Michael Boyle

26 Training Lessons from 26 Years: Part 4

If you missed them, here are parts one, two, and three of this series.

18. Spend the Time & Money to Learn

This is a huge one. As I mentioned before (#14), everyone thinks they know how to be a strength coach. The truth is, there is an infinite amount of detail that can be seen in every rep of every lift. Learning to recognize these subtle cues requires experience and, more importantly, a teacher. I have been very fortunate to learn from some excellent coaches and mentors in this field. One of the best investments I have made as a coach was attending a USA Weightlifting certification course. Two days of hands-on experience, working with former Olympic Weightlifting coaches, as well as thirty other coaches with various levels of training the Olympic lifts, was an incredible learning experience that no amount of textbooks or videos could duplicate. If you want to become a better coach, invest in yourself and learn from everyone you can.

(With that said, I want to take this chance to thank those in the field who have helped me along the way thus far. Alan Stein (first mentor and helped ignite my passion for this, I can’t thank you enough), Brett Fischer (and his entire staff at Fischer Sports), Frank Renner (If anyone has taught me how to coach, it is Frank – couldn’t have asked for a better mentor), Taylor Kleinschmidt/P.J. Fabritz/Taylor Janowicz (being able to bounce ideas off you guys has helped tremendously), Mike Boyle (the resources he provided, in addition to learning from him for a month was unbelievable), Dan John (if you haven’t read Never Let Go, quit reading this until you do. Seriously, go buy it now.), Dr. Erson Religioso (who has amazing content over at www.themanualtherapist.com), Ben Bruno (your assistance/referrals with my site has helped more than you know), all of the ATHLETIC trainers and physical therapists I have been fortunate enough to work with, as well as my current colleagues – I learn something new from you every day and become a better coach with every bit of it. Thank you all for your help.)

19. Don’t Major in the Minor

Several athletes and coaches are interested in perfecting tiny details, but fail to see larger issues that demand attention. A quote I really like is, “Don’t be too busy mopping the floor to turn off the faucet.” and I think it’s an excellent way of saying fix the problem and the residual issues will take care of themselves. A good example is training accessories – weightlifting shoes, bands, chains, etc. These are great for the individual who knows what he/she is doing with them, but just frills. If you can’t deadlift at least twice your body weight, don’t worry about adding chains or bands to improve your lockout. Master these movements – squat, hip hinge, push up, plank, and rowing/chin ups to be able to retract your scapula. Once these are under control, then get more creative, but the secret to an effective program is simplicity – do the basic movements, do them well, and progressively increase resistance to improve.

20. Do More Ground Work

A couple months ago, I wanted to incorporate more ground work and became interested in learning more about Primal Move workouts. I found an amazing set of videos at Breaking Muscle by Andrew Read and starting implementing the movements into my own warm up. I noticed a big difference in my lifts with these warm ups – I felt like I got rid of my “old man syndrome” while I was rolling around and working my way up off the ground. I don’t have any research or evidence other than personal experience, but it’s something worth trying if you are looking for a change in your workout.

21. Give it Some Time

Training is an investment, not a pay day – it takes time to see the benefits. One workout is enough to make you a little better, but it takes several to see any real gains. If you are trying a new training program, commit to it for a few months to allow it to work. You can’t expect results if every other week you bounce from 5/3/1 to triphasic to Power to the People to whatever else catches your eye. If a program is going to work, it is going to require time – think big picture.

22. Learn to Schedule, You’re Going to Need it

I’ve worked in private business, professional, and college settings and can say the most consistent aspect of all three is time demands. Your daily schedule will be like Tetris – find the perfect slot for Team A or Person B, then realize Group X needs to get their time pushed back to that day because of Random Event Y… then flip your desk over and shout profanity at your computer screen. Basically, as a strength and conditioning coach, your rank of importance on some one’s schedule is pretty low. For an athlete it goes – games, practice, extra individual work, eating, training. Students are similar but add in their classes, enough time for homework, and group meeting times. Then team coaches have to take in these factors plus weather (if their sport is outside and susceptible) and availability of facilities. Your perfect schedule will get changed every way imaginable and if you can’t roll with it while staying on top of everything, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the mix. Learning to communicate with your athletes and coaches (and doing it consistently) is the best way of keeping everything humming along.

Next week, I will wrap up the series with my big four rules of training.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES


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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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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

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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

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Articles & Videos You Should See 5-4-12

I know it’s been a while since I put one of these up, so I figured it’s time. The following are some excellent articles and videos from around the internet regarding training, nutrition, & sports performance.


Deadlift or Squat: What’s the Diff? – This is an interesting article by coach Michael Boyle on how the line between squats and deadlifts has blurred. Also a little bit of a shameless plug as I was with Michael when he was working on this article and demonstrated the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (cough*third video*cough).

50 Tips for Fat Loss – Charles Poliquin is one of the greats in the industry and does an excellent job compiling information & research into concise articles. There’s a quote I am fond of that I feel describes this quite well – “A great surgeon invents an operation only he can do. A truly great surgeon invents an operation that everyone can do.” The idea of taking the complex and making it simple is a difficult art, however Charles excels at it.

A Complaint Free World – I am interested to see where Dr. E is at right now with his goal to goal 21 days without complaining. If it works, I’m going to buy one for myself and every athlete I work with. 21 days without hearing a complaint? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

101 Tips for Being a Great General Manager – Coach Boyle makes a second appearance on the list (mainly because I couldn’t find the original source). Many of the tips have carryover from managing a business to simply managing relationships. Whether they are professional, personal, or other, relationships fail if you take them for granted.

The Story of Me and Food – Speaking of relationships, this piece comes from a friend of mine, Katie Sullivan. She is an amazing young woman I had the pleasure of getting to know during college and is currently an NPC Bikini Athlete…and oh yeah, going to freaking LAW SCHOOL. Holy crap, if you want to learn from a smart person who knows the importance of time management, look no further. This piece is more for women and coaches who work with female athletes, as image issues are a very real and troubling problem that some studies say affect up to 8 million Americans annually (90% of which are women).

PJF Performance Random Facts – Another close friend of mine, P.J. Fabritz, is a young, intelligent and passionate strength coach who wrote this interesting piece (albeit lighthearted). If you don’t know him yet, don’t be surprised to see his name coming up more often.


Bridge Rollouts – I was going to just post the YouTube link, but Ben Bruno does an excellent job describing the exercise and what’s going on. Ben’s limitless creativity never ceases to amaze me and I look forward to trying these out.

Hakeem Olajuwon Scoring Skills – This was in Bill Simmons most recent article and after viewing it, I was reminded why I love basketball. The Dream Shake with the up & under made Hakeem one of the three greatest centers of all time in my mind. Not to mention, the guy is 7 feet tall and moves that smoothly! My start in coaching was with the Coconino High School Boys Basketball Team in Flagstaff, AZ and there are a few athletes I worked with who will be entering their senior seasons there. Josh, Jake, Jason, and Bam-Bam (aka Andy), I’m telling you to watch this video and learn the up & under from the best. Good luck next year guys.

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

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