Four Laws for Life and Training

On last week’s GAINcast Vern and I discussed the importance of connections in training. When it comes down to it, performance is about making connections. At one level it is about connecting muscles and joints to move together with optimal coordination. At another level it is about connecting ideas from different disciplines to find the best way to guide your athlete. At both levels we can learn a lot by looking at the field of ecology. Ecology, by its very nature, is a discipline devoted to connections: it is a branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. Barry Commoner was a leading ecologist and his 1971 book The Closing Circle was pivotal in helping bring about the modern environmental movement. Whether you are a tree hugger or not, in reading through his work you cannot help but see that much of it can be applied 1:1 in sport. Read more

Breaking Things Down vs. Dumbing Them Down

Last month I had an interesting exchange with Simon Nainby and a few others coaches. At the time the England rugby team had ventured south to Australia for a three-match series. Fans eagerly awaited the action, but as much attention was on the coaches as the players. Australia coach Michael Cheika took a struggling squad last year and turned them into runners up at the World Cup. England’s new coach Eddie Jones, an Australian himself, was brought in to do the same and has already moved England’s world rank up from seventh to second in his first six months on the job. Both coaches were eager to prove they could continue their momentum. Read more


How Periodization Can Blind Us

Listening to John Kiely present at our seminar last month was a real eye opener for me. The man is working to reframe our whole discussion about training and it is a real paradigm shift in my opinion. Irish strength coach Robbie Bourke came out to our seminar and yesterday he posted his most recent podcast episode where he interviewed Kiely. In the show Kiely turns his sights back on periodization. While it can help us in many ways, few coaches are aware of how it can hurt us at the same time by blinding us as coaches. You can listen to the podcast below, and read some excerpts of his criticisms. Read more


Searching for Goldilocks

Much in life is linear: the seconds tick by with regularity as we get a little older and our hair keeps growing little by little. I am quite thankful that not everything in life is linear, or else my baby daughter would turn into a giant at the current rate. But training is stuck in linear thinking; if we find something good we want to believe it will keep working forever. This belief gets us in trouble. Believe me: there is too much of a good thing. Read more


Nature? Nurture? We Are Asking the Wrong Question

Are athletes born or are they made? This is the crux of the nature vs. nurture question that has been debated to death by the athletics community. The debate never moves forwards since, like so many things in life nowadays, everyone takes a position at the extreme when the best answer lies in the middle. Read more


Bondarchuk on Individualization, Transfer and Long-Term Development

Recently publisher Ultimate Athlete Concepts and Yosef Johnson put together a series of interviews with Dr. Anatoli Bondarchuk on a wide range of topics. UAC is the top publisher of Soviet training content. They have published four books by Bondarchuk, and have new titles coming out soon too including his next book which is now available for pre-order (all these books, as well as titles from other Soviet authors, are available for purchase in the HMMR Media Bookstore). I’ve put together some highlights of the recent interview below and categorized them into five topics: individualizing training, individualizing periodization, transfer of training, long-term development and implementing change in training. Please note that I have made some grammatical corrections in the quotes, but have kept the underlying message intact in all cases. You can also find the full video interviews at the end of the post. Enjoy! Read more


3 Things I Learned From John Kiely

I’ve given many seminars over the past few years, but last weekend’s event was perhaps the most unique event I have been involved in. It might have actually been the first periodization seminar ever that spent all of 10 minutes discussing the actual periods. Instead we took a step back to look at the complexity of the problems we are trying to address with periodization, strategies and processes to deal with the complexities, and then surveyed a variety strategies in action. My portions focused on some many of the best practices we can learn from some of the master coaches I have worked with and had the chance to interview for HMMR Media. My co-host John Kiely focused his time on the complexities and what we can learn from science about the problem and potential solutions. He covered many topics like mental biases and how to deal with them, gaining power through simplicity in training, and optimizing organizational processes. I could write several posts with what I learned on Saturday, but decided to focus on three big picture take-aways I learned from Kiely over the weekend. Read more

The Rugby Strength Coach Himself

Rugby and Strength and Bondarchuk

Everyone who reads this site should be listening to our two podcasts: the HMMR Podcast and the GAINcast. However that should just be the starting point for coaches as there are many more great podcasts online. If you are training for field sports, for example, a must listen is the Rugby Strength Podcast with coach Keir Wenham-Flatt. Read more

If adaptation were this simple, we would all continuously improve.

A New Model for Stress and Adaptation

This year marks the 80th anniversary of when Hans Selye started research stress and coined the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) in a letter to the editor of Nature. GAS, often called the stress response, was taken by coaches as the basis of adaptation in training and the foundation of early periodization models. As Buddy Morris put it on our podcast last year, coaches are primarily in the business of stress management. But as science learns more about the complexities of stress, training methodology has not kept. Recently John Kiely posed the question: is training philosophy built upon an incomplete understanding of the nature of stress? Read more


Words of Wisdom, Vol. 10

We might think of coaching as being about training methods, science, and physiology. But don’t forget that more than anything coaching is about communication. We are teachers: it does not matter how much you know if you are unable to convey it to your athletes. With that in mind, I assembled a few quotes I’ve jotted down on my notebook on the theme of language and communication. Read more