Trivialization of Training

Just because you are an elite athlete do you really need a stretching coach, a strength coach, a massage therapist, a technique coach, a speed coach and a conditioning coach? I came a across an article about an elite athlete the other day who was taking this approach. This is actually quite common. Isn’t this a little over the top? I wonder if they all have certifications for their specialties. From a practical standpoint how do you connect all of these? Who is the captain of this ship? In the instances where I have seen this none of the specialists are communicating with each other on a regular basis, therefore what you really have is total confusion, not solid training. Somehow this model has taken hold and each athlete has a posse of specialists. I witnessed this first hand a couple of years ago where the athletes where getting therapy several times a day. If that is necessary then there is something with the training. Even at the elite level it is about basics, getting fundamental things done on a consistent basis. When you lose sight of that it is no longer training.


Notre Dame High School

I had a great visit to Notre dame High School in Sherman Oaks California. That make two weekends in row I have been able to meet with high school coaches who really get it. In Jacksonville Sid Maxwell from Sequoyah High School in Canton Georgia came down to hang with the rugby guys. Sid came to the third seminar I did in 1992 and has been implementing the concepts ever sense. Nick Garcia is the Athletic Coach, also coach’s freshman football and is the throws coach at Notre Dame, he is a young coach with a tremendous background in training. The athletes at these two schools are lucky to have coaches like this who really care and are always willing to learn. It was so refreshing to go two weekends without hearing a, can’t do that or I already do that. Joe McNab the track coach and defensive backs coach at Notre Dame was also there. He is great coach, having won several CIF Track championships. He has had several boys under 10.5 in the 100 meters, but his passion in track in the 400 meters. We had a great time talking 400 meter training and helping to fine tune his program. The interesting thing that struck me at Notre dame is that all but four of their football players compete in track. They still do the off season lifting in the morning and do their other football stuff, but they train for and compete in track. I am not seeing that here in my part of Florida and other places in the country. On the flight back I could help but reflect on how lucky the athletes at Notre dame to have coaches like this. It also reminded me that is it is about people not facilities, they have fine facilities, but it is the expertise, passion and enthusiasm of the coaches that is the real secret.


Thought for the Day

You are not leading if no one is following.

Australia Day

Happy Australia to my mates down under wish I were to help celebrate. The following is from the Writers Almanac for those of you who are unfamiliar with Australia day.

Today is Australia Day, the day on which Australians celebrate the establishment of the first British settlement in that country in 1788. Captain James Cook had been the first European to discover the island continent in 1770, and he informed the British government that it might make a good place for a settlement. By 1780, Great Britain's prisons were growing overcrowded because they had lost their colonies in America, which was where they had been sending prisoners. So they decided to start sending convicts to Australia, which was then called New South Wales.

The first shipment consisted of about 730 convicts, among them highway robbers, jewel thieves, and a woman who had tried to steal 24 yards of black silk lace. The military guards carried no ammunition, so that their guns could not be used against them in a mutiny. Two attempted mutinies were put down during the voyage. Forty-eight people died before they reached their destination, which was considered a remarkably successful survival rate. They arrived on this day in 1788 and settled an area they called Sydney Cove, around which would grow the city of Sydney.



Each training year with each group that I work with I have a global theme. This year with the 2008 Venice Volleyball team the theme is Connections. Last year it was ICE – Intensity, Concentration and Effort. I chose connections because that is precisely what we want to do, make connections. Make connections from the exercises to the movements they execute in volleyball skills and make connections between all the links in the body to get everything working together. I try to take advantage of this theme to remind them of why they are doing exercises, in essence to make it more mindful rather than mindless work. It amazing to see the returning players get it, for the young freshmen it is still a bit too abstract, for them it is still work, but they will get it.

More Rollers

Let be clear about one thing props like foam rollers cannot be a focal point. They are just that, props. In the scheme of a training system and in the smaller scheme of the actual workout they are a small segment of the big picture. I am bothered when in my travels I see foam rollers the focal point of a warm-up. They are a remedial tool to be used sparingly and individually. In 1996 with the Tampa Mutiny professional soccer team I had six players that had a five minute routine on rollers to address specific issues that had never been addressed in their careers. They were veteran players who had developed some serious issues in then hip and groin area. The point is that this tool worked well for those players in that time and place, but there was no universal application to the rest of the team.

Off to California

Today I am off to California to do staff development the next two days with Notre dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. Nick Garcia, the athletic development coach and assistant track coach is bringing me out. I am psyched for this; my passion is the developmental athlete, so anything I can do to help at this level gets me excited. Then Monday I am off to Santa Barbara to visit friends and family. I saw this quote from the author Edward Abbey, it reminded me why I love and miss California Where I grew up and began my coaching career: “There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And there is California.”


Holy Rollers!

Rolling around on a foam roller is not warm-up. Forget all that activation crap and get back to a real warm-up that gets everything connected. This is another fad that creates a dependency on a piece of foam roller, you don’t need it, learn to tune into your body. Sure I use foam roller, about three minutes in a 7 day microcycle, usually in cooldown for someone who has IT Band issues. Let put the warm-up back into warm-up. Go to my web site www.gambetta.com then go to the resources page for a free download of a dynamic mutli-stage warm-up. Better yet see my DVD, Warm-up and Preparation that covers the warm-up from A to Z. There is even some cooldown foam roller exercises in it.

Excelsior Orthopedic – Functional Path Seminar

Many of you have asked when I will be doing seminars. I am doing a new version of Following the Functional Path Seminar at Excelsior Orthopedics in Buffalo New York, March 29 & 30, 2008. This is the only seminar I am doing this spring that is open to the public. Excelsior Sports Training is hosting this seminar; they are part of the GAIN Network. (excelsiorortho.com/est) This is a great venue, with adequate space that affords lots of opportunity for active leaning situations. This is designed for Physical Therapists, Athletic trainers, Athletic Development coaches, personal trainers, and sport coaches. NATA and NSCA CEUs. For information and enrollment contact Ron Brissette at rbrissette@excelsiorortho.com or call 716-250-6500. Hope you can make it.


South Sydney Workout

This is an attempt by a certified luddite to post a video for the first time.


I just found out that needed a certification to teach jump rope. What should I do? Same thing to use kettlebells, I am very confused. How have I been able to coach without these certifications? Is it really about letters after your name? There is nothing wrong with certification if it is meaningful, but with the plethora of certifications out there how do we know what is meaningful?

Undulating Periodization - The Reality

Why does Periodization or as I prefer to call it Planned Performance Training (PPT) have to be either linear or undulating? Frankly in my application of the principles of planned performance training for 39 years I have observed that adaptation is always undulating. The body does nothing in a linear manner, so therefore all Periodization is undulating. I think this distinction is just another exercise in intellectual gymnastics. You may write a linear program but the response will not be linear. I have analyzed my training results over my coaching career; I have NEVER seen a linear adaptation! Planning is planning; we must remember that it is always about the individual and their adaptive response. Variability and contingency must be built into the plan. Plan, execute the plan, evaluate the plan, revise the plan and execute the revised plan.


Good Article

Don't Just Stand There, Think

New research suggests that we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies

WHEN YOU READ something confusing, or work a crossword puzzle, or try to remember where you put your keys, what do you do with your body? Do you sit? Do you stand? Do you pace? Do you do anything with your hands? Do you move your eyes in a particular pattern?

How you answer questions like these, it turns out, may determine how long it will take for you to decipher what you're reading, solve your puzzle, or get your keys back.

The brain is often envisioned as something like a computer, and the body as its all-purpose tool. But a growing body of new research suggests that something more collaborative is going on - that we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies. A series of studies, the latest published in November, has shown that children can solve math problems better if they are told to use their hands while thinking. Another recent study suggested that stage actors remember their lines better when they are moving. And in one study published last year, subjects asked to move their eyes in a specific pattern while puzzling through a brainteaser were twice as likely to solve it.

The term most often used to describe this new model of mind is "embodied cognition," and its champions believe it will open up entire new avenues for understanding - and enhancing - the abilities of the human mind. Some educators see in it a new paradigm for teaching children, one that privileges movement and simulation over reading, writing, and reciting. Specialists in rehabilitative medicine could potentially use the emerging findings to help patients recover lost skills after a stroke or other brain injury. The greatest impact, however, has been in the field of neuroscience itself, where embodied cognition threatens age-old distinctions - not only between brain and body, but between perceiving and thinking, thinking and acting, even between reason and instinct - on which the traditional idea of the mind has been built.

"It's a revolutionary idea," says Shaun Gallagher, the director of the cognitive science program at the University of Central Florida. "In the embodied view, if you're going to explain cognition it's not enough just to look inside the brain. In any particular instance, what's going on inside the brain in large part may depend on what's going on in the body as a whole, and how that body is situated in its environment."

Or, as the motto of the University of Wisconsin's Laboratory of Embodied Cognition puts it, "Ago ergo cogito": "I act, therefore I think."

The emerging field builds on decades of research into human movement and gesture. Much of the earlier work looked at the role of gestures in communication, asking whether gesture grew out of speech or exploring why people gestured when they were talking on the telephone.

But today, neuroscientists, linguists, and philosophers are making much bolder claims. A few argue that human characteristics like empathy, or concepts like time and space, or even the deep structure of language and some of the most profound principles of mathematics, can ultimately be traced to the idiosyncrasies of the human body. If we didn't walk upright, for example, or weren't warm-blooded, they argue, we might understand these concepts totally differently. The experience of having a body, they argue, is intimately tied to our intelligence.

"If you want to teach a computer to play chess, or if you want to design a search engine, the old model is OK," says Rolf Pfeifer, director of the artificial intelligence lab at the University of Zurich, "but if you're interested in understanding real intelligence, you have to deal with the body."

. . .

Embodied cognition upends several centuries of thinking about thinking. Rene Descartes, living in an age when steam engines were novelty items, envisioned the brain as a pump that moved "animating fluid" through the body - head-shrinkers through the ages have tended to enlist the high-tech of their day to describe the human cognitive system - but the mind, Descartes argued, was something else entirely, an incorporeal entity that interacted with the body through the pineal gland.

While a few thinkers, most notably the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the 1940s, challenged Descartes' mind-body separation, it remained the dominant model up through the 20th century, though its form evolved with the times. After the development of the modern computer in the years after World War II, a new version of the same model was adopted, with the brain as a computer and the mind as the software that ran on it.

In the 1980s, however, a group of scholars began to contest this approach. Fueled in part by broad disappointment with artificial-intelligence research, they argued that human beings don't really process information the way computers do, by manipulating abstract symbols using formal rules. In 1995, a major biological discovery brought even more enthusiasm to the field. Scientists in Italy discovered "mirror neurons" that respond when we see someone else performing an action - or even when we hear an action described - as if we ourselves were performing the action. By simultaneously playing a role in both acting and thinking, mirror neurons suggested that the two might not be so separate after all.

"You were seeing the same system, namely the motor system, playing a role in communication and cognition," says Arthur Glenberg, a professor of psychology and head of the embodied cognition laboratory at Arizona State University.

This realization has driven much of the recent work looking at how moving and thinking inform and interfere with each other. For example, a pair of studies published in 2006 by Sian Beilock, now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, and Lauren Holt, one of her former students, examined how people who were good at certain physical activities thought about those activities.

In one study, Beilock and Holt had college hockey players, along with a non-hockey-player control group, read a sentence, sometimes hockey-related, sometimes not. Then the subjects would be shown a picture and asked if it corresponded with the sentence. Hockey players and non-hockey players alike almost invariably answered correctly, but on the hockey-related sentences the response times of the hockey players were significantly faster than the nonplayers. In a second study, the researchers found similar results with football players. According to Beilock, the difference in response time wasn't a matter of knowledge - after all, all of the subjects in the study got the vast majority of the questions right. What it suggested, Beilock argues, is that the athletes' greater store of appropriate physical experiences served as a sort of mental shortcut.

"People with different types of motor experiences think in different ways," she argues.

These sorts of results aren't simply limited to thinking about sports, or other highly physical activities. A 2003 study by Michael Spivey, a psychology professor at Cornell, and his student Elizabeth Grant, found that people who were given a tricky spatial relations brainteaser exhibited a distinctive and unconscious pattern of eye movements just before they arrived at the answer. The subjects seemed to unconsciously work through the problem by enacting possible solutions with their gaze.

A study published in August by Alejandro Lleras and Laura Thomas, two psychologists at the University of Illinois, built on those results by inducing the eye movements Spivey had discovered. Lleras and Thomas found that doing so greatly improved the rate at which people solved the problem - even though most never figured out that the eye movements had anything to do with it.

"The subjects actually think that the eye-tracking task is very distracting," Lleras says. "They think we're doing this to keep them from solving the problem."

Other studies have looked at non-spatial problems and at memory. Work led by Susan Goldin-Meadow, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, has found that children given arithmetic problems that normally would be too difficult for them are more likely to get the right answer if they're told to gesture while thinking. And studies by Helga Noice, a psychologist at Elmhurst College, and her husband Tony Noice, an actor and director, found that actors have an easier time remembering lines their characters utter while gesturing, or simply moving.

The body, it appears, can subtly shape people's preferences. A study led by John Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, found that subjects (all non-Chinese speakers) shown a series of Chinese ideographs while either pushing down or pulling up on a table in front of them will say they prefer the ideographs they saw when pulling upward over the ones they saw while pushing downward. Work by Beilock and Holt found that expert typists, when shown pairs of two-letter combinations and told to pick their favorite, tend to pick the pairs that are easier to type - without being able to explain why they did so.

What's particularly interesting to neuroscientists is the role that movement seems to play even in abstract thinking. Glenberg has done multiple studies looking at the effect of arm movements on language comprehension. In Glenberg's work, subjects were asked to determine whether a string of words on a computer screen made sense. To answer they had to reach toward themselves or away from themselves to press a button.

What Glenberg has found is that subjects are quicker to answer correctly if the motion in the sentence matches the motion they must make to respond. If the sentence is, for example, "Andy delivered the pizza to you," the subject is quicker to discern the meaning of the sentence if he has to reach toward himself to respond than if he has to reach away. The results are the same if the sentence doesn't describe physical movement at all, but more metaphorical interactions, such as "Liz told you the story," or "Anne delegates the responsibilities to you."

The implication, Glenberg argues, is that "we are really understanding this language, even when it's more abstract, in terms of bodily action."

Some linguists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers go further - arguing that the roots of even the most complex and esoteric aspects of human thought lie in the body. The linguist George Lakoff, of the University of California, Berkeley, along with Rafael Nunez, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, have for several years advanced the argument that much of mathematics, from set theory to trigonometry to the concept of infinity, derives not from immutable properties of the universe but from the evolutionary history of the human brain and body. Our number system, they argue, and our understanding of addition and subtraction emerge from the fact that we are bipedal animals that measure off distances in discrete steps.

"If we had wheels, or moved along the ground on our bellies like snakes," Lakoff argues, "math might be very different."

These ideas have met intense opposition among mathematicians, but also among some cognitive scientists, who believe they reflect an overreaching reading of a promising but still sketchy set of experimental results.

"I think these findings are really fantastic and it's clear that there's a lot of connection between mind and body," says Arthur Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. He remains skeptical, though, that the roots of higher cognition will be found in something as basic as the way we walk or move our eyes or arms.

"Any time there's a fad in science there's a tendency to say, 'It's all because of this,"' Markman says. "But the thing in psychology is that it's not all anything, otherwise we'd be done figuring it out already."

While embodied cognition remains a young field, some specialists believe that it suggests a rethinking of how we approach education. Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, says that one possibility is to take another look at the educational approach that Italian educator Maria Montessori laid out nearly 100 years ago, theories that for decades were ignored by mainstream educators. A key to the Montessori method is the idea that children learn best in a dynamic environment full of motion and the manipulation of physical objects. In Montessori schools, children learn the alphabet by tracing sandpaper letters, they learn math using blocks and cubes, they learn grammar by acting out sentences read to them.

To Lillard, the value of embodied cognition in education is self-evident.

"Our brains evolved to help us function in a dynamic environment, to move through it and find food and escape predators," she says. "It didn't evolve to help us sit in a chair in a classroom and listen to someone and regurgitate information."

Sway Drill

Yes they were doing an adaptation of the sway drill. To learn how to do the sway drill also called the Oregon Shift Drill go to page 248-49 of my book Athletic Development – The Art and Science of Functional Sports Conditioning. I learned this drill from Jim Radcliffe at University of Oregon.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

This past weekend I visited with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Jacksonville. They are over to play Leeds from England in an exhibition match. I was first able to visit with Vince Kelly, Head Strength and Conditioning coach and Grant Duthie, his assistant when I was in Australia last May. At that time I was able to attend a game. This time I was able to attend three training sessions. It certainly is great to see dedicated professionals at work. They take a total Athletic development approach to a very physically demanding game. In the workout I saw and the plan they went over with me they do a fine job of blending strength, power, aerobic and anaerobic endurance, speed and agility. They never lose sight of the fact that they are preparing for a series of high speed collisions for 80 minutes with only ten substitutions’ allowed. This was a very athletically fit group of players, as you will see from the pictures. You cannot carry any excess fat when you have to do the amount of running they do and play 80 minutes. Each session ended with extensive static stretching and some form of recovery either pool or ice bath. I would also like to thank Errol Alcott, Athletic Performance Coordinator and Jason Taylor, the head coach for allowing me total access to the workout. It was an enjoyable weekend, a little bit of Australia.


Dave Reddin Interview

Dave Reddin is the former head conditioning coach for the English National Rugby team. It is generally acknowledged that his innovations in conditioning for Rugby Union were a major factor in the English 2003 World Cup win. Dave was educated at Loughborough University, universally recognized as the "cradle of coaches" for it's renowned physical education curriculum.

What are most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program?
A thorough needs analysis of the sport, and the position the athlete plays within that sport, allied to a comprehensive profile of the athlete – top to toe, heart to head, background to foreground.

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning? Assuming what works for one, works for all. Not understanding the concept of thresholds of need in conditioning i.e. string enough, fast enough etc, not as strong as you can make them, fast as you can make them etc. Overall, perhaps related to the above question, failure to work with others in an inter-disciplinary team. So many people work in silos – S & C in the gym, coaches on the field, nutritionists in the lab etc – sharing information in the profile is the most important concept and the least well practiced.

What is "functional training" from your point of view? I try to keep it simple – it needs to be so I can understand it. Functional for me means training what makes a difference to performance (in every respect), not training what you are good at training. Functional is a bout, therefore understanding the sport and finding the simplest way to get the most performance improvement in the minimum time for the athlete, so they have maximum time available for all the other stuff they need to do.

What do you do to make training more functional? Analyse – video, biomechanics, talking to coaches and athletes, previous programmes, movement patterns. I then try to get to the fundamental movements and actions and energy systems which matter. To make something more functional, I don’t necessarily make it look more like the sport, but the fundamental movements, actions and energy systems must relate. i.e. I can do a functional conditioning session for a skier on a rowing machine.

How important is specificity? Generally, it’s really important to me, but specificity is not the same as ‘looks like’. Specificity in terms of fundamental movements, specificity of muscle actions, speed specificity, energy system specificity are really important to me. However, there will be times, with certain athletes, with limited training time, and limited history, where I will hit them hard generally, by which I suppose I mean I build a base for them – professional soccer players are a good example here. Their strength history is very limited, so I may include exercises which are incredibly non-specific to their activity, just to get some horsepower into the system. This for me has produced great results as the gym time vs the pitch time is so limited. We end up with a combination of very general in the gym, and very specific on the field.

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it? In many ways, true power training is tough, or at least has been in the past. Athletes thrive on feedback in my experience, and so lifting something maximum feels good as they can see the load increasing week by week. Without feedback, lifting, throwing or dragging moderate loads really explosively, it can be tough to engage the athlete and I think in the past this area has suffered as a result. Using feedback systems, e.g. jump mats, micro-muscle lab, Rob Newtons Ballistic measurement systems etc really helps in this regard as it gets the athlete engaged through competition with themselves and the rest of the squad.

With the plethora of information available how can you determine what is best? Read it all, be sceptical of it all, and keep coming back and challenging your basic principles. I normally assume, rightly or wrongly, that if something is heavily publicised and advertised, then its probably too good to be true. Whilst I am a disciple of the placebo effect, I also know that much of what is promoted as cutting edge with joe public doesn’t work with bill elite. I also spend a lot of time talking to old experienced guys like you Vern who’ve been there, tried most of it, and generally save me a lot of time!

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can training make? The potential to be a champion is in the genes, but the environment determines whether someone makes it or not. The wrong training can make a huge difference! With the best athletes, I think we must constantly assess what we can really add, unless we understand their sport as they do. Many coaches suffer by forcing their doctrine on their athlete. I think I’m always surprised about how little of the right training it takes to make a significant difference, and how much of the wrong stuff it takes before things go really wrong. In other words, training is the icing on the cake for the best athletes, whose talent tends to win through almost in-spite of the training sometimes. I also believe, the less talent the athlete has, the more difference training can make.

What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice? They are always proclaiming how good they are instead of letting the results speak for themselves. The real gurus are the ones no-one knows.

What do you differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning? Nothing – same process – assess the individual requirements and profile and build the plan

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes? Biggest innovation? – would have to say the internet and the ability to communicate more easily and access information. Biggest room for innovation – feedback in training and monitoring of athletes

What's the biggest issue in training athletes today? Young athletes who get too much done for them too early and who fail to appreciate the need for pure hard work

Who has been a role model in your career and why? My good friend Craig White – he is constantly looking for different approaches and information, inspires his athletes and has great standards

What are the biggest professional challenges have you had to face? Working (now) in new sports where the coaches are close-minded and require significant education and re-education. Also the challenge of working effectively but remotely from athletes – technology is a great help, but there is never a real replacement to hands on

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Dislike? Like : the challenge of sport and of understanding what it is about each person you work with that can make a difference to them. The buzz of competition.
Dislike : Administration! Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a "fork in the road?" If so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or
didn't make? Recently when after leaving England rugby after 10 years I had to decide whether to stay in the game, or to look at other sports. Not as simple as it sounds when you’ve perhaps become institutionalised! Havent regretted moving on from rugby for a second. I had great and life changing experiences there, but to apply your principles elsewhere is a bigger challenge. I’ve learned so much in the last 12 months – wish I’d done it earlier!

What inspired you to get into the field you are in? If you can’t play (to a high enough level)…… coach!

Is failure ever valuable? It should always be valuable if the reflection is honest and open-minded. Great lessons get learnt from failure. However, I do think most people, teams and coaches spend way too much time analysing failure and attempting to learn the lessons from it, but hardly any time analysing success (their own and that of others). There is at least as much to learn from that, its just that we are so often so busy enjoying being successful, we don’t always acknowledge the reasons for it at the time. That can be dangerous when failure comes, as it always does at some time, as you may find yourself throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Which changes now taking place in your field that should be
encouraged, and which resisted?
Encourage : greater sharing of information, and much greater applied research i.e. problem solving research. I would love to see more of an approach in sport which relies more on case studies from elite athletes as opposed to some of the nonsense that comes from some of the more academic studies. Statistical significance can be a severe barrier to progress in sport – the margins are much smaller than science can often reveal, and the population specificity of any study also calls into question the application of many of the findings to real world elite sport. We would all learn more if more coaches were prepared to share case studies of their own experiences with elite athletes.
Resist : Gimmickry and packaging of simple concepts into complex marketing spin. If you want to get strong, lift a heavy rock, ……………if you want to get quick, run fast…….. sometimes we can get too far away from the fundamentals.


Aging Study

A short report on my ongoing aging study, on Wednesday I turned 61 so I decided on Thursday to test myself with a good workout. I have to say this workout made feel 61! I have tight hip flexor but I decided to tough it out and do the workout with my beach volleyball players. The leg circuit was done with a sandbag that was about 20% bodyweight. The little sadistic addition to the leg circuit was the hurdle unders at the conclusion of the leg circuit, needless to say that put the icing on the cake. Today I am driving to Jacksonville (Four Hour Drive) to spend the weekend with the South Sydney Rabbitohs Rugby League team visiting from Australia; I will probably have to stop every fifty miles to stretch my hip flexor. Here is the workout – it was a killer.


Mini Band

Med Ball – Walking Rotations

Lunge & Reach


Standing Core

Jumping Jack Core

Strength Train

KB Swing

3 x 8 Two Arm

High Box SLS 3 x 6 (with Kettlebell)

Dumbbell Complex x 5

High Pull x 6

Alt DB Press x 6 each arm

Db Squat x 6

Db One Arm Row x 6

Leg Circuit x 4 (3 with Sandbag – 1 without load)

SB Squat x 10

SB Lunge x 5 each leg

SB Step-up x 5 each leg

Ice Skater x 10

Hurdle Under x 1 each side

Cooldown & Stretch

Hurdle Overs x 6


Baseball & The Mitchell Report

I have not written too much about the Mitchel report and the fallout from it ( In fact this is probably all I will write). I m trying to figure out if Bud Selig and his merry henchmen are truly clueless or they just do not want to know what is really going on. Either way it is really amazing. How about the medical exemptions? Give me a break! I am astounded at the people not interviewed by Mitchel - they essentially got a free pass. Sport or entertainment , is there any doubt?

Athleticism to the Max

Watch this, it is athleticism to the max. Just imagine if we could all of our athletes to have this level of body awareness and control http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LOKvvcBxVQ


Stephan Wolfram on Simplicity

Stephan Wolfram http://www.stephenwolfram.com asserts that all complex phenomenon are produced by simple rules. Scientists, he says should be striving to uncover the underlying simplicity – not just searching for explanations by carving complex phenomenon into smaller and smaller digestible pieces.


It has almost become trite to say that the body is a kinetic chain with all the parts connected. Every workout reminds me of this. Yesterday I started with Venice girl’s volleyball in preparation for the 2008 season. It was amazing to see the kids who were beginning the second year of the program. They have mastered the ABC’s and the multiplication tables of movement, they can make connections. Contrast this to the freshmen who are beginning the program. In warm-up during the balance single squats you could clearly see the inability to connect. Interestingly enough the girl who had the greatest difficulty with balance and subsequently the single leg squat has a history of knee problems. She came to me after the workout and asked me if I had exercises for her knee. I explained to her that after the second workout I would give her a special remedial routine that would be her volleyball homework, but that it would not focus on the knee. Instead it would emphasize the hip, the ankle and balance. I explained to her that the knee is somewhat helpless because it is stuck in the middle with no place to go. It all comes down to all the pieces working together and connecting to produce efficient coordinated flowing movement. In fact I have decided that out training theme for the year will be connections. I will keep you posted on our progress. This is a great group of young ladies who are willing to challenge themselves and do the work. It will be fun!


I just finished reading a great book called Presentation Zen – Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. I found this book stimulating on two levels, first the improvement of my presentation style and methodology, secondly the application to my day to day to coaching. He has a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that speaks volumes “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It really got me thinking again about simplicity and communicating ideas in coaching. I am convinced that anyone can make something complicated. He stresses the beginners mind or the child’s mind from Zen teaching. The beginner or the child is curious, they have no preconceived notions, they explore and discover. They do not have the limits of prior knowledge of the right way. The experts mind imposes limitations. The expert is confined by their expertise. Somehow in coaching we have gotten to the point where a coach is not an expert unless they can make movement and sport skill mystical and complex. In my experience that is not the functional path, that is a one way dead end street. The essentials of movement are quite simple and beautiful, the body will self organize and adapt to the movement problems that challenge it. As coaches it is our job to help the athlete solve increasingly complex movement problems by giving them the basic skills. Think of fundamental movement skill as the alphabet and multiplication tables of movement. You can’t write a novel if you do not know the alphabet. Emphasize basics, master basics, if you are making it complicated simplify it. If you can’t explain your training philosophy between floors in an elevator it is too complicated. Remember simplicity yields complexity.


CJW Sports Medicine

This past weekend I had the pleasure of doing a staff development session with the ATC’s PT and PTA’s and Athletic Development Staff at CJW sports medicine in Richmond Virginia. This is an amazing group of professionals who have embraced a functional approach to therapy and return to play with great results. I always leave there energized and excited because of the approach they take. They are part of my GAIN Network. From day one they have taken a can do attitude. Never once in the times I have been there have I heard people say we have tried that and it doesn’t work or that is for athletes, it won’t work with the normal population. Go there and you will see workmen’s comp patients doing hurdle walks and stepping stones. They create an atmosphere where the patient can’t help but get better. On Saturday they hosted their first annual Sports Medicine Conference which was a great success. There were over a 100 people in attendance.

Pure Mythology

"Pound for pound, Olympic weightlifters have a greater level of speed-strength than any other class of athletes in all of sport. This fact was made very clear during a massive scientific expedition carried out on the athletes at the Mexico City Olympics in 1964. Sports scientists found that Olympic lifters were able to both vertical jump higher than any class of athletes (including the high jumpers), and run a 25 yard dash faster than any class of athletes (including the sprinters). It seems that every so often this myth gets revived. It is almost of the stature of an urban myth. It is a myth! Stop and think about this logically, what athlete in their right mind would allow themselves to be tested like this at the Olympic games? Second the Mexico City Olympics were in 1968 not 1964. Third to my knowledge the only study on the athletes at an Olympic games aside from biomechanical analysis of competition and some psychological studies was a somatatype study of athletes at the 1964 games. I think the origin of this actually was an Olympic Development camp for high jumpers and shot putters held at Indiana University in the late 1970’s. Everyone was amazed that the shot putters had higher vertical jumps (standing sergeants jump) than the high jumpers. Well da! It reflects specificity of training not who is more powerful. High jumpers have to train to convert horizontal velocity into vertical velocity off of one foot. Sure Olympic weight lifters can generate tremendous power but it is specific to the plane and pattern of movement that they compete in. Let’s try to stop these inane comparisons and think about what we have to do to train athletes to be better at their sports. Remember create athletes’ that are adaptable not adapted. The goal of training is to be the best you can be in your competitive environment not the weight room. It must transfer.

From Poet Robinson Jeffers

"[Nature] knows the people are a tide That swells and in time will ebb, and all Their works dissolve ... As for us: We must uncenter our minds from ourselves; We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident As the rock and ocean that we were made from."


New Web Page

Check out the www.gambetta.com It has been revised and upgraded. It is now much easier to buy with a revised shopping cart. Please feel free to contribute to my retirement fund by buying a DVD or a book.


A few years ago a group of us were talking about athleticism so I asked the group for a definition. No one could define it, they described it but it was not a definition. I could not find a formal definition that I thought adequately defined athleticism so with input from some of my colleagues I came up with a definition, this is the latest permutation of that definition. Your reactions or comments would be appreciated. Athleticism is the ability to execute athletic movements (run, jump, throw) at optimum speed with precision, style and grace while demonstrating technical competency in the context of your sport. It is easy to see to see it when someone has it. The challenge is to train it.


Kenneth Graham Interview

One of the high points from of my trip to Australia last year was getting time to visit with Kenneth Graham, Principal Scientist - New South Wales Institute of Sport. He is a really bright guy who gets it.He understands that his role as a sports scientist is to support the coach. My conversations with him really got my wheels turning.

What are most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program? Having a plan… determining what is your outcome and putting the basics in place so when you do the specifics you are getting the most bang for your buck. For example:

If you need to lift heavy to get a performance gain through improved strength or power first make sure your technique is bullet proof.

If you are doing repeated sprints for team sport conditioning do some underpinning work for some lactate tolerance so you can get through the repeated sprint session

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning? It is generally easier to write a training program than do it. There is potentially to much work put into the training program of developing athletes by coaches and trainers. Try the sessions you write….. it changed my attitude to the development of training sessions

How important is specificity? For me specificity means both doing the training that will provide you with the gains you are after and doing the right training at the right phase of your training.

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it? The balance between getting the athlete technically efficient and physically developed…… I have tried to address it by hanging around some of the best coaches in the world and looked at how they have done it.
It was a benefit of being in Sydney prior to the 2000 Olympics.. .there were some of the best coaches from many countries across multiple sports…..

With the plethora of information available how can you determine what is best? I look for consistency in the information whether it be verbal advice or from reading journal articles, having it backed by evidence increase my confidence in using the information. If you talk to top level sprint coaches a large percentage of what they say is similar…. I would back this as being the key message

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can training make? Your genetics determines the limits to your potential; your training determines if you reach them….. and the combination of all of all of them produces a competition performance. I have seen many athletes with the characteristics of a world champion… a lot less who do the work and become one

What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice? For me the better the information the more likely it is to come as advice or with caveats. The more the person says “this is the only way to do it” the less likely that is the case.

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes? Most probably two. These are the realization and recognition that the intensity of the work is the key to stimulating the adaptation that you are after…. And the leading of training adaptation with the focus on technique.

What is the biggest room for innovation? Most probably understanding how training stimulates the adaptive process

Who has been a role model in your career and why? A hard one… a combination of coaches and scientists…. The coaches who put their athletes first. Coaches and scientist who were open to accepting the knowledge of others and open in giving their knowledge away….

What are the biggest professional challenges have you had to face? Learning how to turn science speak into coach speak… turning what I know into information useful to others.

Which changes now taking place in your field that should be encouraged, and which resisted? A colleague presented at a conference recently and he pushed the idea that sport scientists are now hiding behind technology and not getting out there and pushing forward with knowledge….. Get out and use your knowledge and don’t hide behind technology.


More Variation

Absolutely variation is part of Progression. It should be planned. Good systematic variation allows continued adaptation. In order to,optimize variation it is necessary to closely monitor training. It is necessary to be there and see how the athlete responds to the stress. Another thought is that variation must be built into the individual training session. It is very easy to become stagnant and do everything in the same order all the time. Systematically change things up.


Fundamental Rules of Athletic Development

The Fundamental Rules of Athletic Development are:

Train Linkage - The body is a link system. Movement occurs from toe nails to finger nails. Reinforce the connection of the links at every opportunity.

Think & Train the Big Picture - Training is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. If you do not know what the completed puzzle looks like then it is impossible to know where the pieces fit. To build the complete athletes never lose sight of the big picture!

Spectrum Train- All the physical capacities that we train occur across a spectrum to effectively train any of the physical proprieties the whole spectrum of each capacity must be training.

Know the Sport - You must thoroughly understand the sport you are training for. It is imperative to know the physical demands and the basic movements in order to effectively prepare the athletes for those demands.

Know the Athletes - Each athlete brings unique qualities to their sport. Know those qualities and help the athlete fir those qualities to the sport.

Context is everything! - Everything you do in training must be in context of the plan, the sport and the athlete. Training out of context is not effective training.


Systematic planned and programmed variation will avoid stagnation and continue to force adaptation. Therefore:

Vary The Load

Vary the Mode

Vary the Rest

The human organism is highly adaptable so it must be continually challenged with new stresses and increasingly challenging movement problems to solve.


Fail Forward

Yesterday I had lunch with some friends that I used to coach with, with the White Sox. The topic of conversation turned to why one pitcher who threw 95 miles an hour with great stuff could be a closer and another pitcher who threw the same with great stuff could not. The conclusion was interesting – the closers mentality was that he was not afraid to fail. If he gave up a game winning home run he analyzed what went wrong, processed it and forgot about it. The other dwelled on it. After lunch when I was reflecting on the conversation I could not help but think of Tom Peters, the management gurus, concept of failing forward. You don't succeed and progress if you don't take chances and try new things. To be a great athlete you have be willing to risk. You never make the shot you don’t take. It reminded of the end of the Patriots game the other night when Tom Brady threw a pass to Randy Moss that was dropped. What did he do? On the very next play he threw a touchdown pass to Randy Moss! I am convinced that it takes that gunfighter mentality, an inner strength to be the best.

False Prophets Bearing Gifts

I received this from a friend of mine yesterday. This certainly is in concert with my rants about the perils of the Internet. The bottom line is that you still have to do your homework. You need to know exactly what you are looking for. Do not relay on one source. The problem that he is facing is that the coaches do a quick Google search and now think they have the answer as to how to condition their athletes. Instant information is not the answer!

So, I looked up XYZ and weighted ball throwing...here is the problem, the
internet has no filter. With a good marketing team and nobody checking
outrageous claims and disinformation a coach is bombarded with poor information.
Just type in "weighted ball throwing injuries" into Google and all you will get
are ads supporting the concept and defending it against claims that it is
detrimental. When I first typed it in, I went through four pages of links and
not one had good information. How many coaches do you think go beyond this to
find training ideas!! It is the blind leading the blind. Even XYZ has a
website that still makes outrageous claims on performance enhancement through
his program. I believe I saw a special on Real Sports on HBO on him and how no
major league team will touch him with a ten foot poll. Hey, but a few coaches
doing a quick Google search and we get into the trouble we are in. I am not
holding back anymore, I am going to bombard coaches with accurate literature and
call out anyone who does not have their athletes in here, We have too good of a
staff to be wasting our time here. VIVE LE REVOLUTION!!!


Science Related Values

I saw this on the Scientific American blog http://blog.sciam.com/ To me these are values we all could live by in our work daily.

science related values!!! Dec 30, 2007

quest for knowledge
courage to question
systematic reasoning
acceptance after proof/verification
open mindedness
team spirit

ask 'what', 'how' and' why'
be guided by facts, reasons and logic

does something more needs to be added, or something wrong is written,,,,
do u think somewhere today's youth is lacking...

Posted by dipiii Dec 30, 2007 9:52 AM EST


John Larralde Interview

A great way to kickoff 2008 is an interview with an old friend and colleague. I have known John for close to forty years. I have had the privilege and honor to coach with John. He is a great coach and a teacher. John has focused his work with the developing athlete while at Carpenteria High School and Santa Barbara City College and done a great job. He is now in his second year as assistant coach at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.You will see from his answers the type of coach John is.For the focus is always on the athlete.

What are the most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program? First, knowing the athlete. Their background, experience, ability level, as well as their goals and aspirations. With that in mind have a purpose for everything you do. From start to finish in a session, everything should link together with relation to the next exercise or the next training session, and ultimately toward a conclusion of training whether that is a single season or years of competition.

Adapt the program to suit the range of athletic abilities within the group. Identify their strengths and weaknesses and then adjust your plan to meet the perceived needs. Keep movement requirements of the sport foremost in planning progressions of the training program.

Understand the athletes commitment to the program and plan the regime accordingly. Both coach and athlete must see the plan as a long term map and exercise patience and consistency to achieve the rewards of training.

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning? Doing too much. The athlete should always finish a session feeling that they could do a little more. Working to failure results in failure.

Failing to understand the role of recovery. Remember that all training gains are essentially made during recovery.

Trying to progress too rapidly. Be patient is teaching/learning sport skills.

Shotgun approach. Do what you do well. Don’t try to do so many different things that sport specificity is lost.

Not understanding the relationship between intensity and volume. You can do high level work or high volume work, but not both in a single session.

Training to train and forgetting to prepare for competition.

What is "functional training" from your point of view? Common sense application of exercise and movement to adapt the body to specific athletic events.

What do you do to make training more functional? Try to plan and incorporate training exercises to the specific demands of the competitive events, always working from the ground up.

How important is specificity? It is very important. In conditioning I like a wide range of general athletic movements but they all must relate to specific event actions. It is important to avoid training to train. We must separate the wheat from the chaff.

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it? Most young athletes want quick results. Educating them that a proper training program is long term and progressive is the most difficult aspect of training and also the solution.

With the glut of “information” available from so many uninformed sources, many athletes are looking for the “magic” workout to make an instant breakthrough. They must learn that hard and intelligent work, applied over time is the magic answer.

With the plethora of information available how can you determine what is best? This is a great positive aspect of the internet. I search out periodicals and research papers on the web as well as subscribing to various magazines. The key is to apply rational evaluation to this wealth of information. Some experimentation with ideas is necessary. I have never been too proud to fail to try to adapt experiences and ideas from other coaches.

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can training make? Training can make a huge difference when it is directed and focused. It can be detrimental if it is scattered or improperly implemented. A coach has no influence over DNA however. As incredible as the human organism is, I find it amazing that it is still produced by unskilled labor.

What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice? When the advice proffered is specific to a situation that has not been seen or carefully documented. Most are great self-promoters, but that can’t be the only criteria, because that would include most professional and many major college coaches.

What do you do differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning? Very little difference in training loads. My experience is that many of the females I have coached were of far less training age the males and that certainly changes the work load, but this a function of training age, not gender.

Many of the small females I have worked with had correspondingly high strength to weight ratios and could deal with advanced plyometric work earlier in their progression.

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes? Film technology: Although this is not new, the ability to immediately see what was done in training or competition is a huge bonus. It is available now to everyone. To be able to transfer images via computers and analyze movement has changed coaching. A picture is worth how many words? Until the athletes can see what they are doing, all those words are hot air.

The area for new innovation is the mental aspect of training. This is the untapped portion of the human element with tremendous potential for growth.

What's the biggest issue in training athletes today? Overcoming the plethora of misinformation available to athletes, sending them in search of a replacement for long term hard effort.

Specialization at a very early age. I have seen too many 14 and 15 year olds that have been “used up”. Why must they not only be only football or only baseball (as an example) players at 10 but also be branded forever as guards or second basemen? Get rid of specialized youth programs and let them play; let them be kids.

Who has been a role model in your career and why? Vern Gambetta, who got me started in coaching and taught me to always look for more efficient ways to achieve superior results. I will make no apologies for the recommendation on this blog.

Sam Adams, who continues to show me how to handle life with dignity and grace.

Lou Panizzon, a fine teacher and coach that gave me the opportunity to expand my coaching and who showed that honesty and integrity came before winning.

What are the biggest professional challenges have you had to face? I’m a professional? My biggest frustrations have been trying to convince administrators and other coaches that athletics in education is not about money, wins, championships or points. It is all about student/athletes… it is about people.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Dislike? For 33 years I have said “this is my last season, time to get a real job.”, and now I am excited about finishing my 34th. I like what I do, I like working with young people and sharing their joys and sorrows and seeing them grow as individuals. I have had the chance to meet wonderful people and make lifetime friends. What’s not to like?

Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a "fork in the road?" If so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or didn't make? Yes, there have been numerous forks… too many to examine. I can see no point in reviewing a decision that I cannot remake.

What inspired you to get into the field you are in? I never intended to pursue coaching, it just happened. Lucky me.

Is failure ever valuable? Yes. How can one understand achievement or appreciate success without experiencing failure? We must all learn to deal with failures in order to be able to deal with success. Every competition should be a learning experience, never walk away from competition without taking a lesson from it, be it a successful outcome or not.

Which changes now taking place in your field that should be encouraged, and which resisted? There is a seemingly growing attitude in our society that winning at all costs is not only acceptable but expected. More emphasis should be placed on teaching ethics through sport. There are programs being developed both in academia and private sectors that address this change of values and should be encouraged and emulated elsewhere.



This year begins my 39th year of coaching and teaching. Every year at this time I always reflect on how lucky I have been to have chosen the path that I have traveled. The people that I have met and the experiences that I have had are priceless. 2008 will be a challenging year as I strive to keep innovating and leading change. I am hoping to travel a little less and focus on several projects that I have been working on. The struggle always seems to be to find a balance between my passion for learning, teaching and innovating with the bottom line of having to make a living. The major initiative in 2008 will be the GAIN (Gambetta Athletic Improvement Network) Apprentorship that will begin in June, details to follow soon. This is something I have been working on for several years, I am excited to have it finally all come together. We will also offer an annual Swimming Dryland Training Innovations workshop – the first will be this Spring, most probably at University of Michigan. In late summer or fall Bill Knowles from ISport International and I will be offering a new seminar on Return to Play Strategies – this will focus on rehab and reconditioning. As you can see 2008 will be a busy year. I hope you have the opportunity to join us in one of these educational opportunities. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2008.