The Ideal Exercise Science Program

The ideal Exercise Science program should be something every major university should strive to achieve and maintain.  Of course, the major or core classes would include anatomy, kinesiology, and the basics of athletic training or rehab.  However, the electives and required courses included in the degree should be greatly emphasized.  During my four years at Lindenwood, a new Exercise Science program has been developed.  This program is in its early stages, and there is a lot of room for improvement.  We need to emphasize the basics of lifting technique, nutrition, conditioning, programming, sports psychology, the need for a proper facility, and the fact that weight machines are not the answer for athletic enhancement.

First, my colleagues, Ryan, Matt, and I, train in a fairly large facility with many other teams while we are at school.  Just the other day, we witnessed players of a particular team loading a barbell with over 400 pounds, squatting a mere two inches, and calling that rep a full squat and a new personal best.  Their coach then congratulated them because they are the “strongest” team on campus.  Not only is this the farthest thing from the truth, but the coach continues to promote inadequate lifts to boost numbers and feed ego.  This is completely unacceptable.  The only team on campus who completely lifts with proper technique and ROM is the Olympic Lifting team.  Coach Derrick Johnson has done a terrific job of enforcing proper technique on not only the Olympic Lifts but also on the supporting lifts such as squat, deadlift, cleans, and jerk.  In order to teach students proper form, we should devote a whole course to this subject.  I would recommend Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength” as a textbook and reference point.  Before we can train athletes, we must be able to teach technique with good quality ROM.  Thighs below parallel on squat, arms fully extended over the scapula on press, chest to bar on pull-ups, bar to chest without a bounce on bench press, and NO machines.

Nutrition is the base for athletic performance.  A pit crew would not put regular grade fuel into a high performance race car.  So why would you expect superior results when eating average food.  Over here at Lindenwood, the cafeteria food is not the best source for whole foods which help facilitate recovery.  Most of the food is processed and seems to do weird things to the body.  I suspect that the processing of some of the foods has some weird additives that mess with the digestive tract.  *The Food Pyramid (four food groups, low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet) is BS created by misunderstood data, politicians, the food processing industry, and the media.  History contradicts the food pyramid.*  We believe that a diet consisting of roughly balanced consumption of fat, carbohydrates, and protein is the way to go.  High carbohydrate diets do not increase performance, and low fat diets (carb and protein dominant) do not help burn fat because carbohydrates are the preferred fuel. A pit crew would not put regular grade fuel into a high performance race car. 

In order to be a successful program, we need multiple perspectives which differ from the generally accepted ideas behind the food guide pyramid.  Dieting for performance should be and is entirely different than a widely accepted diet for the general public.  As coaches and trainers we need to be aware of these differences to ensure top performance from our athletes.  In addition, a diet of organic, whole foods should be widely available on campus.  If we are to be competitive on the NCAA Division 1 level, we need an organic food supply to adequately fuel our athletes.  This would be a more expensive alternative to our current food provider, but the benefits from such an upgrade would greatly outweigh the cost.

Next, a solid understanding of conditioning and training the specific energy systems should be included in our ideal program.  Exercise Physiology is the basis for much of our methodology and should not be overlooked in anyway.  Training athletes who compete in sports that require explosive power should always differ in structure and programming from a sport which requires longer bouts of power endurance or genuine endurance.  One of the biggest pitfalls I have witnessed this semester is the tendency of our “athletic enhancement” staff to attempt to use circuit training to increase explosive power and speed.  *Circuits, which – no matter how brutal – only develop GPP. Circuits improve power-endurance. Circuits train a single energy system. No one is increasing strength or (explosive) power by doing circuits and getting tired. If that were enough then continued use and emphasis would be fine.*  Cramming athletes who rely on explosive power and strength into circuit training in order to “save time” is unacceptable, especially one month out from competition.  Now that being said, there is a time and a place for circuit training: during the foundation phase of training when the athlete is correcting imbalances and improve general fitness.  However, after the foundation phase of training, circuit training should never be used and sport specific training should be emphasized.

One size does not fit all.
Our coaches and trainers need to learn how to develop programs to sharpen the specific energy systems required for a particular task.  One size does not fit all.  Throwers, sprinters, jumpers, and endurance athletes should all train differently to sharpen certain aspects of fitness required for their particular task.  A “general” weight training program is not the answer.  At Project Deliverance, we tailor specific training programs to address the requirements of each sport.  General Athletic Enhancement facilities fail to accept the challenge of designing proper programs required for these athletes.  We are willing to do the hard work and programming to achieve the desired result.

The psychology of our various sports and mental conditioning should never be overlooked.  We need to hold our athletes to a higher level of performance than anywhere else.  Mental preparation for competition is almost more important than the physical training.  The mind pulls the body along.  When we train the mind to surpass, the body will inevitably follow.  When an athlete has positive expectations, does the work required, recovers adequately, and evidently increases their performance as a consequence, spirit soars.  This is a vicious cycle which can be either positive or negative.  On the negative side, if an athlete believes they will lose; then they will inevitably find a way to make it happen.  Expectations decrease, and the athlete will eventually quit in the long run.  In order to build successful sports teams, we need to emphasize mental conditioning, team cohesion, trust, and a support system of encouragement.  If a team is united as a single impenetrable unit, then who can stand in their way?  They pick each other up and motivate when the need arises, and they eventually surpass expectations and win championships.

A proper training facility is also important, but not entirely imperative of an ideal Exercise Science program.  Having the required equipment to accomplish a task is important to teach the trainers and coaches of the future.  As our university makes its transition to the NCAA Division 1 scene, having the proper facilities is a requirement.  This will ensure the task will eventually be accomplished as it will help with recruiting and overall growth of the school.  When developing a proper training facility, we need a facility which is void of all non-athletes.  They should have their own “fitness center” where they train aside from our athletic teams.  The athletic facility should be uncomfortable, efficient, harsh, and focused to foster an environment of attention to the task at hand.  This way, work will be done in a timely fashion, and athletes will be in an environment of total commitment to the task at hand.  With no spectators, athletes will push harder without an audience and in the company of a coach and teammates.  This way, we can build attitude, performance, and condition the mind to be completely focused on one task.

Finally, if we want to train the best coaches, we need to have the best coaches in the industry pay a visit to Lindenwood University.  We would greatly benefit from hosting seminars pertaining to Basic Barbell, Kettlebell, Olympic Lifting, Nutrition, and Athletic Development.  If we want to be the best, we need to learn from the best.  Hosting seminars would be one of the most beneficial uses of our finances and time outside of the classroom and hands on experience.  I learned more information during a weekend seminar at Gym Jones than I did in a year of schooling.  This is likewise with Mark Rippetoe’s Basic Barbell Certification course.  Expert coaching and hands on experience is a power advantage.

Citations: *Content by Mark Twight of Gym Jones