NSCA Oregon State Clinic 2014


This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the NSCA Oregon State Clinic. I knew I would receive continuing education credits, but ultimately, a solid line up of presenters is what motivated me to attend. The line up this year included Jim Radcliffe, the head strength coach for the University of Oregon, Michael Conroy, from USA Weightlifting, Patrick Ward, who works for the Nike Research Lab and Canada Basketball, Bradford Scott, director of athletic performance for the Portland Pilots, and Kyle Holland, a strength coach at Team EXOS. The clinic was held at the sports performance center on the campus of Oregon State. It was my first time visiting the facility and it ended up being a great place to attend a clinic of this kind. I thought I would use this post to share some of the highlights from each of the presenters at the clinic. Here’s what I considered to be some of the most valuable information.

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The clinic kicked off with a presentation on Strength and Conditioning Concepts by Jim Radcliffe, the highly successful strength coach from the University of Oregon. This was my first time seeing him present and he came across as a very intelligent, dynamic speaker. He really is a small guy, but he has big energy and I was very impressed with that. Instead of getting into many specific topics, his talk was mostly an overview on what constitutes a good strength and conditioning program. He is insistent upon having his athletes strengthen their core and mobilize their hips. He talked about how more and more kids come into sports programs without very good posture or general fitness.  He reasons that less physical play time (due to electronics, video games,etc.) and less physical education in school has really hampered the younger athletes. As far as posture goes, he mentioned that in the days of his youth, they had incline desks. Now days, you can find kids hunched over their flat desks in the school room, contributing to poor posture. It seems like we are often engaging in activities that promote poor posture in our modern lives. He favors total body, synchronized lifting over lying or sitting, single joint exercises. At this point of the presentation, he demonstrated an explosive step-up using a chair (there wasn’t a low box nearby), I thought the chair was going to explode and someone was going to get hurt, luckily neither of those things happened. Some of the synchronized strength training methodologies he recommends are complexes and combination sets. Complexes are the execution of reps of 2 or more exercises within the same set (example:3 cleans/3 push presses/3 front squats). Combinations are when a person alternates repetitions between 2 or more exercises in the same set (example:1 clean/1 push press/1 front squat x 3).  He had a great tip for teaching a person to hip hinge properly, which is an extremely important movement in the world of athletics (jumping, running, lifting, etc.). He had us stand up, find our hip bones and place our hands just below them, then move our hips backward until our hands were pinched by our hip bones. If you perform it incorrectly by rounding your back, you will lose the hand pinch. I thought that was a great tip. He wrapped things up by talking about “looking at the big picture”. If someone has an injury, we often look to fix the specific area instead of looking at the mechanics that potentially caused the injury in the first place. I enjoyed his presentation and enthusiasm to kick off the clinic.

Olympic Weightlifting

The next presentation was about Olympic Weightlifting by Michael Conroy of USA Weightlifting. This was a hands on portion of the clinic where we had a chance to practice the teaching progressions for the snatch and clean. He said Olympic Lifting comes down to 3 things, grip, stance, and position. He placed emphasis on sets over reps to maintain quality of motion and also added that Olympic lifts were designed for neural recruitment and not for anaerobic threshold training. He recommended teaching the snatch first, then progress to the clean, because it will seem easy to learn in comparison. USA Weightlifting teaches the lifts with a top down approach. The hardest part of the lift can be performing it from the floor. In an interesting look at bio-mechanics, the path of the bar during an Olympic lift should never travel forward beyond the starting point of the bar from the floor. A big foot stomp is horribly inefficient. He recommends doing sets of three at 70% one rep max, doubles at approximately 80% one rep max, and singles above 80% one rep max. Even if you don’t have the Olympic lifts in your training program, he recommends at least one Olympic lift derivative (pulls, shrugs, etc.) for athletes. There was a fairly large number of people in attendance so we had to break up into multiple groups to practice the lifts. Our group had one first time Olympic lifter, so I had a chance to coach him up, besides practice the lifts. After we got some lifting in, it was time to break for lunch.

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Patrick Ward of Optimum Sports Performance got the afternoon session rolling with a talk on Data Collection to Application. He believes this is where the role of the strength coach is progressing beyond coaching, programming, and recovery work. First, you have to identify what data you want to collect, then organize it, and finally apply it.  The goal is to make the process as easy as possible in terms of collection and the ability for someone to make sense of it. There are a few things we can use to collect data and keep things simple, as he recommends. A few examples to gather data is by using training journals, HR data, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and daily questionnaires. With the questionnaires, it’s important that the athlete understands the wording and the scoring. It should also be done at the same time of day, every day. RPE can be used to measure the training session intensity. It is best to have them state their RPE number in the 15 to 30 minute, post training window. It gives them enough time to calm down from the session, so they don’t rate it too high, and it’s also close enough to the session that they won’t rate it too low, due to the session not being fresh in their memory. Google documents can be a useful tool for implementing the questionnaires. When it comes to organizing the data, excel can be your best friend. Make sure you hold on to all the raw data. Then he went on to show how the data can be integrated into action. We looked at charts related to fatigue, soreness, and stress levels in basketball players. Another interesting chart showed the number of minutes played per game by a professional basketball player over the course of the season. When he surpassed a certain threshold of minutes per game for several games in a row, he suffered several injuries. So it appeared that his injury risk went up when he played above x number of minutes for several games in a row. Now it’s not predictive, we can’t say for sure that he will get injured when he plays above those minutes for an exact number of games, but it gives you an idea when he is getting over worked and bad things may happen. Don’t you think a coach or general manager might be interested in seeing that graph? So, with the right data and organization, the graph can be a very useful tool. I am going to try to implement this more in my programming with the SOU Volleyball team and even my personal training clients. I had seen Patrick present before on a Strength in Motion DVD I own, but this was my first time seeing him in person. He gave a great presentation and it was clear he is very intelligent. I also love numbers, so this was one of my favorite presentations.

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Next up was Bradford Scott, Director of Athletic Performance at the University of Portland. He presented on the Practical Training Applications for Basketball, and he said they had worked with Patrick Ward on some development of their program. He started with an overview of their strength and conditioning program, and it sounds like they have a fantastic department. The whole department of strength coaches work together to cultivate a positive environment and they place a high value on continuing education.  We got a detailed handout that explained how their programming worked in terms of basketball. We got to look at the testing, off season, and in season programming. They use some of the things mentioned in the previous presentation such as feedback from athletes and heart rate monitoring. He only had an hour, so he had to speed through it pretty quickly. He left me with a lot of information to digest. It will be a great resource to refer to as I look to update my programming with the SOU volleyball team.

MMA Training

The final presentation was by Kyle Holland about MMA Training Made Simple. Kyle has quite an impressive bio which included two stints at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. He has had a lot of experience working with UFC fighters and his presentation was an outline of an MMA training program. Right up front he told us that his presentation wasn’t going to be research heavy, it was more his opinion and observations of what has worked for him in regards to training fighters. In a general program, the fighters run through a quick plyo, med ball, and mobility circuit at the start of a workout. The bulk of the strength training comes in the form of tri or quad sets that address the whole body. To train the core, he uses a lot of stability exercises such as anti rotation, anti extension, and weighted carries. For conditioning he uses a lot of different equipment for high intensity interval training, and he feels that it is the most effective way to condition a fighter. The equipment used includes sleds, versa climbers, battle ropes, etc. They don’t do a lot of Olympic lifting because he said most fighters don’t have much experience in weight lifting. He feels like they don’t have the time to get them up to speed in those technical lifts, so they utilize more Med Ball work, KB swings, and DB snatches, which are easier to learn. Kyle has obviously worked with some great coaches and high level fighters, and since I have an appreciation for MMA, I enjoyed hearing of his experiences with training fighters.

I felt like this clinic was organized well and had a very informative line up of presenters. I hope you could pick up something of interest from this post, even if you’re not in the strength and conditioning field.  I am definitely looking forward to next year’s clinic.


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