Always looking to get better

Category: Blog (Page 1 of 3)

Another Challenge is Just Another Opportunity for Nick Mayhugh

Going to go back a bit to August 2020. Justin Kavanaugh invited me down to Virginia to see what he had going on training wise and, honestly, just to get out of the house. At the time, this was the first normal day I had in a while. It was a hot, humid morning made even warmer by the heat radiating off of the turf. One of those days where you sweat without even moving.

I enjoy the summer heat, so it wasn’t much of an issue and it was just great to be in a positive atmosphere again. Behind me were some high school and college athletes training and to the left of me Kav was going over some things with three NFL hopefuls. My job was to take videos of Nick Mayhugh running his sprints and showing him the footage after each run.

This is how I do things with my athletes. I’ll take some footage and review it with them so they can see what they’re doing right and what they need to work on. Things were different this time because I just took a step back and listened to Nick break down each stride. I’d chime in if I saw something, but didn’t really have to do that more than once or twice. He was so dialed in, rewinding the video and noting any tiny change he had to make.

What’s great about going down to Virginia and working with Kav is pretty much all of his athletes are like this. They are so hyper-focused that they see things that most coaches don’t even see. This is why I always leave there rejuvenated and excited because you see what this higher level of coaching and athletics entails and makes you want to reach it.

Nick’s case is unique though. Nick was getting ready to train for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. He will be running in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 4×100-meter relay. The prelim heats for the 100-meter begin on Thursday at 10:56 p.m and the events can be seen on NBC, NBCSN, Peacock TV and other supported streaming services.

What makes Nick’s situation unique is that he hasn’t always been a track athlete. You wouldn’t know it if you had watched him train for track and listened to him break down all of the tiny nuances of sprinting. He’s actually an accomplished soccer player who played four years at Radford University and was the 2019 US Soccer Player of the Year with a Disability. He scored eight goals in leading Team USA to its’ first international medal in 7-a-side in 2019.

“It’s been very hard because I had to learn all the small technical things about being a sprinter,” Mayhugh said last year. “I was used to running more of a cross-country style for 90 minutes and only having to sprint for 10-to-20 yards. In soccer, you’re not running 100 meters straight because you’re either cutting or turning.

“I train here everyday with Kav and work with a bunch of athletes who are all at a high level and see that next level of commitment and determination. It’s been a humbling experience to learn about the amount of training it takes and all the things I need to learn.”

Like most successful athletes at that level, Nick is his own hardest critic. He’s so laser-focused on all of the things he needs to improve on to get ready that it’s hard to see how far he’s come. I’ve met Nick before and watched him train a few times. Before August, I was watching him work on his block starts at the Sport and Speed Institute while Kav was also working with his NFL Combine Class.

Even after seeing him a few times, I still had no idea what his disability was. It was undetectable by watching him train. It wasn’t until I finally asked him after his session in August when I found out he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was 14. He will have a T37 classification in the Paralympic Games.

He said ever since he could remember he always had a numb feeling on the entire left side of his body. There was a lack of coordination, motor and nerve function in his left side and he couldn’t feel his left foot contract.

Mayhugh (14, left) playing for Team USA.

“I don’t really have control of the digits in my left hand and I couldn’t really focus on cycling my legs or kicking the ball,” Mayhugh said. “Anything physically, I have a cap on my left side to a certain extent. It was really frustrating when I was younger because I was like ‘why can’t I tie my shoes like everyone else?’ or ‘why can’t I use my left leg in soccer?’ It was always my normal and I always compensated and adjusted so I could play.

“It wasn’t until I accepted and understood my disability that I took a break from putting all of that pressure on myself and doing all these extra workouts and training.”

Nick worked brutally hard to overcome his disability, even at a young age. He described a time where he’d go to practice and the coach put the team into positional drills. There was extra pressure on Nick because the coach said if he used his right foot, the team would have to run. He left every practice devastated because his team had to run because he couldn’t do certain things with his left foot.

“I trained everyday with my brother, Thomas, and he would set up all these cone drills so I could fix it,” Nick said. “I’d cry after practice and then go through all these drills with just my left foot to teach myself the muscle memory and motor function. It was a very frustrating process, but I wouldn’t be the man I am without all of that. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my entire life.

“I had to work 100 times harder than everybody because of my disability. I didn’t fully understand it when I was younger, but I knew I’d do whatever it took to outwork every athlete I played against.”

“A lot of people and doctors that I tell and have worked with say that to the untrained medical eye you’d never be able to tell that I have a disability,” Nick said. “Up until I was 21 and joined the national team, no one knew. No one knew in college. When the story eventually came out, I was stubborn and didn’t want to talk about it, but I eventually opened up because it’s who I am. I got a lot of emails and texts afterwards from people that couldn’t believe it.”

Nick’s brother, Thomas, has been with him every step of the way. Nick started playing soccer when he was 4 years old and said he did so because he wanted to be like his brother. Thomas was there to run Nick through all of the extra drills to help make him the soccer player he’s become. Thomas, a former soccer player, owner of Mayhugh Athletic and bucket-hat aficionado, has also coached and helped prep Nick for his run in Tokyo.

“Training Nick has been a blessing to be a part of and an invaluable learning experience, thanks to Kav,” Thomas said. “Compartmentalizing being a brother and a coach is something you can’t teach and takes intentional practice. It’s something I may never truly master. But I do feel it has been what he has needed through the past year and to get to where he is. He’s coachable and he gets it and he understands and appreciates the difference between where we are on the track and in the gym versus not. That’s what’s making it work.”

Most guys grow up with the dream of playing professional sports. After everything Nick went through his entire life through college, he finally achieved his dream. Everything he worked for paid off and he had the contract in front of him. All he had to do was sign and he would be a full-time member of Team USA soccer.

But, he decided to pass it up for something he didn’t even know existed. The head director of Team USA Paralympics Track and Field actually reached out to him and said they were interested. He ran well at the time trials in 2019 and saw that this was a real possibility. This decision to put soccer on the back burner was very hard, Mayhugh said, but this opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I didn’t even know the Paralympics were a thing,” Mayhugh said. “I had no idea this world even existed. I’ve gone this far with soccer and was kind of interested in what other sports I could pursue. It was frustrating to turn down that contract because that was my dream. My window to run track is much smaller than my window to play soccer so I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity.

“I know these past three years with the national soccer team we’ve been able to do some incredible things and have unfinished business. But, hopefully I’ll be able to pick back up after Tokyo. It was a very hard, frustrating decision, but that’s what life’s about. Nothing ever comes easy.”

Just take a second to break down this decision. First, he had to put his dream of playing soccer on hold. This was something he worked excruciating hard for his entire life and went through way more obstacles than normal. Now, he had to start from scratch again and learn an entirely new sport.

Nothing has ever come easy in sport for Nick, but that seems to be the way he needs it to be. Another challenge means another opportunity, in his mind. Now, starting Thursday, he will become the first athlete selected to Team USA to complete as both a soccer and track athlete.

Home Gym 2.0

The new Home Gym set up as of August 2020.

Sometimes things don’t always go according to the plan. The timeline for the growth of my home gym accelerated from a multi-year plan to a five-month plan.

When my shipment came from elitefts in March, the plan was to use the basement as a way to get my big three lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift) in with little interruption. Then, since I have little time to train while coaching people at the gym, I would use my down time there and get my accessory work done.

However, the pandemic has changed a lot of things. While watching TV in May, I heard gyms wouldn’t be a part of the Phase 4 opening and wasn’t sure if they would open at all this year. I didn’t know if I would be able to train anybody again this year or even be able to get a legitimate workout in myself.

About a week or two after, Justin Kavanaugh called me and told me he was giving away equipment from his gym. He wound up giving me a 45-degree back extension, a calf raise machine, a pair of kettlebells, some chains and a battling rope. He also gave me a pair of cables that I could attach to my rack to do all sorts of plate loaded exercises to mimic some of the machines. With the small space I had created, I didn’t have enough room for all of this and decided to expand. I always wanted a back extension because it’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment. Once I got it, I decided to go in and start building the home gym of my dreams.

Titan Fitness Multi-Grip Bar and Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0 hanging on the bar rack.

To go about this expansion, there were two questions I had to consider: What would I need to train people the way I want and what would be optimal for my own training? I searched everywhere on the internet from Facebook Marketplace to eBay to Craigslist. My first two hits came from FB Marketplace where I found the Titan Fitness Multi-Grip Bar and Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0. I loved using the Rogue trap bar at the gym because of its thick handle and it was a lot tougher to use than the traditional trap bars. The numbers I pulled on the Rogue trap bar closely resembled what I would pull with a regular barbell.

Then, I went to Rogue’s website and ordered some mats for added floor protection during deadlifts and a band rack. I got the square mats they use with their deadlift platforms.The place was starting to take shape and I had about 80% of what I wanted. The big thing I was missing was dumbbells. I could workout fine without them, but figured they would be a big piece if I planned on training anyone else. I couldn’t get a whole rack of dumbbells and needed to look into finding PowerBlocks.

PowerBlocks Elite EXP up to 90 pounds and Rogue mats.

Finding a pair of PowerBlocks and getting the right expansion sets was a chore. It didn’t help that I was looking for, perhaps, the hottest commodity during a pandemic where all the gyms were closed. Finding them was easy, the hard part was getting them at a somewhat reasonable price. I saw the PowerBlocks that go up to 24 pounds going for at least $400 and the the ones that go up to 50 pounds were being priced anywhere from $800 to $1,000. I’m desperate, but not that desperate.

Fortunately, I was able to find a pair at a reasonable price in New Jersey and got the PowerBlocks 50 Elite EXP. These go up to 50 pounds and then found the Stage 3 Expansion kit (70-90 pounds) for a good price on eBay. All I needed was the Stage 2 Expansion kit (50-70 pounds). My first attempted at buying the kit off eBay led to me getting the wrong model (which I later sold on FB Marketplace). The Stage 2 kit was nowhere to be found and took a month of searching before I finally found it. This kit I had to spend a bit to get because they were so rare.

In between all this, I added a decline bench press for my own personal use and felt I had about 95% of what I wanted. I had a good enough home gym where I felt I could do almost any exercise I’d do in the gym. I got a little greedy and decided to make the last two purchases to finish the job.

elitefts Floor Glute Ham Raise

First, I got a bar rack from elitefts to help with the clutter. The only piece I wanted to add was a glute ham raise (GHR), which is probably my favorite lower body exercise. They weren’t hard to find. The issue I had was space and height. My gym was getting a little crowded and my room isn’t tall enough to have people perform the exercise on a standard GHR.

I needed something smaller and the Rogue Echo GHR was sold out. After doing some searching, I found that elitefts made a home model that just came with the main pieces and had wheels. I feel like elitefts has a piece of equipment for every situation. I put in the call to Matt Goodwin and he set me up with my dream piece of equipment, outside of the squat rack.

I’d like to say I’m done, but I’m sure there will be more purchases in the future. But, hypothetically, if I didn’t purchase another piece of equipment for the rest of my life, I’d say I’ve got my version of the ultimate home gym set up. This set up has gone far beyond what I had in mind when I started this all in February.

Turning a Dream into Reality

I couldn’t tell you the last time I had this anxious excitement. I felt like a little kid staring at the presents under the tree on the night before Christmas. I was at a professional development meeting, or a “PD Day” in teacher lingo, and was waiting to get a message from my brother, James, that my delivery came. Periodically, I’d send a text when I had a break to get an update.


“It’s not here yet.”

“Not yet.”

“No. I’ll let you know when it comes.”

Finally, after seeing all the different variations of “no”, the message I’ve been waiting for came around 1:30 p.m.: “it’s here”. This was the best and worst news I could have gotten. Outside of the obvious reasons, this was great news because I wouldn’t need a second cup of coffee. I was wide awake. The bad news was I couldn’t leave for another hour. I couldn’t stop staring at the clock. You know how they say that holding a plank is the longest minute of your life? Multiply that by 60.

The EliteFTS delivery in my driveway. James took the picture as soon as it arrived. You can see the delivery truck in the background.

Once it was time, I speed walked to my car and raced home. It doesn’t sound like much, but ask anyone that’s ever been in a car with me. They’d say my definition of racing is to go through a yellow light and go five miles over the limit. However, today was different. For the first time in my life, I drove like a New Yorker.

When I made it home, I took a second to stare at the package in my driveway. There it was, inside the green bubble wrap was something I’ve wanted for 10 years: an eliteFTS power rack. Also included with the delivery was a Collegiate 0-90 degree Incline Bench and a Texas Power Bar. But the crown jewel was the power rack. Not just any power rack, but one custom built by eliteFTS.

To understand why this was so special, you need to understand the backstory. First, we need to go back 10 years. This was before I had any idea of ever becoming a coach. I was still working as a sports writer for the Newark Star-Ledger and needed to get myself back into shape. I let myself go pretty bad. I needed to get back into training and was searching all over the internet for the best program to follow. After scouring through various message boards and Google, I stumbled across two well-known coaches in New Jersey: Joe DeFranco and Jason Ferruggia. While looking through their stuff, I also found Jim “Smitty” Smith.

I started reading everything these guys put out. I’ll get more into that in another post. As I started following their programs, reading their content and watching their videos, I always noticed the eliteFTS equipment they had. The two things that stood out the most were the eliteFTS power rack and the Prowler sled. They all swore by eliteFTS and this was a common thread among many of the other top coaches I read.

Some nights at the office I was there until 2-3 a.m. and would read some of their work to cool off before heading out. As I got more into training, I started thinking about how cool it would be to have my own eliteFTS power rack. I couldn’t just have any rack, it had to be from eliteFTS because that’s what the best coaches were using. If I had that, I’d be all set. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

I was still living at home, so it was only a pipe dream. A couple of years later, I became a trainer and the thought popped into my head again. “Nah, you don’t have the money for it.” Then the thought went away until January of this year.

First, I went over my friend Casey’s house. He had shown me pictures of all the work he had done on the place and to finally see it all complete was pretty cool. I was proud of him. Then, a month later, I helped my friend Matt move into his new house. The place was beautiful. Whenever I go over someone’s house, I always map out where I would put a home gym. After seeing both of their places, I thought to myself, “why don’t I start turning my place into my own.” I’ve had my place for a couple of years, but you would have thought I was a runaway. There was nothing set up. I could leave seamlessly at any time.

At the gym, I was having a rough time getting my lifts in because of time. I had clients and could never get a bench or squat rack because it was overrun with powerlifters and wannabe powerlifters. So, with that, along with the inspiration gathered from seeing my friends’ places, I decided to treat myself.

I’ve talked to Matt Goodwin of eliteFTS at seminars and he always told me to give him a call when I was ready to get my own thing going. I was ready. I called him on my lunch break and, true to his word, he gave me the hook up. You would have thought I was opening a mega gym with the service he provided. Top notch all around and I was always tell everyone to go through him if you’re looking for quality gym equipment. He made sure to get me rack that would fit perfectly in my basement.

The finished product. eliteFTS Garage Line 3×3 Power Rack with Collegiate 0-90 Incline Bench and Texas Power Bar.

The assembly wasn’t too bad and my mom, James and I were able to get it into the house and assembled in a little less than three hours. That isn’t too bad since none of us are really handy. The package happened to come a day before they closed the schools down because of the pandemic.

We lucked out with the timing, but this wasn’t bought because I expected the world to close down. That wasn’t even on my mind when I put in the phone call in February.

This was a dream I’ve had for 10 years. When I look at the eliteFTS logo on what is my power rack, I think back. I think back to when I was working at the paper and this was nothing more than a wild idea that I never expected to happen. This was a result of working and saving up money so I could do purchase this without hesitation. Some people dream of getting an in-ground pool or fancy car. This is my variation of that. This was a major piece in turning a place into my home.

Can’t See the Forest Through the Trees

After training people for about a year-and-a-half, I finally decided to attend my first seminar in October 2015. I was still very new in this field and did not know what I did not know. Turns out, the first seminar I attended was THE seminar, the SWIS Symposium. This is where not only the best of the best go to speak, but they go to learn. I was swimming in the deep end of the pool with no float.

At SWIS, the first presentation I sat in on was by Matt Nichol. Little did I know that at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning I was going to learn a lesson from Matt’s presentation that would stick with my to this day. I’ll admit, it’s hard to retain everything you hear at these seminars because of the sheer volume of information you get, especially at a conference like SWIS. SWIS is the equivalent of jamming in 10+ Master’s level classes in one weekend. But, whenever I find myself in tough situation training someone or feeling like I’m not worthy of doing the job, I always go back to what Matt said during this presentation.

Matt talked about not being able to “see the forest through the trees.” He mentioned how there is so much information out there that it can bog you down and not allow you to see the forest through the trees. This was a message I needed to hear because I was already overwhelmed and the event just started.

I was able to get a picture with Matt Nichol after his presentation at SWIS 2016.

In training terms, when your athlete is faced with an issue that you need to address, you need to stay in your lane. You need to come up with the best solution based on what you see and what you know. This isn’t the time to start using assessments and exercises that you briefly saw online and heard were good. You shouldn’t be trying to mimic things you’ve seen other top coaches do that you don’t fully understand because you won’t do it properly and it will only complicate things. See what you see and use what you know.

I needed to hear this, especially as I continue to learn more and more from other coaches. I have been guilty in the past of trying something new out that I thought would work because I saw another great coach use it. The problem was that I didn’t fully understand it and wasn’t able to utilize it effectively.

As beneficial as it is to learn from the best, it’s also created doubts in my head. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be half the coach that some of these coaches are. It can be demoralizing when you see the top coaches showing the tremendous progress they’ve made with an athlete in a short period of time. It led to me questioning myself on whether I can really do this or not. I kept looking all the way to the top of the mountain and it clouded me and stopped me from embracing the small victories. If a client added 5-10 pounds to a PR, I questioned to myself why it wasn’t a 20-30 pound PR instead of just being happy that progress was made. No matter what happened, it wasn’t good enough for me and I felt like I was letting people down.

It used to really eat at me. It still does at times, but not as much. I refer back to what Matt said, “see what you see, use what you know.” Now, when I learn something new that I know will be helpful to my athletes, I don’t incorporate it until I have a solid understanding of it. I don’t completely change the program because I learned something new over the weekend.

I don’t compare myself to other coaches and only focus on becoming the best version of myself. It sounds cliche, but, at the end of the day, I’m not competing with any of these coaches so it doesn’t really matter if I am at their level yet. I just need to keep taking strides forward so I can continue to close the gap. This past year has shown me that sticking to a long-term approach, making the small fixes, sticking to what I know and learned and embracing the small victories will lead to the major improvements in performance that I am seeking.

Part 2: Taking a Ride on the SBOAT

I went from 199 pounds (left) to 187 pounds (right) on this program. I also got a tan.

I had to break up the story of “SBOAT” into two posts. First, I had to get into the back story of how it all came to be. Now, it’s time to actually talk about the program.

First, the name. People have asked what SBOAT actually means and I usually don’t tell them. It stands for “Strongest Bastard of All-Time”. Why? Because Kav is a ball-buster always jokingly called me that because I won the SB911 contest in 2015. He asked me what we should call it, and, since he always had jokes about it, I came up with the acronym.



This sucked. There was nothing enjoyable about this phase. Ask anybody that’s run this program before. It’s brutal. Normally, the first phase of a program is usually a breeze where you get your body acclimated to lifting. Not this phase. I don’t believe in mental toughness training being done in the gym, but you will learn a lot about yourself in these first 12 days. How badly you want to reach your goals will be tested here.

Basically, the first 12 days consists of training for 5 days straight, take a day off and repeat. You do the same exact thing for 5 days. The purpose of this phase is to prepare the tissues, ligaments and joints for the heavy lifting and volume that will come in the later phases. There’s also a hypertrophy element to it. One of my goals was to build up my chest because there really wasn’t much there, so that was a focus.

For each day, I’d do three chest exercises and two leg exercises for two sets of 20 with a 303 tempo, which means three seconds up and three seconds down. In between the chest exercises I’d do a max-rep set of a pull-up variation and in between each set of legs I’d max out 100-pound, one-arm dumbbell rows. There was no tempo for the back exercises.

I hate this phase, but it really taught me a lot about myself and what “one more rep means”. My goal was to get into the best shape of my life and this phase basically makes you prove that you want to reach your goals. I was sore after the first day. By Day 4, my chest, lats and quads were so sore that I didn’t know if I would be able to continue. But, a strange thing happened: Day 5 hit and the soreness was going away. By the last day, I was sore, but nothing crazy. My body actually adapted and I was able to increase all my lifts from the first day.

On Day 1, I could only one-arm row 100 pounds for five reps and do six pull-ups. On Day 10, I rowed 100 pounds for 12 reps and did eight pull-ups.


For the next 12 days, you go three days on and one day off. This phase is more hypertrophy focused as you do two body parts per day and about five-to-six exercises. Instead of 2×20, you’re now doing three sets of 20 and the 303 tempo is still around.

This phase isn’t much fun either, but, in a weird way, it was refreshing because I wasn’t doing the same exercises every day and three days off in between body parts.


The first 30 days were not much fun, but the genius in the program is that just as my body adjusts to a phase, Kav switches it up. This phase was two weeks long and each week consisted of four days, two upper body and two lower body. There’s still high-volume work on the lower body days, with 20-rep front squats on one day and 20-rep sport back squats on the other lower body day, but it helps going at a regular tempo.

The body was a little beat up, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and knew that the fun stuff would be coming soon. The first couple of upper body lifts were surprisingly tough. The weight felt heavier than normal. I was worried, thinking that I actually got weaker. The good news is that was short lived and I felt I was getting stronger at the tail end of the second week. It’s now time to get strong.

For the first 30 days, I lost six pounds.


This phase is everything I thought it would be and where I could see the first 30 days pay off. This is what I was excited about when Kav told me he would be writing me up a program. This phase lasted five weeks.

For the lifting, there were four days, two upper body and two lower body. There would be a heavy day and a lighter day for each. Also included in the lifting would be a primer to help me improve my hang clean. I was very interested in the Olympic lifts at the time and wanted to get better at them. The lifting would be heavy and the volume was high. For the bench press, I’d do five sets and close with a double. The sumo deadlift would also be five sets and end with a heavy single. There was a lot of accessory work.

In addition to the way the lifting was structured, I also liked getting to do some speed training. I never did a real speed program before SBOAT and this program really taught me a lot about how to structure one. There were three speed days in this phase and each had a different focus: acceleration, change of direction and tempo runs. We ran this for four weeks and then Kav added in a day where I ran four 400-meter sprints. They were not fun at all, but helped shave off body fat.

Some days I did the speed work on a different day than the lifting, other times I did two-a-days. For the two-a-days, I’d go to the field earlier in the day and then get the lift done in the evening. At first, I thought my lifts would suffer. It actually turned out to be the opposite. I felt more energized going into the gym and felt my lifts, especially for the lower body, improved. This included days where I would run in 90-plus degree heat.

I lost just three pounds in this phase, but could see I was looking much better.


After all the prep, this is the phase where we let it loose and see how far I’ve come. This phase lasted three weeks, but I went for my PR’s in the second week. For the third week, we focused on cutting weight before my trip and manipulated some things diet wise. I’ll talk about that in a bit.

The volume was reduced a lot in this phase as the focus was on the main lifts and lifting as much as possible. This phase had three lifts, two upper body and one lower body, and I kept the running days in. I knew I was going to reach my deadlift goal when I hit 445 pounds for four reps on my last set of sumo deadlifts in Week 1. It was a weight I was suppose to do for two, but it was just flying on this day. This was a day I sprinted beforehand, too. This blew my mind because my previous one-rep max was 455 pounds for a shaky rep. In Week 1 I also hit 230 pounds for a double on the bench press, which was the first time I did more than one rep with more than 225 pounds.

In Week 2, previous records fell to new ones. One of my main lifting goals was to deadlift 500 pounds and I was finally able to do that. I also increased my bench-press max 10 pounds up to 255 pounds. My previous all-time best was 245, even though I only maxed out at 230 pounds when I tested right before the program.

For the last week, we worked on body composition as I did some lighter tempo work, similar to the first phase. It was the first time I went no carb and learned that it is tough to lift that way. I only did it for a week, but I sympathized with those body builders who are dieting down and lifting hard as they peak before a competition. I lost five more pounds, but put two more on when I went off the diet to finish at 187 pounds. I was thrilled with my progress.

Me hitting a 500-pound deadlift on the program. This was my main lifting goal when I started the program.


  • I lost 12 pounds and went from 199 pounds to 187 pounds.
  • Sumo deadlift one-rep max went from 455 pounds to 500 pounds.
  • Max-rep set of 100-pound, one-arm dumbbell rows, I went from five reps to 17
  • Sport back squat increased from 275 pounds for eight reps to 315 pounds for 10 reps. I didn’t use the back squat as my main lower-body lift.
  • Strict pull-ups increased from 7 to 12.
  • Bench Press one-rep max increased from 245 pounds to 255 pounds.
  • I got a tan for the first time in my life.


First, I have to give a big thank you to Kav for writing this program up for me. I learned so much about training and what my own body is capable of doing. This program made me a better coach and I feel so much more comfortable programming, especially with speed.

This program goes against the grain and goes against a lot of what you read from popular coaches on the internet. This program makes you think and question things. If I was to tell these coaches what my goals were, they would have told me they were too extreme. When you know the right people, you learn anything is possible.

This program was a confidence boost to me. I learned I could do so much more than I thought. You really learn what true intensity and training hard is all about. This program is like my ace in the hole for when I need results quick. It’s not easy and it’s not a quick fix, but when you follow all the protocols and bring it every workout, you will get the results.

Part 1: How I got on the SBOAT

The idea was planted when I made a call to “The Guru” in March.

The idea turned into a plan a month later when I finally took Kav on his offer.

The result was the best training program I’ve ever been on. SBOAT, a name given because Kav always like to bust my chops, was a program that taught me about some of the considerations needed when programming for an athlete by making me train like one. It also got me into the best shape of my life.

The first trip through SBOAT took place during the Summer of 2017. I was going to originally write this right after I completed the program, but I’m glad I waited. I waited a bit longer than expected, but it gave me time to reflect on the three-and-a-half month journey and what preceded it.

I wanted to make this all one post, but it would be way too long to read. I decided to break this up into two parts. This post is going to deal with the backstory and how it all got started. My next post will be all about the actual program itself.


Tom Bilella with me after his presentation at SWIS.

I made a call to Dr. Tom Bilella, known as “The Guru” in March of 2017. I met Dr. Tom in 2015 when he offered to take a cab ride with me to the SWIS Symposium. He won me over with his presentation and just how he treated me throughout the trip. We met at the airport and he treated me like a good friend. Fast forward about a year later and he was a fixture on Joe DeFranco’s podcast as part of “Operation Rebuild Joe D.”

Joe D. was working on a body transformation of his own and Dr. Tom was providing the nutritional guidance. On the podcasts, they talked a lot about the importance of blood work. They used the blood work to find out what vitamins Joe was deficient in and what food sensitivities he had. Dr. Tom was working with my mom and she was having some success, so I decided to give it a shot. I got my blood work taken care of (I believe the test I got was the MRT 150), went in for my consultation and used the InBody test.

For those wondering, the foods I tested the most sensitive for were chicken, vanilla, pineapple, cucumbers and red meat. Think of food sensitivities like food allergies, they are foods that your body doesn’t react to for whatever reason. Most of the time, in my case, it’s from eating them too frequently. The diet is then put together surrounding foods your body reacts well to. After a break, usually about two weeks, you slowly reintroduce the foods you didn’t test well with to see if your body responds better to them.

I probably should have waiting another month to start the diet because the timing wasn’t well. I was approaching finals for my spring semester of grad school. I wasn’t training or sleeping as much and it made it hard to stick to the plan. Between grad school and working two jobs, I figured it would be best to wait another month until the semester ended.

Me with Justin Kavanaugh after his presentation at SWIS 2018.

This is where Kav comes in. Justin Kavanaugh has been great to me and owe the progress I’ve made in coaching to his friendship and mentorship. For months, he was offering to write a program for me to follow. Every time we talked about my own training, he always made a passing comment about writing a plan for me. I always kept putting it off because I felt bad about making him write something up for me. It’s hard to ask someone who’s done so much for you to do another thing, for free.

Well, he kept poking the bear and I finally decided to take him up on it around the middle of April. I had a nutrition plan in place, so I might as well go all-in and follow a program made by one of the best coaches in the world. I’ve seen the work he’s done with athletes of all ages and knew it would be a home run. I told him why I had reservations about taking him up on the offer. He understood, but said I had to make sure I journaled my progress and followed through with the program.

He decided that it would be best to start the program right around Memorial Day weekend when I was done with school. This would also lead into the summer where I would have a lot more time to train with school being out.

Think of this: I was about to start a program where my nutrition and training were covered by SWIS speakers. My confidence in this program was at an all-time high.

CVASP is Once Again the Destination for Sports Performance

Man, there’s so many good thoughts going through my mind after the weekend at CVASP. The hardest part about writing this post is getting them all organized. Fair warning: this is going to be a long post.

The best way I could summarize the trip is this: After driving home five-plus hours in the pouring rain and getting home at 2 a.m. on Saturday, the first thing I wanted to do was look through the three volumes of “The Manual” that I just bought.

Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of “The Manual”.

I was running on such a high after the trip. This was my second time attending the Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar down at the University of Richmond and each time I’ve come back with this intense motivation to study more. When you see the lineup of speakers Jay DeMayo is able to put together and the complex information being shared along with the caliber of people in attendance, it’s no wonder why this event simply goes by The Seminar.

2017 RECAP

If you don’t leave there a better coach and wanting to raise your game, then you’re in the wrong profession. Jay does such an awesome job running this event and he’s played a role in my development as a coach, even though he doesn’t know it. Through this event and his podcast, he’s exposed me to many of the top coaches in the field who aren’t internet stars, but know training backwards and forwards. Through both platforms, he’s introduced me to training modalities and concepts that I never knew of before. After being a bit overwhelmed from the event last year, I swore I would study harder so I could better understand and appreciate the knowledge being shared. Last year I left with ideas I needed to explore deeper. This year I left with things I could implement right away.

I might be wrong, but I believe Jay is also a big baseball fan. It was only fitting that on the weekend following the MLB All-Star Game he brought together a cast of speakers that resembled the American League’s starting nine. Dan Pfaff, Chris Korfist, Jeff Moyer, Devan McConnell, Keir Wenham-Flatt, Patrick Ward and Teena Murray all delivered on stage and I will get into that more shortly.

Last year’s event gave me a look into the application of Dr. Michael Yessis 1×20 system through Matt Thome of Michigan Tech’s presentation. I knew there would be some 1×20 practitioners in attendance, so I bought the book and studied the system. With a base understanding of how it worked, I wanted to use the time during the social to dig deeper and make sure I got the chance to meet Yosef Johnson, the owner of Ultimate Athlete Concepts and publisher of pretty much all of the major training books in this industry. I got far more than I ever expected.

Yosef couldn’t have been better. He really took the time to go over the 1×20 system with me and was ready to hook me up with any person could be of help. He treated me like he had known me for 20 years. If you could see inside my head, you’d see my brain trying to latch on and remember every little detail he was sharing. It was hard because in the back of my head I was thinking, “I can’t believe there is one of the best guys in the industry willing to pull me aside and break things down for me.” Every time you hear someone shout him out on a podcast, understand that it’s the truth. He’s has good of a person as everyone says he is.

That would have been enough, but then he calls over Chris McCormick, the head strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports at Florida Atlantic University. Now I have both of them talking to me and Chris is talking training with me and explaining how he uses the system. Chris then took my email and wound up sending me a boatload of information on 1×20 from power point presentations, notes he’s taken from other coaches along with Excel sheets on how he’s used the program. I was blown away.

I was good to go, then all of a sudden I get to talk to Scott Hobbs, the associate strength and conditioning coach at Army.  Scott was just another awesome guy who told me his interesting backstory on how he travels over to the US from London and broke down how the training is at Army. I always love to hear from strength coaches of collegiate and pro teams to hear how they structure training and he was more than willing to answer any question I had. Same could be said of Cristian Plascencia of Onnit. I’ve always had good interactions with the people of Onnit and Cristian continued that trend. He was another stand-up person as he answered a bunch of questions I had about Onnit and discussed what they had going on with the pro and college football players they were training. He also gave me some free samples of my favorite supplement, Shroom Tech Sport, which is always a plus.

Remember, I’m not always the most social at these gatherings because I don’t know if I’m up to par with these coaches, so having all this happen all at once was unbelievable for me. I’ve been snubbed plenty of times. I was starting to lose faith in the industry and just didn’t have that same desire to meet people. There’s coaches who preach growth, helping others and seeking out help, but then are the complete opposite when you meet them. CVASP showed me there’s still plenty of good in the industry if you look in the right places.

Keir Wenham-Flatt going through his training progression matrix.

Now, it’s time to get into the presentations. Keir Wenham-Flatt, an assistant S & C coach at Richmond who’s also been a rugby strength coach all over the world, led it off on Friday discussing his system on getting athletes back after injury. What stood out the most to me was what I call the “CVASP slide”. It’s the one I’ve noticed at CVASP the most where some presenters have this one slide that’s just loaded with information. Keir’s had this entire system broken on how they progress an athlete coming off injury through linear speed, agility, combat, jumps, throws, plyos, ballistic and strength exercises. His “training progression matrix” laid it all out for us and showed how each exercise builds off of the previous one. I just got an athlete come to me after suffering an injury and he Keir delivered a line that stuck with me: “our job is to prepare the tissues and the athlete has to earn the right to use intensive loads. Sadly, none of his entertaining Instagram stories were included.

Patrick Ward of the Seattle Seahawks closed out the first day giving us a look into what sport science really is. I’ve heard plenty of presentations on the new technology being used, but Patrick really focused on the why. He showed that it’s not just about having all of the gadgets, but making sure you have the right tools necessary to measure exactly what you’re looking for. Even though I probably won’t be using any of the new-age tracking tools out there, I loved the part of his talk where he had to tinker with things so he could see the effect of every players movement on the field. I’m not the right person to give his presentation it’s proper due, but hearing his process and finding your “why” behind what technology you use was pretty interesting to hear from someone who works with an NFL team.

Saturday started with a familiar face as I got to hear Devan McConnell, the head hockey performance coach at UMass Lowell, speak again. I heard him speak in December in New York and he was the perfect coach to hear after Ward’s presentation the previous day. Devan explained the why behind all of the tech he uses with his hockey players and showed that you can use technology on a budget. This gave me a little hope that I may be able to get into technology game if I get my own facility. I like how he broke down how he tested the jumps and any questions I thought I would have, he answered throughout his presentation.


Dan Pfaff gave a complete presentation on sprinting at CVASP.

Then, for the first time, I got to hear the legendary Dan Pfaff present. His speed presentation lived up to the hype. There was so much to take away, but I loved how he gave us all of the key performance indicators for acceleration, broke down all of the stages of a sprint and then went through slow-motion video to give us a visual look. When it comes to learning about speed, I need to hear and see what’s happening at the same time to understand it and this presentation did it for me. The presentation stuck with me even more because I got to listen to Justin Kavanaugh talk sprinting with some coaches at the social the night before and he hit on some points that Dan discussed in his presentation. What also made me think was how he discussed teaching athletes to run out of unique positions or recovery positions, since they are rarely in a stationary start during the game. His “mailbox system” for working with groups was also an interesting tidbit I never considered. Just listening to Dan question trends and just easily rattle off all of the factors necessary for being a proficient sprinter was just a great experience. His presentation made me think about what I do, as well as give me things I could change immediately.

Jeff Moyer, of Dynamic Correspondence Sports Training in Pittsburgh, was another coach I was anxious to hear and because of him, I now have a better understanding of sports vision training. Before, I thought it was just about touching things on a screen or hitting light switches, but he showed the why behind it. He discussed how there’s so much more behind it and gave us specific methods to use for different performance issues. He went deep into the muscles of the eye and showed how vision, not just physical skills, could be the missing link for an athlete. As a former baseball player, he showed how certain drills could be implemented to help a hitter. He gave us stuff that was cheap and could be used right away. He was even gracious enough to take the time to give me five drills I could use with one of my players who is struggling with picking up the ball while hitting. I never thought I would be able to include vision work into my athletes program, but am a hell of a lot more confident about it now after Jeff’s talk.

As I said earlier, I love hearing about the dynamics inside a college or pro organization. Teena Murray, the director of sports performance at Louisville, gave us a glimpse through the Louisville High Performance Model. It was interesting to hear about all of the different things Louisville uses to bring all of its groups inside of the department together. I was also intrigued to hear how Louisville is not only trying to model itself similar to how some of the best pro sports teams are, but taking things from some of the best companies in the country. It was eye-opening because these aren’t things you consider while watching these teams play in person or on TV. All you see is what happens on the field and not all of the other components working.

Chris Korfist closed The Seminar with an amazing presentation on the feet and ankles in regards to sprinting. It was only a year ago through a podcast I heard from Jeff Moyer on the drive down to CVASP and through some of the presentations last year where I began to realize the importance of the foot and ankle. Chris explained that the feet, ankle and toes account for 70% of running speed and we need to make sure our programs address that. He then made us take off our shoes and socks and put us through some drills we could use with our athletes to help them address it. The information he shared in his presentation, along with the slow-motion videos he showed, really built upon what I knew about the feet and ankles and gave me a much better understanding of them. This was a great presentation to end the event and I already have athletes with their shoes off and standing on their toes.

As you can see, there was a lot I took away from this event. There was more than the 2,000-plus words I used, but I tried to make it all somewhat digestible. This event had it all for me, from top-to-bottom stellar presentations and a social where I was able to meet and talk with some great people in this industry. Not that he needs my affirmation, but Jay DeMayo is one of the best this industry has to offer. I might not have the experience yet, but I’ve met a lot of people in this industry and I’ve seen through everything Jay puts out that he has the best interests of everyone in the sports performance community’s best interests in mind.

I’m ready to start getting into these books, training up my athletes and preparing for next year’s event because I know it’s going to be another good one.



The Speed and Power Summit has the Right “Culture”

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about the Speed and Power Summit is ‘culture’.  Nearly every conference I attend has at least one presentation centered around culture. While I’ve heard it discussed from different people, all of the discussions have common themes. If I was to take all of those themes and give you a visual representation through a seminar, I’d give you the Speed and Power Summit.

If there was a culture discussion centered around conferences, the Speed and Power Summit would check all of the boxes. What I’ve seen through attending the New Jersey event at Reach Your Potential Training the past three years is how Athletes Acceleration has developed a community of coaches with these events. Pat Beith and Alison Culley have done such an outstanding job growing this event to what it is today and developing an atmosphere that is welcoming with egos checked at the door.



Bobby Smith has given me a ton of information that I’ve used in my training.

The speaker lineup of Speed and Power Summit veterans Lee Taft, Adam Feit, Bobby Smith, Wil Fleming andRobert Dos Remedios and heavy-hitters Joe DeFranco and Boo Schexnayder embodies what this summit is about. These are some of the best coaches in the field and are also solid people. They are willing to engage in a full conversation with you and are always willing to help. A lot of people preach that in this industry, but these guys actually follow through.

I go to the Speed and Power Summit with different expectations than I do with other seminars. On top of the information I learn, I go there looking to reconnect with coaches I’ve met at previous events and always leave meeting someone new. I go there to catch up with all of the presenters, who know you by name and ask how you are doing. These guys remember things that I told them from a year ago and ask me about the progress I’ve made. Alison always makes sure to say hello and that’s just one example of the individual treatment you don’t get at a lot of other events.

Some of my best seminar social event experiences have come here. This year I was fortunate to spend most of my time in a small group listening to Lee Taft and Justin Kavanaugh talk about speed. This was one of those times where I just sat back and listened. Hearing Lee talk about how he video records everything and Justin talk about Lee’s coaching eye gave me insight into Lee’s process and made his presentation on how to train the core for speed training that much better. It gave me a better understanding of what he was seeing when he showed video examples. The exercises he showed to train the core specifically for speed and change of direction were things I’ve never seen before.

It was great to catch up with Joe DeFranco and take part in his hands-on with the prowler. Joe has played a bigger role than he knows in my development as a coach and his recommendation to attend the SWIS Symposium in 2015 was what got me started in seeking out and attending all of these seminars. The prowler has become a big part in my training with my high school athletes and it was pretty cool to have him coach me up on my sprints and prowler work.

Adam Feit and Bobby Smith are two others who have been nothing but helpful to me. Adam’s presentation on leadership resonated with me because he’s such a good presenter and I knew where the message was coming from. When you hear so many presentations on character, culture and leadership, they can go stale either because the message shares nothing new or you know the presenter doesn’t have the character that matches his power point. Adam is a pro who commands the stage and his presentation was one of the few I’ve heard on the topic that actually made me question myself and what I could do better. You know it’s going to be good when his name is on the speaking roster.

Bobby is the same way. He’s one of the few coaches who is willing to share everything he knows. He wants to pass on everything he’s found that works, so we can use it in our coaching. Having used so much of his materials on my own athletes, it was great to be coached up by him during the hands-on and taken through all of the progressions. My demos could use some work and it was nice to get some practice under his eye. His products have helped expand my coaching and have given me the tools to be able to teach speed and agility better and progress my athletes, especially the younger ones I train, better. He’s always given me time when I come up to him and it was great to catch up with him and thank him for what he’s done for me.

Boo Schexnayder said he would have no problem taking a picture with a Yankees fan.

This year’s summit was the first time I got to hear Boo Schexnayder present and he delivered a home run on speed development. He thoroughly broke down how he trained speed and gave us his template and how he mapped out the training week. Speed training is an area I’m always looking to improve and he delved into how he sets up the stance during his hands-on. This was more of a “thinking” hands-on as he gave some of the ways he assesses runners and showed us how we could use the wall to help teach our athletes to run properly. His tip on only focusing on one side of the body was something I never heard before. He also told me he’s a big Yankees fan, which makes him an even better coach.

Going to the Speed and Power Summit the past couple of years has really gotten me interested in the Olympic lifts. I’ve been fascinated with how to progress these and incorporate them in my training. Thankfully, I was able to learn from one of the best in Wil Fleming. His products have helped me understand them a lot better, but nothing topped getting to take part in his hands-on with the snatch. I’ve never done snatches before and I left the hands-on feeling pretty comfortable about doing them. There’s obviously more work that needs to be done, but his hands-on was good. I was able to go through each progression of the lift and do it all under his professional eye. I’ve always enjoyed his presentations and his hands-on was one of the highlights for me. It was one of the main things I was looking forward to doing.

Coach Dos’ hands-on, while tiring, always give me things I can use with athletes, as well as my general population clients. The space he works with is slightly bigger than what I have at the gym I work with, but it gives me ideas on different things I could implement for speed and conditioning work. I like his presentations because I work with a wide range of people and the things I take away from listening to him can be applied with all different groups of people. All of his stuff is also done with the idea of developing either speed, power, conditioning or a mixture of the three and its purpose is to give any client you work with the tools to not only get into better shape, but to be a better athlete.

The Speed and Power Summit has become my unofficial start to the summer. The past two years it’s fallen on the weekend before my last week of grad school, so I usually come in on Saturday pretty groggy. But, through all of the interactions I have with the speakers and attendees, the social and all of the information I learn from the presentations and hands-on, I always leave this event ready to attack my summer training. There’s few places that match the atmosphere the Speed and Power Summit has created.

Professional Power Summit Covered All Areas of the Industry

The landscape of the fitness industry has changed the past couple of years. Coaches and professionals are required to do more than just be experts in their field if they want to build a successful business.

Heather Pearson covered everything about recovery in her presentation.

Over the course of two days, the Sport and Speed Institute brought in some of the best coaches, influences and entrepreneurs in the world to help fill all of those buckets with the Professional Power Summit. The seminar featured a stellar lineup comprised of Amanda Sains, Alison Culley, Christmas Abbott, Nancy Newell, Amanda Wheeler, Ana Tocco, Julia Ladewski, Heather Pearson, Nicole Rodriguez and Elsbeth Vaino.

The event had a more personable, intimate feel as SSI owner Justin Kavanaugh had a personal story on how he knew each presenter and I was able to meet and network with the presenters and other attendees at the two post-seminar social events.

This made for a much more comfortable learning experience and I was able to gain insight from those in the know on a variety of topics ranging from business and marketing to the interpersonal relationships with your clients and to my favorite subjects, rehab and sports performances.

The online business and marketing side was fully covered by Amanda Sains and Alison Culley. Sains, the Director of Marketing & Business Development at B’more Organic, discussed all of these little tips and tricks I’ve never heard of before that she used to maximize her viewership on social media and help her company grow from a regional to a national brand. I’ve used social media primarily as a means to network with other coaches and she even showed how she utilized Twitter and Instagram to meet and be seen by the top influencers. She literally worked her way up from the bottom and, as someone who’s at the bottom with aspirations of opening my own facility, I enjoyed hearing her talk about her hustle to gradually rise to the top.

I was very interested in hearing Culley’s presentation because it’s the first I’ve heard that went into building your website. She’s also always been very gracious with her time to me at the Speed and Power Summit and would be presenting from the point of view of Athletes Acceleration, a company I have a lot of respect for. My website is still in the beginning stages, but I do plan on pushing out more content and growing it this year. Alison touched on all the areas I’m looking to improve such as making your website more viewer friendly, writing better content and develop a mailing list. And, like Amanda’s presentation, Alison showed the growth of AA from its humble beginnings to the juggernaut it is now. She gave us all of the tools that AA used to grow its brand and it was all built on serving and treating the customer with respect.

Christmas Abbott, who’s seemingly done everything from be a best-selling author to NASCAR pit crew member, Crossfit Games competitor and reality TV star, among things, discussed knowing your legacy. What I took away from her talk is you need to know your “why” for being in this business. You need to know what your contribution to the world will be and what your core values are because they will serve as your compass for deciding what decisions to make and opportunities to take.

Communication and relationship building with your athletes has become a real hot topic the past year and I got three different perspectives on the subject from Newell, Wheeler and Tocco. As someone interested in training baseball and softball players, Newell’s talk intrigued me because of her work with softball players at Cressey Sports Performance, one of the industry leaders in baseball training. I work with a lot of female clients and some of them have trepidation and misconceptions about training in a male-dominated gym. Newell presented a four-tier approach that helps females eliminate that fear and build confidence in the gym.

Wheeler, the fitness manager at Mark Fisher Fitness and creator of Formation Strength, gave a presentation that was as informative as it was entertaining. As someone that goes to a lot of seminars, it’s great to hear a speaker that can own the stage and Wheeler brought the juice. She had the crowd reciting phrases from her talk well after it was over. Sometimes I find myself having trouble getting someone new to the gym into the proper positions and am always looking for ways to make the cues as easy to understand as possible. Wheeler showed some of the colorful lingo used at MFF and their “outside of the box” verbiage gave me some ideas on how I could make movements new members struggle to grasp – such as the squat and the hinge – much easier to comprehend. It doesn’t matter how many fancy terms you can throw at your clients to sound smart. To be a good coach, you just need to find a way to get your clients in the right positions.

Most of the new people I train are youth and high school athletes and, along with teaching proper movement, I need to make sure they know the standards and expectations. This can be harder than teaching the movements. Tocco, who is a strength and conditioning specialist at St. John’s Preparatory School in Massachusetts and coach at Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning, discussed strategies she uses to establish expectations that I could employ in my business. Most importantly, she went into how I could make these “stick” and she didn’t give this presentation in a stern or bossy manner. Her philosophy is to make sure we gain a mutual understanding with our clients and reinforce and teach behavior which will eventually empower the athlete.

Julia Ladewski gave a thorough breakdown of the “Big Three” lifts during her hands-on presentation.

The end of the second day shifted towards the training side. Ladewski, a former Division 1 strength coach, former physique competitor, powerlifter and elitefts sponsored athlete, took us over to the power rack and broke down the “big three” – the squat, bench press and deadlift. She said since she knew Kav the longest, she was going to through him a curveball and head to the racks. She apologized for not having a Power Point presentation, but at a training event, what’s better than getting technical, hands-on advice on how to maximize your strength on the three main lifts from a highly-regarded powerlifter and coach? The power rack was exactly where I wanted her presentation to be and she broke down every minute detail of each lift. It only enhanced her presentation.

Recovery is often misunderstood and underutilized. Pearson, who is the only female Lead Instructor for ART in Europe, provided clarity in her thorough presentation. Pearson, who works with soccer teams and elite athletes in multiple sports at 1Body4Life, works with medical staffs and is also a continuing learner who travels the country to learn from the best doctors in the country. She went in-depth on nearly every recovery method at our disposal from hot and cold treatments to ART and massage, stretching and foam rolling and sleep, diet and meditation. So many times, and I’m guilty of this myself, we give recovery strategies just because we know it works, but couldn’t really explain the reasoning. I got the chance to listen to one of the best rehab specialists in the world thoroughly explain each type of treatment, give the reasoning behind why each is used and how to properly incorporate it. And, she presented all of this information in the simplest way possible. She certainly has the background to throw all of these fancy terms around, but, like any real great professional, she was more concerned about educating everyone. Listening to the depth of her presentation gave me flashbacks to some of the high-level presentations I heard at the SWIS Symposium.

After hearing from one of the best in strength training and one of the best in rehab, I got to see one of the best in athletic movement. Rodriguez, who I’ve heard speak before at the Speed and Power Summit, is an international human performance coach who has worked with teams all over the world and, most recently, was the Education Department Head for Team EXOS. She mentioned earlier in the day that she was trying to grow her social media presence and I just found that so hard to believe. Her follower count is nowhere near her coaching acumen and that’s just unacceptable.

What’s so entertaining about any talk Rodriguez gives is she is equal parts lecturer and coach. One minute she’s presenting, then, when she has to demo an exercise, this switch flips, the voice changes and she gets in coach mode. Even though she isn’t really “coaching” anybody at the moment, it is cool to get a glimpse of a high-level coach in action, even if its brief. What I loved about her presentation is I got expert insight on how to get the most out of every session with your athletes through her three layer system on teaching movement. Time and space are two things that work against me and she seemingly has a fix for everything. Like me, she considers every second and rep of a session valuable and none of it can go to waste. Whatever situation I thought of in my head, she came up with a solution during her talk. I’ve actually employed some of the plyo prep exercises she demonstrated with my youth athletes already.

Vaino, the owner of Custom Strength in Ottawa, closed out the event with a presentation that was part lecture, part hands-on on motor control. I haven’t seen a presentation on this before and it was big for me because it covered an area I encounter often: an athlete not “feeling” an exercise in the right areas. Vaino, who, like me, didn’t start off as a trainer, showed how she used her background in engineering to break down a movement and regress it to help show your athlete how to fire the proper muscles during a movement. This was refreshing because I’ve seen a well-known coach online say, “if you want to fix your squat, just f’n squat more.” Elsbeth actually gave me real answers to my questions. And, as an added bonus, I got paired off with Tocco, Rodriguez, Coach Kav and Allan Africa during the hands-on portion. We were suppose to each take turns “coaching” each other, but I was selfish and had them all coach me up. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to learn different cues and techniques from four coaches I highly respect.

As you can see, the entire group of speakers was female. But, that wasn’t the main focus of this event. As Coach Kav said throughout the event, it was gathering of the best this industry has to offer in multiple areas. Taking out the names and just looking at the bios and information provided, it can be seen that this event covered all of the different aspects needed to run a successful business and was given by leaders in the field.

A Night in the City at the Pro Coaches Clinic

Anthony Renna admitted during his opening that he had some trepidation about the timing of the Pro Coaches Clinic. And that’s understandable. It’s hard to gage how many people would attend an event on a weeknight in the city just a couple of days before Christmas.

However, attendance isn’t that big of an issue when you have four of the top hockey strength and conditioning coaches presenting at a seminar organized by the best in this industry. There was a standing-room only crowd at Body Space Fitness in New York City to listen and learn from Mike Boyle, Reg Grant, Mark Fitzgerald and Devan McConnell.

Cameron Josse, the director of sports performance at DeFranco’s Gym, also presented on the 1080 Sprint. As someone who has followed Cameron and Joe DeFranco for a long time, I know that the 1080 Sprint has been beneficial in the training of his athletes and it was interesting to hear him explain how it worked in person. After the presentations, there was the added bonus of a Q & A where the attendees were able to ask the presenters some questions.

This was the first event Renna organized and I think it was huge success. I’ve listened to his The Strength Coach Podcast and Stop & Give Me 20 Podcast and knew this event would be a good one with him helping set it up. They gave away a ton of free stuff and I came away with Boyle’s “Advances in Functional Training” book and a free month membership to  From going to a lot of these seminars and seeing the organizers work during them, I’ve seen that it takes a lot to put these together, including a lot of stuff behind the scenes. He said they would like to do this again and, after attending this event, I certainly hope they do so.

Me with New York Rangers strength and conditioning coach Reg Grant. He took the time to talk to me after his presentation about training the Rangers and some tips to help with me with the youth hockey players I train.

This event also had an interesting back story. Grant, the New York Rangers strength and conditioning coach, told everyone that this seminar was part of an idea he and other coaches tossed around for a while. Since the NHL season is so long, strength coaches in the league only have a small window where they can attend seminars. Grant and the other coaches he’s talked to wanted to create another avenue for coaches to meet and share information with each other. Even those who hold the most coveted positions in the field are eager to learn as much as I am.

Through the presentations, I also learned that even strength coaches at the collegiate and professional level have to adapt and overcome issues that we all face. They aren’t just given a blank check and access to million-dollar facilities, like we might think. There was a lot learned from the presentations, but, there were three main points I took away: know your purpose, don’t overthink things and adapt.


Mike Boyle talked about the proper way to program conditioning for athletes.

Knowing your purpose has two meanings: knowing why you’re in this business and the purpose behind every exercise in your program. First, as Reg illustrated in his presentation, you need to figure out why you’re there before you get concerned with the athlete’s motivation. He said this is a “labor of love” and you can’t be in this profession if your sole objective is to be a millionaire. You need to be confident in what you are prescribing to your athletes. Knowing your purpose also involves knowing the group you are working with. Reg didn’t walk into the Rangers weight room and push his ideas on the players. Instead, he looked at the veterans, saw what they were doing and asked them what worked for them and built off of that.

“A combination of interval training and common sense.”

-Mike Boyle on how he programs conditioning for his athletes. 

When you’re working with athletes, your job is to help develop the physical tools they need to succeed at their sport. Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle’s Strength & Conditioning facility and one of the most recognized coaches in the world, went into this during his presentation on conditioning. We need to ask three questions: why am I doing this? How am I doing this? What am I doing? Boyle said our job is to “fill the empty buckets” in our athletes training and not pour more water into the ones that are already full. You are not suppose to fill the buckets with what you like to do, but select the right stuff to put into each bucket. He comes to these conclusions by watching a game and watching the best players.

Once you have the program in place, you need to be able to monitor the performance of your athletes. McConnell, the head hockey performance coach at UMass Lowell, discussed some of the forms of technology coaches use to gage performance, as well as the the types of ways he monitors things on the front end and back end with his team. Not only is he measuring performance, but also the players readiness before a session. You need to figure out what and why you want to measure certain things and build from there.


Mark Fitzgerald talked about recovery and the methods he uses with the Anaheim Ducks.

This takes me to my next takeaway, which is not to overthink things. Fitzgerald, the Anaheim Ducks strength and conditioning coach, said we should be chasing simplicity, not complexity. He believes less is more when it comes to training his team during the season. Since they are training after games, he focuses on the main points he wants to address and does it in the most efficient way possible.

Boyle’s presentation style was about making the information easy to digest. He even said in the beginning he wasn’t going to use all the terminology used to describe the different energy system. I’m paraphrasing, but he said if you can’t explain it in simple terms, then you don’t really understand what you are talking about. He actually brought up a story where a scientist came to his facility and said he was doing things wrong. That was something I never expected to hear. But, Boyle was focused on training his athletes to be the best in their sport and not the best weightlifters. He saw what worked for the best players and stuck by it.


Devan’s presentation might sound like it was overly complicated since it dealt with technology and

McConnell discussed the monitoring systems he uses with his team.

data, but it was the opposite. What I loved about his presentation was how he kept it simple and showed us how we could monitor without the most expensive equipment. He told us that he doesn’t have access to all of the highest-priced data trackers out there and gave us the alternatives he uses. In fact, for each thing he discussed, he gave us a cheaper alternative that could be just as effective. He showed that you can track data in many ways without spending thousands of dollars.

Even though you’re training pro athletes, you can’t expect everything to go perfectly. There will be times that they don’t do everything asked, like recovery. In times like that, Fitzgerald talked about embracing the small victories. When you notice that they don’t look right before a workout, you need to change things up and not stick to what’s on the sheet because they might not be ready for it. He discussed how he hydrated his players before after flights and how he had to serve as the team’s nutritionist. I was surprised to hear that. But, he focuses on the basics and does what he has to do to keep his athletes ready.

Just because they coach the pros, it doesn’t mean they have everything. Grant talked about learning to be efficient with the space you have. Even though he works in New York and at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers don’t have an enormous, state-of-the-art weight room like you see at other places. The visitors training area at arenas is even more sparse. I was shocked because I figured this was only a problem I had to deal with by working at a commercial gym with other members using equipment.

If the pros still have to find ways to adapt, I certainly have no excuse.


This is just three common themes I found from all of the presentations. There was a lot more discussed, but, if I was to detail everything I wrote down, this post would become a mini novel. Instead of diving into all of the details of their presentation, I wanted to focus on those three points because I believe they are points any coach could relate to. When I saw this lineup, I didn’t expect these high-level coaches to discuss issues that related to my situation.

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