Everything we know about strength training might be wrong (1/4)
The year was 2001 and I was sitting in a windowless office in the bowels of the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary. Sitting across from me was The Canadian Speed Skating Strength coach Matt Jordan. Although Matt Jordan was not yet thirty years old he had risen to the top of the international speed skating scene with his brilliant programming and the great successes of his speed skaters. Lean with wide shoulders Jordan had been an average speed skater and an equally average weight lifter. After a short career in both sports he decided to turn his attention to coaching and never looked back.
At that time I was in the second year of my Kinesiology undergrad and I had applied to the newly formed Strength and Conditioning Practicum at the Oval. Jordan would be the head instructor. I had always been interested in strength training ever since I first tried it at age 15. Like many athletes it wasn't the actual strength training that I was interested in...but the effects it had on my ability to play sports.
I clearly remember my utter amazement in my new found speed and strength that I had attained in just my initial 8 months of training. Going from a "quick and tough" player to a powerful, quick and tough player in less than 1 year did wonders for my confidence. As did the 15 or so lbs of newly created muscle that covered my bones. My improved confidence pushed me to taking chances while playing sports. The new aggressive style of play resulted in positive outcomes which then further reinforced the aggressive play. More playing time created more opportunities to improve, which created still more playing time. A positive feedback loop was formed. Later my strategy of strength training and playing aggressively allowed to me to find success in sports.
Sitting in that chair in the windowless room I told Jordan all of this. He sat there and listened till I was finished. Jordan had a habit of staring right through you as you spoke. He also had the habit of actually thinking about what you said before answering. He would pause for several long seconds before answering....staring right through you the whole time. I was dismissed several minutes and few questions later. The next day I received an email that told me I had been accepted to the program.
The first day of class was interesting. Only four students were admitted to that first Practicum. We had four instructors. Matt Jordan, Scott Maw, Jason Poole and Stu Mcmillian. If you added up all of the World Records, Olympic records, and Medals between them you would quickly lose count.
Jordan worked with Canadian National Speed skating and Skiing.
Maw worked with the Canadian National swimmers
Poole worked with the Canadian National Luge and women's hockey
McMillian worked with USA bobsled, UofC Football and had his hand in many other athletes programming.
So there we were, sitting across from some of the most successful Strength coaches in the world and at the highest level. We waited for them to tell us the secret. The secret to their success. The magic program and advice that would propel us to the heights of success. Jordan would speak for the group. He told us if we wanted to be successful in this career we needed to do two things;
Look like you lift weights
Read as much as you can about the subject
As for the success of your future athletes he only had one piece of advice. Make sure your athletes lift and train with perfect technique. I remember sitting there being....disappointed. Perfect technique?
What about the super secret programs? What about the top supplements? What about the perfect exercises? At the time we were listening to the combined wisdom of literally dozens and dozens of world record performances and the advice was to train with perfect technique? I know that the meeting lasted longer than 3 minutes and we spoke about many other subjects that day but thats the only thing I remember about that meeting. Make sure your athletes lift and train with perfect technique. I though about it a lot after that day. And i've always wondered why that was considered the most important training consideration.
Now I know why.
I will share it with you in the coming days and weeks. For now make sure your always training with as close to perfect technique as you can get.