Random Thoughts on Conditioning – 9.17.15

Just in the past few days I’ve encountered the unique scenario of presenting two similar trains of thoughts to two different types of populations.

After finishing an in-service for Merrimack College Strength and Conditioning, and one speaking engagement at Cressey Sports Performance, there are some insights that I’ve come away with that I’m going to share with you today.


Cardio? Should I do it? Should I ignore it?

There are two sides to this question:

  1. People don’t include cardiovascular training for the simple fact that many have attached a negative connotation towards doing cardio at any portion of their programming.
  2. If they do include cardio, there is often an overdoing of cardiovascular training (punishment on one end, or the thought of sweating for sweating sake).

Whether you include or exclude cardio, it is often done to prove a point that: 1) You are doing the right thing by not including cardio (often someone may ditch cardio in favor of strength training, and in doing so, improve muscular hypertrophy and strength at a favorable level), or 2) you are doing the right thing by not including cardio (because cardio may diminish your “gains”).

The reality of this situation is that there are several benefits to the inclusion of cardiovascular training. Improving work capacity, improving resting heart rate levels, along with a slew of physiological benefits can be pointed to – in fact there are several other benefits that improve quality of life, from an epidemiological point of view that not many think about that lead to longevity or in some cases the delay of diseases.

On a personal level, I understand that cardiovascular training is important. As a dancer, you need to be able to last several rounds or several hours of dancing in order to compete.


On an anecdotal level, Louie Simmons, a household name in any powerlifter’s domain, has been vocal about how he has utilized sled drags and pulls in order to improve work capacity – for his athletes that primarily compete in only 9 competition lifts (squat, bench, deadlift with 3 attempts a lift).

This is reason enough (for me, anyway) to include cardiovascular training in my programming for my athletes. However, simplistic conclusions aside, I’d consider the act of including cardiovascular training in a little more intelligent of a manner.

If you haven’t included cardiovascular training in quite some time, give this protocol a try for a few weeks:

Phase 1 – Conditioning

1. Low Box Step Ups:

Week 1 = 2 sets of 10min/leg
Week 2 = 3 sets of 10min/leg
Week 3 = 2 sets of 12min/leg
Week 4 = 3 sets of 12min/leg

or this bodyweight circuit:

A1. Bodyweight Reverse Lunge – 5/side
A2. Push Up – 10 reps
A3. Lateral Lunge – 5/side
A4. TRX Row – 10 reps

  • Stay between heart rate of 120-150bpm for both protocols.
  • Perform 2 sets of 10 minutes for either series, and then rest for 2 minutes in between sets.
  • Adjust from week to week by fluctuating the rest time, or weights used.
  • Perform some low level stretching, or low level corrective exercises to gently remind the body what kinds of positions may need loosening up.

If you have been including cardiovascular training in your programming already, give this a shot:

Phase 2 – Conditioning

1. Shuttle Runs – 30 Yards, with resting to the top of the minute. Repeat for 8-10 sets.

or this density training set.

A1. DB Goblet Squat – 8 reps
A2. DB Floor Press – 8 reps
A3. TRX Row – 8 reps

Perform as many sets of these three exercises in 5 minutes. Rest 2 minutes, and then repeat 2 more times.

These are not definitive plans by any means. They are simply to show that there are multiple avenues to achieve the same physiological benefits that cardiovascular training can provide.

The tools that you choose to use (look above) can drive multiple physiological benefits that do not have any negative connotations attached to them. If you choose to negate these items for an emotional or dogmatic reasoning, well then you are left behind in the dust.

As always,

Keep it funky.


Morning Musings – Sprints, and Defining Success (9.25.14)

Within a youth athletes’ career, it is imperative to keep in mind that between the ages of 12 years old to roughly 16 or 17 years old is considered developmental. I use the word developmental to describe the large discrepancies in variance from athlete to athlete. Developmental also because the athlete has a plasticity for learning and building a movement (and psychological) foundation for success.

These developmental changes are found by observing fluctuations from 1. a hormonal perspective, which is reflected by changes mostly associated with puberty, 2. neural motor control, which can be reflective of different movement patterns more or less easily performed by the growing athlete, along with the most obvious physical changes found in any given athlete if tracked for a long enough time.


With that said, one perspective that an outsider looking in to our industry (strength and conditioning) may immediately have a knee-jerk reaction of what is most appropriate and what is not. Often, the first thought may be conditioning, running, or some type of fatiguing activity that at face value looks a lot like hard work.

A step further into this perspective can build on the concept that there is something a little bit deeper going on besides running poles or taking (multiple) laps.

With that foundation and perspective laid out, I’ve had the fortune by occupation of learning some details involved with sprint mechanics and other movement protocols.

Sprints and change of direction drills may be the default idea that many “strength coaches” and “I work with that trainer guy who lives 20 minutes away from me” think of when describing a typical training session for a given set of athletes. I assure you this is not the case when determining how to improve the movement quality of many of the training sessions that I supervise, and from a logistical point of view, I am of the belief that by incorporating sprint oriented drills prior to a traditional strength training session, we can arrive at these benefits:

  1. Improved rate coding of a motor unit.
  2. Faster transfer of synaptic change from motor unit to muscle fibers results in higher force production.
  3. Based on the movement pattern, an increase in motor unit firing will elicit a positive result towards more force in a given movement pattern.
  4. In the case of sprinting, a unilateral and posterior chain movement pattern are reinforced and enhanced upon.
  5. In the case of youth athletes that have not been introduced to sprinting or change of direction (CoD) drills, a new stimulus for movement and coaching is introduced, which will (hopefully) be improved upon as the athlete ages.

However, one of the bigger ideas that need to be addressed, besides the given strength training aspect, is developing a greater vocabulary of movement patterns that can be fine tuned as the athlete goes through various “schools” of learning.

It is my opinion that these movements should be universal to a large variety of athletes early on in the athletes training career if it is possible. Depending on the athlete’s chosen sport, choosing to practice technique for sprints and change of direction (CoD) drills will help the athlete accumulate a greater vocabulary of these given movement patterns – that will hopefully translate to a greater success later on in their athletic career (and perhaps even life if the opportunity still presents itself to live an active lifestyle outside of work!).

My argument for this opinion is this:

Sure, in order to pitch you don’t need to learn how to sprint. However, say you successfully get your opponent to a 3-2 pitch count. You throw a breaking ball, and they hit it in a way that the first baseman must move away from first base in order to make the correct play. Due to field position, you need to cover first base after the play pushes the first baseman to this precarious position, whatever it may be. 

As a pitcher, will you walk to first base to cover the out? Sprint? Jog? Pull a hamstring because you never practiced sprinting before?

Steve Nellis - CoverFirst

Photo Credit – Steven Nellis

You certainly won’t be Spiderman Lunging to first base, but you perform this movement as a general preparatory exercise.

…Yet you won’t work on and enhance your sprinting technique because …?

Practicing these generalized movements, while not your “role” within the immediate prioritization of the sport itself, will help you become a more well rounded athlete.


To present another scenario, say you really enjoy these sprinting drills as a 12 year old in a great environment of a gym. You enjoy these drills enough to continue with sprinting as a track and field athlete while you enter high school. And long before you know it, you become a possible contender in high school for a scholarship in track and field in whatever event – all stemming from working on some fun drills that involved skipping, running around, and reacting to cues from a coach who made things fun for you when you were growing up.

Visit my YouTube channel for other instructional videos.

Did you achieve success in baseball? Or did you achieve success in track and field? What about personal success? I’d say securing a scholarship is a success on any level.

Certainly these thoughts are extrapolated to the “n-th” degree. However, these scenarios are certainly possible as well. These are merely some of the thoughts that cross my mind when teaching and allowing the people I come into contact with on a daily basis at this point.

With these largely reflective and tangential thoughts out of my head, here is an article I was fortunate to have published on STACK.com recently.

–> Burn Your Competition With this Sprint Workout <–

As always,

Keep it funky.