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26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 3

In case you missed them, here are parts one and two of my “26 Training Lessons from 26 Years” series.

13. Shut Up and Listen

I have been called a chatterbox, long-winded, and an annoying jackass who doesn’t shut up (among other things). It’s true – I enjoy talking and feel I can have a conversation with nearly anyone I share a language with, but at times it has been detrimental to my career as an athlete and now as a coach. When I was an athlete, I was certain I knew more than enough and could succeed on my own. It wasn’t until I learned to listen to my coaches that I began to truly succeed and my performance improved. As a coach, I have been fortunate to learn from some great mentors in the field. I never would have learned anything from them if I was doing all the talking – it’s not about showing off how much you know, it’s about taking in as much as you can.

14. You Don’t Know a Damn Thing

Going off of number 13 above, it’s unfathomable how much information is out there in strength and conditioning alone, never mind other related fields such as physical therapy, athletic training, etc. I have my methods and training preferences, but they are changing every year when new research comes out or I’ve added a few new wrinkles to my program. With that said, I trust my abilities as a coach to stay up to date with techniques and research, as well as rely on my support network of coaches, athletic trainers, and therapists to provide the best coaching I can for my athletes. Strength and conditioning is one of those professions everyone seems to think they can do, thanks to an occurrence called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I like to relate it to an athlete telling an athletic trainer what their injury is and the form of treatment they need or a patient looking up their symptoms online and telling the doctor what medicine they need. If you are going to a professional, let them do their job – I wouldn’t be half the coach I am today if I stayed convinced I knew everything as an athlete.

15. Don’t Overlook Recovery Work

I touched on this with #5 – Plan Recovery into your Programs, but recovery work is not given enough attention. Training for an hour a day still leaves 23 hours remaining, this is when gains are made. Your training program is the spark of a match whereas the recovery is the wood and coal that actually burns. Individually, they aren’t useful at producing results, but when properly combined you can have a successful training career. Self-myofascial release, hot tubs, flexibility/mobility work, nutrition, sleep, and recovery aids like the EDGE Mobility Bands can help improve results by assisting with recovery from training.

16. Learn to Cook

I was fortunate enough to go to college away from my parents and began living on my own before assuming all of the responsibilities of adulthood. This gave me a few years of practice taking care of things around the house, paying bills, and most importantly, cooking. I am far from an elite chef, but after spending two years as a college student working in a restaurant and preparing my own meals for years, I can cook up my meals for the week without eliciting a gag reflex. For students, being able to cook for yourself will help you eat clean and healthy (aiding in recovery, as mentioned above) and save you money. Learn how to use a grill, oven, stove, and how to cook meat/vegetables properly – pink in a steak is fine, pink in a chicken breast is not – and you’ll be less likely to be stuffing your face with deep fried crap from a fast food restaurant when you’re hungry.

17. Make Every Rep Count

It’s easy to get distracted in the gym – cute girl on the treadmill, your teammate cracking jokes, the song playing on the stereo… – but it’s important to block all of that out when it’s time to do work. If you’re going to have a conversation, use your rest time. As soon as you approach the bar, lock yourself in on the task at hand and focus on getting the most from each rep. A wasted rep or set can never be gained back – have a reason for everything you do and be able to focus exclusively on that goal while training. Don’t let distractions ruin your training because you can’t block them out for thirty seconds.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
Facebook.com/HenleySP

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26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 2

Last week, I listed my first 6 training lessons and here are another 6 to help you in your training, programming, and coaching.

7. Learn the Olympic Lifts

Most of my training programs are designed around the O-lifts and their accessory movements. They are some of the most beneficial exercises for improving strength, power, and performance in sports, however they must first be properly learned. In order to fully benefit from the exercises, you need to learn the technical aspects of the movements. For example, a hang clean isn’t just getting a bar from mid thigh to a front squat position, it’s doing so with the correct muscle firing pattern. Hip hinge (not squat), pulling yourself under the bar (not jumping), pushing your elbows through (not perpendicular to the floor), and catching in the racked position (instead of landing on the wrist) are all important details to performing a proper clean.

8. Do More Turkish Get Ups

Other than the above mentioned Olympic lifts, nothing hits the total system quite like a Turkish Get Up. Ground movement, unilateral training, mobility, shoulder stability, and overhead work are all included in a single movement. In terms of programming efficiency, very few exercises hit as many categories as the get up.

9. Be Brilliant at the Basics

This goes hand in hand with two of my previous notes – simplify and know your progressions. The best powerlifters in the world base their programs around three lifts – squat, deadlift, and bench press. Everything else is supplemental and if you look at programs like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, you realize the importance of mastering the basics. Compound movements, varying intensity depending on goals, and giving the program time to work are the keys to successful training. If you can’t perform a push up with perfect form, you shouldn’t be maxing out on bench.

10. Battle Ropes are a Beautiful Thing

There are several ways to condition the lower body – Tabata squats, stadiums, hill sprints, etc. – and fewer options for the upper body that provide a similar effect. My personal favorite  is the battle rope. If you want to blast your shoulders like you’ve never experienced, 20 second reps of slams, alternating slams, circles, and jumping jacks can work the shoulder stabilizers and total body better than most alternatives.

11. Seek Balance

I don’t mean do all of your exercises on a BOSU ball or Airex pad. Balance means maintaining the relationships in your training program. The first comparison that comes to mind is upper body pulling to pressing. For athletes who spend most of their time focusing on their anterior musculature (mirror muscle/beach body workouts, sitting at a desk, poor posture, etc.) and it’s important to balance out everyday life by increasing posterior work in training. Likewise, balancing squats and hip hinge movements is important in developing lower body power and decreasing knee imbalances.

12. Don’t be Afraid to Try Something New

I recently started playing around with primal move workouts and realized something interesting…they make for an incredible warm up. I like how they can flow from one movement to another, building upon itself similar to a yoga/pilates flow. I was skeptical at first, but after playing around with the movements, I discovered a flow I like using as a warm up or mobility circuit. There are thousands of great ideas out there and without experimenting a little from time to time, you’re limiting the tools at your disposal.

I hope these help you in your training. Next week I will put up part three of the series.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
Facebook.com/HenleySP

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26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 1

In celebration of my 26th birthday, I have decided to blatantly copy use an idea from an excellent strength & conditioning resource, Ben Bruno (his second part can be found here). With that in mind, here are my first six lessons.

1. Simplify

Training doesn’t need to be complicated. Build your base with compound lifts, balance hip hinge with squat movements, upper body presses/pulls and you have the makings of a solid program. Add in the extras after these basic movements are established, not as the foundation. Master the basics before trying to get complicated.

2. Know Your Progressions/Regressions

This is especially important for coaches with athletes of different levels. Just because the workout calls for back squats doesn’t mean that’s the proper lift for all athletes. An exercise is only as effective as the athlete performing it. If an athlete can’t perform a body weight squat with proper form, don’t advance them to a loaded squat. Here’s a simple progression I like for the above example: body weight squat > goblet squat > front squat > back squat. Likewise, if you are working with a group of athletes that have a low training age, but an individual would benefit from more advanced exercises, it’s important to know the “next step” exercise for each movement.

3. Include More Unilateral Work

A lot of coaches have been switching to more single leg work in place of constantly programming heavy squats/deadlifts. The reason being the combined weight of each leg trained individually can be greater than with bilateral exercises. While you may be able to put more stress on the leg musculature, I prefer single leg work for its core activation and reduced stress on the lumbar spine. This goes beyond single leg exercises and includes the arms as well. Single arm dumbbell military press is a shoulder-friendly vertical press with a heavy demand on the trunk to prevent lateral flexion. I don’t program in much strict ab work, so being able to include it with other movements help improve time efficiency in workouts.

4. Plan Ahead…in Pencil

Even the greatest training program can fall apart if unexpected obstacles come up. Changing schedules, injuries, etc. can disrupt a training program. It’s important to be able to change on the fly and maintain progress towards your goals.

5.Plan Recovery Into Your Programs

I learned an excellent programming tip from Coach Mike Boyle – build recovery and mobility into workouts. Mobility is frequently overlooked as a part of training and can help improve results and performance. By including mobility work with your lifts allows enough time for recovery after heavy lifts or speed movements. Too often, power developing exercises, such as med ball work or jumps, athletes tend to move on to their next set before allowing proper recovery. By introducing mobility drills as interset rest work, it forces extra time for recovery and maximum force production.

6. Don’t Overlook the Warm Up

Looking back on my teenage years, what I miss most is the ability to jump right in to a workout without warming up. Maybe a light set or two before my working sets, if that, and I was at full blast. Now my warm ups take nearly as long, if not longer, than the working sets. Foam rolling, stationary mobility work, activation exercises, dynamic mobility work, then progressing to a complex or other self-limiting exercise to start with low resistance.

Next week, I’ll post the second part of the series. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
Facebook.com/HenleySP

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Great Kettlebell Workout

Sticking with the trend of keeping things simple, here is a great circuit using nothing but a single kettlebell.

Turkish Get-Ups x 5
Single Arm KB Swings x 5
Goblet Squats x 5
KB Snatch x 5
KB Military Press x 5
Waiter’s Hold Reverse Lunge x 5
Repeat on opposite side

The reps can be played around with (I like the flow of 5 reps per exercise), but this is a great all-around workout if you’re pressed for time. With the exception of the goblet squats, all of the exercises are unilateral and require additional stabilization. Your shoulders will be smoked after this, just a heads up.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. Any questions or comments, feel free to shoot me an email.

All the Best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley

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5 Ways to Improve Your Training Results

Sorry for the long hiatus. I have been working on a few other projects and focusing on my reading. I want to be certain that whatever content I put on the site is worth your time and not just…well, crap.

With that said, let’s take a look at a few ways to bust through a plateau or achieve those goals you haven’t quite reached yet.

  1. Do Everything you Don’t Want to do – For most lifters, this means legs. Specifically, squats and deadlifts. Yes, they are hard (if you’re doing them properly) and yes, I know your legs will be sore for a couple days, but there’s a reason they are so difficult – they work! What is more difficult, a circuit of leg curls, leg extensions, , hip adduction/abduction, glute bridges, calf raises, planks, and back extensions, or heavy squats? Better yet, what’s more effective? Don’t kid yourself into thinking because you trained your legs on machines that you did a leg workout. Use the barbell, load it up with plates, pick it up off the floor, and stand up with it on your shoulders. Likewise, most exercises we avoid are ones we should be doing because they are holding us back. Look back on your workouts, whatever area you avoid or do easy, crank up the intensity and bring it up to par. Your body wants to keep some symmetry, so if your stuck in place with one muscle group, growth in the others will be limited.
  2. Time is Your Most Precious Asset – Imagine you only have 20 minutes from when you enter the gym to when you leave, how are you going to spend it? Probably not with ten minutes with a treadmill “warm up” or mixing your workout drink…I hope. Treat your workouts with a sense of urgency, attack the weights with intensity and get your work done. Instead of pretending to warm up on a cardio machine, try a barbell complex or short total body circuit to get everything ready. Then, big weights and big lifts. Remember, intensity is more important than duration in training. Power, strength, and explosion happen fast, not gradually over hours. Think of it this way, who won the 100m dash in the Olympics? What about the 5000m? Exactly.
  3. Don’t Treat Ab Work as a Main Movement – I’m not going to say your abs get all the training they need from other lifts, but abs/core should be treated as auxiliary work. Use core work as active rest between sets of main lifts or as a circuit later in a workout, don’t dedicate five sets strictly to abs and resting from abs. That’s not how you get a six pack.
  4. If you Haven’t Done a Lift in the past Month, do it – This works off number 1, but also serves as a reminder to vary your workouts. You may have found a program that’s great and gives you results, but don’t get complacent – eventually your body will adapt. That doesn’t mean scrap the whole thing every week, just try different grips, stances, or weights/reps/rest schemes. Instead of incline bench, try it with dumbbells, single arm DB bench, or replace deadlifts with sumo or wide grip. Small changes, continuing progress.
  5. If You’re in a rut, try this – Classic 5×5 workout, with some additional tweaks. 5 main exercises, each for 5×5, with the first three sets acting as warm-up/acclimation sets, and the last two as your true working sets. For the rest period during the first three sets, there will be auxiliary work to be done as active rest. Set 1 will be 50% of your working weight (not your 5RM, but the weight you will use in set 4), set 2 is 70%, set 3 is 85%, with the final two as working sets.

So if you’re going to use 200 pounds for your working set in power cleans, set 1 is 100, set 2 – 140, set 3 – 170, set 4 – 200, set 5 – 200+. Simple enough? If it’s easier to round the weights, that’s not a problem (185 is a lot quicker to load onto a bar than 180). Here’s how the workout will look:

  • Hang Clean – 5×5 (Hip Flexor Stretch – 30 seconds after each of the first three sets)
  • Squat – 5×5 (Push Ups – x10-20)
  • Wide Grip Deadlift – 5×5 (DB Rows – x8)
  • Single Arm DB Military Press – 5×5 (Single Leg RDL – x8 with light weight)
  • Pull Ups – 5×5 (Planks – 30-60 seconds)

Other exercises can be substituted, but keep the general outline – Olympic/power movement, squat variation, deadlift variation, press, pull. No machines for main lifts (unless you’re unable to perform heavier than body weight pull ups for five).

Good luck, if you have any questions you can reach me on Twitter, Facebook, email, or on my cell.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
YouTube.com/DrewBHenley

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