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The Current State of S&C….Not So Fast

I have a very interesting view of strength and conditioning in 2014. I was a competitive athlete within this millennium. I won some awards and had some success. I was brutally strong at a young age.

I also fell in love with the profession when I was 14 and didn’t even know it.

Mark Rippetoe is a coach that I have read, followed and listened to for a while. I own DVDs and books written and created by him. He recently wrote an article for T-Nation in regards to the current state of Strength and Conditioning in 2014. I respect the hell out of this guy, seriously, and I take his teachings on the barbell lifts as esteemed as any coach out there.

I just disagree with him on a few things.

  1. Speed and agility training doesn’t work.
  2. Functional training and correctives are bogus.
  3.  You cannot train power at an appreciable level.

As an aside since Mark did this himself: I am self-employed, I run a strength and conditioning facility that has athletes that choose to come here because we are better than their other options. My results with athletes are what I am judged on, and we see 500 different ones a year between teams, evaluations, clinics and members.

  1. Speed and agility training doesn’t work…

…Says coaches that cannot train speed and agility effectively. It really is this simple. Are their limits to what you can do? Sure. Let’s say they are the same 20% change as power however. Are you the guy that wants to go in at 80% speed at the D1 level when other guys are running at their 100%? That is called bench warmer where I come from.

Listen, genetics plays a huge component, and strength does as well, but speed can be taught and can be learned when applied properly.

I have written before the difference in drills, but here is a basic idea.

Planned movement -> planned advanced movement -> Confined unplanned movement -> confined unplanned advanced movement -> unconfined movement to a fixed stimulus -> unconfined movement to a human stimulus

This is how we bring along proper movements in an athlete. We teach a skill, develop it in cone drills, teach athletes to react to unplanned changes and then have them apply movement against a human opponent. By bridging things in this way, we can teach athletes to react faster and move quicker than their counterparts when they step on the field.

Let’s use this in a D1 football example. Athlete A spent the summer lifting. Athlete B lifted and had speed coaching. Athlete A hasn’t competed since spring football. Athlete B has seen a variety of movements and coaching on more efficient movement. They are both playing on the same team and same position, let’s call it linebacker. Athlete A can take on blocks better because he is stronger, athlete B makes it to the hole faster so is rarely in a situation to be cleanly blocked. Athlete A cannot keep up with a D1 runningback just yet, athlete B has no problems in scrimmages getting outside.

Who wins the starting job?

Athlete B.

All the strength in the world doesn’t matter if you cannot apply that strength. Take this case for an example.

I have a very successful teen powerlifter. He can squat and deadlift over 500 lbs at a bodyweight of 181 (see, I do functional training and my guys are brutally strong, funny huh). With his efforts to get stronger, he kept lifting ever heavier weights.

Sports however, suffered.

He was still taking batting lessons and was still practicing, but his body wasn’t as athletic as he had been. He neglected proper movement training, neglected the “functional” exercises and his “corrective” work was merely stretches.

He got slower, lost bat speed, his arm worsened and he regressed as an athleteOnce we integrated back the work that helps make him more athletic, he got back to where he was with his previous level of performance.

Another athlete I used to train came back to me after spending some time with a nationally known powerlifting coach. With me at age 13/14 he was able to deadlift over 350 lbs and bench press over 250 at a body weight of about 150 lbs, he also was pulled up to JV football and varsity wrestling in 8th grade.

He left. Went the powerlifting route. Got stronger in the barbell lifts.

He also began running a slower 40 at 16 then he was at 13 (5.25). He was no doubt stronger, but it wasn’t applied strength. It was very specific strength, strength used only on a platform and not on a field.

He came back. Lost 10 lbs, got stronger overall, could touch his toes again, didn’t have knee pain, hit an all-time max bench and went out and ran a 4.7 40 after 3 months of training my way.

The year before he only started one way, now he is starting on both sides of the ball, he is a leader on his team and looks better than the other athletes.

Speed is coachable, trainable, and vital to the success of taking good athletes at 80% and making great athletes at 100%.

  1. Functional Training and Correctives are Bogus

I may be putting this in my own words, but this is the gist of what was said. I don’t disagree that too many coaches have taken it too far. Limiting loads beyond what is considered “safe” is bullshit. That is a bad coach who is limited by his beliefs. I never limit loads at a capped number, I will however step athletes away from certain lifts when I feel we are at a sufficient level.

Where does corrective exercise come in?

If I have an athlete that just spent time in-season or away at college doing one of those shitty programs their coach made them do, the last thing I want to do is load them up. Why are correctives not useable in this time?

Look its a corrective exercise!

Look its a corrective exercise!

Instead of taking time off, why not do 2-3 weeks of correctives and patterning? Can deadlifting be a corrective exercise? Of course! If you want to play extremist and say that correctives are foofoo BS because it is light weights and balance, or that functional training is only doing medium loads in sport like motions, you are trying to throw reckless judgments at good coaches with sound application of training.

That shit doesn’t fly here.                     

There is no benefit to single leg strength? Really, because we don’t stop on one leg often? Or we don’t need to deload the body in accessory work due to a practice schedule, so we can get more muscular work done with unilateral exercises without the increased neural fatigue? Or this…

Cause, yeah, lets just bilateral lift.

We can use extreme cases to make points. It is fun, and when we also are a little flippant about it we can make the other person seem like a complete jackass (I do apologize) and that gets a smile. It also spreads misinformation and makes people less good at what they do.

I make freak athletes. That is my job. I do it very well. I use every method that works and functional and corrective work have their place and will continue to do so.

  1. You cannot train power to become more athletic

Ok. This is the least egregious statement in my mind.

Power is the application of strength at speed. There is a genetic component that makes some more powerful than others.

Let’s look at this at the D1 athlete level.

I have seen D1 football players with 28 inch verticals. I have also seen a 43 inch vertical in a D1 football player and other numbers in-between. If I coach the second guy, I can say my guys are freak athletes, but I did nothing.

Yet, the better athlete isn’t always the better football player. This is something that is important to remember in this regard.

So, let’s say we have a football player with great instincts, great feel for the game. They are an average athlete with a 28” vertical. I also have an athlete with a 36 inch vertical who is brought into a school as an “athlete” with no clear position, just great athleticism.

My contention is this, at 36 inches, there isn’t much point training power. Not only isn’t their much point, you probably will injure an athlete trying to gain the supposed 20% power improvement (43 inch vertical) rather than focusing on strength and injury resistance.

However, the athlete with the 28 inch vertical, who is trained to get to 33.5-34 inches (20% increase) will have gotten himself to a level of athleticism that is comparable to our 36 inch vert athlete. This coupled with greater feel for the sport gets this player drafted.

That is the difference. That is why you train ALL POWER. You see, I have lots of baseball players. Telling me that only getting them stronger is the best way to get improvement isn’t a good idea. Why? I have seen athletes go from 89-96 MPH using correctives and properly executed power development.

Power is plane specific, meaning that it will progress in relation to the planes of motion that you train it. If you are a rotational, frontal plane athlete, you can gain that 20% (or more) advantage and reach new heights. Why wouldn’t we do this? It is a waste of time?

No. Power training needs to be need specific. It needs to be coached for what you can teach, what the athlete needs, and what the sport demands. Other than that, power is vital to train at all times for all ages. In the end, training for power as a young athlete to me increases your long term athleticism, just ask any gymnast in the world what running and jumping from a young age has done for their athleticism.

Who the fuck is Bill Rom!?!?

If this article makes its way into your field of vision and you don’t know who I am, I train athletes on Long Island. I have had NFL, MLB, Pro Soccer and countless D1 athletes in front of me from all forms of sport. I have seen 7 year olds doing goblet squats, and 70 year olds doing long jumps. I have had athletes set records in powerlifting and get drafted out of high school.

What I say works. I see it every day in an ATHLETIC POPULATION.

You may want to listen if you train anyone who wants to move and live better.

Or any athletes who want to start….

Billy

About the author

Bill Rom

Bill Rom is a strength and conditioning coach on Long Island, New York. Bill has been training both athletes and general population clients since 2006. His clients have ranged from adolescents to 70 year old grandmothers, and from peewee athletes up to former and current D1 athletes. At Prospect Sports, where Bill is the director, he works with a number of professional athletes from the NFL, MLB, MiLB and more. Additionally, Bill has been published on EliteFTS.com, one of the top strength and conditioning websites in the world, as well as Stack.com; a website dedicated to improving athletes and is currently working on stories for LiveStrong.com. He also has done a number of speaking engagements including the NSCA and is continuing to pick up more. Bill is one of the top young strength and conditioning coaches in the country, and arguably the top strength coach on Long Island.

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