Thursday, December 24, 2009

Power by the Numbers

To avoid proximity bias I prefer to deal with numbers and objectivity as they are available. I am in no way a math genius but I try to be as logical and reasonable in my thinking as the issue allows....

PR Power Snatch (Previous Training Cycle):
1662 Watts @ 2.12 Meters/Second (Peak Power and Peak Velocity Measures)

PR Power Snatch (Current Training Cycle; Off Blocks):
1861 Watts @ 2.11 Meters/Second (Peak Power and Peak Velocity Measures)
+199 Watts and +.01 Meters/Second

+199 Watts is a significant improvement in power especially in consideration of the fact that peak velocity was maintained with a 10-kilo improvement in load (80 to 90k). Interestingly my numbers continued to climb as I moved on to squat snatch. This is logical although it does not always occur as technical or specific strength limitations will limit individual expression on the lift.
Power Snatch off Blocks (Peak Power, Peak Velocity, Avg Power, Avg Velocity):
80K (1811w, 2.31 m/s, 941w, 1.2 m/s)
90K (1861w, 2.11 m/s, 970w, 1.1 m/s)
100K (2009w, 2.05 m/s, 970w, .99 m/s)
110K Miss 1 (2027w, 1.88 m/s, 981w, .91m/s)
110K Miss 2 (2059w, 1.91 m/s, 1002w, .93 m/s)
110K Done! (2016w, 1.87 m/s, 981w, .91 m/s)

If we take a specific look at 110K you will see that the 110K Miss #1 and the successful 3rd attempt (110K Done!) were very close and match exactly in average power and average velocity (with peak power and peak velocity just off the mark). 110K Miss 2 was actually a more powerful lift overall but the technique was not there to record a successful lift.
Also worth noting is that the maximum training load I am capable of performing properly is a 160K clean pull off of blocks and my power numbers have never gone beyond 2000 watts (with my last training cycle I was in the high 1900s but no 2000s). This brings to light an important consideration as my power (speed-strength) numbers on snatch suggest that my lifts at 100k and 110k are more than sufficient as a specific stimulus.
We cannot conclude however that if I were a speed-power athlete in another sport that all I would need to do in training were power lifts (not powerlifting as in squat, deadlift, and bench press). The clean pull off blocks is less technical and an overall simpler task to perform and in many ways can help to effectively maintain hip dominant pulling and lower back/leg strength. The last point specific to this situation is that as a speed and strength stimulus if the athlete is proficient at performing the power lifts and we are hoping to maintain a higher "reserve" of our physical stress resources then the lighter loads used in training on the power snatch or power clean movements should be more than enough to help an athlete maintain form for an extended period. If we accept this conclusion than this means we can take an altogether different view of the maintenance of strength.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vertical Jump Methodology (Excerpt from article)

Here is an excerpt from my article '4 Steps for Successful Vertical Jump Performance in Volleyball'. I'm wordy but that's why you love me:


Strength training plays an integral role to support high performance on the volleyball court but the process that enhances performance is the development of speed and power. Strength training alone would limit performance enhancement for the sport without a specific focus on the time allowed for the application of force in jumping, hitting, blocking, short sprints, and changes of direction. These qualities are referred to as speed, power, elasticity, and rate of force development (RFD) and they are expressed in volleyball through several different yet complementary mechanisms. To put it simply each skill in volleyball requires a unique combination of these abilities and this combination functions optimally if they are developed appropriately.

The consistency we should focus on in this development is the achievement of a maximum movement speed specific to the exercise or drill. In analysis of speed and power training performed in our training program and other successful programs from around the world the primary factor in improving an athlete's performance is their ability to create this speed. Putting it another way let's ask this question: are younger players limited by the time of a match or the speed and skill required to perform at a higher level? You see all volleyball players play the same match length but the high-performing collegiate and Olympic level players play with greater speed, skill, and power. Speed and power training for the sport should teach the athlete to produce great movement speed and power with a high degree of skill in a wide variety of environments.

Specific decision making has to be made regarding the athlete's technical ability with these movements. Anyone who has attempted to use some of these techniques without the technical and physical prerequisites realizes that jump and sprint training, plyometrics, Olympic lifts and Olympic lifting variations, and medicine ball exercises do not benefit athletes as described without them. Another thing to consider is that there have been many athletes who have been successful without many of these specific methods either because they were intentionally left out or because their program lacked access to the appropriate facilities and equipment to perform them. Speed and power performance is not fixed or tied to performance on one exercise or training method but there should be a clear focus on maximizing speed and power in training to benefit performance on the volleyball court. If the coaching staff is not proficient in the teaching of Olympic lifts and lift variations there are very appropriate methods that serve as effective alternatives.

To review these capacities further I will focus on the methods that can be utilized to develop them for vertical jump performance. However an important note is that great care must be taken to not overwhelm volleyball players with additional training focused on these qualities as volleyball itself is a tremendous expression of speed and power. In combination with volleyball’s intensity, an extended playing schedule through much of the year, and other stressful demands common to life coaches and athletes must carefully decide when to try and improve physical performance and when to stabilize and maintain these abilities.

Progressive Loading Jumps (Technical)
Difficulty: Low
Methodology: This specific loading technique is to teach athletes to achieve the proper jump position and to utilize the arms and trunk properly. It is most definitely a regression of what athletes should be capable of but if there is a lack of understanding at how the arms and trunk help contribute to a great vertical jump this technique helps athletes understand the relationship better. This loading technique is not limited by the resistance of gravity, since we are moving downward with gravity, so the athlete should be capable of a very fast arm and trunk motion. The essential parts of the loading technique are:

Drive: Drive is the final arm drive used to get into jump position. This motion is used to teach the athlete to create a powerful descent that allows for a more explosive ascent. A faster down motion results in a faster upward motion due to the stored elastic energy within the neuromuscular system (the linking between the mind’s concentration of the effort and the body). A simple way to describe the drive motion is to think of “attacking the floor”.

Swing: The Swing technique is used to teach a relaxation of the arms to help athletes understand that there is a synergistic action that occurs between speed and relaxation. Essentially there is a burst of energy from the arm swing and drive created at shoulder height that results in higher speeds if the athlete can coordinate that movement with a more relaxed shoulder and arm motion.

Stick (the Jump Position): The Stick of the jumping motion is at the end of the arm drive and swing motion where the athlete uses the same principle of a coordinated speed and relaxation movement to stop and stabilize the jump position. The faster we can initiate this braking motion the faster we can begin our ascent, resulting in a higher and more explosive jump.

Arm Drive + Stick
Swing, Drive + Stick
Arm Drive + Jump
Swing, Drive + Jump

Explosive Jumps (Stationary Loaded-Countermovement; Speed and Elasticity)
: Medium to High
Methodology: These jumps are fundamental in that they offer an excellent view into the skill of jumping with little distraction. Jumping from a stationary position is the technique that we will depend on when we add speed and elasticity via an approach. What I often see as a coach are athletes who can jump with an approach but not without. I almost never see the opposite scenario of an athlete who can jump from a standing position but who cannot jump effectively when adding running speed to their jump. Explosive jumping from a stationary position is a fundamental building block for the approach jump. Loading this jump by using an effective arm and trunk motion followed by an explosive transition from descent to ascent is a critical step in teaching athletes to jump effectively. If good technique on this jump is displayed then all that is left to do is add speed, strength, and power to the movement.

Split Jumps
Standing Jumps

Elasticity Jumps
: Medium to High
Methodology: The stretch-shortening cycle, or stretch-reflex, is a mechanism that helps to prevent injury to muscles and joints but can also serve as a performance-enhancing mechanism when trained appropriately. Training the stretch-shortening cycle helps to develop more elastic jump performance (elasticity). Specific to volleyball, developing elasticity helps us jump higher, faster, and requires less mechanical work resulting in less fatigue. The focus of elasticity jumps is:

Faster Ground Contact Times: This means we are spending less time on the ground to develop a higher vertical jump. To explain further ground contact time is from the time we touch the ground to the time we get into the air. Fast stretch-shortening cycle activity registers at under .25 seconds and slow stretch-shortening cycle activity occurs above .25 seconds. There are specific measurement tools that help us to assess an athlete’s ground contact time and elasticity but we can still make progress in the absence of such equipment.

Faster Turnover: A simple way to describe elasticity is we want to achieve a faster turnover of the down and upward motion. We can cue athletes by describing the ground as “hot” and therefore we want to get off the ground as fast as possible. To add elasticity to a jump we do not have to jump off of high boxes as many believe. Adding elasticity to a jump can be as simple as adding a shallow hop before the jump and focusing on rapid turnover.

Stiffer Jump Position: Elasticity is sometimes described as “stiffness” at the appropriate body position. The stiffness of our spring prevents a slowing of the jump by “springing” us right back into the air. Elastic jumpers do not require as deep of a knee bend for jumps if they can either achieve an appropriate running speed or generate more stiffness earlier in their descent.

Double-Hop Split Jumps
Double-Hop Standing Jumps
Power Step-Ups
Hurdle Jumps
Standing Triple Vertical Jumps
Hop + Jump
Lateral Hop + Jump
Crossover + Jump

Vertimax Jumps (Speed/Power/Elasticity)
Difficulty: High
Methodology: The vertimax is a jump training device that is simply a platform with a series of rubber bands that allow for adjustment of the loading intensity. I encourage its use in training assuming that jump technique is up to speed and we have enough control over training to eliminate overuse. We typically add vertimax jumps into our club training program 4-8 weeks into club season although I will eliminate or limit its use when the tournament schedule becomes more rigorous. If available the vertimax offers a great deal of mechanical specificity and does not require additional instruction as Olympic lifting technique does. One primary consideration in using the vertimax is that athletes should maintain a focus on movement speed and not let the additional resistance slow them excessively.

Split Jumps
Standing Jumps
Double-Hop Split Jumps
Double-Hop Standing Jumps
Power Step-Ups
Standing Triple Vertical Jumps (Elastic Response)
Hop + Jump
Accentuated Eccentric Hop + Jump (with Straps)

Explosive and Elasticity Jumps with Variable Landings (Technical and Speed/Power)
: Medium to High
Methodology: Jumping in volleyball at times requires complex adjustments and landings. If the athlete must change position to adjust to a ball or another player, whether that is through a simple rotation, holding their jump longer, or otherwise, there will be a definite change in the ability to land "properly".

Landing properly is not limited to landing in a perfect athletic position as many describe. This is a gross oversimplification. Landing properly is the ability to decelerate and place appropriate loading to the body's active supports, primarily muscles, while minimizing stress to passive supports (ligaments and other joint structures). In short, it's a best case scenario for a worst possible situation. This requires a great deal of coordination, spatial awareness, muscle stiffness, and elasticity. It is a thin line we walk by training to make some of these adjustments but it is my opinion that this skill must be addressed. By including these minor adjustments in training we are including a physical decision making process that will help athletes make a better decision in a more challenging environment.

Single-Leg Hops (Low Intensity)
Lateral/Medium Hops (Low Intensity)
Alternating Split Jumps
Vertical Jump to Split Landing Right or Left Landing
Split Jump to Symmetrical Stance Landing
Hop + Jump to Split Right/Left/Symmetrical Landing
Hop + 1-Arm Reaching Jump to Right/Left/Symmetrical Landing
Vertical Jump to Split Landing Right or Left (with Audible Cue)

Concentric Power Jumps (No Eccentric Loading or Paused; Speed/Power)
: Low to Medium
Methodology: This specific jump technique is meant to teach the distinction between a fast loading technique and paused jump technique that sometimes occurs during the block and approach jump. These jumps teach athletes to accelerate and jump effectively from a static start position like a sprinter taking off from starting blocks. These jumps teach athletes to work through a difficult jump position, as the pause takes speed and momentum from the jump, and forces them to push hard from a proper position.

Seated Vertical Jump
Paused Split Jump
Paused Standing Jump
Hop + Pause Jump
Lateral Hop + Pause Jump
Crossover + Pause Jump
Dumbbell or Barbell Pause Squat Jumps

Medicine Ball Exercises (Speed/Power/Elasticity)
: Low to Medium
Methodology: Medicine ball training is an excellent source of training variety and is also a great teaching tool in the development of speed and power. We can use medicine ball training in a number of ways to teach explosiveness and reinforce athlete’s to work through proper jump technique. Relative to jumping medicine ball training is sub-maximal, meaning that the utilization of the medicine ball in teaching jumping will slow their jump performance versus jumping without the medicine ball. This occurs because medicine balls are extra weight. If an athlete gains 6-12 pounds, a common weight for medicine balls, they will most certainly not jump as high. The extra weight of the medicine balls serves a purpose:

The weight varies with body position: Because the medicine ball functions as an extension of our body position we can move the ball faster on the way up and down. In this way we say that the weight is “smart”. Speeding the ball up on the way down, by pulling it down with us, adds an effective load to our jump position. By speeding the ball up on the jump up, by “pushing through the ceiling”, the ball gains momentum and feels lighter near full extension.

The weight forces a concentration on position and technique: The athlete experiences medicine ball training as slower and at specific points in medicine ball training we must work harder to create an effective jump. We can also use specific techniques to reinforce full extension. For example on a medicine ball vertical jump toss we can do two things: 1-reinforce full extension by teaching that the hips should continue to rise after release and we should create a straight arrow with release; 2-do not release the ball at the top position of the jump to show the athlete if they are at full extension or if they have cut their jump short.

Medicine Ball Standing Vertical Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Standing Split Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Caber Toss (Between the Leg Toss or Granny Toss)
Medicine Ball Hop + Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Hop + Pause Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Seated Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Lateral Hop + Jump Toss
Medicine Ball Standing Vertical Jump Toss (No Release)
Medicine Ball Caber Toss (No Release)

Olympic Lift Variations (Speed, Strength and Power)
: Medium to High
Methodology: Olympic Weightlifting is a contested Olympic sport. In using these lifts the training and technique needed to develop power and speed in athletes is extensive, however, we can simplify several of the movements by using appropriate Olympic lifting variations to make them more accessible for volleyball players. Hang variations and variations used from above or just below the knee are often the first step in adjusting the lifts for taller athletes. During this portion of the movement the speed and power peaks and it is easier to teach athletes to stay in proper position than when attempting to initiate the lift from the floor. This list is far from comprehensive but is a good start for many lifters:

The Set Position: The athlete should slowly descend to this position focusing on keeping the barbell or dumbbell close to the body or “tucked” just against the thigh. A way to teach the set position is to teach the athlete to keep their knuckles and chest over the bar and hang over it by creating a proper hinge from their hip. The athlete should be in a proper athletic position with weight centered on the heel and hip. A flat back should be maintained through the complete movement.

The Jump: Keeping the barbell or dumbbell close to the body the athlete should drive the chest up and push through their legs (imagine “pushing the floor away”) until they achieve full extension. Upon full extension the athlete should stay with the barbell or dumbbell keeping their elbows high and rotating from the shoulder as appropriate.

The Catch: Catching the barbell or dumbbell properly is one of the more challenging parts of the lift. A successful catch takes the same amount of skill as creating a proper landing. We must teach the athlete to use their body to receive the weight of the barbell or dumbbell. The transition from the set and jump position to the catch position can be seen as “leaving home” and “returning home”. The athlete should also be taught how to successfully miss a lift if the weight is out of position.

Hip Power Snatch (also referred to as a Pocket Snatch)
Hang Power Snatch
Hip Power Clean (also referred to as a Pocket Power Clean)
Hang Power Clean
Hang Power Clean (Below Knee)
Dumbbell Snatch
Dumbbell High Pull
A Successful Miss

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Wisdom from John Kessel's Blog:

Tryouts and Our Deepest Fear

For those who favor brevity these 2 things really stuck out to me:

from Mia Hamm:
"Do you remember why you play or has it been too long? Do you play because you've worked so hard to get where you are or is it because you love to be part of a team? Is it because you love the anxiety before the game? Is it because you don't want to let anyone down or because you don't want to let yourself down? Somewhere behind the athlete you've become, the hours of practice, the coaches who pushed you, the teammates who believe in you, and the fans who cheer for you is the little girl who took that first perfect shot. The little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back, PLAY FOR HER."

from Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Steven Plisk is a Genius

Read if you value a structure beyond "keep it simple"

I get questions that refer to a specific coaching situation or what an athlete has in mind for their training. When asked, my response is "If you had to do it that way this is what I would do but if you ask me how I would do it I will tell you a different story." When has excellence been formed on the foundation of compromise?

A common trend in coaching is for coaches who have a specific population in mind generalizing advice to all populations and environments. If all I did was train a collegiate volleyball team my advice would probably center on that environment. But since I get to train athletes at many different levels of development, and since I also recruit athletes to participate in my ELITE long-term athlete development program, and since I am seeking to truly help develop a process that will develop elite volleyball players and athletes I will continue to discuss the optimization of the physical preparation process.

That is all.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Is strength enough?

The Plan (It is elegant in its simplicity):

The Actual Process (Note the drastic change in form):

The Complete View:

Is it fairly easy to see how small errors in the development of motor skill can drastically affect our total accuracy and by extension our development of a "complete" athlete (with respect to the targeted motor qualities)?

To many coaches the "strong" athlete is key but how much is being left on the table? How does strength help them express other qualities? When does an athlete have enough strength and when should more time be focused on other motor qualities (perhaps the ones we are sucking at apparently in the example above)?

Strength and speed in combination is typically oversimplified as the term power (I am guilty of this as well) but what happens when transfer to sport tells us that the speed side of the equation is more significant and we are off target and underdeveloped there?

The goal of training should have integrity to it and strength training plays a big part in this but if we allow for proximity bias to occur the strength coach will always lean towards strength!

We should be clear to athletes that development is a comprehensive process and excellence and expertise in one motor skill does not guarantee expertise in the others.

LT266 Meet Results:

Execution on my snatch attempts was poor and is an extension of my training to date. I'm still working very hard on my 2nd pull and being more patient to the end. Staying over the bar longer is key but I am learning how to squeeze, or "tuck", the bar in towards my hips so the bar doesn't sneak away from me and go on its own ride. Keeping my knuckles over the bar and setting my hips more slowly will also definitely help me execute more effectively in the future. Now a blending/layering of technical work in combination with "gettin' after it" more for further improvements.

Clean and Jerk:
My psychological/physiological arousal level is definitely more accurate on my clean and jerk attempts. The bending of my knees/hips before I drop into position to initiate the clean helps me to set my hips/ankles (making sure I feel my foot/ankle engaging with the floor). I realize for many this may be overkill but for me I feel much better in my set position if I set my foot diligently. Overall I kept the bar in close and pulled hard and long with my feet glued to the platform until the last possible millisecond. Patient in my recovery on 125k but more aggressive with 130 and 135k (by necessity). Jerks were solid but still need more strength from my trunk and hips to support stronger drive and recovery. Overall, my kung fu was strong on clean and jerk.

I also had a better focus on my visual targeting/accuracy for the clean and jerk. A lack of platform experience (this being only my 2nd competition) had me a little confused on where I should be focusing and how to reduce distractions (environmentally and internally).

Also snatched 110k in training 10 days after...

It was killer!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recent "Work"

Guest Blog for Patrick Ward of Optimum Sports Performance and Reality Based Fitness Podcast:

Training Female Volleyball Players

Also competed in the LT266 Invitational Meet 2 Weekends Ago:

Snatch: 97K Miss, 97, 102 Miss
Clean and Jerk: 125K, 130K, 135K (Will definitely get called for elbow bend in larger meets)

Will elaborate on my performance in the next post...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Med Ball Mastery: Owned

Finally actually gave the presentation last night for my friend and colleague Anthony Renna's site. Very excited to have it finished and managed to streamline things enough to make it practical for everyone. If you have some time check it out at

Working hard now but updates coming soon...

For a preview, check out

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tortoise and the Tortoise

Brent Kim, a weightlifting friend of mine, is nearing completion of a linear progression program (Mark Rippetoe helped develop it for him) and his results are great.

Magic Man Workout #13

Keep in mind that Brent is an intermediate level weightlifter with a good training history. This isn't a fat boy to fabulous program. Just goes to show you that the simplicity of an organized program performed well will bring positive results for extended periods. His early squat sessions were 335 (3sx5r) low-bar back squat and his most recent squat workout was 385 (3sx5r)... on a linear progression program (basically adding 5 pounds to the bar every workout).

For volleyball players, I prefer to change/vary the speed/power stimulus regularly but favor a more linear style with strength work (depending on the time of year).

If you would like to read more on Brent's training check it out here:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paul Revere

As I transition back into fall coaching mode I have more time to train myself and have been taking advantage of that for the past 2 weeks. I feel like the time I spent this summer working hard on my snatch, clean, and jerk technique has helped but as is typically the case I focused so much on that I find myself lacking in the areas that I simply could not fit as much time in to address properly. For me squats and pulls are very taxing so I decided to not stress my recovery by keeping up with everything (squats/pulls notably) and compromising my coaching work (by walking around crippled and not being able to physically demonstrate or adjust athletes); I could have attempted to "cocktail" things more or used split sessions but I felt like this was a more appropriate step and one that should help me improve faster given the extra time/work I will be able to now put in. I would have definitely used split sessions if I felt my technique was better. Anyway, to the test:

Officially, I have beaten my record of 3157 watts @ 4.13 m/s (40.5 watts/kilogram) by jumping 3249 @ 4.25 m/s (41.7 watts/kilogram), and I am as awesome as I thought I was... The reality is that I have most of my female volleyball players in the 30's in the watts/kg average. Highest recorded volleyball female is 36.7 watts/kg (20y.o., 50k bodyweight) and highest volleyball male is 40.1 watts/kg (18 y.o., 68k). I'm still trying to create more of a baseline on which to base performance and readiness but feel like I'm on the right track with this testing/training.

An important point on this training/testing is the warm-up through the kettlebell swings (detailed below) did not prepare me properly for the power test (this is why I tested twice, indicated above as test 1 and 2). This brings up a couple of thoughts/points:

-If the goal was not to "test", but rather was to express speed/power at near maximum in training then a more effective means of warming up is required. Specifically, the gap in speed/power performance was simply too large. There's a continuum and too big of a jump was made and I was, in this case, ill prepared. It's going from 70% to 95% in 1 jump. Ridiculous, most of the time... but more on that later (hint: a story I have heard, but not confirmed, about Dragomic Cioroslan and Pete Kelley)

-If the goal was to test maximum speed/power then a more specific means of warming up is required. Force/velocity specificity considered, something I did before testing should have been done to make my body more aware of the demands of the test. Not including this is the equivalent of leaving numbers out of the formula taught and then testing students. An even simpler comparison is giving someone a phone number with the right area code but wrong prefix. I try to be specific to these problems as this helps to educate the athlete on issues such as why "I jump better in a match than I do in training" (which by the way I have tested athletes during scrimmage play and practice before with no difference typically).

Also, when it comes to weightlifting and/or training olympic lift variations I see coaches using many poorly executed complexes and lift variations that are not complimentary to lift performance meaning:

-they do not aid lift performance beyond as a general warm-up, and/or

-they do not help improve the specific expression of a quality/skill that can aid lift performance (eg speed/timing of extension in a power snatch/power clean demonstrated at a high level with a series of hurdle jumps, box jumps, dumbbell snatches, etc). If it's too slow/fast or in the wrong area code with mechanics then you will unlikely see improvements (especially in session).

I re-test after performing the med ball circuit for 2s x 3/3/5r (caber toss, hop + toss, slams) with a more positive result. For my purposes, the med ball throws work effectively because they accentuate a specific point in the movement's performance (eg the initial push from the bottom of a jump accentuated with the between the leg caber toss and the faster turnover from the trunk/hips with the hop + jump toss). Caber tosses were a little off technically but were not poor, in speed or mechanics, so we continue to move in the right direction.

Now here's a little story, I've got to tell
About 3 bad brothers, you know so well...

Warm-Up/Movement Prep/Greasing the Wheels/Putting the Cape On/Prepping to "Do Work"/Going from Peanut to Just Nuts/From Weak Sauce to Hot Sauce
I. Jump Rope - 90 Seconds (That thing's just a rope, man, you have to make the jump thing happen - Mitch Hedberg)
II. Foam Roll - "300" Seconds
III. Floor/Mat Warm-Up
A1. Reach, Roll, + Lift
A2. Kneeling Rotations
A3. Kneeling Prone 1-Arm Wall Slide
A4. Floor Bridge Variations (I will continue to invest the 30 seconds here even though some think it's a waste of time because I waste a hell of a lot more time blogging, sleeping, saving the world, etc)
A5. 90/90's, Plank, or Rolling Variations (Gray Cook)
A5. R/L Kneeling Lunge Position Shoulder Warm-Up - Arm Circles F/B, Shoulder Angels, Opp. Reaches (like Apley's Scratch Test), Should PNF (call them thumb high/thumb low for players), Arm Swings
IV. Movement
RNT Prisoner Split Squats, S-L RDL/Balance, Lateral/Transverse Squats, Cook Squat Progression, Spiderman (fewer reps than most I'm sure)
V. 4 x 30-Yard Skips to Accelerations
VI. 2 x 15-Yard R-L and L-R Shuffles or Crossover/Carioca Variations
VII. Kettlebell High Pulls + KB Swings
VIII. Power Test
IX. Med Ball Circuit - Caber Toss, Hop + Toss, Slams (2 s x 3/3/5r)
X. Power Test

Order typically gets switched based on needs but you get the idea... So where did the warm-up end and the training begin?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Low Battery

What I thought was a record-setting performance (previous best of 3157 watts @ 4.13 m/s) for a triple turned out to be a major disappointment (major in a 'I'm not as awesome as I thought I was' kind've way). With that said, it's hard to say if I achieved the in-session progression I was looking for on this power test (a bodyweight squat jump test using the tendo unit attached to a piece of pvc) or if the low-battery warning that flashed at the VERY END OF THE SET, upon completion of the jumps, was also an indicator that the tendo readings were inaccurate (as I have learned they are when the unit has low batteries).

I think you will see a significant difference in performance between Set 1 and Set 2 and this was the focus of the warm-up (although I will continue to argue with myself about the potential inaccuracy of the testing on this training day). I've learned that if an athlete, including myself if I can be so bold, does not start a session sharp better to extend the warm-up, sharpen the blade, and get 60 minutes of quality work (assuming an average training session of 90 minutes) then rush into things and get 90 minutes of average work. Having begun this session feeling relatively average, having a low battery of my own if you will, I was happy with my lifting performance on this day.

"If I had 6 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend 4 hours sharpening the saw." -Abe Lincoln

Tell me what you see?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Funny Angled Triangle

More on this later, but hopefully an image will help at least spark a thought process (one that I'm sure is consistent with good problem solvers, whether it's via the same example/demonstration or just in thought).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Med Ball Mastery

Near completion for my Med Ball Mastery presentation that I am doing for Anthony Renna's new website Strength & Conditioning Webinars. Being able to present via the internet is a great way to maintain my secret identity so I'm pumped about the opportunity. Anthony is also just about the nicest guy I inter-know so I'm glad I can help him continue to develop his website.

The thing I love about showing what one knows and does not know is I am just arrogant enough to want to make sure that I know my stuff (at least specific to the topic). Some of my programming concepts are honestly works in progress and while I'm confident in what they do for development it would be a flat out lie to say that it has had this tremendous impact on LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development) or similarly hard to reach goals that are the true test of a coach beyond a basic return to fitness/conditioning.

Also have had the time this weekend to:

-Continue reading the IOC Medical Commission publication 'Volleyball'. The chapter on 'The Elite Athlete' is freakin' sweet. Really, the whole book has been excellent although I would disagree with much of the methodology presented in Bompa's chapter on 'Peak Conditioning for Volleyball'. I will save most of the disagreement's for my book. At least those that go beyond what one can pick up from what I have written so far (which ain't much).

-Sit down and review several dvd's that have stimulated some great thought. DVD's were the HPC Elitetrack Gold Medal Track Clinic and Developing a Dynamic Warm-Up Program for Speed-Power Athletes. Presentations from Dave Kerin, Will Wu, Tom Tellez, Larry Judge, Dan Pfaff, and Mike Young on the HPC Elitetrack Clinic DVD were all just fantastic for me. I do have to say that it seems like I cannot get through 1 track/field seminar or DVD without an attack on the agility ladder. While I do not use these much at all I find it incredibly ironic that track coaches would attack these when their own 'sprint' drills do not even serve the purpose their name describes. Ask a good track coach what these drills do and often you will get the answer that while they do not help actual sprinting, they do help with postural alignment, dynamic flexibility, or as a good way to extend the warm-up/transition into sprint work. That sounds like the same thing an agility ladder can do if used properly. I like to use sprint drills and skips in the warm-up, however, most of these drills utilize a vertical posture. This vertical posture is not seen frequently in sport. Whether one uses the agility ladder or not in the training of the team sport athlete is not important. The important thing is that we address postures specific to shin angle and plane of movement in the warm-up and in the training. The appropriate use of the agility ladder can help to do that.

- Had a 60-minute battle with about 20 yellow jackets. I wanted to barbecue (including beer can chicken) and drink a beer or two and these suckers were out to ruin it for me from the beginning. Underprepared but highly motivated, I was determined to take every one of these things down. This ended up being much more fun than just sitting there toasting my excellence.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Prep

Always an exciting time for me. The 'Volleyball' text above has me as excited about reading as I have been in a long time. The chapter on 'Biomechanics of Jumping' alone is worth the price of the whole book.

In the picture you can also see the bottom half of Dan Pfaff's General Strength DVD to the right. Dan Pfaff is my current man crush and his thought process alone paralyzes me. His presentations for the TCACC (2005) on training theory/chronic loading where he discusses 'enzymatic routing and fascial connections' made so much sense to me and yet requires so much more study to really make the concepts concrete and applicable. Many experts can have this effect on others where they can communicate something so eloquently you feel much more confident in your knowledge of the material than you should be.

Also on my list of reading for the new couple of weeks:

Oschman, James. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis (A Pfaff Recommendation)

Wooden, John. Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life (Just the connection of brick and mortar life qualities hit me hard)

Ericsson, K. Anders. Expert Performance in Sports. (The Reference everyone references when it comes to expert performance)

Collins, Jim. How The Mighty Fall. (Good to Great was, ha, great so this should be a good, no, great read. The five step-wise stages of decline introduced on the book's jacket was enough to lock this one in my sights)

Stone, Michael H. Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. (Reading through this one for the 3rd time. My reading pace is either much slower than everyone else or I have less confidence in my mastery of the material. A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B...)

As for summer training, I am looking at this summer as improving on and extending our performance from the spring. Some of my plyometric progressions have developed much differently than those of my mentors but I have confidence in my ability to manage the distribution of intensity/volume appropriately. Some of the work we have done in the spring has helped my practical understanding of said management skills and I will apply this knowledge as best as I can to our summer programming. To say that I am not always fascinated and always learning would not give the body's adaptive processes enough credit...

One methodology concept I have been working hard on is that of stable variation. I plan to elaborate much more on this later but essentially I rotate the speed/power stimulus in nearly every session on a weekly or bi-weekly basis while stabilizing our strength work by using sessions with more consistency in the stimulus (more linear to slightly non-linear depending on several factors). My feeling is that when we are evaluating the complexity of physical development we have to not just think of the weight on the bar (although this is an obvious indicator for success). There also must be concern for an appropriate level of coordination development that teaches the athlete to be flexible in the performance of motor tasks. When athletes lack this level of coordination you will find less transfer from general to specific work.

I am also finishing part deux of my principles of volleyball performance training article focused on methodology. Part I was a little lengthy for most readers so I'm hoping I can be a bit more brief.

Monday, April 20, 2009


"You have to ask yourself, 'Who am I being if my players' eyes are not shining?'" - John Kessel, USA Volleyball

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Short and Long-Term Progression:

I'm all for kaizen but don't mind seeing technical adjustments and good training processes feed the organism's machinery. For example...

Today had one of my very serious collegiate athletes (as serious as one can be with the schedule they have this month) begin with a series of seated vertical jumps and med ball vertical tosses (2s x 3r per movement in combination). We moved past that into elasticity jumps (a hop onto the contact mat into an explosive vertical jump) paired with elasticity throws (a hop into a vertical toss). Same set/rep combination. After that we loaded the movement with the vertimax for 4 s x 2r and kicked things into high gear. Once we made the technical and positional adjustments the focus shifted to maximize the elastic response and finishing the jump. So the progression led to about a 3" increase in jump performance through the session. That 3" represented the performance this athlete is capable of if the right adjustments are made in combination with the right speed/power development methodology.

So in total, the jumps performed today were in this range:

A1. Seated Vertical Jumps - 2s x 3r (21.5 avg)
A2. Med Ball Vertical Tosses - 2s x3r (3k med ball)
B1. Elasticity (Single-Response) Jumps - 2s x 3r (21.5-22-22 avg)
B2. Elasticity Tosses - 2s x 3r (3k med ball)
C1. Vertimax Elasticity Jumps - 4s x 2r
D1. Elasticity (Single-Response) Jumps (Test) - (24.5, 24.7)

Not exactly a high volume of ground contacts (36 g.c.'s if you count the med ball throws; as an aside, I have noticed that the transition from a med ball throw into landing parallels the simple adjustment process off of a maximum vertical jump) but certainly high quality. We did all of this after an extensive warm-up (around 25 minutes today). Training finished with bb f split squats and trunk/abdominal work. Bonus to high quality programming: athlete has no more complaints of knee pain or stiffness in the outer quad/hip area.

I'd put money on us with a 27-28" average at the end of summer. If my stats on our training numbers are consistent so far, this should positively correlate with approach jump performance.

Friday, April 3, 2009


An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit.

So one of my athletes was involved in a discussion with a club coach about a year or so back. In discussion she mentioned that she had the opportunity to attend Karch Kiraly's Volleyball Academy that prior summer. She mentioned some of the positive things she had taken from Karch, of which I'm sure there were many, and this coach just had to let her know that, "Well I have beaten Karch before."

To keep this short, let me go ahead and go over what this coach has not done:

1-He has not won 3 Olympic gold medals.
2-He has not been twice named best volleyball player in the world by the Federation of International V0lleyball (FIVB)
3-He has not helped redefine the sport and the competitive spirit of the United States, especially relative to international competition.

Besides the fact that I have a huge amount of respect for Karch Kiraly, both as a player and as an ambassador for the sport, I have a very hard time respecting others who can only make themselves feel better by building themselves up and tearing others down.

I have told my athletes that in all seriousness if my training program ever becomes more about me and my ego, less about them, and I start to refer to myself as "The Diesel" or some other nonsense then I want one of them to punch me in the face.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Appropriate Coaching Blog Post

This blog is courtesy of John Kessel and USA Volleyball:

Appropriate Coaching Blog Post

I will make sure that coaches within my network of influence read this at least once.

I think that so many coaches are simply not comprehensive enough in their approach to really develop athletes and volleyball players. There is either a purely technical focus, or a psychological focus, or a "just play hard" focus. Great coaching is great blending of the motor qualities of the sport and the psychological qualities of performance.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

D-I Baby!

So one of my long-term athlete development program clients (within my EVP program this is my ELITE program) just signed a D-I volleyball scholarship. Full ride!

This particular client has trained harder and more consistently then any client I HAVE EVER HAD. I know that the second she finishes a tournament I will get 2 text messages: the first tells me how her and her team did, and the second is asking me WHEN ARE WE GOING TO TRAIN AGAIN? When she text me tonight to tell me that she was signing her scholarship her next text was... WHEN ARE WE GOING TO TRAIN AGAIN? After 6 years of hard work I can honestly say that I'm not surprised by what success she has achieved.

Needless to say I'm very excited.

Also in the works:
Met someone today in a relatively random conversation at a volleyball tournament on development. As it turns out, she works in the biomechanics/motion lab at a local university. She's got force plates, motion analysis software, the works. We quickly progressed our discussion into talk on a project to measure and evaluate performance of collegiate volleyball players I have training with me.

So today was a good day.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Crazy, crazy times...

I am now the Club Director for Bexar County Volleyball Academy and things are very crazy. If it wasn't for the tendo unit I picked up recently I would have nothing to be excited about in my training.

Thought this would be a good time to do a basic overview of technical/performance issues involving olympic lifts and speed/power development.

Often the argument presented is that power version of the lifts initiated from the floor offer more benefit to athletes. Not sure that I agree there.

80K Power Snatch 60K Hang Snatch 70K Hang Snatch
Set 1
1. 1678 W, 2.14 M/S 1. 1411 W, 2.40 M/S 1. 1598 W, 2.33 M/S
2. 1615 W, 2.06 M/S 2. 1411 W, 2.4 0 M/S 2. 1619 W, 2.36 M/S
Set 2
1. 1717 W, 2.19 M/S 1. 1517 W, 2.58 M/S 1. 1633 W, 2.38 M/S
2. 1615, 2.06 M/S 2. 1476 W, 2.51 M/S 2. 1612 W, 2.35 M/S
*Any coincidence that the 1st rep of the 2nd set was my best rep on each exercise? (Vids are linked via youtube)

80K P Sn
1656 W, 2.11 M/S
100% W, 85% M/S

70K H Sn
1616 W, 2.36 M/S
98% W, 96% M/S

60K H Sn
1454 W, 2.47 M/S
88% W, 100% M/S

Obviously the heavier lifts are producing more power, however, the hang versions are producing a high percentage of the same power (98 and 88% respectively) while producing more speed (60K was 12% faster and 70k was 10.5% faster). This comparison was not made to be exact or precise. My primary purpose was to see for myself if a reduced load with reduced ROM lift could produce comparable power/speed. Did it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Attila the Hun and Expert Performance

Lifted yesterday with my weightlifting group in Austin at Hyde Park Gym. Had the chance to lift with a guy named Attila... and he's Hungarian. He's an older lifter, relatively speaking, but is still rock solid. After years and years of motor skill development and physical training (are they one and the same when it comes to performance?) this guy defines expert even if his current performance does not qualify him as such. Every time I think of my own current development, just past 2 years of near full-time training, in weightlifting the 10-years and/or 10,000 hours of practice rule comes to my mind. In case you don't realize what I'm talking about, researchers have suggested that this is the amount of time and energy it takes to reach expert status.

For my development, this means I have a long way to go for everything to "feel" better. For volleyball players it often means that whether it is at the high school or collegiate level their development will be cut short (assuming an average start of 12-14 years old). What it means for both of us: arrogance. It's arrogant to believe that we are capable of putting out consistent, near perfect performance (def. as
having, involving, or demonstrating great skill, dexterity, or knowledge as the result of experience or training.) when we have only been practicing and performing for such a short time. There's a reason why it is not common for collegiate level volleyball players, even those with high potential, to play on the Olympic team. There is a reason why high skill activities with earlier starting ages, such as gymnastics, achieve expert status and performance earlier. It all comes back to how much time and deliberate practice that person has achieved (that process being what drives them to expert status). In a team sport such as volleyball, this does not just point to individual skill development but also the ability to make adjustments based on the make-up of the team.

Honestly ranking yourself based on your level of achievement and not on your level of ambition is a difficult but necessary step if one ever hopes to achieve elite or expert status. I've acknowledged to many that I don't think I will ever get past intermediate status in weightlifting as currently I can't see myself continuing full-time training for more than another year or two. It's hard to define yourself as mediocre but I hope that honesty can help someone.