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.

In 1985 I began my foray into professional sports with the Chicago White Sox and the Bulls as an assistant to Al Vermeil. Once again the same old myths and misconceptions, which I thought had been forgotten, reared their ugly head. You would have thought that by 1985 with the success that athletes had enjoyed world wide with a comprehensive conditioning program that the coaches and athletes would have been embraced this training as an opportunity to better themselves. I think since that there had been little emphasis on training in professional basketball and baseball the attitude on the part of the coaches was let them play, those who are talented will succeed and those who are not will fall by the wayside. I kept hearing that Basketball and baseball was different. Don’t lift heavy because it will hurt your shooting. The trainer told me that pitchers should not lift overhead because it would hurt their shoulder. When I stated that didn’t they lift their arm overhead when they pitched I was told I didn’t understand the game.

In 1987 I took over as Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, which gave me the opportunity to put together a systematic comprehensive program in professional sport. No one in professional baseball had a systematic year around program. In order to make it work I decided that we needed to make the program more specific to the demands of the sport of baseball. It needed to include more work on balance and proprioception, more work on rotation. I was very influenced by Dr. Lois Klatt, head of the Human performance Lab at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois who introduced me the book Total Body Training Bob Gajda and Robert Dominguez. The emphasis was that movement is multi – joint, multi-plane, it involves balance and proprioception. This got me to think past the muscle and look closely at the movement. I moved away from weight training to the concept of strength training. Weight training is one method of strength training; in order to train a complete athlete it is necessary to utilize all methods available to achieve the desired goal. What evolved was a functional strength-training program that was adapted to the multi-plane demands of the sport of baseball as well as the unique demands of the specific positions. The program was based on biomechanical analysis so that the movements we were training were more specific. Pitchers had a specific program; catchers had a specific program, rather than one program for all. All these programs had all components linked so that what was done with speed and agility training was related to balance and proprioception work which in turn was related to the strength training work. My goal with the White Sox was to create a model that would work in any sport. I was lucky to be able to use the resources available to work toward accomplishing this task. We were able to achieve good results with the White Sox both in terms of measurable improvements of speed and power as well as significant reduction of injuries.

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