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"Behind the Scenes" - Lower Body Strength/Power Workout

Tuesday, 13 April 2010 22:45


One of the things I'm going to start incorporating into my blog posts are random, "Behind the Scenes" videos of entire workouts at my facility. As my business continues to grow and my plate continues to get fuller and fuller, I haven't had the time to update my blog as often as I would like. (Unfortunately, I need to give top priority to the aspects of my business that actually pay the bills :) But, I've always loved answering questions on my website and providing great content for my website readers. My "ASK JOE" column is something that I plan on keeping around for a long, long time. So I've been thinking of more efficient ways for me to provide content to my site more frequently. Since I still spend the majority of my days in the gym, training athletes, I will periodically film entire workouts and then just post them. I obviously won't show every single set, rep, rest period, etc. What I WILL do is write out the entire program, along with the rationale behind it, and provide a video to tie it all together. This will give everyone a cool look "inside" the gym and see some of the different programming we use with our athletes.

So without further ado, here's a "Behind the Scenes" look at a Lower Body Strength/Power session performed by my 12:00 crew this past Tuesday!


1. TKE's w/ Average Band - 3 x 15

2A. Safety Bar Squats off pins - 5 x 2
2B. Box Jumps - 5 x 3

3. Sled Accelerations - 4 x 15 yards

4. "Big Dog" Swings ( 124lb. KB) - 3 x 12

5. Band-Resisted sit-ups - 4 x 25

The method behind the madness:

**TKE's: I've spoken about the benefits of this exercise on countless occasions. Almost every single athlete with patella tendonitis or general "knee pain" can't believe how much better their knees feel after just 2-3 sets of this exercise. You'd be crazy not to do them! Always conclude your warm-up with TKE's when squatting, jumping or deadlifting. Period.

**For athletes that are only performing 1 lower body 'strength' session per week, starting their workout with a heavy squat or deadlift variation followed by a jump, gives them a great "bang for their buck". In the above workout, I chose Safety bar squats off pins as my "heavy" movement. Notice I said "heavy", not "max". Lifting "heavy" weights excite the CNS and recruit your fast-twitch fibers, without burning you out (like "max" singles often do). This increases neural firing when you perform your jumps. Athletes will notice that they are able to jump higher, with less "effort", during their squat/jump pairing with this workout. (The "technical" term for this type of training is called 'post-activation potentiation'.) Perform at least 5 "supersets" to get the most out of this part of the workout.

**After the squat/jump pairing, you want to try and transfer the high-threshold motor units into a synchronized activity (like acceleration sled sprints). Simply put, while your CNS is in a heightened state, I like to have my athletes perform an "athletic" movement that is more "specific" to their sport. Since the 4 athletes that performed this workout were all football players, I chose a weighted, short sprint. When training for power, I've always felt like this helped "bridge the gap" from the weightroom to the athletic field. I'll give another example to help clarify my point: If you were going to have a boxer or MMA athlete perform this type of workout for the upper body; you may have them start with bench presses and medicine ball throws. Then, your next exercise can be hitting the heavy bag for 4 sets of 10-15 seconds to help transfer/synchronize the motor units that were previously recruited.

**Heavy Kettlebell Swings: I wanted to finish this lower body workout with a hip extension exercise that also had a little bit of a "conditioning" component (since mini camp may be right around the corner for a few of these guys); what better way to hit the posterior chain and finish everyone off than a 124-pound kettlebell?!

**Band-resisted sit-ups: I have to give credit to Brian Cushing for this unique sit-up variation. When he was home last month, he came up with this...we tried it...I loved it...most of the athletes HATED I kept it in the program!!!

Finally, I gotta give props to William Paterson University wide receiver, Joel Rivera. This was his very first workout with us! I threw him to the wolves with some of our longtime 'disciples' to "test" him...and he passed the test!! He definitely earned his DeFranco "wings" after that workout!!

What did you guys think of the workout? Drop us a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

-Joe D.





Hang Cleans vs. Weighted Jumps

Thursday, 25 March 2010 20:40


Q: Hey Joe D I really enjoyed your recent blog post about developing knockout power! The weighted jumping exercises definitely make sense..i'm looking forward to incorporating some of your suggestions into my workouts!! My question is where do hang cleans and power cleans fit into the mix? I'm assuming your rationale behind the weighted jumps is the explosive hip extension(triple extension) involved, correct?? Well aren't cleans the ultimate hip extension power movement? I know you train tons of football players so surely you incorporate them somewhere in your training programs? Any input would be golden coach..THANKS!

Brandon - Baltimore, Maryland


A: Brandon,

I've discussed my stance regarding hang cleans and power cleans many times before on this website. Simply put, I don't feel they are necessary for any class of athlete (with the exception of Olympic weightlifters).

I don't want to bore my readers by re-writing what's already been written, so I suggest you check out the following links:

Olympic lifting debate (again)!

Can you get "explosive" without doing power cleans?

10 Training Myths Exposed! (See "Myth #4)

If you search my website, you'll will find even more posts regarding this topic.


Since many years have past since some of these posts were written, I've decided to provide my readers with a new perspective on this age-old topic. Instead of simply listing the "why's" of why I don't have my athletes perform cleans; I thought that providing some videos would paint a clearer picture.

Let's remember that every coach that advocates hang cleans or power cleans does so because of the "triple extension" involved with these movements. The problem is, you will be hard-pressed to ever find an athlete (besides an Olympic weightlifter) getting a "triple extension" benefit! I did my best to find a good video representation of someone who performs cleans like the majority of athletes out there. (I wanted to find a non Olympic-weightlifting athlete performing the lift. I did not go out of my way to find a really "bad" video, either.) The below video shows what most high school and college athletes look like when they perform cleans. (NOTE: I don't know the person in this video; and I'm not trying to offend him in any way. The sole purpose of this video is to help people 'see' my point.)

One of the reasons I feel coaches believe that cleans are making their athletes "explosive" is because they focus their attention on the barbell, instead of focussing on the athlete during the lift! The barbell bounces around and the weights make loud noises, so everyone thinks something "explosive" is happening! Unfortunately, the only things usually "exploding" are the athlete's lumbar spine, patella tendons and the tendons and ligaments that support their wrists!

I suggest watching the below video three times. The first time focus solely on the athlete's hips. The second time focus on the athlete's knees. And the third time focus on the athlete's ankles. Do NOT watch the barbell!

If you're like me, you probably didn't see any "explosive" hip, knee or ankle extension! Unfortunately, the technique utilized in the above video represents about 98% of what I've seen in my 13+ years in this profession.

The final "clincher" for me this past year was when THREE separate Division 1 college football players entered my program with surgically-repaired wrists due to the "catch" phase of this exercise! All three of these athletes were forced to do hang cleans during their college careers and now their training will be negatively effected forever. FYI, two of the three athletes are now in the NFL and have to deal with an injury that was 100% preventable if their coaches would have provided them with safer, more logical, exercise choices! Speaking of which...

Check out three examples of some of our favorite weighted jump variations. Again, I suggest watching each video 3x. Check out the hips, knees and ankles of each athlete while viewing the videos. Notice the increased range of motion and much more "explosive" extension (compared to the hang clean) at each of the three joints discussed.

This first video shows a bunch of highlights from a workout performed by UFC fighter, Dan Hardy, training at our gym last week. But I've posted it specifically for everyone to check out the first exercise shown - Trap Bar Jumps.

Single leg squat jumps

Seated box jump w/ weight vest

The beauty of these three exercises, as well as all of the weighted jump variations we have our athletes perform, is that you can't perform them without 'triple extension'! All of these exercises are basically fool-proof! I'm also proud to say that I've never seen an athlete get injured while performing any of our favorite jump variations. I've sure as hell never seen torn wrist ligaments or a ruptured disk; two injuries that are all too common during the "catch" phase of hang cleans and power cleans. I'll take an occasional scraped shin every now and then while box jumping any day of the week!


To conclude; I am in no way "bashing" hang cleans or any of the Olympic lifts. As I've stated time and time again, there are no "bad" exercises, just bad technique! I'm sure many athletes enjoy performing hang cleans and have benefitted from them. If you like doing them, go right ahead; it sure as hell doesn't matter to me! But, in my profession, I have to look at the risk:reward ratio of every exercise I prescribe. My job depends on it. There's just too much money at stake for many of my athletes to risk their health in an environment that's supposed to help prevent injury! Their sports are dangerous enough; I sure as hell don't need them getting injured in my weightroom!

And I can tell you - without question - weighted jump variations will make you just as "explosive", if not more, than any Olympic lift variation...without the risk! To me, it's a no-brainer!

-Joe D.

What did you think of this blog post? Gimme your feedback below by leaving a comment.










How to Develop KNOCKOUT POWER!!!

Saturday, 06 March 2010 23:08


Q: Hey this email is for Coach DeFranco. can someone please forward it to him? I know your busy coach but I was wondering if you can comment on the internet rumors that your training Dan Hardy for his title fight against Georges St. Pierre?? ive seen this mentioned on a couple different forums but there hasn't been any word from your camp so im thinking its just a rumor?? if im completely off on this i appologize for wasting your time.

now onto my question. in your experience what is the best way a boxer or mma athlete can improve their punching power in the weightroom? Im aware of the importance of technical training with a striking coach but i'd love to hear your thoughts on what exercises/techniques you feel would best compliment the technical training to create an absolute beast with KNOCKOUT POWER!

Mike, Seattle WA

PS - your CAN'T rant was the kick in the ass i needed to get me back in the gym and back to competing!! You touch more people than you will ever realize..keep changing the game coach!!

A: Mike,

I'm extremely excited to announce that the "rumors" regarding Dan Hardy coming to New Jersey to train with us are true!!! Here's an excerpt from Men's Fitness UK magazine explaining how all of this came about:

Men's Fitness Fight News 21/01/10


Dan Hardy (on the right here) is training at legendary US trainer Joe DeFranco's take-no-prisoners gym in New Jersey to get ready to face GSP for the UFC welterweight title


Finally, we’re pleased to report that two Men's Fitness UK regulars are teaming up: British welterweight favourite Dan Hardy will be doing the final preparations for his title fight against Georges St-Pierre at Joe DeFranco’s gym in New Jersey, which Men's Fitness UK visited in 2009. ‘When we sat down to plan Dan's title camp, we decided that in order to acclimatise and get used to being back in the US, we wanted to train for three weeks in New Jersey before the fight,’ says Hardy’s regular strength and conditioning coach, Ollie Richardson. ‘Because of my commitments with England and Leicester [rugby union teams] I couldn't afford the time away, so we immediately thought of Joe DeFranco, his team and his gym. Dan and I felt that the environment and intensity that DeFranco's is renowned for was exactly what we wanted in the run up to the title shot. The last few weeks of the camp are critical for Dan's preparation and we are supremely confident that we've made the right choice.’

‘I'm a big fan of Dan Hardy,’ DeFranco told Men's Fitness UK this week. ‘I like how he fights – he's a tough, confident bastard!’

[End Men's Fitness excerpt]

I'm obviously not going to write about any of the specifics of Dan's strength & conditioning workouts. (For all the strength coaches and trainers that are reading this; check out Ollie Richardson's website - Ollie is a super-intelligent rugby and fight coach in the UK with similar philosophies to ours. He is the man responsible for getting us involved with Dan's training camp for this fight.) My team and I are honored that Dan and Ollie put their trust in us to help carry out the final three weeks of Dan's preparation for this title fight. We are going to do everything in our power to make Dan's transition from the UK to the US seamless.

One thing's for sure; EVERYONE involved in this training camp is bringin' their "A" Game!


Now onto your question regarding knockout power:

While reading your question, I remembered answering a similar question regarding punching power not too long ago. So I went back into my 'ASK JOE ARCHIVES' and it turns out, I answered that question 7 years ago!! Man, time flies when you're having fun Laughing

I highly recommend that you click on the above hyperlink and check out my answer. I must say that most of my answer has "stood the test of time". With that being said, there is something I've put even more "stock" into since 2003 when I answered that question:

Experience has now proven to me that the #1 way to develop ANY kind of power is through weighted jumping exercises! I don't care if you're talking about punching, kicking, throwing, hitting, sprinting, etc. In my opinion, weighted jumps are - without question - THE foundation for any athlete looking to develop POWER! I will also include the coupling of a strength movement with an un-resisted jump in my category of "weighted jumps". (Example: Performing a low-rep set of deadlifts or squats, resting 10-20sec., then performing squat jumps or hurdle jumps, etc.)

As the years have gone on, we've been using more and more jump variations in our program, and the results continue to speak for itself! There just isn't any strength exercise that can compare to the ability to jump with an external load. The key obviously lies in the fact that when you jump, you don't have to decelerate at all (as opposed to lifting weights). "Releasing" objects - whether it's your bodyweight off the ground or throwing an object - is the most efficient way to develop power.

"The Asshole" performs a 45" box jump while wearing a 60-POUND weight vest!

I suggest cycling different types of jumps with all different types of resistance. Box jumps, squat jumps, broad jumps, hurdle jumps, kneeling jumps, single leg squat jumps and jumps from a seated position are just a few of our favorites at DeFranco's! Vary your resistance by holding DB's, wearing a weighted vest, ankle weights, using band resistance, etc.

Brian Cushing jumps onto a 50" box from a seated position...while wearing a 20-POUND vest!

As I've stated time and time again, a HUGE benefit of jumping is that there is almost no learning curve! In other words, you don't need to spend months, or even days, "learning" how to jump. The benefits of weighted jumps literally start to take place during your very first session!


And if you really want to develop "heavy hands" to KNOCK SOMEONE OUT, make sure you incorporate my favorite "special" exercises along with your weighted jumps! My three favorite "special" exercises for developing knockout power are:

#3 - Medicine ball throws

#2 - Sledgehammer Tire Chopping



NOTE: This blog post is intended for information purposes only. Please don't use the information provided to "Snooki" any innocent bystanders.



Thank you.

-Joe D.





The "Can't" Rant!!!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010 22:47

Three weeks ago, I had the good fortune of spending the weekend in Miami at the NFL Pro Bowl with three of my clients (and now close friends) - Miles Austin, Brian Cushing and David Diehl. I also got to rub elbows and talk training with many other coaches and players from the NFL's elite group. It was an experience of a lifetime! It was also an experience that would not have been possible if i listened to any of the people who told me what I "can't" do throughout my life! Read on and I'll explain...

Hangin' with Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, at the Pro Bowl

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate airplanes and how much I hate to fly. But, I must say, the three-hour flight to Miami gave me a much-needed break. It's not often I get three hours free from training sessions, meetings, questions, favors, phone calls, emails and text messages! I basically had no choice but to sit back and relax. It was also the first time since I started my business that I really had a chance to reflect on all that has happened in my life since I took the entrepreneurial plunge!

Do I look like a guy that's comfortable flying??

I have to admit, I started to feel somewhat emotional as I sat on the plane and reflected on the "humble beginnings" of my business. After all, it wasn't long ago that I "rolled the dice" and started training athletes out of a storage closet with no money in the bank and no "Plan B"! In a blur, seven years have already passed, and I was now on my way to go watch three of my clients play in the damn Pro Bowl!

Two of the three Pro-Bowlers (David Diehl & Brian Cushing) were around during my initial "storage closet" years. (For those of you who aren't familiar with my "storage closet" references; when I first started my own business, I didn't have enough money to buy or rent a warehouse, so I rented an old storage closet that was downstairs from a health club. I basically cleaned it out, painted it and equipped it with the 'bare essentials'. So the "storage closet" I often refer to was my first "facility".)

A young Dave Diehl board-presses during his rookie year in the infamous "storage closet"!

It seems like yesterday that David Diehl walked into the storage closet as a rookie, sat down at the desk that was placed next to my belt squat machine (I called this my "office" Laughing ) with a pen & paper, and he officially "hired" me as his personal trainer. It was at this first meeting that we mapped out his training sessions and reviewed his goals - both short-term & long-term. Three of which were: Start every game. Play in a Superbowl. Make the Pro Bowl. He can now put a 'check' next to each one of those initial goals! True Story.

Mission accomplished!

It was during this time that a stud high school athlete was also training with us and making incredible gains on a "modified" version of the Westside Barbell method that I was experimenting with. I was logging all of his workouts and taking notes every single day for an article I was writing entitled, "Westside for Skinny Bastards". I had a feeling that this kid was going to be really good so I wanted to document everything. The kid's name was Brian Cushing and he did turn out to be really good!

A 17-year-old Brian Cushing dominating the competition

As I was reflecting on these - as well as many other stories - I had a flashback of the "advice" a former employer gave me after I told him I was going to start my own training business. Here's what he told me:

"I know you're passionate about training, but being a great technician doesn't mean you can own and operate your own business. In fact, most technicians can't survive as successful business owners! Plus, it's a known fact that you can't make any money with a hardcore gym anyway. Garage & warehouse gyms are a thing of the past. They're just not profitable! It's the SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) facilities that are profitable now. They are the future of this industry! Think about it; every high school has a weightroom - so why would parents pay for their kids to goto another gym when they can just lift at school?
'Speed & quickness' is also a much more marketable term. Trust me, I've done the research. 'SAQ' training also allows you to train more kids per session so the profit margins are much greater! You can't create the same kind of buzz by just having kids lift in an old, broken down gym. There's no value in that. But, I guess you're going to have to learn for yourself. Just know that almost every trainer that left me to go on their own ended up asking me for their job back within a year. I guess you need to experience this for yourself. But, the door will be open for you when you come back."

Reflecting on that conversation really made me think about how different my life would be if I actually listened to him...

Where would I be right now?

What the hell would I be doing?

Who would I be?

I can't even imagine my life without my gym. The athletes, parents, coaches and cast of characters that walk through my doors each day have become my extended family.

Celebrating the fruits of their son's labor!
I had a chance to reunite with Miles Austin's parents at the Pro Bowl...
What a great feeling it was to see how happy & proud they were!

I now speak to individuals all over the world and also have products explaining the "business" of owning and operating your own warehouse or garage gym. People want to know the "secret" behind my gym's success...they wanna know how we increased our revenue by 43% during a friggin' recession...they wanna know what was my "back-up" plan...and they wanna know what was my initial 5-year plan, etc., etc.

The secret is... THERE IS NO SECRET! Truth be told, I had NO back-up plan and NO 5-year plan! And when I first opened the doors of my "gym", I sure as hell wasn't worrying about "profit margins" and "marketable catch phrases" like my old boss was telling me about. And maybe there wasn't any "value" in the old storage closet I converted into my gym. But the financial "value" my old boss was referring to - and the "value" I was trying to create - were two completely different things! You can't put a dollar value on passion, determination and work ethic. And maybe that's why I never had "Plan B" and "what if" never crossed my mind. I was so damn determined to have the most badass gym on the planet - and I loved training athletes so much - failure truly never crossed my mind!! I had this insane "tunnel vision" - my mind literally NEVER strayed from my ultimate goal. Some people call this "bad business" or a "lack of planning"; I call it finding your passion in life, doing what you love for a living, and refusing to settle for anything less! When you find your passion and you combine it with consistent hard work, things have a tendency to "fall into place" and good things start to happen. Trust me on this one!

Can't reveal any specifics regarding this pic...
But 13+ years of consistent grinding may be about to pay off...


All this reflecting really made me think about how many athletes out there have been told they "CAN'T" do something:

You can't because you're too short...

You can't because you're too slow...

You can't because you're not good enough...

You can't because you don't have enough money...

You can't because you don't have enough time...

Are you going to listen to "them", or are you going to prove "them" wrong?!

Are you going to let someone else dictate your life?! YOU BETTER NOT!!!

I fuc*ing THRIVE on people telling me I can't do something... and you should too!!

The "broken down" gym that apparently can't compete with the bigger SAQ facilities...

Another shot of the gym that wouldn't be "marketable" enough to attract athletes...

Tell me I can't do something! I dare ya...

-Joe D.


*Please leave your comments below and let me know your thoughts on this rant!



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