Supplement 101- What the coaches use, part two

By Brian Macdonald

This is part 2 of my supplement series which will cover my post-workout supplementation. This implies what I take immediately following my workout. Any one who has the least bit of knowledge regarding exercise, and our body’s physiological response, understands that results rely heavily on the effort we put into recovery. A well balanced diet is obviously the critical aspect of recovery, or in other words, how well we fuel our body. There are times where it is extremely difficult, and expensive, to achieve all our body’s needs through diet alone. Someone who may be training more frequently and intense than average may require supplementation to achieve all the body’s nutritional needs. I will use myself as an example:  I am very active on a daily basis simply as a product of my position as a coach, but I am also training for a physique competition. With my goal of adding some additional lean muscle mass, as well as keep up with my caloric expenditure throughout the day, I have to take in upwards of 3,500 calories a day, and as high as 400 grams of carbohydrates.  There are days where I am practically force feeding myself in an attempt to reach these needs. That is where supplementation comes into play. It helps me achieve these nutritional needs while also taking away the pain of stuffing myself. So lets dig into these supplements.

My post-workout regimen consists of a protein blend (See Neil’s description of Beverly UMP in our previous blog regarding supplementation), along with a two part post workout regimen by JYM and Jim Stoppani which utilizes a combination of key ingredients to aid in recovery. The Post Jym Matrix, as previously stated, utilizes a scientifically-backed ingredient line-up proven to aid in recovery. Many of these ingredients are identical to that of Pre JYM which I covered, in detail, in our part one of this series. Those ingredients are BCAA’s, creatine HCL, beta-alanine, betaine, and taurine. All of which are effective when taken before and after a workout session to achieve desired strength, power, and muscular results. The difference in Post Jym are the glutamine and L-Carnitine L-Tartrate. It contains three grams of glutamine which is an amino acid in our body that aids in muscular recovery and growth. There are countless scientific studies suggesting glutamine speeds up the recovery process. Research also suggests it optimizes our immune system function which is an obvious plus. Many people do not understand working out is in fact breaking down our body, part of which can include our immune system, so it is through the recovery process that we achieve our gains. The other ingredient, L-Carnitine L-Tartrate, is considered to aid in the recovery process due to it’s ability to increase Nitric Oxide. This increases blood flow therefore increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen to our muscles.

The last post workout supplement I use is the Post JYM fast digesting carb (dextrose). During a workout, our main fuel source is muscle glycogen, and research suggests the best way to replenish our glycogen stores is by ingesting high glycemic carbohydrates immediately following your training. Dextrose is a great source simply because it is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and utilized in replenishing those glycogen stores. If you want some additional information regarding post workout carb intake, take a look at this article by Jim Stoppani. as it goes into quite a bit more detail on glycogen, insulin, sources, etc.

Lastly, I just want to reiterate the importance of recovery in training. So many people think the more you can train in a day, the better your results. Any one who has done an ounce of research on the topic knows this could not be further from the truth. If you do train multiple times a day, you have to make sure you are devoting as much energy towards fueling your body and recovery. Also, we can talk as much as we want about supplements and how we should eat, but everyone forgets the magical answer to recovery…..SLEEP! This has to be a top priority when talking about recovery. Here is a sleep recommendation chart from the National Sleep Foundation to give you a good idea of where you should be at based on your age group.


Why Choose us?

As I was reflecting on entering our tenth year of operation, it occurred to me that there are a lot more options out there compared to 2006.  So, if that’s the case, why choose us?  Since there are more choices, what makes ASF better?  If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have already trained, or are training, with us.  That makes us happy [icon name=”smile-o” class=””].  This post will hopefully define why someone would decide to train with ASF compared with other training facilities.

Ironically, there are a lot of reasons why someone would NOT train with us:  no air conditioning, off the beaten path, duct work showing, zombies on the wall, not a lot of fancy, gold-plated, logo-emblazoned equipment, etc.  We get it:  We are not for everybody.  In fact, that is by design.  So, in another twist, the fact that we are not the generic training location is reason number one why people choose us.

Reason number two is the proud fact that we have a lot of fun while we are here.  The coaches have embraced a culture of laughter, enjoyment and fun, many times at the expense of ourselves.  Not every business can say that (hardly any that I know).

The third reason comes down to what many of you pay for in the first place:  results!  We know this formula to be true:

Relationships + Experience = Results

The greatest part of our day is getting to meet so many interesting people who share their story.  It really is amazing the diversity of everyone that trains here.  While the outcome (quantifiable and/or qualitative) is important, it can’t happen without a great relationship from the very beginning.

The fourth reason comes down to being different or being better.  Or in our case, both.  We feel that the biggest reason people stick around is because of the fact that we try to be different and better than everyone else.  We do some things that are very unique to us, and others that are done elsewhere, but maybe it is tweaked for a better experience.

Finally, a fifth way is the backbone of ASF:  The coaches.  Since day one, I knew that other facilities would have many things in common – turf, weights, medicine balls, supplements, etc.  But…

Would the coaches be passionate?

Would they love their job and who they work with?

Would they be chasing money?

Would they be making a difference?

We all have degrees, have top of the line certifications, experience playing sports, but the missing link that makes a good coach into a great coach is the sincere desire to make someone better, to find their awesomeness, to inspire them to do great things.  I love every coach who has worked here, and know they were a better person for having done so.



At the end of the day, being the best can be often overrated if you lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing.  We never give up on improving, growing, evolving to give you the best that we have to offer.   Our target has always been the “WHY” of our job as the reason folks continue to join our family.


Thanks for reading!


Supplements 101 – What the coaches use, part one

The following is a summary of what supplements the ASF coaches use on a regular basis.  It does not mean this is the right program for you; consider it more of an educational piece than a recommendation.

Neil Platt:

What supplements should I take? Which ones work and which ones don’t? Should I take them at all? Isn’t creatine illegal? These are typical questions that are asked by our athletes and adults on a daily basis and I’ve decided to do a brief write up about the supplements I take and why I take them. This is not a comprehensive list and it is in no way a recommendation, just an overview.

Probiotic: I generally start my morning by eating breakfast and taking myalign probiotic. My probiotic is from a company called Align. The benefits of probiotic use are lengthy, and still being researched. It is a small capsule that is filled with tons of live, healthy bacteria that your digestive tract needs. These bacteria aid in the digestive process, as well as a number of other functions. Probiotic use has been shown to help alleviate certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowl syndrome. I recently read a study that showed a link between probiotic supplementation and a reduction in depression like symptoms. I started using it a few months ago and I’ve noticed a huge difference in how my digestive tract is operating.

Multi-Vitamin: Multi-vitamin use seems to be a hot topic. Some people say that eating a well balanced diet that includes plenty of veggies and fruits is enough to get in all of your vitamins and minerals. However, the research shows you would have to eat a ton of different types of veggies, lentils, and grains to get in all of your vitamins and minerals. Truthfully, it is nearly impossible for all of us to eat a well-balanced diet so I use a multi-vitamin to plug any nutrient holes I have in my diet. I’m not a big fan of veggies so I have plenty. No need to get too fancy with your multi-vitamin. I use Centrum for men. You can find it in any grocery store for about fifteen bucks.

Glutamine: Glutamine is a common amino acid found within the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. I take this product during and after my workouts as glutamine supplementation has been shown to reduce muscle breakdown (catabolism) and improve muscle building (anabolism). This product also contains sufficient amounts of the amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, all of which are absolutely essglutamineential to building muscle. Glutamine supplementation has also been shown to have positive effects on your immune system, and your digestive system. The direct mechanisms by which this works are not yet known but having glutamine in your system during times of stress (working out, illness…) can help to alleviate many common issues. I get Glutamine Select from Beverly International.

Creatine: Yes, I take creatine and I’m still alive to talk about it. For whatever reason, creatine has gotten a horrible reputation. Your body uses creatine every single day for every single movement you make. Your muscles are able to work due to the energy that is supplied by adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is nothing more than an adenosine molecule combined with three phosphate molecules. When a phosphate group is split off, energy is produced and used for muscle contraction. In order to restore ATP to its normal state, it must gain another phosphate. Where does this phosphate come from? Creatine!! (well creatine phosphate, but for the sake of conversation we‘ll just say creatine). That was a very simple (quite possibly 100+ steps left out) of muscle activation. Creatine restores your muscles ability to contract. Taking creatine can possibly increase the amount of stored creatine in your muscles. More creatine = higher work capacity. If I can work harder AND longer, I may be able to increase my muscle mass and strength. Creatine is not, I repeat, IS NOT illegal and has no (based on legitimate studies) negative side effects. I usually take one serving prior to my workout. Creatine Select is a Beverly International Product.

Protein: I’m currently taking the Beverly International Product called Ultimate Muscle Protein, or UMP. I usually drink one after my workout and another as a snack during the day. UMP has a combination of fast digesting protein (whey) and slow digesting protein (casein). The whey gets into your system faster to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue following exercise and the casein provides a slower release to help you feel full longer and sustain the rebuilding the process. Following my workout I will add some form of fast acting carbohydrate to my shake, such as chocolate syrup. I’ll even eat gummy bears or some form of sugary candy. What?? You eat sugar after you exercise? Yes I do. Following exercise your body is starving for carbohydrates to replenish what it has just burned. The best time to get in your sugary fix is immediately following your workout. Every now and then I’ll drink a Gatorade Recover shake. These shakes are full of carbohydrates and have twenty grams of protein, plus they taste amazing.

So there it is. Those are the supplements that I am currently taking and a brief overview of why I take them. As I mentioned previously, this list does not include every supplement out there and it is not a recommendation to take any of them, simply an overview of my routine. Feel free to ask me any questions regarding these or any other supplements you are thinking about/currently taking and I’ll try to help you out the best I can.

Brian Macdonald:

As a little introduction for this series of blogs, the intent is to go over my current supplement regimen, what they are, why I take them, and who may benefit from their use. My hope is for this to help any of you who may be considering sports nutrition supplementation, and that it may help guide you to making the right choices.
Pre-workout supplementation: I would like to start out by saying I am a big supporter of the JYM brand and Jim Stoppani. I am all in with what Jim stands for, which is a line of supplements that are science-based and truthful. When I say truthful, I mean each and every ingredient is clearly listed as well as their exact amount. There are no “proprietary blends”, which is another blog topic in itself, where the exact ingredient and amount are nowhere to be found. I don’t know about you, but I like to know everything I am putting in my body clearly listed so that if there is something I am unsure about, I can research it. For anyone who is interested in supplementation and unsure about what brand to go with, at least visit Jim Stoppani’s website for information on supplementation (He his a Ph.D in Exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut, so he is very knowledgeable of everything he creates and every ingredient he uses.)
Moving on to my pre-workout supplement:
Pre-Jym by Jim Stoppani
It gives me a great boost in energy and focus along with key ingredients involved in fighting fatigue, increasing muscular strength and power, as well as muscular gains. It’s not “just a killer pump” I look for, but a logical and science backed combination of ingredients that will help enhance my training.
– Branched Chain Amino Acids (6 Grams).  They are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.  BCAA are used directly by our muscles as an energy source; Leucine is considered most important due to it’s role in stimulating protein synthesis; Valine aides in fighting fatigue.
– Citrulline Malate.  Citrulline is converted to Arginine, an amino acid which is then converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring gas in the body which is said to aide in muscular growth and recovery, while also increasing blood flow (vasodilation) which increases the delivery of nutrients to our muscles.
– Creatine HCL (2 grams).  As Neil mentioned, creatine is one of, if not the most, researched supplement on the market. It is substantially backed by science that creatine helps support
gains in muscular strength and power. Creatine Hydrochloride is simply an easier absorbed form and helps to prevent stomach issues which may occur through creatine monohydrate supplementation.
– Beta-Alanine (2 Grams).  Beta-alanine helps to form carnosine. Research suggests increased carnosine levels increases strength and power, while also boosting endurance and recovery.
– Betaine (1.5 Grams). Clinical studies have suggested Betaine helps improve muscular
strength and power production.
In closing, the only way to know if a supplement is right for you is to try it. Everyone reacts differently to supplements. Something which may work great for me, may not do anything for you. One thing you certainly need to have is patience. We are in a society of “instant gratification”. Results simply will not happen overnight and time needs to be given to see how your body reacts to the supplement. Lastly, understand that these blogs are information about supplements, meaning supplementing your diet. One thing that drives me absolutely insane are people who complain about a supplement that isn’t working at all, while I see them stuffing their face with fast food for two out of three meals per day. These supplements will not replace your diet or make up for a poor diet, but instead will work best in conjunction with a reasonably healthy approach to nutrition.

Part two will delve into what other supplements I use post-workout and for general health.  There will also be a section outlining the supplement usage, past and current, of Tony Poggiali.

Thanks for reading!



What we believe in

We believe…everyone has a birthright to a healthy body.

We believe…in having fun as often as possible.IMG_20141031_142650_032

We believe…that being nice is mandatory.

We believe…that “can’t” is a four-letter word.  “Not yet” is more appropriate [icon name=”smile-o” class=””]

We believe…that play is the most important activity ever.  More important than exercise, lifting, running, etc.  “I want to stop playing and do some structured exercise”, said no one ever.

We believe…in the power of a coach on a child’s life.

We believe…that coaches/trainers are the “doctors” of the 21st century.

We believe…that what you put in your body affects EVERYTHING.

We believe…that passion is the number one quality that a coach can possess.

We believe…that moving as often as possible in as many ways as possible is more important than exercise.

We believe…that sports provide lessons that transcend the sport itself (we also believe that the sports machine is broken and can create more problems than solutions).

We believe…everyone is an athlete.

We believe…in the power of the acquisition of knowledge and the accumulation of wisdom.

We believe…sleep powers everything else.

We believe…that it takes no special talent to try hard.

We believe…that our number one job is to help you find your awesomeness.

We believe…that making mistakes is part of the equation.  In fact, failing might be the greatest teacher.devilangel

We believe…that everyone has a negative and a positive voice in their head; it is up to you to decide whom to listen to.

We believe…that success is a 24 hour job.  “Twenty-four hour athletes” are always thinking…what to eat, how to train, when to go to sleep, how to wind down, how to ramp up, who to add to their life, who to remove from their life, and establishing the correct mindset.

We believe…in the concept of You, Inc.  You are your own business, with two employees:  strengths and weaknesses.  Fire your weaknesses and nurture your strengths.  You are the CEO.  Lead your life, not just live your life.

There you go…20 quick nuggets to think about.  There are quite a few more but that is a good start.

What do you believe in?  If you care to share, leave them in the comments section.

Thank you for reading.

Figure it out: How a 6 year old helped me be a better coach

John Kessel of USA Volleyball recently laid out some of the best ways to help athletes to learn:

1. Athletes learn when they are SELF-motivated; intrinsic learning and guided discovery are vastly superior for retention/learning.

2. The reward of athletes is achieving the goal, so take advantage of that in your teaching process.

3. Deliberate practice, aka focused on what THEY are interested in, maximizes the learning process.

4. “Coopetition”, cooperation and competition, makes for the best learning by athletes. We learn best, and the most, when we collaborate with others.

5. That which you teach, you learn. The more athletes have to explain something to others, the better they get.

I also have a few to add, spurred on by being a dad of a six year old…IMG_20150602_102438_570-1

1.  Coaches must get to know their athletes on a personal level if they truly want to maximize the coach-athlete experience.  Since I know my daughter better than anyone else, I am able to use verbal and visual cues in ways that I know she understands.

2.  At times, the time spent together with your athletes is almost as valuable as the lesson they are being taught (this is irrespective of seeing improvement).  It sets the stage for deeper learning and deeper lessons to occur in the future.

3. If coaches are self-aware, they can learn as much from the athlete as the athlete learns from the coach.  Teaching a 6 year old just about anything is a lesson in patience, joy and trials.

4.  When she is struggling to grasp a concept or a skill, and she asks for help, I have started using the phrase, “Figure it out”, more and more.  I think it is a “strategy” of Pat Summitt.  It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it is magic.  Forcing a child to process the solution to a problem is one of the best ways that she gets through tough issues.  If all else fails, I will help, but only when she has exhausted her strategic output.


I remember a story of a dad rummaging through his attic and came across a stack of journals he had accumulated through the years.  As he flipped through years and years of thoughts and reflections, he came across a summer passage, stating, “Spent the day with my son fishing.  We didn’t catch anything.  What a waste of a day”.  He paused and remembered something similar his son had wrote in his own journal.  He compared the same date in his son’s journal.  It read, “Spent the day fishing with my dad.  We didn’t catch anything.  Best day of my life.”

If there is one thing that she has taught me more than anything, it is just soaking up the time I have with her.  It could be the most mundane, (seemingly) meaningless task, but to her, it could be the highlight of her day.  Spending time coaching kids (and you big kids too) is as much about the training as it is about witnessing, and taking place in, human interaction.

The Winning Attitude

I love this post from the Coaches Toolbox site….

Some thoughts on the mindset of a winner to share with your athletes. I hope you can find a few that are useful…

What makes one person a winner and other people losers? How they think! Your self image determines your ability and your success. You will be ready mentally if you are thinking success. For instance:

A WINNER is always ready to tackle something new… a loser is prone to believe it can’t be done.

A WINNER isn’t afraid of competition… losers excuse themselves with the idea that the competition can beat them.

A WINNER makes a mistake and says, “I was wrong”… a loser makes a mistake and says, “It wasn’t my fault,” and blames someone else.

A WINNER is challenged by a problem and goes through it.. a loser does not want to face it, tries to go around it, but never gets by it.

A WINNER realizes there is no time like the present to get a job done… a loser is prone to procrastinate with the hope that things will get better tomorrow.

A WINNER thinks positively, acts positively, and lives positively… a loser usually has a negative attitude and a negative approach to everything.

A WINNER says “Let’s find out…” a loser says, “Nobody knows.”

A WINNER makes commitments… a loser makes empty promises.

A WINNER says, “I’m good, but not as good as I should be…”· a loser says, “I’m not as bad as a lot of other people.”

A WINNER learns from those who are superior… a loser tries to tear down those who are superior.

A WINNER credits his “good luck” for winning-even though It isn’t good luck; a loser blames “bad luck” for losing-even though it isn’t bad luck.

A WINNER knows how and when to say “Yes” and “No”; a loser says, “Yes, but’ and “Perhaps not” at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons.

A WINNER Isn’t nearly as afraid of losing as a loser is secretly afraid of winning.

A WINNER works harder than a loser, and has more time; a loser Is always “Too busy” to do what is necessary.

A WINNER shows he’s sorry by making up for it, a loser says, “I’m sorry,” but does the some thing the next time.

A WINNER knows what to fight for, and what to compromise on; a loser compromises on what he shouldn’t and fights for what isn’t worthwhile fighting about.

A WINNER listens a loser just waits until it’s his turn to talk.

A WINNER, would rather be admired than liked, although he would prefer both; a loser would rather be liked than admired, and Is even willing to pay the price of mild contempt for It.

A WINNER feels strong enough to be gentle; a loser Is never gentle-he Is either weak or petty tyrannous by turns.

A WINNER feels responsible for more than his Job: a loser says, “I only work here.”

A WINNER says, “There ought to be a better way to do It,” a loser says, “That’s the way It’s always been done here.”

A WINNER paces himself; a loser has only two speeds: hysterical & lethargic.

A WINNER works hard to achieve his goals, a loser just gets by.

The Winner is always part of the answer; The Loser is always part of the problem.

The Winner always has a program; The Loser always has an excuse.

The Winner says,”Let me do it;” The Loser says;” That is not my job.”

The Winner sees an answer for every problem; The Loser sees a problem for every answer.

The Winner says,” It may be difficult but it is possible”; The Loser says,”It may be possible but it is too difficult.”

Winners have dreams; Loser have schemes.

Winners say,” I must do something”; Losers say,”Something must be done.”

Winners are a part of the team; Losers are apart from the team.

Winners see the gain; Losers see the pain.

Winners see possibilities; Losers see problems.

Winners believe in win/win; Losers believe for them to win someone has to lose.

Winners see the potential; Losers see the past.

Winners are like a thermostat; Losers are like thermometers.

Winners choose what they say; Losers say what they choose.

Winners use hard arguments but soft words; Losers use soft arguments but hard words.

Winners stand firm on values but compromise on petty things; Losers stand firm on petty things but compromise on values.

Winners follow the philosophy of empathy: “Don’t do to others what you would, not want them to do to you”;
Losers follow the philosophy, “Do it to others before they do it to you.”

Winners make it happen; Losers let it happen.


Seven Myths of What We Do as Coaches – Neil Platt

Introduction:  The point of this post is not to demean anyone or make anybody feel like they are being talked down to. The general public seems to have a distorted view of what we as Strength and Conditioning Coaches actually do, so the point of this is to help clear up some of the misconceptions.

Misconception 1: That the craziest and coolest looking drills/tools make my kid faster.

Check out this training video:


How many of you watched the video and thought, “wow, look at Adrian Peterson! He’s jumping over bags, doing circles around cones, and doing some crazy quick footwork drills using a ladder. Certainly, if Adrian Peterson is doing it then my kid must too!”. I get it; parents and kids are totally inundated with commercials or YouTube videos showing various athletes running with parachutes, running through ladders, or doing cone drills and you think that’s what speed and agility training is. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As coaches, we start with a simple concept that we want to coach that day. If it’s a speed day, we start with whether it will be linear or lateral based movements. We then plan which skills (acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, etc.) will be emphasized during the session. After the planning phase, we design a drill that we think will best emphasize the selected movement patterns and skills. We don’t start with a cool looking drill and work our way backwards, we start with movements and skills and plan the drill to fit those needs. Sometimes these drills require the use of various tools (such as cones) and sometimes they don’t. Again, we never plan a day thinking that we will use a certain piece of equipment. These tools serve a purpose within the drill to help emphasize whatever the movement pattern is. Sure parachutes look cool, but does it even serve much of a useful purpose? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. It totally depends on the day (by the way, you’ll probably never see parachutes at ASF for the majority of kids). I wouldn’t use a parachute run to help a khammernailid get quicker. Sure, a table saw looks cool. It’s got all the bells and whistles and makes a bunch of noise, but I wouldn’t use it to pound in a nail. The same thing applies to the tools we use in the training facility. They serve a useful purpose within the confines of a certain drill and they are only used when needed to help emphasize a skill.

Misconception 2: Strength coaches are hard-nosed, no nonsense people that are there to make my kid work his or her butt off.

We are strength coaches, not drill sergeants. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “my kid just needs pushed.” Granted, some kids do lack an internal drive to work hard and they do need pushed, but not to extreme lengths. Our job isn’t to push kids to the brink of exhaustion every time they come in. Going to exhaustion does not mean a kid necessarily got better that day. All it means is they are now exhausted and probably don’t want to come back and train the next day. You’ve all heard how the old saying goes: “Well back in my day we did (fill in the blank).” Yes, back in the day before we knew anything about training for performance, people were pushed to extreme lengths. Now ask yourself, did that extreme level of training make you a better athlete? Probably not.

Misconception 3: Our purpose is to make your child a great athlete.

Let’s be brutally honest for a second, 99.99% of athletes will never make a dime from playing sports. The odds are not in your favor. All of the coaches at ASF grew up dreaming of playing pro sports and we’re all pretty decent athletes, yet here we are, not a dime made from our athletic exploits. With that in mind, we will do everything in our power to help your child become the best athlete THEY can be, not the best athlete you want them to be. I don’t have children so I can’t speak from experience, but I do understand that you want your child to be successful so badly that you’ll do anything for them. Instead of defining athletic success by what AAU team you make, or if you get a D1 scholarship, why not define it as being the best YOU are capable of?  Sports and athletics should be fun, not stressful and full of unrealistic expectations and demands.

Misconception 4: That we are only there to train your child.

Yes, training for athletics is a big part of what we do, but it is far from the only thing. As mentioned before, the likelihood of your child being a pro athlete are slim to none, so instead of focusing solely on training we put a huge emphasis on nurturing your child as a whole person. You may see us talking and having a good laugh during breaks, and you may think I’m not paying for laughs, I’m paying for results! The fact is, that’s part of the training, it’s part of developing your child as a whole person, not just an athlete. If I can help them develop a healthy relationship with physical activity that will last a lifetime, I’ll consider myself successful. If we can help them develop friendships with kids they likewise would have never met before, why not? We don’t define success as coaches by whether or not an athlete got bigger or faster. Sure, these are end products we are looking for. They are part of golden-circlethe “what‘s” to our “why‘s” (side note-amazing book: Start With Why-Simon Sinek).

There are three questions we ask as coaches:

1). Did they have fun today?

2). Did they learn something today (life lesson or sports related)?

3). Do they want to come back and train again?

If we can answer yes to these three questions, then we are successful coaches. We want to develop a culture of learning, fun, and appreciation for physical activity that will last a lifetime. Believe me, your child athletic career will be over before you know it. Allow them to enjoy it while they can, and let us teach them some cool stuff along the way.

Misconception 5: That we have all of the fitness answers.

The human body is the most dynamic and complex tool on the planet. Think about some of the amazing feats accomplished by humans: running a 100 meter dash in under 10 seconds, dead-lifting 1000 pounds, Bruce Lee could do two finger push-ups. Yes, two finger push-ups (look it up on YouTube, I’m not making this up). The study of the human body has been around for a very short period of time. Not even close to long enough to learn all there is to know. With every passing day there is a new study that reveals something that we didn’t know yesterday. With that in mind, it is nearly impossible to have all of the right answers. There are some things that we know to be true but not much. What we do as coaches is stick to our principles when training yet remain humble enough to know that everything we do today may not be true tomorrow.

Misconception 6: That we are just meatheads who train, train, and train some more.

When I explain what I do to family and friends I usually get a response along the lines of, “Dude, that’s awesome. You get to workout all day.” False folks. I’m extremely happy if I can train three days a week and for a lot of successful coaches, three training sessions a week is on the high end. A lot of the top professionals in this industry will tell you that it’s tough to get in training sessions. If we aren’t training others, there is a very good chance we are doing some sort of research/studying. As previously mentioned, this field is so dynamic that it requires us to stay on top of the latest information. Also, we all have personal lives and other interests outside of training. For me, I love to be outside, travel, and socialize. I’m not a Reds fan, but it’s hard to beat going to a baseball game with friends on a nice spring/summer day. I’ll take every opportunity I can get to travel to a new place and learn as much as I can about their culture. Believe it or not, there is a lot more going on “upstairs” than just thoughts of when I can get my next bench press session in.

Misconception 7: Strength coaching is a job, not a profession.

This one is frustrating. It’s frustrating because a lot of the issues are self imposed. We’ve all been to a training center and seen the trainers who just don’t seem to care. The ones that are on their cell phones while working with clients, or they just seem like they would rather be anywhere else. It is these individuals that give the rest of us a bad name. It is very easy to lump all coaches and trainers together into one based on the poor standards that seem to held by so many in this industry. It seems that there are more facilities that condone this type of behavior than there are ones that go against that trend and act/prepare as professionals. The field of human performance is an extremely complicated one. Anyone who has earned a degree in a human performance related field can tell you that it is no easy task. It requires years of science related courses (including but not limited to chemistry, biology, and physics), as well as countless hours of hands-on, practical experience. Once you obtain your degree, you are then required to carry any number of certifications in order to practice what you’ve learned. However, the achievement of your degree and your certifications hardly prepare/make you a good coach. This field is one that requires an unwavering commitment to getting better, dedication to research, and a high level of enthusiasm for helping others get better (the latter of which is undoubtedly the most important). You must do all of this with the understanding that personal recognition and awards are extremely unlikely, and honestly, if you’re in this field for awards and recognition, you’re in the wrong field. It is a “thankless” job if you look at it through a personal recognition lens. For meDSC_0058, there is nothing better than getting to work with kids and adults everyday and help them get better. There isn’t an award out there that tops the feeling of making a group of middle school aged kids laugh at some corny joke all while helping them get better (and not necessarily athletically). If more trainers took this type of approach to this profession, it would only serve to elevate the entire industry.  Hands down, coaching is the best job in the world!


Stages of Training

As kids enter our program, there seem to be different “stages” that they present.  While there may be some others that are missing, here is a broad hierarchy of those stages:

Stage 1:  “My parents signed me up to do this stuff” or “I am slower than the other kids, how do I get faster?” or “My coach says I need to get__________”

This stage is sometimes parent-driven/coach-driven, sometimes athlete-driven.  More often than not, it is the parent who makes the initial contact, seeing a problem, thus seeking a solution.

Stage 2:  “I can’t_______, I have to go train” or “Do I really have to go to train?”

The second stage is past the honeymoon phase and the athlete, who wants to get better, hasn’t quite bought in that the time investment is important.

Stage 3:  “I am going to train today”coach22

While the athlete isn’t 100% sold, they understand that this is going to help them become better, as it is a necessary evil.  Very much like homework is needed to get better grades, training outside the sport itself is needed to get better at the sport.

Stage 4:  “I get to train today”

This is a great time to be around the athlete; they are “all-in” to the benefits of training, of feeling good after a positive session, are having fun, are seeing results, are building confidence and body awareness, all leading to a heightened state of physical literacy, or a higher physical IQ.  These athletes are very much self-motivated, driven and extremely coachable.  They are asking questions, understanding the “how” and the “why”, not just the “what” of training.


Stage 5:  “Training is my life”IMG_20141206_142204_930_1

This is the stage where, irrespective of athletics, training is a fundamental core concept that is central to their well-being and happiness.  They are an athlete forever, whereby physical activity, playing and structured exercise are a way of life, not something in the way of their life.

The False Step/Plyo Step – Is it necessary or not? Neil Platt

If you’ve been around athletics for long enough, you have probably heard, or seen a coach tell their athletes not to take a “false step.” By false step I mean your first step from a static position is actually in the opposite direction that you intend to go. For example, I am in an athletic stance (feet even and shoulder width apart, knees bent, chest up) and I intend to sprint forward. To accomplish this, I accelerate forward by first taking a quick step backwards and then I sprint forward. A quick conclusion can be drawn (and often is) that this initial step backwards will slow me down. You are thinking “obviously, if my first step is backwards I am wasting valuable time and therefore taking more time to accelerate than I should.” As intuitive as this may seem, I am a firm believer that this is incorrect. Allow me to explain…
For the sake of this discussion, we are only going to look at human motion in a linear pattern (forward and backward). Moving your body is totally dependent on applying force through your legs into the ground, and the ground returning that force back to your legs in the opposite direction of which you applied it; that is, I push my leg athleticstanceinto the ground in a down and back fashion, and the ground pushes back on my leg up and forward. It is this continuous cycle of force application and redirection that leads to me moving forward.
Now, when I begin motion out of an athletic stance, my feet are directly (or at least very close to being) under my hips. My center of gravity is directly over the top of where my feet are. At this point, my body is in a very good position to apply force straight down into the ground (remember that force will come straight back up-Newton‘s 3rd Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). This is great if my desire is to jump vertically, but not if I want to sprint linearly. If my desire is to sprint forward, or backward, I need to redirect, or REPOSITION, my feet to give myself a mechanical advantage via improved angles and something to push off in order to overcome inertia. Remember, if I want to move forward I need to apply force down AND back. Taking this quick step backward, or forward, allows me to do just that. With my feet now separated I am in a much more advantageous position to move linearly.
Not sold? Below is an unbelievable example of this in action. Fast forward to about the 25 second mark and watch Marshawn Lynch take his first step (then enjoy why they call the man “Beast Mode!”).

Watch any sport, there are countless examples of this happening time and again.  Do you want to try another example right now? Try jumping straight up without first squatting down and see how high you can get. Now, jump how your normally would and compare the results. This isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples but it does illustrate our force application and redirection. The same physics apply.
This repositioning step, or “plyo step” as we call it, is one of the very first things we go over when a new athlete comes into our facility. How do we coach this? It is really pretty simple, we just let nature take its course. More times than not, we will coach an athlete to just accelerate for a given distance and we will watch their footwork. Almost every time you will see them take this plyo step without even thinking about it. This is something that just seems to be hardwired into our movement patterns. As coaches, we tend to be perfectionists when it comes to how our athletes move and sometimes we need to take the less is more approach. The human body is hardwired to move and we just need to get out of the way from time to time and let nature do what it does. I have yet to come across any research data that says taking this plyo step is detrimental to acceleration times. Until this happens, I fully intend to let the human body do what it does when it comes to taking this plyo step.

To be fair, there are scenarios where the repositioning step is not needed.  Using football for example, a linebacker may not take a plyo step if he is on a delayed blitz; a running back may not take one on a delayed handoff, off to his right or left.  All things considered, a repositioning step is natural, intuitive and not to be un-coached.
As always, thank you for reading and I would love to hear your feedback on this controversial topic. Most people are in one corner or the other on this one, there really is no in between and I would love to hear your stance on it, pun intended.

Coaching vs. Training…more thoughts

There was a lot of positive feedback from our previous post on the differences between coaching vs. training.  Thank you for that!  Then, a couple of weeks later, I came across a post by one the best coaches around, Martin Rooney, and he had some great insight and comparisons.  Here is his take….


After spending time in Germany, I discovered the Germans don’t even have a word for “coach” in their vocabulary.  The word “trainer” is broadly used and can be interpreted a number of different ways.  This fact reminded me even though the word coach does exist in English, it is misunderstood and poorly defined.

When I asked people what the term “coach” meant to them, I was surprised to receive a bunch of negative interpretations.  In sport, “coach” can conjure up an aggressive Little League dad yelling at an umpire while only concerning himself about his own kid or getting a win.  When applied to business or life, I was told the word “coach” can represent a person that attended to a weekend course in order to get paid to help others, but can’t seem to help themselves.  And in relation to the gym, some people imagined the drill sergeant using pushups to punish a client for a poor performance.  These viewpoints troubled me about the use of the word “coach”.

According to the dictionary, the word “coach” is defined as either “separate parts of a train or horse-drawn carriage,” or “a person who is responsible for managing or training a person or team.” This definition is grossly inadequate. Being called a coach is one of the most honorable and respectful titles you can be given.  Until there is a better appreciation and understanding for the term; however, there will be no reason for current coaches to change current beliefs or seek out new skills.

Since negative connotations abound and coaching is a difficult concept to define in a sentence or two, I wanted to compare it with training to help you to understand my personal definition about coaching.  As you will see, training and coaching are related, but they are not the same thing. Here are 12 comparisons to help illustrate the potential difference between a trainer and a coach:

A Trainer Lights a fire under someone.
A Coach Lights A Fire Inside Of Someone.

A Trainer affects the hour they are with someone.
A Coach affects the hours they are not with someone.

A Trainer Hopes To Get Through The Session.
The Coach Hopes To Get Through To Someone.

A Trainer Forgets The Job Is Not To Remind People About Problems.
A Coach Remembers The Job Is To Solve Them.

A Trainer Stretches your legs.
A Coach Stretches Your Limits.

A Trainer Counts Your Reps.
A Coach Discounts Your excuses.

A Trainer Is concerned with How Much time you put in.
A Coach is concerned with How Much You put into the time.

A Trainer wants you to do your best.
A Coach wants you to do better than your best.

A Trainer is concerned More With How, Where and When.
A Coach is Concerned More With Who, What and Why.

A Trainer Works For A Paycheck.
A Coach Works For A Passion.

A Trainer Develops and Delivers Your Workout.
A Coach Creates and Cultivates Your Purpose.

Training is Something You Do To Someone.
Coaching Is Something You Do With Someone.