Exercise Technique

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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Simple Training Philosophies

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard coaches (including myself) say that exact phrase to athletes, sport coaches, parents, etc. It’s true – nearly every break through in the field of sports performance happens when complex ideas are brought back down to Earth in a simplified context. Sure, we get new tools to use these ideas – such as TRX or Tendo units – but the ideas behind them are still simple. We want to be able to move and control our bodyweight (with devices like the TRX) and be able to train speed with a quantifiable result (I haven’t found anything comparable to a Tendo unit for this, but it is an incredible tool). Simple ideas, only with better technology to train with. Keeping that in mind, here are some simple training philosophies that help me get back to basics when I get too wrapped up in trying to, well, reinvent the wheel.

If It’s Important, Do It Every Day – Dan Gable (via Dan John) has provided me one of the best philosophies for my programs. While I don’t get to work with my athletes every day, I make sure to hit on the key aspects every training session. Lift heavy, train unilaterally, use the entire body at once, train basic movement patterns, lift/move your own body, stabilize what needs stability and mobilize what needs mobility.

If You’re Not Deadlifting, You’re Not Lifting – This is my favorite line from everything I’ve read from Pavel. Maybe it’s because deadlift was always my best lift (I am a little biased), but I’ve noticed a correlation between strong deadlifters and athletic ability. Maybe it’s the fact they have well-developed posterior chain musculature – recognized as an important piece of athletic performance and force production – or maybe it’s that athletes who deadlift usually take their training more seriously than their “bench and biceps” counterparts.

Have A Reason For Everything You Do – Since day 1, if I try something new in a program, I make sure I have a reason for including it (other than it looked neat on YouTube). If, once it has been introduced, doesn’t yield results, no matter how badly I want to include it in training, it is gone. This was a frequent point of discussion with Mike Boyle when I had the fortune of working with him last year. After his decades of experience, he still trains by the KISS mantra – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Train To Perform On The Field/Court/etc. – Unless the athlete is a competitive Olympic lifter or powerlifter, their competitive is outside the weight room. With this in mind, lifting the most weight isn’t always the best sign of productive training. If I have a 6’8″ basketball player, I am less interested in improving his bench numbers and more focused on his agility, mobility, speed, and explosiveness. Simply making athletes stronger isn’t a job well done – those gains must apply to their sport performance.

Think Big Picture – Small Steps Lead To Big Gains – I covered this before, but I love Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and the concept of small, continuous gains over a long period of time. Most of the workouts athletes see in magazines or online advertise “Add 50 Pounds to Your Bench in 6 Weeks” or “Bigger Biceps in One Workout” – immediate results. Other than making it difficult to coach athletes who see (and believe) these ads, they also shift the focus to the short term benefits. If I want a new car, I could sell my computer, tv, furniture, rob a convenience store, and drive off the lot with a shiny new truck by the end of the week.  However…that short term benefit came at a cost – I don’t have a bed to sleep in, money to pay for the gas my new car needs, and I’m probably a day or two away from being caught for robbery. The costs associated immediate benefits from training are only slightly less damaging – overtraining/injury – and result in prolonged gaps in training. What good is a huge gain if you’re forced to quit training and fall back to square one? Plan for where you want to be a year from now, not a week or month, and keep the goals realistic.

These are simple concepts, but when new research and ideas are introduced into the field on a weekly basis, sometimes simple is the way to go.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

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New Articles up on STACK

Sorry for the lack of posts this week everyone, I just accepted a new position and need to move across the country in three days, so things have been chaotic and likely will be for the next month or so.

Fortunately, I have two new articles up on STACK that I think you will enjoy, both on program design and getting freakin’ huge and terrifyingly strong (both scientific terms, by the way). In addition, I mentioned it last week, but I have put together an ebook of motivational quotes across a handful of categories, available at Smashwords. It is completely free, downloadable in a wide variety of formats (depending on your ereader, or can be read as a PDF), there are no advertisements and I don’t make anything money from it. Most of the words in it aren’t mine, so why charge? I use quotes daily (which you know if you follow me on Twitter), and have had a lot of requests for my quotes list, so there it is. You can download it here, and again, it is completely free with no ads or need to sign up for a Henley Sports Performance email list or anything.
Now, back to sports performance – here are the two newest articles I put up on STACK (with a third awaiting approval).

Bulk Up and Get Strong During the Off-Season

This article provides a 4 day/week training program that will build you up pretty quickly and help you break through any strength plateaus. Due to the word count limit, I couldn’t expand too much on it, so if you have questions feel free to email me and I’ll help you out.

Build Muscle with this Off-Season Baseball Program

This is another off-season program, only geared specifically to baseball players enjoying their time off (unless they’re playing fall ball or in the bigs). Slightly different, less intensity and a little more volume and a total body training format. Again, if you need more clarification, feel free to contact me via email, call, Twitter, or text.
Check out the articles and programs, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

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

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Weekly Workout Checklist – Are Your Workouts Complete?

Are you sure you have a well-rounded program? Most people don’t, whether by avoiding legs, back, or bench (just kidding), and they never really think too much about it. Here is a simple checklist to make sure you’re training is varied enough to allow progress.

As you can guess, many exercises can count towards multiple categories. For example, Chin Ups would get marks in vertical pull, double arm pull, core anti-movement, and bodyweight movement (depending on your definition or execution, you could make a case for them to be a loaded hold as well). The point of the checklist isn’t to do an exercise dedicated to each category, but to make sure you’re hitting the body in a variety of ways.

Unless you are on a bodybuilding type split, dedicating workouts to a single muscle or movement, it’s unlikely you would need a full training week to fill each category, in fact, it’s pretty easy to meet all of the requirements in a single workout in only a few lifts. However, if you like upper-lower or chest/tris/shoulders-back/bis-legs/core splits, this can help give you some new goals to shoot for. Make sure you’re working in some single limb exercises for added stabilization. Yes, you will make it easier on the prime movers of an exercise (I’ve never met anyone who could dumbbell bench the same as their barbell bench, but some have been close), but that’s not the goal. By incorporating the stabilizer muscles more, you can improve your strength numbers and reduce the likelihood of an injury.

I include ankle and hip mobility/AIS stretching because I think they are the two joints most in need of increased mobility. These are great to do as intraset rest work/active recovery.

The only downside to a checklist like this is everything is weighted equally. That will be addressed with another post, because it is important to include rep variations, heavy and light days, more pulling than pressing, etc. This chart is just a starting point to make sure you are hitting the core areas properly.

Also, if you missed the last post, I have put together a free ebook of inspirational quotes, available here. Please give it a look and if you like it, share it with anyone else who may enjoy it. Let me know any comments or questions you have. As always, if I can ever help you or your program in any way, please feel free to contact me.

All the best,

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

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Random Articles You Should Read

Unlike my typical Articles & Videos posts, which I try to focus on recent writings, today I want to share some of my favorite blog posts/articles/etc. I’ve come across. Most will be from T-Nation, so if you aren’t following that site, you are missing on some great resources. Here they are in no particular order.

  1. How to Build Pure Strength – Bryan Krahn interview with Jim Wendler (I’ve recently become a big fan of his 5/3/1 method).
  2. 101 Tips for Being a Great General Manager – From Jeffrey Keller via Michael Boyle.
  3. 12 Thoughts for the Preseason – Great post by Alan Stein, though it may be a little early for preseason talk for basketball, still good for mindset.
  4. 40 Years of Insight, Part 1 – I have a coaching crush on Dan John. I think everything he writes is awesome and have yet to read an article of his without thinking of something new.
  5. 40 Years of Insight, Part 2 – With that said, I’ll try to limit the number of his articles on this list. But honestly, go buy “Never Let Go” asap, it’s the best training book I own. Everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it as well. He should be paying me for this plug…
  6. Don’t Say Can’t – Another post by Alan, only this is more of a selfish plug. I had the pleasure of meeting Alan at a conference about 4-5 years ago when I was still pretty new to the field, and we spent several hours discussing training techniques. I walked away with a mentor and he walked away with a new training idea – my 60,000 pounds in 60 minutes challenge – which became my first recognizable contribution to the field, and this is one of several articles he mentions it (thanks again Alan). If you’re a basketball player or coach, make sure to check out StrongerTeam.com for some of the best basketball related material available.
  7. 21 Best Fitness Business Tips – From Pat Rigsby via Mike Boyle.
  8. In-Season Baseball Strength & Conditioning Part 1 and Part 2 – Cressey is an encyclopedia of strength and conditioning information, especially with baseball players.
  9. Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back From an Injury – Tim Henriques provides a good resource for coaches trying to help athletes with recovery, especially handling the mental side.
  10. How Will You Use Neurodynamics – One of many great posts by affiliate and friend of the site, Dr. E. Honestly, I was going to list about six consecutive posts from Dr. E, but thought that could be overwhelming. So here are four.
  11. 9 Random Training Tips – Ben Bruno puts in more hours creating new exercises, writing up articles, and just being a weight room maniac than should be humanly possible.
  12. 4 Problems. 4 Solutions – Good article by Chad Howse that expands beyond the gym.
  13. Who is Your Daddy and What Does he do? – It’s an article all about Arnold, how can it NOT be on this list?
  14. Work the Entire Back Side of the Body at Once – Here’s that maniac part of Ben Bruno shines through.
  15. The Secrets – Another great list article by Boyle.

As you can tell, I have a relatively small group of authors as my “go-to” people for articles, and I am sure I have missed, skipped, or forgot several others. This is simply meant to be a good list of articles I’ve read over the past year or so that stood out in my mind. Any others that you have and would care to share, please feel free to email or send them to me on Twitter.

All the Best,

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

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