Hard Work

26 Training Lessons From 26 Years – The 4 Rules

(Parts One, Two, Three, and Four, in case you missed them)

The following four lessons are what I refer to as my “4 Rules” of training and life. A key part of training all of my athletes is ensuring they learn the 4 Rules, in order, and can recite them at any time…which isn’t too hard because there are only four, they are quite basic, and I am frequently yelling “Don’t break rule number __!” In retrospect, I should have done a countdown style format building up to this post (as these are by far my top lessons), but hindsight is always 20/20.

Training lessons 23-26:

Rule #1 – Don’t Die

Simple enough. If you die, the game is over – it’s pretty tough to come back from that without luck, a defibrillator, or divine power.

How it applies to training: Push yourself, but don’t kill yourself. Remember, sometimes less is more, and more is too much. I’m as big a fan of gut-check workouts as anyone, when they are used in moderation and programmed appropriately.

How it applies to life: Pretty self-explanatory. But in a less literal sense, don’t kill yourself with stress or reckless decisions (smoking, drinking in excess, etc). Live a little, but don’t break Rule #3 (see below).

Rule #2 – Breathe

Another simple rule that most people do without worry for most of their lives.

How it applies to training: It amazes me how frequently people will hold their breath while training until their face turns red and they get light headed. Taking in and holding a deep belly breath is an excellent way of increasing intra-abdominal pressure while handling heavy, heavy weights, but working with 5+ reps is too long to hold your breath. If you’re working with 2-5 reps, take breaths between reps to make sure you don’t end up like this guy (skipping past the horrible deadlift technique).

How it applies to life: Other than a necessity of life, breathing can help control stress and anxiety. A saying I learned a long time ago was “Control your breath, control your mind.” Don’t forget to breathe through the tough times, it will help more than you think.

Rule #3 – Don’t Be Stupid Just Because It’s Easy

As mentioned above, it’s still important to take some risks, have some fun, and do some stupid things from time to time…but for the right reasons. What are the right reasons? If you’re going to be stupid, it better be for one of four reasons: it’s going to be fun, you have a chance to make some money (bet you twenty bucks you can’t _____), you are paying up on a lost bet, or you have a chance to get the girl. You can usually tell when someone was stupid just because they could be by how they tell the story. If it starts with “So this one time, I thought it would be a good idea to…”

How it applies to training: Don’t screw around in the weight room. Don’t try a max without a spotter. Don’t be reckless. There really isn’t a better way to put it than don’t be stupid.

How it applies to life: You’ll have plenty of opportunities to be stupid. Don’t take them all, avoid the unnecessarily dangerous or foolish opportunities. If it’s fun, profitable (not an investment that is just as likely to cost you money), or can get you a date, go for it. You only live once.

Rule #4 – Don’t Suck

An excellent quote describing rule #4 – “If you go outside, meet twenty people, and one’s a jerk, you met a jerk. If you go outside and meet twenty people, and they’re ALL jerks, then you’re the jerk.”

How it applies to training: Hold yourself accountable, be a good teammate, and apply yourself to your training. Don’t act better than everyone else, show up on your own schedule, or disrespect those your sharing the weight room with (rack your weights, don’t go around shouting, clean up after yourself).

How it applies to life: You won’t get very far in life if no one can stand being around you. If a friend asks a favor, don’t turn them down just because it requires you to get off your couch. The more you help and support those in your life, even casual acquaintances, the more likely you are to succeed.

I hope you enjoyed this series and 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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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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Changing of the Seasons

With winter break in full swing, many college athletes are either in the middle of their competitive season, or preparing for what is to come in the spring. Most of my current athletes are spring-season sports (such as baseball, tennis, etc.) and will be returning to school not only for classes, but preseason practices and training.

I came across an interesting article on Sports Medicine Research regarding injury rates during practice for collegiate sports, comparing pre-season, in-season, and post-season, as well as when during the calendar year (fall sports versus winter and spring sports). You can find the information here, and I highly recommend it for all coaches working with college athletes or teams. There are two key points I want to highlight:

  • Pre-season injury rates were nearly three times as high as in-season. I can tell you from my experience, too many athletes skip their off-season work and expect pre-season to get them into shape and prepared. However, going from no activity to pre-season workload often results in overtraining, overuse injuries, or even a surprise cut from the roster. Work hard in the off-season so you’ll be prepared for the grind of sport-specific work that comes in-season.
  • Fall sports have a much higher rate of injury than winter and spring sports (with the latter having the lowest incidence rate of the three). This coincides with my above point – off-season work is necessary to help reduce risk of injury during in-season training. Since this study focused exclusively on college sports, it makes sense that spring sports – teams that have an entire semester on campus to get work in before their season – would have the lowest injury rates. Granted, football plays a big role in this discrepancy, but I can’t help but feel the insufficient pre-season time on campus plays a role.

As you prepare your athletes for the upcoming semester, recognize that some are likely to be green and unprepared for the rigors of training. Whether you want to pamper them or put them through hell week as a reminder to stay on top of things during break, that is for each coach to decide based on their philosophy and athletes. As I mentioned before, almost all of my athletes compete during the spring season, so I have had several weeks of off-season training with them. We concluded with several performance tests, not only to mark their improvements, but to hold them accountable for their work over break. This sense of accountability, to themselves, to their teammates, and their program, is far more motivational than any words I could speak. They busted their tails off, and I reminded them how easily it could all go away if they were to take this month off.

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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HSP on StrengthCoach.com

Well, it took a few months, but I finally had my first article run on Michael Boyle’s StrengthCoach.com. If you are a fan of the HSP Facebook page (which you can like it at www.facebook.com/henleysp), and a member of StrengthCoach.com,  you were able to see the article, and now I would like to share it with everyone: The Other Roles of Being a Strength & Conditioning Coach (from StrengthCoach.com).

Being a strength & conditioning coach in a team setting carries far more responsibility than simply writing workouts and teaching exercise technique. There are several ways you are called upon to help your athletes, coaches, and teams other than making them stronger, faster, and more powerful. For all of the importance put into certifications and advanced degrees, interpersonal skills are an indispensible trait in a successful coach. Below are ten of the different responsibilities I have taken on over the course of my career that have proven more useful than most of my training ability.

Counselor – Athletes have their ups and downs like the rest of us, the only difference is how much harder it is for them to handle them. They might be having relationship trouble, lost a loved one, struggling on the field, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and still be expected to perform. We all know the importance of a strong mentality to succeed in sports, and being rattled could cost these players playing time, a scholarship, or even their job. As strength & conditioning coaches, we see these athletes in a different atmosphere than their sport coaches or ATCs, and it is important to recognize when to pull an athlete aside and let them vent or do whatever they need to get their mind right.

Mentor – Most athletes I have worked with have been younger than me, but age seems to matter less than I originally thought. I have had athletes ten years older than me ask for my advice on matters far beyond my expertise, or change their habits due a conversation we had. For example, I had an athlete who was 8 years older than me ask if he should propose to his girlfriend (who I had met a few times). I’m not married, or even in a serious relationship for that matter, and here he is asking me about one of the biggest decisions of his life. (I used a trick I learned and said, “You know the answer I’m going to say and the answer you want to hear, so why are you asking?” He proposed, and they recently celebrated their two-year anniversary and the birth of their first child.)

Motivator – This is obvious in the weight room when an athlete is going through the motions, but also carries over to the field/court/etc. The head coach and assistants may be too busy with game responsibilities to light a fire under an athlete who is slacking.

Middleman – As mentioned in #2, we see athletes in a different setting than their other coaches and listen to both sides of any story brewing between players and staff. Hearing the message the coach wants the player to understand, and then being able to convey it to the athlete is a skill that comes with time. Likewise, every athlete has an aversion to the training room and fears being shut down, so it’s important to make note of any little issues players mention and discuss them with the medical staff.

Buffer/Bouncer – Depending on the level, some fans will be determined to get the attention of your athletes. Be sure you do what you need to do to allow your athletes to remain focused on the task at hand. If that’s getting to the locker room for an ice pack or finish their conditioning, it’s ok to tell fans to wait until later for an autograph or picture.

Gopher Guy – This is more for your coaching staff and athletic trainers. In most settings, S&C coaches are the bottom rung on the Totem pole. As such, you can either alienate or endear yourself to your staff by doing any and everything needed to make their jobs easier. Working in pro baseball, once the first pitch was thrown my day was essentially done. If the coaching staff needed their jackets from the clubhouse and couldn’t reach the clubhouse manager, I was making a mad dash down the foul line between innings. In college sports, with NCAA sanctions, coaches are limited in their interactions with athletes so they like to know how the effort when they aren’t around. Even when I was working at the high school level (as an assistant basketball coach/head S&C coach), it was up to me to write up practice plans, round up players for film, and contact parents if something changed with a tournament schedule.

Comedian/Mood Breaker – Things get tense, and sometimes that can spiral into something terrible. Let’s be honest, the head coach and athletes have far more riding on their shoulders (i.e. receive more criticism when things go bad) than the strength staff, so they can easily lose sight of the fact they are living the dream. They are athletes/coaches doing what they love, possibly getting an education or even paid to do it. Being able to lighten the mood is a huge help in breaking a slump.

Drill Sergeant – On the flip side, sometimes athletes need a swift kick to the backside if they aren’t taking things seriously enough. This can fall under your duties to the head coach, as he or she may be too furious to deal with the frustration of lackadaisical players. It’s important for athletes to have short memories when it comes to losing, but to not feel anything is a fast track to failure. Remind them why they are competing, take it seriously, or step aside because there are others out there who will gladly take their place.

Mediator – Athletes have egos, and sometimes egos clash. Having a cool head and a strong presence can help athletes see through their differences and remember they are teammates playing for the same cause. This isn’t strictly for strength coaches, but I’ve had to handle it more than I ever expected.

Enforcer – This is another responsibility bestowed by the coaching/medical staff.  Curfew check? Sure, I’ll go around the hotel at midnight to make sure grown men are behaving themselves. Someone needs to get treatment NOW? Ok, I’ll slap the sandwich out of his hand and drag him by the ear to the training room (don’t do that, it ends poorly). You get the picture, often times strength & conditioning coaches are the coaching staff muscle (rightfully so, I don’t see many anorexic strength coaches) and get asked to use it occasionally.

As you can see, your responsibilities as a strength & conditioning coach reach far beyond the confines of the weight room. It can be daunting, but at the same time incredibly rewarding. Make sure you recognize the importance of connecting with your athletes and coaches as best you can to make these additional responsibilities as smooth as possible.

I would like to thank everyone who has visited the site, as last week we broke 10,000 views and continue to grow. Thank you for your support and I hope you have enjoyed the content. If there is ever anything I can do to help you or your program, 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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