Thursday, 15 September 2016

CEO Strength Coach - Ron McKeefery

From the latest RPCN newsletter:

CEO Strength Coach by Ron McKeefery.
Ron McKeefery has been name-dropped on the RPCN before through his podcast Iron Game Chalk Talk; he is a strength coach working for Eastern Michigan University, and has a vast amount of experience in various aspects of S&C. His book talks about his journey from college students, how he found S&C, and then his journey throughout his career including all the lessons along the way.
This is a fantastic read and is full of little gems of information, so definitely get hold of a copy via the link that is embedded in my blog post (linked below) and thank me later.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Moving forward

Long old time since I posted anything on this blog, but decided I would today. So here's the latest:

In case you weren't aware, I now work at East Grinstead rugby club, as the Head of S&C for the G-Force Squad, as well as managing their on-site gym facility G-Force Gym (formerly The Training Lab).
I'm enjoying this role, and it's good to have this set up to help build my business and push that further forward whilst also staying in rugby. I think that is the biggest perk of this role so far is that it is a double-header - I can push towards a career in rugby S&C, whilst also pushing my business and trying to make that bigger and a more thriving enterprise.

Outside of that I am training for the Olympic lifts, with a view to competing in Olympic Weightlifting later on this year, and also potentially get back into throwing in track and field. I used to throw discus and shot putt as a teenager and want to compete in something so figure that might be the way to go that doesn't take up loads of my time and can be trained by general strength and power (like weightlifting).

I'm also looking into doing an MSc in the future. At the moment I am looking outside of S&C as I've heard not such great things about those courses, so the one I am interested in currently is MSc Sport Rehabilitation at Middlesex University. It would be one-day a week if part-time, or two-days a week if full time. So it's something I may look at doing later this year.

The other good news recently is that I am back on the books at Breaking Muscle UK. I have been contacted by them and asked to contribute an article monthly to their site - so that is great news and I'm really looking forward to getting back into writing for them. It's a fantastic website with great authors so the chance to write amongst some famous names is awesome. Hopefully my work will be valued and read by a good amount of people, and potentially push towards more work with the business.

The online coaching is going well as well, with 2 new clients signing up last week. So I'm going to try give this a push over the comings months also.

Think that's about it for now - time for me to get ready to head into work.
Til next time

Monday, 8 June 2015

New beginnings

Today is the start of something new.

At 21:25 tonight, the 8th June 2015, I fly to New Zealand to begin a new journey.
Firstly I will be finally reunited with my girlfriend Rachael, and we're travelling the South Island for a few weeks.
Then the work starts as I head to Whangarei to work for Northland Rugby as the Assistant S&C.

This opportunity is something I cannot wait to begin. After finishing my internship year with Harlequins, this is now a step up in responsibility and another towards being where I want to be.

I'm quite fortunate in that I now have options when I finish also. My boss at Reach Fitness London, Rich Tidmarsh, has allowed me to keep my role open there for when I return to the UK, but then also there is always the chance of progression within Rugby so we will have to see what happens.

So here's to the future - let the fun begin!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

My Internship Year

My Internship Year

Ok, so in June 2014 I was lucky enough to be accepted as a Strength and Conditioning intern (technically a volunteer but intern sounds better) for Harlequins Rugby for 2014/15 season. I was absolutely over the moon when I found out, because I had originally applied for this position in 2011, straight out of university, but didn’t get it.

When I didn’t get it first time round it was tough, I thought I had everything one would need to be suitable for this role. But after visiting the club shortly after, and even more so looking back 3 years down the line, I had absolutely no clue about Strength and Conditioning as an industry, no experience worthy of noting, and was duly told this.

So I was sent away with simple messages:
1.     Get some experience coaching S&C
2.     Start off down the UKSCA or CSCS/NSCA path
3.     Build a knowledge base through your own trial and error

So that’s what I did. I worked with the University of Worcester Men’s Rugby team, Men’s American Football team, Malvern College rugby, worked privately out of City Gym Worcester and Hill Performance Centre, started training for strength rather than the regular bodybuilder type training, and I researched the UKSCA.

Now I am fully UKSCA Accredited, have a year of experience in Elite Level Rugby Union, started my own business, am a personal trainer in London, and am off to New Zealand in June to be the Assistant S&C Coach for Northland in the ITM Cup.

So the internship – is it worth it?
I hear this all the time, and I read about it all the time online with people out of uni saying “I couldn’t get a job, but I’ve got a degree, should I do an internship even though I don’t get paid…”
My response would be “Yes.” Simple. This internship has been absolutely invaluable to me, it’s hard to really explain it but I’ll try.

What I’ve learnt throughout this process hasn’t necessarily been new information; I already had an understanding of physiology etc due to university, but it has been eye opening in terms of application and starting to realize the complications that arise in elite level sport.

Even now, one year on working within this structure, I feel like it would be a big step to head up an S&C Program because of how much of this information was new. How to piece together the programming for weights, speed, conditioning, recovery etc. Then the inclusion of rugby, how to cater for injuries, different fixture dates and how to adjust the training week.

So many small things you don’t even think about when you’re new, but that hit you and you suddenly realize how in depth it can all be.

A lot of people then go off talking about the role of an intern; will I just be there to do all the crappy jobs that the coaches don’t want, will I ever work with the first team, will the players like me, what happens if they don’t?

Now, I have heard some horror stories of “internships” where people basically just did all the bitch duties. Cleaning, setting up and clearing away etc.
Don’t get me wrong; we’ve had our fair share of those duties this year too. But with the bad comes the good.

This internship has been incredible for hands on experience, and that’s largely down to the fact that all bar one of the S&C team at Quins have previously been an intern at the same club. They know how it works, and know how it feels to be in that position.

On day one – our first job was to clear out a massive container of crap. This was to be expected. I should note that day one was 3 days before pre-season started.

On day two (day one of pre-season) – we were given athletes to coach. Just like that, straight in to the club, still learning names, and we’re in charge of a group of professional athletes.

A few weeks later, the England squad members came back from New Zealand and were training – they were given to us to coach. The highest profile players in the club, and the interns were in charge of them straight off. That is responsibility right there.

Things continued in that way all year. We had crappy roles to do like protein shakes, setting up therapy every damn day, clearing up therapy every damn day, cleaning and filling ice baths, running water on for rugby etc.

But as I already said, it was balanced out with good stuff. Coaching groups of players in the gym, running warm ups for speed and rugby, getting involved on Premiership and European match days, being mic’d up running water for the A-League getting coaches messages out to the players, working at stadiums like Franklin’s Gardens, The Stoop, The Rec, The Aviva Stadium, and the Holy Grail that is Twickenham.

With the players you have to get an understanding of the situation; these guys see new interns come in year on year, like a conveyor belt of over eager rugby and gym nauses trying to make their way in a new industry. One piece of advice I was told beforehand was – know your place. Don’t go in trying to tell them some new magic formula, because you don’t have it. And even if you did, why should they believe you? You’re an intern. They have a head S&C for a reason.

Some players accept you in straight away, some it takes time to earn their trust and respect. That’s just the way it’s going to be – so if you can’t handle that, then don’t do an internship. You’ll disappear half way through the year and your reference won’t come through next time you try to claim you worked at that club.

Another piece of advice I was given – make the most of it. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but being in a setting like this is something not a lot of people have the chance to do. So if you do one, ask questions, learn as much as you can to make you more employable at the end of your time. Network – use your contacts to make more, get in touch with people at other clubs, from other sports etc and ask if you can spend time with them. You’re more likely to get accepted this chance by already being in a good position, so reach out to people and get as much information and experience under your belt as you can.

It can sometimes be a little frustrating, especially when you are working a large amount of hours with no income, but the reward is worth it. For me the best way around these situations was to think about the amount of people who I beat to the role, those people who weren’t fortunate enough to land this opportunity, and to really recognize the fantastic structure I was a part of.

Internship or degree? Personally I would say do both. Neither of them individually will give you the total package, but together they could. So I would say do your degree, potentially try to find somewhere to work in your summers off that makes your CV look better by the time you leave, build up some qualifications and experience whilst you’re there, and then try to slot in to an internship wherever possible.

The degree will give you the knowledge, and the internship will piece together how to apply that in the most appropriate ways. You will arrive with gaps in your knowledge and your application, whether you think you do or not – you will, but you’ll leave a much more complete coach.

Another reason I think internships are a good option is because it allows you to see if it is really something you want to pursue. Some people may think they want to work in a team atmosphere, but when it comes down to it their coaching style may be more suitable for one-to-one work. This is one reason I tried so hard to get onto this internship, because I wanted to be sure that this was the career I wanted to pursue, and it has definitely confirmed that to me.

One other piece of advice I would give though, especially if you are a student reading this, is to make the most of your time! Try to fill your spare time with activities that will make you a better potential employee, this way you will be more likely to find something immediately out of uni. I had some coaching experience during university, but it took me another 2 years until I had enough relevant work experience under my belt to be considered for the position. So get some coaching qualifications, and more importantly – work your ass off to get experience doing the job you want to do.

I think that’s about all I have to say, I think I’ve covered everything I normally hear spoken about online or frequently get asked. To summarize, internships are definitely worth doing, be prepared to work hard – its not all about the glory of being involved but you have to show you are willing to do the hard yards to reap the rewards, your application knowledge will increase dramatically and you’ll start to think of things in a new way, and you will find out 100% if this is the career choice for you.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions regarding internships or anything else feel free to contact me.

Rob Nitman. BSc. ASCC.
Twitter – @nitman89        |        Instagram – @rob_nitman

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Sports Specificity

As I’ve mentioned previously, there are more and more sports performance gyms popping up around the UK in recent times, or at least more gyms that cater for this kind of training.

There is also a greater opportunity for sports specific training, and people will get on board with this to give themselves the best chance of success in their chosen sport.

Something I have often found though is coaches and athletes trying to come up with strange new exercises in a bid to mimic the exact movement of their sport. The concept behind this makes sense – if you want to be better at your sport then practicing the exact movements and becoming stronger through them is smart. But sometimes things get a little too wacky and out of control.
Plus, by trying to get stronger in one particular move it may change the natural action you have for that movement within the sport itself.

Sports specificity is easier for some sports, such as powerlifting, strongman, Olympic lifting, gymnastics etc. as to get stronger for them you can simply do the same movements.

However doing a combination of a medicine ball slam, with a box jump, whilst also coordinating to catch it on the rebound looks like a recipe for disaster! Especially when it’s in a bid to improve a swimmers start!

For this particular case, why not do some work with heavy squats, box squats, trap bar deadlifts, box jumps (without the excessive add ons), med-ball throws etc? If you’re not confident on coaching an athlete to squat heavy – then why the hell are you confident enough to come up with some new exercise you don’t even know works?!

In my opinion it is better to get the body stronger through the movements with big heavy-duty movements that carryover. Such as squats, which will improve leg strength and power leading to improvements in speed and acceleration, the bench press, this will get some negativity because apart from powerlifting how often do you lie on a surface on your back and move something vertically, but in terms of upper body hypertrophy there aren’t a lot of exercises that will challenge it.

I feel that strength through basic human movements are some of the most important; picking heavy things up from the floor, lowering heavy things down and up, putting things above your head, moving with heavy objects, rotational exercise and bodyweight movements correlate well with the majority of sporting activities as most sports came about from our own basic movement patterns.

Outside of the realms of strength training, you can train specifically for your sport by mimicking the metabolic demands too. For instance why would you get a 300+lbs offensive lineman in American Football, who’s role is to push people around for 3-7 seconds, to run 5k? It is important to still have built up a strong aerobic base, as this can help us to recover quicker in between bouts of high intensity exercise, but by training in a way that replicates your needs allows the body to adapt to meet those specific demands. This is why you will often see teams falling off the pace in the final quarter of games early in the season, but 4-6 weeks in this will be a thing of the past. The body adapts to meet our needs – well, as best it can anyway.

So moving forward and applying this practically to your own program, think about the demands of your sport, and then decide how best to attack it to improve your physical ability.

Thanks for reading,

Rob Nitman. BSc. ASCC.
Twitter – @nitman89
Instagram – @rob_nitman

Jump Around

Now that it is becoming more popular for people to train for athletic purposes rather than just aesthetics, or people realizing that there are other ways to train instead of bodybuilding, and with more and more strength and conditioning facilities popping up here and there it is getting easier to find the places to do this.

Now, with all these facilities opening up there is more opportunity to get relevant coaching (not necessarily of the highest standard but let’s not open up that can of worms).

From my experience when visiting these different places there is a wide range of coaching styles and different philosophies but something I have seen as a regularity is the frequency of using the Olympic lifts (Snatch, Clean & Jerk and their variations) to develop power.

On a positive note I think that these lifts are excellent for building fast and powerful athletes, and also help to maintain good mobility, strong trunk positioning and overall athleticism. The negative is that they can take a large amount of coaching, as each little section of the lift is very technical – especially in their fullest form (hang and power variations not quite so technical but still a lot of work).

So what can we do to develop power without using these exercises?

There are several options, but the one I’m focusing on today, and my personal favourite … The Jump!

Here is a challenge – try to jump from the floor but move slowly …
Did you fail to leave the floor? I imagine so. It is impossible to jump high or far without moving forcefully and quickly.

You can incorporate jumping into your programming in a variety of different ways – you could jump for height, you could jump for distance, you could do repetition jumps/bounds, single leg for height or distance etc. Then if they become easy or you start to plateau you can add weight using a weighted vest, dumbells, powerbag etc.

When jumping onto boxes, a lot of people will only use enough effort to make it onto the box. But to get the most out of it, you want to be able to get as high as possible! If you have to descend a little before you land, who cares?! Always be maximal to allow for the greatest potential reward.

In terms of timing, I would do jumps prior to your main big lift on lower body days – for instance use them before squats. Not only will it have the benefits you were after in terms of power, but also help warm you up ready for your heavy work.

Box jumps are becoming popular as a conditioning tool (CrossFit strikes again), but if you want to use them for power development, it is best to do them with a good amount of rest. I’d work in the 3-5 rep range, and 3-5 sets, with at least 2 minutes of rest between sets. This way we are able to let our body recover enough so that each set is nearly maximal, without spending a ridiculous amount of time resting which will drag out the entirety of the session.

With the summer coming up, I imagine a lot of sports people will be looking to make the most of their off-season by doing conditioning and speed work, so why not incorporate some broad jumps as well? Make the most of the sunshine (I’m keeping optimistic here Britons).

Instead of referencing each little area, I’ve listed some reading materials below for you to have a browse over yourselves should you want any evidence of the benefits of jumping.

So go ahead, Jump Around!

Rob Nitman. BSc. ASCC.
Twitter – @nitman89
Instagram – @rob_nitman