Finding the first step: how to optimize training to start the season

This article is adapted from a piece I wrote for Athletics Weekly in September 2018.

When we think about conditioning, one time of year comes to mind: the preseason. As the season ends, the next year inevitably starts with a rest phase, followed by rigorous preseason training. As many sports are about to head into their training camps for the fall season, it is time to rethink our approach to the preseason. Read more

Sprinting: the ultimate strength training exercise

One of the key principles of training is overload. The overload principle states that body system adaptation fails to occur without an overloading stimulus. In other words, we have to give the body a challenge beyond what we are accustomed to in order to adapt to a higher level of performance. Somewhere along the way coaches started to think that we can only find overload in the weight room. In reality, for some qualities that is the last place we want to look. Maximum speed sprinting, for example, can provide overload in many areas that no other exercises can match. Read more

Using time as a training variable

When we pick up a barbell and perform a lift, we normally focus on just two things: the weight and the number of repetitions. These are undoubtedly key variables to use improving performance, but they miss a lot nuance that goes into getting better. A few years ago I was talking with former discus thrower Adam Kuehl about what other variables he feels are overlooked and his answer was quick: time. Read more

Thoughts on progressing the athlete

I’ve been thinking a lot about progressions lately. This month’s site theme is the young athlete, and that goes hand in hand with progressions. I’ll also be moderating a panel discussion on the topic at GAIN in two weeks. As a result I’ve got a bunch of random ideas floating around in my head on the topic. The following is not a set of answers on how to progress the athlete, but rather a compilation of things I am thinking about. Read more

An introduction to using games in training

One big trend in training over the past decade has been the increased use of games. The Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) movement in physical education first started a conversation about strategically used games rather than technical drills to teach skills and tactics. Over the last few years, the use of games for athletic development has also get its moment in the spotlight thanks to social media as coaches realize the concept can apply even more so in the realm of physical preparation. Read more

A case study in holistic exercise design with Jean-Pierre Egger

As Chris McCormick wrote about yesterday, strength coaches can contribute significantly to the development of an athlete’s mental skills. But doing so isn’t about making them work until they puke. It’s about preparation with purpose. Read more

How to fall on your ass and get up to win gold

Imagine this: you are an up and coming 24-year-old hammer thrower ranked in the world’s top 10. You arrived at the Olympics in the best shape of your life, having qualified in fourth position and been on the podium in every meet except one that year. As you leave the call room in the depths of the stadium and emerge onto the track you’re greeted by more than 110,000 fans and also by torrential downpour. The throwing rings has quickly turned into a slippery lake. Read more

An athlete’s perspective on mental training with Sergej Litvinov

Throughout the month we are sharing different viewpoints on mental training, but it can often be difficult to see how the theory translates into practice in this area. Last December we brought world class hammer thrower Sergej Litvinov to Zurich for a workshop. I’ve already written about his technical philosophy and how he rethinks drills for the hammer. But he also gave us a look inside his mental preparation and how an elite athlete integrates into physical training. Below are a few lessons he taught us. Read more

Living beyond fear: lessons from Free Solo

In case you missed it, a sports movie won this year’s Oscar for best documentary. The film Free Solo explores Alex Honnold attempt to climb a 3,000 foot of rock face in Yosemite without the assistance of any ropes. Just the thought of that makes my heart start beating a little faster. I’m not scared of heights, but you can’t help but watch the film and think about what would happen if he made just one tiny mistake. Read more

You haven’t taught until they’ve learned

In my post yesterday about Jean-Pierre Egger I wrote about the importance of having a technical philosophy and how that can look in practice. As important as that is, having a philosophy isn’t much use unless the athlete understands it. Teaching isn’t necessarily about what you say, it’s about what is heard. Or, as John Wooden used to put it, you haven’t taught until they’ve learned. Read more