bit easier, and the way I’d lose the respect of my team is not by being demanding enough, not making a passionate, stressful investment. My challenge would be to never surrender my standards to be more popular with my team, but to push my players to transcend ordinary effort in every training session and every match.”


Is Sprint Technique Training Necessary?

Stefan Ijmker wrote: “Some Mass-spring model adherents say that technique training should be dropped. (for example look at www.bearpowered.com). Is this controversial?”
I do not know if it is controversial, but I need to see what their reasoning is. If they mean what we traditionally consider technique training, endless Mach Drills done incorrectly then I would agree. I need to go that site and read their argument. Here is another exapmle of words and the meaning of words. What is exactly meant by technique training in the sprints? One thing that I do know is that running fast or slow is a motor skill, because it is a motor skill it is subject to the laws of motor learning. I will keep an open mind and look at their argument.


The book Mavericks at Work really got me thinking about experience. I value and trust my experience, but I also realize that it can be a restraining factor. It is not so much about experience; it is really what you do with your experience that counts. I know that sometimes experience results in an approach that is too judgmental, it restrains me and does not allow me to keep an open mind. It is too easy to be trapped into being limited by your experience. Somewhere in Mavericks at Work an executive they were interviewing said that he to be successful and keep progressing he needed to start out each day stupid. Start each day with a clean slate, look at the familiar as unfamiliar, keep learning, stay open to new ideas, reevaluate old ones, there may be something there that you missed. Look forward without losing perspective on the past, but above all stay in the moment. Seek out differing and even opposing ideas. (I know this is hard for me, but it is something I need to work on.) Study them for their merit, not their faults. This is all part of the functional path approach. It is not a one way street, but a busy street with many intersections that pass through many diverse neighborhoods. Don’t get caught in the no turn lane, because if you do you might miss something by not being able to turn and discover something new and exciting.


Good Reads

I just finished reading these two books yesterday. They are not about training, but in many ways they are about coaching. They will stimulate you to think about how you do what you do. How you approach change and innovation. I found them both packed full of information and stimulating ideas. Seth Godin is amazing in his ability to see things with different eyes. I also recommend his blog. It is a daily reading must for me http://sethgodin.typepad.com Great way to start the day. He will get you thinking.

Mavericks at Work has some great ideas on open source information. Frankly this is what we need at this moment in time in coaching. There are too many people trying to hide ideas. William Taylor was one the founders of Fast Company Magazine, and PollyLaBarre were the senior editor of the same magazine. http://blog.fastcompany.com/

Another Innovative Idea

The swim coaches at Kenyon College first told me about this last. Dr. Joel Stagger at Indiana University actually researched this. He stumbled upon the idea because he is also a swim coach. He was looking for something practical and inexpensive that he could give his swimmers after morning workout to insure they were replenished. He came up with chocolate milk because it has all the correct nutrients to speed recovery. Before you judge this, remember thirty five years ago they were still telling us to limit water consumption because it would make us sick during exercise!

Milk does a body good, or does it?

Local runners skeptical of Dairy Council's latest findings

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mary Schmitt Boyer

Plain Dealer Reporter

Got milk?

Not after a run, say local athletes.

In spite of a new study funded by the Dairy Council that suggests athletes might want to opt for chocolate milk instead of drinks like Gatorade or MetRx after exercise, Northeast Ohio high school cross country runners turned up their noses at the idea.

"That seems like it would make you sick," said Paul Verga, a state qualifier on the Lakewood cross country team. "I wouldn't want to do it. I might try it once, but it doesn't sound that appealing. After a workout, if I come home and my mom pours a glass of milk, I won't drink it."

Added Anthony Fischer of St. Edward: "I don't think I could do it. I think it would bother my stomach too much. It's too heavy after a race."

For the study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers had nine cyclists bike until their muscles were depleted of energy, rest four hours, then bike again until exhaustion, three separate times.

After each initial workout, the cyclists drank about two cups of one of three beverages: lowfat chocolate milk, a traditional fluid-replacement drink like Gatorade or a carbohydrate-replacement drink like MetRx.

During the second round of exercise, the researchers found that cyclists who drank chocolate milk during the rest period were able to bike nearly twice as long as those who consumed the carbohydrate-replacement drink, and just as long as those who consumed the replacement drink. The researchers concluded that chocolate milk, with its high protein and carbohydrate content, might be an effective and cost efficient alternative to commercial sports drinks for recovery from intense workouts.

The idea made sense to St. Ignatius cross country coach Mike Gallagher. "It has to be chocolate milk," Gallagher said. "It has the sugar and the protein and a little bit of fat, so it's the perfect food and it seems to be absorbed quickly. A lot of kids do it. It seems to be a drink they enjoy having, and in terms of complete nutrition, it's better than Gatorade or any of those sports drinks."

According to Nancy Zwick, a registered dietitian who works for the Dairy Council, the key is to drink milk within two hours after exercise.

"It's not like they're going to run across the finish line and guzzle a carton of chocolate milk," she said. "That's not typically what needs to happen. But we know they need to replenish carbohydrates. All exercise tears down muscle mass. If you want to rebuild that, we've found that chocolate milk can help."

Hannah Chaney, a sophomore on Brunswick's regional champion cross country team, remained skeptical.

"I've never heard anything like that," she said. "I don't think I would do it. You need milk with cookies, not after a run."

Plain Dealer Reporter Bob Migra contributed to this story.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

mschmitt@plaind.com, 216-999-4668


Appropriate Quote

This was the quote of the day on Google homepage today. In light of the last two post I thought it was particularly appropriate,

"How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct."
- Benjamin Disraeli

Results as a Validation?

There is no more results oriented person than me. However, as I stated several weeks ago, when I judge a system of athletic performance my criteria is to look at what someone does with what they have. If you have a bunch of sprinters who have 11.00 ability and eventually you get them to run consistently 11.00 then you have succeeded. The following comment regarding Frans Bosch struck a tender nerve with me “In the Netherlands his ideas are supported, but did this really influenced the performance level in the Netherlands” This is the kind of thinking that really sets me off. I am not sure he is working with the best sprinters in the Netherlands. So how is he doing with those that he is working with? If it were just about results then we should all defer to Trevor Graham, he certainly produced results, but what happens when you take a way the medicinal aids and factor in the fact the times that most people ran before they came to him. I know from personal experience that I was no different as a Combined Event coach when I was coaching decathletes who were scoring in the mid 6,000point range than later when I had decathletes score in the 7900’s. All of sudden people were more interested in what I had to say. That kind of validation by results always bothers me. Let’s get real, judge someone by what they do with what they have. I have the utmost respect for some of the anonymous high school coaches who year after year produce consistently fast performers at their level. Who knows about Patrick McHugh at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, Illinois, who produced a state caliber sprinter without a track! That is how you judge coaching. Remember talent + coaching = Champions. Our job is to help the people we work be the best they can be, to reach their potential. Not everyone can be a medal winner, but everyone can take satisfaction in the race they run.

Positive Running – Some Comments

I have great respect for people who are innovators, people who are willing to put their ideas out and put their asses on the line. This is what Frans Bosch has done with his idea on Positive Running. In no way does he propose this as the answer. He is trying to raise some questions, to get all of us to look with different eyes. There is no doubt that the top sprinters of today “look different” to me. In speaking to him, he noticed the same thing, so he set out to hypothesize why. The result is his idea of positive running. I am very familiar with the work of Ralph Mann, having been very involved in the research going into and including the 1984 Olympic Games. His work was a paradigm shift at the time. He forced everyone to take another look at sprinting mechanics. Dr Peter Weyand at Rice University has reaffirmed Mann’s work, not refuted it as many claim. Certainly we all know it is about what happened at ground contact. The amount of force imparted into the ground, the direction of the subsequent force application, but in my opinion no one has really done a good job of looking how at how we set up the leg and foot for ground contact. This is what Bosch and Klomp are forcing us to take a look at.

I also would like to address another comment by Mark Day – this is not about selling a book or a DVD, this is about stimulating a good intellectual discussion of what is happening in top speed mechanics. These guys (Bosch & Klomp) are two very honest and sincere individuals who are forcing us to look differently at one of the primal activities of man – running, especially running at top speed. For me the book and the DVD are both artistic and very intellectually stimulating. No one is being forced to buy the book or the DVD. Their work is quality. Let’s accept it for what it is, a challenge to conventional wisdom that must be scientifically validated or refuted. It just reminds how much we do not know. There are so many assumptions and myths in coaching that when someone challenges those assumptions they are often looked upon as a pariah.


Positive Running by Frans Bosch

When I was in Holland Frans Bosch introduced the concept of Positive Running to me. I thought it was thought provoking and should be put on the table for discussion. Frans was kind enough to translate some of his remarks on his idea into English. Much of the background for this is the Book and the DVD available at www.gambetta.com

Positive Running - Maintaining top speed in running - Basic ideas

By Frans Bosch

In top speed running there are limiting factors. One could be the amount of power muscles can generate. There is good reason to assume this not a very important factor. An important factor is the ability to maintain elastic energy in the system by converting it to kinetic energy and back to elastic energy again. This means a lot of elastic energy is transported from one leg to the other each step. In sprinting this occurs 4-5 times per second.

How is elastic energy transported from one leg to the other?

In top speed running hamstrings play a crucial role. In the swing phase, at the moment of the fast knee extension, the hamstring is stretched elastic by the pendulum motion of the lower leg. To load the hamstrings elastic pelvic rotation backward has to be avoided, since backward rotation unloads the hamstrings. Therefore it is necessary to have the pelvic not in a forward tilted position immediately before the hamstring-loading phase. This means that at the end of the stance phase forward pelvic rotation has to be avoided. Abdominal muscles play a crucial role in this.

When there is no or limited forward tilt at the moment of toe-off. m. iliopsoas activity of the behind leg can help with loading the hamstring together with the knee extension. (See BK book)

Around the moment of toe off (in the leg that was the stance leg) there is an important transition in muscle activity from one set of muscles (hamstring gluteus erector spinae) to an other set of muscles (abd. Iliopsoas rectus). This big change in muscle activity means transferring elastic energy from one group of muscles to the next is under pressure. It becomes even more difficult when there is forward tilt of the pelvis, because abdominals only have a narrow range in witch they can generate big forces.

Is avoiding of forward rotation of the pelvis difficult and is it a limiting factor in high speed running?

Avoiding too much forward tilt of the pelvis together with keeping the pelvis in a forward position (like M Johnson etc. >> making it possible to load the abd, iliops rectus -set with lots of elastic energy) facilitates the energy transfer from one leg to the other. Losing control of the hip position under fatigue can be observed in many runners (being unable to bring the swing leg forward fast enough).

How is this stabilizing of the pelvis done?

In positive running a large retroflecive motion of the stance leg is avoided, because that will always result in pelvis tilt forward. The knee of the stance leg does not travel far behind the hip. In Asafa Powell's technique this is done to an extreme, the knee hardly travels until behind the hip. Many sprinters that are excellent in the last stage of a 100m show this pattern and they show it even more in their best races (Carl Lewis in his world record race).

Why is it called positive Running?

Take the moment of toe off and draw lines trough the upper legs (yellow dotted line). Divide the angle in two equal parts (a) and draw a new line (blue). In sprinters with the mentioned speed maintaining technique this blue line points forward (positive) in runners with less suited technique the blue line points more downward (more in a negative direction). This positive resultant is seen in the whole running cycle, also for instance at the when the stance leg is vertical, the swing leg has passed it already a lot in positive running.

Maintaining elastic energy in the system by keeping the pelvis in the right position is difficult at high speed and could be the limiting factor in running. This can be improved with;

Technique training

Conditioning the muscles in the front of the body to a much higher level than done before. (from my experience this easily can be achieved) Muscles in the front are often neglected.


Words are important. Words are a key aspect of communication both verbal and written. I was taught a long time ago in a teaching methods class at UCSB that words create images and images create action. Nothing in the intervening 37 years has disproved this concept. As far as I am concerned this is precisely why the field of Strength and Conditioning is so confusing at the present time. There is no accepted lexicon of training. Everybody is trying to make up terms that have no basis in application much less science. I do not know about you but I am confused. Is movement prep warm-up? If it is then call it warm-up. Is prehab remedial work or an injury prevention routine? If it is then call it that. Is a matrix a circuit? If it is then call it that. I have been guilty of this at times and I am working hard to clarify and not add to the confusion. This goes on and on. Let’s think here and take a step back and look at the big picture and try to see where we are going with all of this. Communication is essential, words that are meaningful and accurate in the description that they portray are very important.

"Russian Training Secrets"

Who has the Russian Secret Training methods? When will the next poorly translated secret Russian sprint program be published? Folks there are no secrets Russian or otherwise. I am sorry if I sound a bit cynical here but in my earlier coaching days I admit I was completely infatuated with anything that the “Russians” did in training. The more I studied it the more questions I had. Then the more people I met and the more I began to cross reference traslations and find people who had seen the methodology first hand, the more I began to doubt. In the late eighties there were several tours to Russia or more precisely the Soviet Union were American coaches who paid (in dollars , not rubles) could go to study the Russian methods. I never went but I know many who did. I really doubt if they saw the real deal. They were fed the same KGB misinformation that we were reading in the Seventies, but they swallowed it hook, line and sinker. They showed them what they wanted to show them and told them what they wanted to hear. Now there are some new books available by Russian training experts. I have gotten several emails asking me if have read them. I have not, but in many ways I have. Looking at a summary and the table of contents it is the same recycled KGB misinformation that I was reading the 1970’s. Let look a little more in depth at all of this. Will this work in the context of society without medicinal aids? This is a classic example of the monkey see, monkey do syndrome.I will post more on all of this later.


Stress to Stress

Carl Valle said something to me in an email that struck a resonating cord. Can you be too specific? Is it possible to increase pattern overload from too many highly specific movements in training. I think you can. Training for an activity is just that training to prepare to do that activity. It is not the activity itself. The most specific movement is the activity itself. Each repetitive activity brings with it the potential for a certain pattern overload. That is inherent in the activity. In the search for specificity of training we may be actually adding to that overload. My basic mantra for a long time has been train to play. Understand the demands of the activity and prepare the body to tolerate those demands by progressive overload of sport appropriate movements that do not add stress to stress. I really do not think that a pitcher will forget how to pitch if every movement in training is not imitating the pitching motion. In fact I know that working general movements that work both sides of the body will significantly enhance pitching performance and reduce injuries. I have never worked with Golf, but I find it very interesting studying golf conditioning programs. It is difficult to see where Golf coaching ends and conditioning begins. Basic rotational movements and weight transfer activities will significantly improve the golf swing without imitating the golf swing. If you want to improve the golf swing understand the movements of the golf swing then train movements that enhance the quality of the recruitment of those muscles that stabilize, reduce and produce force. General and Transitional (special) strength should lead to specific strength. Specific strength is resistance or assistance that seeks to imitate the movements of the sport or skill. This should only occupy a small portion of the actual training time. For the past four years I have work closely with Jim Richardson, the coach of the University of Michigan women’s swim team to design their Dryland training program. Very little of the program is trying to imitate the swim strokes on Dryland, it is virtually impossible to do. They groove those strokes in the water with thousands of strokes. The purpose of the Dryland program is to work on strengthening in positions that will enable them to get in better positions in the water. If you saw the Dryland program you probably would not immediately recognize it as a swimming Dryland training program. The movements are sport appropriate that get the swimmers strong to enhance their work in the water. In summary think sport appropriate not sport specific.

Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk

Many can talk the talk but very few will actually walk the walk. Words are cheap and easy. Anyone can talk about commitment and excellence that is easy because it does not take commitment or excellence. It is not about signs on the wall, or slogans on a t-shirt, it is about actions. Walk the walk, actions speak louder than words. Be consistent, demand intensity, concentration and effort from your self daily and the athletes you work with will follow. Do not settle for anything less. In order to be remarkable demands a remarkable approach. No excuses. I have heard them all. Adversity is opportunity. If you don’t have enough time, then emphasize intensity. If you do not have enough equipment, then improvise. If you don’t have space, then reorganize your workouts. Being remarkable means getting it done. A champion is a champion every day, not just on game day. A champion works when no one else is around to see what they are doing. A champion does not talk, they do – they walk the walk. I recently saw an interview with Pete Carroll, he gets it. He sets the tempo as a coach. He preaches to his players, “You can’t choose when you go hard,” so he sets the tempo by being totally involved, he demands the same from his assistant coaches. Because they do it the players do it. He walks the walk.


NJSIAA Athletic Trainer's Clinic Breakout Session

Joe Przytula ATC, a frequent contributor to this blog, will be doing the breakout session at the NJSIAA Athletic Trainer's Clinic at the NJSIAA office in Robbinsville, N.J. on December 7. It will be a one hour hands-on session on soft tissue techniques. Anyone in the NJ area that is interested should contact the NJSIAA at 609-259-2776.

Hamstrings Pulls Guaranteed – Magic Six Week Program

If you want to pull hamstrings then spend a lot of time focused on training the hamstring muscles in isolation. Do hamstring curls at least twice a week and try to fit in another day if possible. Be sure to go as heavy as you can and really emphasize the eccentric phase by slowing down the lowering action. If you do not have one, go out and buy a $400 ham/glute machine and add that into the program. That really gets a burn once you master the technique. When you are out on the field as part of warm-up, be sure to throw in a couple of sets of the secret “Russian” hamstring curls, you really get a burn on that one. Oh yea, I almost forgot be sure to at least ten minutes of static stretch on the hamstrings before you do anything, because everybody knows that stretching prevents hamstring pulls. Another key aspect of the hamstring pull program, is to do as much running on a high speed treadmill as possible, that will reinforce over striding which in combination with everything else will get those hamstrings pulled. I know with this program you will have close to 100% success rate pulling hamstrings, jut look at Major League Baseball and the NFL – it works.To purchase this program go to wwwihurtbad.biz/hamstrings. If you dont pull money back garanteed. If you believe this then you probably think the world is flat and by the way I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

CJW Athletic Enhancement Program

I was at CJW to consult with them on their Athletic Enhancement program. The program will be directed by Dave Koon, a very experienced coach who just finished a stint working with the Navy Seals helping with their physical preparation. In addition to meeting with Dave and the Athletic trainers who are working in the schools we went to visit several of the schools and coaches. It was interesting to visit with the coaches and hear their ideas and concerns. To hear what they do now and where they got the information. To see what they are actually doing. If I could make generalization it would be that the average coach really needs help in the area of athletic enhancement. They have so many athletes and so many responsibilities and are prey to quick fix solutions that they are confused. It was clear that these coaches wanted what was best for their athletes and they were doing the best for their athletes in the context of the time and facilities available. They were very interested and receptive when Dave and I talked to them about different ways of doing things. It is the high school coach that has been the key to the US system of sport development. This is the group we need to help and provide more sound quality information to. Sport specific clinics taught by big time football or basketball coaches are not getting it done, if anything they add to the confusion These coaches need basic information on program design, training methodology, even how to properly select equipment. This is true all over the country, not just Richmond Virginia. These are all thing I hope to accomplish with my consulting program to develop Athletic Enhancement programs with Sport Medicine groups. If you are interested please contact me at wwwgambettasports@hotmail.com

Return to CJW Sports Medicine - Richmond Virginia

This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday I was in Richmond Virginia at CJW Sports Medicine. I did a seminar there last spring with the physical therapists and athletic trainers. At the time I felt it was one of the best seminars I had done in a long time because of the interchange and the feedback from the group. Little did I know the impact that the seminar would have. Thursday morning when I walked into the clinic there was a patient doing hurdle over exercises and another was doing the stepping stones. It was neat to see and then to talk to the therapists about how they had taken the ideas and applied them to their patients. The opportunity to see the effect of your teaching is the real satisfaction in teaching. Sometimes you wonder if you have an effect, but in this case it really was “Training the best to better.” It was really cool to see how into it the patients were. CJW staff keep up the great work!

MLS Champions - Houston Dynamo

Congratulations to the Houston Dynamo for winning the MLS Cup in a hard fought game over the New England Revolution. At times it was not real artistic, but the final overtime period and the shootout were spectacular. True champions never give up and the Dynamo never gave up. After New England scored in the last overtime the commentators basically declared the game over but with seventy seconds Brian Ching of the Dynamo scored the equalizer to send the game to penalty kicks. The same commentators now declared that New England had the advantage in the penalty kick depart and they were favored. That’s why they are “experts” and the players play the game. Congratulations to the whole Dynamo organization for a great season.


Thoughts on the State of Coaching

Last night on CSPAN I was watching a program broadcast from the Cato Institute on the state of the US Military focusing on leadership. The first speaker (sorry I don’t recall the name) highlighted some of the failing of US Military Commanders. Three items that he mentioned made me think immediately about coaching. They were 1) Ahistorical. 2) Technologically infatuated. 3) Culturally clueless. Let look at these in the context of coaching

Ahistorical – Most coaches that I talk to today have no historical context. They think that that everything is new, invented by some guru. I strongly believe that in order to know where you are going you have to know where you have been. There is very little that is new. For example vibration training in not new, it has been used for at least thirty years. Where did it come from? Howe was it used? Those are things we must know to make better use of it as a training method today. Understanding historical context always means that we will learn from others mistakes. Remember those that ignore history are condemned to repeat it.
Technologicall Infatuated – We have a fascination with technology, with machines that go beep. The more dials, lights and cables the better. Wrong! Coaching is about teaching the athlete to be btter in tune with their bodies. It is not about bigger and better machines. The body is a very high tech machine. We are as Kelvin Giles says “performance engineers.” Coaching is high touch not high tech.

Culturally Clueless – Do we really understand the culture that we are working in. The athlete today at every level has so much more going on good and bad in their lives than when I first started coaching 37 years ago. I would love to turn back the clock on some things, but it is not going to happen. Our culture of affluence and instant results is the culture we must work in. That does not mean to compromise your principles, but it does mean being more aware. It does mean being a better communicator.

Context - Context - Context

Robert Brown sent me the following email: “I do have a question regarding your thoughts on some on the Vertimax for training the female athletes ages 14 - 18 yrs old? Next, it appears most of your Olympic lifting is performed with dumbbells. Is there any particular reason for the method? Are you against Barbell exercises for those lifts?” I really try to stay away from evaluating products or equipment on the blog so I will keep my comments very general. The Vertimax is a good tool, but for the money, especially with that age of athlete there is so much more that needs to and must be done to improve jumping. In short look at the context of the people you are training, first teach them good jumping and landing mechanics. Then take them through a systematic plyometric progression when the emphasis is on quality and intensity, not volume. Then if you think you still need it then go to technology.

I am not against Olympic lifting with a bar, but my basic reason is quite simple in many situations I work there is not enough time to spend four to six weeks teaching technique with the bar. I must get them training. The dumbbell will accommodate to the person, the bar will not. I can achieve real good pulling technique within one or two sessions and then be on my way training and producing results. Once again context – if I were working with heavy throwers or American Football then in order to achieve sufficient overload relative to their mass I would use a bar. In other sports, especially sports like basketball where body proportions mitigate against using a bar I can achieve the desired results with dumbbells. You can go heavy with dumbbells! Also remember the purpose you are using Olympic Lifts is to develop explosive power. Olympic lifts with dumbbells, kettlebells and sandbags allow me to achieve maximum power production by releasing the implement.


Mile Run Fitness Tests

Tracy Fober http://ironmaven.blogspot.comhas some good posts on the mile run test for basketball and also frames in the context of the general lack of fitness in today’s kids. I do not believe in mile run, two mile run or Cooper tests as fitness tests for intermittent sprint or transition game athletes. First they send a message that to be successful in these sports is only about endurance. Training for endurance, which they have to do to run reasonably well on any of these tests makes you slow. The last things I want to see are slow basketball or soccer players. Endurance is one part of the equation. I would prefer a Beep test to test fitness. Bangsbo’s Intermittent Recovery Test is a good test. It is an incremental stage test of 20 meters shuttle runs with a five second break between each shuttle. This gives you a starting point to see where the player is in terms of fitness. It is a test that can be incorporated throughout the season. My philosophy of fitness testing is to not use it to disqualify someone, but to determine where they are and develop a program that will get their fitness to a high level in the context of the demands of the game they are playing. In my new book there is extensive treatment of this concept. Also with a team I am more interested in how the TEAM performs than the individuals. I will determine a team average and standard deviations from the mean results and then set team goals for improvement. It is the team that wins or loses not an individual. For some reason this is a hard for coaches to accept, but it works. Remember also that the order of training is to get strong, get fast and then get fit. When you do it that way getting fit is much easier. Oh yea, don’t forget to play the game. That will do wanders to get you fit for the game. See the Girls basketball program on the Resources page of www.gambetta.com fitness was never an issue with this team. They got strong, got fast and then got fit. Never any work over thirty seconds. They kicked ass and took names.

De Paul Basketball Bench Press

Amazing how a stupid exercise like the Bench Press can generate comments. Read the article again and put the Bench Press in the context of what the basketball coach wants, not what Tim wants. Tim certainly knows and I know he believes the bench press is a throw away exercise for most sports. In this case it is something the coach wants and most importantly believes in. In most situations just getting basketball to train is a huge battle, a battle that Tim has fought during his whole time at De Paul. Now the coach is behind him, so why compromise the whole program by fighting a battle over the bench press. Look at everything else they are doing. Also unfortunately, it is something the athletes relate to. First you must appease the coach and capture the athlete. This is the reality of DI strength and conditioning today. I know Jim Radcliffe faces the same situation in Football at University of Oregon. He does not believe in the bench press but he does it because the coaches understand it. But it is not a focus exercise.

Cool Diagram

Here is another cool diagram from the blog Creating Passionate Users.


I love simple statements or diagrams that speak volumes. Take a close look at this and it does speak volumes. I would substitute Functional Path Approach for startup and traditional appraoch for corporate. Which one is more fun?


DePaul University Basketball Conditioning

This is a nice story about the DePaul University Basketball Conditioning program directed by Tim Lag. Tim is the consummate professional so it is good to see him get the support of the coach and some recognition.

Getting stronger every day
By Adam Rittenberg
Daily Herald Sports Writer

DePaul senior forward Marcus Heard dragged his carcass toward the V-Row
machine, wishing he could be anywhere else in the world.

As Heard approached, Lamar Butler provided an ironclad greeting.

"230," said
Butler, the hulking former DePaul center who serves as
assistant director of basketball operations.

"Man," Heard groaned, "I don't feel like doing this."

The two men secured the weight plates for Heard's first set, but before
Heard could take his position, Tim Lang cut in. Lang, DePaul's
55-year-old director of strength and conditioning, grabbed the V-Row
with only his right hand and did several repetitions.

"Show 'em why you're the boss, Tim!"
Butler chirped.

Lang's display drew a crowd as Blue Demons players Karron Clarke and
Lorenzo Thompson huddled around the V-Row. Sensing the pressure, Heard
stepped to the machine, matched Lang with several right-hand reps and
then did a few more with only his left.

This weight-room version of H-O-R-S-E elicited howls from Clarke and
Thompson, and a smile from Lang.

"My shoulder's on fire!" Heard yelled.

DePaul players feel the burn more than ever as they prepare for the
2006-07 season.

Strength training has been at the heart of the Demons' first full
off-season under coach Jerry Wainwright, who saw his team toil through
its first Big East tour. Last season, DePaul finished 15th in the Big
East in rebounding margin (minus-1.6) and 13th in offensive rebounds
(10.9 rpg). They were out-rebounded in nine of 16 league games.

"If we were well-conditioned, we would have been a lot better," guard
Jabari Currie said.

As a result, players spent their spring and summer moving iron. They
strengthened core muscles, increased flexibility, improved their leaping
ability and strove for Wainwright's bench-press goal of 300 pounds. All
but three players currently bench 300; only one could last year.

"One of our goals is to be the strongest team in the Big East,"
Wainwright said. "Rebounding, defense and quality minutes win basketball
games. The stronger you are, the longer you can play."

Raising the bar

Whether he coached high school, Division I midmajor or major-conference
teams, Wainwright has utilized the same philosophy.

"The one thing I always thought you could affect - forget about talent -
is you can get kids stronger," he said.

Highland Park High School, Wainwright converted a storage room into a
weight room. When he entered college coaching in 1984, he ran Xavier's
strength program as an assistant to Bob Staak. At his first
head-coaching job at UNC-Wilmington, he built a weight room inside the
team's locker room. He later did the same at

"Jerry should have been the guy in the corner in a prize fight," said
UNC-Wilmington strength coach Jim "Madness" Mayhew, whom Wainwright
hired when he coached there. "Jerry's way is physical. You don't walk
into our locker room and see how many points you have, but you know how
much the guy next to you bench presses.

"For a strength coach, it's gratifying because he backs it and he
believes it."

Lang was equally grateful when Wainwright arrived at DePaul. A former
conditioning coach for the White Sox and the Texas Rangers, Lang came to
DePaul in 1999 and worked with coaches Pat Kennedy and Dave Leitao
before Wainwright.

"First thing he said was, 'I want every one of our guys to bench 300,''
Lang recalled. "I looked at him like he was crazy. I really didn't think
we could do it, knowing what we had in the past.

"Other coaches allotted maybe an hour, but they would cut back and say,
'You have 20 minutes.' Jerry doesn't cut time from us. If we have an
hour, we have an hour. If we go over, we go over."

At first, Wainwright wasn't pleased with what he saw.

"We were pitiful," he said. "We were skinny, scrawny. We had no pop.
Guys burned out quick."

Wainwright and Lang set out to change the culture, even if it cost time
on the practice court.

"They knew we had a lot of work to do," Heard said.

After witnessing the transformation at the midmajor level, Mayhew knew
Wainwright's approach would work well with top players.

"That's always been the big snafu at the highest level: Can you get guys
to work?" Mayhew said. "This is the missing link for these guys. They're
all long, they're all tall. But can you make them tough and strong?

"Jerry can get to that type of kid."

Body by Lang

Lang's program is rooted in variety, from exercises to equipment to
targeted muscles to individualized regimens. In workouts, players do an
assortment of lifts (hang cleans, high pulls, snatches), an assortment
of push-ups (staggered, physioball, medicine ball) and an assortment of
rotation exercises (bodyweight squats, bodyweight lunges, lunches of

The medley strengthens a player's core, which Lang notes is the entire
body and not just the abdominal muscles.

"It's called the kinetic chain approach," Lang said. "We concentrate on
everything. A lot of guys think the vertical jump is the most important
thing because when you're a basketball player, they go, 'How much can
you bench and what's your vertical?' It's not so much the vertical. It's
how quickly you can get back up.

"It's the whole game, not just the ESPN highlight."

Players work out two to three times a week in season. This summer, many
worked out every day.

"They don't leave," Lang said. "They'll stay in here an hour-and-a-half,
two hours."

Lang designs individualized programs for each player, stressing selected
elements. Clarke, a chiseled 6-6 swingman, focuses on strengthening his
legs. Currie, who played through a back injury last season, works with
Lang and director of sports medicine Amy Ingraffia on flexibility and
rehabilitation. Centers Wesley Green and Lorenzo Thompson, both of whom
weigh nearly 300 pounds, work on balance and endurance.

Lang remembers the day two years ago when Green, who had ballooned to
350 pounds, tried out an exercise ball.

"He laid on it and the thing just exploded," Lang said. "Everybody
thought it was hilarious."

Lang didn't.

"He never embarrassed me," Green said. "He just told me, 'Keep working.'
Now I lay on them like it's water."

Green's lifting program stresses repetitions rather than weight in order
to build stamina. But every so often during Green's workouts, Lang will
say, "Turn the shocks on."

"In between every set, I would lift 300 (pounds) four or five times, 320
four or five times," Green said. "We kept adding, adding, adding, and
then 410 came out of nowhere."

He smiled.

"I'm going to have 460 by next summer, so y'all come check that out."

Benchmark: 300

Their training routines vary, but each DePaul player has the same goal -
to bench 300 pounds. The bench press is the most recognized measure of
strength, and Wainwright uses the 300 figure as an incentive.

Not surprisingly, most Demons players listed the bench press as their
favorite exercise.

"As a strength coach, you say, 'Does the bench press matter?' Not that
much," Mayhew said. "But to kids, it's the biggest deal in the world.
It's like a breakout game."

Wainwright, who saw 5-foot-3 guard Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues bench 300 at
Wake Forest, said peer pressure is the driving force behind the target.

"That's our goal," sophomore forward
Wilson Chandler said. "We want to
go higher than that, but at least 300."

"If you see the rest of your team doing it," Clarke said, "you're going
to push yourself to want to do it, too."

Guard Draelon Burns has elevated his maximum bench from 220 pounds as a
freshman to 310 this fall. Guard Cliff Clinkscales, who weighs only 175
pounds, increased his max from 165 two years ago to 300 this spring.
Heard went from 225 in fall 2004 to 300 this spring.

Freshman Will Walker never benched more than 245 in high school, and 300
seemed far away for the 180-pound guard.

"I was looking at it like, 'Nah, I'll get that in a couple years,' "
Walker said.

Walker adjusted his prediction this summer after working out for
several weeks.

"It's all confidence," he said. "I told everybody, 'I'm going to hit the
300 tomorrow.' And once I figured in my head I knew I could do it, the
next day it was just a matter of pushing it off my chest."

Thijin Moses was present when his classmate benched 300. For Moses, a
rail-thin forward generously listed at 190 pounds, the 300 milestone
looks impossible.

He doesn't see it that way.

"I'm waiting for that moment to come," he said.

Waiting for evidence

The Demons have met Wainwright's standards in the weight room, but will
it equate to on-court success?

"Are we going to win a weightlifting meet? We might," Wainwright said.
"Those are wonderful measures, but they don't win basketball games."

For DePaul to improve, players must apply their increased strength to
rebounding, defense and other areas. Wainwright cites many examples of
college and pro players who improved their play and extended their
careers through strength training.

The coach also sees parallels on DePaul's team.

"The difference between Wilson Chandler at 215 (pounds) and 225 is
probably about $1 million a year," he said of the preseason All-Big East
pick who added 20 pounds of muscle this off-season.

Chandler and his teammates can envision the moment when their lifting
translates into on-court success.

"I got pushed around last year,"
Chandler said. "I want to be able to
push somebody around."