Where Are They Now – Interns

Friday will be my 2 year anniversary here at Xceleration, so I wanted to look back at those 2 years and see where we have came since then. That being said, one thing that always gets brought up among the trainers is our first group of interns.

Being close to Oakland University we were fortunate to partner with them and become a certified internship site for their Exercise Science and Wellness & Health Programs. So once we were certified the next step was to wait and see the flood of college kids lining up at our door because they wanted to learn from us. Naturally. As hard as it might be to imagine, we had practically no one apply for an internship position. This was ever after Ben and I created a bunch of fancy looking flyers using Microsoft Paint. Seeing that our artistic abilities didn’t yield the results we wanted forced us to take another route to getting students to apply.

That’s when we were blessed with the opportunity to meet Logan, David, and Rebecca (Nick was also an intern, but he gets enough attention as is so we don’t need to waste space here on him, right?). Rebecca is now a manager at Orange Theory Fitness in Northville, Logan currently holds a GA position at Toledo University where he runs his own bootcamp style class. (I think he started with 2 clients and is up to a consistent 20 now!) Lastly, David is down at Miami University in Coral Gables where he is a Student Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. These three really helped us grow the culture and community we have here because they really allowed for their personality to shine a little bit. Now they have moved on to new and better things, but I wanted to catch up with them and see how things are going.

Without further ado, I will let them tell you a little bit more about their experience here:

You’ve been graduated from Xceleration Fitness for a while now, what’s the one thing that you miss the most about working/being here?

Rebecca: I miss the staff/interns and the laid back/sarcastic environment.

David: Right now I am working only with adult clients, which is great, but I do miss working with the youth athletes. They are always fun and make you work a little harder to keep them entertained.

What have you taken away from you time here that has been an asset to you at your current place?

R: I think the hands on learning was great. Most of the things I took away from Xceleration were things that cannot be taught in a text book. I have done group/personal training since leaving and I feel like my coaching style has improved through experience and a boost of confidence in what I coach and how I coach. In my position now at Orange Theory Fitness I make sure to keep myself and the studio organized, this was something that I found Xceleration was lacking.

D: The coaching experience in general is helping me now as I am personal training. Having that hands on experience and people to bounce idea/thoughts around to really aided me in getting to where I am now. I still use a lot of the exercises and programming styles I learned at Xceleration because they are effective and work.

**I’m glad you brought that up Rebecca, organization was a huge problem that we had as a new facility. There were a lot of things we were doing wrong and fortunately it didn’t hinder our business too. We have since learned from those mistakes and taken on a more structured approach which has made us move like a well-oiled machine. I can’t even imagine what the place would look like if we hadn’t made a change and we have all of our original interns to thank for that because them pointing it out was the first step in changing.**

What is one thing about being a coach that you got complete wrong? What were some false expectations or things that surprised you?

R: Since I was only able to be in a few times/week for such short hours I don’t think I was able to make the adjustments I wanted to in my coaching style. I didn’t really feel like I was taught “how to coach” just given an example and was expected to follow. I feel like I had plenty of good ideas in my head but didn’t necessarily know how to take the idea and execute it. I’m sure this was partially my lack of time spent at the facility and partially my lack of experience. The more confident I was in myself the better my coaching became but by that point, most of the clients already had a predetermined idea of how I coached prior and had their own opinion about me.

Why do you think these people had a preconceived idea of how you were coaching? Did this change how you approached your clients now because of that?

R: I wasn’t quite as open or let my personality fly so I was nervous that they would judge. Now when I have trained my personality is on display every day so they know what they are going to get and it’s easier to be myself.

D: Before coaching I imagined having a lot of influence over athletes and clients. In reality, we only see people about 3-5 hours a week which leaves 160+ hours up to them to control other workouts and nutrition. We have to pack in a lot of information into a short time for our clients to succeed.

Was there ever a time that you were thrown into the fire and panicked? How did you handle/react to it? (Be honest if you were scared and thought you were going to shit yourself or if you wanted to cuss me out)

R: Every time I coached. I feel like when we went to the football clinic during my last week, my coaching style was fresh and exciting. I had obviously never coached that many people before but going into it I had confidence and made it work. Looking back that’s how I should have coached my entire internship but didn’t know how at first.

D: My first offsite coaching experience, I went to train the Auburn Hills youth soccer program by myself. That was nerve racking, it was my first time offsite and I hadn’t worked with those kids yet. I also hadn’t met the head coach so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect and I ended up having to take an entire hour of training down to 20 minutes and split it up for 3 groups. There were a few other times as well but those were the times I learned the most and actually gave me the most confidence because I was able to get through them.

Any stories/memories that stick out to you from your time here? (Funny, serious, appropriate…. literally any good story you have from being here)

R:  I think most of my memories come from being sarcastic and joking around with the staff and clients. Making the parody video of Ben obviously sticks out as one of the better memories.  Going out for beers after a shit day, saving a dying cat, knowing that Ben got laughed at by Izzo, editing embarrassing picture/videos, being dead center of the staff picture and freezing my ass off for 4 months.

D: The video of Rebecca making fun of Ben always sticks out and it kind of sums up a lot the experience because there was always a lot of joking around. Also the serious talk Ben had with all of the interns. He had us all worried we were going to be fired but he lost us when he started talking about Tom Izzo laughing at him.

Can you squat more than Papp yet?

R:  No, but I can guarantee that my grammar and spelling are better than all you guys.

D: The real question is can Papp squat more than me yet. The answer is yes… he can.

When will you be back in to do a workout? 

R: Probably never.

D: I might be back up later this summer to chase it again.


Love the brutal honestly Rebecca, wouldn’t expect any other response. Thanks again guys for taking the time to answer those questions. I know I speak for all of us here when I say that we would not be where we are at if it wasn’t for you guys. It’s always great to see posts on social media about how you guys are doing.

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Becoming a Better Athlete: Foam Rolling Series

I realized yesterday that it’s been quite a few weeks since my last installment of Becoming a Better Athlete. Alright, so maybe it was also my one and only installment but who’s counting anyways?

I’m going to apologize in advance for the quick post, but I have my first softball game tonight so I have to get my mind right. I’ll need a minimum of 4 hours to visualize me stroking that high, stinky cheddar over the center field fence. And if you’re asking yourself “will he do an epic bat flip?” the answer is…..absolutely!

Enough of the beer league talk, let’s get down to business! (To defeat the Huns….Bueller….Bueller)

What Is It: Foam Rolling Series

Who Did I Steal It From: I came across this series while I was reading up on corrective shoulder exercises from Eric Cressey. I immediately began including it in my own personal warm-up which soon evolved into it become a staple with most of my athletes who suffer from limited mobility.

Key Coaching Cues: Most of these exercises are basic and easy to do, but a few of them have finer details that can really make a difference.

IT Band – Roll from the knee to the hip. If you let out a cuss word or two then you know you are hitting the right spot because it isn’t the most pleasant feeling.

Groin – Slightly straddle the roller, should be pretty sprawled out and rolling all the way down to the knee.

Thoracic Extension – Elbows up, keep the butt down on the ground, rolling on the top of the shoulder blades.

Rhomboids/Middle Back – Cross the arms, rolling from the lower back up to the shoulders.

Lats – Lying on your side, slightly leaned back. Roll from the armpit down to the bottom of your lat.

Pecs – Rolling from the bottom of the pec to the armpits. Be careful not to take a nipple off on this one!

Rotator Cuff with Internal/External Rotation – Find the soft spots behind the shoulder, keeping the elbow at 90 degree as you rotate internally and externally.

Calf – Roll the back, outside and inside of the calf

I like to do this before each workout, typically spending 20-30 seconds per side on each exercise. I also like to use them as “fillers” during rest periods if pressed for time or really lacking mobility in a certain area.

UPDATE: Tripping over second base in the first game of the season is some kind of baseball omen right? We won 10-9 so that’s what I’m going with and I’m sorry to report no bat flip occurred.

 

 

You Don’t Know “Squat”

LEG DAY!!

If you’re like most you probably start your workout with some heavy back squats, making the bar bend as you try to impress the chick that’s doing lunges next to you. While heavy back squatting looks cool (although probably just to you), sometimes alternatives are a better option.

The squat is the supreme leader as far as strength training exercises go. It activates a ton of muscle mass and improves lower body strength and overall athleticism better than any other exercise. The problem with back squats is that most people have terrible squatting patterns that can lead to long term complications.

The reason for your crappy squat pattern might stem from a variety of different things. It could be a stability problem, mobility or just a technique misunderstanding. Whatever the reason, the worst and most meathead thing to do is to continue throwing 45s on and power through with your lousy form.

So, what can you do instead of back squatting without compromising your ability to have an intense leg day?

Kettle Bell Front Loaded Squat

Back squatting can be hard for someone suffering from lower back pain. It can also be a tough exercise to do properly if you are lacking in core strength. The double kettle bell strengthens the core and keeps that pressure off the spine.

Rear Foot Elevated (RFE) Squats

If you like heavy back squat then try heavy single-leg squats. This is one of my favorite variations of RFE Squats.

Landmine Squat

What I really like about this exercise is that it forces you to push your butt back and stay off your toes.

Assisted Pistol Squats

Pistol squats are your alternative to deep squatting. Not to mention that you don’t need to do much loading to feel the exercise. I like to use a band or TRX strap to help assist so that you can vary the resistance and make it harder/easier if needed.

Lastly…….MORE DEADLIFTS!

If squats are going to be the unquestioned best exercise, then deadlifts are the heir apparent. While they do build your muscles up differently than squats variations, as long as you implement a wide variety of exercises than the difference between them is minuscule.


So there you have it. If you want to switch up your routine and be sore in places that you didn’t even know you had then add some of these into your next workout!

 

Cluster Training – Best Thing You’ve Never Heard Of

A while back I had the opportunity to attend a conference and listen to some of the best college strength and conditioning coaches in the country spill out some of their secrets to success. About four different coaches spoke with topics ranging from motivational techniques to what type of music they allow. The last guy to talk was Jay Hooten, from Northwestern University. His topic of discussion centered around how he trains the football team and is able to be efficient training 90 guys in a 1 hour span while still getting a quality lift in. His big secret: Cluster Training.

I’ve heard of cluster training before, but never really used it in my training and honestly, I have no idea why because it’s awesome!

So, what is cluster training?

Cluster training involves using short, inter-set rest intervals ranging anywhere from 5 seconds to 20 seconds.

In traditional training you’ll do something like 3 sets of 10 reps with a rest period of 1-2 minutes between sets. In cluster training, what you are trying to achieve is the “time under tension” or trying to get as many quality reps in under the bar. In cluster training, you break that single set of 10 reps into 4 mini-sets of 5 reps, with a 10 second break between each mini-set. So essentially it allows you to get in 20 reps of a weight that would typically be used for a 5 rep max.

It might not seem like much, but I guarantee once you try it you’ll fall in love with them. By putting clusters in your training you basically “cheat” a set and perform more reps than you normally would be able to.

That’s enough background information, so how do you do it?

There are a number of different ways to set up cluster training, but the nucleus of the method is in the short rest intervals. If strength is your main goal, you should aim to keep the load of the movement high (at or above 90% of your 1RM), and the reps low (mini-sets of 1-2 reps), with shorter rests (10-15s). In the case of hypertrophy, clusters allow you to take a weight that you’d normally use for building strength (i.e. a 5RM), and push the number of reps you can do with it out into the more hypertrophy-friendly reps ranges of 10-12 reps.

Here’s an example of what set/rep scheme I would use if I was looking to improve strength:

Strength Cluster:
4(2×2,2×3)-10s w/ 5RM

What that algebra looking equation means is: you’ll do 4 total clusters (first number), each cluster is going to consist of 4 mini sets, 2 mini-sets of two reps and 2 of three reps (numbers in parentheses). The last number is the amount of time you will rest between mini sets.

Muscle Gain Cluster:
4(4×5)-15s w/ 7RM

Nothing really different except that the weight you are going to use will be significantly lighter.

If you’re still confused check out the video.

All in all, clusters are an awesome addition to your workout if you are pressed for time, stuck in a rut, or just want to feel extremely pumped. There really isn’t a wrong way to do them, just mess around with the rest and rep intervals until you find one that fits you well.

Letter to My Younger Self

Note from MV: Today’s post comes from former Detroit Piston Chauncey Billups. Chauncey was the heart and soul of the Pistons 2004 championship team and because of his the obstacles he overcame in his past he was able to make a name for himself her in Detroit. 

I think you will really enjoy reading his article, Letter to My Younger Self, and hopefully get a lesson or two from hearing what it takes to be a champion. Because Chauncey will be the first to tell you that it’s not all sunshine and roses.


Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Young Chaunce,

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.

It’s June 8, 2004, about 11 p.m. in Los Angeles. You’ve just lost the most important game of your 28-year-old life. And you’re about to walk onto the Detroit Pistons team bus.

You’re going to leave Staples Center on that bus. You’re going to hop on a plane. And sometime early in the morning, hours from now, you’re going to arrive at home — tied with the Lakers, one game apiece, in the NBA Finals. Yeah, those Lakers: Shaq. Kobe. Payton. Malone. The Zen Master. The three-time, dynasty-building, world-beating champs.

But we’ll get to that later. Right now, we’ve gotta focus on this bus — this bus full of teammates, of brothers, of Deee-troit Baaa-sketball. This bus full of guys who are coming off the most brutal loss of their lives, just like you. And they need you.

They need their point guard.

They need you to calmly, sternly tell Coach Brown — bless him — to miss everyone with that Philly talk. To not even let him finish when he starts in, dejectedly, on, “When this happened last time.” To just cut him off (with love), and tell him, point blank: “Don’t care, L.B.” To make sure he understands — the whole team understands — that no one should care, at all, about what happened to the Sixers in ‘01. And that, when Coach Brown says, “last time” — nah. Nah. There was no last time.

This is y’all’s first time. And this ain’t Philly.

This is Detroit.

Or it will be in a few hours, anyway. But right now, like I said, it’s only a bus leaving Staples Center — and you’ve just gotten on it. And I need you to walk to the back of it — where everyone can see you, can hear you — and I need you to look at your team. I need you to look at all of them — at Ben, at Rip, at Tay, at Sheed — and wait until you have their attention.

And then I need you to say it.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.

Yes. Good. Just like that.

And then, listen, Chaunce: I need you to sit down. I need you to put some music on. Enjoy what’s left of the bus ride. Get a little sleep on that flight. Go home.

Stay home.

And win a fucking championship.

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But first thing’s first. Let’s back up a little.

Let’s back up to before you’re a Piston, or a leader, or a winner, or a Big Shot — before any of that.

You know what? Let’s back up to before you’re even a point guard.

Let’s back up a full six-and-a-half years. To when you’re a 21-year-old, in Boston, with a bad haircut and a rookie contract.

Let’s back up to … now. When you’re reading this.

In 1997.

Why ’97? Well — I have some bad news, my dude.

You’re getting traded.

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I know, Chaunce. I know.

Everyone agrees — it’s messed up. You’re just a rookie, and not just any rookie: A few months ago, you were the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Third overall. Third overall picks don’t get traded midseason. It doesn’t happen.

Except, it does.

It’s funny — for the rest of your career, people are going to imagine that you had this terrible relationship with Coach Pitino. But the truth is, the two of you will get along pretty well. And I’ll tell you what: When the trade happens, Coach Pitino will — if nothing else — be honest with you. He’ll at least be that.

(This is already better than you’ll get from some GMs.)

Coach will take you aside, and tell you that there’s a lot of pressure on him to make the playoffs — even in his first year with the team. He’ll tell you that, in order to contend, he feels like the team needed a veteran point guard. He’ll tell you that he’s always been a fan of Kenny Anderson’s — I don’t know, I guess the whole New York thing. He’ll tell you that he still feels you’re going to be a great player — but that, with the pressure on him, and the current roster, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.

Finding out about that trade will be a complete shock. No warning, no nothing. You’re going to feel hurt, and betrayed, and confused. You’re going to feel a lot of things — none of ’em good.

But here’s my advice: Just don’t be embarrassed.

You’re going to feel hurt, and betrayed, and confused. You’re going to feel a lot of things — none of ’em good.

I know that doesn’t sound like much. And I know, I know — it’s easier said than done. But that’s the way you’re going to get through this, Chauncey: by remembering that you get to playbasketball … for a living.

And then holding your head up high.

You’re going to get through this, simply put, by not being embarrassed. And by understanding that you have nothing, and I mean nothing, to be embarrassed about.

Oh, and here’s what else I can tell you:

That trade will be a blessing in disguise. It’s not going to seem like one at the time — actually, to be honest, it’s not going to seem like one for a very long time.

But I promise: It will be a blessing.

You just have to stay patient.

In the meanwhile, though … Chaunce, I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s going to be tough.

It’s going to be you, on your own, in the basketball wilderness. Boston to Toronto … Toronto to Denver.

“Stud prospect” to “journeyman” in less than two years.

Or that will be the perception, anyhow.

It’s crazy how misperceptions get started.

But in a league that’s covered 24/7, with rabid fan-bases and evolving media: Perception is always going to be an interesting thing. In the NBA, everything needs a story attached to it — a rumor, a label, a whatever. I know that sucks, in moments like this. I wish I had some advice for you on it. But it’s one of those things that you’re simply going to have to accept and move on from. Perception is going to bite you a few times, Chaunce. That’s just real.

I’ll give you an example.

In Denver, you’re going to play for Coach Mike D’Antoni. This will be Coach D before those Phoenix years, before “Seven Seconds or Less,” before all of his accolades — but he’s still going to be that same experimenter, that same thinker, that same outside-the-box type of guy. Y’all are going to have Nick Van Exel — a veteran, and a really good player still — entrenched at the point on that team.

But Coach D will have an idea.

He’ll say, “You know what, screw it — I’m just starting my two best guards, period. I don’t care what positions: The one, the two, it doesn’t matter. I want the guys who can play to play.”

Perception is going to bite you a few times, Chaunce. That’s just real.

And you’ll take him up on that offer.

You’ll fight like hell, you’ll adapt, and pretty soon you’ll be starting on that Nuggets team — in the backcourt, at shooting guard, opposite Nick. You’re going to be incredibly proud of yourself for that, Chaunce. And between us: You should be. It’s going to take a lot of guts to make those adjustments as a young player, and a lot of talent. When you make that first start at shooting guard, it’ll be a big accomplishment. But here’s the crazy thing about it: That accomplishment is going to dog you for years.

I can already hear you — reading this and thinking to yourself: What do you mean, “dog me” — I thought you said it’s an accomplishment?

Like I said, Chaunce, this league is all about perception. And as bizarre as it is to say: No one around the league is going to care about the adjustments you made, or the versatility you showed, or the skill set you displayed, that made your coach want to start you at shooting guard. No. What people will focus on is this: Chauncey isn’t a point guard.

They’ll see the trade for Kenny Anderson in Boston. They’ll see the short stint and the second trade in Toronto. They’ll see “Chauncey Billups, Shooting Guard” in Denver. You probably won’t even hear it; it’ll just be a whisper. You see they moved Chauncey off the ball? Yeah, he tried, but he’s not a point.And sometimes a whisper is all it takes to manufacture reality. It’s crazy, I know. But that’s the league.

Chauncey isn’t a point guard. That’s what they’ll say.

They’ll be wrong.

The other thing that’s going to be tough about Denver is that it’s home. When you arrive, of course, people are going to make a big deal out of it. You’re the best basketball player in Colorado history, probably, so for you to land with the Nuggets is going to be big news on a local level. They’ll write things like, Hometown savior, or, This is the change of scenery that Chauncey Billups needs.

But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: You’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.

And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

You’re not going to be ready to lead.

During your next stop, in Orlando … you’re not even going to be ready to play. A shoulder problem will keep you out for the rest of that season. Three trades, four teams — and, now, one injury.

And that’s when it’s going to hit you.

It’s going to hit you hard, like bricks, and stop you dead in your tracks. When it first enters your mind, you’re going to want to dismiss it. You’re going to want to think, Nah, I’m 24, that can’t be right. You’re going to try to ignore it, to push it away.

But at some point, during that offseason, you’re going to let it hit you.

Good.

You need that.

In fact: Why don’t you go look in the mirror, right now, and say it out loud. Go ahead, Chaunce — say it:

This could be your last chance.

Please internalize that, Chauncey. Please internalize it, and accept it, and grasp the urgency of your situation. And choose your next team wisely.

Choose Kevin.

That’s right — your old buddy Kevin Garnett. He and you go way back, all the way to high school.

Well, the end of high school. For most of your childhoods, you’d only heard about each other: always neck-and-neck on the same prospect lists, the same class rankings. But you’d never actually met. Then, finally, senior year, you were named to the same McDonald’s All-American Team — for that ‘95 game in St. Louis. (You, Garnett and Pierce, all on one team — not bad for high school, right?)

As luck would have it, after the game, your flight and Kevin’s flight both got delayed. And so you ended up with some time to kill at the airport, just the two of you.

And man … you guys just … got to talking. And talking. And talking. Probably two, three hours, you guys spent in that airport. Just a pair of 17-year-old kids: chatting, joking around, asking each other stuff — you know, cutting through the bullshit. About hoops. About life. About the big decisions that you both had upcoming.

That was the first time you really got to have a heart-to-heart with someone who was on your level as an athlete — and who was going through the same growing pains that you were, both as a person and as a kind of celebrity. When your flights finally arrived, the two of you exchanged info and went your separate directions. But that conversation … in this strange way … meant everything.

And Kevin became a friend for life.

And so, with your career hanging in the balance, now, Chauncey — it’s time to align yourself with the people in this world you can actually trust. It’s time to go play with your best friend in the league. It’s time do your thing, and work your tail off.

And see what happens.

Don’t worry, you’ll have help.

You’ll have Sam Mitchell, a.k.a. “Unc,” and he’s going to be invaluable in teaching you what it means to be a pro. Those little adjustments, those little maturations — those subtle lessons that you didn’t even know you hadn’t learned? That’s Sam. That’s Unc.

Ninety-nine percent of communication is nonverbal, Chaunce. This, Chaunce, is how you dress like a professional. This is how you act on the road, Chaunce; this is how you act at home.

That’s that old head, cool uncle, Sam Mitchell knowledge. And you’ll never forget it.

You’ll have Flip Saunders — and, listen: That’s probably a whole other letter. But all I’ll say, for now, is this: Chauncey, respect that man. And cherish him. As coaches go … he’ll be one of the good ones. And as people go … he’ll be one of the great ones.

(But don’t waste a big goodbye on him in Minnesota. You’ll meet him again later.)

And then, finally: you’ll have Terrell Brandon.

Terrell will be a star point guard, in his prime, when you arrive in Minnesota — which means that you’re not going to start at the one right away.

But this isn’t about “right away,” Chauncey. Not anymore.

No, this is about building a foundation, now, and earning yourself a career. You want to be a point guard, Chaunce? Then be a backup point guard. Start at the two-spot when they need you, sure — but don’t shy away from the word “backup,” either. Embrace it. Learn from the star vet. Learn from Terrell. And then build something of your own from scratch.

Build the best Chauncey Billups possible.

You couldn’t have a better mentor than Terrell — so make sure you soak it all in. Pay attention to how smart he is, how diligent and patient. Pay attention to his midrange game: a lost art among point guards — and the sort of skill that could come in handy, during a playoff game or two down the road. Pay attention to his court vision, and the thought he puts into each of his passes — never flashy, always purposeful. Chauncey: Soak in all of that.

If your first season with the T-Wolves is going to be Terrell Brandon University, then your second season is going to be the final exam.

And that’s just the intro class. Those are just the basics, young fella. Get ready for the advanced lessons, as well.

“Chauncey,” Terrell will say, during one of your daily film sessions. “I’m not just the leader of this team — I’m the guy with the ball in my hands. That’s not to be taken lightly. That’s a status, and it comes with responsibility.”

And then he’ll break it down for you.

“You’ve got K.G., who’s our best scorer — 21, 22 per. You’ve got Wally, who’s our second-best scorer — 17, 18 per. If K.G. don’t have 12-to-14 points at halftime, and if Wally don’t have 8 or 9 — then I’m not doing my job. End of story. There isn’t a moment that goes by during the game where I’m not thinking to myself, What am I doing to fulfill my responsibility as a point guard?

That’s going to be a very big moment for you, Chaunce. A “wow” moment. Before Terrell, your attitude going into games is going to be unsophisticated at best: Play well, and win the game. That’s it. But Terrell is going to put you on this whole other level. Now it’s, When does Kevin want the ball? Where does Wally like to catch it? What specific play do I have to call … to get this specific guy the ball … in this specific spot? When, and where, and how, is it best to get mine?

Now you won’t just be playing hoops.

You’ll be playing point.

If your first season with the T-Wolves is going to be Terrell Brandon University, then your second season is going to be the final exam. Because that’s when T.B. will go down with a season-ending knee injury … and you’ll be thrust into the role you’ve been preparing for, working toward, all this time: starting point guard.

Before we get to that, though: Read this next part carefully, Chaunce. Because it might be the most important lesson in this entire letter.

A lot of people are going to say that you got your opportunity to start at the point because of Terrell Brandon’s injury. Hell — in the moment, as it’s happening, you might even think that yourself. But here’s the truth: You got your opportunity because of Terrell Brandon’s generosity.

You’re not going to understand this, yet, I know. You’re too young. But one day you will. One day, when you’re knocking on the door of 40, and looking back on this moment … you’ll understand. You’ll understand how, most of those stories people hear, you know, about the vet helping the young guy along? They’re myths.

Trust me. 80-percent, 90-percent, damn-near 100-percent of the time: The guy in Terrell Brandon’s position would not root for you to succeed. Not for one second. I promise you that.

The truth is: This league is built on a game — but it runs as a business. And a lot of guys are real nice, real nice … right up until the moment where you threaten their spot.

As soon as Terrell goes down, he’s going to know that you’re a threat. In fact, he’s going to know that better than anyone — because he’s going to know, better than anyone, what you’re capable of.

But I’ll tell you what: The first thing he’s going to say to you, when you see him on those crutches after his surgery — you’ll never forget it. He’s going to walk up to you, put his hand on your shoulder, look you square in the eye … and say, “Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

And he won’t stop there. Every time he sees you going forward — every morning at practice, every afternoon shootaround, every night before tipoff — he’s going to have those same four words for you. That will be Terrell’s refrain, that whole rest of the season — and it’s going to help you, more than you can imagine, every time he says it.

“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

Once Terrell gets injured … yeah, you’re going to play starting point guard, with or without his blessing. But you’re not going to be starting point guard. For that, you need Terrell. And that difference, of having Terrell’s support — it’s going to mean everything to you.

Oh, yeah, and about that final exam?

You pass — with flying colors.

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Later that summer, you’re going to sign with Detroit.

A little advice on the jersey: pick No. 1.

No, not because you’re the best — nothing corny. Pick No. 1, as in … one shot. Detroit is the one shot they’re going to give you — this league, that almost spit you out, is going to give you — at greatness. At running your own show. This will be it, and then that will be that.

If you blow it? Hey — you had a good run in Minnesota, Chaunce. It’s not like you’ll be unemployed or anything. You’ll still be a proven role player, no matter what, and you’ll be able to go right back to that.

But you won’t want to go back to that. You’ll have worked too hard, and overcome too much, to go back to that. And that’s what No. 1 will mean. You’ll have been to Boston. Toronto. Denver. Orlando. And, finally, Minnesota. That’s a lot of pit stops in five years.

No. 1, Chaunce, will mean your one shot … at doing better than a pit stop.

At making everything else the journey.

And Detroit the destination.

The thing about a destination, of course, is that everyone has a different story of how they got there. You’ll have yours, and it’s a wild one. But the best part about Detroit will be the way that each guy’s story on that team seems even wilder than the next.

Take Ben Wallace.

Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. You think that you’ve gotten up off the mat, Chaunce, from being third overall? This dude is going to go undrafted — out of Virginia Union — and is going to find a way to stick in the league. This dude is a 6’9 center — a 6’9 center — and is going to become the best defensive big in the NBA.

And sure, he’ll seem a little mean, at first … but only on the court. You’ll love him, I promise. Ben will be y’all’s protector, in every sense of the word — and will embody all of the traits that [deep breath] Deee-troit Baaa-sketball will come to represent. Hard-working. Battle-tested. Self-made. A cast-off of some kind.

And, of course, defense-first.

Oh, yeah, and that mean-looking face? That’ll be the face of your franchise — and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take Tayshaun Prince.

Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. He’ll be the young guy of the group — you’ll call him “Nephew.” (Hard to believe, I know. You’ll be The Vet — the “Unc” — to someone soon.) Tay will be that shy, quiet guy. Not going to do a lot of talking. At first, if you don’t see him — I mean, physically see him — in the locker room, you won’t even know he’s there. That’ll just be his way. But give him some time. Let the kid grow. Eventually, he’ll open up a little, and turn out to be one of the funnier guys you’ll ever meet. Yeah, that’s right — Tay’ll have jokes. Who knew?

On the court, Tayshaun will be truly unique. There will just be something about his game, that no one can quite put their finger on. He’ll be like this silent assassin.

And, like any good silent assassin …

… they won’t know he’s coming until it’s too late.

In a lot of ways, as crazy as it sounds, Tayshaun will be the future of basketball. The future — bottled up into one, wiry, 6’9, 200-pound frame. He’ll be the prototype: a guy with long-ass arms, who can guard 1-through-4, and kill a team’s spirit with a single defensive play. And at the same time: a guy with a feathery touch, who can fill it up effortlessly from deep over the reach of even the most athletic wing. Ten years after Tay, everyone in the league will be trying to copy that blueprint.

But there’ll be only one original. And you’ll call him Nephew.

Take Richard Hamilton.

Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. Chaunce — you know all of those years you spent, building yourself, and building yourself, into the best possible point guard? In a way, it will turn out that that was all to prepare you for teaming with one, single player: Rip. Rip is going to be the perfect shooting guard for the point guard you’ll become. And — thanks, Wizards — he’s going to fall into your lap at the perfect time.

Y’all’s games are going to be tailor-made to fit one another’s. And your demeanors, too: You’ll be that calm, laid-back, cerebral kind of player, that steady hand at the point. Whereas Rip — that boy is going to have a motor on him. He’s going to want to cut, and curl, and run, and shake free … all … day … long. That’s that raw energy, that Rip will bring to the table. He’ll be the kind of player who thinks he’s openevery single play — like he’s got this rare shooting instrument that never turns off.

But you’ll be ready. You’ll have graduated with honors from Terrell Brandon University, and you’ll be ready. You’ll be that orchestra conductor with the ball in your hands. And you’ll conduct Rip’s instrument to perfection. Sometimes you’ll turn him down. Sometimes you’ll turn him up. Sometimes you’ll do both, within a single possession. You’ll just have this unbelievable chemistry together.

Y’all are going to be great friends off the court, too.

But on it, Chaunce? You’re going to be the best backcourt in the world.

And last, but not least, take Rasheed Wallace.

Who? Nah, just kidding. With Sheed, you’ll know who. But you won’t really know. In fact, before the trade, you’ll only know Sheed by reputation: some of it good … some of it not so good. The good will be great: This is a guy who will have been through wars, in the Western Conference, against all of those great power forwards: from Duncan, to Webber, to McDyess, to your good friend K.G. And he’ll be one of the very few guys in those wars who could say he won as many as he lost.

But then you’ll also hear things — mostly from the media, and mostly out of context — that will give you a little bit of pause. Bad attitude. Weird personality. Short temper. You know — all of the usual stuff about Sheed. As the leader of a team that places a high value on chemistry, those won’t be things you’ll take lightly.

And so, when you find out that The Infamous Rasheed Wallace is coming onboard … you won’t quiteknow whether you should be fully excited.

You should be fully excited.

When Sheed arrives, you’re going to know almost instantly: This is the guy who’s going to take y’all from contender to champion. You’re not even going to need a single game to figure that out. For real — it won’t take y’all but a couple of practices.

When you find out that The Infamous Rasheed Wallace is coming onboard … you won’t quite know whether you should be fully excited.

Sheed will just … walk in the door, and blow you away.

Talking, talking, talking on defense. Quarterbacking that back line, that sacred back line of y’all’s D, like he’s been there for years. Calling out plays. Letting guys know where the screen’s coming from. He’ll literally be predicting, perfectly, where the play is going — every time. Go over here. I need you over there. Watch the corner, Ben. Watch the ball, Chaunce. And then, on offense … being unselfish at every turn: seamlessly fitting into the flow — while single-handedly making the flow that much better.

After that first practice with Sheed, the other four of you — yourself, Rip, Ben and Tay — are going to just … stand there, looking at each other … smiling slyly, in awe. Your eyes are going to be lit up from inside. Your jaws are going to be on the floor. No one will have to say the words. But silently, you’ll all be thinking them:

Holy shit.

This guy is a genius.

And then the next words — you won’t be able to help it, Chaunce — you’ll say out loud:

The rest of the league is in trouble, y’all. They in trouble now.

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So stay patient, young fella.

Like I said at the beginning … just stay patient.

When you get traded, out of the blue, as a rookie in Boston. When you feel confused, and frustrated, and discouraged, in Toronto. When you hear the whispers that Chauncey’s not a point guard in Denver. When the injury bug hits you, at the time you least can afford it, in Orlando. And when you check into the Last Chance Hotel in Minnesota. Stay patient.

Stay patient, Chauncey.

Because that — all of that — is your journey.

And Detroit is your destination.

In Detroit, you’ll have a group of teammates who are nothing like you … and yet somehow, also, just like you. You’ll have a family of brothers who have been through adversity — and come out the other side. You’ll have Ben, and you’ll have Tay, and you’ll have Rip, and you’ll have Sheed. And when you step onto that floor with them … you’ll feel it. You’ll know it: that Deee-troit Baaa-sketball won’t just be your one shot at greatness. It will be theirs, too.

It will be all of yours — together.

And that will make all of the difference.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.

It’s June 8th, 2004, about 11 p.m. in Los Angeles. You’ve just lost the most important game of your 28-year-old life. And you’re about to walk onto the Detroit Pistons team bus.

You’re going to leave Staples Center on that bus. You’re going to hop on a plane. And sometime early in the morning, hours from now, you’re going to arrive at home — tied with the Lakers, one game apiece, in the NBA Finals. Yeah, those Lakers: Shaq. Kobe. Payton. Malone. The Zen Master. The three-time, dynasty-building, world-beating champs.

And as you walk onto that bus — climb those big ol’ bus stairs — you’re going to think about how far you’ve come.

You’ve come pretty far, Chauncey.

And you should feel good about that.

As you walk onto that bus, I’m telling you: You should take a second, a real second, and just … feel good about that.

And you should understand what it will mean to have made it to here. You should know how proud I am of you, for everything you’ve been through, and fought through — and you should know that in advance.

But I also want you to understand that there’s still a long way to go.

That you’ll play over 1,000 games — 1,000 games — before it’s all said and done in your career. But that none of them will be as important as these next three right in front of you.

These next three at home.

To win these next three, Chauncey, you’re going to need all hands on deck.

You’re going to need those Deee-troit fans, in their Palace, at Auburn Hills. You’re going to need Coach Brown, god bless him, in all of his brilliance and crazy. You’re going to need your resilient bench, those unsung heroes, from Corliss Williamson on down. And you’re going to need your brothers … your family … your once-in-a-lifetime starting five.

But they’re going to need you too, Chaunce.

And they need you right now. Right here. On this big ol’ bus.

They need their point guard.

And when you take that next step, Chaunce — that’s just what you’ll give them.

You’ll look at Ben, at Rip, at Tay, at Sheed. And they’ll nod. You’ll promise, We’re winning Games 3 through 5. And you will. You’ll tell them, We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A. And you won’t.

You’ll think, Detroit is where we belong.

And it is.

-Chauncey Billups

Becoming a Better Athlete – Quit Wasting Time with Crunches

Summer is right around the corner so you know what that means.

It means you will see all the bros working tirelessly on their 6-pack while trying to convince themselves that soon they will look like Channing Tatum.

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Crunches might get your abs looking fresh, but that’s not what you need to be doing to achieve a strong core. Don’t get me wrong, sit-ups have their moment of glory in exercise workouts, but that is not what you are going to need if you want to become a better athlete before summer ball comes around. If you’re like most people then core exercises aren’t usually at the top of your list in terms of being sexy and enjoyable. For that reason I like to pick core exercises that can kill as many birds with as few stones as possible: an optimal training effect with only a few sets.

Not all exercises need to be complex and high rep, sometimes a simple exercise will get the job done.

Below are four core exercises that you really give you the bang for your buck.

  1. Mini Band 4 Corners – This is an anterior core (front core muscles) training exercise that adds in some shoulder work as well. Anyone that has trained with me knows that this is one of my favorite exercises (especially for pitchers and quarterbacks) and it always leaves your shoulders screaming.
  2. Lateral Lunge with Band Overhead Reach – This exercise is a doozy, the overhead reach allows for anterior core stability while also forcing you to rely on your lateral and rotary core stability (side/back core muscles). Again, as you’ll find with many of these, this exercise also incorporates some light shoulder work.
  3. KB Gladiators – Think of this exercise as a combination of a side plank and the dreaded Turkish Get-Up. It involves a bit a coordination, but done correctly it will build your shoulder girdle as well as lateral and anterior core muscles.
  4. Landmine Rotations – If you’re looking to develop more speed on your fastball or air it downfield more than you MUST include these in your workout. This exercise requires you to load your hips and then pop the weight up allowing you to harness that rotational power.

Gym Etiquette 101

He pulled a bench up next to me as I was repping out my last set of dumbbell pullovers. I smelled him before I actually even saw him.

The stench was so potent that I could almost taste it. If that doesn’t ruin a good pump I don’t know what does.

Actually I do, but I’ll get to that later.

I was racking my weights when a sound that could only be described as someone giving birth to a baby hippo came from the same smelly offender. So much noise was completely unnecessary, especially when he’s pressing 50 lb dumbbells. That’s strike two.

He was bigger than me, but I thought his technique sucked. Crappy lifting technique isn’t a strike in the rules of gym etiquette, but screaming like someone is branding you with an iron on every rep is just plain annoying. I was tempted to commit a gym etiquette no-no myself by offering unsolicited advice on his questionable lifting practices. Shoulder presses are best done with the upper body remaining stationary, not arching your back like a guy that’s way to good at the limbo.

After his final set he got up and walked away from the bench without wiping it down. I looked at the outline of butt and back sweat left behind, raised my eyebrows in disbelief then walked away. Strike three, my man. You just failed Gym Etiquette 101.

Actually, the way this guy smelled was worth three strikes all by itself. I wanted to go up and confront him, but I’m too nice for that, or too chicken — one of those two.

Admittedly I sort of live in a gym etiquette bubble at Xceleration. We have the luxury of setting the standard, frowning upon, and “policing” many of the things that would otherwise be par-for-the-course at your typical commercial gym. That being said, at Xceleration we don’t discourage grunting and yelling. If you’ve ever gotten the opportunity to workout with Ben then this is not new to you in the least bit.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a few implied “un-written” rules here at Xceleration. Like:

  1. John must squat everyday.
  2. If you puke on the floor, you get to clean it up.
  3. 6am and 7am bootcamps are generally reserved as Classic Rock Classes
  4. Ben has to keep his shoe collection hidden. They need their own closet in the office.
  5. Bridgeman is only allowed 1 med ball toss thru the ceiling tiles per month, but it must be with the 50 pounder.
  6. If you are late, you get the pleasure of wearing the Xcel Tutu.

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Pretty simple, right?

However, all of this isn’t to say I never have the opportunity to venture outside my little bubble and train at a commercial gym. I like visiting different gyms now and again, if for nothing else to have a change of scenery (and for the entertainment value).

So let’s talk about how not to get everyone in the gym to hate you. Here are a few basic rules I believe everyone should follow:

  1. Don’t smell bad. I understand that we’re there to work out, and a normal amount of B.O. is to be expected, but I shouldn’t be able to smell you from 20 feet away.
  2. Rack and strip your weights. If you are able to bench press 315 lbs you are able to walk 3 feet to put the weight back on the racks.
  3. Don’t fake cough as you walk by the mirror. Everyone knows checking out your biceps. One or two times you get a mulligan, but after that just stop.
  4. Supersets and tri-sets are efficient, but don’t get upset if someone works in with you on a particular machine. Just because you are jacked as frank doesn’t give you the freedom to reserve every machine.
  5. How do you justify your workout if you are wearing a flatbill New Ear baseball hat. You clearly aren’t working hard enough because I’ve never seen anyone that wears those to the gym sweat.
  6. Skimpy tank top? Not a strike, but a little tacky. You’re not The Rock.
  7. We all have our biases and what we like to do. Meatheads like to pick up heavy weights and put them down. Yogis like to yoga. Pilates people like to pilaticize. Runners like to run. CrossFitters like to to perform scoliosis for AMRAP. (Just kidding……kind of). Whatever workout someone chooses and gets them to the gym is a win. Stop being so judgmental towards one another, attempting to prove one way is inferior to YOUR way, and trying to “one-up” everyone else. Just mind your business.
  8. Don’t be too chatty with other lifters. A little conversation is okay, but remember that we’re all there to exercise rather than socialize. Also, headphones are a clear sign that someone doesn’t want to talk to you.
  9. Don’t gawk at the women. Most don’t like that, and you don’t want to get a reputation as Creepy Staring Guy. If you must, take a quick glance using the mirrors, then get back to work. Drooling is usually bad too.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Michigan Men

Note from MV: Today I want to share a great piece written by Tyrone Wheatley Sr. This article was originally contributed to The Player’s Tribune, a website started by Derek Jeter in order to give the a voice to the games that we grow up playing and watching. It offers the opportunity to pull back the curtain and see the athletes for more than what you see on gameday or hear in the press.

I came across this article a few days ago and immediately recounted the numerous times as a coach and trainer where I experienced a parent living vicariously through their child. Most parents that do this weren’t All-Stars or even All State for that matter, which is why they may try and push their child to be. Below is Tyrone’s take on where he stands on the topic:


 

Michigan Man

 

I have three incredible sons. When each was born, I laid them in their crib, and next to them, I placed a teddy bear. A Michigan Wolverines teddy bear. Then I reached down, pressed the teddy bear’s hand, and the little band inside its belly played the Michigan fight song, The Victors.

Whispering along, I’d sing:

Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu’ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!

That was the first song my boys ever heard.

New dads do crazy things …

When you’re a new father — and you think you might have a son — you feel like you have a pretty good idea of what you want to provide for him. First, you want to protect him — guard him from the mistakes you made and shield him from all the bad things in this world. Second, you want to give him all the good things you had in life — the experiences you feel lucky to have had and that shaped you into the man you are.

And if you were me — and I’m sure it’s like this for most athletes — you want him to play your sport and go to your alma mater. You want him to continue your legacy.

But then life happens. Over time, you watch him grow and develop into a young man. A young man of his own. And that becomes what you want him to be. His own man.

With Tyrone Jr., my eldest son, I got the best of both worlds.

***

We all know “that dad.” The one who’s hanging on to the past. The one who’s living vicariously through his kids. The one who pushes his kids so hard that they lose the love for the game he loves before they even have a chance to truly develop. I didn’t want to be that dad. So there was a struggle in our house for years. My wife always wanted me to go out and coach my boys.

“You played basketball, football and baseball. Why don’t you go coach the kids?”

“No,” I’d say. “I’ll go play with the kids. But I won’t coach them. I just wanna be ‘dad.’ ”

I wanted to be a voice in my boys’ lives, but I didn’t want to be the only voice. I always thought it was important for them to take coaching from someone else — learn how to be coached and not to look at their dad as someone who’s always coaching them or coming down hard on them. The last thing I wanted when I walked out into the yard was to have my boys think … Here comes dad. Put the ball down! Hide!

So we had a five-minute rule. After every game my boys played, we’d sit in the car and talk about the game — for five minutes. That’s it. After that, we’d talk about other things. I didn’t want every waking moment in our lives built around sports. I didn’t want that to be our only common interest.

 

I also didn’t want them to look at my on-field successes — at Michigan or in the NFL — and compare themselves to me or feel the weight of continuing my legacy. I wanted them to carve their own paths.

I remember when Tyrone Jr. — we call him  T.J. — was in fifth grade. He was maybe 5’11” and he wanted to play AAU basketball. I wasn’t going to coach him, but I did have one piece of advice.

“I’ve been 6’1” since the sixth grade,” I told him. “I’m basically the same height today as I was when I was your age. If you’re going to play basketball, you need to learn the little-man skills. Learn how to dribble. Learn how to pass the ball. Because you could stop growing, and those will be the skills that will carry you later on.”

There’s some height on my wife’s side of the family — my sons’ grandfather and uncle are 6’6’’ and 6’7’’ — so there was a chance T.J. would get taller. And secretly, I was hoping he would.

Then, one day later that year, I was at home in our kitchen talking to my wife, and T.J. came walking through. Leaning down and resting my elbows on the kitchen counter, I looked up at him. Then, I stood up straight, and I was still looking up at him. That 5’11 fifth-grader somehow shot up to 6’2’’.

“Yesssss!” I said with a fist-pump.

My wife noticed I was celebrating and said, “Oh, you’re excited because he’s getting taller for basketball?”

But that wasn’t it. I was excited because he was outgrowing the running back position — the position where I made a name for myself. The way I saw it, if T.J. played a different position, he’d never have to live up to a particular legacy. He could follow my lead without following my footsteps. It felt like the first step in him carving his own legacy.

That realization was one of my happiest moments in watching his growth. Literally.

***

I view the college years as some of the most crucial in a young person’s life. I call it “walking through the woods.” It’s where you start to define who you are and what you are. That’s how it was for me when I went to the University of Michigan in the early ‘90s. When it came time for T.J. to decide on what college he wanted to attend, it was a roller coaster for me. I had just joined the Michigan coaching staff as running backs coach a month before he was set to make his decision, and he had a few offers from different schools.

That young father standing over his son’s crib whispering the words to The Victors wanted him to choose Michigan. Continue the legacy. Hail!

But a more mature side of me — the one who wants his son to blaze his own trail and carve his own legacy — didn’t care where his son went. He just wanted him to make the decision that was right for him.

So when he chose to attend Michigan and wear the Winged Helmet, I was excited, but also worried. I thought, Did he sit down and go through the pros and cons and choose the school that’s best for him, or did he choose Michigan because of me?

I can only provide him with the guidance and knowledge required to make good decisions. The rest is up to him.

I’ve always thought about Michael Jordan’s kids. What in the world would it feel like to be MJ’s child? Or Walter Payton. How do you follow in those footsteps? How do you ever live up to that?

Now, I’m no Walter Payton, and I’m definitely no Michael Jordan. But it all goes back to wanting my son to create his own legacy. It’s hard enough for a young man to figure out who he is without having a constant reminder of what he’s being compared to.

At the end of the day, only T.J. will know if he made the right decision — the decision that was best for him. Because as a dad, I can’t make decisions for him. I can only provide him with the guidance and knowledge required to make good decisions. The rest is up to him.

And I trust his judgment.

***

It was 2002 and the Raiders training camp was a couple of weeks away. I was going into my eighth season in the NFL. Al Davis sat in his office chair and I sat on the other side of his desk. 

“I’m going to retire,” I said.

His response was quick and emphatic.

“No.”

“ … What do you mean, No?”

“No,” he said. “I need you. We’re about to make an incredible run. I need you in the locker room. I need you on the field. I need you to help get this team where it needs to be.”

Then Mr. Davis proceeded to name retired veterans: Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Steve Wisniewski, Eric Allen, Andre Rison — all of whom I used to tease for making the “All-Tecmo Bowl team,” from a video game I played in high school. By the time I arrived in Oakland, they were the old guys. “The veterans.” “The leaders.” Al made me realize with the vets gone, I was the veteran. I was one of the old guys. And he was right. You need guys like that in a locker room.

Al Davis was a guy who didn’t take “No” for an answer. I signed a new deal, understanding that my time in the NFL was winding down. I began to look ahead and put my future in order. 

I’m always writing things down. Notes. Ideas. Reminders. After I signed that new deal, I was still thinking forward to what my life would be like once I retired. I wrote down five things I wanted to do — five goals that I could really look forward to after my playing days were over.

This is exactly what I wrote down:

  1. Go back to the University of Michigan and coach track.
  2. Go back to my high school and be the head football and track coach.
  3. Coach in the NFL.
  4. Go back to Michigan and coach football.
  5. Be a college head coach.

Three years later, I retired from the NFL. Since then, I’ve checked off the first four of those goals on that list, in order. The only one left is to be a head college football coach. It’s almost spooky to look back at that list today and think about how things have unfolded. I completed No. 4 on that list when I came back to coach football at Michigan just a month before T.J. decided to attend the university. The experience has allowed me to have a front-row seat to watch his development on and off the field. To watch him “walk through the woods.”

When I go out to practice every day and I see T.J. in the Winged Helmet, I don’t get the nostalgia of, Oh wow, he’s in Michigan gear. My son is a Michigan Man. I’m looking at it strictly from a dad’s perspective. I’m the running backs coach and he’s a tight end. I’m not his coach. When he comes to me for life advice and to talk about the transition to being a college football player and student, I’m here for him, like any dad would be. When he comes to me with a football question, or if I notice he has a poor practice, I don’t step in and coach him. I tell him to go see his tight ends coach. 

A Michigan Man is a lot of things. He’s hard-working. He’s driven. He’s loyal. He carries himself with pride and dignity. I learned what it means to be a Michigan Man when I played here in the early ‘90s. Now, I’m passing those lessons on to my children.

T.J. comes to work every day in a Michigan uniform and goes to class every day in the Michigan halls — the same halls I walked when I was a student here. He’s a Michigan Man. But my other two sons — Tyrique and Terius, who both play high school football here in Ann Arbor — also have a little Michigan Man in them, whether they attend Michigan or not.

Because that’s how I’ve raised them.

Coach Kevin Tolbert, the Michigan strength coach, has these workouts called Get Right Sundays. As a redshirt freshman, T.J. doesn’t travel with the team for road games, so he stays back in Ann Arbor and does these workouts. The first time he did one, he came into practice the following Monday, and came to me and said, “Dad, I can’t move. How does Coach Tolbert expect me to move when he killed me with yesterday’s workout?”

I answered him the same way I’d answer any player.

“Welcome to college football, son.”

19 Random Thoughts on Training

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Being a strength and conditioning coach it’s almost hard not to think about the gym, training and athletes 90% of the day. Before I go to bed, I usually run through what is in store for the next day while trying to sift through the mess of thoughts that are bouncing around in my head.

I have my own personal thoughts/ideas/philosophies about training, but then I’m also “uptaking” a bunch of new material as well from fellow colleagues and established professionals.

So as a direct reflection of where my brain is at right now, I’ve got a very random post for you today. Here’s a bunch of stuff that comes across my mind when it comes to training.

  1. Tight hips are the speed killer. If you want to be faster, start with loosening up your hips. This allows for greater range of motion and in turn will enable you to produce more force when striking the ground.
  2. If you have lower back pain or suffered a back injury that doesn’t mean you should shy away from all back/leg exercises. More times than not the reason behind your back pain is due to weakness in your core or lower back muscles. Strengthening these muscle will reduce the chances of something “slipping” out of alignment.
  3. While in season, baseball players should avoid most pushing or benching exercises. Players throw every day, which stretches out the back and shoulder muscles. Therefore, stick to pulling exercises to combat the effect that throwing has.
  4. Nothing is more important to athletes than having a strong core. Every movement done in sports involves the core muscles and the stronger core you have the more explosive, balanced, and successful you’ll be.
  5. Agility Ladders are great, but only doing agility ladders doesn’t necessarily translate to performing better on the court/field. It’s important to teach the athlete how to produce force and break in and out of their cuts effectively.
  6. Farmers walks and overhead carries are undervalued when it comes to core strength and shoulder health.
  7. Consistency is key. The most successful athlete/clients I’ve dealt with are the ones that come in rain or shine, tired or perky. Not every day is going to be your best day, but if you come in periodically and don’t develop a routine you are bound to fail.
  8. Flashy exercises are great for catching people’s eyes, but sometimes the best exercises are the simplest, most basic ones.
  9. Encourage clients that seem to balk at the notion of adding or going up in weight. In my experience, most people don’t know what they are capable of doing. A lot of times once they realize that putting 10lbs more on the bar for squat isn’t that much they will be more inclined to try. Find people’s comfort zone and push them past it.
  10. Anterior loading (front squat bar position) is a good way to switch up lower body exercises. It adds a degree of difficulty and requires more use of the core muscles. My personal favorite is anterior loaded step ups.
  11. Correctional and core exercises are a great “buffer” or form of active rest between sets.
  12. Sometimes it’s good to just go to the gym and do a completely meat head workout. Work out the beach body muscles.
  13. Assessments are just as much for the athlete as they are for the trainer. If you have a clients that show up and bust ass, but aren’t seeing improvements it’s YOUR job to figure out where the problem lies.
  14. You can be the smartest person in the gym and know everything there is to know about exercise and how the body moves, but if you can’t develop relationships with the people you train you’re going to have a hard time being successful. Take the time to really get to know someone, it will benefit you more than you may ever know.
  15. Rest periods deserve more credit. Not every workout needs to be a HIIT workout.
  16. Furthermore, not every workout needs to result in you being sore the next day. Everyone loves the feeling of being sore because it’s a good measure of how hard you worked, but dialing it back a notch will result in better performance.
  17. Find a pair of GOOD shoes to work out in. A good shoe should offer all around support. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client come in with a bad pair of shoes and had it ruin the workout. For athletes this is a must!
  18. Your deadlift is only as good as your grip.
  19. Know the sports and positions that your athletes play. Different positions may bring out different weakness. For example, football lineman and hockey players are more prone to having tight hips/hamstrings than a running back or baseball pitcher.

Time to Bulk Up, Coach!

Never skip leg day.

If you’ve been on Instagram or Facebook I’m sure this is a phrase that has popped up quite a bit on your feed. Unless you want to look like Johnny Bravo, it’s good advice to follow.

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I love to squat. The feeling of not trusting the stability of your legs while walking down steps brings a sense of accomplishment to my previous days workout. I was not always this way however. I would still hit the legs on leg day, but it was always your basic lifts of back squat, step ups and the hamstring curl machine. Really intense stuff there. One day, after realizing how crappy my lower body programming was, I decided to completely change how I attacked leg day. I started messing around with different squat, lunge and deadlift variations as well as incorporating more explosive lifts like power cleans and snatches.

So what benefits did I see from reworking my leg day?

  • Bigger everywhere. The movements used in serious leg training elicit a significant anabolic response that affects the whole body. So if a bigger upper body is what you’re going for, you still want to make lower body training part of your plan.
  • Improved athleticism. It’s hard to think of a sport or activity that doesn’t benefit from added strength and expression of power from the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
  • Tree trunks. Thankfully I’ve been blessed with naturally thick legs and calves, but for the people out there tying to hide their chicken legs there’s no better feeling then flaunting the hard work you’ve put in.

Enough of the Jibber-Jabber, Let’s Start Frying Some Legs!

Anterior Loaded Bulgarian Squat

My favorite leg exercise is more on the advanced side of the spectrum because of the core strength that comes into play.

To begin, first set the bar on a rack that best matches your height. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, bring your arms up under the bar while keeping the elbows high and the upper arm slightly above parallel to the floor. Rest the bar on top of the deltoids and cross your arms while grasping the bar for total control. Extend ONE leg behind you, bending it slightly at the knee, and plant your toes on a bench. Keep THE supporting leg straight. Push your hips down and back as you bend your knee to descend into a single-leg squat, using the leg on the bench for balance.

Benefits:

  • Unilateral Strength – The Bulgarian split squat helps you develop unilateral strength because each side is allowed to work independently. This is very useful for preventing injuries.
  • Explosive Strength – Your jumping is largely dependent on your hamstrings and glutes. The Bulgarian split squats targets those muscle and mimics the starting position of a jump.
  • Core Stability – Anteriorly loading the bar intensifies the amount of activation that the core muscles must have in order to maintain good posture and balance.

Dumbbell Snatch

Most of my athletes I train can attest to the fact that I absolutely love this exercise. There isn’t many times that I omit this from their programs because of the explosive nature and benefits of the exercise.

To begin, stand with feet apart and toes pointing outward slightly. Position dumbbell in front of thigh with knuckles forward. Squat down with back arched and lower dumbbell between knees with arm straight and shoulder over dumbbell. Pull dumbbell up by extending hips and knees. Jump upward extending body. Shrug shoulders and pull dumbbell upward with arm, allowing elbow to pull up. The motion is similar to that of zipping up a long coat as you stand up. Aggressively pull body under dumbbell. Catch dumbbell at arm’s length while moving into squat position. As soon as dumbbell is caught on locked out arm in squat position, squat up into standing position with dumbbell over head. Lower dumbbell to shoulder and back to original position.

Benefits:

  • Compound Movement – It’s an excellent movement for developing total body strength and power.
  • Builds Shoulder Strength – The shoulder finishes off the exercise so there is a significant amount of work needed from the shoulder to decelerate and stabilize the weight overheard.
  • Unilateral Movement – The unilateral nature of the exercise requires quite a bit of rotational strength that can be applied to almost every sport. If you have unilateral imbalances, this is a great way to even them out.

Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)

The RDL in particular is used as an assistance exercise to the Olympic lifts (i.e. snatch and clean). Once you get the hang of them though, they’re addictive. It’s like popping a can of Pringles, “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop!”

Here’s how it goes. Start with a shoulder-width stance and use an overhand (pronated) grip set just outside the legs. Stick your chest out and pull your shoulder blades together while maintaining natural curves in the spine. Initiate the movement by pushing the hips backward.

The knees will naturally bend (slightly that is) as you lower the weight down. Make sure to keep the bar close to the body and the back flat, which will minimize the risk of injury.

Keep the arms straight throughout the movement. If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel it in your hamstrings. For most people, the bar will just cross the knees before the back loses form. At this point, it’s time to reverse the movement and come back up. Don’t let you back get rounded and don’t hyperextend the spine at the top of the movement. In other words, stand tall at the top, but don’t arch backwards.

Benefits:

  • Posterior Chain & Core Strength – Performing the RDL works the muscles on the back of your legs and hips — the so-called posterior chain. These muscles, are strongly involved in all every sport for running and jumping. As you lean forward, the muscles of your core must be engaged to keep your back from rounding and from just letting the bar drop.
  • Flexibility – The large range of movement required develops good hip mobility and hamstring and hip-flexor flexibility. The most common thing found when I assess an athlete is that they have tight hamstrings, so this helps to stretch them out while also providing most strength to the posterior chain.