No matter how much you know about Strength Training, you can always learn more.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual Zoom meeting with The University Of Texas strength coach, Yancy McKnight. He was prepared, detailed, knowledgeable, goal-oriented, had a laid back approach and he reminded us that he is a strength coach and his job is to get his players bigger, faster, stronger. He is not a position coach, that’s the position coaches job.
Accountability while working together as a team.
I wrote down notes as I attended the meeting and I will highlight some key points that Coach McKnight mentioned. My comments are in parenthesis.
- Set Winter goals. (If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. I start the goal-setting process as soon as my athletes begin my program. The athlete is weighed and tested on our major lifts and tests including squat, bench press, military press, pullups, deadlift, 10-yard dash, 15 calories on the Rogue bike, and a few other tests. The athlete is then weighed weekly, follows an individualized daily calorie program, and then tested regularly in the lifts and tests that I mentioned. These are high school athletes, not college athletes. Because of this, we are way ahead of the pack at Scott York Fitness).
- Create competition. Coach McKnight talked about running a team draft in which team captains were chosen who then picked or drafted teammates onto their teams. There may be several teams with 8+ members on each team. The teams then earn points by following directions, ie wearing the proper colored clothing for the day – orange and white, orange and black, etc. They can also earn points by showing up to practice, lifts, meetings on time, etc. It’s the team captain’s responsibility to correctly pass along the info to the rest of his team. This is a great way to teach leadership, communication, and competition. (My program is built on competition. The strength board is the most critical, front, and center tool that I use. A competitor will not want to see his or her name at the bottom of my strength board and will work hard to rise up in the ranks. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters – teaching the athlete how to put in hard work in order to accomplish a goal. If it doesn’t matter to the athlete, then this program is not for that athlete. They will end up leaving and that is OK. I’m following in the steps of The University Of Texas – creating competition.)
- “The 10-yard dash is a big deal for us”. Football is all about acceleration. UT uses a laser gun to test the 10-yard dash. Coach McKnight is looking for 3 steps over the first 5 yards. UT runs 10-yard dashes at the end of the workout on designated days and Coach McKnight wants his athletes to achieve 95% of their fastest 10 yard dash time each week. They have 20 guys who run a 1.6 10 yard dash time, 2 who run a 1.5 and 2 who run a 1.7 while weighing 300lbs. (It sounds like Coach McKnight has studied Michael Boyle’s work. Michael Boyle has a great book called, Advances In Functional Training that he released in 2010. On page 174, Boyle talks about how “we try to get our athletes to master three steps for five yards and five steps for ten yards, and to do it without a reaching action.” At Scott York Fitness, we only test the 10-yard dash for a variety of reasons. First, it’s nearly impossible to strain or pull a hamstring running the 10-yard dash. Second, we value acceleration. Most football plays will occur in a 10-yard box. The forty-yard dash, for my purposes, is not a good test. The danger outweighs the reward. On a side note, is it any coincidence that our strongest athlete is also our fastest athlete? According to Boyle, 1.5 seconds in the 10-yard dash is fast. 1.8 seconds is average for men. Our fastest time is 1.50, two 1.6’s, five 1.7’s, and the rest are 1.8’s and up. Remember, these are mainly high school kids that I work with. We use the Jawku to time our 10-yard dashes.)
Sending sprinters on long runs is a death march – Gary Winckler, head women’s track and field coach at the University of Illinois
- Evaluate Squat, Clean, and Bench to bodyweight. (To me, this means that a guy who weighs 300lbs and bench presses 300lbs, is weaker than a guy who weighs 200lbs and bench presses 250lbs. I’m glad to see that Coach McKnight considers the strength to bodyweight ratio. This is a good way to focus on gaining “good” weight or “usable” weight. What good is it to gain 15lbs of bodyweight if you’re 10 yard dash time decreases? Or if your pull-up max decreases? Or if your 15 calories on the Rogue Bike time decreases? By following this principle, we focus on gaining “good” weight. Boyle says “size is a necessary evil for offensive and defensive linemen, even when it’s non-propulsive”. I agree up to a point. Size is good, sloppy is not. Coach McKnight told us that the team’s Power Clean average is currently 295lbs. My strongest athlete power cleaned 300lbs as a high school senior weighing around 210lbs.)
- “Teach guys how to stop.” Coach McKnight emphasized that this is IMPORTANT. (Football is a stop and go game. A lot of guys can go but then have trouble stopping and starting again. One of my favorite stopping drills is one that I got from Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. Holding a 53lb kettlebell in each hand run forward. When your partner yells “stop”, you stop IMMEDIATELY and then backpedal. Your partner yells stop again and you stop and ACCELERATE. Repeat 2-3 times. The kettlebell weight forces you to work extra hard to STOP. Louie tells us that the Usain Bolt’s coach came to Westside Barbell to learn this drill, among other drills. In case you didn’t know, Usain Bolt is currently the fastest man in the world.)
- “Weigh each day.” (We weigh once a week at Scott York Fitness. We’ve had guys gain 50+ pounds, transform their physiques, their minds, and their athletic careers. “To succeed in increasing sprint speed, an athlete needs to get stronger and more powerful.” – Michael Boyle. It’s common sense. A car with a bigger, stronger engine will race past a car with a lighter engine when the weight of the car is kept in check.)
- “Forced nutrition.” (These are 6 figure athletes at The University of Texas. It’s important that they perform up to UT’s standard. Nutrition is a vital part of the equation. At Scott York Fitness, I monitor my athlete’s nutrition EACH DAY. They get Christmas off and when they go on family vacations they can take off from logging their food. Nutrition is the secret to success but I understand that it’s hard for a lot of programs to monitor. If I didn’t monitor nutrition, I wouldn’t train athletes. To me, it’s that important).
- “Crossover run/shuttling is underutilized”. (Coach McKnight spent a lot of time on this topic. He showed us videos. Forward and backward. He played them over and over to demonstrate what he was looking for. It’s all about the hips, using the edge of the foot, and getting a FEEL for the edge explosion. He mentioned kettlebell swings due to their high level of hip activation. If I’m a football coach, I’m going to immediately start to emphasize crossover runs, shuttles, and resisted shuttles. Currently, we do lateral plyo hops which I got from multi Ms. Fitness Olympia champion, Adela Garcia.
- “Westside Barbell for our upper, elite athletes”. (I’m so happy to hear this. The Westside Barbell program is fantastic for all athletes. It’s based upon physics, overspeed techniques, max effort, dynamic effort, and accommodating resistance. Once you understand how to use it for your specific needs, it’s a no brainer. If you have Netflix, you can watch “Westside vs The World” in order to better understand who Louie Simmons is and what the program is all about. I’ve been experimenting with Westside Barbell with my athletes for a year and a half. We’ve had guys gain 30lbs on their bench, 25lbs on their bench, 20lbs on their bench, etc. They’re bigger, faster, and stronger. All reps are done in a strict manner – no behinds coming up off of the bench, no half reps.)
“To succeed in increasing sprint speed, an athlete needs to get stronger and more powerful.” – Michael Boyle
Coach McKnight addressed the effects of COVID-19 and emphasized that “you cannot make up for lost time” in terms of strength and conditioning. If there ever was a time to train in an intelligent manner, 2020 will be it. Once we are “back to normal”, you have to train smart. You cannot hit your athletes with too much too soon. He called it a slow bake. For those of you who have been doing more than just bodyweight and have been using some of the techniques mentioned above, you will be way ahead of your opponents in terms of strength and speed. I thoroughly enjoyed this near 90-minute meeting. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on books, CD’s, videos, programs like Westside Barbell, and mentors because if I can get just one tip to get my athletes better, you better believe that I will.