Q: Coach D, I read your article on t-nation.com about strongman training for athletes and I remember seeing you guys on the news last year around this time. I’m an assistant football coach in south jersey and I was wondering if you guys still incorporate strongman exercises in your training? If so, has anything changed since last year? We started to incorporate some strongman stuff and I want to stay up to date by asking the experts.
Thanks a lot coach. By the way, we changed our entire off-season lifting program to “DeFranco’s Skinny Bastard Routine” and the results are great…and our kids love it.
Thanks again for your hard work,
Glad to hear that you’re having great results with the “Skinny Bastard” routine. I seriously feel that every high school football team should be incorporating it into their off-season training! You are well ahead of the competition!
As far as strongman training is concerned…Hell yeah we’re still doin’ it!!! The publicity that we received last year, coupled with the success of our athletes, has made strongman training our most popular program. In fact, last Saturday was our college athlete strongman day and the attendance was at an all-time high. We had 23 college athletes, representing 16 different universities, compete in our competition. It was an all-star cast of meatheads and the competition was fierce!
We’ve added some new events this year. This doesn’t mean that we got rid of any old ones though! We now just have more weapons in our arsenal to get our athletes brutally strong and in peak condition for camp!
Below are just some of the highlights from last Saturday’s competition.
Strongman team captain, Mark Ciavirella, warms up for the competition with the sledgehammer!
CAL QB, Steve Levy, flew back home for the week and had an impressive showing
Tommy Brown finishes the 100-yard team tire flip competition!
U Penn safety, Casey Edgar, takes the Conan’s Wheel for an impressive spin!
U Penn running back, Joe Sandberg, was another long-time disciple who enjoyed our new toy…THE CONAN’S WHEEL!
This is the most biceps work that Big Mark has ever done in his life!
The tug-of-war still remains a great competition tie-breaker!
Unfortunately, TEAM LARKIN fell short on Saturday. Big Dan Larkin and teammates had to finish with the backward sled drag.
Mike Nunziato (left) & Greg DeMarco (right) finish a grueling day!
Can’t wait until we go at it again tomorrow!
Q: Joe, I know you probably have been asked this a thousand times and I apologize for 1001, but I haven't heard your theory and application of strength training before or after speed/agility work, (same day, off day etc.). I have heard others speak on this and there are some differing views, but you are a professional that I respect so please indulge me one more time.
The only set rule is that you should train your priority first. In other words, if speed & conditioning is your top priority, train it first. If your main goal is to get big & strong, do your strength training first in the day.
I have 2 theories regarding running & lifting in the same day. I don’t feel that one is better than the other. They are both OPTIONS that will be determined by the athletes schedule and/or personal preference. If anyone gives you a set rule regarding this topic, they probably don’t actually train athletes for a living. Remember that “real-world” strength & conditioning coaches must be able to compromise and work around “real-world” obstacles, i.e., practice, 2-sport athletes, school, traveling, equipment/field availability, etc.
One theory is to lift and run on the same day. The main benefit of this theory is that the athlete gets more days off. Obviously, the drawback is that the second workout usually suffers a little.
If you were going to lift legs in the morning and then run in the afternoon or at night, make sure you keep the lifting volume low. When we do max-effort work, we perform multiple sets of low reps (1-5) and always leave 1-2 reps in the tank (so it’s actually not a true max-effort lift). When we perform a dynamic-effort lower body workout in the morning, we usually box squat with 45-55% of our 1RM and we do 6-8 sets (instead of 8-12 sets). Chains are sometimes used, but bands are never used on days that we run.
Only do 1-2 supplemental exercises of 2-3 sets on each day. Keep the reps between 6-10. Again, never go to failure. Also, I never have my athletes perform knee flexion exercises in the weight room if we are going to run later on in the day. I prefer hip extension work for hamstrings. I found that this doesn’t make the athletes’ hamstrings as tight or as sore due to the fact that most hip extension exercises involve the hamstrings working together with the spinal erectors and glutes.
The other theory is to lift and run on separate days. The benefit is that the athlete gets more rest between sessions. The drawback is that the athlete doesn’t have as many complete days off (if any).
My experience has proven to me that both of these theories can work. I’ve trained many athletes who have gotten better results doing double sessions and then having more full recovery days. On the other hand, I’ve trained athletes that are drained after one workout and they rather separate their running and lifting. And finally, I’ve had athletes that didn’t have a choice of how they wanted to train due to their schedules.
The bottom line is that we must research and learn through experience how to incorporate all of the different theories. Because if you’re in the strength & conditioning field, you will find out very quickly that all athletes are individuals and great coaches must treat each athlete as an individual!
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