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journal for strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, athletic
trainers, and other health professionals working in the strength and conditioning
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Joe Kenn, MA, CSCS, *D, RSCC*E
Coach Joe Kenn has been an active member of the NSCA since 1986. Kenn has been a Certified Strength and
Conditioning Specialist® since 1990, and was the NSCA 2002 National Strength and Conditioning Association’s
Professional of the Year. He was the 2000 Professional of the Year for the Mountain West Conference as well as the
1998 Professional of the Year for the Big West Conference. He has served the NSCA as the State Director in Idaho,
Arizona, and Kentucky. He also received the Bronze award from the NSCA Certification Agency in 1999.
Congratulations to Coach Kenn for being the first in NSCA history to receive the 2013 Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year Award!
1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning?
27 years total. I started as a student assistant at Wake Forest University in 1987. After I graduated, I spent two years as a high school coach. My college career started in 1991 and ended in 2009. This covered five universities. I spent one year in the private sector. The last three years I have been employed by an NFL organization.
2. What are your training styles/methods regarding training?
My training style is truly a holistic model based on developing the overall athlete. It combines all of the disciplines and methodologies of strength development. My program is entitled “Tier System Strength Training” and I am extremely humbled how well received it is in the strength and conditioning world.
3. How have these training styles/methods evolved over the years?
The No. 1 goal to me is to improve our program without breaking the integrity and structure of our training template. I am very proud of the fact that with the help of numerous staff members we have been able to implement new programming ideas into our program and the base structure remains the same.
We are a power capacity-based program, so we implement a lot of medley work into our programming at this time. We have done a solid job of implementing reset (activation), root (core), and reactive (jump training and upper body ballistics) into our strength program with great success.
4. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why?
Many people have had some type of influence on my career over time, too many to mention all by name. Each one has made me think in a different manner than I am accustomed to.
5. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with?
Our programming was one of the first to develop levels of ability. We generally start from training age within our coaching methods. We were the first program to implement specific “blitz” programs with the help of our athletic training staff at Boise State in the 1990s to help improve an athlete who had surgical and non-surgical deficiencies. As the athlete’s training age increases within our program and their training knowledge improves we are able to get more individual feedback and make adjustments as we see fit.
6. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning?
At one point, I would have said nutrition, but I believe we have really made great strides in this subject. At this time, especially working with professional athletes, rest and recovery, in particular sleep and recovery modalities such as ART, Contrast Baths, etc.
7. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field?
I have my “go-to guys” that I have no problem of picking up a phone and giving a call if I do not have the answer myself. These “guys” are generally more proficient in the subject matter that I have questions about. So, why not call the experts? I am an expert in strength development. That is one spoke in a multi-spoke wheel. Everyone needs a great support system to rely on.
8. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming?
I am not a big fan of the terms “specificity” and “functional” when it relates to strength training. You want to get better at squatting, you squat. You want to get better at shooting free throws, shoot free throws. I am a fan of transfer, finding movements that have the ability to improve movements and abilities outside of the specific exercise, such as hang cleans and vertical jump. Functional, everything is functional!
9. What is your favorite tool in your toolbox?
10. What are your five favorite exercises?
Deadlifts, squats, overhead press, hip thrusts, and rows.
11. What advice would you give to young coaches who are just starting their careers and want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t follow in my footsteps! In my era of development you could be a pure strength guy and succeed. This career choice has evolved ten-fold and being just a strength guy doesn’t work anymore. I highly recommend you find a niche subject and be the master of it. A subject you have a passion for, for example, nutrition, or the “screening process.”
I mention these two in particular because when I was leading the program at Louisville, we had two men who excelled at these subjects to a point where I would say they were the best in the country as strength and conditioning coaches that excelled at these areas of need.
All items Coach Kenn addressed were spot on in regards to his thinking on "specificity & functional" training. So, to improve at squating, jumping, etc, you have to practice more (in time) doing those things. As he stated, everything is
more» functional! Great expression!«less
I particularly enjoy #11. Thanks Coach Kenn and the NSCA
Absolutely agree with the fact that training is about transfer and adaptation, not "specificity". That is what sport and sport practice is for.
Great Interview.Is it possible to reveil the two individuals that were mentioned from Louisville that excelled within Nutrition and Screening?
Fantastic interview, glad I hold many of the same principles as Mr. Kenn.