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GAINcast 48: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Knowing who came before us and what they did is a key factor in becoming a better coach. After all, everything old is new again. On this week’s episode Vern runs down a list of some of the giants whose shoulders he stands on, providing a great starting point for those wanting to learn more about this history of training. Read more

A Journey Continues

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI started the day today the first day of my 45th year of coaching with a dryland session with the Sarasota Sharks at 4:55 AM. I began coaching in January 1969 (An El Niño year of near record rainfall – 40 plus inches, fortunately we had just gotten a new asphalt track so we never missed a workout. Amazing what 440 yards of bad road can enable you to do when you don’t know any better) at Santa Barbara high school in Santa Barbara California my hometown. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Conclusions/Lessons)

As I wrote this series of posts and reflected on the lessons I learned I wanted to summarize with some practical conclusions so that young coaches and athletes starting out would not make the same mistakes I made. There is no form of human motion that does not require some expression of force; therefore all sports will derive benefit from sport appropriate strength training. The physical quality of strength is the underpinning for the optimum development of other biomotor qualities. That being said it is crucial to have an in-depth understanding of the strength and power demands of the sport you are preparing for and design the program to meet those demands while also considering the qualities of the individual athlete. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part Six)

In the last twenty years as have had the opportunity to work with a variety of sports and I was exposed to many theories and methods, but basically I found that at the end of the day it all came back to executing the basics of sound training principles consistently. It is so easy and somewhat trendy to copy the latest and greatest strength-training program of a great team or athlete, the monkey see, monkey do syndrome. If it is good for them and they just won the national championship then it is good for us. There is a prevalent attitude that the greatest testament for a piece of equipment or a particular training method is the affirmation of winning. What I have seen through my experience is that success is often achieved in spite of, not because of the training and that superior talent and genetics sometimes prevail. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part Five)

Things began to change rapidly with the advent of the full-time professional “Strength Coach.” In the seventies very few colleges had strength coaches and if they did most of their attention was centered on football. In professional sport there were few fulltime strength coaches. In 1976 Bob Ward who was the track coach at Fullerton College in California, was hired by the Dallas Cowboys. He had a full time year around program that was backed by management so that the player’s had to comply. This was the exception, not the norm. Superior talent and genetics continued to prevail even into the late 1980’s. Not all the teams in professional football had fulltime strength and conditioning coaches. The advent of the strength coach in college and professional sport was like a good news bad news joke. The good news was that now there would be someone who whose sole responsibility was to condition the athletes. The bad news was that was that with the exception of those who had a track and field background they seldom got out of the weight room. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part Four)

Another key milestone in the evolution of my ideas on training in general and strength training in particular was the 1972 AAU Learn by Doing track & field clinic in Sacramento, California. Many of the top track & filed coaches in the country were in attendance. The opportunity to interact with them was invaluable. Two of the “Learn by Doing” stations were devoted to Plyometric training that was new and revolutionary at the time. Each evening there were presentations by Polish triple jump coach Tadeusz Starzynski who was the coach of Joseph Schmidt, three-time Olympic Gold medalist; he presented the whole spectrum of his training program for triple jumpers. It obviously involved a lot of jumping exercises, but it included medicine ball work and some very specific weight training and virtually no heavy lifting. There was nowhere near the extent of weight training we were having our athlete do and the weight training that was done was much more specific. This experience had profound influence on my thinking going forward and how I trained my athletes for explosive power from that time on. I immediately incorporated his concepts and ideas in my personal training, as well as with the athletes I was coaching. The results were a tremendous increase in explosiveness and speed. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part Three)

That spring, in my first track coaching assignment, I got the opportunity to coach one of the best athletes I have ever coached, Sam Cunningham. He became California State Champion in the Shot put that year and also an All American football running back. He was 6’3” tall, weighed 225, he could run the 100 in 9.7, but by my thinking he was “weak, “ because he could not lift much weight in the weight room. Yet he had tremendous explosive power. This led me to begin to ask the question: How much strength is enough? A question I continue to ask. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part Two)

Through articles in Strength and Health and watching the track team at Fresno State weight train I quickly realized that the sport of track & field was very advanced in the use of weight training. Herb Elliot, who dominated the mile up through the Rome Olympics, and his coach Percy Cerruty made extensive use of strength training. Perry O’Brien, the first man to throw sixty feet in the shot put was an avid weight trainer. He was fast enough to lead off a sprint relay, so it obviously did slow him down! Dallas Long, the first man to throw over sixty five feet and Randy Matson, the first man to throw over seventy feet were all avid weight trainers. Read more

Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part One)

I will take a personal approach to the evolution of strength training using my experiences as an athlete and coach who has been involved in strength training since 1963. When I began weight training in 1963, it was not commonly accepted as a method of training, in fact most coaches discouraged weight training. There were concerns that you would become “muscle bound,” tight, that it would slow you down, or it would interfere with you coordination. It was considered acceptable to do hard manual labor to develop muscle, but weight training was frowned upon. With all these thoughts in mind at the end of my junior year in high school we had a guest speaker come to my high school to speak to all the athletes. The speaker was Lynn Hoyem, a backup center for the Dallas Cowboys, who spoke to us about the benefits of weight training. He had gained 50 pounds of lean mass through weight training. He gave us advice as to how to start a program, explained some of the basic physiology of muscle growth and strength gain. He offered tips on how to gain weight, as most of us were football players who were trying to gain weight. It was a very impressive presentation that was very different from we were being told at the time. I knew that if I were going to have any chance of playing college football, my sport of choice at the time, I would have to get stronger and bigger. Read more

The Bowerman Influence

Bill Bowerman had a huge influence on my decision to be a track coach. In the winter of 1968; my senior year in college at Fresno Sate Bowerman came to speak as the featured speaker at the first ever Fresno Sate Track & Field Clinic, he was brought to Fresno by Red Estes, assistant track coach at Fresno State (later to be head coach) who had competed at the University of Oregon under Bowerman. What can I say; Bowerman was Bowerman, passionate, direct to the point, outspoken and strong in his beliefs. Read more