The ingredients for a solid foundation

No matter the sport, no matter the athlete, everyone needs to begin with a foundation.

If you look at all the buildings that are built they all have the same foundation which is normally concrete and rebar. As the building begins to take shape the things that may be specific to that building get installed like windows, fire sprinklers, outlets, etc. However, none of that work starts until the foundation is complete.

An example of this would be putting gas outlets in a science building for burners to do experiments. In a photography building it may be dark rooms, in an art room it may be easels instead of desks, and so on. The bottom line is that you can’t do the specific work until you have a solid foundation. The specific work doesn’t matter if the structure underneath it crumbles.

» Related content: Listen to Nick, Vern, and Martin discuss foundations on HMMR Podcast 209 earlier this month.

Foundations in training

I look at training athletes the same way. It does not matter if they are a beginning athlete or an experienced athlete that may have lost touch with being athletic. In both cases they need a foundation first.

I’ll use myself as an example. Recently I began to train again pretty aggressively. I used to be fit, but now I knew that my body was pretty out of shape like a building that had become run down. So I began with a foundation to prep myself for more intense training in the future. Two months later I have progressed to doing extremely intense Metabolic Circuits. Without that foundation work, 27 sets in the metabolic circuits would have crushed me.

Finding the right mixture

Most foundations are made of concrete, which requires the right mixture of sand and aggregate, with some metal rebar to reinforce things. If the concrete mixture is wrong, the whole thing will not hold. The same in training: you have to use the right amount of the right ingredients to make the foundation stick.

So what does the foundation consist of? Well this is something that has been a staple in my system since I learned it from Vern Gambetta back in 2003 as a young aspiring coach. Our foundation phase consists of 2 phases:

Foundation I Foundation II
(aka Basic Strength)
Focus: Dumbbell and Kettlebell movements to master movements and strength through full range of motion.


Focus: Complexes and circuits to develop work capacity


Learn more about leg circuits in Video Lesson 13.

The sequence here is important. We start with teaching athletes how to move, then start adding specific capacities on top of that: work capacity, strength, and explosiveness. Volume will also gradually increase as we transition from half leg circuits to full leg circuits after athletes adapt to the Basic Strength phase. All in all, after a solid eight-week start to the training year the foundation is solid and they are ready for almost anything.