Sunday, February 9, 2014

NC Strength Coaches Clinic Recap, Part 1

For years, Wake Forest University strength and conditioning coach Ethan Reeve has organized and hosted the North Carolina Strength Coaches Association's annual clinic.

Coach Reeve takes pride in bringing in the best coaches in various fields of strength training, and this year was no exception. Here's a recap of what I learned.

Rich Lansky - Optimum Performance Training Center, Sarasota, FL

Before running a large group of high school football players through his snatch, clean and jerk progressions in Wake Forest's varsity weight room, Coach Lansky told every athlete (and observer) to "forget what you think you know." His progressions were simple but sound, and the athletes improved significantly during the session, but what impressed me the most were his verbal cues and one liners. Some of his most memorable include:

"You cannot jump too high."

"If the athlete's heels kick toward their butt it means they're falling forward." 

"If your feet are too wide when you land, you'll become part of someone else's highlight reel."

"There ain't no macho when you're trying to learn a skill" (In other words, 'don't be in a hurry to load the bar')

"If an athlete jumps forward (during a snatch or clean), they're jumping too early"

"When the bar's overhead, reach up and touch the sky" (to engage the lats)

"I've never kicked a guy out of my weight room for doing extra work."

When a coach trains a large group of athletes, how you communicate instructions is crucial. Lansky's verbal cues were spot on.

Zach Even-Esh - Underground Strength Coach, Edison, NJ

Zach took over for Lansky and immediately had the athletes put away the straight bar and pull out the trap bars. He spoke for a few minutes about his training system and why his athletes use the trap bar.  Then the athletes performed 5 sets of progressively heavier sets of 5 reps as he floated around the room to troubleshoot.

"The bar's trying to pull you down," he told one athlete whose back was rounding. "Pull it back!"

I asked him why he coached three bigger guys to "touch and go" instead of resetting between each rep. Many coaches prefer a dead stop between dead lift reps, and even Zach himself told the group to "never rush the set up- when the body locks in, the mind locks in."

"These boys are 200-and-change, pulling 185," he said. "They should be able to keep their shit tight and touch and go."

That's what I like best about Zach; he fosters an attitude that's just as important as any exercise or weight. He talked more about building toughness after the athletes finished a push-pull-jump circuit.

"You don't always need to be told what to do," he said. "When no one's watching, go outside and do a good old gut bustin' workout. 100 pushups. Sprints. Run hills. Pick up something and carry it.

"Big guys--don't lie to yourselves. You can do pushups, pull ups and climb ropes. Move your body!

"That will make you tough. That will give you an edge." 

Mark Seaver -WFU coordinator of sports performance, Winston-Salem, NC

Coach Seaver outlined the Wake Forest baseball program's annual training plan by first describing the typical WFU baseball player. Big, strong power hitters that are the exception, not the norm, as more than half of the current roster weighs less than 200 pounds and only one weighs more than 215. Therefore, he prioritizes explosion and power over added mass. To better prove this point, he showed videos of Albert Pujols ( 6' 3", 230) and Andrew McCutcheon (5' 10", 190) each hitting home runs.

Despite being 5 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter, McCutchen creates the same amount of batspeed and the same result because he's more explosive, Seaver said.

The baseball program's annual training plan consists of 9 blocks that complement the competitive season. Strength training microcycles usually consist of a strength days, power days and mobility days that include lots of single-leg, wrist and forearm supplemental exercises.

Every year the team participates in the "Omaha Challenge," a competition that involves squatting 220 pounds for reps, medicine ball throws for distance, bar holds for time and relay races during which 4 guys carry one guy for 100 yards. 

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