Some Random Ideas and Thoughts … from an amateur
After reading Ashleys article I figured I’d throw out a few ideas of my own for others to criticise… On a transatlantic flight recently I had some time and started to write down 80 principles or ideas I had as it was dawning on me that I have read thousands of articles, met many great minds, been influenced by great coaches and have lots of principles of my own developed from these guys – but never put any of them on paper.
Here’s the first few ….
Since I have absolutely nothing on Ashley in terms of excellence or experience I expect these to be not near as accurate or as true – but they should open up good debate at least!
Pain is not neccessary –
Coaches don’t have to kill athletes to make them improve. Sure overload is important but killing someone in the gym doesn’t serve any long term purpose.
The more elite the athlete the simpler the solution –
This is from my limited experience – I have often seen the most elite players have the simplest needs as the games and competitions are so demanding the training programs need to be very simple. Also often the better the athlete the more basic mistake they often make in training and lifestyle becuase in many cases natural ability gets them by for so long and they move up so quickly they don’t get a chance to develop good ideas.
Let me give you an example … I once knew a very well known soccer player in the UK who suffered a lot of cramping and we could never figure out the cause – some people wanted to give him vitamins and supplements etc etc. When I met him coming out of the local supermarket with a bag full of only crisps and coke in his shopping bag the penny finally dropped… Because he wasn’t a great cook, moving from the continent without his wife meant he wasn’t able or confident enough to cook for himself and since his English was so poor he hated eating out. Simple solution – teach him to cook!
The most powerful anabolic is sleep –
The US military have a multi-million budget. Every year they spend millions trying to optimise performance and limit the need to sleep – believe me it is not possible to do without it!
The most second most powerful anabolic is food –
Eat natural wholesome foods – not really much else to say on that! But it won’t stop multi million dollar supplement companies telling you otherwise!
Life is not fair –
Disney is the only place for fairytales … once you realise that things become a little easier. That’s not to say we need be harsh, but in sport we need to accept that everyone fails and has calls go against them – it’s how you react at that split second that determines the future, not just of the game – but life.
There is nothing new in strength training –
In my experience – and I’ve read a bit (understatement) – there is nothing new in the world of strength training. Look at the basic principles and they don’t or have not changed at all over the years. The key seems to be do the basics right at the right time – not look for a new special exercise. In any case – for sport I think the more complicated the lift or technique the less applicable to sport it is. Recently all the rage was this ‘new’ machine – the Glute Ham raise … the Russians where doing this years ago! Even the Reverse hyper – they were doing this with a gymnastics horse!
Hypertrophy does not exist –
This is probably a little controversial – but I’m not sure of the role of hypertrophy in sport. I do understand that size and weight matters – but the basic function must first be to get powerful and strong – is getting big necessary or a by product?
An athlete should be developing strength or speed or recovering from one of them –
I think that the focus of every training session must be either strength or speed – this is the only way to develop power and the balance is always between these two. The metabolic aspect can be managed in the recovery and rest periods or on the field.
Never move too far from home for long –
In other words if you focus on one aspect of training for too long when the player is re-integrated to the sport they often break down because of an imbalance in the athlete (and I don’t mean muscular). This is why getting a player back after injury fast is very important.
Question Everything –
No ‘guru’ is perfect – they all have great ideas – but not all are right. By questioning them you learn to develop your own theories.
Have Irish stew once a week –
This one is a bit odd I know, but it struck me when I stayed with a wonderful Samoan family and the mother of the house cooked the native meals for me. The strange thing was they were so similar to native Irish foods. Every society has a ‘stew’ or a dish that was developed by mothers when times were tough – where basically everything is thrown into it… and ironically it’s probably the most mineral and vitamin laden meal you can have. Find out what one your ancestors had and cook it regularly.
Put on your socks –
This is one I learned from the great basketball coach John Wooden. His first training session teaches guys how to put their socks on right to avoid blisters. It is a recognition that the simple things in sport need to be taught first and often and that failure to do them lead more often to failure than the spectacular.
When I get a chance I’ll throw a few more out there for you guys to go through and comment on ….
Wonderful ideas Fergus, this is great to hear other thoughts and ideas, must admit they are ringing true, I am a believer in “train for strength and appropriate size will follow” in sports training, the legendary American football coach, Vince Lombardi once said, “fatigue makes cowards of us all”, so sleep and what you eat are the major conributors to recovery in my book, I want to give a seminar one day, and come up with a clever title that will pack them in, I may use a power point presentation or just a few overheads, they would be in this order, Train Big, Eat and Sleep Big, Get Big and Strong, thanks very much ladies and gentlemen I will now take questions, an oversimplification possibly but as Thibideau has said “complexity is the language of simple minds” cheers, ashley
I was interested to hear your thoughts on hypertrophy as many coaches preach it a little too strongly in my opinion. I like that lecture idea too! Fergus
Well Ashley many of these have been inspired by your articles and conversations with you … so to qoute Malcom X “Only the mistakes have been mine” … (There isn’t really one original thought in there!)
A few more of thoughts ….
Fitness testing is rarely (never?) useful –
Don’t test – monitor. As someone who loves to understand science this was a slow realisation, but there are a few things to consider. A fitness test is never 100% accurate – take into account all the variables and decide if you can ever fully replicate a test with all conditions 100% correct. Example – can you ever do the same v02 max test for every athlete in the exact same conditions?
For every test you lose approx 3 days of work to do it properly, a rest day before, test day and since the test is usually a max effort at least on day after.
Monitor instead – Do you need to do a maximum effort test to learn something about a player? Can you look at a training diary and see the ‘real-life’ daily tests and learn as much? What can you tell by asking a player a simple ‘How are you?’
A test is only as good as the follow up. In other words to me tests should show incremental changes – not relative overall change.
Also the test must be replicable so even if your vertical jump test equipment is only 95% accurate – well that’s fine once it’s always 95% accurate!
The fitness test is the game – read the score board. It reminds me of the Jordan Rules where Sam Smith commented that Michael Jordan never came out the top in any fitness test … as for the games … another story
Speed Kills –
Both on the road and in sport, this rings true. Speed is probably one of the most dnagerous things in sport and the one thing there is no protection against unless you have it too. Is it trainable? Well I think so – I think it can be improved a lot. But like many things only to within the genetic window.
Respect the Nervous System –
The CNS or Central Nervous System is probably one of the most interesting and misunderstood aspects of sports performance and human physiology…. it’s also the most powerful in terms of sport. The fatigue on the human system is very interesting and in team sports it’s a very complex idea since there are so many variables unlike in sprinting for example. I believe it can be slowly trained though to handle higher loads than many think – which is something many in the Northern Hemisphere don’t believe.
Visit Ireland once in your life time –
Just do it. You’ll be the better for it.
Nice guys rarely win, but bad guys never win –
Winning in sport by it’s definition means defeating an opponent so by it’s nature there must be a willingness and desire to defeat – how you win, the nature of your win, is determined by character. Winning brings a responsibility and greater load than losing.
A hamstring injury does not “take 6 weeks” –
A coach once told me of taking a well known sprinter who had just pulled her hamstring to see a physiotherapist. After a quick check the physio said “Pulled hamstring, that’ll take 6 weeks”. He responded “She races in 4 weeks – thanks, but I haven’t got 6 weeks”. He took her away and trained her and had her treated as best he could – she raced and won 4 weeks later. Now many injuries take 6 weeks and sometimes longer – but I think all injuries are specific. Everyone heals differently, and with the best care injury times can be speeded up – if treated carefully. Do your best and see how well they can be progressed – but rather than setting a date and working back from it – why not try and set your own date?
Why are there contraindicated lifts in the gym but no contraindicated tackles on the field?
Well not exactly true – but the point is the same as Ashley made previously … sometimes the gym can be too sterile whereas the playing field has much fewer rules. Players need to be trained to protect themselves from tackles and posture doesn’t come into it when someone is trying to “put you into Row Z”.
Subtract rather than Add –
Often in a training program I think it’s better to take exercises out and simplify things rather than add more complexity, rules or exercises. After all complexity confuses not only the athlete – but often the coach!
Key to losing fat = Eat Less & Work More –
There are lots of fat loss guru’s and experts out there – but the simple equation of “Calories In < Calories Out = Fat Loss” always rings true. Get the basics right first … then worry about fancy bells and whistles etc.
Use all gears –
If you always train in 5th gear you can never raise the bar or the performance for the game day. That’s not to say slack in training, but often the best gym trainers can’t perform well on game day as they have no 6th gear to step up to. Sometimes these players perform well on game day after a sickness or injury where rest was forced on them. So by making sure some or half of the training goes through all the gears it leaves 5th gear ready for game day.
The best training program? … The one the athlete does –
Often coaches write the worlds best program but guys never do it – so the best program is one that a player does – not the one in his diary.
Eat like Grandma –
As food processing methods change (read: deteriorate) more and more illnesses such as cancers and diabetes become more prevelant. The key to a healthier lifestyle is to eat more natural foods and foods that we were designed to eat. So avoid the manufactured foods and eat more like the foods your Grandmother cooked and prepared.
Daddy had a great gym … it was called a farm –
Many players or athletes of years ago would smile to themselves if they walked into a team off-or pre-season today and watched players lifting sandbags and doing farmers walks etc. They were ‘farm-boy strong’ through lifting heavy objects and working hard outdoors. The body was pushed through movements that you couldn’t imagine in a gym making them truly fit for rugby or any sport. In many teams even today the stronger guys all worked on farms – no surprise there!
Unless a test helps change a training session – why do it?
Tied into one above – a great way to ask yourself is a fitness test worthwhile is simply ask “How will it change the next training session I plan”. If there is no answer then it needs to be considered carefully.
The most important thing in sport (and life) is honesty –
Honesty in sport and life is crucial. Honest effort and endevour wins not only matches but respect. Hide or not fully commit and not only is there greater chance of injury or failure, but people see through it, perhaps not the first time, but over time. Honesty is the key to a good nights sleep.
The most important lift –
If you could only do one exercise ever – I would have to pick the deadlift. Perhaps overhead squats or other exercises are more effective … but you have to love the simpliscity – raw strength whole body strength to lift a weight off the ground. You either make it or your don’t. Doesn’t get any simpler in definition does it?