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


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Training for Power – Part II

Training for Power – Part II
In part one,  I gave a little background information on the Olympic Lifts and expressed my interest in using them. I also mentioned that there are several times where it is contraindicated, ineffective, or just plain dangerous to perform Olympic Lifts. So, what do you do when you can’t (or shouldn’t) use Olympic Lifts to train for power?
1. Plyometrics – There are few ways to train for power that are more simple, yet effective, than plyometric training. Jumps, skips, bounds, and bounds can all be used to increase an athlete’s power production. This is not limited to lower body exercises, pretty much any exercise done with an emphasis on rapid contraction qualifies as a plyometric (by loosely using the definition). I think of it as controlled chaos, with both parts mandatory (control to avoid injuries and chaos to make sure you’re training in an explosive manner).
2. Medicine Balls – These are a great way to train the core for explosive and/or rotational movements. You can train every muscle by utilizing throws, slams, and tosses with a medball. It takes a great amount of core strength to transfer the force generated from your legs to the release point at your hands. I am a big fan of medball training.
3. Kettlebells – Kettlebell swings are an excellent alternative when Olympic Lifts are contraindicated. They allow an athlete to focus on getting full hip extension and firing the posterior chain.
4. Dynamic Lifts – This is a concept made popular by Louie Simmons and the guys at Westside Barbell. The basic idea focuses on speed as the determining factor for volume rather than RMs. For example, let’s say your performing dynamic pull ups and know you can get ten before failing. Perform the lift as fast as possible until your speed drops (usually around halfway to failure, in my experience). So, in this scenario, you would perform 5 dynamic pull ups, exploding upwards each rep as fast as possible, and as soon as you feel your speed slow or you notice a sticking point on rep 6, the set is done. The idea behind this method is to train the neuromuscular connections with the fast-twitch fibers, increasing the rate of recruitment, thus allowing more powerful contractions.
These are just some ways to train for power outside of Olympic Lifting, all of which I use in my programs and find very effective. If you know of other methods, please feel free to share and email me at, or on Twitter at

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please feel free to contact me at anytime.

All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

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Articles & Videos You Should See 12-5

Olympic Lifting for Baseball – Joe Meglio brings up great reasons as to why baseball players should not be doing Olympic lifts. I love using them in training, but recognize that they are very technical lifts and improper form can easily lead to injuries. For baseball players, this is especially worrisome seeing as the likeliest injury sites are the wrist and shoulder.

Addressing Weaknesses in Training and Life – When addressing weaknesses in the weight room, it is important not to ignore of your strengths. Mike Robertson provides good insight on the importance of keeping your strengths and the reality of improving weak areas.

Jump Higher & Get More Powerful – Charles Poliquin shows some of the research behind utilizing both bilateral and unilateral plyometric training to elicit the best results. If you train athletes in jumping sports (basketball, volleyball, etc) it is important to note the risk of over training the CNS, as well as wear on the joints.

Tennis Ball Receiver Drills – I am a huge fan of tennis ball drills for hand-eye coordination. Here is a video showing how the University of Texas wide receivers improve their catching with tennis balls.

20 Battle Rope Exercises – There are a few variations I haven’t seen before on this video. Battle ropes are great on the shoulders, core, and pretty much everything else.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
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