Thursday, February 26, 2009

Having a P-L-A-N

The biggest weapon you can have in your arsenal of training is.......

.....Still with me? Good.. Just checking.

IMO, it is a truly well-designed, pre-planned/outlined program that is structured, well thought out, and makes sense!

I know, anyone out there can make up a training program and have their athletes do it, BUT.. I like to look at many variables..

1.) Does the plan suit the athlete's goals?
2.) Are the exercises appropriate for the experience and level of the athlete?
3.) Is the volume too much or too little?
4.) Are there enough days off in the given training cycle to let them recover?
5.) Are other variables addressed if needed?

There are probably more, but off the top of my head these stick out as the ones I like to focus on when looking at Long Term Athlete Development. Yes I prefer to focus on the long-term, not what an athlete can do in 6 weeks.

One particular training product that is fool-proof, time-tested again and again, PLANNED OUT WEEKS/MONTHS IN ADVANCE, and gets RESULTS is GPP Essentials DVD from world reknown speed training expert Charlie Francis. In it highlights many training means to reach the ends, including weights, speed work, medicine ball training, abdominal training, weekly set ups, periodized weekly set ups, etc. Not only is this is a GREAT addition to any training library, but it will truly change your outlook on proper speed development for athletes. You can modify the plan to suit each individual's needs, but the principles lie within.

Speaking from experience, I have had my best results ever as far as speed enhancement goes in my athletic career while under a properly designed program based on Coach Francis' training methods. The GPP DVD is where I got started and will continue to use in the future.

In short, do yourselves a favor and head over to the Charlie Francis Community, a web forum dedicated to athletic performance and training. Check out the GPP DVD and if you have questions, post away!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wake Up!

Just 5 more minutes...

I just got home from my first lift testing of the week. We are testing our lifts this week- power clean, squat, bench press, broad jump, and possibly vertical jump if we have time.

This morning's lift time was at 10:00 a.m.- I woke up at 9:08 a.m. NOT GOOD. Why?

I have read studies that concluded that the CNS (Central Nervous System) is most efficient 3 hours after waking and/or 11 hours after waking. I have recommended in the past to try and follow this general guideline when weight training. Now I know most people have lives outside of training and can't always follow this rule- BUT, in my case I should have been much smarter and followed this simple principle. Personal experience of mine has shown positive correlation to this as well. Not only do I perform better after being up and moving around for a while, but I get some time to mentally prepare for the lift, eat a quality meal (which I skipped this morning- only had time for a protein shake and a little caffeine. Again not good!), and focus for the task at hand. Every time I skip this step the workout suffers.

In short, I performed poorly in my opinion today since my testing numbers are well below what I know I am capable of.

I power cleaned 105kg (231 pounds, and had 2 close calls at 110kg (242 pounds). I only had 1 legit broad jump mark at 8'8"; scratched my first 2 jumps at 9'2" and 9'1" because my toe went over the start line by about half an inch. Not bad for a body weight of 183 pounds, but I have done much better than this in the past. My personal best power clean is just about 242 pounds, but my best broad jump (standing long jump) is 9'5". Just one of those days!

The Power Clean in sequence- A great lift, but highly technical!

So what is the take home message here? Give yourself time to wake up, get some food in your system, and focus on the task to follow if you are truly serious about what's to come!

-John Cortese

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speed and Power DOGMA Part II

Please Read Part I of this discussion if you have not yet already!

OK- Earlier in the week I went over the basics and my philosophy on why I feel that team sport athletes should still be structuring their training around speed and power methods.

"He's fast..Really, really fast!"

Again, it is very common to see many coaches in the early months of the off-season performing tons of conditioning work to their athletes. We're talking weeks after the season has ended; the last thing you would want to do after a season has ended if run your players into the ground even more!!

So, now we're left at a crossroads and that is: Where do we go from here?

I firmly believe that if one is to seek their maximum potential, speed work must be practiced year round. Even if that means in the early stages of off-season training performing 1 speed session a week! Running fast is a SKILL and can be learned and taught- BUT, like any skill, it must be practiced with repetition- and here's the kicker- SPEED WORK MUST BE CONDUCTED WITH COMPLETE RECOVERY BETWEEN EFFORTS. Basically, you must ensure that every rep you perform is with quality- form, relaxation, effort, etc. Rest time is variable, but most of the time an athlete that is in a true speed workout will get complete rest to ensure that the next repetition is of equal quality.

Rule #1: Speed Training must ensure QUALITY over QUANTITY.

Now, that principle is in place. So you may be asking yourself.. "OK so if we are going to get faster, how do we structure workouts around speed work, etc?"

IMO, again if speed is your number one priority in the training cycle, then it must precede any other work you are planning to do on that training day. It is common to perform weights and sprints in the same day. So it is simple: perform the speed work first, then head to the weight room and get that done. You kill two birds with one stone in that A.) The athletes were fresh for the speed training B.) The athletes are fairly warm from the speed work- this eliminates substantial warm-up time for weights.

Now, the last topic I will touch upon for today is a basic weekly training plan. I firmly believe in the CFTS- The Charlie Francis Training System CFTS, which basically means placing high intensity training elements together on one day (high intensity elements include speed work, plyometrics/jump training, heavy weight training, etc) and the Low Intensity elements together on a given training day (extensive tempo runs- efforts with incomplete recovery at 75% or less of best time over a given distance, general fitness work, submaximal/light weight training, etc).

I think I may have went off on a bit of a tangent here, but hey I could talk about this stuff all day. Please stay tuned for Part III of this discussion where I will discuss sample training weeks, WHY and WHEN I choose to follow the methods I do, how to structure an entire off-season, and much more.

If you are involved in team sports, I recommend coming back for this final part III!

In the meantime, take a minute and head over to Kelly Baggett's webpage to see excellent articles, and a great product entitled The No Bull Speed Manual. It can be found here No Bull Speed Manual Of all the resources out there, this is one that is very easy to comprehend, lays out training templates, and follows the principles that I discuss here. I have it and highly recommend it as Kelly is one of the smarter coaches in this industry!

Again, take care and please stay tuned for Part III.

See ya in a couple days!

-John Cortese

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speed and Power DOGMA Part I

How many times have you been through a long grueling practice, only to end with CONDITIONING?
"Use caution, FAST Athletes CROSSING!"

Why, in off-season training, are coaches putting their athletes (involved in speed and power sports) through endless intervals, repeats, "gassers, etc. ? "Come on, If you ain't puking, you ain't trying!!"

Some typical answers:
-"We need to be in shape for the season"
-"It'll make us mentally tough"
-"We gotta build a BASE "

LOOK, I'm all for the occasional training session that will push an athlete to aerobic and anaerobic capacity, but they have their time and place! Not day in, day out, especially in the OFF-SEASON.

*Note: Don't get me wrong, the sessions that absolutely TAX the HELL out of you, can and WILL make you mentally tough, get you in kick ass shape, etc but I feel that the further away one is from the competitive season, the less this type of work should be done.

In my humble opinion, any mature athlete that is in off-season mode should be focusing on:
-SPEED in linear and non-linear planes
-Body composition
-Basic, GENERAL fitness

Now there is more than 1 way to skin a cat here. You can go with basic Linear Periodization, Conjugate periodization, etc etc. The list goes on. BUT THE PRINCIPLES REMAIN. If an athlete is to seek their maximum potential in speed and power gains, what is the answer?

Read Part II of this discussion when I focus on WHY speed should hold priority over conditioning in early preparation, sample weekly set-ups, and the pros and cons of different off-season training methods for TEAM SPORTS that are heavily influenced on SPEED and POWER (hint: most, if not ALL, are!).

As the old adage goes, SPEED KILLS! The faster, stronger, powerful athlete will usually DOMINATE a slower, weaker opponent. Leave that food for thought. Until next time..

-John Cortese

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reverting back to the basics

As the information of training, bodybuilding, strength training, whatever you may call it continues to grow EVERY DAY- One may ask themselves.. Where do I begin??

One motto I like to go is KISS- Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Okay, that may come off as a little harsh, but you get the idea? Basic movements have been shown time and time again to achieve proven RESULTS! None of this frilly, foo-foo gym equipment; none of this balancing on a stability ball with a 2-lb pink dumbbell in one hand while talking on the cell phone in the other.

Listen, if you are after RESULTS! Then I'm POSITIVE you've come to the right place. Take a moment and read what Zach Even-Esh has to say about training with the basics!

Enjoy! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!

Carry Like Crazy! By Zach Even – Esh

The simplest movements can often yield the most powerful results. Is this why I never saw anyone doing farmer walks with the 180 lb dumbbells at some gyms I’ve been to?

Or heavy rack pulls, heavy squats, heavy military presses (standing not seated) or heavy barbell rows?

These movements pack on the real muscle and make you stronger than a Bull! What about farmer walks with the farmer walk bars?

I snagged a great pair of farmer handles from

I used the econo farmer bars and they arrived 2 days later! These long bars make the carries much harder and really hammer the lower body. Normally we used our 130 lb dumbbells or heavy kettlebells but these long bars were different and better for full body work!

You can also perform the other basic carries with dumbbells and sandbags. These movements will develop full body strength and you want to include these HEAVY in your workouts on a regular basis. These are the basics. After the basics you can start getting more advanced by using cross carries or mixed carries. I'm talking about zercher carries and bear hug carries using sandbags or carrying a stone around the backyard in between sets of kettlebell work.

The cross carries can be used with dumbbells, kettlebells and even sandbags. All you need to do is hold them in two different positions. This awkward loading of the body strengthens the muscles and the body from unique angles that don’t get worked through traditional movements.

some more of my favorite are rack walk + overhead carries or overhead and farmer walk mixed together.

Carrying heavy objects of any type are awesome for full body strength development and work capacity.

In addition, the first rep of every set is some form of a power clean and / or deadlift just to get the weight off the ground. Putting the weights down requires control, so no dropping, only squatting / deadlifting the weights down under control.

I’ve met some seriously strong men who never touch free weights, their strength came from manual labor carrying objects, lifting them, throwing them, power cleaning them into truck beds, etc.

The guy who used to pick up our garbage when we were remodeling our house had an old pick up truck, it seriously looked like Steve Justa’s truck!

This guy’s name was Tony. Tony picked up junk for people as a side job, but it was always heavy stuff. Odd objects that makes you stronger than a freight train.

He would pick up all our stuff: toilet bowls, dish washers, heavy contractor bags filled with sheet rock, an old deck and more! I remember talking to him about strength training (as I always did) while we were loading his pick up with 20 + bags of sheet rock. He was holding one bag with a straight arm as he causally spoke with me! I was using two arms and my entire body to heave those bags up and I was starting to sweat bullets.

Tony was used to carrying car parts, scrap metal and other seriously heavy and odd objects. Essentially, all he did was carry junk. But, remember, like I said, when you carry objects, you power clean them up / down as well as deadlift the weight up / down.

It can’t get any simpler than that!

Now it’s time you begin to carry some odd objects!

About the Author
Zach Even - Esh is a Strength & Performance Coach from Edison, NJ and is the owner of The Underground Strength Gym and creator of The Underground Strength Manual. Zach's Underground methods have spanned the globe and have helped men and women of all ages to dramatically improve athletic performance, pack on rugged muscle and develop brute strength. Zach is the Strength & Conditioning advisor for TapOuT Magazine and is also a featured writer for Men's Fitness Magazine. To learn more about Zach and his methods visit