Get your mind right first

Posted: October 12, 2020 in Uncategorized
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All starts with the first step(pic)

I felt awful this morning as I did my warm up for a running day. Joints hurt, low back hurt, no pop in the step. A funny thing happened though as I got 5 minutes into the run. My thoughts settled into a rhythm with the crunch of leaves under my feet. My breathing got into a steady rhythm and the aches and pains drained away. Any journey as they say starts with the first step. If I put that run off this morning I never would have gotten it in or found out. Get your mind right first to give your physical self a shot.

The weights never lie and the steepness of the hill remains unchanged. They will be constant and you can count on them to stay true. The hill isn’t steeper and weights are not heavier on a given day. Your mind and neural drive control these things. Be true to yourself and allow your body to be at it’s best by staying positive and believing. This cannot be faked. The least stressed aspect in training is the mind and it is exponentially more important than diet, rep scheme and loading protocols, and the latest training craze. Fitness crazes and training methodologies are transient and temporary, but the power of the mind is timeless.

Warm ups and Goals

Posted: October 6, 2020 in Uncategorized

A lot of athletes spend too much time working in rep zones not in accordance with their goals. An old school 12/10/8/6/4/2 without knowledge of what you want to accomplish is a waste. Say you are in a strength phase of your lifting. Let’s say you use the 12 and fail at it. Fail with the last rep of 10. Fail with the last rep of 8. Fail with the last rep of 6. You get to your set of 4 and it feels like it weighs 50 more pounds than usual. Do you think your strength will improve using this system? Absolutely not. Try flipping it around and working from the bottom up 2/4/6/8/10/12. AFTER A SMART WARM UP. Also the heavy sets will have a carry over to the higher rep sets making them feel “lighter” You also trained the zone you were interested in and not the wrong fiber types.

Let’s say you want to get stronger in the Squat and you want to get 300×5. A smart warm up looks like 45×12, 135X8, 185×5, 225X3 275X1-2, 300×5. Don’t waste your gas on 5 rep sets with 225 and 275. 275 is a “neural primer” that makes the bar not feel like a truck on your shoulders when 300 arrives. That is the only purpose. Doubt inhibits contraction and you eliminate the “holy shit this is heavy” when you un rack the 300.

Your body will adapt specifically to the demands you place on it. Train smart.

Pictured(Team PA(Sroka) going at it last Winter)

What is it exactly that we work on with our Softball athletes?

We have lots of experience in this area as we have trained teams from Nitro, Team PA, Outlaws, Predators, Renegades, Riot and multiple high school teams.

Things we work on:

1)Action: Dynamic warm Up, Stretch

Benefit: Proprioception development, Increased Core Temperature for better training performance

2)Action: Mechanical adjustments, sprint techniques evolving to very specific basepath and positional speed.

Benefit: Beating out infield hits, stretching singles into doubles, better reaction and getting to infield hits and fly balls. Better mechanics means more EFFICIENT movement.

3) Action: Overloading the athletic movements with resistance and assistance.

Benefit: Contrast training provides better neuromuscular recruitment and power in movements. Example: pre training athletes exhibit much less muscle recruitment than trained athletes. Contrast training and complexing a plyo and a resisted movement enhances recruitment leading to much improved getting out of the box and exploding to a space.

4)Action: Progressing movements from closed(predictable) to open(random).

Benefit: Better transference to the field. There is very little ready –set- go in sports and softball. Movement must be reactive, not on your own cue.

5) Power development in the body, including lower core education and activation and development of explosive rotational core power using med balls and plyometric drills

Benefit: All movement originates in the low core. The low core is your anchor. A stronger educated lower abdomen provides an anchor from which an athlete can turn powerfully on a pitch or launch a fast pitch. All movement originates in the lower abdomen. Rotational core power provides greater velocity off of the bat, a stronger throwing arm and a more efficient consistent swing.

6)Leg strength and stability and ground contact work

Benefit: Reduced chances of cruciate ligament knee injuries

7)Upper Body strength and power transfer

Benefit: Increased bat speed and better power transfer from legs to hands

More on Sticking Point Avoidance

Posted: September 30, 2020 in Uncategorized
Bill Stanley National High School Javelin Throw record holder and OSU alum from back in the day(pictured)

Pick your basic exercise like Squat, Bench, Weighted Chin, Deadlift, etc. Choose a weight that equals 80% of your latest achievement in these movements. Therefore, the weights should be handled quite comfortably and with confidence. Do not put out less effort on these sets because they are lighter. Push with as much effort as you possess. The confidence will come in handy when you enter the more challenging part of the cycle. Over the next 4-6 weeks, work back up to your previous best poundages on your movement. When you get about 10 pounds or so under your previous bests it is helpful to really slow progression to about 2 to 3 pounds per week. Buy yourself some little 1 pound plates and use them accordingly. Block out the negative comments from the gym rats about the ridiculous little plates because you will soon leave them in the dust. I would be really surprised if you didn’t complete your old personal records with power and have room to spare.

     This part of the cycle can last as long as you can continue to progress. It may last as long as 15-20 weeks if you are conservative in adding weight to the bar each week. By conservative, I mean 1-2 pounds on larger bodypart exercises and 1 pound on smaller bodyparts. Sound ridiculous? What is ridiculous is being stuck at the same level of size and strength for years. Be patient and your shrewdness will pay off. If you are too aggressive in adding weight, this part of the cycle will last 5 weeks or less. Don’t get greedy. This means if you may have another rep in you wait for it, don’t do it. The choice is yours. To further delay the termination of the cycle, it may be advantageous to take an easy week every third or fourth week. Use no more than 85% of your scheduled poundages.

     There are several schools of thought concerning variation during this part of the cycle. Some trainers such as the late Charles Poliquin advocate plenty of variation in exercise choice, number of sets, repetitions, and rest between sets. He explains that this is more important for creating hypertrophy than it is for creating strength. I have definitely found this to be true. In my own experience when seeking strength, I have found it more productive to stay in the groove and pound away at the same movements until the weekly gains all dry up. I suppose the solution is to alternate between these two philosophies for maximum results. In other words, take 1 cycle and look at it more as a strength cycle and take the subsequent cycle and utilize it as a hypertrophic cycle where you would use more variation during the resistance phase. It is still a good idea, even if primarily seeking strength, to change some exercises from cycle to cycle. The human body is a remarkably adaptive organism that loves to maintain homeostasis, therefore some variation is always helpful to evoke some new gains.

Auburn throwing athlete Maura Huwalt on her way up to 400(pictured)

This is the most common thing I hear from high school athletes. “I can’t move my bench and my knees hurt from squatting and I can’t get low enough. My poundages are stuck!”

“How often do you train?”, I ask.

“We max out every week and bench 3 days and squat or deadlift 3 days.”


“But we are using the reverse pyramid, dynamic, hypnotic bungee cord, 12/10/8/6/4/2/1/1/1 BFS, triple decker 3 dimensional path to progress system,” they say.

“We use wobbly bench press bars and bamboo sticks and we squat all day on BOSU balls.”


Listen. If you can CORRECTLY Bench 275, Squat 375, Clean 185 and Deadlift 400 then go for some crazy ACCESSORY work. If not then be concerned about getting to these lifts first. Benching correctly means you are not ricocheting the bar off of the back of your spine and your spotter is not pulling 50 of your 275 pounds. Squatting correctly means you are not bouncing off of a plyo box set at 1/2 Squat position and that your spotter is not bear hugging 50 pounds for you. Cleaning correctly is too hard to describe in words so I will not. Deadlifting means if you start your lift in a neutral lumbar position you finish it there. You are not riding the bar up your thighs by doing the limbo and standing up with it. Every Deadlift you hump will have a cost later in life trust me.

1 or 2  leg and push/pull days per week is plenty and often just 1 for legs.

Most individuals need to be concerned with how and when to add weight and how much effort is to be put forth at each training session. An effective training cycle allows trainees to make continual progress in size and strength cycle after cycle. Sticking points can be avoided by focusing on how the body adapts to training stresses and rolling with your body’s unique recovery ability as opposed to fighting against it with no results forthcoming. Don’t confuse this with lack of effort.

            This is a very simple periodization model and one actually has workouts where you are not going to all out failure. Read that again.

            There is much scientific evidence that supports the concept of cycling your training efforts. One such bit of proof comes from the many works of Dr. Hans Selye.(1) Yes I know it is very generalized but the concept holds true.

            One particular experiment involved imposing work upon rats. Rats that were given time to adapt to moderate levels of work(5 weeks or more) could then handle increasing intensities of work for months. Rats that were not given time to adapt at the moderate level could not handle increasing levels of work as the other rats did. The rats that did make it to the higher levels eventually failed to adapt any further despite increased amounts of food or even a return to levels of moderate work again. Performance continued to diminish.

            Does this sound familiar? Let me provide an analogy. I had been stuck for a year at 465 for 5 reps in the Full Squat. After a layoff, I would play with 415 or 435 for a few weeks before my assault on 465. I would push as hard as I could every leg workout to get the sixth rep. Occasionally I would switch exercises or try doing 20 sets to shock the exercise upward. Wrong answer. I was like the poor rats who did not have time to adapt to moderate levels of training stress. Older and wiser as they say. During one approach to the 465 pound wall I decided to hold back my efforts at the 415 pound mark. I added 10  pounds per week for 5 weeks and lo and behold, I hit 465 for 5 reps easily. I was behaving like the fortunate rats who had time to adapt to the moderate levels of stress. It did not stop there. I continued to add 5 pounds per week and went to 470, 475, 480, and then to 485 where I got stuck for 4 weeks. If I knew then what I know now, I would have terminated the cycle after 2 weeks of being stuck, rather than wasting 2 additional weeks. I had proceeded through what Dr. Selye described as the General Adaptation Syndrome.       This includes three phases: (1)Alarm Reaction(The weeks leading up to 465), (2)Resistance(The weeks leading up to the point that I adapted up to 485), and (3)Exhaustion(The 4 weeks I was stuck at 485).

            This is a very simple example of how to apply cycling efforts to your training. Rolling into the gym and doing what you feel like will lead to failure.

            The exhaustion phase inevitably comes on using any cycling approach. No matter how much effort is put forth, further gains are not forthcoming. I would stay at this point for 2 or maybe 3 weeks, to confirm that you are just not having a bad day. Remember, no matter how much effort one puts forth, one cannot bully their way through the exhaustion phase. Use common sense, bite the bullet and take a light week to recharge for the next training cycle. 

            In closing, I have used a cycling approach in some form or other for the last 35 years. I had thought I was at my genetically imposed limit before I tried it. It has allowed my strength and size to reach a level that I had previously thought unreachable. I strongly suggest that you give it a try in your own training.

More on the nuts and bolts of an effective cycle method on how and when to add weight in a future blogpost.


Posted: September 23, 2020 in Uncategorized
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PSU Football’s Mason Stahl working up to 500×3

Going back about 12 years I caught hell from a head football coach whose team we had been contracted to train for strength and speed 3 days per week. His assistant coaches had spread the word that these infidels(my coaches and I) didn’t have the team hitting each muscle group. Coach called me to his office and was insane and yelled, “They are only doing 4 exercises each workout! No curls, no skull crushers, no leg press, no side laterals, no strip set forced rep banded madness!! “How can one gain from just 4 exercises Ed?!! This is ridiculous I can’t believe we hired you guys!” I calmly said, “Coach back in 2003 I worked up to deadlifting 415×20, Squatting 495×5, Chinning 5 reps with 115 pounds on my waist and Benching 315×5 with 5 exercises on Monday, 3 on Wednesday and 3 on Friday. No chemical assistance Coach. I was 37 years old Coach and weighed about 190 pounds. ” “Oh”, he calmly said. Well maybe we will try this out………… The KISS principle: Keep it Simple Stupid.

The same principle applies to an everyday tasking environment. Multitasking feels great but leads to stress and inefficiency no matter how good you are at it. Keeping it simple and staying in the moment of each task is most efficient and the best way to lead to your own effective longevity.

Can someone please tell me how duplicating on the field or court movements that always occur in a RANDOM environment in a predictable training environment constitutes movement training? Sure absolutely for the novice executing predictable cuts in front of a dummy or dancing in the ladder helps but man alive after a while this becomes nothing more than a dynamic warm up. You have to figure out how to take a piece of a movement and overload it to make the whole movement better and this only can occur in a random unpredictable training environment with intermediate through advanced athletes. Otherwise you are merely demonstrating movement, not improving it.

Disclaimer: These should not be used during a lower body strength or power cycle. These should not be used when you anticipate a sprint or lower body power test like vertical jump, etc. They are meant for an off season bump to your training.

You could use them on leg day maybe at the end of day. Or you could use them solo.

Here is the key. You must pick a weight that you can do for 10 failing at around 10. Then with 2-3 breaths between reps do 10 more reps with the same weight after that. 20 should be impossible but get it anyway. You should tease the body about survival a bit.

Why do these work? Read On. It gets thick. Read it anyway.


 Growth hormone(GH) is a peptide hormone that is produced in the anterior segment of the pituitary gland. GH has a role in the growth and development of bone, connective, visceral, adipose, and muscle tissue. GH may act either indirectly or directly. Directly speaking, GH may bind directly to a GH receptor on a muscle cell where it then exerts its anabolic effect. On the other hand, some studies show that GH exerts its effects indirectly by stimulating the release of somatomedins from the liver. Somatomedins bind to the plasma membrane of the muscle cell, where it carries out growth promoting effects. Regardless of how GH works its magic, it promotes the hypertrophic response by stimulating amino acid transport into the muscle cell and translating these amino acids into protein. GH output is obviously something we want to maximize, so what is the best way to do it?

In most studies it appears that GH release is related to intensity of exercise, volume of work performed, and shorter rest periods. In one particular study, a comparison between 2 different exercise protocols on evoked GH responses during and after weight training exercise was carefully observed.(10) One protocol consisted of 5 sets of 5 repetitions with a variety of basic exercises using a weight that was 80-95% of each movement’s 1 repetition maximum. A second protocol consisted of 3 sets of 10 repetitions with the same exercises using a weight that was 70-85% of each movement’s 1 repetition maximum. Rest periods for the first protocol were 3 minutes. Rest periods for the second protocol were 1 minute. Growth hormone levels during and after exercise were significantly higher using the second exercise protocol. Lactate levels increased during the second exercise protocol and not in the first, leading the researchers to believe that lactate may be the stimulus for GH increases. Other studies bear out the same contention.(11)

Diet also has important ramifications concerning GH release. During the first 1-2 hours of sleep, a significant pulse of GH is released into the bloodstream. The presence of glucose in the bloodstream, and therefore usually insulin,  has been shown to inhibit GH secretion. Therefore, theoretically it seems to make sense to avoid a high carbohydrate meal close to bedtime. A better option would be a high protein shake or snack coupled with some low glycemic index carbohydrates so as to minimize a large increase in insulin.


Testosterone is a steroid hormone that has an anabolic effect on skeletal muscle tissue. Anyone who has seen an athlete that supplements with anabolic steroids can see what modified testosterone can do.

Anyhow, under normal physiologic conditions a region of the brain called the hypothalamus secretes GnRH which stimulates the anterior segment of the pituitary gland to release LH(luteinizing hormone) into the bloodstream. LH then stimulates the Leydig cells of the testes to create and release testosterone into the circulation. At rest, 97% to 99% of this hormone is bound to SHBG(sex hormone binding globulin) or albumin. The rest is active and free to exert its effects.(2) Anabolic effects are due to the fact that testosterone increases protein synthesis and decreases protein catabolism within the muscle fiber. To delve a little further yet, testosterone binds with receptors in the cytosol of the cell which causes an increase in the transcription of the genes located on nuclear DNA that code for the synthesis of muscle proteins. The messenger RNA that results from this returns to the cell cytosol where actual protein synthesis occurs.(3) This is great but how do you get your testes to make more of this stuff? Several studies demonstrate that weight training induces elevated testosterone levels during and after exercise. It seems as if the most important factors in eliciting an elevated testosterone response are the amount of muscle mass used in a movement as well as the total work performed.(4,5) This tells us that for the most efficient testosterone release we want to be sure to include the squat, deadlift, and bench press in our routines. Doing higher rep sets of 10 and even 12 so as to increase total work performed may be advantageous in maximizing testosterone output. Sets of 5 repetitions still have their place in any routine, but they are not as efficient in eliciting testosterone secretion.

How about those old time 20 rep squat routines that were touted as being able to pack on lots of muscle mass and add to your vitality. Both criteria for maximizing testosterone secretion are overwhelmingly met. Maybe those old timers were onto something. Myself and many of my clients achieved personal best lifts in UPPER BODY lifts while on a 20 rep squat cycle. This implies that one must look not just at the effects of a specific exercise on a target movement or bodypart, but systemic effects of various schemes as well.

Enough said.

The Gap

Posted: September 14, 2020 in Uncategorized
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One of the best books that I have ever read is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Steven Covey about 25 years ago before I started my entrepreneurial venture. There are 2 parts of this book that really resonated with me.

The first was the notion of the gap between a stimulus that you receive and your response to it. First and foremost a theme that ties many of the principles together is self awareness. You are not your thoughts, your background, what life had dealt you, or how people treat you. What you are is your response to those things. In many ways this is mindfulness and “Zen” like.  It sounds very simple but just so powerful. It is applicable on so many levels. At the root of it is your ability to feel secure with your own principles and not giving “you” away to the pressure you receive from an event or another person. Think and pause before you react.

The second was a comment he made to not “get caught up in the THICK of THIN things. Things that matter the most such as your principles and family should not be at the mercy of self imposed deadlines, the opinions others have of you, or a junk filled email list. This certainly involves saying “NO” to requests others have of you. If they are a friend or a truly supportive family member they will understand. If you are too worried what they think of you because you told them NO then you have some interior work to do. If you say YES to a very thin thing you may have said NO to something more important without literally doing so. 

The book is a fantastic read and even better as a guide and reminder.

We train teams, small groups and individuals.

We also have a batting cage and turf available for skills practices.

We will focus on the field specific aspects of speed such as lateral quickness for middle infielders, out of the box speed, breaking on the ball speed, and first step quickness. 60 yard dash work can be addressed.
Regarding the throwing arm, exercises that target the rotator cuff, such as a variety of internal and external rotation movements will be utilized. Scapular strength and stability will also be addressed. Since the bicep also plays a role in stabilizing this joint, it too will be strengthened.
Core stability and rotational power, when combined with the above work, leads to a more powerful throwing arm that is less apt to become injured.
A special concern to pitchers includes the maintenance and strengthening of the rotator cuff. Large amounts of energy are absorbed by the body as the hand releases the pitch. This stress should be transferred to the stronger scapular stabilizers rather than the rotator cuff. Training this area together with certain plyometric moves, direct cuff work, and closed chain movements reduces the incidence of injury and strengthens the throwing arm.

“I thought the Strength, Fitness And Speed program really helped me learn how to train like a pro athlete”
-Tom Shirley

I first came across Strength, Speed and Fitness when I was the head baseball coach at Kiski Area.  At that time I was astounded at the progress the players that trained with them made in the short period of time they had worked with them.  As each of the players became faster, stronger and more agile, their level of play and their self-confidence greatly improved.I am presently the head baseball coach at Belle Vernon Area.  Once again I am seeing the benefits of their program in the 12 players that are regularly working under them.  Their improvement has been so significant that other players on our teams (middle school up) are taking notice.  In fact, no less than seven players and their parents have approached me to get information on their program to make arrangements to begin working with them at the conclusion of our current season.

As a former professional baseball scout and a former college coach, I highly recommend their program for any players wanting to increase their chances of playing at the next level.

Daryl Hixenbaugh

Past Head Baseball Coach Belle Vernon Area High School