In Season Training

By Mark Asanovich

Contrary to popular opinion, in-season strength training should not be administered as a maintenance program. The goal of the in-season strength program is exactly the same as the off-season program. That is, to develop optimum levels of muscular strength. To develop maximal levels of muscular strength requires maximal levels of intense effort. If a player perceives his goal as merely to maintain his strength level, he will reciprocate with a sub-maximal level of intensity. On the other hand, if the expectation is to get stronger, the player will respond in a manner that will elicit a maximal effort.

Strength training is a use it or lose it reality. From a physiological perspective, nothing is permanent but change, either you are getting better or your not. Therefore it is absolutely essential that what was done in the off-season is replicated during the in-season, the only exception being the frequency of workouts performed. During the in-season program, the player‘s train one to two times per week, whereas during the off-season the player‘s train two to three times per week. Strength training workouts are scheduled on non-consecutive days and not less than 72 hours prior to kickoff. This prevents overtraining and promotes optimal results/recovery by kick-off.

Most teams drop the ball in this respect; they over emphasize the off-season program and under emphasize the in-season program. Obviously, the time constraints of the in-season will dictate when and how much strength training is appropriate. Truth be told, the real measure of any comprehensive strength & conditioning program is what occurs during the season. After all, it is during the season when you want the highest levels of strength to maximize performance potential and minimize injury. Keeping players healthy and on the field is imperative to the success of the team.

The better Arian Foster gets, the more Matt Schaub and the Texans' passing game takes a back seat.

Whereas, many coaches would be satisfied with no improvement (maintenance) during the season, our expectation is to improve strength. In fact, our average in-season gains are what most teams hope for in their off-season programs! Our strength training routines address the five major structures of the body: the neck/trap, lower torso, mid-torso, upper torso, and ankles/arms. We place equal emphasis on all segments of the body since the entire body is involved in playing the game of football and consequently, exposed to injury. Traditionally, athletes have neglected training the neck and shoulder capsule. Certainly, when you consider the potential catastrophic risk to this vulnerable area, it is a priority that needs to be emphasized.

All athletes perform the same workouts regardless of position. A basic workout consists of 12-18 exercises in which one to three exercises are performed for each body part. A workout is generally 60 minutes in length. Larger muscles (chest, back, shoulders, neck/traps, hips/legs) are always trained before smaller muscles (arms, wrists, calves, abdominals). A wide variety of strength training equipment/apparatus is used, with none being more effective than another. Every rep of every set is coached and documented.

The In-Season Strength & Conditioning Program
All players are scheduled for two individualized workouts each week. Players will be scheduled for either a lower torso workout or one total body workout on Monday and one upper torso workout either on Wednesday or Thursday (providing we play on Sunday). Players wanting to train their lower torso twice in any given week will have an opportunity to train Wednesday after practice.

Coach Del Rio and/or the Head Athletic Trainer are the only one‟s to excuse a player from a workout.

NOTE: Practice Squad & Injured Reserve players will be scheduled in for two to three supervised strength-training workouts per week.

All players are expected to arrive in the weight room five minutes early to begin the workout. The digital clock in the weight room is the official clock of record. Being in the building, locker room, training room, bathroom, etc. at an assigned time is still considered being late. Players must be in the weight room, dressed and ready to work. It does not matter if players are one minute late or twenty minutes late – late is late. Since all excuses are good ones and 95% always true, no excuses will be accepted for being late or missing a workout.

MARK ASANOVICH, MA, CSCS, HFI,

recently completed his fifteenth season as a professional football Strength and Conditioning Coach. A fourteen-year National Football League (NFL) veteran, Mr. Asanovich spent six seasons as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Head Coach Tony Dungy, and has served as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings. His list of Pro Bowlers trained includes Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, Chris Carter, Warrick Dunn, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis, John Lynch, Randall McDaniel, Warren Moon, Jonathan Ogden, John Randle and Warren Sapp, among many others.

TAKU’s NOTE This week we feature another excellent article from Mark Asanovich. Although this article was written about football, the reality is that all athletes should remember that improving is the goal. One should train hard and rest well. This is the secret to getting better.

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Philosophy

By Mark Asanovich

Like the game of football, strength training, in and of itself is simple to understand, maximal efforts will yield maximal results. Like football, strength training IS NOT SIMPLE TO DO! Like football, strength training is a coaching reality. Like football, players that are coached in the weight room will develop better results from what is inspected rather than what is expected. Therefore, whether on the football field or in the weight room, success begins with coaches who are committed to roll up their sleeves and individually supervise, teach, and expect proper execution of the fundamentals.

The cornerstone of our program has, and will always be to coach reps, rather than merely count reps. It is this commitment to coaching every player, every rep of every set that ensures sound, sensible, safe and systematic progress. Together, with the support of the head coach and his coaching staff, this commitment to individualized supervision in the weight room is the single most determining dynamic that facilitates maximal results both during the off-season and in-season.

In regards to the strength training protocols and/or equipment utilized, research clearly verifies that there is no one method/modality that is significantly more effective than another. That is not to say, however, that all methods are safe and/or efficient. Executing strength-training exercises ballistically under load is not only unproductive but also predispose lifters to orthopedic dangers. In addition, given the new CBA four hour/day off-season rules, brief, intense strength training protocols are a more efficient use of time in light of the increased demands of off-season film study/field sessions with coaches.

The primary consideration for the strength coach, therefore, is not WHAT equipment or protocol is used, but rather HOW it is used and HOW HARD it is used. Subsequently, it is important to offer both multi-set and single-set alternatives within the strength training routines. This provides the player the opportunity to take ownership in his choice of training equipment and appeases any psychological attachment that he may have to a specific workout preference. Regardless of the set –rep protocol, the criteria that must guide program administration should always be:

Is it prudent?

Is it productive?

Is it practical?

Is it purposeful?

The perception is that all NFL players‘ strength train. The reality is that most players‘ strength train incorrectly and/or at sub maximal levels of intensity. Consequently, the edge has not necessarily been WHAT to do – but HOW do it!

TAKU’s NOTE: This week features another excellent article from Mark Asanovich.

State of the Union (Part 3)

By Mark Asanovich

WHAT IS STRENGTH?

No Other Area In Sports Is As Fraught With Misinformation As Is Strength Training.”

                                                                   Robert L. Bartels, Ph.D., FASM, Professor Emeritus

              The Ohio State University

          What is “strength? An over statement of the obvious? A fore gone conclusion? Hardly! When one considers the historical evolution (or lack thereof) of strength training in sports and fitness, what should be blatantly obvious is instead blatantly obscure.

In my last column, I suggested that to define strength we must focus on the source of strength … the muscle tissue. When stimulated, the function of muscle tissue is to contract. Contraction of muscular tissue results in the production of FORCE. As such, it would make sense to define strength in terms of contractile force production. Simple and unequivocal, regardless of movement and how that force is expressed around our third class leverage skeletal system.

Given THE WHAT, the next logical question would involve THE HOW. In other words, if strength is the product of contractile force, what is the most effective means/methodologies for increasing contractile force outcomes?Once again, a simple question, yet within the context of mainstream interpretation and application, is very complex to say the least.

      “Strength Development”is the most misunderstood element within the physical fitness equation; and as such, is the most controversial. Consequently, the prescription of strength training protocols for the purpose of developing maximum muscular force potentials has long been a subject of debate and disagreement. Rather than sharing a consensus understanding as to the optimal means/method/model for developing strength potentials, one is instead inundated with many conflicting camps of contrasting thought:

                         THE PERIODIZATION MODEL

THE DELORME – WATKINS MODEL

THE OXFORD MODEL

THE ASCENDING – DESCENDING MODEL

THE CIRCUIT – TRAINING MODEL

THE HIGH INTENSITY TRAINING MODEL

Given such diversity and disagreement, it becomes apparent why ignorance, confusion, frustration and paranoia is the rule rather than the exception when one begins to formulate a philosophywith regard to strength development. Rather than sharing a consensus understanding of strength and universal means of developing it, different planes of understanding create a dichotomy in training methodologies. In an attempt to clarify the prevailing misunderstandings regarding “strength”, in future columns we will discuss what strength is notand the fallacious protocols that have resulted in an industry fast becoming one where the blind are leading the ignorant.

TAKU’s NOTE: This week brings the third part in a three part series from NFL Strength Coach Mark Asanovich. Check out part 1 & 2 for the complete story.

MARK ASANOVICH, MA, CSCS, HFI,

recently completed his fifteenth season as a professional football Strength and Conditioning Coach. A fourteen-year National Football League (NFL) veteran, Mr. Asanovich spent six seasons as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Head Coach Tony Dungy, and has served as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings. His list of Pro Bowlers trained includes Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, Chris Carter, Warrick Dunn, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis, John Lynch, Randall McDaniel, Warren Moon, Jonathan Ogden, John Randle and Warren Sapp, among many others.

THE STATE OF THE UNION (PART 2)

By Mark Asanovich

In my last column, I attempted to make a couple of points on the state of the Health Fitness Industry:

1. I don’t presume to have all the answers. Rather; I, like I would suspect many of you

in the profession, are seeking to ask some of the rightquestions so I can facilitate

higher levels of outcomes in those who I serve and who have entrusted their health

to me.

2. It is in understanding the WHAT that will determine the HOW’s of your program

prescriptions.

3. The current reality in the profession is that there are NO one generic/universally

accepted definitions industry wide. Consequently, there is NO one

generic/universally accepted way to develop/measure fitness.

4. There exists controversy as to THE BEST protocols for  stimulating THE BEST

               RESULTS.

5. It behooves us as professionals (and as a profession) to dialog/debate and come to

a consensus understanding of how we define the different aspects of fitness and

function (i.e. strength, cardio-respiratory fitness, flexibility, balance etc.) so that we

can better develop and measure outcomes most efficiently and effectively.

WHAT IS STRENGTH?

Interestingly, whenever I ask this question to colleagues in the profession, the usual response is one of dismay, disbelief and/or downright disgust. But nevertheless, it is in my opinion one of the most fundamental questions that must be addressed requisite to any intelligentdiscussions on how best to develop (or for that matter measure) strength.

Most traditional definitions of strength equate the mechanics of an automobile engine with that of muscle. The problem as I see it with these definitions is that the mechanics of an automobile engine imply movement whereas muscle does not require movement to produce work. In fact, static (or isometric) muscular strength  is work that is generated by the muscle against an immoveable resistance.

Likewise, other definitions of strength not only imply movement, but how movement is expressed around the bony leverage system that is the human skeleton. The obvious problem with these definitions is that when movement is expressed around levers, by definition this is torque … and not strength. Governed by the laws of Physics, torque outputs are the result of many factors  like lever lengths, moment arms, gravity, and friction … in addition to strength!

So where does that leave us? Well in my humble opinion, it brings us back to the source of strength … the muscle tissue. When stimulated, the function of muscle tissue is to contract. Contraction of muscular tissue results in the production of FORCE. As such, it would make sense to me to define strength in terms of contractile force production. Simple and unequivocal, regardless of movement and how that force is expressed around our third class leverage skeletal system.

Mark Twain once said, “It is a good thing to make things simple … but not any simpler“. In regard to defining muscular strength, to speak in terms of resultant contractile force outcomes is simple and serves to clarify rather than confuse … but isn’t any simpler! May the force be with you (sorry, couldn’t resist).

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks again to Mark Asanovivh for allowing me to reprint these articles. To find out more about Mark click on his name at the top of this article.

MARK ASANOVICH, MA, CSCS, HFI,

recently completed his fifteenth season as a professional football Strength and Conditioning Coach. A fourteen-year National Football League (NFL) veteran, Mr. Asanovich spent six seasons as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Head Coach Tony Dungy, and has served as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings. His list of Pro Bowlers trained includes Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, Chris Carter, Warrick Dunn, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis, John Lynch, Randall McDaniel, Warren Moon, Jonathan Ogden, John Randle and Warren Sapp, among many others.

The State of the Union (Part I)

By Mark Asanovich

Please allow me to preface my remarks — I don’t presume to have all the answers. Rather, I am just a dumbbell coach, who after thirty years in the profession, is just beginning to ask some of the right questions. In Metaphysics II, Aristotle said:

“Those who wish to understand … must first ask the right preliminary questions.”

In other words, to understand HOW to develop something and/or HOW to measure something, first requires an understanding of WHAT is to be developed and WHAT is to be measured.

It is in understanding the WHAT that will determine the HOW’s of your program prescriptions. As professionals and as a profession, it behooves us therefore to take a critical look at the industries definitions of EXERCISE.

The point I am trying to make is that regardless of how you define the different aspects of exercise (i.e. strength, flexibility, cardio-respiratory fitness, etc.) the current reality in the profession is that there are NO one generic/universally accepted definitions industry wide. Consequently, there is NO one generic/universally accepted way to develop/measure fitness. Therefore, as health & fitness professionals, to say that we exist, work and make a living in a precariously tenuous position is an understatement – but that is the HARD reality of the situation.

Given that hard reality, it comes as no surprise to me that there exists controversy, disagreement, dissention, and downright personal animosities in this profession. To be a health & fitness professional in this day and age is to be by definition (or lack thereof) — to be misunderstood …, crazy, or insane or whatever you want to call it. Rambling as I am, that is the state of the union of the health & fitness profession as this one dumbbell coach sees it.

Having stated that, I do not want to sour you on the profession. Health & Fitness is a great profession that has many rewards. However, with respect to being a practitioner, you need to not only understand the realities – but you need to embrace them. The field needs individuals that are passionate, professional and principled. Having “thick skin” may be another requisite characteristic.

So what’s the answer? I emphatically DON”T KNOW! What I do know, however, is that as a profession we do need to start taking a critical look at asking the RIGHT questions with respect to defining outcomes before we begin discussing the cause/effect relationship of developing those outcomes. So where do we begin? In the next series of articles, I will ask some of those questions — beginning with “WHAT IS STRENGTH?” In doing so, it will provide a forum for professional dialog that will initiate the steps in coming to a consensus understanding on “HOW TO BEST DEVELOP?” and/or “HOW TO BEST MEASURE?” the outcomes we all seek to develop. And in the end, it is my hope that in the asking it will provide a higher level of service in those who have entrusted their health to us.

TAKU’s NOTE: For the next few weeks I will be featuring a series of articles by Mark Ansanovich. I have had the privaledge of hearing Mark speak on several occasions. He is without a doubt one of the best S&C coaches in the busniness. I featured some of Marks words of wisdom back in July of last year. Chek that out here:

For those who don’t know Mark, here is a bit more info about him.

Mark Asanovich

Recently completed his fifteenth season as a Strength & Conditioning Coach in professional football with the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League (UFL). A fourteen-year National Football League (NFL) veteran, Asanovich was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars on February 1, 2003 after spending six seasons as the Strength & Conditioning Coach for Head Coach Tony Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2002 season as the Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Prior to that he served as the Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Minnesota Vikings in 1995.

The Four P’s

By Mark Asanovich

 THE 4-P’s

EVIDENCE-BASED 

STRENGTH TRAINING & CONDITIONING  

PRUDENT

PRODUCTIVE

PRACTICAL

PURPOSEFUL

WHAT IS A PRUDENT STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM?


 The answer lies in two questions:


1. “Are the training protocols orthopedically-safe?”

2. “Are the training protocols physiologically-sound?”


  Obviously, it is the intent of any strength-training program

to ENHANCE the physical potentials of the lifter rather than ENDANGER the lifter.

In other words,use common sense. If an exercise or training technique looks dangerous — it probably is!    

  An orthopedically safe program has at its foundation the execution of properly performed repetitions. The emphasis should always be on HOW the repetition is lifted rather than HOW MUCH is lifted. Every effort should be made to minimize the biomechanical loading (bouncing, recoiling etc.) on muscles, joints and connective tissue, and to maximize muscular tension. Each repetition should be lifted under control in a deliberate fashion. Flex the muscle momentarily in the midrange of the exercise when the muscle is in its “fully contracted position”. Then lower the resistance slowly to the starting position. Obviously, this is the most difficult way to train; however it is also the most productive and prudent way to train.

A physiologically sound strength-training program is one that includes in its design the fundamental principles of training right, eating right, resting right and living right. As simple as it is to understand — it is anything but simple to do. To compromise anyone of these realities would likewise compromise results. There are no “secret”, “short-cut” and/or “simple” means to achieve maximum strength gains. Rather, there is no substitute for progressively highly intense exercise, a nutritious meal plan, ample rest/recovery, and a common sense approach to a consistent training routine.

WHAT IS A PRODUCTIVE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM?

 The physiological basis of strength training is the overload principle. This principle requires that a muscle be progressively overloaded beyond its current capabilities to stimulate a strength/growth response. Therefore, any progressive strength training protocol that has a systematic plan of overload (i.e. increasing resistance/repetitions) will produce results! Otherwise stated, despite what strength-training program is used, it is the INTENSE and INTELLIGENT application of the lifter’s EFFORT that is most responsible for their results — not the program. The bottom line is, and always will be, an issue of COMMITMENT and HARD WORK — not how many sets/reps were performed.

Maximal effort is required to develop maximal results. HARD WORK should not be confused with MORE WORK. Truth be told, it does not take a maximal amount of work and/or time to develop maximal results. It does require maximal effort and maximal perseverance. In other words, strength development is USE IT OR LOOSE IT — AND DON’T ABUSE IT! Train hard, chart your progression, allow ample time to rest/recovery between workouts and incorporate variety into your program to prevent overtraining and monotony.

WHAT IS A PRACTICAL STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM?

As stated, all progressive strength training protocols are PRODUCTIVE – none more significant than the other; however, not all are equally PRACTICAL. Strength can be developed either by exposing the muscle to a lengthy “high volume” of exercise or by brief “high intensity” exercise. Both training protocols have their advantages and disadvantages. However, given the time constraints for most individuals, it is much more practical to decrease the volume of training in favor of increasing the intensity of training to get the same results in less time. In other words, the training goal should be to spend the minimal amount of time to derive themaximal amount of benefits.

WHAT IS A PURPOSEFUL STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM?

Strength training is a means to an end — not an end in itself. It is not the goal to develop Olympic Weightlifters, Powerlifters or Bodybuilders. Rather, the goal of strength training is to develop maximal levels of muscular strength to maximize functional capacity.

The development of muscular strength is the general progression of increasing the muscle’s ability to produce force. In other words, strength is a non-specific adaptation developed in the weight room whereas skills are a specific adaptation developed through guided practice. As a result, strength is developed physically in the weight room, which by a separate process is developed mechanically outside the weight room. Simply stated, you build muscle in the weight room and movement outside the weight room.

TAKU’s NOTE:

As I recently stated, for me, the highlight of the Legends of Strength clinic was the presentation by Mark Asanovich. As I listened intently to his every word, I was struck with the thought that every strength coach and personal trainer, needs to hear these words. Not only do they need to hear them, but they need to understand and then apply them in the field. We would have far greater levels of success and far fewer silly injuries (not to mention far less time wasted) if more coaches and trainers adopted and implemented these excellent principals.

“The Legends of Strength” Follow up

First, for my regular visitors, let me apologize for not adding any updates in the last few weeks. I have been doing a bit of running around the country which included visits to Ohio, Washington D.C., New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey.

I was in Ohio for one reason, The “Legends of Strength” clinic, organized, and hosted by Kim Wood. This event was awesome. It started on Friday night and Kim Wood spoke about the History of Strength Training in Football. Kim is a walking encyclopedia of both football and strength and conditioning knowledge and history. We all enjoyed the evening as Kim colorfully detailed the progression of strength training in Football from the early days up to the present.

Saturday morning started out with excellent presentations from two, top NFL strength coaches Dan Riley* and Mark Asanavich. Both of these gentleman were top notch, but I must say that for me, the highlight of the entire event was hearing Mark Asanavich give his clear and concise discussion of strength training which is Prudent, Productive, Practical and Purposeful. I highly recommend that if anyone ever finds that they have an opportunity to hear Mark speak, make sure you do not miss it.

Kim Woods son, John Wood gave brief talk on developing Functional Hand strength for sports. This is a subject that John knows a lot about, having closed the Iron Mind Captains of Crush # 3 gripper, when he was just 16 years old. Former Michigan Strength coach Mike Gittleson discussed techniques for developing the muscles of the head and neck in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

Not only was this a great event with awesome presenters, everyone there was someone worth getting to know. I met Tyler Hobson, who designs the Pendulum line of strength training equipment for Rodgers Athletics. Other notable folks in attendance were Ellington Darden, Jim Flanagan, Joe Cirullo, and Roger Schwab. Rock Oliver was there from the Unversity of Kentucky. Ben Oldham, the SEC Football Game Official and Rules Committee member. Kevin Tolbert former head S&C coach at Stanford, and now assistant Strength Coach with the San Francisco 49’ers. Also there were Ted Lambrinides from ASAP , and one of my favorite guys, strength coach Tom Kelso.

I can’t possibly remember everyone (there were probably close to 200 people there) but other cool folks in attendance were: Miami University Athletic Director Brad Bates. Mike Vorkapich from Michigan State. Aaron Hillmann from Michigan. Dave Andrews from the University of Cincinnati. Scott Savor-University of Tennessee, Biko and Denny Locascio from Sports and Field in Tampa. Baltimore Ravens Strength Staff Bob Rogucki and John Dunn. Former Buckeye National Champ Strength Coach Al Johnson, Smarter Team Training’s Rob Taylor came in from Maryland. Dir of Strength Training, Brent Rogers from the College of Mt. St. Joseph. Carlo Alvarez from Cincinnati St. Xavier High School. Ted Rath Asst from the Detroit Lions. Florida Asst Scott Holshopple. Scott Hayes from Fowlersville (Michigan) H.S. Football. Mike Shibinski, Cincinnati Elder High School’s new Defensive Back Coach.

All in all this was probably the best S&C clinic I have ever attended (and I have been to plenty). It is my understanding that Kim Wood plans on making this an annual event and I can only imagine that it will just keep getting better and better as the word spreads.

If there is another one next year, I will be there for sure.

PAU for NOW

TAKU

TAKU’s NOTE: Just in case there are people out there who don’t know who Dan Riley is, here is some*Dan Riley info:

  • 27 years as strength and conditioning coach in the National Football League
  • Integral part of three Super Bowl Championships and four NFC Championships
  • 5 years as strength coach at Penn State and 4 years at the United State Military Academy at West Point
  • Author of four books on strength training