Author Archives: Don

April Strength & Conditioning Research Questions

Chris and I reviewed 50 different articles for this month’s Strength & Conditioning Research Review. If you haven’t signed up yet I think you should; it’s such a great amount of information for only $10/month, and the feedback we’ve received so far is phenomenal.

Strength and conditioning

  1. Do deeper squats improve vertical jumps more so than partial squats?
  2. Can kettlebell swings improve back squat and power clean performance?
  3. Does it matter which order you perform exercises in your workout?
  4. Do back squats improve 5m, 10m or 20m sprints most?
  5. Does stretching a muscle improve strength in the contralateral muscle?
  6. Does stretching the antagonist before explosive exercise improve performance?
  7. Do short sprints performed several minutes prior to shot put attempts improve distance thrown?
  8. Does rest-pause training cause more fatigue or increase muscle activation to a greater degree than volume-matched straight sets?
  9. Are hip flexion strength and cross-sectional area of the psoas major determinants of soccer performance?
  10. Is periodization essential for moderately trained individuals such as amateur athletes?
  11. Do peak force and rate of force development decrease between twice-daily workouts for adults and for Olympic lifters?
  12. What is the optimum length of time to wait following a postactivation potentiation effect before attempting a maximum effort?
  13. Are unilateral countermovement jumps a better predictor of change-of-direction sprint performance than bilateral countermovement jumps?
  14. Is countermovement jump performance correlated with 5m-sprint performance?
  15. Are repeated sprints better or worse than separate power and energy systems sessions?


  1. Does the geometry of the knee affect the risk of ACL injuries?
  2. Does heavy strength training improve rate of force development?
  3. To what degree does the ribcage impact thoracic stability?
  4. Is there a connection between sacropelvic geometry and spondylolysis?
  5. Does internal tibial torque put more strain on the ACL than knee valgus?
  6. Does grip width affect which muscles are most worked during the upright row exercise?
  7. Can resistance bands be used to mimic accommodating resistance seen in weight machines?
  8. Does hamstring flexibility affect lower and upper back posture while cycling?
  9. Is the sticking point in the bench press caused by diminishing potentiation from the eccentric phase?
  10. Can one-legged cycling be used to improve endurance performance in normal cycling?
  11. Does the part of the foot (heel or toe) than an athlete lands on during cutting or sidestepping movements affect the risk of ACL injury?


  1. Is overtraining syndrome related to stress-related disorders?
  2. Does exercise-induced muscle damage contribute to hypertrophy?
  3. Does resistance exercise improve bone density?
  4. Are antioxidant supplements useful or useless for athletes?
  5. Is it possible to improve an endurance athlete’s performance by giving them misleading information about their progress?
  6. Can we tell whether anabolic steroid use increases cardiovascular disease risk?
  7. Does anabolic steroid use cause cardiac autonomic dysfunction?
  8. What recent advances in technology help us understand more about the molecular basis of muscle fatigue?
  9. Do resistance exercises involving more muscle mass lead to greater energy expenditure in a workout?
  10. Does physical activity help reduce inflammation and stress-related biomarkers?
  11. Is nerve conduction velocity improved by warm-ups?
  12. Are nitric oxide (NO) supplements useful for athletes?
  13. Do omega-3 fats reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after intense exercise?

Physical therapy

  1. Can the use of resistance bands around the thighs during squatting movements help reduce knee valgus?
  2. Can massage therapy help reduce inflammation after exercise?
  3. Is lower gluteus medius activation associated with higher risk of groin injury?
  4. How good is the evidence for the phenomenon of cross-education between contralateral muscle groups following unilateral resistance exercise?
  5. Can core stability training help improve passive hip range-of-motion?
  6. Is there a connection between knee extension strength and patellofemoral pain syndrome?
  7. Is there a connection between Q-angle and patellofemoral pain syndrome?
  8. What factors are predictive of ACL injury?
  9. What types of imbalances lead to functional impingements of the shoulder?
  10. How are femoroacetabular impingement and athletic pubalgia connected?
  11. Does increasing intra-abdominal pressure by inhaling help sufferers of lower back pain stabilize the spine during the lifting and lowering of heavy objects?

Knowledge is Power!

Not interested in these topics? Why not check out our brand new, free hypertrophy resource instead!

Muscular Overloads

Most coaches would say that machines and higher-rep ranges have no place in building explosive athletes. Of course athletes don’t just require power; depending on their situation they need precise combinations of power, strength, strength endurance, power endurance, and hypertrophy. In this guest blog Mike Whitman shows us three types of overloading protocols he uses with athletes for certain purposes. These protocols can be used with bodyweight and free weight exercises as well, but Mike offers an explanation as to why he likes to use machines from time to time especially with these types of special protocols.

Muscular Overloads

By Mike Whitman

Over the past 12 weeks I’ve been interning at the Gordon Institute for Sport Performance under head strength coach, and owner of SMARTER Team Training, Rob Taylor.  My experience was comprised mostly of highly competitive athletes. We all know that athletes need to be fast and powerful, but that doesn’t mean explosive lifts are the only way to get there; as the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat.   One of the ways we ‘skin our cats’ is by using a multitude of overloading protocols.  The overloading stimuli are designed to completely fatigue the muscular system.

Now, before I get into the overloads I want to answer any questions that may arise before we start.  None of these overloads use explosive reps; in fact they emphasize the opposite: slow controlled reps with higher time under tension. Research, such as Neuromuscular Responses to Three Days of Velocity-Specific Isokinetic Training by Coburn et al., suggests that slower reps lead to larger strength gains.  When working with athletes the most important thing to do is keep them healthy; so, when we take them to complete muscular fatigue we need to put them in the most stable and controlled position possible.  This means we are more likely to do muscular overloads on a Rogers Athletic Pendulum Power Squat Pro, Hip Press or a Three Way Row so instability does not become an injury concern.  When working with young athletes we avoid heavy spinal loading.  For example, if we were looking at a high school linebacker, what is the point of loading his spine?  Every tackle he makes loads his spine, so what is the point in heavily loading his spine when he isn’t playing football?  Does the inherent risk of injury from sport need to be prevalent in the athletic development program too, or is there a safer more effective way to train? Since our primary goal is to keep everyone we train, athlete or not, healthy, we take some extra precautions that you may not see in other areas of the strength realm, such as preferring a Hip Press to fatigue over a barbell back squat to fatigue.  Lastly, you will notice some of these overloads have a higher rep scheme than some of your typical strength workouts.  This is not by accident.  Since the goal is to take the athlete to total failure it is virtually impossible to do so without a decent number of repetitions and load. So without further discussion here are a few of the overloads we use: 747s, progressions, and 1 ½s.

747s: Perform 7 repetitions of a weight that is challenging (you could probably only perform about 8 or 9 reps), rest 30 seconds, then perform 4 reps of a higher weight (usually 15 pounds heavier for the upper body, and 25 for the lower) rest 30 seconds and then perform 7 reps with the original weight.  If performed properly the last few reps of the last set should be very challenging. These are a great way to get an athlete to really gut out the last few reps, and test their mental toughness.  Try this protocol on seated rows!  For more information on this protocol, watch this:

Progressions: This protocol involves increasing reps and weight for every set.  Start with a base weight and perform one rep, rest ten seconds and add ten pounds.  Then, perform two reps, rest ten seconds and add ten more weight.  Continue this trend until you reach six reps.  By the time you are done you will have performed 21 total reps, with only 50 seconds of rest.  This is a great protocol for bench press!  For more information on this protocol, watch this:

1 ½s : This is a range of motion based technique that is simple and effective; lower the weight to the fully contracted position, pause, lift the weight half of the range of motion, lower the weight back down to the fully contracted position, pause, perform a full repetition and repeat the entire sequence.  This is a great technique especially if an athlete struggles to move weight without the aid of momentum.  This protocol is a great fit for pull-ups!  For more information on this protocol, watch this:

Remember before trying these, they’re called overloading protocols for a reason; we usually perform these once a week, MAYBE; don’t do these every day.  If you take a whole bottle of aspirin it will be the last headache you’ll ever have, so just like medication prescribe these with caution.  Give some a try for yourself and see what you think.

Mike Whitman interned at Gordon Institute for Sport Performance and currently works at FX Studios and the Under Armour Combine Training Center in Baltimore.  You can contact him at


I just finished watching James Smith and Joe DeFranco’s Power! video and was enthralled. In short, this is how athletes should train! Seriously you gotta get this DVD if you’re a strength coach.

I love watching good coaching and good training. These guys are big names in the Strength & Conditioning profession for many reasons – they know their stuff, they get results, and they put out good information. Around eight years ago I purchased a Joe DeFranco DVD. I was amazed at how similar our training styles were. Not only did we had most of the same Elitefts equipment, but we had come up with many of the same methods on our own. Joe has been a big influence on my training over the years and every time I watch one of his highlight reels I have to go to the gym and train – I get all jacked up! I’ve mentioned in the past that Smitty is one of the top 3 most innovative guys in the field, not to mention respectful and humble. I’m a big fan of these guys’ training methods and products as well.

When I heard that Power! was coming out, I had to get my hands on it. It recently arrived here in Auckland and I couldn’t wait to watch it. They did not let me down. These guys truly put together a fantastic resource. I took some notes while I watched it so I could help these guys promote the video. Here are some things I noticed:

1. Great Blend of Book Smarts and Weight-Room Smarts

Nobody likes an armchair expert, but meatheads are often quite dull. Smitty and DeFranco have many years of experience under the bar and have collectively trained hundreds of athletes. But what separates them from the pack is not their wisdom, nor their experience, but the combination of the two. It’s easy to have one or the other (experience or scientific knowledge), but to have both is a rare combo. In the video you’ll hear them talk about dynamic correspondence, force vectors, power formulas, form cues, special considerations, and potential variations.

2. Home is in the Gym

I have no doubt that Smitty and DeFranco are great guys to train under. You can tell that they’ve earned their athletes’ respect. I love watching good coaches in action and over the years I’ve watched Smitty coaching his athletes intensively and DeFranco timing and measuring his athletes’ performances. I can tell that when these guys are training athletes they’re highly involved in the process; teaching, motivating, and measuring. I suspect that most good trainers feel most at home when they’re training folks; in the “real world” they feel like fishes-out-of-water, but the gym is their perfect environment.

3. Creativity

I have extensive lists of exercises and variations thereof. From bodyweight to barbell, band to kettlebell, plyo to mobility drill, I’ve seen it all. There are rarely any times where I gain a bunch of new ideas all at once, and this video provided me with plenty of new ideas to experiment with and most likely add to my repertoire. The creativity in this DVD is through the roof, and I believe that this creativity is very important to keep athletes excited about training. Athletes need to be gung ho about their training and I have no doubt that these guys’ athletes come to train hard day in and day out and don’t lose motivation due to boring and mundane programs.

4. Hip Extension

This is the most important joint action in all of sports and these guys drill hip extension over and over. Whether it’s via sprinting, deadlifting, jumping, thrusting, squatting, hinging, swinging, or skipping, they’re doing a ton of it. You do this and it will be very hard to not produce a bunch of badasses.

5. Great Equipment and Synergistic Facilities

I believe strongly in setting up a gym with great equipment. You can do wonders with just barbells, bumper plates, squat stands, and chin bars, but it’s nice to have a bunch of other ammenities too. DeFranco’s gym rocks and I love seeing his athletes work together. You’ll see them spotting each other, encouraging each other, and watching over each other. This is very important. As a strength coach, if you can educate and empower the athletes then you essentially have a ton of “employees” helping you with your job.

Where to Get the DVD

If you want to purchase the DVD, simply click HERE.

By the way, here is the testimonial I just sent them and I meant every last bit of it:

I’ve been following strength & conditioning trends for 20 years now. I’m a student of the game, and many people value my expertise. I can say without hesitation that Power! is the best DVD ever created for the purpose of showing coaches and athletes how to develop power. I can also tell you that the DVD contains the most up-to-date, innovative, and effective methods in existence. I’ve purchased dozens of products over the years and this one is without a doubt the most valued DVD in my possession. I appreciate the high-quality footage and effort that went into making it. I could say more but unfortunately I gotta run – I just watched the DVD and now I can’t control the urge to go train! – Bret Contreras, MA, CSCS

Random Thoughts

I haven’t done one of these in a while, and when I wait the list just keeps growing. Here are fifteen random thoughts for you curious bastards.

1. Musclemag Article

This month I have an article in Musclemag titled Radical Arm Hypertrophy. It’s a really good plan for those seeking increased arm growth. Definitely consider picking this issue up if you’re inside a grocery store or bookstore that sells the issue. They used Johnny Jackson for the model which is good; he’s an incredibly strong bodybuilder. Sadly I didn’t buy it at the Borders here in Auckland because it costs $25 for an issue since it’s air-shipped from the US!

2. To Crunch or Not to Crunch

My friend Brad Schoenfeld and I worked very hard putting together a journal article that we titled, To Crunch or Not to Crunch. We just received proofs from the Strength and Conditioning Journal, so look for it in the near future when it’s published before press. It may take a while until it hits print.

3. Peak Performance Seminar

My friend Joe Dowdell is putting on a seminar with nutrition-expert Mike Rousell. The seminar will be held on July 9-10 in New York City at Joe’s facility, Peak Performance.

To learn more about the seminar, click on this link. I’ve seen the material that Joe has put together on program design and it is top-notch. In case you don’t know, Joe has trained dozens of A-list celebrities and professional athletes and for good reason – he knows his stuff! I highly recommend that you attend this seminar. In addition, you’ll get to see Joe’s badass 10,000 square foot facility equipped with the latest and greatest strength training equipment.

4. Matt Nichol Speech on Energy System Development and a Mel Siff Quote on Functional Training

I’ve posted this in the past but I just watched it again the other day with much delight. Matt Nichol is a smart dude! I could listen to Matt speak all day long, he maintains the perfect blend of dropping knowledge and telling stories. I love this guy.

At 1:05:50 into the video, Matt relays a quote by Mel Siff on functional training, which he deems (and I agree) the best definition on the topic:

Functional Training: Any training that you do that improves any relevant biomotor ability that doesn’t come at the detriment to other biomotor abilities.

5. Shout Out to Carlo Buzz and Rob Panariello

Around a month ago I interviewed Carlo Buzz and several months ago I interviewed Rob Panariello. These guys are super smart and have been around the block. It’s so nice to have guys like this who are willing to share their knowledge and pass it down to the rest of us. Carlo left some very good advice to readers after the interview, which is worth reading if you haven’t already. On my last blogpost, Rob chimed in and he and I ended up having an intriguing exchange of comments, many related to training with elastic bands. In order to read the post you need to scroll down to the 98th post and read to the 108th post. Here’s a link to where the fun starts. It’s a very informative exchange! I’m honored to have these guys posting comments on my blog from time to time.

6. Glute eBook

The other day I was scrolling through my glute eBook (Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening) and I was reminded about how much good info is in there. Every couple of years I learn so much and am much smarter, but I won’t change this book as it’s a testament to what I knew and how I trained two years ago. I’ve been asked to update it but I like it the way it is. The eBook is loaded with information and is truly one of its kind. Though I could write a much better book nowadays, I still think that everyone should own it as there are some very revolutionary ideas contained within the book.

7. John Cronin Quote

Here’s a quote from my professor John Cronin that I love:

This is what I know today. Next week it’s subject to change.

He tells this to his students at the beginning of the year. The reason why I love this quote is because it emphasizes the need to be flexible in your thinking as you gain new knowledge and scientific advancements are made in the field.

8. Christian Thibaudeau Quote

Here’s a great quote from Thibs:

Training is my passion. I love everything about training. That’s why I don’t have ONE training methodology to my name but include every single type of methods that has been shown to work. I have too much respect for every single successful coach or athlete to dismiss any technique, program or system just because it doesn’t sit well with my own personal likings and beliefs.

I feel the exact same way! If only more coaches were this humble.

9. Fitness Industry Movers and Shakers

I posted a while back that I’ve been reading a book titled, Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors. The book intrigues me, and it’s definitely left me thinking about the industry. I’m very proud to be playing a role in the S&C field and influencing the way that trainers, coaches, and physios (as well as lifters and athletes) train. When I arrived here in NZ I was taken back as to how many individuals performed hip thrust variations. I think it’s funny when people are performing them near me in the gym…part of me wants to mention to them that I popularized the exercise they’re doing, but I never say anything because I know they’d think I was full of it.

When I first went to see my physio a couple of months ago (prior to my biceps tendon surgery) he was laughing because he came to work that day and my blog was pulled up on the computer and his trainers were teaching their clients hip thrusts. Little did they know that I’d be walking in later that day. I was surprised to learn that my supervisor was speaking to Olympic strength coaches in foreign countries and when he brought up my name he learned that they were fans of my blog. As time goes on I’m speaking to more and more strength coaches for professional sports teams. I am very serious about the science of strength & conditioning and take my responsibility very seriously in terms of educating the masses.

Those of us who are influencing the masses need to appreciate each other’s viewpoints and quit being so opinionated and irrational. Disagreement is okay because it leads to the truth, and it pushes us to get out of our comfort zones and grow. We fitness folks are one big family and we need to treat each other with more respect, even if we disagree with one another.

10. Injury Resiliance – Kevin Giles

I just read an amazing editorial by Kevin Giles in this month’s edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. It’s very Gray Cook-esque. If you can access the paper, I highly recommend you pull it up. It’s only two pages, but it was so eloquently written. Here are three excerpts from the paper.

…The body is designed to move in a certain way, a series of interconnected levers, stabilised and moved by muscles and fascia. Certain body structures are designed for certain tasks – sequences of muscle actions have the ability to produce, reduce and stabilise force in a complex environment that react to all the senses the human body has at its disposal – a never-ending cycle of neuromuscular activity that links the brain to the body and the body to the brain automatically and reactively. This is the world of mechanical efficiency where each constituent part plays its role in a well-ordered, sequential, sympathetic operation that maximises the role of each individual part in a complex system of connection.


Take a moment to consider what happens when a required movement pattern is unsound and is then exposed to the full measure of our modern day sports specialist who operates in a narrow band of expertise and only has this one experience a thousand times. For example, with triple-flexion and triple-extension of the ankle, knee and hip complex forming the basis of all gait/locomotion (think sprinting, running, hurdling, acceleration, deceleration, stopping, starting, agility, evasion, jumping, landing), it seems obvious that the neuromuscular pattern that coordinates this fundamental movement will not react kindly to any errors.


The usual response is that the injury or ‘accident’ came out of the blue, was a surprise, everything was going well. A quick fix by the sports medical team, a bit of rest, a few drills and back to the training process is the usual order of the day. Discerning practitioners, however, see things a little differently and have a different approach to the performance environment. They do not assume that everything is well, they question the assumption that just because the person is carrying out the physical tasks that all is well. They look deeper into the area of mechanical efficiency by assessing the aforementioned movement patterns. They guarantee movement efficiency; in fact they must guarantee repeatable movement efficiency, before considering the training frequency, density and intensity.

11. The Development of Physical Power, by Arthur Saxon

Click on this link to read a 1931 reprint from a book written in 1905 by Arthur Saxon. This stuff fascinates me. Check out the picture below. Were they rockin’ the barbell glute bridge over a century ago?

Looks like it, but this is really the end range of the barbell double handed lift on back motion, shown on page 63, which is sort of like a bent arm pullover.

12. The Textbook of Weightlifting, by Arthur Saxon

 Click on this link to read a book written by Arthur Saxon in 1910. Here’s an excerpt from page 79:

 If you must brag about your lifts, for heaven’s sake, understate them. It is the only safe plan, for the temptation to overstate, if submitted to, will become so strong as to master you yourself at last, and you will begin to fancy yourself a hero as to be afraid of lifting for fear of proving yourself a liar.

 It’s almost like he was peering into a crystal ball and looking into the future of internet forums!

 13. Charlie Francis Quote

This is a quote I remember reading in Charlie’s legendary book, The Charlie Francis Training System, in reference to high-level sprinters:

 If you have a Ferrari, you don’t plough fields with it.

 14. Lorimer Moseley Speech on Pain

For those who don’t know, Lorimer is one of the world’s leading experts on chronic pain. This is a very intriguing video on the topic.

 15. Unstable Training

I posted this picture on Facebook the other day and many of my friends got a chuckle from it. But it got me thinking, would I see even more results if I drank a couple of beers prior to the exercise? What if I had someone spin me around a few times right before I did it, would this make me even more functional? Or what if I had a buddy punch me in the head with a couple of right crosses immediately before I stood on the Bosu ball, would the carryover to real-life activity be even greater? Hopefully you can sense my sarcasm!

The Secret to Maximum Strength and Power!

That’s all peeps! Catch you on the flip side. -BC