I’ve been lucky enough to work with the best hockey players on the planet in my time working in the National Hockey League. Now, it’s my mission to help deliver the same type of training that helped those players stay fast and strong to anyone and everyone that is willing to put in the work. I recently launched an online training option so that I can reach and impact hockey players around the globe and you can actually sign up below.
I like to write a post at the beginning of every year about goal setting. Why? Because I think goal setting works. Brian Tracy, a self-improvement expert, talks about the power of setting in goals in many of his books including Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want — Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible. His advice is simple and it is not that hard to do.
Tracy says to write down 10 specific goals every day in the present tense like you have already accomplished them. For example, “I weigh 185 pounds” vs. “I will lose weight”. Write your 10 goals down every day for 30 days straight. When you write down your goals, then come up with a plan for each of them to be accomplished, then take action, you will have a really good chance of completing them. At the end of the 30 days, you will be amazed and you will also note the positive changes in your life.
Although it may sound a little cheesy and far-fetched, I really believe in this method and it only takes 5 minutes per day.
Here is my post from last year- Goal Setting.
3 Things That I Learned in 2012
Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley has a quote in his book The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players, “If you’re not getting better, you are getting worse”. I love this quote because I believe it’s true. I always want to see myself as a beginner in the Strength and Conditioning/Sports Performance profession. Honestly, there is so much that I don’t know. Which has just dawned on me that I think this is why I am not the biggest fan of some of the internet gurus who- A- really aren’t coaching anyone and B- really haven’t been doing this for a long time.
2012 was another good year that brought about some life learning experiences both personally and professionally. Here are 3 things among others that really stood out:
1- I really enjoy coaching on the floor in the weight room and on the field/ice. Professionally, this is what I love doing. Interacting and coaching my athletes while they train is what I am passionate about. This is what keeps me going. When something is taken away from you for reasons way beyond your control, you realize how much you love to doing it. Hopefully, I’m back to doing it soon.
2- The diaphragm is a really important muscle to ensure that is functioning properly. While I am still in the infant stages (no pun intended) of learning about its roles in breathing and in spinal stabilization, the reality is that I really didn’t give it the time of day up until a year or two ago.
The diaphragm is an important muscle in function because of its importance in creating deep abdominal pressure (in conjunction with other muscles including the pelvic floor and other abdominals) prior to movement of the upper and/or lower body limb(s) in function. From an injury prevention perspective, I think this a huge area of importance because if there is insufficient intra-abdominal pressure, dysfunction can easily occur in a part of the chain of events that occur in movemdddddent. Maybe I’m wrong, but I do know that I will learn more about this. Thanks to my learning about breathing and my recent attendance at the DNS-A course, this has been brought to my attention and will soon be part of my daily coaching strategies.
3- I really like USA Hockey’s long-term American Development Model which is I am pretty sure is going to be instituted at the mite level next year in Southern California. One of the main components of this model at the mite level is that kids will be playing cross-ice games instead of full ice.
What I have learned is while that I agree with the change overall, I am not sure that I agree with it when it comes to my own son. Please let me explain. In his situation, he is now playing in travel mite full-ice game hockey at the age of 6. Prior to this season, he played cross-ice mini games when he was 4 and then played full-ice In-House at age 5. All of the time however has been spent practicing in mostly station-based drills and cross-ice mini games. My question is, does he then spend the next 2 years (mites are ages 8 and under) playing cross-ice while he is now capable of playing full ice because he is as big, if not bigger than most of the kids in the mite age group while also being an average- above average skater? Would this take him backwards as I feel that he can play full ice? Maybe in my eyes, his progression is going good, however he could benefit from the small area games to develop his skills. I’m not sure, but I’m sure there will be some other kids with same questions.
As many of you know, I find myself with lots of free-time due to circumstances WAY beyond my control. As a result, I find myself trying to utilize this time the best way that I possibly can. Whether it is reading articles or books, watching training DVDs, writing blog posts (such as this) and an e-book, or visiting other Strength and Conditioning Coaches/Trainers, I am trying to use this time to get better. Of course, I would rather be doing my day job and trying to find the extra time to squeeze this stuff in.
On a recent shopping trip to Costco, I picked up the book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden (not the authors real name). It may be one of the biggest books (311 pages) that I have finished in a 2-day time frame. I couldn’t put it down.
The book is a Navy SEAL’s autobiography that also contains what happened during the planning and accomplished mission of taking down Osama Bin Laden.
I have so much respect for Navy SEALS. Why? They are the last people on earth that I would want to piss off. Which makes me feel safer knowing that these guys are the ones carrying out missions like the one talked about in the book. Also, I think SEALS are the ultimate athletes. When you look at what they are tested in both physically and mentally, no one in the whole world is as tough as these guys. From the time that they decide to become a SEAL through all of their boot camps which includes the “Hell week” in which they sleep for 4 hours total during an entire week, these guys are the cream of the crop. It is no wonder why the drop out rate is so high. From a training perspective, what is really impressive about these men is that they must be able to always complete their physical assessments even after they officially become SEALS. They are also pretty much on call 24-7. They must be ready to go at any time. There is no set schedule as to when they are on missions.
What was also impressive in the book was the attention to detail that these men have in the planning process for any mission that they set out to accomplish. It is all scripted right down to packing their gear properly and rehearsing the missions over and over again. This really sounds familiar when you think of the deliberate practice concept and why successful coaches teach their athletes about the importance of the smallest of details. Coach Wooden teaching his players how to put their socks on properly comes to mind.
Like the great book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, another SEAL autobiography, there is so much from this book and the whole Navy SEAL culture that can apply to coaching and being a member of a team.
Here is a quote that I really like from the book:
“We are not superheroes, but we all share a common bond in serving something greater than ourselves. It is a brotherhood that ties us together, and that bond is what allows us to willingly walk into harm’s way together.”
Obviously, I really liked the book and was really surprised that I crushed it 2 days. Check it out here
Lesson From the Old Ball Coach
I was inspired to write this post by a segment that was on TV Saturday morning. The segment was a behind the scenes look at the University of South Carolina Football program. As I was flipping through the channels, I happened to see some weightroom footage that forced me to stay on the channel for more than a few minutes.
During the segment, Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier was shown working out. In the segment, he mentioned that he works out 5-6 times per week. He also talked about how important it was for him to get his workouts in. At the age of 67, the fact that Coach Spurrier gets in 5-6 workouts per week is pretty impressive. They did show him performing exercises such as rear delt flyes and dumbbell curls while also showing him walk on the treadmill and ride a bike. Who cares? The fact that he is making that kind of commitment at his age is very impressive.
What I was also really impressed with was how important he thinks exercising is not only for himself, but for every coach in the profession. Coach Spurrier talked about how when he speaks to other coaches at clinics, he preaches the importance of exercise and how coaches shouldn’t be overweight while coaching their kids. He encourages overweight coaches to “Get on the treadmill”.
I agree with coach Spurrier not only from a health prospective, but also from a standpoint of being able to coach. I think a coach needs to be able to demonstrate proper form and execution. In the case of a football coach, maybe that is demonstrating what a player needs to do on a specific play?
In the case of the Strength and Conditioning Coach, we are professionals on the subject of exercise; specifically strength and conditioning. So, Strength and Conditioning Coaches need to be able to demonstrate proper form in exercises- not only in the weightroom, but also on the field demonstrating agility, acceleration, and plyometric drills.
I’m not saying that you need to be as strong or as fast as your athletes. However, you should be lean, strong, and in condition. Your athletes are going to respect you more if you are able to “Look the part” and be able to do what they do even if it is slower. Be fit enough to coach.
I find myself reading more books about coaching and leadership these days. I really enjoy reading about successful coaches who are good planners, motivators, innovators, and effective communicators. I find myself thinking that although the strength and conditioning profession involves having very strong and current knowledge in training methodology; being able to communicate and lead effectively is more important. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you can’t communicate and apply the knowledge that you possess to your athletes or clients, then you aren’t any good. That’s reality. Also, and I think that this is more important than being a smart coach and an average communicator- if you are a jerk, then you aren’t any good either. I really believe in the quote which I first heard from Mike Boyle, “No one really cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.
One of the books that I am actually re-reading is Bill Walsh The Score Takes Care Of Itself. What I find fascinating about Bill Walsh’s career and coaching style was that he didn’t come across as a yeller and screamer when he was coaching. I’m sure that there a more than a few former 49er and Stanford players who would disagree with me, however, I think the public perception was that he was a cerebral coach. He was the ultimate planner and he broke everything down to the smallest detail when it came to operating his teams.
Sure, we can say that he was the coach of the 49ers, which was a team that was stacked with talent during Walsh’s years. However, good coaches get the most of out of their players. More importantly, they get them to play as a team. Today, (although I am a Patriots guy), it is hard not to think about Coach Belichick and the Patriots. Tom Brady, like Joe Montana, wasn’t the best prospect coming out of college. Belichick, like Walsh did with Montana, continues to get the best out of Tom Brady. It is the day in and day out of coaching that helps him be one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
What does this have to do with strength and conditioning? Like I said in a blog post before, we need to see ourselves as leaders when it comes to working with our athletes. We need to be effective communicators and motivators to help our athletes be successful and get the most out of our time with them. Anyone can write a program and give it to their athletes. However, it is the good ones who can apply what’s written on the sheet of paper effectively and get results.
Here are some quotes that I got from this book that had to do with hard-work, dedication, and teaching:
– When talking about a season-ending loss to the Dolphins- “The memory never leaves you and acts as both a positive and negative force, spurring you to work harder and harder while also creating a fear inside that it might happen again.”
– “If you’re up at 3 A.M. every night talking into a tape recorder and writing notes on scraps of paper, have a knot in your stomach and rash on your skin, are losing sleep and losing touch with your wife and kids, have no appetite or sense of humor, and feel that everything might turn out wrong, then you’re probably doing the job.”
– “If you’re growing a garden, you need to pull out the weeds, but flowers will die if all you do is pick weeds. They need sunshine and water. People are the same. They need criticism, but they also require positive and substantive language and information and true support to really blossom.”
– “The ability to help the people around me self-actualize their goals underlines the single aspect of my abilities and the label that I value most- teacher.”
Did you achieve your goals in 2011?
2011 was a great year. With the birth of our boy Wyatt in May as well as the fact that my family is healthy, I have so much to be thankful for. I consider myself to be blessed.
As far as goal setting goes, I set out to achieve several goals that I wanted to accomplish in 2011(here is my post on goals from last year). Although I can’t say that I achieved all of them, I did accomplish most of them. For example, I got RKC certified, I spoke at a prestigious hockey coach’s conference, and I produced 2 information products. Accomplishing these goals along with some others really helped me move forward and give me a sense of accomplishment. These were goals that I wrote down and then made a plan of action to help make sure that they were checked off.
I really think goal setting works. The key is being specific and writing them down as if you have already achieved them. For example, instead of writing “I will lose weight in 2012”, write down “I weigh 185 lbs.” This works as you start to see yourself with the goal already accomplished. I know it may sound far-fetched but I really think something is triggered in the subconscious mind. Try it for yourself.
As we say goodbye to 2011, it is now time to set goals for 2012. Maybe you have a weight loss goal or an income goal? Whatever they may be, try writing them down and then set up a plan for you to achieve them. As Zig Ziglar says, “Don’t be a wondering generality, be a meaningful specific”.
Part 1 of this was the why I did the RKC cert and what I did to prepare for it. Now I want to cover the weekend.
I drove down to La Jolla on Thursday night so that I could check into the hotel and check in for the RKC. I checked in, got my book, and then looked to see which team I would be on. As I was registering, I bumped into Jim Hooper, RKC. He is the owner of Balboa Fitness in Newport Beach. Earlier on in the summer when I was first getting started in my training, I went to Jim’s facility and spent some time with him so I could work on my technique. Jim really helped me establish a solid foundation so I could move forward with my training. When I saw Jim on Thursday, he informed me that I was on team Dan John. This team was once mentioned on 7m and is a pretty popular team in the state. I can’t tell you how fired up I was to hear that. I have been a follower of Dan for a few years now. From his book Never Let Go, to all of his articles on the internet about strength and conditioning, I have pretty much read all of his material. There is something about the way that he writes that really keeps me interested as the reader. I have never met him in person, but I was definitely hoping to at least bump into him over the weekend. Now, considering the fact that there is over 120 people registered for this certification and I believe 8 or so teams, I was lucky and very fortunate to land on Dan’s team. Instead of just bumping into him, I was going to spend 3 full days with him getting coached by him. To me, that is just awesome.
To be honest, and I think many of the attendees would agree, I thought we were going to do the Snatch test on Friday morning. I think many of us really wanted to get it out of the way so that it isn’t hovering over us during the weekend. I think we were all pretty surprised when we found out that we were going to do it on Sunday morning. My first thought was how the heck was I going to be able to do the snatch test on the last day? I could only imagine how sore I would be at that point. Oh well, what are you going to do?
The first thing that we did on Friday was perform the chin up/pull up test. I don’t know if it was the momentum and excitement around the group, but it really felt easy. Then we were instructed to grab specific kettlebells and bring them to the field. That’s when the process and outline of the weekend started to unfold.
I really liked how the certification was laid out. What would happen is one person would speak to the whole entire group, and then we would go back to our individual teams and work with our team leader and assistants. I recall on Friday morning it was mostly Pavel. Pavel first started to talk about the Swing. As the weekend went on, you definitely know why the Swing is addressed first and foremost. I was really impressed with Pavel. He was very direct in his overall communication with us. He also appears to have a very open mind. Although he founded this organization, he is very open to new ideas. What also really impressed me was that when
he was talking about people who couldn’t get their hips extended all the way through during the Swing, he has them do Glute Bridges or the “RKC Shoulder Bridge” in Pavel’s terms. He also said words like “Glute Amnesia”. This really impressed me because he is talking about some of the things that I want to always teach and correct with my athletes. We do a lot of glute bridging. Also, what does he prescribe for those who can’t extend their hips all the way up during the glute bridge? Hip flexor stretching. I just wanted to write that because to me Pavel is someone who I really admire and respect because he has been there and done that. He has the beginners mind and he just wants to make sure his students and more importantly, their clients can do the lifts safely. He doesn’t have a negative, grumpy attitude and disregard terms like “glute amnesia” like some others in this profession.
All throughout the weekend, Brett Jones was the guy who was the one who was directing the order and flow of the whole entire group. Although he prescribed many swings to us for disciplinary reasons, Brett was really funny. This guy knows his stuff as well.
The weekend went on as we were instructed by many team leaders on the lifts. From what I recall, Brett Jones spoke about the Get-Up, Dan John spoke about the Goblet Squat, Clean and Front Squat, Franz Snideman spoke on the Press, and Dave Whitley spoke on the Snatch. These were the lifts that we are expected to know how to teach and also be able to do properly on Sunday morning (in addition to the Snatch test). I really liked this format because we got the person who was known for being good at teaching those exercises. For example, Dan John is very passionate about Goblet Squats, Cleans and Front Squats. He would be the guy that I would go to right away if I wanted to learn to do them properly.
All weekend long, the main instructor would teach the lift and then we would go back to our team and practice. This is where I think being on Dan’s team was unbelievable. Dan is a great coach. He made things simple for us. What I really liked about his coaching was that we got Dan John’s coaching methods, not necessarily the “RKC” way or the way Pavel would coach it. Although the methods are most likely pretty similar, Dan’s personality and coaching methods may be a little different. This is just another reason that I was impressed with Pavel. He empowers his team leaders to do their job as effectively as possible.
Sunday morning came real fast. I can remember my hamstrings just being sore since Saturday morning. I would imagine that we had performed at least 1500 swings at this point. Also, my triceps were sore from pressing and my “abs” were sore from planks. I wouldn’t say I was fresh for my strength testing.
First up was the Get Up. I used a 24k kettlebell and it went very well. Then it was double 24 kettlebells for the rest of the lifts up until the Snatch test. I did 5 Cleans, then 5 Front Squats, and then 5 Presses (all with about
5-10 minutes rest in between). Then it was on to the Snatch test. At that point, the thought of being sore was long gone. In the back of my mind, I knew I could get 100 reps in less than 5 minutes. I was kind of nervous because on the day before, my grip was slipping a little on the decent in the Snatch technique section with Dave Whitley. Would it slip during testing causing me to drop it and not pass? When it was my turn to go, I just visualized myself being in my back yard at home which is where I did my Wednesday Snatch workouts. 10 reps each side followed by putting the bell down x5 was the plan as it was always done this way in my backyard. I wouldn’t say that the Snatch test was easy, but it wasn’t as hard as the last time I did this. The bell was flying up there for me and my grip wasn’t even an issue. The reason is that my Swing got much better throughout the weekend. The last number that I heard before I put the bell down was 4:30. I passed the Snatch test.
What I think is even better about this certification is that you need to show that you can teach the lifts to people. They actually get local volunteers to come in and be taught how to use kettlebells appropriately by us the students. I and fellow team member Taylor Lewis had an interesting person. Our main issue was trying to get her from a squat style Swing to a hip hinge type. She learned the movement and Taylor and I passed.
The last part of the weekend was the Grad Workout. This consisted of us finishing off the weekend with a really hard workout. With 2 kettlebells (a 24k and a 16k) we did 5 presses followed by 10 swings. When we were done, we took 5 big steps and then put them down. We went for the length of a football field (probably more actually).
After the grad workout, it was back to our teams where were given our certificates in a little graduation ceremony with the other team members. This is when I realized that I accomplished my goal.
This whole experience for me was life-changing. I feel that I was pushed beyond limits in a real safe manner. Also, Dan John is the real deal. He is truly a great person and coach. One of the first things that he said to us was that once you are a student of his, you are a student of his forever.
Dan John- A Strength Coach’s Strength Coach
I am going to start this article back to when I first decided to attend the RKC. Each off-season, I will always try to get to as many seminars that I possibly can so that I can continue my education and get better as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. I really think it is important for your athletes and clients to know that you are always trying to improve on the way you do things so that you can help them perform better in their sport. In this profession, it is important to always have a beginners mind.
Why the RKC? Well, I knew that I would gain some additional knowledge and techniques that I could use right away with my guys. Although I always take pride in knowing the athletes whom I work with are always performing good technique on all lifts, I guess I feel that I could always fine-tune some things on exercises like our swings and get-ups. I have always looked at the RKC as the gold standard for Kettlebells. Some of the people who I admire and respect in this industry such as Brett Jones, Gray Cook, Charlie Weingroff, and Dan John are all RKC. These are guys who I think are smart leaders (and strong) in this profession.
What intrigued me more about attending this certification was that in addition to learning more so I can coach my athletes more effectively, I did this for myself and my physical well being. Before embarking on this process, sometimes I had seen myself as just getting by in my training. I would always try to just be in good enough shape so that I could look the part and just get by. I wouldn’t say that I was either strong or weak. I also wouldn’t say I was fat or ripped. “Healthy” I guess is the word. To me, this was starting to become unacceptable. I needed to get un-comfortable.
What was also a limiting factor in deciding upon taking this challenge was my injury and surgery history. I have 3 scars on me from different circumstances. The oldest scar is on my left shoulder from a dislocated shoulder repair way back in 1994. The second is a nice little scar on my lower back from a bulging disk surgery in 1999. Numbness and tingling going all the way down to my foot combined with excruciating pain was the reason for this surgery. The last surgery was in 2005. I was given the news that there was “something” in my spinal cord at the c-4 level. This “something” was also causing severe pain in my neck as well as numbness and tingling that radiated down to my left hand. What was the “something” I would ask the 4 neurosurgeons that I saw in a painful month long time. The answer that I was given was that it was 50/50- malignant tumor or benign tumor. What I had to do was decide if I was going to have a biopsy done which would be an incision in my neck where they would cut off a few of the spinous process’ of some cervical vertebrae to get to my spinal cord so that they could take out a piece of whatever was in there. Obviously, I proceeded with the surgery and very luckily for me, it wasn’t a cancerous tumor. It was actually diagnosed as a disease called Sarcoidosis. The result was a nice scar on my neck and I was put on a very high dose of prednisone to treat the disease. It is a medication that I still have to take. I consider myself very fortunate to not have had some other kind of disease. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am unappreciative. This was definitely a wake-up call.
Ok, so what does that all have to do with deciding to go to a kettlebell certification? Since I have had all of these ailments, I have always just trained around the injuries. Since my lower back surgery, back squats are in the rear view mirror. Forget about dead lifting or any other exercises that could flare up my low back pain. As a result, I looked at the kettlebell swing as an exercise that would really hurt my back even more. For my posterior chain, glute ham raises and slideboard leg curls were good enough for me. Then one day, I just decided to try the swing with proper form and a light weight. I started with a 16k kettlebell for 2 handed swings. I just focused on doing them correctly. At that time, I also started working on my left shoulder mobility and then started to do Turkish Get Ups. I then actually realized that my back pain was not only getting better, it was actually going away. I also realized that my shoulder felt better. My back pain was non-existent and my shoulder was feeling better. So it was then when I decided to sign up for the RKC.
When I signed up for the RKC, I glanced at the physical requirements and then started to cringe. Of course, the 100 repetition 1-arm snatches in 5 minutes with a 24k kettlebell just jumps out at you. The 24k kettlebell had been sitting on my floor for a while now. I haven’t even begun performing a two-handed swing yet with it and I was supposed to snatch it 100 times in 5 minutes in months?! However, as challenging as that looked, I was equally concerned about the 5 pull up test. I was significantly weaker at the pull up when I recovered from my neck surgery. Five strict reps were going to be a challenge.
The training was actually pretty simple. Here is what I did:
1- I purchased the book Enter the Kettebell by Pavel Tsatsouline, the founder of the RKC. I followed a variation of a program called the Right of Passage that consisted of pressing and chin up ladders every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
2- For my snatch test, I simply followed the program “RKC Snatch Test” by Brett Jones.
So, on Mondays it was Presses, Chin Ups and heavy 1-arm swings. Wednesdays were presses, chin ups, and snatches with the 24k. Fridays were presses, chin ups, and snatches with the 16k. I did this every week for 3 months and got progressively stronger and in better condition. It was 3 times per week of maybe 45 minute sessions when you take foam rolling, activation, and mobility work. I followed this all summer long. When I was 2 weeks away from the RKC weekend, I was on my Wednesday workout which was now consisting of 10 snatches each arm at the top of every minute for 7 minutes. When I started my 4th minute, I realized that I had already done 80 reps. All I had to do was 20 more and then I passed the snatch test on my own. As for the chin ups, the ladders were the reason why I got my chin up strength back.
I am sure that there is another way to improve your snatch test or even get better at chin ups. However, these workouts worked for me and were actually pretty simple. Hard, but simple.
Part 2 will be up soon. Thanks for reading.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had registered for the RKC. For those who don’t know what the RKC is or what the certification is all about, check it out here. Well, I am about 3 weeks into the training for it. With my injury history, I have been really focusing on my preparation before I touch the Kettlebell. Foam rolling, static stretching, some corrective exercises, and some work with the Core X have been a part of my daily routine.
Basically, I really haven’t done any strength work without a kettlebell during the last 3 weeks and right now, I don’t think I need to. (This is completely different from training my athletes). For my training, I have looked into 2 programs designed to help me prepare for the RKC weekend and the 100 rep snatch test.
For the basic work with the kettlebells, I have implemented the circuit training advocated by Brett Jones in this article. These workouts have been tough, especially at the beginning as I began doing more volume. I really value Brett’s wisdom and experience with the Kettlebells as I have watched some of his DVD’s on Kettlebell training and the FMS.
For the snatch preparation test, I referred to this article by Steve Freides. I am following this one to a “T”. I started with level 1, and now I am on level 3, as last week I completed 5 snatches each hand on the minute for 16 minutes. This is definitely not something I could have just jumped into when I began, so progress has been made so far. For my next workout, I am going for 20 reps or 200 snatches in 20 minutes. So, Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be Snatch Test prep work, while Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will be Kettlebell circuits.
To be honest, I really love the way I feel right now. I feel like my form has been good, (I do plan on getting it evaluated by an RKC instructor) and my back pain is non-existent. All of the work with the kettlebells and also playing hockey 2-3 times per week both in pick-up games and adult league games is perfect for me right now in my quest to stay strong and in condition.