Archive for strength training

Are You Recovering From Your Training?

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by zenithstrength


Recovery seems to be the most under utilized aspect of training programs. Working with youth athletes in today’s reality means that most kids are balancing their schedules between homework, practice, training and maintaining some form of social life. In addition, with the explosion of cross fit and its many spin offs,  it seems that everyone feels they need to do more with their training with the attitude of having to “kill” yourself each session to feel like you got a productive workout.

And here’s the news flash the may irk a lot of peeps out there.  Going balls to the walls every training session will hinder your long-term progress. If you’re an athlete looking to get stronger or bigger and your coach keeps running you to the ground in practice every day with liners or suicides up the wazoo, he is making it that much harder for you to achieve your goals.

I want to be clear on this. I’m not saying that hard work is bad. You have to bust your butt in the gym with focus and purpose to achieve results. But, there is a difference between training to improve sports performance and using the session to demonstrate your performance abilities. Improving sports performance involves varying intensities throughout the week, and month and takes time and patience to see the results. The second involves maxing out, either with weights, jumps or an extremely taxing workout that drains the nervous system and leaves you feeling wiped out.

In addition to poorly planned training sessions, there are a lot of showcase camps that are sabotaging these kids potential to get better by instilling the notion that they need to play their sports 7 days a week year round to get a division one scholarship.

This is the reality that strength coaches are dealing with at the high school and middle school level.  Kids specialize early and no longer have off seasons to work on getting stronger and improving for their sport. A lot of quality training occurs in the off-season, not while someone is playing on 3 AAU teams after finishing up the high school season. As a result, the training program has to be modified if the parents are unwilling to compromise for the betterment of their children.

Monitoring Training Stress

The focus needs to be on educating parents and coaches on proper ways to improve athletes without grinding their nervous systems to a pulp. I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Uyeyama who is the strength coach of my favorite NFL team the 49ers, and he mentioned that he foresees a paradigm shift in the strength and conditioning towards a more holistic approach, integrating and tracking recovery instead of just blasting out more squats, deadlifts and plyos. This definitely caught my attention as we have slowly been shifting our approach and integrating different methods such as breathing techniques in our sessions.

These recovery techniques are no longer just available for professional athletes. HRV or heart rate variability is technology that is available to the amateur athlete to monitor stress and recovery. Here’s an article talking about HRV as well as why pro athletes recover better than average joes.

Joel Jamieson is the man when it comes to conditioning, and he originally brought the concept of recovery and the ability to monitor it to my attention with his HRV system. Here’s a great post by Joel on recovery and maintaining balance between the sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous system.


Stress is one of the big culprits for nervous system burnout and over reaching and needs to be managed. Essentially everything you do will evoke a stress response. Thoughts of worry, anxiety, intense training sessions, reacting to crazy drivers on the road, studying for a big test, relationship troubles,  all have an effect on the body’s nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system. The great thing about HRV is that you can monitor how your body responds and modify your training session accordingly. This is huge in regards to the information you have at your disposal and no longer having to go on feel as to whether you should go lighter or even take a day off.

Mark Uyeyama had a great analogy when he talked about managing the training process for his pro athletes.  Imagine  you have a cup and it fills up with everything you do that involves mental or physical stress, such as training, sports practice, studying, etc. Throw all that in the cup but the key is to make sure the cup never over flows. That folks is managing the training process. Making sure the cup never over flows is an art, and involves tracking and knowing how your athletes are feeling as is, getting improvements of your athletes without working them to them point that they stop making gains.


Whether you’re an athlete looking to get a division 1 scholarship or someone who trains and plays basketball a few days a week, you should strongly consider using HRV to monitor your training and recovery. As the paradigm shifts towards integrating more holistic approaches with training, hopefully we as strength coaches, can also have an effect on the health implications related to stress that go beyond the scope of this article.



Strength Training for Youth Athletes Part 1

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2012 by zenithstrength

Our goal as coaches/trainers is to educate and obliterate the myths that exist in our industry pertaining to training specific populations, proper nutrition habits and teaching proper lifting mechanics.

Since most of our clients are athletes , the focus is on educating parents on the benefits of strength training for youth athletes and dispelling the myths that still exist regarding training this population.

Myth #1:  Strength training will stunt my son’s/daughter’s growth.

This belief has been around since the 70’s and funnily enough I remember worrying about the consequences when I first started lifting weights. It wasn’t until I attended a conference early in my career and heard Dr. Avery Faigenbaum present that I had anecdotal studies to prove that this myth was indeed just that.

Strength training can come in many forms but when most parents talk about it they are usually referring to their child lifting heavy weights. It’s also difficult for coaches to ease parent’s concerns when they have been exposed to watching gymnastics during the Olympics, seeing muscular athletes perform ridiculous feats of strength who also happen to be on the shorter side.

In fact, the original study came out in the 70’s in Japan, when researchers noticed that there was a correlation between the youth laborers moving heavy objects and their short stature. They essentially attributed the short statures of the kids with lifting heavy “stuff” and concluded that lifting heavy objects stunted a child’s growth. Unfortunately this myth has grown into coaches, pediatricians and other medical proponents preaching that kids don’t get stronger lifting weights and they are probably going to hurt themselves.

Luckily more studies have been published refuting the notion that lifting weights is dangerous and citing the benefits of strength training including this one by Beringer et  al. (2010). According to the New York Times article, the study was very comprehensive covering 60 years of collected data with boys and girl ages 6 to 18.They concluded that children and adolescents benefited from weight training but, maturity had a role in improved strength gains. However, there wasn’t a noticeable boost of strength during puberty which was surprising since the gains were linear for different ages groups participating in a strength program.

Furthermore, Dr. Avery Faigenbaum has been a huge in producing research, articles and books on the safety of strength training for kids. His website is full of research based evidence of the benefits of weight lifting.

So, what does this all mean?

All the research and proof is great but ultimately, parents are paying coaches for results so proper programming is key. The coach needs to use appropriate progressions and often times that means starting out with a lot of bodyweight movements such as squats, hip hinges, lunges, bear crawls, and in many cases regressing movements such as push ups and pull-ups. In addition, younger athletes (6-10) should be involved in more discovery and play sessions. I see too many coaches who train little kids like they are young adults and I’ll admit that I have been guilty of that in the past. Discovering movement is essential for motor development and as kids age and demonstrate proper movement patterns you can begin to appropriately load them with med balls, bands or other forms of external resistance.

If the result of training is to produce faster, quicker, stronger athletes strength training principles must be used to increase force production. Make sure appropriate loads are used and that the athletes clearly demonstrate the ability to perform the body weight variations of the movements.

In part 2 we will go over progressions for a few of the lifts once the child masters  the basic movement patterns.


Michael Behringer, Andreas vom Heede, ,Zengyuan Yue, et al. The Effects of Resitance Training in Children and Adolocents: A Meta Analysis, Pediatrics Vol. 126 No. 5 November 1, 2010  pp. e1199 -e1210  (doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-0445)

Gretchen Reynolds, (Nov 2010). Phy ED: The Benefits of Weight Training for Children. NY Times.
Retrieved from

Form Tips on the Inverted Row

Posted in Guest posts with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2012 by zenithstrength

Today’s post is a guest post from coach Nick Tumminello from Performance University.  I think Nick is one of the more creative coaches in the industry and his dvd Angled Barbell Training is a great resource if you’re looking to learn new exercises to use with the Landmine.

The inverted row and its progressions are a staple in our programming but many times they are performed incorrectly.

Nick goes over some tips to work the upper back with the row.

Inverted Row-The Best Form Tips You’ll Ever Get!

by Nick Tumminello.

One of our favorite bodyweight exercises for increasing back strength (especially in the often weak and under-utilized mid-back muscles) is the Inverted Row!

More specifically, an overhand-grip Inverted row (using a barbell) done with a few simple tweaks, which we’ve found to make this great bodyweight back exercise much safer, smarter and more effective!

The video below reveals some very cool form tips and an innovative concept we developed, which demonstrates what we feel to be the best way to do Inverted Rows!

Additional Coaching Tips on Inverted Rows exercises and grip variations:

– When we’re doing underhand (more close-grip) inverted rows using a barbell, we don’t use the fat pad as the shoulders and elbows are in a different position, which we’ve found allows you to pull the bar into your ribcage without as much risk of “breaking” our desired form.

– Using a suspension device or rings is also a great option for doing inverted rows. That said, at Performance U, we prefer to use the barbell for the overhand grip option (displayed in the video) when we’re really trying to focus on strengthening the mid-back muscles; we feel use the fat pad provides great feedback for both us and the client.

– We really like using the suspension trainer option for our neutral grip inverted row variations and for our Triple Threat Back Blaster protocol, along with other circuit style options where we string together several pulling exercises back-to-back.

Coach Nick Tumminello has built a reputation as the ‘Trainer of trainers” through his workshops at conferences and fitness club around the world. And, for his consulting work with pro/college sports teams and with exercise equipment/ clothing manufactures.
He’s the owner of Performance University international, which provides hybrid strength training & conditioning for athletes and educational programs for fitness professionals. Based in South Florida, Nick is a Fort Lauderdale personal trainer who works with a select group of athletes and exercise enthusiasts.

You can check out Coach Nick’s articles, DVDs, seminars schedule, mentorship program and very popular hybrid fitness training blog at

3 Strength Exercises to Improve Linear Acceleration

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by zenithstrength

Just about every sport involves short bursts of acceleration, whether it’s a wide receiver getting off the line of scrimmage to run a route or a tennis player chasing down a drop shot, an athlete’s ability to accelerate is one of the most important factors that determines success on the playing field. The bottom line is that you must put a tremendous amount of force into the ground to propel yourself forward. In order to do this you must work on getting stronger. In addition to strength training, another key component is teaching the proper mechanics of acceleration making sure that the athlete is pushing into the ground versus sliding the foot back.

Joe Defranco has a great article on acceleration mechanics and some great cues on teaching the start of the 40 yard dash and explains importance of getting full hip extension during the acceleration phase.

At Zenith Strength we use many different tools to improve linear acceleration of our athletes.

Here are my 3 favorite exercises to strengthen the lower body and improve first step acceleration.

1. Heavy Forward Sled Drags and Heavy Pushes

Heavy sled dragging and sled pushing should be a staple in your program if your goal is to improve starting strength and leg drive.

Both movements teach hip extension and enable the athlete to put force into the ground to improve their hip extension strength.

They also put  the athlete at a 45 degree angle which is the position you want to be in when accelerating.

You can also combine the sled work and get a drag push combo. I got this idea from Joe Defranco a few years ago.

Below is a video of the drag/push combo.

2. Split Squats with the rear foot elevated.

Split squats are a fantastic exercise to build single leg strength in the quads, glutes and hams in the weight room.

The rear foot elevate split squat (rfess) is the go to strength exercise used by  Mike Boyle, Joe D and Martin Rooney, some of the best coaches  in the industry,  for developing strength for linear acceleration. They work with some of the best athletes in the world and when they talk about what works for them you have to pay attention!

Here’s a video of Ben Bruno doing some RFESS with 75lb dumbbells and a weighted vest.

3. Woodway Force Resisted Sprints

The Woodway Force is a fantastic piece of equipment found and used by top collegiate programs and training facilities  to build acceleration power as well as top speed leg turnover.

We can set the load, which is the resistance, to teach the athlete to drive back to propel them forward and really work on improving their hip extension power output.

We will use a load that is 10-20% of the athlete’s body weight and have them sprint for 5 secs and rest 30 secs sometimes longer to make sure they are fully recovered during our power workouts. You can adjust the duration and rest periods depending on the sport you;re training for.

If you don’t have access to one you  can also uses resisted bands around the waist.

Here’s a video using the Woodway force .


Try these exercises out and you should notice an improvement in your ability to accelerate.

Train Hard!


Glute-Ham Raise Regression

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2011 by zenithstrength

If you are an athlete who is interested in getting faster and more explosive you need to add glute ham raises in your training program if you’re not doing so already.

Glute-ham raises are fantastic for training the posterior chain which is usually lacking in many people and developing hamstring and hip extension strength which is important if your focus is on improving speed and quickness.

The problem is that the glute ham raise is very hard to perform. Most people won’t be able to complete reps without severely arching their backs using lumbar extension instead of hip extension, definitely not something you want to do if you would like to keep your low back healthy and pain-free.

Mike Robertson has a great instructional video on how to perform the glute ham raise correctly.

We came up with a glute ham regression using the pull up revolution pro, which deloads the body on the eccentric portion so the athlete can achieve full hip extension and also  assists the client for the concentric portion so that the athlete can work on maintaining neutral spine.

Daniel demonstrates the glute ham raise regression below:

Once the athlete can perform a couple sets of 6-8 reps with solid form, we gradually reduce the band assistance and will eventually progress to loading them with chains.

Another benefit to improving strength through glute ham raises is that it transfers over to improving the deadlift and squat.

Mike Robertson has an article about this you can check out here.

If your goal is improve your explosiveness or you would like to improve strength by lifting heavier stuff, give this regression a try and then start progressing and improving your strength.

Train Hard!


Sunday Rant

Posted in Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on February 7, 2010 by zenithstrength

There are times when you just need to get stuff off your chest. This may anger some and may enlighten others. Zach Evan Esh, a coach who I look up to and admire for his body of work as a strength coach and business man says it best.

Check out his blog.

Zach pretty much covers everything that is wrong with fitness in America.

From my experience, the majority of people are  looking for a shortcut to get results.  From taking steroids, (another hot topic issue), to looking for best program (see p90x) guaranteeing results in 3 months, people are constantly searching for the path of least resistance.

Seriously, what happened to putting in the work to get better. It takes time to build something;  years of training to get stronger. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear that. Train hard and you will get stronger, faster, and in better condition. Work hard and you will become a mentally tougher athlete.

This  means lifting heavy using compound movements. Squats, deadlifts, chins; using sandbags, and kettlebells or your bodyweight to change things up.  Get as far away as you can from stationary machines and work on getting stronger and you will be a better athlete.

Here’s an example of bringing the right attitude and intensity to a training session.

Achieving something great is not easy.

Train Hard!