Coach Myslinski as a player at Tennessee.

Training Talk with Tom Myslinski (Part 2)

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Earlier this week we began a training talk with NFL strength coach Tom Myslinski of the Jacksonville Jaguars. To start off the conversation he talked about his influences and how he has adapted them to American football. Today we continue with part two, where he talks about the role of special strength training in the programs he creates for athletes. He also provides insight on what feedback he gathers to optimize training for his athletes.

» Part 1: Influences

» Part 2: Special Strength Training and Utilizing Feedback

Martin: You mentioned earlier that playing football itself is strength training.

Coach Myslinski as a player at Tennessee.

Coach Myslinski as a player at Tennessee.

Tom: Absolutely. Every run block is a maximal effort block.  One year I had a running back rush for over 1,500 yards in the season and gain eight pounds of lean body mass in the process. Due to some of his physical limitations, his weight room training during the year was directed towards rehab and recovery.  I know what you are thinking but he reported fit upon the opening of training camp.

Martin: How does that impact what you are doing in the weight room them?

Tom: I’m normally only focusing on general training and not sports-specific, especially during the season. The sports-specific work comes on the field.

I also think it’s very important to teach from experience and explain why we do what we do and where it relates to the field. For example, earlier today, in a conversation with a young offensive lineman we discussed the three-point stance.  This is foreign to most up-tempo college offenses since they play in a two-point stance most of the time and the art of run blocking is slowly becoming forgotten.  We discussed using the ground as a force plate and pushing back into the ground like sprinters push back thru blocks. Then you are going to brace and stabilize yourself before firing off the ball in order to generate force, much like you do before you start the descent of a squat.  It is more general, but you try to get your correlations that way.

Martin: And how else does on-field training affect what are doing in the weight room with them?

Tom: We are essentially all sub-maximal loading.  Rarely, to be honest with you, do my guys go over 85 percent of their one-rep maximum, even in the offseason. They get stronger through sub-maximal loading.  Also, we tend not to change our main training means and methods.  It’s a much easier way to measure stress, plus we can see how the athletes respond. If they are approaching us and complaining of sore legs and our loads are stabilized, then I know the stress is not coming from the weight room.

Martin: What other feedback are you using in the weight room then if you are not working up to maximum intensity?

Tom: We use a force plate and measure the power outputs on the bar with an accelerometer.  Looking at power outputs relative to body weight gives us a really good reading of their maximal strength levels because we do not test maximal strength throughout the season.

Martin: In throwing we have it a little easier since our best feedback is how far we throw. 

Tom: You have objective measures; we don’t. We have subjectivity. When an athlete says they’ve played a good game, OK, why did he play a good game? Was he playing against a lesser player or a Pro Bowler? Was the athlete in an optimal state of readiness?  Was he mentally more prepared for the game? There are so many individual factors. We need to try to create objectivity within a subjective sport. That is very hard.

Martin: There is a lot of discussion of combine numbers and what can be learned from them. Do those numbers mean anything to you?

Tom: If you had asked me that question last year, I would have said no. Ask me that question in another year and I might say yes. Right now I can’t give you an accurate assessment because I am trying to figure some things out.

What’s clear though is that the most overlooked ability is the ability to play the game. I always go back to that aspect. Can you or can you not play football? Generally looking at those tests, it is a good assessment of their overall physical capabilities. For our new incoming college athletes, we use it as a baseline. When we had a longer offseason, we used to use the Max Jones quad test on all our athletes, which is a track and field test, as you know.

Martin: So you can see in the big picture if they are strong or fast and go from there.

Tom: Let’s look at the 225-pound bench test for reps. This is not an absolute strength test, but the 500-pound bench presser will always do more reps that the 400-pound bench presser. Therefore you are able to make conclusions on guys based off of their results.  If a guy has a 10-foot plus standing broad jump, he’s going to have great horizontal power.

Continue reading:

Part 3: Sports Science and Other Training Variables


Talking Specific Strength on the Performance Podcast

Coach Wil Fleming and I go back a ways. We competed against each other back in college and while he has moved on starting his own gym and running a great blog and podcast, we still keep in touch to talk about training occasionally. A few years ago I did an interview for his blog about Westside Barbell. This year he provided input in our coaching roundtable about Olympic lifting for the throws. And just last week we chatted about specific strength for his new venture: The Performance Podcast.
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Coach Ken Foreman coached Gary Winckler in college and served as a big influence on him.

Training Talk with Gary Winckler (Part 4)

My training talk with sprint and hurdle coach Gary Winckler seems like it is going on forever. But, after nearly 7,000 words, it finally comes to a close with today’s final installment. After a wide-ranging conversation covering, reactivity training, periodization, planning, coaching, technique and more, this final part talks a little about Bondarchuk before looking at some of the issues facing coaching today.
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Shot Put Specific Strength Exercises

In addition using heavy shot puts a great way to develop specific strength is through the use of specific developmental exercises. These are exercises that Bondarchuk defines as exercises that use the same muscles, same systems, and parts of the competitive movement.

There are lots of specific developmental exercises you can use for the shot put, but here are 7 exercises I have been using in my own training or with my athletes lately. The exercises shown in the video are:

  1. Medicine Ball Stand Throws
  2. Nieder Press
  3. Shoulder Punches
  4. Sand Bag Stand Throws
  5. Sidewinder Press
  6. 3-Step Javelin Chain Puts
  7. Nelson Kettlebell Throws

For some good hammer throw specific strength exercises, check out Martin’s video from a few years ago.

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Implementing Specific Strength

Over the past few months I’ve contributed to the popular Juggernaut Training Systems webpage with a series of posts on specific strength. I’ve talked about the theory of specific strength, the debate about youth specialization, and how to create specific strength exercises for your sport. My latest post was published today and starts to talk about how to take specific strength exercises and implement them into training.
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Canadian record holder Jim Steacy.

The Steinke Formula

Earlier this week top high school throws coach Nick Garcia explained on his blog about how he determines whether his throwers will use light or heavy implements in training. After researching the practices of the top shot put coaches in the country, the main theme he noticed was that everyone had their own approach. So he created a systematic method to track and test his athletes to determine which combination of implements and what timing of each was best for them.

I love the simplicity and individual nature of Garcia’s approach. But it isn’t the only approach out there. I use a variant of it myself. Bondarchuk has commented on the topic too. And coach Larry Steinke has an interesting approach that he explained at the Canadian National Throws Conference in October. Steinke uses a basic formula to determine whether an athlete should throw heavy or light hammers in training.
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Juggernaut Training Systems

Creating Special Strength Exercises

One of the core concepts at the heart of Bondarchuk’s training methods is his exercise classification scheme. Bondarchuk has written about dozens of different periodization models that can be used for a variety of sports, but all of them make use of his four-category system of classifying exercises from general to specific. The concept is straightforward, but not one that I have spent a lot of time on here talking about.

In my latest article for Juggernaut Training Systems I take a look at how both Bondarchuk and Yuri Verkhoshansky use their own systems to define special strength exercises. By looking at two leaders in the field of special strength, we start to see what common elements special strength exercises need. I also explain my own five tips for selecting a special strength exercise:
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A sample graph of training results from my own training.

Finding the Right Weight Implements For Your Throwers

My previous two posts (available here and here) discussed the findings from my graduate school thesis when nine of the top American shot put coaches were surveyed. I would now like to address my thoughts on the findings and how I apply the training theory of using multiple weighted implements. First off, each of the coaches surveyed have had extreme success applying their theories to this training method. What they do has obviously worked for them. Furthermore, the fact that each of these coaches have successfully applied this training theory in different ways is proof that there isn’t just one right way in doing it. Therefore, I needed to come up with my own way of applying this training theory.
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Youth Athletics and Specialization

tiger_woodsOver the last decade, youth sports have undergone a drastic transformation: general athletic development is being replaced with specialized preparation at earlier ages. This transformation began a long time ago, but has been accelerated as people saw the success of Tiger Woods (shown to the right) and the Williams sisters. Now I see more kids choosing to focus on one sport year-round than the three-sport letterman of years past. This is the topic of my most recent article for Juggernaut Training Systems.

This trend is bad, but the common reaction against it is to focus again on only generalized training. As I argue in the article, there doesn’t need to be a choice between specialized and generalized. A combination can work even better and I bring in some examples from the throwing world.
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How and When Elite Coaches Use Light and Heavy Shots

My first post for HMMR Media laid out how top American shot put coaches choose what weight implements to throw in training. The data came from my master’s thesis on the resistance training methods of elite shot putters, where I asked nine of the top shot put coaches in the USA a wide range of questions. These coaches were chosen based off of the results they had in International Championships, USA National Championships, and NCAA National Championships.

After I asked them what weighted implement they used, the next logical question was to ask how and why they used each one in training. Just as each coach had a different formula for what implements to use, they also had their own approaches to when they would use them. Read more