Entertainment not Sport

Does everything you see in professional sports today really surprise you? If it does then you are pretty naïve. Professional sport is not sport, it is entertainment. I am not sure yet if it is a reality show, a tragic comedy or a Shakespearian drama. Whatever it is it is not very appealing to me. As fans we have enabled this aberrant behavior by buying tickets, memorabilia, simply watching the games on TV. That may seem harsh but it is true. Surprise, there is gambling in pro sport. I have seen players in several sports think nothing of dropping $50,000 in a card game or $100,000 in a golf game with their friends. Drugs, come on. We keep demanding more and more and there is so much that the body can give. I really wonder if it would be better to call a spade a spade and open the whole thing up and recognize it for the freak show that it is. I love true sport, not this poor imitation we have.

Some Good Thoughts

The following quotes are from the The Art of Learning – A Journey In The Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkim

“ The key is relaxed hip joints and spring-like body mechanics, so you can easily receive force by coiling it down through your structure.” P109

“Our obstacle is that we live in an attention deficit culture. We are bombarded with more and more information on television, radio, cell phones, video games, and the internet. The constant supply of stimulus has potential to turn us into addicts, always hungering for something new and prefabricated to keep us entertained. When nothing exciting is going on, we might get bored, distracted, separated from the moment. So we look for new entertainment, surf channels, flip through magazines. If caught in these rhythms, we are like tiny current- bound surface fish, floating along a two-dimensional world without any sense for the gorgeous abyss below. When these societally induced tendencies translate into the learning process, the have a devastating effect.” p 116

“Everyone races to learn more and more, but nothing is done deeply, Things look pretty but they are superficial, without a sound body mechanic or a principled foundation. Nothing is learned at a high level and what results are form collectors with fancy kicks and twirls that have absolutely no martial value.” P117

“One thing I have learned as a competitor is that there are clear distinctions between what it takes to be decent, what it takes to be good, what it takes to be great and what it takes to be among the best.” P132

“Over time each chess principle loses rigidity, and you get better and better at reading the subtle signs of qualitative relativity. Soon enough, learning becomes unlearning. The stronger chess player is often one who is less attached to a dogmatic interpretation of the principles. This leads to a whole new layer of principles – those that consist of the exceptions to the initial principles.” P141


A Dubious Distinction

I was just informed that I have received the dubious honor of achieving the lofty status of being a Delta Million Mile Club member. The letter states that only 1% of Delta fliers achieve this distinction. My advice to all of you out there is to avoid this honor at all costs. Believe me I am convinced that flying destroys brain cells. I am trying to figure out what % of my adult life I have spent on airplanes. No that there are no more pillows and magazines on Delta I am not sure what I am going to do.


Time by the Pozo Seco Singers

Playing around searching for music on You Tube last night I came across one of my favorite songs “Time” sung by the Pozo Seco singers. It is sung by Taylor Pie, formerly Susan Taylor when she was with the Pozo Seco Singers. Enjoy it. It is very thought provoking song and a very soothing song. Have a great weekend.


Just paste this into your browser and enjoy a cool sound.

Odds and Ends, Comments – Looking Ahead

I think the ongoing dialogue in regard to my posts about getting it and the muscle head mentality has really been quite good and interesting. In the next week or two I will post more on the concept of adaptability and creating adaptable athletes. Many of you have asked me to give specific examples and some ideas and progressions of things I've used and things that I've seen to achieve this. I plan on doing that and I think it will help clarify the concept and spur you on to think further and to look at this more in depth. Ultimately I think we all should remember that the athletic development process is not something we do to the athlete is something we do with the athlete. Our job as professionals in athletic development is to help develop the most complete athlete we possibly can and to put that athlete into the competitive arena confident in their preparation so they can express their movement dynamics and ability to compete without reservation. There is definitely science to all of this and that cannot be rejected or denied. But I also feel that the more I coach, the more I recognize the beauty and the wisdom of the body and the subsequent movements that the body is capable of doing. I'm sure if all of you look at what you've done over the years that a lot of times what we have done under the guise of coaching and direction is to really create robots with a paint by numbers approach rather than giving them an empty canvas and a rich palate of colors to eventually paint a beautiful painting. That painting is their performance that allows them the expression of their movement abilities to the optimum. This is all a very creative process. I truly believe that the current research in skill acquisition and coordination dynamics is telling us that what we have to do is give the athlete movement problems to solve with the recognition and the understanding that a lot of times there are not correct answers, the athelet will determine the correct answer. And as we start this magical journey called athletic development I think what we need to do is first of all understand the physical competencies necessary to achieve performance in the competitive arena and then you have to give the athletes the physical literacy to be able to strive in a healthy manner toward the achievement of performance in that competitive arena. We must recognize that it is a takes time. It is a long and circuitous path, the functional path is sometimes very well paved and other times it is no more than a trail in the forest so to speak. Ultimately recognize that the body is smart, and the body will find a way to solve the movement problems. If you have any doubt about this watch kids in free play in a natural environment. Watch athletic geniuses perform on the field and see how they adjust, those adjustments happen too fast to be on a cognitive level. We must recognize that as athletic development professionals we must teach them their athletic ABCs so that they eventually can produce a great novel of athletic performance.

This should never be if someone is right or wrong. My goal is to stimulate discussion and thought about why we do what we do, when we do it. One trick ponies are just that, we have to help develop the complete athlete we can't afford to be one trick ponies in training, because are not one trick ponies in the competitive arena. So we need to give the athlete a myriad of tools across a spectrum of demands that will enable them to achieve the highest level of athletic excellence relative to their potential. It is that simple.


Dirty Little Secret

Michael Rasmussen really let the cat out of the bag.All the dopers in elite sport have been playing the cat and mouse game with the pee police for years. They also know that there is no jeopardy for a missed test or even two. You just get a warning. So the method is to forget to tell your governing body where you are or where you will be. Load up, make sure you have a good chemist to keep testing you so and then let them know where are when you can test “clean.” This has truly become a roman circus.

Great Sounds

The new CD by Stephen Stills – Just Roll Tape is awesome. This was recorded on April 26, 1968. Here is what Stills says on the about the recording session: “ I was at a Judy Collins session in New York in 1968, and when she was finished, I peeled off a few hundreds for the engineer so I could make a tape of my new songs. Some you will know some you might not. The following fall we made the first CSN album, and the tape has been lost to the wind for almost 40 years. Somehow it’s found it’s way back, and these songs now feel like great friends when they were really young.” Stills wrote all the songs on the CD except Wooden Ships and Treetop Flyer. As a child of the Sixties this brings back many warm memories of great friends.

Maybe I don’t get it

Here was a reply to my post that typifies the head in the sand approach of the contemporary sheep walkers. It is a classic error in communication in that it is not what I write, it is what you read.

Vern are you serious this man doesn't get it, there are to many variables to just blast the lifts. What did the program look like how much synergist crossover was there between lifts, what where rest intervals, where the athletes wearing belts (a huge no no), did the program have structural balance, was the athlete in structural balance, was she training her mobility, come on Vern maybe you don't get it.

I do get it! I use the Olympic movements when appropriate. I have bee doing Olympic Lifts for almost 45 years. I am USA Weightlifting certified (Perhaps they will remove my certification now) I have made every mistake with the Olympic lifts and every other method. Belts – so what – I understand the research. Go around the country and watch how everyone cinches up their athletes. Is it right? No. I understand all the variables and in the muscle head programs they are seldom if ever taken into consideration unless it is a one on one environment, that NEVER occurs in a collegiate environment and seldom if ever in a professional team environment. That is why the follow-up post on University of Oregon and Jim Radcliffe. He is an Olympic lifter, but he train athletes not Olympic lifters who play football. What the hell is synergist crossover between lifts? Get real. Have you ever had to work with a team of athletes? You get them after practice, the majority of the time when they are fatigued from their training. There is no accounting for individual differences. I will repeat the message again – IT IS ABOUT THE ATHLETE, NOT ABOUT THE EXERCISE OR THE METHOD. CREATE ADAPTABLE ATHLETES READY to PLAY. What is it that I don't get?


Someone Who Gets It!

One of my heroes and I do not have too many is Jimmy Radcliffe at University of Oregon. He gets it and has gotten it for a long time. Bellow is some excerpts from an article Rob Moseley in the Eugene Register Guard for Sunday June 15 titled “Building More Than Muscles.” This is a guy who flew all night to Chicago to hear two talks from Frans Bosch at The USA Track & Field Level III Coaching school, the flew all night back to Eugene so he would not miss a workout! He is a consummate coach and professional. He gets his players strong to play football, sure they Olympic lift, but that is one part of a bigger picture. We need more Jim Radcliffes.

"Besides coach Bellotti," senior receiver Garren Strong said, "I think he's probably the most important, key factor."

Watching a shirtless Radcliffe lead the football team through sprints across the grass practice fields at the foot of the Casanova Center, particularly in the summer, it's hard to believe he has actually dialed down his intensity over the years.

When he became head strength coach two years later, Radcliffe, a stickler for technique and efficiency, found participation to be his most effective teaching tool. It remains one of the key factors in players building respect for him.

"There were certain things I wanted done a certain way, and the best way for me to (teach) them was to get in there and do it with them - the pace of how things were going to go, the intensity of how things were going to go," Radcliffe said. "In the early stages, if you wanted change you had to demonstrate the change."

As the years went on, and Radcliffe's techniques were absorbed by veteran players who helped demonstrate them for underclassmen, there became less of a need to do every last drill with the team. And though his weight lifting workouts are now limited to twice or three times a week with two nephews and a godson who live in town, Radcliffe still looks as if he could take the field for the Ducks in a pinch, unlike some other coaches in his field.

Bellotti said that, more than once during his tenure as head coach, he has offered Radcliffe a raise, only to have the strength coach request that it be split among his assistants.

But when his players start talking about him, it's clear he has plenty of kids to watch over at work.

'He's an amazing guy'

Anyone who spends much time around the football team is most struck by Radcliffe's impact on the team when seniors appear in video presentations at the annual postseason banquet.

It happened for redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Roper, who attended the banquet on a recruiting visit.

"One of the things I noticed was, everybody would thank their family and friends," Roper said. "And then they'd thank coach Rad."

With Bellotti and his assistants so often away from the players, whether in staff meetings or on recruiting trips, Radcliffe is the most constant presence in their lives. To freshmen, he can seem a little quirky, with his outdated sweatsuits and the old bike he uses to tool around campus.

That ends when he begins to set such a demanding tone in his workouts. Radcliffe never rests, so that the players won't either.

"It's very business-like," Roper said. "He treats his sport and his work very much like business, which is something we need to do also."

Radcliffe favors calling players by their first names, rather than using nicknames. He demands they wear either green and yellow or neutral colors in the weight room, where he and his staff have offices.

To a man, the players say Radcliffe commands their respect through that professionalism, and also his participation in conditioning drills in even the most extreme weather.

"It's not like he's just standing there with a whistle screaming at us," junior defensive end Nick Reed said. "He's actually running with us, and usually finishing ahead of a lot of us."

Former Oregon punter Josh Bidwell, who plays for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said Radcliffe has been instrumental in his career. It was Radcliffe who oversaw Bidwell's training after the punter underwent surgery and chemotherapy for testicular cancer in 1999.

"At the end of every year, I come back and tell him how much I appreciate him," Bidwell said. "He's a huge reason, in my mind, for my success. ... The way he treats people, he treats you the same way he treats the walk-on who's not highly thought-of. I enjoyed that.

"I never got any special treatment from him, and even now, he'll come out and coach me if I'm doing something incorrectly, and he doesn't coach me with a smile. He comes out and tells me to do it right, and I always get a kick out of that."

Bidwell, who lives in Eugene, does his offseason workouts in the Moshofsky Center, still following a regimen that Radliffe writes for him and leaves for him in a mailbox with workouts for Oregon's punters.

"He's an amazing coach," Bidwell said. "I really look forward to coming back every offseason and getting his stuff in. He just really has a good handle on how to build the total athlete. His drills make you more explosive, which is a big thing in football, even at my position.

"He has a lot of drills, and he has a good handle on putting things in order, so that you're building toward being as strong and explosive as you can. Some coaches, they just want you to be strong. They just want your squat to be high, and your bench to be high. That doesn't necessarily make you the best athlete, and he understands that, but it also confuses a lot of kids, because you come in after benching every day in high school, trying to get strong, and they don't understand why they're doing all these goofy lifts. ...

"He's above and beyond even a lot of pro strength coaches."

Do You Get It

For the person that wrote in to say they were proud to be a muscle head, I am glad you are proud to be a muscle head. If you take the muscle head approach I would like to play your team everyday of the week! Some of the comments on my recent post have been almost absurd and in some ways surreal. Men, women, boys and girls it is not just about strength. It does not matter that Olympic lifters are the strongest athletes in the word,that is their world and their sport. Someone asked what is soccer strong? Soccer strong is the ability to hold off an opponent, win the 50/50 ball and win balls in the air. It has very little or nothing to do with how much you can clean. Strength is only one biomotor quality. And it interacts with all the other biomotor qualities to produce athletic performance. Whether or not people want to admit it there are injuries whose genesis is in the weight room. I am making a plea for sanity. It is really hard for me to believe that in 2007 with everything we know from sport science and good practice that all of this is still an issue.


One Size Does Not Fit All

This really bothers me and it is so typical. This is an email from a concerned parent. He nails it! I share his sentiments. My daughter hurt her back lifting in college and has never been the same since (She was taught to lift by a great Olympic Lifting Coach, Rich Lansky, so she had a foundation. Maxing after practice or performing technical lifts when they are fatigued is insane!

Hello Mr. Gambetta,

A speed and agility trainer that my daughters work with referred me to your website and a recent article you wrote on Olympic style weightlifting.

I have a daughter that plays soccer at the University of xxxxx and during the winter and at other periodic times they have the team members weight lift using the Olympic style weightlifting. They are supervised by a trainer (but I am not convinced she knows what she is doing).

My daughter is 5' 8" tall (our article mentioned that the Olympic weightlifting needs to be modified for taller people ... don't know if this qualifies as taller).

Our speed and agility trainer (who also played soccer) is not convinced that female soccer players that don't lift year round need to be introducing external weights to get stronger.

During last winter, my daughter nearly suffered a back injury doing the weightlifting. She experienced pain on and off for 5-7 weeks but appears to have survived without permanent injury. A couple teammates also appear to have suffered minor back injuries.

The trainer also encourages the girls to "max out" which I think is for the trainer’s ego, not the athlete's benefit.

My suspicion is that guys are much better athletes are stronger and generally develop proper technique than do girls and therefore, Olympic weightlifting might be better suited for guys and football players than for other sports.

I am not convinced that it is appropriate for female soccer athletes to be doing this style weightlifting.

I would welcome your comments on Olympic style weightlifting for female soccer players and what alternatives, if any, would accomplish the same goal but be safer.

Real Sad

Jill Gerber sent the following reply to my post from yesterday, she is right on:

Could there be another side to this phenomenon? It could be a productive discussion to look at how as a nation we are failing our children - poor to no PE programs in schools and no time to play unstructured and outside. Ultimately, we can't do much about parents. Where we can make a difference is in getting involved in local schools and offering expertise to help schools who don't have funding, the staff, or a clue. After school programs could be a place to start. (Vern Comment – I proposed this recently to a big national company but it was not sexy enough. I think it was to down and dirty and basic.)
Not to sound completely ignorant, but what are the professional organizations, NSCA included, doing to improve the physical health of our children through the education system. Do they have outreach programs in place to help schools develop and implement athletic development programs in the schools? (Vern Comment – No they all talk the talk the talk but do not walk the walk.)

Someone has to seize the initiative on this NOW. There are many kids who cannot afford commercial programs. The problem is getting worse day by day. When I flew out of Boston on Sunday there were two people on the plane that were to fat to walk!


Sad and Sick

Read the following articles for the New York Times –


Muscle Head Mentality

This is a passionate plea for sanity. I have seen and heard more misinformation, confusion passed off as knowledge and twenty and thirty something strength coaches and quasi experts with one experience repeated ten or 12 years that I have decided to stop mincing more words and confront this head on. If you are hanging your hat on an exercise, a machine or one concept then what you are doing is creating athletes that are adapted. They adapt quickly to the exercise be it the squat, clean, bench press, heavy sled pulls, whatever it is. But they are not adaptable, can that adapted athlete then apply what they have done to become adapted to their movements in their sports. I would maintain that they can’t. We have made things like “The Big Three” an end unto themselves. We have made the Power Clean” and end unto itself. We have lost sight of the big picture – the picture is to build a complete athlete who is completely adaptable to the demands of their sport with the training systematic, sequential and progressive. I am seeing too many injuries coming from the “sheep walking” mentality that forces athletes into methods and exercises that they are not ready for or are inappropriate for their sport. If the training method cannot be adapted to the athlete then it is not a sound method! If the method can be adapted to the athlete then it is sound and worth pursuing. This is another plea for the Athletic Development approach as opposed to the strength coach approach. Strength is only one component of athletic performance. There are many ways to acquire functional strength. Sure you are never strong enough as Mike Stone says, but that does not mean constantly seeking higher one rep maximums, it really means understanding the spectrum approach to strength training that leads to applying various methods and forms of resistance relative to your stage of development, gender and sport.

With all the knowledge and understanding we have available to us as professionals (I use the term loosely) we are shooting ourselves in the foot. You guys and women who are university “Strength” coaches out there – wake up. I have seen and heard more of the sport coaches upset with what is going on. They do not want their athletes going to the “weight room” because they never know what is going to come back out. I hear this all over the country – it certainly sends me a message – adapt or die. The Strength coach is the low man or women on the totem pole because they have allowed themselves to be and because of the insular approach they have taken. You have created a Collegiate Strength Coaches Association that feeds everyone’s fantasy. Marrying your first cousin does not lead to intelligent children, it leads to ingrates. Instead of going to CSA meeting go to the Soccer Coaches Convention, the Swim coaches Convention, The Wrestling Caches convention, the Volleyball Coaches convention – you will learn more! Become a coach. Not a weight room supervisor! I know soccer coaches, swim coaches, basketball coaches and track coaches that will not have their athletes go anywhere near the “strength coach” because he or she has their own agenda and will not listen to the input of the sport coach. The way I see it if you an Athletic Development coach then you are a resource to the sport coach. You can help them with program planning, recovery, nutrition, injury prevention. You can be an asset not a liability.


National Tour

I am planning a national tour of corner soap boxes. I will talk to anyone anywhere about what ever what anyone wants to talk about. No charge! In fact if you ask I might pay you. I really want to share with a new training method I have invented called GRAVITY TRAINING.(Patent Pending) No equipment. In fact I will show you how to equip you home gym for nothing, zero, zip, nada $000,000,000! Hope to see you on the tour. Just look for a broken down old coach standing a street corner mumbling. Oh by the way I have advertising space available. Left buttocks and right shoe are available. Write for pricing.

Do You Get It?

Training is not about the exercise! It is about the structure and place of the exercise relative to the sport, position or event, and the individual. Remember the goal is to create bodies that are adaptable not adapted. When you focus on exercises you are creating adapted bodies. Why is the power clean so special – what abut a high pull? It is the catch in the clean that can create problems. Remember train them to be adaptable not adapted.

Harvard Women's Swimming

I am at Harvard University helping the Women’s swim coach’s revise and upgrade their dryland training program. This is truly an amazing place. I really enjoy walking around Harvard Square. For a bibliophile like me this is almost heaven think there about 25 bookstores with three blocks of my hotel. I was offered a job here in 1984 as assistant track coach. This trip is bringing back many fond memories. Just walking around campus makes you feel smarter, just think what would happen if you got to go to class!


Olympic Lifting - Sheep Walking Again

The following is an excerpt from my book. In light of the sheep walking phenomenon (Blindly following the flock)I observed at the NSCA Convention I thought this would be appropriate. Hope it makes you think.

In the athlete development process the role of Olympic style weight training has occupied a large role. This has good and bad implications. Olympic style weight lifting is a training method that is excellent for developing power. Olympic lifting consists of two movements, the clean and jerk and the snatch. The derivatives of those movements are what make up the majority of the training exercises. There is no question of the inherent value of these exercises as a tool to raise explosive power, but once again the method must be kept in context and reconciled with the overall goal of the strength training program.

In order to achieve optimum return there are several key points that must be considered: the first point is that Olympic lifting is a sport. That sport consists of lifting as much weight as possible in the clean and jerk and the snatch. Those lifts have a high technical demand, but the skill is a closed skill that occurs in a narrow range of movement. The Olympic lifting movements do produce tremendous power production because of the distance the weight must travel, the weight and the speed requirements. This power production is highly dependent on the technical proficiency of the individual lifter. Essentially, the training of the weight lifter consists of the actual Olympic lifts and some derivative and assistance exercises. There is no running, jumping or other demands on their system. The sole focus is on lifting as much weight as possible.

Olympic lifters traditionally have lifted several times a day. This began in the 1980s because of the influence of the Bulgarians who emerged as a dominant power in the 1970s. The Bulgarian weightlifters were reported to have had as many as six lifting sessions in a training day, repeated for up to five or six training days in a microcycle. Each session seldom ever exceeded sixty minutes. All sessions were at very high intensity. Once again the point must be made that all these athletes did was lift. It also should be pointed out that they were full time “professional” athletes. Perhaps the most important underlying factor that enabled them to accomplish this severe training regimen was a program of systematic doping. We know that was a huge factor in the lifters ability to recover and handle the high volumes of high intensity work necessary to make the type of strength gains these lifters were making. It also should be pointed out that on the international scene Olympic weightlifting is the “dirtiest” sport in terms of positive drug tests.

This is not meant to be negative or to denigrate the sport; rather it is to put the emphasis on Olympic lifting in perspective. Too many coaches have blindly copied the methods of the Olympic lifters without taking these things into consideration. Even if you are an Olympic lifting coach the volumes and intensities reported from the former Eastern bloc countries are beyond anything a drug free athlete can possibly handle for any significant length of time. Richard Lansky, coach of Team Florida weightlifting, has found that a realistic adjustment in volume and intensity is in the range of one third less for his athletes than those commonly reported in eastern European weight lifting literature.

Let’s take this a step further. It has become very popular among the strength coaching community especially in American football to center their strength training program on Olympic lifting. Many of the football strength coaches blindly copied the volumes and intensities of the Bulgarian and Soviet lifters without taking into account the previously mentioned facts. This volume and intensity was applied in addition to the running, agility work, jumping and the sport specific training. It should be easy to see the problems that would arise.

The Olympic lifts are very technical in their demands. Typically when we work with athletes their lifting sessions are sequenced after their other work. This is not optimum time to utilize lifts with a significant technical element and high neural demand, because fatigue will compromise technique. The other factor that must be considered when extrapolating from the world of Olympic weightlifting is body proportions. Olympic lifters, in effect, are pre-selected by their body types. In order to be successful tall athletes with long limbs are quickly selected out. Smaller athletes with limb lengths that afford a lever advantage succeed. Therefore, to apply Olympic lifting movements without taking into consideration body proportions can severely compromise the effectiveness of the methods. I have seen back injuries occur in tall basketball players who were required to perform various Olympic lifting movements without modifying the movements for their body proportions.

Another argument given for the use of the Olympic lifting movements is that they help with jumping because in biomechanical analysis of Olympic lifting the pattern of force closely resembled the vertical jump. I may be missing something here, but then why not just jump with resistance. To learn and master the technical complexity of the Olympic lifting movements to improve jumping seems to be a bit of a stretch. In most situations when working with athletes there is not an infinite amount of time available for training. Therefore chose methods that will allow you to train the athlete in order to be better at their sport within the restraints of the available time.

Recognizing these limitations, the use of Olympic lifting movements are viable and have a place across the spectrum of sports because of their potential for power development. But the movements must be adapted and modified to fit the athlete. It must fit the athlete literally. Body proportions must be carefully considered. Significant modification must be made for the tall athlete. It is important to point out that the Olympic lifting movements do not have to be done with a bar. I have found that Olympic movements with dumbbells to be particularly effective. The factor of body proportions is eliminated because the dumbbell will “fit the body.” The disadvantage of the dumbbell is that you will eventually be limited in the amount of weight that can be lifted so that if you are working with sports that require strength dominated power like football or the throws then it is necessary to use the bar to achieve heavier loading. Dumbbells also allow modification of the pulling movements to be done in diagonal and rotational patterns. The bar essentially locks you into the Sagittal plane. Another interesting modification of Olympic lifting movements is the use of sandbags. This method has reportedly been used extensively by Jan Zelezney, world record holder in the javelin. Sandbags not only allow you to work multiple planes, but they can be thrown which significantly raises power production.

From a technical perspective make sure that you as a coach know and understand the technique. Master the teaching progressions. Be sure to allow time in the training program for skill acquisition before adding significant loading. Also teach and preferably train the movements in a non-fatigued state. Adapt the method to the athlete, not the athlete to the method. Remember you are not training Olympic lifters; you are training athletes who use the Olympic lifts and derivatives to raise explosive power.


I might as well chime in on David Beckham. I will start by saying that I think he is a great player who manages to live up to his billing. I have always liked him, especially in his prime with Manchester United. Is he the salvation of American and the MLS – no he is not. Is he over the hill – not yet, but he looking down the other side of the hill right now. The number of games he has played and the intensity of the games he has played are catching up. The little niggling injuries just do not heal as fast. There are some other factors to remember: Soccer is a team game, he does not have the same quality of players around him he did in England and Spain. Apparently he will play as a central midfielder which will help, so he will control the ball more. Second the quality of the pitches (fields) that they play on in the MLS in general are inferior. They are crowned American football fields in many cases and a very rough surface. They are not the manicure pitches you see in the Premier league or La Liga. His coach with the Galaxy, Frank Yallop, is very good and he understands what it is about. The trainer Ivan Perieria is also very good, he will have his hands full keeping him healthy. I hope this grand experiment works out and brings positive attention to the great game of soccer.

Innovation or Imitation

Does claiming to have invented something or patenting something or copyrighting something make you an innovator? Are you an innovator when you copy other people’s ideas and methods and call them your own? My thoughts on this were stimulated yesterday when I got a press release entitled:

Mark Verstegen, Internationally Recognized Innovator and Leader in Sports Performance Trainer Media Tour

So I read on with great curiosity wishing to find out what this great innovator in performance had innovated. This is what blew me away: “Mark motivates through education and is the creator of what the public and industry refers to as "Core Training". The founder of Core Training is eager to educate and can set the record straight on what exactly is Core Training. Mark is available to speak on a variety of topics, bringing the awareness to consumers everywhere. “ After all these years of searching for the meaning of core training and trying to understand the origin of the term it was right there in front of me. Of course Mr. Verstegen created it. Wow! He even has a media tour to tell us about it. I wonder what all that stuff we were doing when he was in diapers was called? It could not have been core training because it had not been invented yet! This is so typical of where we are going today, marketing and hype.


Good Reads

I love to read and I read as much as I can on a variety of subjects. Here are some books that I have read recently and recommend.

The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkim

Waitzkim is the the subject of the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" He shares his ideas on excellence. He was a chess champion and a Push Hands Tai Chi champion

George Kennan: A Study of Character by John Lukacs
George Kennan has been a hero of mine since high school. He was an American diplomat and historian. His writing predicted many of the events in todays world, especially the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Stealing the Wave: the epic struggle between Ken Bradshaw & Mark Foo by Andy Martin
I love surfing, even though I only body surf. This is a story of two big wave riders. To me surfing epitomizes athleticism

The Seeds of Innovation: Cultivating the Synergy That Fosters New Ideas by Elaine Dundon
Just as the title describes it.

Weird Ideas That Work: 111/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation by Robert I. Sutton
Sutton is a good writer and someone who really gets it. Applicable to all fields of endeavor.


Proud Dad

My son Curt, just completed his second year of Graduate Architecture School at Rice University. Go to this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/8958643@N05/ to see pictures of his project. View it as a slide show it is cool.

Recovery and Ice Baths

Great comments! I was hoping this would stimulate more discussion. I sincerely think we need to better understand the timing and the effect of the application of various external recovery modalities. We also need to better understand the bodies natural inflammatory response to training stresses. Even if the response is a placebo response that is acceptable.

NSCA 2007 – Observations and Comments

I must admit I left with my head spinning. Not 100% sure what I expected, it had been three years since I last attended the NSCA Convention. The attendance was certainly impressive. The composition of the attendees seemed to be different than three years ago, less personal trainers more people oriented to performance. That also may reflect bias, because you do see what you are looking for. I could not help but contrast what I saw and heard here with what I observed first hand in Australia and some other countries I have been in the past two years. We are stuck in a rut. I still get the feeling that people are looking for the holy grail or the magic bullet that will produce champions. Needless to say to say it is an endless and fruitless pursuit. Despite that there were many people who were hungry to learn and willing to share. I really think a lot of the younger coaches need guidance so that they do not make the same mistakes that many of us made following the functional path. I am not really sure the best to do this. There is so much hype and commercialism that confuses the issue.

I was only able to attend four presentations because of conflicts with my talk and appointments. The talk I attended on Core Stabilization was disappointing. The talk on Endurance and Strength Training was good, but I am not sure the strength training for the endurance athlete has to be Olympic lifting. Clive Brewers talk was good but once again was very oriented toward strength perspective. Strength is one biomotor quality, certainly important, but very interdependent on the other qualities. I wish I could have attended more of the research presentations. I thought the research poster presentations were outstanding, I wish they would have remained up for the whole conference in order to have time to study them more.

What I resented in the past and it is still there are the presentations that are sales presentations. There is no place for that in a professional convention. If I want infomercials I will stay home and watch television. One presentation went so far as to tell the audience to come to their booth to get the handouts. I had to have my handouts in by May1! I think every speaker should be required to provide full disclosure as to who they receive money from for endorsements. Another solution is to have an afternoon of product demonstrations. Everyone gets 30 minutes to peddle thierr wares. I realize everyone has to make a living. I acknowledged Perform Better as my sponsor that was enough.

For me the best part of the convention was the professional interchange and exchange of ideas with colleagues. Saturday afternoon I was able to visit with some of the Aussie and the guys from ASPIRE in Qatar, a great group of young professionals, one of the highlights for me. My highlight was getting to do a From the Field presentation with Steve Odgers. Steve and I do not get to do much together anymore so that was fun.

I came away convinced more than ever that the field needs definition – it must be Athletic Development. I hope my talk made the point and got people thinking. Getting strong is easy – developing an athlete is hard – it demands that you follow the functional path in order that the training transfers into performance. See Tracy Fobers post on the convention ironmaven.blogspot.com/


2007 NSCA Presentation

The following is the introduction and summary of my presentation at the 2007 NSCA Conference. I will post my comments on the conference tomorrow.

Following the Functional Path

Everything that is old is new again






Define the field of Athletic Enhancement

What I am going to say may not be particularly profound if you look at the individual parts of this presentation; but when you step back and look at the whole presentation you will learn.

Let’s use today as a jumping-off point. This is where we are:

The bottom-line tends to be the bottom-line

The focus is on “super” exercises and “magic muscles”

The means and the end are not connected

“Not only is the old becoming today’s new…most coaches do not know what the old was.” Kevin McGill

Yesterday is gone – the future is now

Learn from the past – Successes as well as failures

The Story

Following the Functional Path to Building and Rebuilding the Complete Athlete

Change is constant

Coaches lead change

Coaches = “Change engineers” Kelvin Giles

Building on Old Concepts

Are we limiting ourselves?

Is it evolution or revolution?

Back to the future – Very little that is new

Buzzwords, Fads, Myths, Half Truths, and Lies

Functional Training Core Training/Stabilization

Closed Chain Alignment

Stability Ab Obsession

Lactate & Soreness Need to “Feel the Burn”

Fit for what? Aerobic Base

Good Feet Fooling `em with the 40

Machines are safer Rotation is dangerous


Early specialization

Lack of fundamental movement skills and a general fitness base

Extended competitive seasons

Decline in quality of coaching

Dominance of equipment – Marketing

Explosion of injuries

Recommendations to Define the Field

Do not trivialize – Do not try to pick the fly poop out of the pepper

Seek knowledge rather than information

Specialize in being a generalist

Get a mentor not a guru

Achieve mastery

Be a leader, not a follower

Understand the spectrum of the demands in the sport you are working with

Training is more than exercises and training methodology – it is application of the principles of sport science and sound pedagogy

Beware of the “Sheep Walking” phenomenon

Think, Think, Think

Ultimately it is about the athlete – We must not forget that


Style or Substance

The following from Tom Peters blog speaks volumes about today’s world. It is not about substance and results it is about hype and marketing. This reminds of the gurus we have in the performance field!

"You're fired"?

A $10,000 investment in "Mr Trump's empire" in 1994 when it went public would result in a valuation of $636 today. (Source: NY Times/Business Day 0706.2007)


Tom Peters posted this on 07/09.
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Ice Baths

This was in todays BBC Sports, makes you think. Are sheep walking or does this really help?

Sports star ice baths questioned
Lee Childs
The research challenges the no pain, no gain theory
Paula Radcliffe may say they are the secret of her success, but Australian research is questioning the benefits of taking an ice bath after exercise.

Physiotherapists recommend the bath as a way to speed up recovery, claiming the icy cold helps shift lactic acid.

But this is unproven, and a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine now claims the opposite may be true.

Out of 40 volunteers, those who took an icy plunge reported more pain after 24 hours than those who took a tepid bath.

Tepid response

Ice baths have become one of the most fashionable ways of recovering after an intense game or marathon. From rugby to tennis players, the bath has a series of celebrity endorsers.

The theory is that the icy cold causes the blood vessels to tighten, and drains the blood along with waste products such as lactic acid out of the legs.

When Jonny Wilkinson or Paula Radcliffe emerge from the bath, their limbs fill up with fresh blood which invigorates the muscles with oxygen and helps the cells repair.

Ice-water immersion offers no benefit for pain, swelling, isometric strength and function, and in fact may make more athletes sore the next day

Although physiotherapists who promote the bath have had little evidence to prove this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from the athletes themselves that the bath makes them feel better.

In line with this theory, the study carried out at the University of Melbourne had expected to find a 25% reduction in pain after 48 hours among those who had the ice immersion.

Instead it found that there was no difference in physical pain measurements such as swelling or tenderness, and in fact those who had been in the ice reported more pain when going from a sitting to a standing position after 24 hours than those who had the tepid treatment.

"This study challenges the use of ice-water immersion in athletes," wrote the researchers.

"Ice-water immersion offers no benefit for pain, swelling, isometric strength and function, and in fact may make more athletes sore the next day."

It was unclear why the ice may had this effect, and the researchers said further study was needed.

John Brewer, Director of the Lucozade Sports Science Academy, said he did not find it surprising that there was no difference between the two samples.

"I don't find it hard to believe that the ice doesn't have any long-term benefit, although I would question whether the ice group really did feel more pain after 24 hours than the tepid group. The problem with pain is that it is subjective and very hard to measure," he said.

"And because it's subjective, there may even be a placebo effect on those who take the cold bath. It's part of their ritual, it finishes off the endurance test, and many clearly report that it makes them feel better."

Context – Context – Context

I have posted on this most important concept many time, but here goes another shot. It is always all about context. The discussion on the squat brings this to the fore. It is not about the squat, or any exercise for that matter. It is the context that exercise is used and applied. That is my number one rule of thumb when designing training. I learned some cool exercises at the Level III coaching school, but I have to have a cooling off period to decide if they apply and when they apply to my system of training. Do not ever forget context!

Survive or Thrive – That is the question?

The other day I was watching a swimming workout. There were six or eight world class swimmers and about twenty national class swimmers. While watching the workout I was struck with the thought – How many of the swimmers are surviving the workout to come back and swim again for the next workout and how many are thriving on the workout? The world class group was OK but what about the others? I think this is a fair question to ask when you have group training. I am always concerned about how the individual is going to react in a group training situation. I know I have that everyday I work with volleyball, this summer I have had up to forty girls by myself, and someone or something will always fall between the cracks. Ideally I would like to see everyone thrive on the workout and achieve positive adaptations but that is easier said than done. Addressing individual needs in a group context is always important, but difficult.


Get Real

Some of the comments on squatting are absurd. The squat is a basic foundational exercise that is the cornerstone of any sound strength training program. It is not a ¼ squat it is a full squat – that is a snapshot of the whole movemnt. In my estimation this young lady has acceptable technique for where she is in her development. As far as getting under a bar – that is the muscle head way. We are integrating strength training with technical training to produce better volleyball athletes, therefore the sandbag is the most practical way to achieve this. It is not how much you lift that matters it is how much strength you can use! It is not about the exercise it is the concept.


A Few Thoughts

When instituting change make small changes in many areas rather than massive change in one area.

Basic skill exceptionally well rather than exceptional skill basically well

Be superior in skills and invincible in attitude

Venice Volleyball Squatting

“What are these girls doing with sand bags? Hope one of them is not squatting with the bag? Because her technique looks poor.” Thanks for the observation – She is squatting - what is good technique?

Words Comments

I will hold by remedial. That is what the exercises are. The athlete is at a lower level of proficiency in certain area. Once again let’s stop worrying about hurting their feelings. Jose Reyes was given a set of remedial exercises to do everyday after his hamstring problems. He is now National League starting all star shortstop and has led the National League in stolen bases the last two years. It has to be remedial. www.gambetta.com/resources He knew it was remedial and he knew he needed it. Another one is movement prep, what’s wrong with good old fashioned warm-up? Movement prep is another guru term, it just complicates things. Just warm-up!

There was another comment on the post I found interesting “So how do you develop Athleticism with out strength training?” My answer is who ever said you do not strength train. Strength training is one piece of a big puzzle, certainly an important piece. It has different degrees of importance for different athletes’ at different times of their career.


Words Into Images, Images Into Action

Here are three words that I feel should be eliminated from the lexicon of training. If you eliminate something then you should replace it with something better, in this case I have carefully selected terms that more accurately describe the ultimate desired action. I was taught a long time ago that words create images in the mind, and that those images are then transferred into action. Therefore we should be exacting and accurate in the words we select.

Strength & Conditioning

Replace it with Athletic Development, this creates an image of athleticism and a blending of all components of performance not just two components.


Replace it with Planned Performance Training, because it is about timing of the development of the components of training and the subsequent adaptation to those components.


Replace it with Remedial; every athlete needs certain remedial work to prevent injury and to correct certain deficiencies. That work is remedial because it precedes more complex work to follow.


Juan Carlos Osorio – Head Coach Chicago Fire

I am so excited and happy, there are not words to express how I feel. My good friend and professional colleague Juan Osorio was named Head Coach of the Chicago Fire in the MLS. I cannot think of anyone more deserving or anyone who has paid his dues to be able to coach at this level than Juan. When I first met Juan ten years he told me his goal was to be a head coach in the MLS. At that time he was coaching semipro soccer in the parks in New York City. I must say that in my professional career I have seldom met anyone as determined to be the best he can be as Juan. He came to the US not speaking a word of English so he memorized ten words a day out of the dictionary until he learned the language. He took a year out and went to England to earn a masters Degree in the Science of Football from Liverpool John Moores University. During that year he traveled all over Europe to study the methods of all the top teams. He also has earned his UEFA A License and the highest FA Coaching license. He came back to the US and was an assistant with the Metro Stars and then took the job a job as fitness coach and eventually assistant coach with Manchester City in the English Premier League. This last year he returned to his native Columbia to coach Millionarios to a fourth place finish and a spot in the playoffs for the spring season. He coaches an attractive style of soccer. I am sure that if Juan is given the time he will have a great positive impact on the Fire and a great impact on the league. This is what US Soccer needs, more people like Juan who truly know the international game from a coaching and a physical preparation perspective. For all you young coaches out there this is an example of the way to do it. You must climb the ladder and pay your dues. Juan did not suck up to anyone or kiss any butt, he worked to make himself so good that no one could ignore him!


USA Track & Field Coaching School

I was privileged to attend the USA Track & Field Coaching at Loyola University in Chicago from June 30 to July 3. I attended the presentations by Frans Bosch to Sprints and Jumps group. He did six presentations on six topics. I found them all very thought provoking and stimulating. He is an individual who literally combines art and science. He is an artist and brings the creativity and the eye of the artist to movement and he is also a scientist with an understanding of biomechanics. There was so much information that I need time to digest it all. Here are a few thoughts that I gleaned from his presentations:

  • Use science carefully – combine good practice and science
  • Anatomy (Structure of the body) is important; it is not just kinetics and kinematics. He approaches movement from an anatomical point of view. ( I kept thinking back to the work of Richard Lieber, who approaches movement in a similar manner)
  • No strict rules about form – but building blocks from anatomy and biomechanics
  • Individualization is the key
  • Wrong to consider basic motor properties independently, they are all interrelated.
  • Intermuscular coordination is the most important factor in performance
  • Strength is a function of coordination
  • Strength Training is coordination training under increased resistance
I will post more on his ideas as I have time to review my notes and reflect on his ideas. It is always great to have your ideas challenged. It was also great to be able to have to visit Gary Winckler and Jim Radcliffe, two of the best coaches I know. They always get me inspired.