Q: This question is for Joe DeFranco –
Joe, on Dave Tate’s
website Coach X is always preaching that strength
coaches should have an understanding of orthopedics.
I am an aspiring strength coach and I’d like
to know what’s your take on this matter? I feel
overwhelmed at how much information is out there.
Shouldn’t I be more concerned about getting
athletes big and strong?
Thanks and great job, Joe.
Although it’s more fun to research how to become bigger, stronger and faster, understanding orthopedics, anatomy and biomechanics are also EXTREMELY important for the strength & conditioning coach!
I have been forced to become educated
in theses 3 fields of study due to some unfortunate
injuries. (I lived in excruciating pain for 4 years
with a benign tumor in my lumbar spine/sacrum. I currently
have a herniated L4/L5 disk which is causing severe
pain in my low-back and referred pain down my leg.
I have a bone spur in my neck that’s causing
headaches and nerve pain in my traps. I’ve also
dislocated both acromioclavicular joints.) Needless
to say, my body is a mess right now and it’s
very depressing. Although I wake up every morning
feeling crippled, I try to keep a positive attitude.
Basically, I feel that my injuries have helped me
become a better strength & conditioning coach.
In other words, my pain and injuries have become a
positive thing for my clients. Having suffered from
the above-mentioned injuries has enabled me to learn
from some of the best doctors in the world. For example,
the head neurologist at NYU Medical Center, Dr. Albert
Goodgold, was the man who finally diagnosed my low-back
pain as an osteo-osteoma (benign tumor located inside
of a bone). I’ve had almost a dozen visits with
him and every time I speak with him I learn something
new about the human body. The man is brilliant. There
is a 6-month waiting list to get an appointment with
him, yet whenever I call him he always spends the
time to answer my questions and lend me advice.
Dr. Justin LaMont was the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery to remove my tumor. I got to know Dr. LaMont very well during that period of my life. I also learned more about the anatomy of the lumbar spine than I could have ever learned in school. Dr. LaMont even respected my wishes of staying awake during my last back surgery because I hate being put under anesthesia. Looking back on it, I was a little nuts. After all, I was fully coherent as they drilled a hole in my sacrum and removed the tumor. I remember seeing the chips of bone flying all over the operating table like it was yesterday. Although I became a little groggy as the surgery went on, I was still able to watch the surgery being performed on the monitor in the operating room. There isn’t an anatomy book in the world that can give you an understanding of the intricacies of the spine, compared to watching a live surgery being performed.
I’m also currently seeing chiropractor/soft tissue specialist, Dr. Brian Shannon, 3 days a week to try and correct some of my problems. These therapy sessions include Trigenics, Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, core stabilization, P.N.F. stretching and chiropractic adjustments, just to name a few.
My point is that I have made unfortunate situations into positive situations. I treat every doctor appointment and phone conversation as my own private seminar. After all, if I were completely healthy, I probably wouldn’t even know any of the doctors mentioned above. And if I didn’t know any of the above doctors, I probably wouldn’t have as good of an understanding of orthopedics, anatomy and biomechanics.
I hope you will never have to go through the injuries that I have gone through. You should, however, study human anatomy, orthopedics and biomechanics as if your own health depended on it. Remember that just because your clients may not be suffering from shoulder or low-back pain now; that doesn’t give you the right to disregard orthopedics and design potentially dangerous programs. This holds true when you’re training young, healthy athletes as well. Remember that it’s what we do to our bodies the first 20-25 years of our lives that we end up living with for the rest of our lives.
If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you!
I know that you focus all of your attention on athletes, but I hope you can find the time to answer my question. I think many of your readers would benefit from this question:
Is it impossible for some
people to get shredded? I eat right and train my ass
off but I can’t get a 6-pack. I know that you
know your stuff, so what’s the deal? If my genetics
suck, can it be impossible for me to lose my gut?
Am I wasting my time?
You can be honest (I know you will be)!
Genetics plays a MAJOR role in our ability to get shredded. Certain people are definitely more predisposed to being either fat or shredded.
Everyone seems to have that friend who eats fast food everyday, yet he/she is still shredded. On the other hand, most of us know people who work out hard and always seem to be on a diet, yet they don’t look as good as they should. This doesn’t mean that you should blame your gut on your parents and their poor genetics, though! What it means is that some people must work harder than others if they want to get shredded. You’re probably saying, “That’s not fair.” Well guess what? Life isn’t fair! If you’re someone who is genetically predisposed to carry more bodyfat; you’re just going to have to workout harder and eat healthier.
I was in your shoes 7 years ago. For the first 22 years of my life I played football, lifted weights and ate very healthy. Yet, I was always “bulky” and I could never see my abs. The only “cuts” on my body were from my first 2 back surgeries. I attributed my inability to get shredded to genetics. I came to the conclusion that, although it was relatively easy for me to build muscle and get strong, I was genetically predisposed to develop fat around my midsection. I swore that it would be impossible for me to ever be shredded. Then, my senior year in college, I decided to dedicate 15 weeks of my life to see if it was possible…no drugs, just diet and training. I knew that my diet and training were going to have to be PERFECT for me to bring out any cuts. I busted my ass and I was MISSERABLE the entire time. I had to follow a low-calorie diet and perform cardio 3-6 days a week for the entire 15 weeks. I lived with a massive headache, hungry, tired and depressed. But, I proved that ANYONE can get shredded. It just depends on how bad you want it.
(Remember that during the 15-week period, I didn’t have a job and I wasn’t playing football. Although I looked good, I was weak and tired. Remember this when you’re setting your goals. Looking good and feeling good don’t always go together.)
Anyway, below is an actual picture of me after the 15 weeks were over. (I didn’t superimpose my head on the picture, either – it’s really me.)
Below I have listed the 3 things that I love about this picture:
My candy cane posing trunks
I still leave this picture in my bedroom. I do this so when I bring a girl to my apartment, she thinks I’m shredded. After letting her admire the picture for awhile, I immediately make her a couple of drinks before my shirt comes off. By the time my shirt comes off, she’s too drunk to realize that I don’t look like this anymore!
I’ll never forget the meal that I ate after taking this photo and then collapsing due to severely low blood sugar levels. (I thought that I went into a diabetic coma.) Anyway, when I awoke, I ate an entire box of frosted cheerios with whole milk, 6 Entenmann’s cinnamon buns and a grilled cheese sandwich. I haven’t stopped eating since.
Q: Hi Joe,
I’m a Division II football coach looking for the best possible way for my team to strength-train in-season. Our team followed your ‘Westside for skinny bastards’ program over the off-season with great success. The problem is that we’re only 2 weeks into the season and I notice that many of our kids have lost weight and strength. For the past two years we’ve only lifted on Wednesdays (we play on Saturday’s) but I’d like to add another day or two in there. Realistically we can always get two days of lifting in during the week.
Any guidelines that you can provide me with would be greatly appreciated.
You are experiencing a common problem. Most athletes gain size and strength in the off-season, only to see their gains disappear when it really counts. I always ask my football players, “What good is it to be big, strong and fast in May, if you are going to let yourself get small, weak and slow in November?” This question usually helps them realize the importance of a properly designed in-season strength & conditioning program.
It is appropriate that you said that you’re kids have lost weight AND strength. I say this because the #1 limiting factor in maintaining your strength during the season is your ability to maintain your bodyweight/muscle mass. If you lose weight during the season, chances are your strength will be lost as well. Basically, the best way to maintain your strength during the season is to maintain your muscle mass. The in-season programs I design for my football players keep this in mind.
You also mentioned that you could realistically lift 2 days a week. The good news is that’s all you need! I think that one of the reasons high school and college players give up on their in-season strength training is because they set unrealistic training goals. They say that they’re going to lift everyday and then when they don’t have the time, they get frustrated and quit training all together. Remember that your players now have to go to class, football practice and meetings. All three of these are of utmost importance. So we must set realistic goals.
It’s important to know that your players can maintain their size and strength by lifting only 2 days a week (and eating enough, of course). I feel the best way to go about this is to lift the day after the game and then again mid-week. The day after the game I would focus mostly on muscle mass maintenance. Warm-up and then perform 2-3 work sets of 6-15 reps, using a controlled tempo, for all of the major muscle groups of the upper body. Then, I would do some light running/jogging. This workout will help you recover from your game as well as prevent muscle mass loss. A sample workout is as follows:
A. Incline Dumbell Bench Press, palms in – 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps
B. Chin-ups or Lat Pulldowns – 2-3 sets of 6-15 reps
C. Standing dumbbell shrugs – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
D. Rope pushdowns – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
E. Standing hammer curls – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
F. Seated external rotation, elbow on knee – 2 sets of 15 reps
G. Ground-based abdominal circuit
H. 6-8 40-yard striders (easy tempo)
*After you warm-up, this workout shouldn’t take you longer than 55 min.
You would perform your “explosive” lift(s) during the second workout of the week. This is the day you can also work on your “weak links” (usually upper back, lower back, external rotators). Here’s a sample workout for Wednesday:
A. Box Squats (straight weight or weight + chains) – 6 sets of 2 reps using 50% of 1RM
B. Reverse Hyperextensions – 2 sets of 10-15 reps
C. Dynamic bench press (straight weight) – 6 sets of 3 reps using 50% of 1RM (You can perform 2-3 heavy singles after your speed sets every 3 weeks.)
D. Cable or dumbbell external rotation, elbow at side – 2 sets of 15 reps each arm
E. Abs (choice)
Hope these guidelines help.
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