Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Out Of Breath

Short and sweet post here:

In my athletic career I was a relatively successful track & field athlete (called athletics internationally). Nothing crazy but enough to earn me an opportunity at the NCAA Division One level. Anyway, I used to get asked a lot about how to breathe when I was running so hard. People would say, "I like running but I get out of breath and have to stop." Well my response was always the same: I am pretty much out of breath from the first lap, or even the first curve, of whatever race I was running! The only thing was I knew how far I needed to run, I wanted to compete and do my best, so that made stopping just not acceptable. I realized that I may be out of breath, I may be tired, but my muscles can still go so I will see how far they can take me...

To my big epiphany today: I was sharing that thinking with someone else today and it occurred to me that even though I am no longer a competitive athlete that mindset has taken hold in my personal and professional life. " How do you get so much done everyday?" Well, I don't feel terrible everyday but I definitely get tired and run out of steam at times. But what I have realized is that I have never felt the need to quit so I might as well just keep going! People tell me I would love to read more, or exercise more, etc, but I just get so tired. Well, we all get tired so if that gets to all of us you may as well get tired doing things that will push you, make you better, and make your life more fulfilling and happier. I am "out of breath" most days but I just decide to keep going.

I am reminded of the movie "The Guardian" with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner in which the latter plays a seasoned, legendary rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard and the former plays a newbie with a ton of potential. Kutcher's character continues to ask Costner's, "How do you decide who lives or dies?" because ultimately as a rescue swimmer you will just never be able to save everyone. Costner's character replies, "I swim as fast and as hard as I can for as long as I can. And the sea takes the rest." So ultimately we all just have to decide what that means for ourselves. For me I choose to go as hard as I can for as long as I can and I guess I have developed a pretty good capacity for such things.

I don't want to suggest to anyone that stressing yourself out is the way to go as I definitely would consider my workload challenging but not overwhelming. The key to it is making sure that the most important things stay that way. There is definitely room for balance, self-reflection, and realizing whether you are just trying to do too much each day. But there is also plenty of room to push yourself if something is important enough to you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Triangulating on the Target: Part Two

A few things I should point out before getting to the primary aim of this blog post: 

The energetics side of things should very much be a primary point of focus; especially for athletes in my population (as well as all athletes). The fact is however that given that I am a secondary support structure for the athletes I am coaching currently this is a difficult logistical issue. I either have to program work that I know I cannot observe/qualify how the work is being performed or I use what time I do get where I can get some quality energy systems work done whenever we can. 

Given the fact that a majority of the kids I coach are being buried in the work they perform with their club program or in their high school and the issue gains more complexity. This is something I am currently not comfortable with and for how it is lacking in the support I do give athletes I feel is an overall point of embarrassment. I would like to move towards better solutions for this but as of now it is worth at best an incomplete.

So with that said I will press on and get to this post: progressing from a more concurrent focus, an emphasis on training multiple qualities, to a more specific block periodization focus (training 2 to 3 dominant qualities and relying on training residuals and maintenance programming to contain the rest). A great analogy from Dr. Brad Deweese on this is the idea of cooking with a stove (his phase potentiation lecture from the NSCA Coaches Conference is outstanding). You can't have all of your burners on high at the same time but if you skillfully introduce the necessary components you are preparing then you can manage it all and really focus on one or two by keeping the others on low.

 This image gives you a pretty good visual for how you can best contain your training stimuli. Essentially we are moving from a more broad degree of focus towards an increasing volume of specific work. There are a few typical gaps that I will quickly address here:

1: You have to do a good job of addressing core competency, in all training qualities, before attempting to establish more capacity. Gray Cook says and it is quoted often for, "You cannot stack strength on dysfunction." One of the quotes I love from Gray that is referenced less often is, "You cannot rent your movement philosophy. You have to own it." We cannot engage athletes effectively if we know that we are going to do things that will potentially compromise their health and, by extension, their performance. If we want to push the limits of human performance we have to make sure we have what we need to make it through the whole journey healthy.
2: Because you establish competency early does not mean your program will fully contain it unless you have planning in place to do so. As you move towards higher workloads of specificity you are moving further away from general loads. As speed and power expert Mike Young has stated, "Soon ripe, soon rotten." General workloads will work very well to ensure that the athlete stays ready for important transitional points as well as help you pull back some when primary means, i.e. the athlete's sport itself, are pushing specificity to its limits. As Derek Evely stated recently, "Seen in this light, general workloads and exercises are no longer given a specific phase or 'season' in the planning cycle, but rather are used throughout the year to help an athlete recover from year-round specific loads and maintain general fitness, not unlike the way an anti-virus program operates in the background of your computer system; it's there, it's important, but it is not why you bought the computer in the first place."

The good news is with all of this that we continue to improve our athlete development process and systems to help us keep things finer tuned for this challenging work. It does seem that as our technology/systems evolve, we are always given less time/resources to actually do the job of coaching. But I digress...

I have mentioned before how primary loads for me function in a linear fashion. Meaning that there are some things in the training cycle that if I know we need to have in our body of work then I am going to fight like hell to get that done even if the remainder of the work gets varied or changed for practical/logistical reasons. 

My non-linear tasks are sometimes the primary means, for developmental purposes, but are often tasks of a secondary focus. A quick example of this here (assume 2 sessions per week as is common for me):

Week 1
Session 1
A1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 80%
Week 2

Session 1
A1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 82-84%
Week 3

Session 1
B1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 84-88%
Week 4
Session 1
B1. Back Squat 4-6 x 3-5 @ 86-92%

Week 1
Session 1
C1. DB Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift 2-3 x 8/Leg
Session 2
A1. Back Squat 3x3 @ 80%
Week 2
Session 1
C1. KB Goblet Reverse Lunge 2-3 x 8/Leg
Session 2
A1. Back Squat 3-5x3 @ 82-84%
Week 3
Session 1
C1. DB Split Squat 2-3 x 10/Leg
Session 2
A1. Back Squat 2-4x3 @ 84-86%
Week 4
Session 1
C1. DB Split Squat 3-4 x 8/Leg
Session 2
A1. Back Squat 2x3 @ 86-88%

To give you some perspective on these loads we are utilizing the back squat as a primary means of strength development so we can validate using that lift 2x per week, even if we only have 2 lifts during that microcycle, because we know there is a skill to squatting and it is a key factor in the development of strength and power for sports. The first training session of the week is the priority and the second session is the one where I would anticipate having more variability in performance (most athletes, at the high school and collegiate level, start the week pretty fresh but end up trashed by the end). If the first session is compromised for some reason, because of poor sleep or sickness, I would either 1-switch the loading from the sessions so we take the easier of the two lifts first, or 2-scrap it altogether and move those more important loads to the next session of the week.

Speaking to the single-leg focus as a non-linear task here we are essentially using the exercises to be self-limiting for the athlete but progressing the load of the lifts from a more hip dominant movement (the single-leg RDL) to a hip/quad dominant movement (the goblet reverse lunge) to a quad dominant activity (the split squat). What we are losing out on in terms of very necessary muscle balance we are gaining with improved leg strength. We are also moving through a broader range of movements that satisfy our developmental needs and give us a more technical focus early on, the single-leg balance task with load, to a less technical focus, a simplified task of the split squat, in order to enhance load and strength development. Something you would not want to push for very long but that will give you an opportunity to get much stronger through the training cycle (but limits the overall stress to a more narrow window). 

For the squatting tasks specifically it is also very helpful to utilize velocity-based training as an autoregulation tool to either confirm the appropriateness of workloads or to adjust/compromise and generate comparable fitness effects. Assuming we are well prepared there is not a lot I anticipate changing in programs from week to week but technology like the PUSH device can give you a very specific window of feedback on your velocities as your athletes progress in their training. I am currently only using the PUSH device for barbell based movement tracking on squatting, pulling, and Olympic lifts/variations but I look forward to continuing to explore the device's diversity. 

There are a lot of reasons that you will see variation in movement speed so I do not adhere too strictly to certain recommendations on this; however the PUSH device will give you specific feedback to the individual that you can compare against their current and previous levels of performance. This can help add a more qualitative metric to what most coaches are just using their eyes for. Certainly nothing wrong with that but because of the complexities of our connection with our athletes, especially prominent in working with female athletes as I do, we can limit training loads or volumes at times because we are imprinting fragility on the athlete that is simply not there. There is always a careful balance in coaching and athlete development between having your foot on the gas pedal to push it and knowing when to slam on the brakes. PUSH and similar velocity-based systems can help to keep ourselves and our athletes closer to their true "speed limits" without exceeding them.

With non-strength athletes it is not uncommon for me to keep a rep or two "in the tank" for many of their training sessions early in the microcycle. This will allow me to ensure that we have stability in the exercise's performance before we start to really push their physical limits. So depending on the athlete's level of preparedness it would not be uncommon for me to adjust their set-rep distribution of work or exercise variation to better match their needs. Two examples (notice the compatibility with the example from above please):

Intermediate Athlete (Low Variation)
Week 1:
A1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 80%
B1. Hang Power Clean 1x3 @ 70%, 1x3 @ 75%, 1x2 @ 80%, 3x2 @ 77%
Week 2:
A1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 82-84%
B1. Hang Power Cl 1x3 @ 72%, 1x3 @ 77%, 1x2 @ 82%, 3x2 @ 79%
Week 3:
A1. Hang Power Cl 1x3 @ 74%, 1x2 @ 79%, 1x2 @ 82-84%, 3-5 x 1-2 @ 81%
B1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 84-86%
Week 4:
A1. Hang Power Cl 1x2 @ 76%, 1x2 @ 81%, 1x2 @ 83-85%, 2-4 x 1-2 @ 82-83%
B1. Back Squat 4-6 x 3-5 @ 86-92%

So because of the exercise order changes in week 3 and 4 we should be able to sustain these high-intensity efforts successfully with less concern of the increasing back squatting loads generating interference. Because of the use of the PUSH device I have the ability to manage the distribution of work more effectively and be sure that there are not inappropriate changes in velocity on the performance of each lift.

Beginner Athlete (High Variation for Developmental Needs: Percentage Changes from Original Example)
Week 1:
A1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 70%
B1. Hip Power Clean 1x3 @ 60%, 1x3 @ 65%, 1x2 @ 70%, 3x2 @ 67%
Week 2:
A1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 72-74%
B1. Hip Power Clean  1x3 @ 62%, 1x3 @ 67%, 
B1. Hang Power Cl 1x2 @ 72%, 3x3 @ 69%
Week 3:
A1. Hip Power Clean 1x3 @ 64%, 1x3 @ 69%
A1. Hang Power Cl 1x2 @ 72-74%, 4 x 1-2 @ 71%
B1. Back Squat 3x5 @ 74-76%
Week 4:
A1. Hang Power Cl 1x2 @ 66%, 1x2 @ 71 1x2 @ 73-75%, 2-4 x 1-2 @ 72-73%
B1. Back Squat 4-6 x 3-5 @ 76-82%

In this example we are using the exercise variation to limit intensity and are advancing both the exercise and intensity through each training week. With many athletes we cannot execute the necessary intensities in training if their technical ability has not been developed to an appropriate level. For this reason intensity will be limited anyway; perhaps not just yet for them but as they develop if we do not adequately lay the foundation for better lifting we will reduce the likelihood of ever performing at our very best. I see many people posting PR videos and stating, "Well we are still working on their technique..." In my opinion this is short-sighted. The defense given is if they only ever work on technique they will never learn to lift heavy. This brings me to two points:

1-You may lift heavy but you will never lift at your best with inadequate technique. It may even be heavy for the coach observing but the athlete and coach will never learn what their true limits are. Beyond that there is always a cost of adaptation and because of the need for increased training loads, to compensate for inadequate technique, you will stress your body much further than necessary. 
2-For non-strength athletes strength training is a general means of development. This means that the further you get away from an appropriate use of the coordinative/technical components, the C of the E-M-C triangle discussed in part one, the less likely you are to have successful transfer into the sport or activity you are developing this strength and power for.

Overall I think this has been a fair look at my thinking regarding exercise programming. There are many roads to Rome and these are some of the ways I feel I am able to train athletes successfully given the limitations common to myself and my coaching environment and as it is common to many strength coaches and trainers. So a few closing thoughts here:

-The paradox of movement specificity and variation is a great one. For developmental athletes I side with more variability in their training environment as their needs often go beyond that of just improved efficiency in strength training. The coordinative side of things for them is tremendous. As Guido Van Ryssegem has stated, "Movement variability is the oil of the CNS." To keep things flowing properly there is a careful balance between general and specific tasks (as I hope I have addressed properly above). Yet progressing towards physical peaks requires a narrowing of the stream of inputs. Just remember as Robert Pirsig stated, "It is the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top." Climb the mountain, enjoy the view, but don't try to live there.

-Sub-maximum work is undervalued but an important part of working with athletes at any population. This is a sensitive point for me as many coaches overestimate competencies in unrelated tasks because of specific competencies in either the sport or one movement/activity. In my opinion most athletes are performing on a continuum from day to day and our feedback and programming should address this properly. 

-My feelings are the same for feedback on internal versus external cueing. Very few athletes are just dialed in to where they can utilize just external cues successfully. I believe there should be an appropriate flow each day that moves from internal to external and augmented feedback (velocity-based feedback and other similar metrics) properly as it is required. 

-I have referenced the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" before and how in the movie Josh Waitzkin's chess coach teaches him, "Don't move until you see it" and little Josh has a hard time seeing what is happening and will be happening in the game. Eventually though he sees it and it is an awesome outcome. The same can be said for coaching successfully. Do not advance a task until you can ensure competency and you know the athlete is ready to attack capacity with a full effort. If you do not see it happening with your current methods/means progressing to more advanced methods/means is unnecessary and dangerous. Be patient and use your training performances to drive your progressions not a piece of paper. 

Excellence is the only agenda!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Triangulating On The Target: Part One

I'm not going to get caught up with providing too many graphics or pics in this post yet it has occurred to me, through dialogue with colleagues, that it would be very helpful if I were to provide a little more of a roadmap regarding how I train volleyball athletes on a day to day basis. It's no coincidence that this blogpost is titled "Triangulating on the Target" as Steven Plisk wrote a blog with the same title and while these thoughts will be "original" it should go without saying that my primary influences in the field currently are, ahem, Steven Plisk, Dan Pfaff, and Mike Boyle. These people have set very important standards for me re: systems, implementation, and communication and I can't see myself ever getting away from acknowledging that.

To the meat and potatoes of this post re: day to day management of the athlete as you develop them and their programming over time. Yes, I believe it happens in that order. The "athlete" is an ambiguous term as many times what we really have is an individual who plays a sport but does not behave like much of an athlete. When I was first starting out as a coach I would put athletes through a rigorous assessment and a lot of paperwork. I wanted to find out upfront what I was dealing with. And the result of that process was basically nothing. I tell people now that everyone is Tarzan when they are filling out their questionnaires/forms but when it comes to doing the work they behave like Jane.

To reconcile those things did not mean that I needed to change my process for starting with athletes; I just had to be willing to teach and hold them responsible for the standard that they themselves wanted to be held to. Every time an individual athlete let me know by how they filled out their forms that they thought of themselves as a high-performer it helped me 1-assume positive intent, and 2-know that their expectation was for me to push them with that idea in mind. What a great opportunity!

So in my mind that really simplifies things as far as how we go about beginning. Steven Plisk discusses the triangulation objective as dialing in on mechanics, energetics, and coordination. For the athletes I am coaching this concentration works extremely well. For the junior club volleyball athlete, and for the NCAA DIII athlete, my number one issue is going to be mechanics. I tell athletes often that 90% of our issues will be corrected with better postures. That is an oversimplification but in my mind it captures our intent very effectively. For the volleyball athlete specifically we get to pack a pretty hefty punch by hammering at some very general processes that will have some very specific benefits. A lot of our early developmental postures mirror those required in high level front row play at every level; which, not coincidentally, is the reason why I gravitated to volleyball as it is my belief that it is one of the few sports where you see fairly equal representation of performance across genders even if the upper limits of play are still only achievable by the men (the women, across the board, play at the same level just with constraints reflected in the height of the net; play within the same square footage of court space is equally dynamic).

Specific to mechanics the sagital plane is dominant from the beginning as is my vertical jump developmental model. Even though it is sorely in need of updating the vertical jump methodology piece I shared years ago can still accurately represent a big part of my process. As a fundamental piece of the athletic development process jumping is important! With volleyball there are two pivotal points to jumping as 1-effective vertical jumps are a tremendous part of the game, and 2-power in the sagital plane is a keystone element for your program overall as well as when you need to simplify your program for maintenance/stability purposes it is where you will first look to contain your strength-power-speed work.

If we clear the functional movement screen (I will not defend the FMS here, at all) and isolated ROM assessments then we will look to lay out the absolutely essential parts of the programming in, initially, a concurrent fashion and develop those patterns on a day by day basis. At this point I do not program anything more than a week out as there are many issues that will not be exposed until you attempt to load them with more force, speed, fatigue or some combination of those things; this will require a lot of flexibility/adaptability within the plan. This is essentially a heavy teaching phase and one where I don't know how well each athlete will learn until I start teaching.

It is important to note that the limitations of each athlete are not theirs or mine but some combination that occurs between their learning ability, my teaching skills, and the environment provided. I always find that attribution theory helps me explain behavior at this point as it states that most people attribute behavior to the internal characteristics of the individual whereas the reality is that most behavior is external/situational (of course there is always some back and forth here). Simply put it is often situational stress that impacts behavior. The better we manage the situation the better the behavior overall. Put another way in my 10+ years of coaching I can count the number of kids who I would say I could just not help at all, for character reasons, on less than one hand; but the number of kids who needed some emotional support and encouragement and who thrived after being provided that are innumerable. 

Back to the physical preparation parts of this, it again is no coincidence that I am noting all of the psycho-physiological interactions at this point, one thing I tell people often is, "your daughter will move and jump better before they move and jump faster and higher; but soon they will do both." Given an appropriate focus on mechanics this is the proverbial low hanging fruit spoken of. Progress comes pretty easy if we take the challenge of "coaching every rep" seriously. We are literally getting better with every rep and every session for weeks and, potentially, months. In my mind at this point it is not critical to do anything but to observe and continue to communicate standards and expectations: 

-Standards exist as absolute necessities; they are the consistency of process. Just because gains are coming easy now does not mean that they will be easy forever. They have to be prepared for the inevitability of the slowing of progress, the struggle, the grind. 

-Expectations are essentially moving targets for me. Again, because our programming is working so easily now, "newbie gains" for the win, does not mean it will be that way forever and we have to know that because we are now capable of better does not mean that we have seen what our best looks like. I believe it was James Madison who said, “If better is possible then good is never enough.”

In order to simplify the remainder of this post let me just focus on the vertical jump and our technical model. It begins with the loading/drive phase. This in my mind is where we are laying the groundwork/foundation for the remainder of the jump. MANY coaches and athletes overlook the opportunity here. We do not. In one of my primary jump series progressions we use we skew the number of reps towards jump loading activities (15:5 loading:jump ratio). 

 (Pic demonstrating equal Ecc RFD across different loading strategies)

This is a great way to: 

1: Limit the stress of too much jumping
2: To skew the initial practice towards the rate-limiting factor of vertical jump performance. As I communicate to my athletes Newton’s 3rd law states every action produces an equal and opposite reaction; therefore a more explosive loading phase (Eccentric RFD) will always better potentiate the concentric/explosive part of the vertical jump (Concentric RFD). Better still because our neuromuscular system has plasticity it doesn’t just equate forces our muscles and tendons adapt to better perform in order to reduce the stress this places on our body.

So assuming our body can absorb and adapt to this stress successfully, a direct link to Selye’s GAS model, we will supercompensate and exceed initial projections based only on an improved technical model that addresses the E-M-C components successfully (not to underestimate everyone but again this is Energetics-Mechanics-Coordination). Improved posture/mechanics, improved rate of work/energetics, and improved action/coordination in teaching (assumed here as there is plenty still worth mentioning but for brevity purposes, lol, I will leave this alone). 

(Image courtesy of sbcoachescollege.com)

Beyond this point is where I typically have to address "what got you here will not get you there ." This is where we typically move away from a concurrent model and into more concentrated loads consistent with block periodization: narrowing our concentration on the things that we can see limiting us but have not worked hard enough at to take full advantage of yet. The meso:micro-cycle structure becomes absolutely essential as does consistency for the necessary complementary effects of each training session. This is an important point as along with this is the fact that most of our "newbie gains" now will pay diminishing returns and if we were to persist with a concurrent model, because it is easier to coordinate, then we would essentially just accumulate unnecessary repetitions in many qualities. The learning curve for different qualities is shorter or longer depending on the current level of preparedness. Put simpler still we will now no longer be impacting our work at the upper limit, our ceiling if you will, but the work contained within it. We can work endlessly on the work capacity side of things with endless repetition schemes and variations but still have very little if any impact on increasing our maximum capacity.

My original intent was to lay this all out in one post but I can now see that if you are still reading you can surely wait a few more days, as I cannot imagine very many making it to this point any way, and I will do my best to concentrate that blog post to make sure it strictly covers the essentials in my best impression of "blogging block periodization style" :) Specifically my next blog will further elucidate on auto-regulation, velocity-based training, and laying out the necessary microcycle structure to DOMINATE.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Edith Cowan University Master of Exercise Science Program

Have considered this for a long time and finally pulled the trigger. Begin coursework in July and now travel to AUS in Feb 2016 to complete the practical component of the program. Excited to get better. Will share as appropriate.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

PUSH vs Tendo and Just Jump Analysis

No need to over-talk this one as the data is pretty straight-forward. Ease of use passed the initial learning curve with the PUSH device is remarkable. Looking forward to digging a little deeper into the PUSH portal later today and will see where that brings me. Will add that in to this post when I get the time. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Velocity-Based Training Applied To "Squatting Every Day"

More to come on this as I summarize my findings as I intend to submit this as a case study to the Australian Strength & Conditioning Association. Long story short (n=1): squatting every day will make you strong fast.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Peak Power Across Exercises

 Peak Power Across Exercises

So much more to the selection of training exercises than whether they are a "power" exercise or not...

Here we see a breakdown of peak power (wattage) and velocity (meters/sec) across 3 different training exercises: power snatch, clean high pull with block @ knee height, clean pulls with block @ knee height. Long story short peak power on the power snatch was 1790 Watts @ 2.03 M/S, on clean high pulls with block @ knee height was 1752 watts @ 1.49 M/S (97.8% of Power Snatch), and clean pulls with block @ knee height was 1903 watts @ 1.33 M/S (106% of Power Snatch). So overall we have from low to high power ranking by exercise of clean high pulls @ knee height last, power snatches second, and clean pulls @ knee height first but with a total range of just 6% difference across exercises! Not a lot of variation there across very different velocity ranges: Power Snatch is 152% of the velocity of the clean pull with block @ knee height and 136% of clean high pulls with block @ knee height.

Clearly there has to be more to exercise selection than this. There absolutely is and some of it is still beyond my current level of understanding but a couple of key points:

- There should be clear considerations of training limitations of  your specific population. You are far less likely to use power snatches with a baseball pitcher than you are with a sprinter or jumper in track and field.

- From past analyses I know that peak power on the power snatch would have continued to rise if the movement had continued on to a squat snatch (full snatch). If so it is very likely that peak power would have equated or potentially exceeded that of the clean pull off blocks at knee height. This is a real consideration for athletes who have great training histories where they are able to tolerate more variation and greater ranges of motion in training. This is not common, but high-performance in sport is most certainly anything but common. 

- Having the ability to simplify tasks and allow for more mastery to occur, using language of Dan Pfaff, is clearly very possible. So if power was the goal and the athlete had power snatches scheduled but either they pushed speed and power work of other more direct training means pretty hard or you think they are just a little off in technical execution today then you can simplify the movement and still generate a quality training effect. If the purpose is power then you can get that but go with better quality and more training density.

This analysis shows you can train for "power" effectively across three exercises with very different demands. If you were to decide that something like that was important... :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

USA Volleyball Will Not Let This Blog Post Die So I Decided To Kill It


First things first: I LOVE Karch Kiraly. I talk to kids about Karch Kiraly every single week. A lot of the kids I talk to STILL do not know who he is but I have blogged about him before and he is a hero for myself and other fans of volleyball in the USA and worldwide.

But on this topic Karch is wrong. Very wrong. This blog post has been shared several times via social media and I just cannot take it anymore.

USAV was wrong to utilize this picture of plank exercises being performed this way:

These exercises are to be performed correctly and are to follow a proper progression. I know, believe me I know, these exercises look hard. They ARE HARD! But if they are to aid the athlete in the development of high-performance they are to be performed correctly. No need in attempting to make someone feel like they are better trained than they really are. I am sure the athletes performing these are thinking they are doing great work. So when someone like myself comes along and critiques and attempts to correct them we have an uphill battle because they have believed all this time that they have been killing it on their core strength. I quote one of my mentors, Michael Boyle, often on this, "Your athletes are the mirror you see yourself in and the window that others see you through. If they are doing something wrong it is directly your fault." If Coach Boyle walked in and saw these exercises being performed this way I would be embarrassed, not proud. It can be basic, as Karch's blog suggests, but it has to be done right! Would USA Volleyball allow a picture like this to represent their program and process:

Absolutely not!

Karch was wrong when he suggested multi-tasking as a solution to managing the young athlete's time. A sweet gesture, perhaps, by attempting to give these athletes credit for being soooooo busy but reality tells a different story. According to this study, commissioned by Nokia, not just young people but people in general who have a smartphone check it every 6 1/2 minutes, 150 times a day! Talk about a time waster! That is a great place to start: put your phones down!

When I mentioned before that many of the kids I talk to every week do not know who Karch is that is not to slight him but this does suggest that even as "volleyball addicts" these kids are not paying attention to volleyball, its history, or its heroes if they do not know who Karch Kiraly is. We have to find a way to make those things that are truly important the most important thing. Lou Holtz says this terrifically with his WIN "What's Important Now" philosophy. Smartphone? Not important. Studying? Important. Getting better at volleyball? Important. Getting stronger? Also important. 

Beyond that the research is pretty clear that as multi-taskers we suck. Better to give one task our full attention than to attempt to do too much at once and water down learning and transfer effects. There is a quote that comes from Zen philosophy that says, "Before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood carry water." It is the purpose that lies beyond just doing the thing that makes what we do significant. 

Karch was also wrong to solicit the advice of an athletic trainer who by definition, according to the NATA, are not exercise professionals. It is a rather harmless wrong in the big picture goal of this blog post but nevertheless still wrong. The team has a strength and conditioning coach, Tim Pelot to my knowledge, and Karch and/or USAV should have done the right thing and involved him in this discussion from the beginning.  If Karch had asked Tim for advice in handling injuries I am sure that athletic trainers on the other side would be equally offended. That is not his job and any strength coach who suggests it is is acting unprofessionally. There are exceptions to this as there are many professionals who are dual-credentialed as athletic trainers, physical therapists, and/or strength and conditioning professionals but we cannot assume that those other skills are a competency and I will make no such assumption here.

This all was very likely an afterthought to USAV in their big picture of things, I mean it is JUST a blog post, but none of this supports the idea of "conditioning as homework", as John Kessel of USAV has stated many, many times before being anything more than a token gesture that volleyball athletes should try to strength train some when they can squeeze it in. I hold USAV to a very high standard and think very highly of the work they do, that Karch does and has done, and that John Kessel does. That is the reason I find this to be so disagreeable and so upsetting.

In the closing of the blog post Karch talks about how his dad would sneak away from work for 90-minutes every day to play volleyball on the beach. As his dad was a doctor doing very important work I think that this carries with it a great lesson but not as it was suggested being attached to the rest of the blog. If it is important you will find a way to get it done, as Karch's dad did, but if it is not you will find an excuse. Find a way!