Developing the large athlete.
Throughout my career either professionally as an adult, or during my pop warner, and high school days I was told that the "Un-Athletic" athletes where to play the OL.
My father played Center at University of Tampa in the 70's. He was also a 3 time state wrestling champion in the state of Minnesota.
Early in my brother and I's life we were introduced to wrestling. USA wrestling, freestyle type wrestling. As my dad said, "Real Wrestling".
I was always pushed to go to practice starting at the age 7. There were times when I hated the fact that my dad was pushing us so hard. Little did I know what was really being developed? Wrestling, the athleticisms of wrestling, the composer and discipline of wrestling, and the hard work involved with wrestling engrained in me the ethic needed to be a "Big Man" athlete, a good man, and a good father.
As they say, “Back in my day…” I was a product of the Olympic lifts, very little plyometric training, and the “I told you to do it, so do it…” mentality of strength and conditioning. In high school I learned nothing. It was pyramid everything, max all the time, and very little to no technique development. You either had it, or you didn’t. Be the grace of God I was forced to be an athlete by my parents. It wasn’t until college that I learned the science of the human body, and the scientific approach to strength and conditioning.
Now days a lot of the athletes I train and coach have never played a sport, not to mention even gotten off the couch long enough to develop any skills other social media and video games. I hear some coaches say kids are worthless, and will never good enough without even trying. I disagree. I love a challenge, and as long as an athlete shows up, has a great attitude, is coachable, and practices what is being taught... I will never turn away. In fact, some of the best athletes I have trained have been "never before athletes" before walking in my weight room, and/or practice field.
The process is vigorous. You teach an athlete a proper technique. You DO NOT move on with the exercise until they have proven to be sufficient in that technique. Good strength coaches are OCD. They pay attention to every little detail. It’s a mixture of science, practical knowledge, patience, perseverance and repetition.
Let’s say you are teaching the clean to your freshman development athletes in June. Most of whom have not been taught what a clean is, and completely have no idea of how to perform the different steps involved with breaking down the lift. I have seen, and I have heard so many different reasons on how and why people teach the clean progression from the floor up, or rack position to the floor. Both are wrong. Until you teach an athlete proper squat techniques and principles… It’s mute.
Now you introduce the large athlete. LARGE can mean a lot of different things. I have trained 6-6 295lbs, 6-3 315lbs, and 5-10 300lbs, to 5-8 175 athletes and every shape, size, and ethnicity in between. All playing different positions and different sports. When I say large I am referring offensive linemen. Big and small. Athletes that have to be able to absorb force as well as deliver force. Athletes that have to be able to move 8 different directions in less than a second. It is a mixture of smart, strength, flexibility, quick twitch, balance, agility, and pure desire to want to take an opponent and move him to where you want him. The term trenches I feel does not give the credit it deserves. All-out war, hand to hand combat, street fighting, and mma in one. There has to be a level of relentlessness and the want to sacrifice your physical health to get the job done.
This mind set has to also translate to the weight room. Because in general linemen are taller and bigger. It also means they are most likely you’re least flexible. Why would you have your Linemen on the same program as your running backs? They can’t train the same, or eat the same. All you will do is add frustration to the fact that the running backs have had 6-packs since 6th grade, and the ability to out run everyone at the park.
We start with flexibility. Flexibility is something we work every day. Either upper or lower day, we always include a mobility concept into our programs. Flexibility in the ankle, knees, hips, core, and shoulders. Core strength need to be incorporated with you core flexibility. The core must be strong, but it must also be able to bend and move. We use plyometric as a key source to obtaining flex ability, mobility and power.
We also work what is called the “Load”, and “Unload” approach to almost all of our pull movements. We preach the TRIPHASIC reality to a lift. Phase 1: Eccentric Movement-As an athlete lowers or decelerates the bottom of the movement, also known as lengthening the muscle. This phase introduces what’s called Kinetic Energy which is absorbed into the tendons and muscles used during the initial pull back up; or the stretch reflex. Phase 2: Isometric-Is where the load comes to rest before being reaccelerated in a different direction. Tension is never released in the Isometric phase, it is simply at the “end” of the range of motion. Phase 3: Concentric-Simply put, accelerating the load in an opposite movement after the muscle has shortened. We are always saying; “My Link Is Strong…” a phrase taken from Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban. Every link of a chain must be strong. Your tendons and ligament need to be equally trained as to your muscles. You can have a strong muscle, and weak tendon… And the lesser of two will break first. Your tendons are what connect your muscular system to your skeletal system. Enthesis is the tissue between tendons or ligaments and bones. There are two types of entheses: Fibrous entheses and fibro cartilaginous entheses.
Although these are principles that apply to all athlete’s in all sports. Linemen have a greater need to strengthen these areas. Between MCL, ACL, Distal bicep ruptures, Labrum tears and rotators these are more problem areas for large athletes due to the day to day carrying of more weight, and old fashion genetic make-up. I coined the phrase; “Big men are doomed from the womb…”
NEXT BLOG ENTRY
I will go into detail on how we teach the clean. I will break down how to teach it from the rack positon to the floor, and the floor to the rack position. As well as position specific training for offensive linemen at the HS, college, and pro level.