Thursday, October 24, 2013

Creating a NewBreed of MMA athletes

Fast Friday Five

Since we evolved to bipedal-ism, man has been grappling, punching, kicking, and choking in an effort to preserve ones self, to conquer, and to establish dominance  in competitive environments. As man evolved, combat evolved. As combat evolved and nations were formed, cultures needed entertainment. Culture without physical competition is.... BORING... and so evolved the need for sport. As sport evolved, man's want and will to win changed the way we prepared. This meant practicing harder and pushing ourselves to become stronger. Superheroes were born and along came Milo, the Kroton, who progressively got stronger by supporting a bull overhead. Milo shed light on two specific variables: Progressive overload will lead to adaptation...and...and...being big and strong can be boring. Seriously, what good is strength when one cant accurately transfer or showcase it quickly, efficiently and do so over a considerable period of time, day in and day out. Today's athletes keep evolving, natural selection will always hold true. We now find ourselves  in a Golden Age of Strength and Conditioning in which forward thinkers, awesome ( readily available) research, and powerful motivators can literally change an athlete or a fighters identity for the better.

Coach Giff's 5 Principles of NX Level Fight Crew Training

1. Physical strength (absolute, general, maximal, relative) is the biggest confidence builder known to man. As rock star strength coach Mark Rippetoe once said, "Strong people are harder to kill than weak people. And more useful in general." Truer words may have never been spoken when it comes to the MMA athlete. Why couldn't an MMA woman with superior skills stand a chance with an NFL linebacker in the octagon--slabs of muscle and strength. Strength plays such a crucial roll in grappling (grip/opponent command), in striking (punching and kicking speed/power comes from strength) and in the ability to resist fatigue (relative body strength = improved work capacity and neuro-muscular efficiency). My fight crew performs at least three max effort exercises a week to improve their strength reserves. We Push/ Pull for the upper-body (Horizontal presses-DB Floor Press, Log Press, Board Benching Fat/ Horizontal Rowing or Vertical Pulling- Fat Bar Pendlays/ T Bars & Heavy Chins) and we also squat or perform dead-lifts for our lower half (goblet squats, zercher's, front squats, safety bar squats, trap bar dead's, sumo's, conventional, etc). As far as programming strength- think low reps (5/3/1), demand the intent of bar speed is always present, and understand these guys are being put through the ringer elsewhere and limit volume and intensity---save the athlete for singles week!
Pan Am's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Champ Scott Huston and RFA Champ Mike Rhodes Pulling Big Weight

2. Movement efficiency is the name of the game at NX Level. Athletes need to have optimal structural alignment, soft tissue quality, mobility, and core stability to diminish energy leaks, ensure force production/absorption is maximized, and also increase work capacity and recovery. Our assessment is based off of postural alignment and the Functional Movement Screen and allows us to blueprint our athletes for asymmetries and deficiencies. Our "athletic machines" keep healthy and mobile by starting each workout with PVC pipe or LaX ball self myofascial release, manual ART, mobility, flexibility, and core stability. Fighters specifically need to pay attention to foot pro-nation (nasty posterior tib tightness), hip external rotation, anterior pelvic tilt, scapular protraction and shoulder internal rotation. Mobility and soft tissue quality is crucial here to restore alignment and regain optimal ranges of motion in ankles, hips, and shoulders.
UFC star Erik "NewBreed" Koch opening up his hips with NX Level's spider man stretch

3. Periodization- Training and coaching is both an art and a science. I tend to favor block periodization of some sort in a linearly conjugated fashion...that was a contraindicating philosophy I just threw out. Truth be told, the MMA athlete is the garbage disposal of athleticism. These guys are expected to be strong, fast, explosive, aerobic dynamos, whom also need to be resilient and yet malleable like water. When I look at these guys with a grand scheme approach, first thing is first, as previously discussed I have to get them stronger and more efficient. Once these principles are achieved it is easier to convert those qualities into speed/power and than continue to bring up their aerobic/ anaerobic capacities after those above pieces are set. Again, punching it home: build strength, convert to power, train them to be able to sustain these qualities for 5 to 25 minutes. One concept I do live by is "Vertical integration." To dummy it down, I allude to the "training soup bucket." The untrained athlete starts out with a near empty bucket- you start to do some strength work (meat), some hypertrophy and general strength work, than you try to add some speed and power training (potatoes), and than you need to finish with some strength endurance and energy systems development (ESD) (broth/spices/veggies etc)... and oh my gosh we need to drop some weight so lets run some more (now we are just watering it down)---pretty soon that bucket is over flowing and you lost a brunt of the meat and potatoes you first started out with.The soup is now flat...The healthiest recipe needs to take on a generalist approach. Know that a little bit can go a long way and understand the vigor's of training camp will take a toll on every performance quality.
4. Athletes- The Transformers of UFC/MMA - Movement qualities of the MMA athlete draw many comparisons in various sports. The MMA athlete moves much like a basketball player, needs a Rugby players strength and resiliency but also should be treated like a fastball pitcher when dealing with shoulder wear and tear..MMA athletes also need short area quickness and explosive power while also being strong and resilient to injury. I treat these guys with many of the same philosophies I apply to the field sport athletes I train-- they need to bend the knees, extend the hips, push/pull, create tension, keep tension, apply force and absorb force all while resisting fatigue. That is sport. The MMA fighter is an athlete....                                                                          

NX Level Fight Crew: Rocky & Pat Magladeno, Sergio Pettis, Mike Rhodes & Elias Garcia workin' it

5. Fun Factor - The NX Level Fight Crew is a team of ten plus athletes largely funneled in by the nations premier MMA gym, Rofous Sport. Many of these athletes are the "grinder athletes" who actually do "grind." Working until 3 am and arriving for an 8 or 10 am workout. The sport and its disciplines require an obscene amount of practice time and many of my athletes spend 1/2 their lives with an overly active sympathetic nervous system. While training needs to be focused, monotony requires us to create a  fun and exciting environment. With this said, coaches need to create discipline while never stifling the athletes personality completely. I never forget they are lovers and fighters. I will leave this edition with a special shout out to my man Mike "Biggie" Rhodes - keep running with your heart! Good luck, great training and thanks for reading!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Champion Children- Building Your "Kids" Up

Fast Friday Five

I hear the phrase "kids these days" thrown around loosely. Often it used in an effort to glorify one's own youth experience and also condemn the goobers of our current culture. The facts are "kids these" days are a product of YOU, US, and ME. Kids these days are "pudging" out a little more, are spending more time slouched in front of a flat screen and have more experience pushing buttons on a cell phone than they do climbing on monkey bars. Conversely, adults these days are--are----doing the exact same. Adults these days don't consume vegetables and or fruits, adults these days don't find the 20-40 minutes a day out of their "insanley" busy lives to get up and move, adults these days know more about Mel Kiper's 1st Round projections than they do about who their child's favorite teacher is or what their biggest fear is. Adults these days say "my kid doesn't want to ___(fill in the blank with: eat good, exercise, stop to help someone, sacrifice a bit)---truth is its not the kids that don't want to "You probably don't want to." I condition the body with the Law of the Farm- what you reap you sow. We should condition our kids in the exact same manner and light. Lead by example.

God hasn't blessed me with kids yet- However, my coaching style reflects that of a parent. Here is my top five ways to build a champion child:

1. Show UP , Step Up,  Lead Don't Manage - My dad was my first coach. It started in the yard running button hooks when I was five or six. When I was seven, no parent raised their hands during our first flag football parent/athlete meeting-so my dad stepped up. He did the best he could with no formal education or experience. I didn't get to play more than the other kids, I shared my time playing every position. I learned how to be a teammate. I will never forget that. As I've progressed into my coaching career I've realized the coaches I looked up to the most were the ones that lived the sport, that offered the hearts to me and my teammates. Some of my coaches didn't know much, but they showed up--the best ones knew how to motivate. Kids and adults alike don't want to be managed, they want to be lead and they want to be inspired.

2. You Did Good  - I believe talent and potential is only truly met and released when you can get the beholder to appreciate themselves. How they see themselves and feel is a product of how their mentors, parents, coaches, and teachers see them and treat them. Tell a person what you see in them, push them accordingly to get them their. Early on with kids its a 2/3 vs 1/3 policy--spend more time building them up, but you need to also let them know they can improve in other areas as well. Remember what encourage means--To add to someones heart.

3. Reward the Effort  - Future Hall of Fame Linebacker Ray Lewis once said, "Effort, its you vs you." We all have also heard the line that competition breeds success. Get kids to buy into the idea that its about competing within first and they will be on track to put forth better effort with every opportunity. Through effort where they will find out the most about themselves. Start rewarding things like enthusiasm, body language, focus, attention to detail, persistence, timeliness and you will be amazed where it takes kids.

4. Embrace Failure - I have seen a few of my kids wear a Nike t-shirt with the slogan "Fear Failure." Failure is the learning tool for success--its what sparks the flame for progress and resilience. Teach kids to take risks, to learn from failure through feedback and analysis. Push kids in a manner where they do fail. Most importantly teach kids to accept the responsibility of failure. One of my favorite lines from my high school coach Steve Rux was, "Own it, learn from it, trash it."

5. Empower - Define. Educate. Do. Make kids part of the mission. Teach them, show them the way, and than let them do. Help them involve others. Create a following. Get out of their way!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Influencing Your Team

Fast Friday Five
"Using Principle Centered Leadership philosophies to improve your team"

1. "So Can I" - Modeling by example is the most powerful avenue to leave an imprint on others. When you choose to be ALL-IN towards your pursuit of what you want; positive things will start to happen for you. I guarantee you the world will take notice. Light is always attracted to light. And you, my friends, are the light. When you love, it is easier to be loved and when you give great effort you will reap a reward be it physical, mental, or emotional. If you're a coach and you want your athletes or team to work hard, you must first put in the work. If you want them to be intense and aggressive, than be a spark that ignites their fire. If you want them to buy in and commit to their program--You must earn their trust and be their for them. If you want to gain a promotion or move up the ladder than learn, help the team, and don't hesitate to self promote. If you have never checked out Erik The Hip Hop Motivator --do so. I met him last January at Rofous Sport Academy. He talked about the idea that your "ethos" should bleed out of you. Erik gave me the chills, but he inspired me to leave their saying, "If he can do it, than so can I." I want my athletes to be enthusiastic, healthy, committed and consistent leaders - I must be that first!

Every time you are around another you have the ability to bleed into them your best qualities-
get them to say "SO CAN I !!!!!!"  

2. Be a friend - If you are reading this you value education. Coaches, teachers, leaders, business men/women, and many others who work their tails off know that a base of knowledge is needed to perform  successfully. Often times, we miss the boat on influence because we never take the time to genuinely build TRUST. I can attest to this line with my athletes, "I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care." If you're a friend first and foremost, influencing will be all the easier. If our goal is to lead, communication is a must. The number one way to create a lapse in communication is to not have a foundation of trust. Use these principles offered by renowned author Stephen Covey to earn friendships: assume the best- seek to understand - reward and facilitate honesty - take the initiative on dealing with offenses -apologize/admit mistakes/forgive - don't take things to personally - find one on one time- accept others, have fun and let them influence you too!!!

One of the best parts of coaching is building friendships!

3. What and HOW you tell me - Delivery is a key component in leadership, story telling, and comedy alike. Comedian Jim Gaffigan kills it with his punch lines and shows control in use of mannerisms, tone, and timing. As an "influence-r" it may be a good idea to use more tact than him. All laughing aside, how you deliver a message has a certain cementing affect. You can win or lose some in this regard. My mother always taught me in times of frustration or anger to wait a day. Often, people act in terms of how they feel disregarding what they know. Sometimes it is best to detach yourself. Motivation and inspiration is a much greater function of the heart than it is the head. If you need to get a message across in times of frustration-  take yourself out of the equation. I want my young athletes to know that they need to give great effort so they can get better. Often times many coaches let their athletes leave a practice thinking, "I need to give better effort other wise coach will get mad and punish me." You want to establish the will to and want to in your athletes out of love and desire not out of fear. Fear can be a good motivator, but I know love and positive passion for something will have an abundant, timeless quality.    Lastly, what you say has to have truth. You need to believe and hopefully have some evidence in your personal theories. Do your research!

4. Practice and live according to the principles of ABUNDANCE - Never operate from a scarcity mentality. Believe that no one can ever take from you when you operate at your highest calling--there is always enough to go around. Realize that your life as you know it is a mere matter of your perceptions. Find sources of internal security by identifying your strengths, by cultivating great meaningful relations, by recognizing you're not perfect, by loving unconditio ALL Winnally, by trusting yourself, and by  involving others.  Don't be a victim of the "win-lose" lifestyle.  Live by the "WOW WAW" principle-- "When One Wins We ALL WIN ."

5. Serving your mission - "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22:27) This passage speaks of the idea that the leader must really be the servant to others. How would you serve someone greater than you? You would likely be attentive, positive, willing to sacrifice for them, resourceful, proactive, and willing to take a back seat for their "greater" cause. How phenomenal would the people you want to influence be if you served each and every one of them as if your message and mission depended on it. Leaders know when to lead, they know when to follow, and they more importantly know how to  serve

Thank you for reading, please re-post if you enjoyed, more importantly, apply what you liked today and 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Take a deep breath and chew on this

Fast Friday Five
1. Dont forget to breathe - Diaphragmatic breathing is the most overlooked performance piece in every single program. I guarantee this. We take 26 to 29000 breaths a day! By breathing correctly one can better improve the autonomic nervous system. Many of us are more sympathetic (excited/stressed) and the goal is to live in a parasympathetic (relaxed) state.  Breathing incorrectly is acidic to the body and leads to disturbed thoracic spine, cervical spine, scap, shoulder and intrinsic core function!! Take a look and listen:

2. Proving himself "Phenom"-enal - This Saturday, Sergio Pettis will be fighting James Porter in Milwaukee at 135 lb division. Sergio has been a blast to work the last three years because of his commitment, athleticism, attention to detail and last but not least his politeness (a dying quality in our young athletes). Serg is both a talent that whispers and also one that shouts. He possesses a genuine sense of humility to go with undeniable flash inside the cage.

"Training is not what you do when you've got where you're going. It is what gets you there" R. Ankeresen

3. 411 on MyFood- I am going to keep it 100 when it comes to what I chew on. I am an 80/20 or 90/10 kind of guy. I do believe in the power of food. I do believe the line "you are what you eat"and I can definitely attest to the idea that your body comp, performance and recovery is directly correlated to REAL, FROM THIS WORLD foods! Here are my go to foods choices in no specific order: spinach, broccoli, frozen "colored" peppers, very lean red meat, chicken sausage, eggs, berries, post-workout mint chocolate Clif Bars, and watered down homemade 1000 Island dressing. I cook with olive oil or coconut oil and I do enjoy a social Guinness regularly. I do the best I can. Best advice to you at home--crush the greens, get rid of the Robot Carbs (breads/yogurts/pastas/crackers/granola bars) and eat Human Carbs (veggies, fruit, potatoes, oats), get protein and healthy fat(avocado& almonds) in the morning...and lastly here is my take on bananas for all you athletes...Their like your college-girl Jersey Chasers--cheap & easy but in the end they are simple fruits and are really not all that good for you.

4. HamSCREAMS and Whats really hurt?- One of my mentors, Brad Arnett, was featured in a great write up on the hamstring issues that have plagued Wisconsin sports as of late.This great insight reminded me of a our industries new age thought in regards to aches and pains. Invariably our injuries are often a result of mechanical inefficiencies elsewhere...meaning what hurts right now is usually not the culprit. Look above, below, in front or behind to gain clues and remember x doesn't mark the spot in most cases. More to come next week.

5. Holy Ground - I often get to witness some of the greatest motivational speakers and lecturers at Elmbrook  Church in Brookfield, WI. Last Sunday, Mel Lawrenz blew wind into my sails and inspired many. He spoke of the verse, "I Am that I Am." The idea that God is everywhere and in everyone can be frightening or deeply enriching--that all depends on how you choose to live, act, and think. Mel's take away message was for us to mark everywhere we walked as HOLY GROUND.

Live what you believe out loud!    

Thursday, September 19, 2013

5 Principles of Success to Live by

Fast Friday Five

1. Own Your Past- Where you are in life, in business, or on the sporting field is exactly where you are supposed to be because of the opportunities you seized, you let drift away, or you faulted on. Reflect whats got you to this point. Was it extra time spent or not put forth? Was it a risk you took or a missed opportunity? Maybe you are a small reflection of the people you choose to spend your TIME with. Know that you are not a victim or a result of circumstance; you are a product of the reACTION you chose toward your life "happenings". I've been cut from a team, been demoted after injury, had my heartbroken, judged others harshly, reacted sourly, "seen some shit" and its all led me to become BETTER for it.
-Your trail needs both green pastures and storm clouds alike for the most enjoyable view-

2. Set your compass to "True North" - Decide what you want and more importantly why you want it and always keep your foot on the pedal in moving on up towards your goal. If its a gigantic yacht, a starting role on the Wauwatosa Spartans football team or a front cover spot on "US" Weekly Mag... so be it. As long as you know why you want "it" you don't have to justify "it" to anyone but yourself. Once you figure out where you're headed, share your journey with those whom you can either carry with you or those who will keep you moving on up.  True North to me = congruence of thought, word, and action toward your very own "strongest" principles.

3. Act as If- When I was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, my head was in the clouds. I found a fitness idol, Martin Rooney! He talked the talkwalked the walk, trained champions and motivated me to the nth degree! Seven or eight years later the guy still motivates me and inspires me. Only now I know a little more and more importantly have put that knowledge into ACTION. Start where you are and let what you're passionate about CONSUME you. If you want to be a "Fitness Coach/Freak/Expert/Motivational Guru" than be it. Eat your broccoli, sprint/jump/lift/sweat, research, and find what motivates you...than pass it on. It might start with you motivating a mirror or choking down that "cheesy broccoli crap"... but that's okay  START SOMEWHERE--WHERE EVER YOU ARE..NOW!
-Life is like an acceleration start; you have to extend and push yourself to get somewhere-

4. Learn from the best- Issac Newton once said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." I came to NX Level to learn from the best. I got advice from a guy who trained NFL athletes, watched a pro strongman demolish weight and than delicately teach a squat to a 12 year old girl, I watched my buddy establish himself as a coach and organize his way to a management position, and I listened to the articulate dissection and directions of a University professor/coach. Watch and learn and constantly  try and find better ways of doing things... In fact, I think it best to subscribe to the idea that You don't know what you know until you know what you don't know. Coaches need coaches too. Success patterns favor those who are "humble-hardworking-believers" that understand how to network and attest to the "WE not ME" mentality.

5.Quit Playing by the rules - In Luke 6:26, scripture speaks "woe unto you when all men speak well of you." Love it. Fact of the matter was, Jesus didn't stick to protocol... Pissed off a lot of people indeed. Identify with his boldness and "be" that verse a little more. If you stick to your guns, to your true north principals, and are all-in with what you believe; chances are you're going to piss someone off (someone right now is probably sour about me referencing scripture)..You don't have to break rules either--great phenomenons are often a result of curiosity. Imagine if back in 1934 Ken Sailors would've just kept tossing the ball from between his legs to the basketball hoop. The world would have never got to experience a Michael Jordan "fadeway"...and I know their would've never been a "Showtime" kick.
-Champions are born through curiosity, competition, and conviction-

Friday, May 10, 2013

25 Lessons of Strength I learned at 25 

1. It all starts with God! And through HIM all things are done. A great message shared with me by some Elmbrook Church friends shed light on “perpetual action” as a Christian. How would you act if you new God wasn’t just watching you--he was standing right next to you? Act in a way that recognizes HIM and Glorifies HIM in all you do---IN ALL YOU DO!

2. I am Second.  I always was raised to be cognizant of other people and I believe I’ve spent the better part of the last year 25 years doing that.. However, I always had a fear that if I invested or boasted to much into myself I would be developing selfish qualities. True to a point, however, I’ve learned the last year to become increasingly more self centered. I am learning to become more centered in HIM (who is at my Core), in my sense of “me:, and in my principles and goals. All the great ones; whether it be athletes, teachers, philosophers, businessman or even preachers were sellers of self, self starters, and self promoters. To figure yourself out--first ask what’s most important to you?

3. Power of Belief-- The greatest gift a coach can give to an athlete is their belief in them. You have to facilitate an environment in every relationship to allow people to see the potential they have inside of them. From here you have to hold them accountable and keep them disciplined in their pursuit of progress.

4. Foresight. The greatest asset you have is your vision. Figure out your goal and plan backwards from their. 

5. High Five Fingers- This became one of my favorite coaching cues for sprinting. It allows athletes to really create tension in the wrist, forearms and shoulders for perfect swing. Lets not stop their. Your toes and fingers are your second brain. They are communicators of mechanical input and they also are emotional communicators as well. Never underestimate the importance of a high five, hand shake, or a pat on the back. 

6. I am one of six. My mom and dad, Kathy and Tim, my brothers Sean and Tim and my seeeester Catie are me. I am them.  I’ve been given great advice from so many wonderful and inspiring people or texts on family.  As a coach, you need to let your athletes feel your unconditional love--much like a mother. You have to set an example of integrity and discipline through tough love sometimes like a father. You have to be their like a brother--not just to give advice, but to understand, empathize and laugh. You have to be the person you want your sister to marry. You have to also be able to goof around with her like she’s a brother too. 

7. Consistency. I tell my athletes that consistency isn’t a 2,3,4 or 5 day a week thing. Its an everyday of the week, every minute, every hour type thing. Consistency is king when it comes to paths of success. Repetition, repetition, repetition. “Povyerenya mat uchenya” - Russian for repetition is the mother of all learning.  Be who you are every day, all day!

8. If you look at the number eight it is unique to all letters in its symmetry. Alignment is the foundation to all things physical. It is the number one limiting factor to movement and performance limitations. The last year brought me a guy named Luke and a woman named Andrea--whom interestingly enough professionally deal with alignment issues of the body and have helped me with my own alignment in spirit. Find modalities that promote soft tissue quality, joint integrity, and get that to hold through strength and stability work and you will notice the difference. Metaphoric take away--surround yourself with friends who can heal, fix, listen, and laugh.

9.  Cats have nine lives. We have two. Enjoy this one, let yourself fail and fall and roll like that good old farmhouse tabby cat--but know this life is just preparation for the next one with HIM.

10. The rules of ten. Act and dream with the enthusiasm and zest as you had as a ten year old, know that it takes a minimum of ten years to become an expert, use the 10,000 rep rule to create good habits (takes 10,000 reps for a motor skill to become instinctive) and be generous and worry free as if you had $10,000,000. 

11. May 11 is my birthday. My last years birthday wish was a year full of days that felt like birthdays. Its been a damn great year.  You know why?  I chose for it to be a year like that. Yes I got frickin tired at times. Yes their were some heartaches, disappointments, and dramas here and their but as the Hindu saying goes, “The World is as you are.” My next year will probably be spent with a mantra just like that. Maybe I wont get the present I wanted, maybe that one friend will not get to come to my party, maybe I will have to share my toys even though I didn’t get to play with them first…maybe, well wait…. This is my frickin birthday party, its going to be fun, my friends are here, theirs ice cream cake--you catch my drift. 

12.  The twelfth man. Sometimes the ball just bounces your way. Or that twelfth man pitches in to cheer you on or imaginably trip up the competition by the shoelaces.  I have a lot of “twelfth” men or women in my life. Sometimes its God, sometimes its an old friend, some times it’s a friend of a friend. I have come to think of Luck as something else--Luck is “Letting Universal Communicators Knock.” The world is one big circle and people are knocking if you are willing to open that door.  Don’t ever forget that you deserve everything coming your way and can learn from every instance in which the ball doesn’t roll your way.

13. Here’s a scenario for you--you arrive at a party in which you were told to bring pizza and beer for eleven other people. Well a twelfth shows and you are the thirteenth. What do you do?

14. There is no right or wrong answer. Point is there are so many ways around a problem. Some might not like pizza or beer-- some might want to share. You can always go out and get more or order from the delivery guy. Don’t pigeon hole yourself to one correct answer or ideal. A great saying I pulled from this past year was “Don’t get caught up in the black and whites, because there is so much hiding in the grays.” Keep an open mind and remember, your still at the party and at the very least you fed one hungry belly.  

15. Genshai. A concept I read about from author Kevin Hall of the book “Aspire” was “Genshai.” It means  you should never treat anyone as if they were unimportant or small. Treat all the people you come across as if they were the most important person in the world. Coach athletes to think of every rep and every facet of the workout from foam rolling to mobility to stability to strength as if it was the most important thing and you will have a happier and more successful  program. 

16. Back to strength. My guy Brad used to always say mobility sets up strength. And he’s right, the work of  Mobility Wod guru Kelly Starret, has been an unbelievable tool for us at the gym.  We gave more focus to cueing our athletes to rotate the knee out while squatting and it paid huge dividends. Why? Well not only does it free up space for your knees and hips to hinge, but it also allows you to keep a more stable pelvis and  last buttttt not least it allows the glutes to function in their primary role--as external rotators (not hip extensors )

17. More butt--tight hips tight hips tight hips 
Heres a quick stretch to incorporate into your routine : 

18. Influence. Everyday is a new chance to impact someone’s life. Never underestimate the effect one person can have on another person’s life.

19.  I had a buddy that inadvertently screwed up. It was kind of one of those “cardinal sins” as they say. He got called out on his blunder and retorted, “look I’m only nineteen.” Always remember in times of good and bad that youth is not an excuse and on the flipside your age shouldn’t be a limitation. Act to reflect your essence and not your age. Take it from this guy--though he may not know where he is- He's still grindin'

20. Back to those buddies. I just overheard my friend Rachel saying something along the lines of “God keeps the right people in your life.” He also finds a way to bring them back. 

21. If you want “primetime-neon-Deion speed” you have to actually slow down to move fast. Work on mobility and stability than get especially strong in positions that reinforce acceleration like this:

22. When you compare yourself to others your life is just a “catch 22.” Detach yourself, reapply yourself, than think of the law of balance. Travel the middle road but don’t forget to vacation and detour on the trails of adventure. 

23. MJ 23. I was lucky enough to get my picture taken in front of Michael Jordan at the United Center for an MMA event in January.  The G.O.A.T--what was so great about him far exceeded his physical talent. It was his competitiveness and his desire to be the best he could be. We are all in search of greatness and some of us want to be the greatest.  I learned at 25 that I will never be the greatest in the world. But I can be the greatest version of me. Joeseph Campbell said it best, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” 

24. I am forgiven and so I can forgive. I couldn’t grasp this at 24 and maybe even the earlier parts of 25. What a difference a year makes. Because HE always forgives me (and boy am I guiltier than you’d think) I have the power to forgive others. And what power to you that brings.  

25. On thanksgiving of last year I found myself stumped when trying to just come up with one word to describe me--my mom found it for me, “Grateful.” I am so thankful to know you, to work with you or be helped by you, to coach you, to learn from you, to laugh with you , to love or be loved by you. To all those of my past, present, and future--Thank You. You are all the best of characters in my book. 

My birthday wish is for you to believe in the awesomeness that is in you and believe in the ability you have to help others become awesomerrrrrrrr to ! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Sprinting Tabloid” -Facts, Fallacies, Recent Research, and One Liners to Live by

"Fast Friday Five" (4)
  1     “Push!  Extend! Cover Ground!”Just after the 2012 London Olympics, 110m hurdler Aries Merrit broke the world record by .07 seconds to finish in an astounding 12.80 seconds. What did he owe his WR too? Flawless technique; specifically he switched his first hurdle approach from eight steps to seven. Merrit’s coach, Andreas Behm, said “overall strength and power output is most important with seven strides. The stronger and more powerful you are, the more ground you can cover.”Amen! Once again, real life application and verification why a solid strength and power program is so important to speed. In our football combine training context, many coaches find it easy to reduce the 40 yard dash times of athletes by improving their 10 yard times. Take an athlete from 7 or 8 steps at 10 yards, to 6 and you have great improvement.  Usain Bolt ran 9.58 in the 100m in 41 strides; back in ‘99 Maurice Green 45 to go 9.79. “LONGER STRIDE=FASTER TIME”
2.       “Recover, recover, recover”- Recent research has shown that training for sprint cycle “in air recovery” or “quick swing phase” will yield… improvement whatsoever. Limb repositioning doesn’t get you anywhere faster and we may be spinning our wheels here. I will talk about this drill and concept in its entirety in the near future, but do away with the “anchor drill.” A study by infamous sprint researcher Peter Weyand found that the studies slowest subject (a avg. field sport female athlete) and fastest subject (Usain Bolt) both repositioned their legs at roughly the same time/speed. When it comes to teaching mechanics, teach positions through “feel” and forget the bells and whistles. “USE THE LEGS FOR POWER (stride length) AND THE ARMS FOR SPEED (stride frequency)!
3.       “Stay grounded”- Ground contact time is our big indicator of speed and performance. In short, applying large amount of force in minimal time. Remember Master Sprint Coach Loren Seagraves words, “BIG FORCE, SHORT TIME, PROPER DIRECTION, FULL R.O.M” Elite sprinters can execute five strides per second, with a touchdown time of .09 seconds, and a recovery time of .11 seconds. Train for better GCT and you get better times.
4.       “Fast Twitch”-Many believe sprinters are born not made. Well to a certain degree genetics will pre-determine a portion of what you have. No offense to Tim and Kathy Gifford, but I tapped out my Irish-German-Scottish genes awhile back. However, I understand” SPEED IS A SKILL.” It can be taught and it can be improved upon. Through appropriate and directed training, fiber type will change (greater change at site of need, for instance hamstrings are naturally more predominantly fast twitch vs spinal erectors functioning as slow twitch) and intra/intermuscular coordination can be enhanced.

5.       “How Fast Can you Climb 47 flights”- On Saturday, March 23, NX Level will be hosting the Fight For Air Stair Climb at the US Bank in Milwaukee to raise money for the American Lung Association. The Goal is to get up the 1034 stairs in a fast, fast time. Get off your butt, come out and raise money for a great cause. For More info check out-- and get prepped with this quick workout featuring Shannon Carney, Matt Cerra and myself:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fast Friday Five (3): Assessing your Mobility, Stability, Relative Strength

                               Fast Friday Five Part two: “Assessing the Speed Athlete and Your Life”

             At NX Level, the training process of the athlete starts with an assessment. I’ve come to find that “physical training” and life are direct reflections. Not a day goes by where analogies and parallels can’t be made with something as simple as teaching a snatch or taking kids through a dynamic warm up. Often I find that the lessons I am teaching the athletes, are in fact, lessons God probably wants me to learn or reflect upon. This week’s “Fast Friday Five” is part two of a two part series dedicated to some of these parallels I make when dealing with our standard assessment process. 

1 “Mobility”- When we think of mobility we think of free, undeterred movement. Physical and mental mobility are extremely important for performance and intellectual/social growth. Joint mobility in the strength and conditioning context deals with range of motion at the ankles, hips, thoracic region, and glenohumeral region. If one has restriction here, movement competency or efficiency will be altered locally and globally. If one has poor alignment, soft tissue quality, muscular tone/imbalance, or structural genetic disposition, their ability to put themselves in effective positions will be altered. Performance is affected; the probability of injury is heightened. Can you squat, can you hinge, can you move your arms and shoulders? At NX Level we want to teach two main things: the ability to bend the knees, the ability to extend the hips.  Life is always throwing curveballs, fastballs, and sliders at us. Can you hit that certain pitch? Do you have the keen eye to take a ball? Do you have the mental fortitude to recover from a strike out? One has to be a little malleable to keep or make relationships and to weather the occasional storm with life. Remember, no two people or situations are the exact, so bend a little and keep an honest open mind. I guarantee you won’t break and remember the words of Dale Carnegie, “Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.”
2  “Stability”- Mobility and stability are so very opposed. But the yin and yang of the two in its physical form is just like life. You need mobility to grow and learn, but you need stability to develop and stay strong as well. Trainers and coaches across the country will use the word “core” redundantly.  One of the core’s main functions is to create stability. The root of human movement and physical existence deals with one’s ability to stabilize their spine. To be fast you need great lumbopelvic stability and as I often tell athletes, a tight pillar leads to great arm and leg action. Without developing and adhering to your mental core values, one will have no direction, no sense of why they do things or who they are or what they want.  Stability here means trust, belief, discipline, consistency, faith in one’s self, and the loyalty to moral or religious principals. If you don’t value yourself, your actions, your relationships—your character will be ghostly.  Whatever or whoever you are, stick to it. The stronger you are on the inside, the greater your ability to create and express your most extraordinary strength and power.

3 “Relative Strength”- To succeed in life, we don’t all have to be presidents, saints, millionaires, philanthropists, or NFL MVP’s. To gain true success in life, we just have to master ourselves. Without getting too Zen like in my preaching, your life is relative to your surroundings, your perceptions, and your wants. If you can master and be happy with whom you are and what you have, you will call yourself a very happy soul. Being happy is our number one human goal. Happiness is relative. Likewise, athletic strength is relative to your body. Relative body strength is simply how strong one is in overcoming their own resistance. Sometimes you are your own very worst opposition (I’m sorry for, yet again, blowing your mind and leaving you in the mental/physical conundrum). So as we talked about earlier on, get rid of the extra garbage body fat and emotional stressors, get strong and you will be quicker, more resilient with all your movements—physical and mental alike.
4 “Motivate and surround yourself”- There is the assessment process laid out. You can now call yourself a "self aware athlete." Making changes starts with awareness and acceptance, but now for true change and growth you need action. Once the ball is rolling you will soon realize that discipline is only as good as the “why” to the “what” you are doing. Find what motivates you, find who motivates you and prioritize them as being one with your goal. A successful journey is easy. Stick to the map, learn and weather the storms, surround yourself with other good sailors. Chances are the journey will be the reward. The reward is just icing on the cake.

5 “Combine Buzz”- Tis the season and I live for the 40 yard dash hoopla. After all, I am a speed nerd. Marquise Goodwin rounded out the fastest of the NFL Combine with a solid 4.27. I would’ve changed a few things on his starting stance and his hand position. But 4.27 is fast. More on the 40, combine and pro days later, in the meantime check out his amazing run… (Whats up with that back leg)

Friday, February 22, 2013

“Assessing the Speed Athlete and Your Life”

“Assessing the Speed Athlete and Your Life”
At NX Level, the training process of the athlete starts with an assessment. I’ve come to find that “physical training” and life are direct reflections. Not a day goes by where analogies and parallels can’t be made with something as simple as teaching a snatch or taking kids through a dynamic warm up. Often I find that the lessons I am teaching the athletes, are in fact, lessons God probably wants me to learn or reflect upon. This week’s “Fast Friday Five” is part one of a two part series dedicated to some of these parallels I make when dealing with our standard assessment process.  
1.       “Vision and Goals” Paul Arden, author of my last read It’s not how good you are its how good you want to be, reached out and slapped me in the head when he said “your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have.” Without having a goal it’s difficult to score. Athletes usually want to get faster, stronger, more mobile or are driven by accolades or accomplishments such as “varsity letters” or “Division 1 scholarships.” My vision is simple- I want to inspire and be inspired.  I want to help people find their greatness within, and I want to coach athletes to fast performances. I want to do this to my best ability, where that takes me is yet to be determined. What is your vision? Chances are your vision involves your “day dreams” or has a link to what you do in your free time. 

2.       “Past Injuries” When planning ones training, we have to be aware of past injuries that may give us clues on structural, soft tissue, or muscular imbalances. We see the gamut of problems.  Topping the list of aches and pains would be: ankle instability, knee ligament stress, hip soft tissue or muscular strain, low back pain and anterior/posterior shoulder overuse. Identification here helps the coach gain insight and allows us to game plan for areas that need to be restored to proper sufficiency. My issues as an athlete were mobility and structural alignment. As a person, I can be one to assume too quickly and to be competitive to a fault.  Past injuries in life usually deal with relationships, fears, anxieties and personal experiences. If you can’t identify those issues, than you can’t properly overcome adversity that will undoubtedly be ahead. If you don’t fully recover, that “injury” will keep biting you in the butt. Understand that often times even the petty issues or what appears to be the problem isn’t the real culprit. Why did I pull my hamstring so much? Turns out it wasn’t really my hamstring’s that was problematic, it was the position of my pelvis.  In the non training world, one may be losing employment quickly or unable to keep harmonious relationships. Chances are their problems are deeply rooted in their past and their true sense of self. Here in their—freak things happen, you take a wrong step or the market collapses and you happen to be last on the totem pole. You can’t plan for it, but if you’re trained properly we will reduce the likelihood of injury. Notice I didn’t say prevent, the world and athletics are chaotic, damage is part of the game.  
3.       “Diet, Body Fat, what you chew on”- If you want to be a fast athlete, you can’t be carrying around excess body fat. You have to put the right things in your system to recover and fuel your body. You have to stick to the essentials and consistently consume nutrients at the proper time. Ideally, you need less than 10% body fat to sprint optimally. We are talking lean proteins, healthy fats, greens, berries, and the proper pre/post workout protocol.  As a person, if you carry the extra weight of burdens, anxieties, fears, and stressors, you won’t get to where you want quickly. You may never get there at all. Are you chewing on a hardy piece of resentment? You can move on in two different ways-- swallow it and let it come to pass or aspire, climb to a higher place-- then spit that shit out while watching from a scenic spot .  Remember that 10% number, well here’s the drill- “life is 10 % what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”-Charles Swindoll.
4.       “Structural Alignment and Posture”- Your alignment and posture can tell a knowledgeable eye everything there is to know about your body, your past, present and the possibilities of your future. It’s a great predictor, but not an end all be all. When you look at issues here you’ll understand that if pieces aren’t in the right places or positions, sooner or later you’ll bend extensively. Bend enough and you just may break. We are looking at anatomical structures such as bones, muscles and we are often poking and prodding (palpating if you will) towards soft tissue trigger points. If you want to be fast you have to hold great positions. If you want to succeed in life, you have to have a strong and resilient back bone. You have to believe and stick to your principles and values.  Who and what takes center stage in your life? Is it putting you in the right position to be successful, to be happy or to reach that goal or vision? Remember what we talked about earlier, local issues become global issues. You’re a sum total of all your parts- body and mind. If you want to be great, take away the negative features or attributes and make sure to build positives. Once you’ve identified you’re a “positive,” surround yourself with other positives. When you multiply a bunch of positives together you get a greater sum!   
5.       “Genshai” – Type this word into the Google search bar and do your research. It may change your outlook, perspective, and your life. It may help you change others for the better.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coach Giff's First Fast Friday Five

Coach Giff's Fast Friday Five

"My bliss is all things sprint speed- watching an athlete scorch the track, accelerate for a long touchdown, or out sprint an opponent to the ball, base or hoop is one of the most mesmerizing athletic feats! These postings are one man's pursuit to coach, educate, enlighten, teach, motivate and inspire the world to 4.2 40's, 6.3 60's, and 9.4 100m sprints. "

1. My coaching philosophy made simple - "Better position's, better results." As a coach, whether you are a Performance Enhancement Specialist, Speed Guru, Strength and Conditioning coach, Personal Trainer, Impersonal Trainer, Bodyworks Practioner, 3rd Grade Parks and Rec guy who is getting his community service hours in for underage drinking...well whomever you a coach your job is to put your athletes in the most advantageous positions for success. It's as vanilla as Mike Boyle's body (Mike, assuming you are reading this, I am just kidding, I look up to you and I loved your Book Modern Advances in Strength Edition 74.) But seriously, help your athletes find the best positions and you will be successful. Get them really strong in all the appropriate places and at the appropriate times and you will be even more successful. Motivate and inspire these athletes and you will be a life changer. Coaching Takeaway: get really good at coaching the simple things, try to surround yourself with or learn from people who are "smarter" than you and don't forget that its just not about putting kids bodies in the right positions, you have to help them understand what they have within. Inspire!

2."Simple Equation for Fast Sprinting Speed = Long Stride Length + Fast Stride Frequency" You're probably saying "no shit Sherlock!" By now I find it charming when this is the first bullet point highlighted by our "underground warehouse speed experts." Yes, SF + SL = Speed--but are you the type of coach looking to build "B+" athletes? Are you the guy resting on the laurels of the simplicity that is "pushing hard" and "moving fast?” If it’s just that easy, than squat big with no regards to body position, move your limbs and arms fast, and push that prowler as if to the viewing eye it’s actually a push sled pulling an epileptic body. In a field where we have to steal every precious inch, pound or hundredth of a second, understand there are no short cuts to success. Understand that maybe the fastest way to building a fast athlete is to slow things down, relax and be patient. Whoa- that's a lesson in sprinting and programming in and of itself. Yes, sprinting fast means we need to produce large amounts of force in minimal time (1000 plus pounds of ground reaction force with a touchdown to touch off amplitude of .1 to .14 seconds.) --yes strength is so very, very important. Understand, one needs to be relatively and maximally strong and more importantly needs to have great explosive power in someway shape or form, but strength training isn’t the end all be all...don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

3. "Pal- Posture, Arm Action, Leg Action" My greatest friend growing up was sometimes my parents family room television. No, I didn’t spend time watching "Dawson's Creek" or "Family Guy"; I spent a lot of that time obsessing over a couple VHS tapes of just about every sprint ever run from 1999 to 2005. If you know the sprinting world, that’s when Maurice Greene, Ato Boldon, Jon Drummond, Inger Miller and team HSI reigned supreme. John Smith, who still runs the show out their in California, has a pretty sub par strength training approach. However, he is a master and a true artist when it comes to teaching body position. In fact, if you've ever heard the term "drive phase," whelp John's the coach that coined that acceleration term. Torso position (statue from head to hip)--arm action (clear the shoulders) and leg action (extend the hip, pull the foot through) are my three easy reference points. To practice that perfect drive phase position, all you need is a sled, a tire or a friend with a heavy monster band. Here's a better look:

4. "Alignment, Mobility, Stability" Can’t say enough about those three training principles. At NX Level, these three areas make us successful. My idol, master motivator Martin Rooney, always gives light to an Old Russian statement when talking of our sporting culture here in America, "You always want to put your tie on before you put your shirt on." We always battle between the need for instant gratification and being patient to yield lasting, progressive results. If you are not properly aligned your soft tissue quality and mobility will suffer. With out mobility you will never use proper position to get strong. If you can’t hold position (stability) what good is superhuman strength or speed? Coaching Takeaway - always refer back to your foundational principles. These are quite often the true limiting factors we come across.

5. "Thank you" - I've been taught so many lessons of gratuity in my life. If there is one thing you should know about me it is that I am a grateful soul. Thank you for reading my first entry. This is just the start. Your feed back would be much appreciated- I will take the good, bad, and the ugly if it can improve me in someway. Today I encourage you to do just that, encourage others and remember as I did with my first entry into the cyber world "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-tzu