Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group, LLC Blog

Interview with Ray Eady, University of Wisconsin

Posted by Guest Blogger on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 @ 09:04 AM

Check out Brian McCormick’s interview with Ray Eady, Strength and Conditioning Coach from University of Wisconsin.  His interview can also be found on Brian’s Newsletter, “Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter” a must read for all those that follow the game of basketball.  Ray talks about training and evaluating the basketball athlete along with special considerations for the female athlete.
This week, I have an interview with Ray Eady, the strength and conditioning coach for the women’s basketball program at the University of Wisconsin. Previously, he was the head strength and conditioning coach for men’s and women’s basketball at the University of Akron and Northeastern University. Eady holds a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology form the University of Akron and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA – CSCS) and a Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM – PES).

BM: What assessments or evaluations do you use with your players in the pre-season?
Eady: During the pre-season, the athletic trainer and I will assess and evaluate the players in a couple of areas. First, we will do a functional movement screen. I like doing the movement screens because it allows me to asses an array of total body movement mechanics.  As you know, proper movement mechanics is needed to perform efficiently, effectively, and injury free on the basketball court.  The screens we typically use are:

1.    Overhead squat test
2.    Hurdle test
3.    Active hamstring test
4.    In-line lunge test

In addition to the screens, we will do the hop and stop test and the leap and stop test to assess a player’s ability to produce, absorb, and stop force on one leg.

We will also do some performance evaluations to measure leg power and strength.  To measure power, we will do a series of vertical jump test.  

1.    Static jump test to measure starting strength
2.    Countermovement jump test to measure speed-strength
3.    4-jump test to measure how efficient a player is using their power repeatedly

We perform these jumps on a just-jump mat while the athletes are holding a dowel on the back of their shoulders (as if they were going to do a back squat). The goal is to eliminate the action of the arms to really determine leg power. I like performing these tests because they can help you determine if certain players need more strength work or more speed/elastic work.

For conditioning, we will do the standard 300 yard shuttle test which is a great test to measure anaerobic capacity. This year, I will test the players in the 150 yard shuttle because the energy system demands are bit different (anaerobic power).

Lastly, we will do body composition assessments to determine body fat and lean muscle tissue.  I want our players to be at an optimal body weight for increased performance and to reduce the chances of injury.  

I must say the most overrated test when evaluating basketball players has to be the bench press test. So many coaches put a premium on the results. I am not saying basketball players don’t need upper body pushing strength but the relevance it has on basketball performance is minimal. When the bench press can prevent a female player from tearing her ACL then I will put more emphasis on the test.

Let’s make it clear, performance evaluations will never truly tell you if a player will have some success on the court. It merely predicts future performance.  All the strength and power in the world won't make you a successful athlete unless you're able to apply it in sport-specific contexts and integrate it with finer motor qualities.

I don’t try to re-invent the wheel when it comes to testing. I want to make my evaluations meaningful for my athletes and to make it applicable for what they will most likely be doing on the court.

BM: Do you have any good/different drills that you use with women’s players to teach proper landing and cutting techniques to prevent ACL injuries?
Eady: First, I don’t think we can ever prevent ACL injuries in female basketball players.  We all know that female players are two to eight times more likely to sustain an ACL tear when compared to males. Anatomical and physiological characteristic such as pelvis width (Q-angle), femoral notch, poor glute and hamstring recruitment, and joint and ligament laxity during the menstrual cycle puts the female player at risk. However, we can reduce the rate of occurrences by having female players participate in a well designed and progressive strength training program that focuses on improving maximal strength development. The stronger females can become, the less likely they will get injured.

Second, strength is the foundation for improving movement efficiency, central nervous system efficiency, nervous system efficiency, neuromuscular control, balance, coordination, stability, deceleration, and reaction.  All of these attributes are needed to reduce the rate of ACL injuries. With these non-contact injuries, poor lower body eccentric strength is usually at the root of the problem.  

Also, many jump programs tend to emphasize landing with correct technique but don’t address the ability to get into a safe landing position. If a player lacks the ankle, hip and T-spine mobility (and once again, strength) to get into a safe landing position with just her body weight, how are they ever going to do it when the forces are higher?  If you are going to address landing and cutting mechanics it is important that mobility and strength (most specifically isometric and eccentric strength) are addressed concurrently. The ability to decelerate, absorb and stop the forces a player creates on the court is the key.

With that being said, I am a fan of doing some yielding isometric (activation) work prior to our jump/landing drills. Yielding isometrics is great for re-enforcing how to control, absorb, and stop force production (which occurs when landing from a jump or changing directions). Studies have shown that a person can recruit 5% more motor-units/muscle fibers during a maximal isometric muscle action than during a maximal eccentric or maximal concentric action. This is great since we need our muscles to activate and fire eccentrically to decelerate force.  Of course, isometric work is not dynamic in nature but it’s also great for teaching, assessing and correcting body positioning. After our isometric work we will follow up with some dynamic work.  

For example, if we are doing double-leg jumps, we will do some partner resisted isometric squat holds to activate the musculature of the hips.  We will hold at three positions:

1.    Statically a few inches from the starting position
2.    Statically at mid range
3.    Statically at full contraction

Each position is held for approximately 10 seconds.  Following the isometric holds, we will perform maximum effort squat jumps with sticks (sticking the landing and holding for 5 seconds without any movement).  We do this set-up for the majority of our jump training/landing drills.  

Once again, the isometric work prior to our jumps just prepares our neuromuscular system for the dynamic action that is about to take place. It should be noted that the dynamic movement must mimic the isometric movement (i.e. squat holds for box jump downs, split squat holds for split squat jumps, single leg holds for single leg jumps, hops, leaps, etc.)

BM: Since girls/women tend to have poor hamstring strength compared to quad strength, what type of exercises (emphasis) do you do to correct imbalance or strengthen the weakness?
Eady: Of course, with most female basketball players, you will notice some lumbo-pelvis-hip postural distortion. This includes shortened and tight quads and hip flexors and lengthened and weak hamstrings and glutes. Therefore, our workouts always include some remedial and prehab work to correct these lower body imbalances. This will include soft tissue work, hip flexibility, glute activation, core stability and hip mobility.  

Some coaches are opposed to isolation work for specific musculatures but I think they have their role in training, especially when doing remedial work. With that being said, we will do a variety of isolation work for the posterior hip (glute max), lateral hip (glue medius), and the anterior hip (psoas).  

Within our strength training session, we will include more ground base posterior chain/hip extension exercises to re-enforce our remedial work.  On the days we squat, we will include more unilateral post-chain work. On the days we do single leg work (i.e. split squats, lunge variations), we will do more bilateral post-chain work.  My favorite exercise for posterior chain development and strength is actually the box squat.  There has been some debate about the squat especially for athletes that participate in movement based team sports.  However, I believe it’s a great exercise to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings and improve overall strength.  Of course, I would only prescribe this exercise if a player is capable and able to perform it proficiently.  Another favorite exercise is the one-leg squat to a bench or box. This is a great exercise to improve unilateral eccentric leg strength.

BM: Now that the season is over, how do you structure or periodize the players’ off-season? Do you use different training blocks emphasizing different things?
Eady: My goal for the off-season is to prepare our team for the upcoming competitive season by developing the physical qualities need to perform at a healthy and optimal level. Of course, this includes improving strength, power, sport-specific speed, quickness and conditioning. At the end of every competitive season, I will develop a yearly training plan based on a couple of factors (a few many include):

1.    The number of returning players.  Will we be a veteran or a rebuilding team?
2.    What type of playing style will we execute offensively and defensively?
3.    Are we a team that needs toughness?  More team unity?
4.    Are we skilled at all five positions? How many players do we have at each position?
5.    How will certain players be utilized offensively and defensively?
6.    Do some players need additional work (i.e. weight loss, weight gain, speed, etc.)?

Once these factors are identified, I can develop and implement a plan to meet our competitive needs.

I divide the training year into blocks (off-season I, off-season II, pre-season I, pre-season II, and in-season). Each block focusing on a specific physical quality.  For example, off-season I is typically dedicated to teaching and re-educating the players on how to perform certain “technical” lifts, as well as improving posture, balance, coordination, movement, core stability, and GPP (work capacity). These are the physical qualities that are needed to successfully complete summer workouts.

Our main goal for off-season II is to improve sub-maximal and maximal strength which is extremely important. Strength is one of the catalysts for enhancing athleticism.

We still train other qualities such as strength-speed, speed-strength, general conditioning, etc. but our number one priority is to get strong. This particular block is the best time to achieve this quality because of a couple of reasons:

1.    On-court activity is usually reduced during the summer. Players can give more energy and mind share to weight room activities.
2.    I don’t believe you can continue to improve strength at an optimal rate during the pre- or competitive seasons because players are now being exposed to stressors that can negatively impact strength gains.  (i.e. individual workouts with coaches, team practices, conditioning sessions, pick-up games, late night study sessions, early classes, etc.)

During pre-season I our goal is to prepare for the start of official practice.  The physical qualities that are highly emphasized are basketball specific movement/endurance, power, and strength. Our training tends to be more specialized to the demands of the sport.

The goal for pre-season II is to prepare for the beginning portion of our non-conference game schedule. At this point in time, on-court activity has increased dramatically.  Weight training frequency and volume will decrease but when we train the focus is to maintain strength gains achieved during the off-season and pre-season I. We tend to do more therapeutic work during these sessions to facilitate the recovery process as well.

Finally, the goal for the in-season is to keep the players healthy and competitive. Like most strength coaches, I understand the importance of in-season strength training but I also understand that practice takes priority. You can’t put too much physical and mental stress on your players that they are unable to perform efficiently on the court.  Eventually, you will have overtrained players and not so happy coaches.



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Topics: basketball conference, athletic training conference, athletic training, athletic trainer, female basketball, female strength training, sports performance, strength coach, sports conference

Movement Prep: Making the Most of It

Posted by Guest Blogger on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 @ 08:04 AM

Note: I first met Andy while he was the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Virginia Commonwealth University.  If you follow the CAA or are just a general hoops fan, you’ll remember VCU lead by a young point guard named Eric Maynor knocking off 6-seeded Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2007.  Eric is now displaying his magic throwing lobs to POY candidate Kevin Durant in the NBA and Andy is now working in the SEC at the University of Alabama.  Take a look at how one of the best young Basketball Strength Coaches develops each movement prep and the planning behind each one.

Whether it is a 2 hour practice or 45 minute weight training session, proper movement prep (MP) is an essential part of our basketball routine.  This short session of stretches can have a big impact on your team’s physical and mental well-being.  There are many factors that need to go into devising your MP.  I will explain 4 Elements of MP along with other factors to take into consideration when designing your MP plan.  In my case I have to specifically come up with a plan for basketball.  Now the needs for my basketball team and are very different from what another team or sport may need.  Therefore, it’s vital to identify what my needs are.

When I design a MP, the first thing I ask myself is, what are we doing it for?  Well that’s easy, basketball, duh!  True, but I need to get more in depth than that.  Some days we will practice for 2 or more hours and it will be at a high intensity.  Another day may be getting shots up for an hour.  We may do individual work in a ¼ court setting with moderate intensity.  The MP may be after we got off a plane or bus!

Now that I know what I’m using the MP for I can ask myself a few more questions.  How long do I have for MP?  Coach usually gives me a timeframe to work with, it’s important to know.  If I have 5 minutes, I have to use exercises that give me the most bang for my buck.  If I have longer, I better know what to do with my time.  I can’t exhaust the team with my 10-15 minutes.

Where are the players at mentally?  If I have great exercises but mentally the players have cashed out on me, it’s something I need to take into consideration.  The great MP I designed won’t do its job, unless I get them doing it with some level of alertness and focus.  Over the course of a basketball season the mental part is huge!  After talking with a colleague this year, he calculated all of the movement preps over the course of a year at over 300!  Your players may lose some interest; the question to yourself is what can I do to get them ready today?

How many players will I be warming up?  If I have the entire team, how specific and difficult can I get with exercise?  It’s difficult to view 15 players trying to do a split stance lunge with 3-way uni-lateral upper body drivers with 3 angulations.   At another time I may have a 4 man group, who moves well and understands exactly what I want.  Timing is important for whatever you’re flowing into.

Will I have any implements?  It can be a very specific piece of equipment such as a tri-stretch or something much more basic as a box.  You can get very creative and expand your toolbox of exercises with implements.  Something else to consider are your resources when you travel.  It may be wise to travel with some equipment but size is an issue.  I’ve also found bleachers and railings are hidden gems when looking for implements on the road.

After you’ve answered those it’s time to get into the actual MP.  With each MP I believe you need to incorporate 4 Elements into its design.  I did not create these 4 categories but I was fortunate to study under, Matt Herring at the University of Florida for nearly 3 years and take away these organized ideas about MP from him.

1.        Increase muscle temperature (Warm-Up)

·         Dynamic flexibility
·         Multiple joints & muscles
·         3-planes

2.       Clear dysfunctions and improve mobility

·         Identify dysfunctions & issues
·         Mobility vs Stability – what needs what
·         3-planes
·         The big 3 – Ankle, Hip, T-Spine

3.       Turning on the CNS

·         3-planes
·         Ground based
·         Gravity
·         Proprioception

4.        Movement

·         Basic movement patterns
·         Basketball movement patterns

There is a 5th category I have as well but I don’t include it with the previous 4 elements.  The last one is a needs category.  This category is unique from the others.  Most often it turns out to be an energy and enthusiasm category.   I don’t always use it but if I can see we need it, I’ll include it.  These exercises are sometimes very specific to basketball but not always.  I may view the need for communication and incorporate that into a drill.  There have been days where the staff has gotten involved with category 5.  This category is always last; so it is right before the guys are handed over to coach.

Below is an example of a pre-practice warm-up that will last for 2+ hours at a high intensity.  It is done in the pre-season so the guys are fresh mentally.    The entire team will be involved and I’ll have all of my normal implements.  Coach has given me 10-12 minutes.

Muscle Temperature - 4 Dynamic Flexibility
    Knee Hug
    Heel to Butt
    Straight Leg March
    Sumo Squats

Dysfunction/Mobility- The Big 3
     Ankle – Tri-Stretch
     Hip – Hip Rockers w/ 3 stances
     T-Spine – T-Hugs/T-Swings

     Jump Matrix or Pivot Matrix w/ Arm Drivers

     High Knees/Butt Kicks – Forward/Retro
     Skip Matrix – Forward/Retro
     S-Pattern Runs/Shuffles

Category 5         
     Star Passing

Here are a few other things to consider:

·         Recording and dating each session
·         Creating an encyclopedia of exercises
·         Grading the MP, ex. too long, confusing, lost focus
·         Reuse a MP, probably not every day but maybe once every few weeks
·         When Coach says, “We won’t go hard today, do we need to stretch?”  Say yes, 5 minutes won’t hurt!
·         In-Season this is the only thing you may get to do with them for a week or 2 stretch (hopefully not)
·         It’s ok to ask the players what they need, they’ll often tell you.  Doesn’t mean you have to conform!  They’re mental needs of, “I Feel It,” are important
·         If you can get a copy of the practice plan, it can help with design.  It helps to know if practice will start with a 5 on 5 full court or defensive skill work

Andy Weigel is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball team at the University of Alabama and can be reached at


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What do you make?

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 @ 08:04 AM

Uncle Sam did it again.

After another year of working countless hours, waking up early every weekend, and of course working on Christmas day… Uncle Sam showed no compassion.

I just returned from doing my taxes at the local HR Block where I get them done each year. It’s just a block away which I guess makes the pain of writing that check to the government a wee bit easier.

Reviewing my W-2 sheet made me think about one of Seth Godin's articles and exactly what I make.

I make kids better,

I make kids walk after surgery and I make parents feel good about the care their kid gets when they’re a thousand miles away,

I make push-ups feel easy,

I make shy kids walk with pride and I make bike sprints enjoyable,

I make spin, glide and roll move as they should,

I make slap shots harder, jump shots easier and high jumping higher.

So the next time your Wall Street brother-in-law rubs his thumb and fingers together and asks, “what do you make?”, just smile and say, “I make athletic dreams come true.”

Now get back to work.

Art Horne
is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA.  He can be reached at


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Topics: Strength Training, basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey conference, athletic trainer, sports performance, strength coach, sports conference

To Fail or Not to Fail? – That is the Question

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 @ 08:04 AM

“To fail is a natural consequence of trying, to succeed takes time and prolonged effort in the face of unfriendly odds. To think it will be any other way, no matter what you do, is to invite yourself to be hurt and limit your enthusiasm for trying”
-    David Viscott

I remember coming home after failing a fifth grade geography test and showing my parents the results of my effort.  To avoid a long detailed explanation of what happened next let’s just say I wasn’t able to sit down for the rest of the day.  So failure’s bad right? But what about failure in the weight room? Is pushing yourself or your athletes past the discomfort associated with the last few reps a good thing?

I asked Northeastern University’s legendary throwing coach for his insight and the below is a summary of our interaction.

So Joe, is failing good?

Well this depends on several factors such as, how often the event takes place within a general workout or particular exercise.  
If it is a regular occurrence then:
•    it might be symptomatic of a load that is too heavy for the reps,
•    poor technique,
•    poor fitness.
•    It also can be a sign of over training or
•    It can also be a sign of oncoming poor health.

For a particular exercise, failure might be just a random event. (which is why many top lifters use a daily note log) Technique breaks down when the load becomes too heavy for the current capacity of the athlete.

If you constantly push to failure the system adapts to failure as a goal and feeds back into the athlete with more failure.  The technique of the exercise begins to disintegrate. It is a system of negative follow through where the last motor event in the sequence is the goal. Olympic shooters, for instance, are taught to site-hold on the target after the shot is gone ensuring that the pathway stays on target. What you practice is what you will get and I deal with this all the time in throwing. In baseball Ted Williams used to emphasize 'follow through'. Failure done regularly is a form of 'follow through'.

Can you have a micro-cycle where push to failure is OK?

 Yes you can, but the exercises should be ambiguous in nature and not closely related to the sport movement. In that way the technique can be undisturbed but the work effort to push CNS and increased body load capacity is affected.  Sometimes you need to 'blast' the system to make it more alert to change. It's the motor systems equivalent of a loud yell!

'Push to failure' in weight training must not impede other sport preparation. Sufficient recovery is necessary. Each athlete is different in this and recovery rates vary. This is why 'One workout for All' does not work for 'all'. You start with a general workout then customize based on developmental ability.

On the flip side, should athletes always experience "success" on each set or rep?

If they are, then they are not pushing hard enough. There is a time for high intensity and a time for general development and maintenance. High intensity in the sport event usually requires a reduced load in the wt room but there are anomalies. Some athletes get a psychological boost when training hard and a significant reduction of load or intensity raises their anxiety. What you believe is as important as what really works which is why education in the latter is so important.

When the failure occurs you can;
1. Do nothing and move on to the next set
2. Adjust the rest of the sets (ie: poundage down)
3. Adjust the reps
4. Adjust reps and poundage
5. Correct the technique

In conclusion, I would say push to fail is OK if done when needed, the cycle is short and does not interfere with the sport skill.  It is not the poundage in the weight room that decides whether a workout plan is effective. It is the sport skill result that is the final arbiter. The knowledge we gain is scientific but the application is still art.

Sometimes a good loud yell is what we all need but not in an airport security line!

*Thanks to Joe Donahue (Northeastern University Legendary Throwing Coach) for his thoughts and contribution.

Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA.  He can be reached at


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Topics: Strength Training, basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey summit, boston hockey conference, sports performance, strength coach, mental toughness

Give Up Control: Build a Great Athlete

Posted by Guest Blogger on Sun, Mar 28, 2010 @ 14:03 PM

Dr. Adam Naylor, AASP-CC and Matt Shaw, MS

Strength and conditioning programs are written and, ideally, followed by athletes. Often time’s athletes record weights and reps on workout cards. When it is time to condition, the strength coach shouts out times and, occasionally, encouragement (or sometimes just let the "beeps" do their motivating best). This is all a quite reasonable approach to building faster and stronger athletes. The question however that must be asked is, "Does it build better athletes?"

Better athletes being one's that bring enthusiasm to the gym, make optimal performance gains, and can execute basic principles of preparing the body for play away from a coach's watchful eye... empowered athletes that learn better, sustain gains longer, and perform at their peak potential. Writing programs and closely directing athletes' workouts lead to physical gains, but will this approach alone lead to excellent performances?

How the strength coach directs his or her weight room can be the difference between good and great athletic performances. The art of this performance difference is in being less a director of conditioning programs and more of an empowerer of athletes. The key to this transformation is understanding the coaching nuances that encourage and teach "mindfulness."

This lies in giving athletes both choice and voice. Ellen Langer, psychologist at Harvard has spent decades examining how developing cultures of mindfulness creates greater learning in classrooms and better health in wellness settings.  Individuals who are regularly encouraged to engage their mind (not just their body) and have direct responsibility in their activities, have sustained health, better attitude, and greater ability to commit knowledge to memory. This mental engagement can be fostered by giving athletes choices on a regular basis... encouraging them to make decisions and consider the details of their training.

Similar to creating a mindful approach to the gym in your athletes is “questioning” athletes.  It has been found that "questioning" during the coaching process leads to superior long-term athlete development and greater athletic self-competence (Chambers & Vickers, 2006). Questioning involves asking questions to stimulate the athlete's analyzing of their own technique. This cognitive stimulation leads to improved self-awareness ultimately increasing autonomy and learning.  Asking questions as simple as, "Wow, how'd you do to that?" or "Tell me the keys to a good front squat?" make a better athlete and a better teacher-coach.

It is important to note, not all athletes are created equal when taking this coaching approach. A tightly structured coaching environment helps novice athletes learn fundamental techniques. As an athlete skill level increases, overly structured coaching may decrease motivation and prevent continuous improvement. Lack of cognitive freedom can produce boredom and unchallenged individuals. Experienced athletes reap benefits from mental engagement and freedom of choice. They are more motivated and progress in training most efficiently.

The two most common challenges/criticisms to this approach are time and patience. A coach might complain, "I only have a limited amount of time to make a large number of athletes stronger. Where will I find opportunity to have intellectual discussions with my athletes?" Finding time is simply about building new coaching habits and realizing, as illustrated above, it is about quick thought provoking questions not extended debate. As for patience... simply find it. Seeing a skill performed perfectly the first time is nice, watching an athlete master a technique after a bit of struggle is most rewarding. A little extra time and patience are worthwhile investments that pay dividends in long term learning and high performance.

A comprehensive way of considering combining technical teaching with athlete engagement is by:  1. Taking sufficient time to educate athletes on the form and the purpose of exercises; 2. Encouraging an environment where athletes may begin to help coach fellow teammates or freshmen.  This will actually create a more efficient training environment.  There will be greater consistency in form when the strength coach’s eyes are elsewhere. Furthermore, team communication and cohesion will be improved. This creates a win-win situation, where the coach can be most efficient, while the athletes can learn the most and make the greatest gains athletically.  Ultimately a strong, trusting bond is created between coach and athlete.

It is unfortunate when the coach of collegiate and elite athletes teach solely through direct instruction and feedback. This creates an athlete that is over-reliant on the coach and ultimately decreases motivation. Without the necessary cognitive challenge and stimulation, an athlete may become stagnant. We often we find the name of the strength coach on the doors of the gym, in reality however it ought to be the athletes' names there, claiming ownership over the gym and what goes on within. Encourage a mindful approach to strength training you will find athletes reaching their maximum potential.

Chambers, K. & Vickers, J. (2006). Effects of Bandwidth Feedback and Questioning on the Performance of Competitive Swimmers. The Sport Psychologist, 20, 184-197.

Dr. Adam Naylor, AASP-CC. is the Director of the Boston University Athletic Enhancement Center (  He has serves as a mental conditioning and player development resource for players at all stages of their sports career.  More reflections on player development and sport psychology can be found at and Dr. Naylor can be reached at
Matt Shaw, BS is a Graduate Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at the Boston University Varsity weight room.  He has been coached athletes from youth to adult at Boston University, Harvard University, the BU Athletic Enhancement Center, and elsewhere in the greater-Boston community.  He is currently working on his masters degree in coach education at Boston University.



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Topics: Strength Training, basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey summit, boston hockey conference, sports performance, strength and conditioning tips

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 @ 21:03 PM

Regardless of which side of the “barefoot” fence you sit, recent scientific developments by Harvard professor and barefoot enthusiast, Dr. Daniel Lieberman is sure to have you thinking about whether you should be reaching for your high top sneakers prior to your next stroll around the neighborhood or forgoing them all together in place of nature’s offering.  For those that continue to debate that running barefoot is just not feasible and perhaps dangerous, I’d have to offer a rebuttal…. I mean, barefoot running and training doesn’t mean going on an eight hour run looking for your next meal.  Unfortunately, the term “barefoot training” has been hijacked and equated with burning your shoes followed by a life of hugging trees and growing your hair out.  I mean, we’ve all tried to increase our bench press max right? But we didn’t start day one with 350 lbs on the bar.  Like everything else, the decision of how to and when to go barefoot is dependent on a number of factors, but is certainly governed by the law of progressive overload and common sense.  Several practical suggestions on how to implement some barefoot work into your team’s training can be found in the March issue of Training and Conditioning.  I’m not advocating you send your starting basketball center who’s been wearing Nike shocks their whole life for a run and plyo workout, but I’m pretty sure they have had shoes off recently, (maybe as recent as this morning when they woke up and walked to the bathroom) and their foot didn’t break right? So why don’t we take advantage of Mr. Wolff’s law and challenge your foot, ankle, and lower extremity just a little bit.  
Barefoot training won’t cure cancer but it just might put a smile on your feet again.

For a cliff note version of Dr. Lieberman’s Harvard work click here.

Art Horne Is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA.  He can be reached at


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Topics: basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey summit, boston hockey conference, sports performance, barefoot running, barefoot training, nike free

Interview with Keith D’Amelio, Stanford Men’s Basketball Strength Coach

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 @ 21:03 PM

Whether you’re a casual follower of basketball, a strength and conditioning coach at the university level, or an aspiring young coach, Brian McCormick’s “Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter” is a must read and covers everything from teaching the cross-over dribble, inspiring young kids to work hard, and developing high school athletes for the rough and tumble life on the college court.  In his most recent post, Brian interviews Keith D’Ameilo, strength coach for the Stanford Men’s Basketball program and guest speaker for this year’s Second Annual Hockey Summit and Basketball Symposium in Boston MA, May 22nd and 23rd.  Keith talks about developing the college athlete and what fundamental skills high school athletes should be developing in order to thrive at the college level. 

View Brian McCormick’s Interview with Keith D’Ameilo here.

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Topics: basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey summit, boston hockey conference, sports performance

Inspiratory Muscle Training

Posted by Guest Blogger on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 @ 20:03 PM

    This past year I was blessed with an opportunity to work alongside Dr. Larry Cahalin and Dr. Paul Canavan, both of the Northeastern University Physical Therapy Department on a study relating to increasing on-ice performance of the non-weight room variety.  I usually try and jump on any opportunity I have to work with professionals of substantial greater cognitive function than myself in order to expand both my professional and knowledge base, however, this time, I found myself severely overmatched.  As a strength coach I have fallen into the trap of associating VO2 with endurance athletes, and like many other strength coaches, unsure of an appropriate balance between aerobic an anaerobic training.  VO2 max is very important for Ice hockey despite the short work periods during a typical game.  A shift on average is only about 40 seconds long, and a recent study found that the average heart rate in a NHL player during a normal shift is around 90% HRMax (Leone, 2006).  With this intensity an athlete is sure to build up lactic acid during a shift, and it is important for sustained performance to recover quickly.  An increase in VO2 max will allow an individual to have a higher threshold or critical level.  Meaning they will be able to perform a moderate, sustained activity at a higher intensity without the continuous build up of lactic acid, or more specific to hockey they will be able to recover quicker from shorter, high intensity bouts.  

    We examined the affects of Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) on VO2 max.  We had our experimental group perform 2 days/week of IMT following the Test of Incremental Respiratory Endurance (TIRE).  After 6 weeks of the IMT we were able to show a significant increase in VO2 max.  More importantly the IMT helped to decrease pressure within the thoracic cavity, and ultimately improve venous return.  Healthy people have a normal negative pressure within the intrathoracic, intraplueral, and the intraalveolar areas, however the IMT was able to improve this negative pressure in order to facilitate a performance enhancement in these healthy athletes.  The increased venous return caused a greater stretch to the left ventricle wall (Starlings Law) and resulted in an increase stroke volume and cardiac output.  The improvements to the inspiratory muscles also helped to increase the tidal volume within the lungs, and decrease the residual volume as well.  The improved contractibility of the inspiratory muscles, changes in pressure and improved cardiac output is what makes up the increase in inspiratory capacity.  Muscles are able to perform more anaerobic and aerobic exercise, because of the improved ability to uptake O2 and remove CO2.  For hockey this is crucial between shifts.  The improved vital capacity allows a hockey player to deliver more oxygenated blood to the working fat and replace the O2 debt faster.  Athletes are able to sustain a higher work level throughout a game.

    The hockey season is one of the longest in collegiate sports, and there are so many important areas that we need to cover during training with very little time.  The IMT was a commitment that yielded important benefits for our team and required a time investment of only 30 minutes 2 times/week.  The importance of recovery throughout as game is clear.  Success is dependent on the ability to sustain work levels throughout three periods of hockey and maybe more importantly recovery from night to night.

Dan Boothby is the Strength and Conditioning coach for the Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey teams at Northeastern University and can be reached at



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Topics: basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey summit, boston hockey conference, sports performance, strength coach, inspiratory muscle training, northeastern, V02 max

Seth Godin Squats a Thousand Pounds

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Mon, Mar 15, 2010 @ 13:03 PM

I get it.  You’re too busy.  

Right now, in your athletic department, in your sports medicine department or in your strength and conditioning department there is a million and one things to get done, and they were all due yesterday.  Whether it's preparing summer conditioning programs, Christmas break rehabilitation plans or putting the finishing touches on your policy and procedure manual, there’s no time to take on another task, let alone put time aside to develop your skills or trade.

So if you’re too busy, it’s safe to say you won’t be attending a conference this weekend or snuggling up with an anatomy text book tonight in order to better your skills.  And if you’re too busy to improve your particular trade or skill then perhaps you’ll also be too busy to notice the young kid two cubicles down accept your dream job at the college across town or maybe you’re too busy to look up and notice your customers, (ya, customers – I know in most athletic departments they’re called athletes or even student-athletes) have stopped buying what you’ve been selling.

So if you’re too busy and can’t find five minutes to breathe, can I suggest finding two minutes and to read and learn from one of the nation’s top thought leaders?  Seth Godin isn’t a world renowned surgeon, he’s never taped an ankle and he probably can’t even bench his body weight.   But what Seth Godin can do, he does better than anyone else – he’ll stop you dead in your tracks.  Seth Godin will make you think… think about everything you do today and everything you’ll do tomorrow.  He will not make your athletes run faster or return your athlete from ACL surgery quicker – but he will challenge you to find five more minutes in your day to simply get better.

And if Seth Godin were in athletics? Well, Seth Godin would squat a thousand pounds.

Two of my favorite blog posts from Seth Godin:

The least I could do
One way to think about running a successful business is to figure out what the least you can do is, and do that. That's actually what they spent most of my time at business school teaching me.

No sense putting more on that pizza, sending more staff to that event, answering the phone in fewer rings... what's the point? No sense being kind, looking people in the eye, being open or welcoming or grateful. Doing the least acceptable amount is the way to maximize short term profit.

Of course, there's a different strategy, a crazy alternative that seems to work: do the most you can do instead of the least.

Radically overdeliver.

Turns out that this is a cheap and effective marketing technique.

We can do it
Too often, it seems, this attitude is missing from teams, organizations or the community.

It's missing because people are quick to opt out of the 'we' part. "What do you mean, we?" they ask. It's so easy to not be part of we, so easy to make it someone else's problem, so easy to not to take responsibility as a member of whatever tribe you're part of.

Sometimes it's missing because people disagree about what 'it' is. If you don't know what you're after, it's unlikely you're going to find it.

And it's missing because people confuse cynicism with realism, and are afraid to say "can". They'd rather say 'might' or even 'probably won't'.

Just about everything worth doing is worth doing because it's important and because the odds are against you. If they weren't, then anyone could do it, so don't bother.

Product launches, innovations and initiatives by any organization work better when the key people agree on the goal, believe that they can achieve it and that the plan will work.

Do we have a cynicism shortage? Unlikely.

Successful people rarely confuse a can-do attitude with a smart plan. But they realize that one without the other is unlikely to get you very far.

Count me in. Let's go.

Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA.  He can be reached at

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Topics: basketball conference, athletic training conference, boston hockey summit, boston hockey conference, Seth Godin, sports performance, strength coach, mental toughness

Who Wins - Mental Toughness or Daily Discipline?

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 @ 20:03 PM

    When I hear strength coaches talk about discipline, I often think about an example that Jim Collins gives from his book, Good to Great, where he describes the “rinsing your cottage cheese factor.”

    He writes, “The analogy comes from a disciplined world-class athlete named Dave Scott, who won the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon six times. In training, Scott would ride his bike 75 miles, swim 20,000 meters, and run 17 miles - on average, every single day.  Dave Scott did not have a weight problem! Yet he believed that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet would give him an extra edge. So, Dave Scott - a man who burned at least 5,000 calories a day in training - would literally rinse his cottage cheese to get the extra fat off. Now, there is no evidence that he absolutely needed to rinse his cottage cheese to win the Ironman; that’s not the point of the story.  The point is that rinsing his cottage cheese was simply one more small step that he believed would make him just that much better, one more small step added to all the other small steps to create a consistent program of superdiscipline."

    I’ve often thought that discipline is the one virtue which set the very best athletes apart from those that were merely average.  However, much has been made recently of developing mental toughness in our athletes in order to better prepare them for “when the going gets tough”.  My friend, Brijesh Patel, Head Strength and Conditioning at Quinnipiac, has done a terrific job writing and presenting on this exact topic and has convinced me and a number of other coaches to integrate some of his strategies into our own programming.  Whether it’s a grueling finishing exercise, an ungodly number of sprints, or work-capacity circuits that the Geneva Conventions would call abusive, the goal remains the same; push the athlete to a limit they are uncomfortable with so when the same uncomfortable situation arises in competition they are ‘mentally tough’ enough to persevere.

    I remember the exact moment I asked Mike Boyle about training athletes in order to develop mental toughness. His response: “Being tough is showing up on time, every time.  It’s about doing the little things all the time.  That’s tough.”  From that moment forward I became conflicted on whether these mental toughness programs/exercises were simply making my athletes tired (I mean, anyone can make a kid sweat, tired and cramp) or if I was in fact instilling an inner warrior mentality that would be unleashed at the time of competition?

    I think we all understand the mental toughness part, but instilling a culture of “superdiscipline” as described by Collins means demanding and having our athletes touch the baseline each and every time during conditioning drills, closing out under control on a three-point shooter with hands up instead of  “fly-by” which basically takes you out of the play pending a missed shot, “Walling Up” on your man with arms straight up and staying down instead of leaving your feet during a fake shot attempt, defending for the entire 35 second shot clock, showing up on time for a 2:00pm lift (that’s not walking in the door at 2:00 pm but rather being prepared and ready at 2:00pm), being the first on the floor at practice to get extra shots up AND having purpose to your shooting drills (putting up 300 shots vs. putting up 300 total shots with the goal of making 70 percent from the left elbow after a cross-over dribble), coming to the weight room 10 min early to address mobility and stretching needs outside the scope of training that day, waking up 15 minutes early so you can eat breakfast rather than show up for 6am lift on an empty stomach, or disciplined enough to pack snacks and plan your meals for the next day so you don’t begin afternoon practice on an empty stomach. Now THAT’S being “superdisiplined”.

    So when the game is on the line, when you must get a defensive stop to seal a win, or when you have to stretch a ball screen all the way, was your success or failure due to your athlete’s mental toughness or a lifestyle of “rinsing the cottage cheese”?

Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA.  He can be reached at

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Topics: basketball conference, boston hockey summit, training, Good to Great, discipline, Mike Boyle, sports performance, mental toughness, superdiscipline