2014-2015 NBA MVP (Canadian)

A little over a week ago I posted some analysis of the three players currently in the running for MVP of the 2014-2015 NBA season – Curry, Westbrook, and Harden. This week, I wanted to look at the current crop of Canadian stars who are playing in the NBA.

There has been a lot of basketball talent coming out of Canada recently and the 2014 NBA draft was full of young stars, with Andrew Wiggins leading the pack as the number one overall pick (Choosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers who then sent him to Minnesota, in a trade that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland to play with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving). Additionally, some of my best friends happen to make up the sports medicine, sports science, and strength and conditioning staffs for the Canadian Men’s National Team leading up to the 2016 Olympics (so obviously I am cheering them on).



Players Analysis

One of the biggest issues with the analysis is that several of the players don’t play very many minutes. That being said, I included them anyway.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 6.20.15 PMThe main players to play significant minutes were Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Kyle Olynyk, and Robert Sacre; so we will concentrate the analysis on them.

Each player played in over 70 games and over 1000 minutes, with both Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins making an appearance in all 82 games and playing over 2000 minutes (Wiggins played nearly 3000 minutes in his rookie year).

As you can see in the chart below, Wiggins had the highest average points points per game of the group – averaging around 17 points per game.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 6.37.12 PM
However, as discussed in the previous blog article, points aren’t everything. To be an MVP you need to help make others around you better. There are times where players score a lot of points but are actually problematic to their team and cause less winning opportunities. For example, a ball hog who takes a lot of shots, has a poor field goal percentage, and turns the ball over frequently because he is always trying to control the court rather than distributing the ball to his teammates. Allen Iverson was a good example of this, at times, and, if my memory serves, there were three seasons where he led the league in turnovers and despite scoring a lot of points he had a poor field goal percentage and scoring efficiency. In Berri and Schmidt’s research, Iverson actually cost his team wins because of his play, despite the fans enjoying the show – everybody likes to see a guy score lots of points!

Wins Produced

Speaking of Berri and Schmidt’s research, as we did in the previous blog article, we will turn our attention to the Wins Produced model, which allows us to understand the player’s contribution to his team winning games throughout the season. How many things does the player do well and how good is the player at minimizing things that cause the other team to score points?

Going back to Wiggins, while he scored more points than the other guys in the analysis – he had a lot more opportunities to score given the high amount of minutes he played – he only produced about 2 wins for his team (or 0.03 wins per 48min). One reason may be due to his high amount of turnovers.

Looking at Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, we see that both players helped contribute about 7 wins to their team. While Joseph’s first two NBA seasons were nothing to write home about, he has put together a great season on a stacked San Antonio Spurs team and might be a guy they look to in the future to run the point guard position as their team continues to age. Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson finished fifth in NBA 6th Man Voting and had a great season coming off the bench on a Cleveland CAVS team led by King James.

Kyle Olynyk pops out in the Wins Produced stat as actually being a bit detrimental to the Boston Celtics. Here is an example of a guy who played a lot of minutes, however, his production is actually less than what an average Center would be able to do given the same number of minutes he played (Olyny played about 100 more minutes than the average for Centers). Olynyk was good for 93 offensive rebounds and 211 defensive rebounds, while Centers, on average, this season pulled down 123 offensive rebounds and 264 defensive rebounds. Kyle did do better than the average in scoring, 656 points to the league average, for Centers, of 522 points. However, he did turn the ball over more than the average, 98 turnovers versus the league average of 74. When looking at all the factors that go into the model, Olynyk didn’t seem to be effective. During his rookie season, 2013-2014, one of the criticisms is that he is not a true center and lacks the ability to defend some of the best big men in the league.
Stauskas produced 0 wins for his team, the Sacramento Kings and Robert Sacre was actually more detrimental to the Los Angeles Lakers than Olynyk was to the Celtics!

Some Other Thoughts

Looking at the stats, it appears that it is a toss up between Joseph (who actually played really well despite playing about 800 minutes less than Thompson) and Thompson for the Canadian MVP. Both had great seasons and contributed a lot to their teams.

Wiggins had a good season as well and, as a rookie, has a lot of room for growth. Controlling the ball is going to be something he will have to work on in the offseason.

Olynyk just finished his second season on a young Celtics team. Perhaps playing Center isn’t his position but he may just need more time to grow into it. Despite having a negative wins produced stat for his team this year, he did start to show promise towards the latter half of the season.

One thing I think about, from a health stand point, is the number of minutes some of these young players are playing. With 3936 available minutes in an NBA season, not counting overtime games, Wiggins logged a massive amount of minutes. Keeping players healthy is the name of the game and managing their health by managing their minutes played (as well as how you help them recover off the court) is going to be critical for these rising stars.

2014-2015 NBA MVP Analysis

Currently, there is an intense debate over who is more deserving of the 2014-2015 NBA MVP. The three main front runners are Steph Curry (PG, Golden State Warriors), Russell Westbrook (PG, Oklahoma City Thunder), and James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets).

All three players had remarkable seasons and you could make a case for each one (despite Westbrook’s team not even making it to the post season).

All three players were leaders in Points scored in their respective positions:

  • Steph Curry = 1900 points
  • Russell Westbrook = 1886 points
  • James Harden = 2217 points

While Harden scored more total points, he actually scored less than Westbrook per game (keep in mind that Westbrook also missed several games in the beginning of the season, due to injury). Both are in the running for the SCORING TITLE this season:

  • Westbrook – 28.2 pts/g [95% CI: 25.8 , 30.6]
  • Harden – 27.4 pts/g [95% CI: 25.2 , 29.5]
  • Curry – 23.8 pts/g [95% CI: 22.0 , 25.5]

The difference between each player and the margin of error of their difference scores is as follows:

  • Curry compared to Westbrook = Difference: 4.40 pts/g with a 2.99 Margin of Error
  • Curry Compared to Harden = Difference: 3.62 pts/g with a 2.79 Margin of Error
  • Harden Compared to Westbrook = Difference: 0.78 pts/g with a 3.22 Margin of Error

From this, it appears that, while Harden scored more total points, Westbrook appears to average more points per game than the other three. Of course we don’t know how we would have performed had he not missed games early in the season. Both Harden and Curry played in 80 games while Westbrook only played in 66. This, along with his team not making the playoffs, may end up hurting him in MVP Voting.

While there are some differences in production between the three players, all of them were incredible at putting up points. In relationship to the average player at their respective positions, Curry and Westbrook were both 3.2 standard deviations better than the average, while Harden was an astonishing 4 standard deviations better than the average shooting guard.

Points Aren’t Everything

While scoring a lot of points is important, it isn’t everything. A key aspect of a player, particularly an MVP, is whether or not he makes his teammates better. What is the value of the player to the team and how is he able to contribute to helping the team win?

One metric that is useful to help answer this question is Wins Produced, from David Berri and Martin Schmidt. The metric is designed to understand a player’s contribution to winning and it factors in not only the players stats for that season but also how an average player would have contributed given the same opportunities (minutes played), allowing us to understand how much more effective the player was then the average player that season.

To compare these players to the average for their position groups, I took every player in the league who played in more than 200 minutes during the season. The Wins Produced for Curry, Harden, and Westbrook are:

  • Curry = 18.8 Wins Produced (0.344 Wins Per 48min)
  • Harden = 16.9 Wins Produced (0.263 Wins Per 48min)
  • Westbrook = 11.2 Wins Produced (0.237 Wins Per 48min)

The Wins Produced and Wins Per 48min for all three of these players is exceptional. When we compare the three, we see that Curry produced a bit more wins and wins per 48min than Westbrook and Harden. Note that Westbrook drops a little bit here which could, again, be reflective of the fact that he played 14 less games that the other two. Curry appears to make larger contributes to help his team win games.

Curry produced approximately 17 more wins than the average point guard. Westbrook produced 9 more wins than the average point guard and Harden was able to produce approximately 13 more wins than the average shooting guard.

Who Should Be Crowned MVP?

I don’t know that there is a simple answer here. All three of these guys played incredible this season. If I were casting a vote, my vote would go to Curry. While he scored about 300 total points less than Harden and he averaged slightly less than both Harden and Westbrook, he did have a slightly less variance from game-to-game points (although not significant). Additionally, because of his consistency and ability to help create more wins for his team per 48min, I believe he is deserving of the MVP. The MVP provides the most value to his team by helping them succeed.

Bill Starr and the 5×5 Training Template

Two days ago we lost a legend in the Strength & Conditioning World. Bill Starr was one of the first guys to put together a systematic approach to strength training for football. His book, The Strongest Shall Survive, has influenced thousands of strength coaches over the years, including myself.starrI thought, to pay respects to the man who influenced so many, it would be great to unpack the program and show how I have built templates around the simple organization of it.

The Original Program

There have been a number of variations of the 5×5 program that have been surfaced over the years but the basic program was centered around 3 lifts – Squat, Bench Press, and Power Clean – and 3 different intensity schemes, over 3 days, using 5 sets x 5 reps for each exercise. In a nutshell, it looked like this:

Monday – Heavy Power Clean Squat Bench Notes: Perform 5 sets x 5 reps for each exercise and ramp up the weight in each set so that your last set for each exercise is as heavy as you can handle with good form.

Wednesday – Light Power Clean Squat Bench Notes: Perform 5 sets x 5 reps for each exercise using approximately 70-75% of your top end weight from Monday for each lift.

Friday – Medium Power Clean Squat Bench Notes: Perform 5 sets x 5 reps for each exercise using approximately 80-85% of your top end weight from Monday for each lift.

As you can see, nothing fancy, just stick to the basics and try and increase your max load on Monday’s by 5-10lbs.

Unpacking The Program A little Bit

The set up of the program is brilliant. Looking at it, it is pretty much daily undulating periodization before some researcher coined the phrase. Each day we see an undulation in training intensity. Additionally, looking at the set up of the week, it falls in line with what many would refer to as a “high-low” approach to training. Our three “high” days are on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the days in between would be referred to as “low” days.

The program was truly revolutionary for the time and, in its simplicity and structure, probably better than most of what we see these days at high schools and colleges (and many professional sports teams) all over the country. Teach the athletes to perform 3 simple exercises and slowly develop them over time.

One of the best things about the program is the flexibility that the template offers the coach. We can take something this simple and begin to add other components that address physical needs for a team sport athlete. The program, by itself, is a great strength program; however, for a team sport athlete we also need to run, cut, change direction, etc. Thus, we want to take the original template and morph it into something that can address these needs without getting to far away from Bill Starr’s structure.

Addressing Exercise Selection

I am a big “keep it simple” kind of guy. I believe that you need to pick a few exercises and hammer the heck out of them. The idea that we need to constantly vary things up is crazy given the amount of variation we can apply to the exercises (sets, reps, rep tempo, etc), which will help to force new adaptations.

Other versions of the original Bill Starr program did have a little more variation with regard to exercise selection. For example, Wednesday’s workout might have used Incline Bench Press, Deadlift, and Row (or Chin Up) and Friday’s workout might have substituted the Standing Barbell Press for the Bench Press. These exercises choices are fine but certainly not the only options we have.

Lateralizations and Regressions

Last year, my friend, Charlie Weingroff, released his latest DVD series, Training = Rehab 2. In this DVD set, Charlie discusses the concept of laterilzations and regressions. Basically, taking your best program and either lateralizing the exercises to something that is more logical for an athlete given certain individual limitations or regressing the exercise to something else if the athlete is returning from injury or unable to perform a certain exercise pattern.

If we work from the template of Bill Starr’s 5×5 program as our “best” program there are a number of ways one can lateralize or regress the program given specific limitations. Remember, the goal is to improve the limitations while you concurrently develop fitness. Having a good system of monitoring what you are doing and auditing your process will allow you to know whether or not the lateralization is interfering with the athlete’s ability to improve upon their limitation and, thus, may warrant a change in exercise selection. Also, this is not an exhaustive list. This is simply a few ideas to provide examples.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 7.16.30 PMAny of these options will help you move the athlete along, in terms of developing strength, while you work on their limitations or work alongside a rehab professional and/or manual therapist who is helping to improve the limitation.

There are other ways to address exercise selection within the program, since you may have times where you want to change exercises and there isn’t a limitation where the athlete needs to be lateralized or regressed. For example, I generally don’t use Olympic Lifts in my programs (although I do like DB Snatches and Hang Clean Pulls). Thus, we could eliminate that exercise and substitute it with something for the upper back. For example, we could use Chin Ups or Rows and apply the same loading scheme throughout the week.

Maybe you are a person that doesn’t like back squats? How about swapping the back squats out for front squats or trap bar deadlifts?

Don’t like bilateral squats at all? You could simply change out squatting for Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, Step Back Lunges, or Step Ups

Don’t like Olympic Lifts? You can swap out the power clean for a plyometric activity (box jumps, bounds, hurdle jumps, etc). You could use KB swings or KB snatches. You could use some sort of explosive, full body Medicine Ball Throw (Some of my favorites are – Over-the Back, Squat to Forward Chest Throw, Scoop Throw Straight Up In The Air, Squat to Chest Throw Straight Up In The Air, and Chest Throw into 10yrd Sprint).

What about working with beginners? Of course having total newbies work up to a max 5 on Monday doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe you want to really take some time to educate the person using exercises that apply less load? Here might be an example program:

Push Ups
Goblet Squat
1-arm Row
Notes: Use eccentric emphasis on your exercises today. Perform 5×5 with a 5 count lowering

DB Bench Press
Hip Hinge Work (RDL or 1-leg RDL patterning)
Chin Up
Notes: Perform 5×5 on each exercise with a comfortable load, leaving 2-4 reps in the tank. For hinge work, perform a 2-3 count iso in the bottom position to ensure that they understand what it feels like to be in the correct position before going into the concentric portion of the lift

Push Ups
Goblet Squat
TRX Row (or Supine Barbell Row)
Notes: Perform 3 sets x Max Reps for Push Ups and Rows. For Goblet Squat, perform 5×5 using a 3 count iso in the bottom to feel what the bottom position is supposed to feel like.

Pretty simple!

Addressing Other Fitness Qualities Within The Program

Because of the daily undulating model and the high-low nature of the original template, it lends itself to addressing different fitness qualities nicely. In team sports, athletes need lots of physical abilities. They need to have a solid work capacity in order to train and recovery adequately. They need to be fast, strong, and explosive. They also need to be able to move in all different planes of motion and do so effortlessly. All of these things can be addressed within the simple Bill Starr 5×5 program. I’ll briefly go through some of the ways to address these things and then put it all together into a short training program using the Bill Starr 5×5 as the template.

Warm Ups, Tri-Planar Movement, & Carries/Dragging

Tri-planar movement can be addressed in a few different ways within the program. The first, and most logical way of addressing tri-planar movement is with a good warm up. Warm ups should be progressive and move from slow to fast and simple to complex. Start first with general mobility work to prepare the joints and tissues. Move the joints in various ranges of motions in order to address any limitations you may have. Follow this up with various lunging, crawling, skipping, carrying/dragging (IE, farmers carriers, overhead carriers, rack carriers, light sled dragging/marching in different directions) and medicine ball throwing in all different directions. This should be rather extensive and last anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Oftentimes our strength training programs tend to be very sagital plane dominant (and the Bill Starr program is no different). Having the body go through multi-planar movement with lunging, skipping, crawling, and throwing helps prepare the athlete for movements and ranges of motion that they may encounter on the field of play. By starting the warm up with slower and less complex movements and progressing to something that is more dynamic and faster pace, the athlete has time to learn how their body feels and develop strategies to move in and out of all these different ranges of motion.

An additional area where tri-planar movement can be addressed within the program is at the end of the big three exercises for that day. In the original program, Bill Starr had often written in things like abdominal work or hyperextensions as accessory exercises. We can choose whatever accessory exercises we want though. Perhaps we would rather do some lateral lunges or rotational lunges with dumbells or maybe some pistol squats or slide board lunges. We could also add in things like chops, lifts, ab wheel, plank variations, carries or dragging exercises for our core work.

Speed & Explosiveness

Following the warm up we can address speed and explosiveness with sprint, bounds, and plyometrics. The volume of work you do here is dependent on where you are in your training phases. If you are focusing on heavy strength work then you are most likely doing less volume of sprinting, bounding, and jumping. If you are doing more sprinting, bounding, and jumping, you would simply lower your lifting volume. Additionally, as your training program progresses and you work closer to the pre-season period it makes sense to progress your sprinting drills into more change of direction work to ensure that the tissues are well prepared to handle the practice load that is about to take place.

Different Methods of Strength

From Zatsiorsky’s work (and later Louie Simmons of Westide Barbell) we learned about things like the Max Effort Method, Dynamic Effort Method, and Repetitive Effort Method. Using these methods within the Bill Starr 5×5 works if you break down each day with a specific goal or training target. One other approach I would throw in there is some sort of Time Under Tension method. That may be in the form of Tempo Squats (2 down-2 Up without pausing), Slow Eccentrics (5-6 count eccentric squats), Isometric Holds (3-5 count hold in the bottom of the lift), or Eccentric-Iso Lifts (3 count lower – 3 Count Iso Hold In the Bottom – Lift).

Overall Fitness & Work Capacity

Overall fitness and general work is best served for post season and/or deep in the offseason. Within the Bill Starr program, this can be addressed using a variety of methods. Here are some of the options that come to mind:

  • Tempo Runs
  • Aerobic-Extensive Intervals
  • General aerobic work (variety of modalities)
  • Extensive Medicine Ball Circuits
  • Body Weight Circuits
  • Super Sets (Upper & Lower Body)

This type of activity can be done on days in between the lifting sessions (“low” days) or on days that are scheduled lifting sessions, depending on the goals of the training phase and how the lifting program is laid out. Putting It Altogether – A Simple Template To Recap, here is the original Bill Starr Program: Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 8.30.52 PM Using that as our template, we will set up 3 training phases – (1) General Fitness; (2) Strength; (3) Speed & Power – of 3 weeks each. The program will address the qualities above and provide a framework for building our training sessions. Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 8.56.18 PMNotes: In phase 1, we use some basic learning drills for plyos on Mon/Fri, at the end of our warm ups, to help prepare for the next phase of training. The lifting sessions are rather low in intensity and we are leaving 2-3 reps in the tank (meaning that we terminate the set when we know we can get 2-3 more good reps). Friday’s session is lower intensity than Monday’s and uses a 5 count eccentric on the lifts to work on time under tension. In between the lifting days are conditioning sessions, using Tempo Runs. Monday and Wednesday’s lifting sessions are followed by Extensive Medicine Ball Circuits. These typically consist of a variety of different throws or throwing the ball out in a field and then jogging to pick it up before throwing again. The general time frame of a set during these circuits is around 2-4 minutes of movement and then the athlete takes a rest of 2 minutes (or until HR recovers down below 120 bpm). We may do anywhere form 4-10 sets. Also, while I forgot to write it into the template, the warm up or accessory work could have some form of loaded carry or light sled drag in different directions. Additionally, the light sled dragging can work well within the extensive medicine ball circuit. Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.18.56 PMNotes: The strength phase takes our jumping from phase 1 and progresses it on Mon/Fri to some box jumps or hurdle jumps to a box (these are written as single leg over the hurdle but could be double leg as well). NOTE: In the template above there is a typo and it says that box jumps are on Mon/Wed, but it should read Mon/Fri. Wednesday’s workout has bounding and we generally start in phase 1 with bounding (forward, anterior-lateral, and lateral) with a stick landing and then progress that in this phase to more continuous type bounds or bounds into a 5yrd burst sprint. Lifting in this phase is more intensive with Mon/Fri being the heaviest days where the individual is working at max (or near max) loads for the main exercises – using loads greater than 90%. Wednesday, instead of being a “light” day in the Bill Starr program is devoted to our explosive work in order to keep that quality in the mix before progressing to the next phase. Additionally, we are doing a low volume of sprinting in this phase before the lifting sessions on Mon/Wed. These are typically short acceleration drills or short drills with change of direction (like 10yrds out and 10yrds back). Generally the volume is low and around 4-6 reps before performing our jumps and then lifting. Conditioning in this phase takes place on Tuesday and Thursday with Saturday being a restorative day. I wrote in sled or hill sprints as they are less stressful than upright running. We typically perform reps of 3-5sec with rest intervals down to 130bpm or 60sec in length. We start the athlete around 20 reps and progress from there. Additionally, the program is not set in stone, so if the athlete is too sore or feels poor on Thursday, we can do a restorative session instead and push the sled or hill runs to Saturday. Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.14.42 PMNotes: The final phase had the goal of speed and power. In this phase we have the highest volume of sprint work as well as change of direction work, which can be taxing. Because of the neuromuscular strain, the strength work is much lower volume and we have a range (2-3 sets x 2-4 reps) to allow us to keep the volume on the lowest end if need be, depending on how the athlete is doing and how the session is going. Wednesday’s workout is bounding drills, short acceleration work, and some low volume complexes. In between these sessions, conditioning is in the form of more restorative work so that all of the effort can be applied to the main training days.

Some Other Ideas About The Template

Borrowing from the Bill Starr 5×5, I wrote up a simple template using the same daily undulating approach, three days a week, and adding in other components (as well as changing the light day, in the original program, to a power day in later phases). Nothing in the program is set in stone. You can lateralize or regress exercises on an as need basis. Additionally, the idea that these sessions have to take place within 1 week or within a 3 week training block is silly. Some athletes will adapt faster than others. Some athletes may need longer in the first phase (IE, 5-7 weeks). Some athletes may need more recovery time between very intense training sessions. Taking that into consideration, don’t be afraid if your microcycle doesn’t take place in a 7 day cycle. I think we sometimes get very concerned that everything has to happen on this week long microcycle when in reality we should be more open to the fact that the microcycle will take as long as the body needs it to take. Some athletes may only be able to tolerate 2 days a week of lifting. Or, the strength and power phases may have that Wednesday session look very differently, where it is devoted more specifically to jumps and bounding. Alternatively, in that last phase, we have, at times, flipped it and done our complexes on Mon/Fri and a low volume strength session on Wednesday. Finally, the program may look very different depending on the sport. For example, some sports may require a significantly greater amount of metabolic work (harder intervals, max aerobic speed runs, aerobic power work, etc) and this should be reflected in one of the training phases by lowering the volume of something else but increasing the volume of the metabolic running exercises. There aren’t really any rules to this. In the end, create a program that is logical for the individual – don’t try and fit the individual to a program.

Training is a simple process. Have a goal, have a focus, and adjust the program along the way based on how the athlete is tolerating the training. Don’t be afraid to make changes, push workouts out a day or two to allow for more recovery, or make adjustments if the training response is not adequate. Nothing is more simple than the Bill Starr 5×5. If you simply did that and added in jumping, running, and Medicine Ball Throws you can do an incredible job. Hopefully my template approach to structuring training around the Bill Starr 5×5 makes sense and you can see the back drop of the program within what I wrote.

#RIP Bill Starr

The Strength & Conditioning Compass – Developing Your Philosophy

Yesterday I posted the following quote to facebook:

If you are a strength coach and you are more worried about learning RT1 (for those that don’t know what RT1 means HERE is a video) than you are about learning how to develop the overall physiological capacity of your athletes, you are probably doing something wrong. Don’t be a back door rehab professional, trying to “fix” people. Embrace the strength coach profession and learn how to develop athletes. Just my opinion.

This created quite a lengthy discussion from folks regarding the role of strength and conditioning, scope of practice, etc. I think many people missed the point of the post, which was more about the state of strength and conditioning in this country and how most strength coaches are so focused on being pseudo-physical therapists than they are developing the athlete’s physiological abilities, which should be their goal – physiological development and injury prevention.

Within the discussion I explained that a big issue is that people tend to get swept away with all of the courses that are so focused on the movement aspects of things (mobility, “corrective exercise”, etc). They forget that there is a whole other side to athletic development. Part of the reason I think this happens is that folks lack a true professional compass. Something that helps guide their path and keep them centered. What I’m referring to here is a philosophy. Most strength coaches, when asked about their philosophy end up either explaining their weekly template (“We use a Westside BB type template with max effort dynamic effort, and repetitive effort work” or, “We do a high-low training program like Charlie Francis”) or they begin listing exercises (“We are a bench, squat, chin up type program” or, “We like Olympic lifting and single leg work”). Of course all of these things are just fine but they don’t answer the question, “What is your philosophy?” Don’t tell me what you do. Tell me how you think! Tell me what is important to you and then tell me how you go about evaluating, monitoring, and improving it.

Several years ago I wrote down my strength and conditioning philosophy. Basically, it was a document that explained the things that are important to me as a strength coach. It articulated why I feel these things are important and how I go about quantifying them. Of course, as I grow and learn more, the philosophy changes and grows as well, but the big rocks stay the same.  I would hope that every strength and conditioning coach takes the time to write down their philosophy. In fact, no matter what you do in this profession, it makes sense to sit down and write out your philosophy. If you are an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or chiropractor, what is your rehab philosophy? How do you go about your work? This process is critical because it allows you to focus your compass, understand what you believe in, and understand where you may need to get better and improve. Oftentimes we tend to be so focused on one or two things that we forget about all the other stuff that we can be studying to make ourselves better (hence the reason for my facebook post). Additionally, people who don’t have a compass usually attend continuing education courses and leave saying, “I knew that. I already do that stuff.” But when you see what they are doing they aren’t doing ANYTHING LIKE THAT!! They may know the information but they have not built it into a system that allows them to use it in a very specific manner. They tend to be all over the map. Having a philosophy will keep you focused and, more importantly, guarantee you a certain level of success with all of the athletes you work with.

My Philosophy

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.06.50 PM

The three big rocks of my philosophy are movement, stress, and fitness. I can’t say that any one component is more important than the other. However, I do put stress at the top of the pyramid because if the athlete lacks the ability to tolerate and adapt to stress in a positive way it will drastically impact their movement capabilities and their overall fitness level. Basically, they wont be able to tolerate the stress of training.

Unpacking each of these components:

  • Movement -  This refers to the athlete’s ability to produce movement that satisfies the needs and demands of their sport. Do they have adequate joint ranges of motion? Can they move freely in all three planes of motion? Can they move effortlessly or are they always fighting against themselves (IE, are they stiff, tight, and bound up)? Movement is tested in a variety of ways. We evaluate it with joint range of motion testing, Functional Movement Screen (I know that it is a polarizing topic. Of course, you can use any movement screen or movement evaluation that you want here), and sports tasks (evaluation of sprinting, jumping, landing, cutting, etc).
  • Fitness – This represents the athlete’s overall fitness level. Do they have a basic fitness level that has been developed over the years by being exposed to various modes of training, various sports and sporting movements, etc? Do they have the fitness capacity to satisfy the needs and demands of the sport and/or their position within that sport? Are they lacking in some area of fitness (strength, power, conditioning, etc) that needs to be improved?
  • Stress – Finally, stress refers to the athletes ability to tolerate and resist stress. How well does the athlete adapt? How much training can the athlete tolerate? How well does the athlete thrive in the chaotic nature of sport? Stress is measured in a variety of different ways. We can look at their overall wellness, nutrition program, sleep habits, heart rate variability, etc.

To sum the rocks of my philosophy up:

“I don’t like to prescribe exercises if I don’t know how someone moves. I don’t like to prescribe training methods if I don’t know someone’s initial fitness level, where they are at, and where they need to go. And I don’t like to prescribe a training program without having an understanding of how the person adapts to it.”

Taking this approach has allowed me to build a system that focuses on these big rocks, the things I feel are most important, so that I can develop ways of testing, monitoring, and training them.

Wrapping Up

Don’t just focus on one component – sort of like we tell our young athletes to not specialize. I don’t think there is anything wrong with spending time studying movement approaches. I have gotten a ton out of Functional Movement Systems, PRI, DNS, and various massage therapy courses. They have allowed me to look at the body and recognize patterns that I can then focus on within the training program via exercise selection and specifically scripted warm ups. But please remember, these are only one piece of the pie. There is a whole other world out there in the realm of physiology and athletic development. The courses I listed above are relatively accessible and popular and thus make them easier for people to wrap their heads around. The other stuff is not. I get emails weekly from people saying they take all these courses, and the courses form the basis of their training approach, but they want to learn more about energy system development, they aren’t sure where to start to learn about it, and they don’t know how it will fit into their training approach. Honestly, a good exercise physiology book and pubmed would be a great place to start! There is so much information out there on this topic. You just need to be committed to spending time and learning it. The individual recognizes a gap in their learning but they have not created a philosophy that allows them to fill that gap and figure out where this stuff will fit in.  Weekend courses are helpful because we are force fed information. But why rely on other people to tell you how to think? Get to work writing your own philosophy down and perhaps you can come up with something interesting that embraces a bunch of different concepts that others have not thought about.

2015 Seattle Sounders Sports Science Seminar

I am excited to announce that I will be speaking at the 2015 Seattle Sounders Sports Science Seminar.

Dave Tenney, High Performance Director for the Seattle Sounders, has done a fantastic job of growing this event over the past five years. He always brings in great international speakers and this year is no different. Attendees often include professionals in the NFL, NBA, MLS, EPL, and Olympic Organizations as well as independent strength coaches.

This year’s event will be held  Tuesday June 9 through Thursday June 11. The event grows in attendance each year and always sells out, so be sure to sign up as soon as possible. Registration information and the current list of confirmed speakers can be found HERE.
(Note: Dave is still adding more speakers.)

Hope to see you there!