NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 99: Matthew Ibrahim

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Matthew Ibrahim, MS
Coaching Podcast April 2021

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Coaches

Matthew Ibrahim, Co-Owner of TD Athletes Edge, talks to the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about using setbacks as a learning opportunity. Topics under discussion include creating a holistic approach to a client’s training by collaborating with other professionals, and the importance of deceleration technique and eccentrics in his programs for skill acquisition.

Find Matthew on Instagram: @matthewibrahim_ | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“But we can do a really good job at properly, physically preparing our athletes through the right demands and tasks and skill acquisition in the weight room, if we load them appropriately, to be able to withstand those rigors and demands of sport and those stressors.” 20:39

“But I do believe we cannot forget about the deceleration or forced absorption drills, which I believe go in the plyometric department, right before the actual force production.” 21:27

“I think people-- when they think plyos, Eric, they're thinking oh, wow, let me do a box jump. What about just jump and land? Like pogos. Let's do a pogo jump. But that's plyos. You have to crawl before you sprint, right? So people forget about the crawling, the walking, before we actually sprint.” 27:40

“…but eccentric is the one that I think has the most credence in terms of forcing someone to develop skill acquisition from a motor control standpoint, but also movement quality standpoint.” 34:40

Transcript

[00:00:00.00] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 99.

[00:00:05.03] People, look, when they think plyos, Eric, they're thinking, oh wow, like, let me do a box jump. What about just jump and land? Like pogos. Let's do a pogo jump. But that's plyos. You have to crawl before you sprint.

[00:00:17.87] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:28.89] Welcome, everybody, to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon, your host. And today we have Matt Ibrahim with us. He is the co-owner of TD Athletes Edge in Boston, Massachusetts. Matt recently spoke at the NSCA Coaches Conference in January. Welcome.

[00:00:46.87] Eric, thank you for having me on. I look forward to diving in here. So thanks again for the opportunity.

[00:00:51.55] Awesome, and I really enjoyed your talk at Coaches. Talking about deceleration and landing skills. I want to dive into some of that. But before we get going, just give you a chance to tell your story. How did you get into the field?

[00:01:05.27] Well, thank you for asking. This is going to be a long, inundated diatribe, if you will. Get your popcorn, get ready. I think like most strength coaches, growing up, you're playing high school sports. And you just enjoy being in and around the gym, or physical activity and exercise and training. And that's what I did, as well.

[00:01:24.02] Leaving high school, I had absolutely zero idea what I wanted to do as a profession. I just knew I loved being around exercise, training, the weight room, sports, athletics, stuff like that. And working with people to help them get stronger and whatnot.

[00:01:37.08] So went to UMass Boston. A really long story short, took six years to get my undergraduate degree. I went in in the College of Liberal Arts, had no clue that they had an exercise science department. I ended up failing by collegiate terms. 13 courses. Got put on academic probation for my last semester, had to write a letter of appeal to be able to finish my last semester and get my undergraduate degree in exercise health sciences.

[00:02:04.28] So I graduated with a 2.96. I took way too many class, it took way too long, but it was really good learning lesson. And so Eric, throughout that six years, I ended up starting to get into the exercise science department. About a year or two in. After kind of waking up and knocking my head saying, oh wow, they have-- opening my eyes, so to speak. And I wasn't really a good student by any stretch of the imagination. I didn't try hard, I didn't put the effort in. I was lazy from an academic standpoint.

[00:02:32.93] And I wouldn't change it for the world, you know. I took anatomy one and two, I took them twice each. And I just didn't care as much. But I loved training and reading the latest T-Nation article or NSCA article or podcast. Or anything on men's fitness or whatever. I mean, you get your hands on it, you're young, you want to learn.

[00:02:52.76] As luck would have it, I somehow-- I don't know how I did, but I landed an internship at Mike Boyle's in the fall of 2011. One of the clients there was a friend of my father's and so on and so forth. And I got a connection there. At the time, Anthony Miranda was there and Nicole Rodriguez, who I believe spoke at Coaches, as well, was there.

[00:03:10.49] And I will just say that I had my rear end handed to me, because I was green, I was a blank white canvas. And they put me in my place, and I think for good reason. So that was an excellent learning experience for me. I was around people like Kevin Carr, Mike Boyle, Brendon Rearick. As I mentioned, Anthony Miranda, Nicole Rodriguez, all these really great coaches in the field now.

[00:03:31.09] At times I think Ben Bruno had come to visit. Gray Cook had come to visit, people like that. And so I was very green. And so from there, I wanted to go to physical therapy school. Ended up becoming a PT rehab aide while still personal training, strength coaching, going to class, kind of doing a little bit of everything. Not that much different than any other coach in the field. You just make it work. You figure out different avenues of training people, getting them healthy, getting them strong.

[00:03:55.13] And realizing that, well, you have to work with people of every age group. Not just the select, quote unquote "pro athletes" that you want to work with as a high school and college kid. Everyone, all humans are athletes, essentially. And so I had a lot of experiences in a variety of gyms, training facilities, PT clinics, rehab centers, sports medicine facilities, sport performance.

[00:04:14.82] So I was kind of building this human movement and performance skill set, and trying to apply for doctor of PT schools. Over a three-year span, I applied to five different schools and then got declined a total of 15 times. So five times each of those three, it's the same local Boston schools. You being a New England guy, as well, you know that you want to stay in New England, stay in the area.

[00:04:39.35] So that was fire for me. That wasn't discouraging. It was fire for me. And so I've been fortunate enough to at this point have been invited to speak as a presenter at three of those universities. So I look at it like, hey, this wasn't for me, but I kind of found a workaround. So after not getting in to DPT schools, I knew I loved coaching, it's my greatest joy, helping people. And I still wanted to have a hand in rehabilitation and sports medicine to assist in that performance process.

[00:05:07.47] And so I got my license in massage therapy. I still have it. I don't use it anymore, but there was a one-year span where I was half coaching, half treating, and working in concert with the PTs and the physios in a performance and rehabilitation realm. And so I was coaching, treating, doing soft tissue work, strength coaching.

[00:05:25.04] And I mean, it was fun, but I realized oh my God, well, I have too much energy to just kind of sit at a table and do some soft tissue or modalities. And I know that I can be, I can have much more of a profound impact on someone's life as a coach, and as an educator, as a teacher, as a guide. And I said, you know what? Let me kind of hang it up from a licensed massage therapy standpoint. I still pay for the dang license, but you never know. And I said, let me just go back to being all in at coaching.

[00:05:53.87] And so throughout this whole time, I was building up a little bit of a social media presence, and I was posting about articles and exercise content, education, just trying to make it simple, digestible and immediately applicable for any users being the client or people around the world. And so we were teaching some workshops around the States and some of them are accredited through the NSCA for CEUS and we were having some fun.

[00:06:18.02] And then from there, I said, you know what? I tried to get into terminal degree program of DPT. Let me still kind of continue that path. And I didn't do too well in undergrad. As I said, I got a 2.96. And I said, you know what, I want to be able to right the ship. So I ended up going to Rocky Mountain University and getting my master's in human and sport performance. I ended up with a 3.8, and so that made me feel a little better about myself, in terms of my academic path.

[00:06:41.48] And I was fortunate enough at that time, and this is about a year ago, to be able to have an opportunity to get back and pay it forward to students. So I'd imagine I'm not the only one who failed as an up-and-coming strength coach or exercise science-based student. I say, you know what, I want to be able to pay it forward. And if I have an opportunity to pay it forward and give back, I want to.

[00:07:01.28] So at the time I'd done about 20 to 25 just various guest lectures. Springfield, UMass Boston, UMass Lowell, Salem State, Endicott College. Some of them online to places around the world. I said, you know what? I'd like to maybe turn this into a position, like an adjunct professor. So I landed an adjunct professor job at Endicott College. So locally, Beverly, Mass., near the gym. As well as not so local, maybe our mutual friend, I think, Victor Kaiser. He's the director over at Maryville University, as an adjunct professor with them. So I still have those roles now, and I consider myself very fortunate to be able to have an avenue, an outlet so to speak, to directly impact the current student body. And something I feel very passionate about. Because I want to be able to help the-- someone who's potentially in my shoes or was in my shoes at that point.

[00:07:51.87] So I'm now about a third of the way through my PhD or doctoral program at Rocky Mountain University. And I am by no means a research guy or a science-y guy, but I figure, well, you've got to give it a shot and see if I can take this ship. And so, I have a 3.78 now, and I don't mean to bring up the GPA to say, look at me. I mean to bring it up to say, hey, look, you can turn things around and right the ship if you actually apply yourself. And that's my story. Just being able to understand that you have to apply yourself and put effort forth if you want to make change.

[00:08:23.09] Man, it's awesome to hear that message. I think a lot of times we as strength coaches, we have something that drives us into this profession. Maybe might be an injury or a setback, or just an impactful relationship with a coach that we have. And we want to give that back. But just hearing the message, and I love it. It's own your failures. I mean, you you just come right out. And I've read this in your bio, and heard you say this before, where you just come right out with it. You know, I didn't do that great as an undergrad. It set me back, you know there were some opportunities that maybe I missed out on. But I'm not going to stop.

[00:09:03.27] And that is extremely encouraging and powerful for young coaches. Because I think this is a field that, over my career, over and I think generations before can say this, as well, is we have been striving for more. We continue to strive for more. We seek to improve the professionalism of our field. Academic preparation and education ties into that, as well. So man, that was awesome. I really am happy you shared that with us.

[00:09:36.76] I want to ask you, you had this interest in physical therapy. And not just working on the performance side but on the health side. What kind of experiences did you have when you were a PT aide, or when you were pre-physical therapy, that have benefited you as a strength coach? And what do you think of that track as a preparation for performance professionals?

[00:10:04.29] I think the biggest thing is knowing your lane is professional. I think-- and this is not to speak ill of anyone, but I think a lot of times, strength coaches and performance specialists, they will sometimes-- let's say speak in such a way or do a certain thing that maybe isn't necessarily under their umbrella, or license to do so. And also vice versa.

[00:10:27.69] I believe that sometimes you'll fall upon sports medicine or rehab professional who would kind of do something that's not in their realm or not under the license. What I would say is, why not collaborate and work as a team? If you're the strength coach and you're the PT, hey, let me train this athlete. Hey, great. Once they have an injury, I'll let you take care of him there, take care of that knee, but let's work in concert and collaborate as a team effort. So now we're essentially at a performance team, and not, we're operating in different silos.

[00:10:53.34] And so what it really taught me was the importance of collaboration from a professional and integrity standpoint. I want to be able to work alongside my peers and my mates in the field, whether they're physio, chiro, massage therapy, athletic trainer, and me as the coach, the strength coach. I want to work alongside them the same way I would look, I would work alongside the sport coach from a load management or volume standpoint. Hey, like, hey coach, they're practicing this much, playing that much, kind of dial back the volume and intensity et cetera et cetera. So I think that collaboration and team effort approach can-- you can use that in the private setting, the collegiate setting, the professional setting, in all different settings. In health care and everything in our field. That to me is number one.

[00:11:34.78] Number two is, I was able to view movement, like human movement, in a different lens. So rather than, hey, let's load, load, load, load, load, which you and I know how important loading and getting stronger is. That is the biggest hammer I'll ever want to swing. But I think there's a level of credence that we have to apply to, rather than saying, OK, great. Does that does that dumbbell goblet swap bother your knees? Oh, it does? OK, you know what, let's just scratch that and do something else.

[00:12:00.87] No no no, let's have a conversation here. That dumbbell goblet swap bothers me. OK, great. Let's put a box there. Let's decrease-- provide a level of constraint, right? Let's decrease range of motion. Now go down. Does that bother you? A little bit but not as much. OK, great. Let me put a pad on there. Maybe another application of decreasing range of motion. How does it feel now? A little bit better.

[00:12:18.57] OK, great. Let me put a mini band around your knees. All the mini band haters can yell at me, but I'm just speaking of an example here. Put the mini band underneath. What's this for? You're going to get more glute activation, lateral hips, et cetera et cetera. Let's take off some of that pissed-offedness of the knee. Let's try that now. Oh, that feels way better. OK, great.

[00:12:33.92] It's a dimmer on a light switch. You're just slowly pressing in one direction. You're not going to jam it and switch all the way over to a different exercise. So to me, it gave me the tool of slow and controlled, almost like slow cooking the training approach. A very, very subtle change approach, versus these big, drastic changes. So it gave me, in my opinion, knowledge in the little nooks and crannies areas that I would say your typical strength coach doesn't necessarily always think of. And by no means does this put me in a different position, but it forced me to think in a different way.

[00:13:07.51] And so when I see someone-- when I see human movement, I think bilateral squat, bilateral hip hinge, single leg derivatives, upper body horizontal and vertical push pull, anti rotation, flexion extension, carry, locomotion sprinting, et cetera et cetera. And understand, OK, what are the different progressions we can target here?

[00:13:25.47] And that's why on my Instagram channel, I like to post a series of progressions. OK, here's a basic movement. Here's a bridge, a glute bridge, for example. Here are about five variations how you can progress, and here's why each one is important. So that you as the coach know how to progress, and then you as the client or the end user can take it and apply it on Monday. And so it's forced me to be a better collaborator with my teammates and also breaking down human movement in a very subtle and succinct way.

[00:13:53.91] I liked hearing-- you spoke to basically functional progressions, and being able to dissect different movements. And I think a lot of times we think of the foundational exercises that we rely on. Squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls. And they are what they are, but when you dive into it a little bit deeper, you really have an infinite number of exercises. And it expands your toolbox when you can use functional progressions to increase, decrease range of motion. Just alter the movement to accommodate certain factors with a client or athlete. And it creates a very dynamic thought process toward training.

[00:14:38.26] Speak to-- you work in the private sector. What's the population that you work with primarily? And how do you guys approach training with the different groups?

[00:14:49.77] Yes, I would say there-- that's a great question. I think there are three buckets that we see on a day-to-day basis. The first bucket we see is your typical younger athlete. Let's call them the athletic development bucket. Your teenager, middle school, high school, collegiate-level athlete, anywhere between the age of, let's say, 12 to 24. That athlete, you could throw them off a wall, they'll land without getting hurt. So the risk level is much lower with that type of athlete. And I'm-- it's a generalization. Obviously, injuries occur.

[00:15:21.43] The second bucket, I would call this your typical general population client. Anywhere from 25 to 75 years old. And the biggest thing there that I think it's important to peel a layer back on is that we are loading the same, exact movement patterns for all individuals in this gen pop group. Ages 25 to 75. It just-- the only difference is, their current level of ability and skill set, whether or not they're dealing with some or one potential nagging injury or injuries, and the level of intensity and load we're adding there.

[00:16:00.99] Those are the variables that will change. But the movement patterns aren't going to change. I might load Claire, who's 77 years old, up with a cable pull-through at 25 pounds, and then I may load up Charles, who's 25, just graduated college and his master's degree, wants to trap bar deadlifts. They're both hip hinges but they're loaded differently, different intensity, different skill set, different ability level. And potential nagging injuries we're trying to train intelligently around.

[00:16:27.69] The final bucket as I'll call them the endurance bucket. So this population, they're technically gen pop. Let's say ages 40 to 60. But they are high-level competitors in endurance sports. So marathons, ultras, triathlons, biathlons. You have Iron Mans, you have Kona. You have all of these high-level endurance events, where they're really just kind of just dumping out their endurance buckets. And you and I both know it becomes an easy sell to them, hey, you also need to load and get strong. And that durability and that injury resilience will definitely help you with all that loading you're doing with endurance.

[00:17:06.06] So those are the three buckets. And we attack it from the same angle with all of them. Meaning that you're going to see the same movement patterns in all of them. However, you may see more in our endurance population. This kind of goes back to that deceleration presentation. There's a lot of good literature on stuff that's going to load their lower-body areas that are often prone to overuse injuries. If I'm going to go run 12 miles, I've got to think of my calf, my ankle, my hamstring, my quad, my knee, my hip flexor.

[00:17:35.13] And that's just one example. But simple ways to target that where most strength conditioning training programs traditionally don't directly target. Let's say, let me do some heel raises, seated and standing. Let me load those. Let me do some hip flexor strengthening. Let me do some hamstring and maybe some Nordics come into play. Let me do some groin or abductor. Maybe some Copenhagens come into play. And those type of things. So that's kind of how we attack it. And we have our templates and our outlines, but it's always an individualized approach.

[00:18:02.73] Let's go back a few weeks. And I've heard you speak on this topic a few different times. Deceleration, landing skills, force absorption. Really great presentation at Coaches Conference. And a lot of coaches have reached out and just praised your approach to that. And I know you've done it at some state clinics for the NSCA, as well, and at some other events. Speak to that topic. Why is that an important consideration for coaches in the field?

[00:18:34.49] You open up your phone, you go to Instagram, right? You're scrolling, you're scrolling, you're scrolling. Some of the biggest topics on Instagram and social media, hey, we can't ignore it. It's one of the biggest platforms that we all go to. In our field, and the food, the fitness industry, the music industry, fashion, right?

[00:18:50.56] So what do you often see, or what does a young coach often see when they're scrolling? Oh this guy just did a bajillion-- a 78-inch box jump and oh my God, he just-- And you look at it and say, why would I want someone landing in such an awkward position where they can't even produce power, right?

[00:19:09.28] And so you see stuff like this all the time. These sexy or force production exercises, and you're like wow, look at that, look at this jump, look at that power, explosiveness. And see Adrian Peterson highlights, you see all these phenomenal athletes. And one thing that I think often is remiss is you're not realizing as you as the end user looking at the screen and saying, they've already developed the brakes. They've already developed an ability to slow down, absorb force, absorb contact, take it and go in a different direction.

[00:19:35.86] You know, I have the picture of Jerome Bettis on the force absorption slide. And you know, we all know Jerome Bettis. He was great. His nickname was The Bus, because he went in one direction, he went forward. He was limited. He didn't go side to side. He had a great ability to take the contact of the linebacker, the line of defense men, take that force, that contact, absorb it, and then continue moving forward. And that's just an example that you probably don't think about when you think of absorption from the lower body, think of the upper body as well.

[00:20:02.21] So to me, I think it's an area that gets kind of-- you flip past the page too quickly, don't really take, you don't really glean into or lean into all of the specific items. And I think it's even more important because you look at a lot of the lower-body injuries that occur from a soft tissue or overuse standpoint. Not necessarily like a noncontact ACL. I'm talking about like, oh, my calf feels a little tight today. It's a little bit strained. Or I kind of pulled my hammy, like maybe a grade 1, just a muscle strain. I truly believe that again, we cannot prevent these injuries. But we can do a really good job at properly, physically preparing our athletes through the right demands and tasks and skill acquisition in the weight room, if we load them appropriately, to be able to withstand those rigors and demands of sport and those stressors.

[00:20:53.84] And so a lot of these kind of soft tissue or lower-body injuries-- hip flexor region, knee region, cap region, groin region, and hamstring region-- you can do a really good job of combating some of those highly injurious areas if you just load appropriately. Yes, let's squat, let's deadlift, let's single-leg squat, let's single-leg RDL, let's push, let's press, let's do all those things. I'm not saying remove those things. Let's also add in the force reduction stuff. That's great. Plyometrics, jumping, force production, rate of forced development.

[00:21:26.08] But I do believe we cannot forget about the deceleration or forced absorption drills, which I believe go in the plyometric department, right before the actual force production. I believe if you're conducting business on day one, phase one, let's hit up as many deceleration and force absorption and landing quality skills as we can. First order of business. Second order of business, once we've developed those skills and qualities in concert with some of those direct loading schemes of those five lower body areas, let's then add in some of the actual force production, jumping, and acceleration drills.

[00:22:01.99] It's like, you go back to Mendoza in Mighty Ducks, and I know how to slide up. I wish it was better quality. Next time, maybe I'll play the video. Mendoza was exceptionally fast, he was the quickest guy on the ice. There was no doubt about that. But his biggest downfall was he couldn't slow down. And look at cars. Like, what good is a car that is really fast if you don't have brakes to stop it? You get Into a car accident.

[00:22:24.02] And so I think to me, like I look at like, oh, this makes sense. This is a good concept. And I know there's a good amount of literature on direct loading schemes, or they allude to snap downs or drop squats. It's all the same stuff. Or landing. Talk about jump landing. But there's not a lot of focus on just actual force absorption and landing. So I think that is an area that we all know it's important, but I think we forget that, hey, look, it's part of force production-- I'm sorry, it's part of plyometrics that you kind of have to do that. You need to be able to land if you're going to jump.

[00:22:59.70] Yeah. And it makes me think, we talked about the dissecting movement and functional progressions. And this is an area that is often gray, because it gets overlooked, like you mentioned. How do you screen deceleration and force absorption abilities in your athletes effectively?

[00:23:23.80] I think this is an area where, if we're trying to put a program in place, and we don't have a great way to evaluate and screen something, it makes us question whether we should be putting it into a program. Or how much time we should be spending, because it's not something that we can relate back to our athletes, or really quantify the value of. How do you evaluate force absorption, landing skills, and these topics that you like discussing?

[00:24:00.68] Yeah, absolutely. And it's a great point. You know, what's the ROI? Why am I doing this? If there's no validity or reliability, then why am I doing it? So it's a great question. So the first thing I talk about, or I would mention, is when you bring an athlete in for an assessment, at one point or another, you're going to talk about, hey, what's your injury history like? And what type of injuries have you had? And those type of thing. So more often than not, they're going to allude to the fact that, hey, maybe I strained my calf back in college, I'm 35 years old now. Or I'm kind of currently dealing with, my right knee a little bit strained, not feeling too good. Or some of those injury things.

[00:24:36.41] So when they-- number one is, when they bring up injuries that have occurred or are currently occurring, you can always say, hey, look. Here's a great way to reduce the chance of injury and improve your ability to perform at a high level at whichever goals you want to achieve.

[00:24:49.39] The second way to address it is from an actual physical testing standpoint. You know, everyone at some point in their assessment or screening process has someone do a bodyweight squat. Whether it's a PVC overhead, whether it's a regular squat. Like, just doing a squat. It might even be lightly loaded with a small dumbbell. Let me just see you do a squat.

[00:25:08.83] And then you might say, OK, great. You have an ability to squat, you have an ability to hinge, you have an ability to single-leg balance. Through like maybe a one-leg RDL or one-leg airplane, or just a one leg, just standing, a standing balance test. Maybe a toe touch. And then OK, you're assessing their ability to balance and stabilize on two legs and one leg, just via different movement archetypes.

[00:25:31.69] Then you might talk about OK, great. If you've cleared and screened for no-- I would call ankle-related injury. It could be Achilles, could be calf, could be plantar fasc, could be foot. And nothing up the region in the knee or the hip currently, nothing that's major, I would say, great, let's-- show me, just lift up your heels. Reach to the ceiling and drop back quickly. How's that feel? Great, try a couple times. You just kind of walking around. The 360-degree coach. Make sure you're walking around, walking from all angles, seeing different movements.

[00:26:01.63] And I want to make sure that I'm being clear as we will want to look and assess and coach and see for movement limitations. We don't want to overcoach or overcorrect or inundate our athletes with all these extraneous cues. Because you and I both know-- this is back to some of Nick Winkelman's work is, and a lot of the research is-- if it's a novice client, they don't do well when you just kind of spew stuff at them. And you keep it nice and clean and just watch them. Take in movement. And then give them a little bit of feedback at the end.

[00:26:31.69] And external cueing is so much more important than internal cueing. Drop down quick and land. Not like, bring your heels down from your gastroc and bring the digitorum-- they're not going to pick that up. Just show them what you've got. Relatability is big, as well, from a trust and buy-in standpoint.

[00:26:49.85] Some of the stuff that Brett Bartholemew talks about in Conscious Coaching is, you want to relate to the athlete. A little buy-in. Something you could do really easily is-- you know, we had an athlete come in, he's in his second phase now. When you're doing some ankle stuff. But he wants to get back to plyometrics. Perfect, there's a red flag. I'm not going to give him decel right away, or even accel or plyos. Let's work on all the strengthening, direct loading, single-leg balance work. So at least we're getting strength and tolerance of tissue and loading.

[00:27:15.73] Then we'll pepper in, once hey, how's that feeling? Oh, the ankle's fine now, the Achilles is not tender anymore, we're good to go. I'm running again. It's cool. You're running again? Great, how long are your runs? Oh, I do twice a week, three miles. Running is a plyometric. People forget that. Running is plyometrics. At a very, very low level, but it's still plyometrics. The same way jump rope is plyometrics. Again, at a very, very, very low amplitude, but it still is plyometrics.

[00:27:39.22] I think people-- when they think plyos, Eric, they're thinking oh, wow, let me do a box jump. What about just jump and land? Like pogos. Let's do a pogo jump. But that's plyos. You have to crawl before you sprint, right? So people forget about the crawling, the walking, before we actually sprint. From an analogy standpoint.

[00:27:57.02] So now that young man is second phase. Now we add it in. Drop squat, the stick, maybe a little bit of a hide-in or lateral skater hop. We're still doing calf strengthening, single leg, bilateral. We're still doing all the squats. Deadlifts, hip hinges, single leg stuff, upper-body push-pull and core, sled work. That's another way to load that Achilles and those tendons. So there's a multitude of ways to do it.

[00:28:22.67] But I think if I would just bring it into the fold, assess and screen as a coach, make it relatable, and slow cook your training approach. It's just like any other skill. Like, how do I help this athlete-- if Eric comes to me says, hey Matt, I want to build a 315-pound back squat. Well, what do you squat now, Eric? I hit 135. I'm not saying you do, I'm just saying as an example. There's a step-by-step process to get there. We need to check off the boxes from a skills, acquisition, and task achievement standpoint. Lo and behold, three or four months down the line, Eric hit his 315-pound back squat.

[00:28:58.35] Awesome, man. And I heard a very holistic take on that. And I think-- you spoke to screening for injury history, and looking for movement limitations. And I think that's a great message. We should all be striving for quality movement in every training session. If your clients, athletes aren't repeating quality movement in training sessions, pretty much every time they go into the gym, and there's going to be some failures, there's going to be some setbacks, there's going to be things they don't do well. How do you get them back towards quality movement?

[00:29:35.82] And that speaks to the process of finding where an athlete is at with regard to deceleration, landing skills. Where along the functional progression they need to start. And I think it really speaks to that general-- it speaks to that youth population, from a long-term athlete development standpoint. Building the brakes early on in an athletic career can pay dividends forward for throughout the athlete's entire life. It's a different process when you're working with general pop or adult athletes that haven't had the same foundation.

[00:30:21.52] And one thing from your presentation that came up a few times. I think when we talk deceleration, force absorption, it relates well to eccentric training, or eccentric loading. Speak to eccentric training and how much you implement that with your clients and athletes. And how do you apply eccentric training just generally across the spectrum of strength and conditioning?

[00:30:46.63] Great point. Great question. I think a lot of the strength coach field, we all know about Jim Wendler, 531, all these big names. Cal Dietz, the triphasic. And isos, eccentrics, concentric. And so, what we do from an eccentric standpoint is, I want to make sure that you can use pristine movement quality while loading technically in each of your reps.

[00:31:15.16] I'm not looking for perfection, because we're not going to overcoach. But I'm looking for, look, does that pass the eye test? And if I notice-- there's multiple ways to look at this. You have a client who has a high state of anxiety, arousal, uncomfort, discomfort. Oh my God, I'm in the gym. This is like outer space for me. They're like shrugged up. You can tell they're not comfortable. And they're going fast, they're squatting, their pace is so high. Really high arousal, anxiety level. You as a coach, you can pick up on this. Social awareness, emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient, if you will. Be able to pick up on that.

[00:31:51.85] And if you have a client who just kind of rapidly speeds through exercises, how many times can you say, hey, slow down. Hey, slow down. They're not going to listen. Or at least, it's going in one, out the other. Because they're so focused on just trying to be comfortable. So that's in gen pop, which I think a lot of coaches deal with, or work with, that don't know how to properly address this area.

[00:32:14.96] Let me add in a 3s ECC or let me add in a 5s ECC, or 5-second eccentric. And so it forces you to slow down. Hey, look, you got to do your homework. That's what the homework says, you've got to do it. Dot your I's, cross your T's. Now if I give you a three-second eccentric, I know you're only going to do a one-second eccentric. If I give you a penny, you're going to ask for a dollar. So what I try to do is sneakily, if this pisses off the client but helps them, I'm OK with it. And I say it in a joking manner. I've got to slow down, what the heck.

[00:32:45.89] So if I really want to force you to really slow things down-- I'll give you an example. Let's do a kettlebell-- a trap bar deadlift. A trap bar deadlift on blocks, or elevated to two of those DC blocks, or a four-inch off the ground. Hey Joe, I want you to do 3 by 5 with a three-second eccentric. Interspersed with-- it's in an A block, let's do a cable standing paloff press in between. OK, great, I know it's the first set. He picks it up and kind of puts it down. I'm like OK, I'm not going to overcoach, let me just kind of sit back and let him the whole set.

[00:33:19.35] When he's done. Hey, Joe. I want you to take three full seconds. I'm going to count them out for you as you lower that weight. Are you feeling it right now? I'm not feeling anywhere. OK, great, let's do it again. Yep, get three seconds, five reps, where do you feel that? Oh, my low back, my mid back, my lats, my hamstring, my glutes. Oh, now I get it. There you go. That's one easy way to do it, where Joe obliges.

[00:33:41.97] The other reasons why we add eccentrics in is because I want you to be able to control the lowering of the eccentric phase, because it's so important. And we know oftentimes when we're in that eccentric phase, that is when the muscle or the musculotendinous unit is most prone to becoming injured. It's in its most lengthened state. It's almost vulnerable, in a sense.

[00:34:06.78] So you think of an athlete who's overstriding. Kind of that story I talked about at the beginning of my presentation, that young high school athlete who overstrides, he's sprinting up the soccer field. As you overstride, reaches too much, he's in a lengthened hamstring state. Pulls up short, strains a hammy, now she's on the ground. And so when your muscles or tendons or the body areas are in that lengthened state during that eccentric phase, where you want to be really strong there. That's the key. We want to be strong in all different contractions, whether it's concentric, isometric, or eccentric.

[00:34:38.46] So we'll add in all three, but eccentric is the one that I think has the most credence in terms of forcing someone to develop skill acquisition from a motor control standpoint, but also movement quality standpoint. And once you have great movement quality and you've acquired the skills necessary to load, then we can load for days. If your technique is flawless, let's keep loading. I'm not going to hold you back if your technique is good. If your technique looks subpar, I'm going to slow you down, and just lower the weight. That's another way to do it.

[00:35:09.45] Kid comes in and says, hey, give me the heaviest dumbbell you've got. You all know this young athlete. He is the quarterback of the football team, he's head honcho on campus. He's big man on campus. OK, OK, Larry. We have a hundo, hit that for 20. Or something like that, right? And then, he does it really quick. And he's just bouncing out of the hole, bouncing out of the hole. Butt winking, all these other things.

[00:35:31.80] OK, let's take a 70-pound one, Larry. I want you to do this 10 times. Let me do a three-second eccentric, though. Cakewalk, let's do it. Does it, and you notice he really can't control that bottom-end range. And he's butt winking. Butt winking is not the worst thing in the world. In an unloaded position, via like a cat cow, butt wink for days. I want you to get some spinal hygiene in rotation and flexion extension.

[00:35:54.45] But under load, we have to appreciate what these different-- arthrokinematics happen at the joints. Is that going to be safe from a loading standpoint? I'm not so sure. I'd rather you control your pelvis tucked underneath and control your femur to be able to sit to your greatest depth. Keep a neutral or stiff spine or torso. Come back up out of the hole, versus come down really fast and not controlling it.

[00:36:17.40] So I would say it gives the athlete the skill to control their movement. You can help them develop better technique. And also allows you to kind of appraise their movement quality, and see areas where oh, we need to work on that. Because when things are really slow, you can see things. When they're fast, it's hard to see as a coach.

[00:36:37.35] Yeah. And just as you spoke to running as a plyometric movement, and plyometric movements are applied across many movements that we take on as athletes and humans, there's an eccentric component to almost every exercise. And so, when we're adding a focus on eccentric training, there's also that inherent eccentric focus of the exercise itself. And so we have to be aware and screen both sides of that. So I thought that was really interesting how you approach that.

[00:37:16.23] I want to ask you about strength and conditioning careers in the private sector. I'd say this has been an emerging space. And I think many coaches we know, a lot of very successful entrepreneurs in the strength and conditioning space, working in the private sector. But it is untraditional from the, I'm going to get my degree, get my CSCS and go into a GA position, assistant strength coach, work your way up. You've never really gone down that what I call traditional strength and conditioning path. Speak to the career path of working successfully in the private sector within strength and conditioning.

[00:38:03.28] I would say number one, be really comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I think that-- not to say that one road is better, or easier, or harder, or worse than another. I think that you have to go where you feel you can be the most impactful. And many a time I have thought back to, aw, shucks man. I wish I would have actually went back.

[00:38:25.42] Like there's a local program that does a phenomenal job with a master's degree, GA, it's a one-year master's program. Coach Mike Kamal, who's a former Boyle's guy like myself, he is the director at Merrimack College, and they do an excellent, excellent job at a master's degree program, exercise and sports science, GA positions, stuff like that.

[00:38:46.60] Shout out to a good friend of mine, Jeff Stern, who's in the program. And theirs is awesome. You finish your undergraduate degree, you get right into their master's. You get hands-on experience as a strength coach, as a GA. And you get your master's in one year, and then you're good. And I know several friends of mine in college that have gone through that, and they've gone on to have great careers. And so I definitely praise someone doing that.

[00:39:05.23] For me in my role, and what I've done in my 12, now 12-year career, I've done a lot of kind of jumping around through different hoops, and seeing what works, what doesn't work. And the most important thing I believe is making sure that you can apply your full skill set in any aspect, or any realm, that you're working in.

[00:39:24.30] So I knew at the time I was working at PT clinics, I was trying to help them out from a training standpoint. While also learning some of the human movement stuff. And then in the coaching department and coaching realms and jobs I've had, I've always wanted to say OK, great, when there are sports medicine staff on-- people on staff, I've always tried to work as kind of the middleman and say, hey, look, I'm coaching this athlete. I know you're treating this athlete. Is there a way we can collaborate and work together to help them get to their desired goal or goals?

[00:39:56.42] And so I think number one, always provide value. Number two, always seek to learn and understand. And number three, never be closed-minded to new thoughts. And that's kind of a-- those three is a way I would kind of sum it up. The fourth one would be to just be kind. And I think that's something people will gloss over. Oh yeah, I'm always nice. And like, literally just be kind. Because you put good out into the world, good comes back to you. And so you want to be able to help people get to their desired goals, and you have to do it in a nice and courteous way.

[00:40:24.55] And so, I think the other thing I would add in in the private sector is, as a strength coach, you kind of have to know what you're getting into when you get into it. And knowing that, OK--

[00:40:37.60] And something I think most people don't talk about-- I know Brett talked about this a lot-- is the financial aspect, the financial component. And so for me, I know that being a strength coach is not the most lucrative career. I think this is not a secret. I think anyone who's in the field knows this. But I will say it gives you the ability to then say, OK, how do I use my skill set while keeping integrity to the place that I'm currently working at, 100% professionalism and respect. That is important. How do I also do things on the side that can garner some other financial avenues for me in a respectful manner?

[00:41:10.37] So I've been fortunate enough to have performed-- I'm sorry, conducted workshops around the entire United States and over in Italy. NSCA, CEU accredited courses and workshops, I've done some of that. I've done just other professional, individual speaking engagements with NSCA and other governing bodies and what have you. And podcasts, stuff like that. Online training on my own. Blogs, articles, some other online virtual platforms and stuff like that.

[00:41:40.08] And so, being open to building other skill sets that can allow you to use your skills that you already knew. But also respect the place that you're at. That's important. So kind of your own entrepreneurial side gig, if you will. And what's the full, I guess, full-time sustainability type job, as well.

[00:41:58.52] So I think that we can't be closed-minded to stuff like social media or LinkedIn, or Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter. And I know a lot of coaches will say, oh, I don't need that stuff, it's unimportant.

[00:42:10.42] And I would argue, it may not feel important to you now. But at some point, it would be nice to get your message out-- if you believe in your message-- out to people around the world. Because if your message is that good, and you care about it that much, you want to educate and give back, there's a free platform to do it, and here it is. It's called Instagram, or here it is, LinkedIn. Or Facebook, or NSCA Coaching Podcast. So I would say be open-minded to the entrepreneurial side gigs.

[00:42:36.42] I like that message. And I think a lot of times we think, oh, private-sector strength and conditioning. I'd have to start a business. And if that's not your personality or skill set. It might be a little intimidating. But it could be part time. It could be running boot camps or metcon sessions at public parks. And we've seen so many different models of that In various parts of the country. Running camps. Educating, and just being a strength and conditioning educator in the private sector. And all those things tie in to private-sector strength and conditioning.

[00:43:12.26] And I think it's really interesting hearing more about the business side. We've had Brett on the podcast a couple of times, and he speaks to that very clearly. And it's something-- when I have private-sector coaches on, I like to ask questions about necessary business skills. Because that is something that you're not going to get at an ERP school, for example, or a strength and conditioning program. What's something on the business side that you've learned over your years working in the private sector that maybe you didn't anticipate or expect to be sort of the truth of your situation?

[00:43:52.69] I would definitely say that I am no expert or not-- I'm less than what a rookie is, from the business side. But I will say this. Number one, customer service is number one. Meaning, we're in the service-based industry. I think the young, up-and-coming training coach says, oh, I'm going to write these awesome training templates. This 12-month program. I got these former high-level athletes. Boom, here you go. Do it. Well, it doesn't always work that way. It's not always that easy.

[00:44:21.50] You're in a service-based industry. You have to understand the skill set that is related to customer service. You know, hi Eric. How's it going today? How was your weekend? Hope everyone in your family's doing well. Let's jump into that session, let's open up that iPad, and I'll get my iPad-- because now everything's on an iPad or iPhone-- and let's get up your TrueCoach or whatever platform you're using for training online, and let's pop up your workout. Let me know if you have any questions. Simple customer-- simple people skills, right? The soft skills, which we all inherently have but we don't always use.

[00:44:51.46] So customer service is number one. If you want to be able to be part of a business, be a part of running a business, or run a business. Anything with being a part of running a business, you have to have customer service skills. If you don't, that's fine. Stay in the office, have someone else out there that does. That's key. If you're working with gen pop clients and users, athletes, you have to be able to speak their language, and build buy-in and trust.

[00:45:14.92] And you do that via just basic customer service skills. Does that mean hey, hopping on a call, taking an email past hours? Yeah, that's just part of the gig. So that's number one. Number two is, you don't necessarily have to peel all of the layers of the onion back for understanding P&L and all these checks and balances and finances. But at least understand what is-- how much you're making. If you're part ownership, you need to know how much is being made, from what different avenues are being made from, and maybe some areas that you could build out the business a little bit more to make more income.

[00:45:51.55] Because at the end of the day, it is a business, you have to stay afloat. Especially during these trying times. And so you have to test out different services that you believe in, and that you can still have the integrity of the brand at the forefront. And so I would say, customer service number one. Number two is know at least one or two layers of the business side, the financial side.

[00:46:12.68] And if you're not an expert in that, totally cool. Hire someone who is. So have an accountant, have a financial advisor. Have someone who is the, for lack of a better term, the money guy or girl. And so that that department is being fed properly. Because if you're coaching and doing an A plus job, but you're also being in charge of the business or finance side, I don't know if that's going to go well.

[00:46:33.98] If you look at some of the best training facilities in the world, and there are so many of them. Exos, Mark Verstegen has someone. Boyle's, Mike Boyle has someone. His name is Bob Hansen, I remember from the internship. Chressy has someone, he has Pete Dupuis.

[00:46:47.32] And this is just some examples. I'm sure Mike Robertson, IFAST and those guys they have someone. Bill Hartman, all those other things. And there are many others. But the point being is, have someone who runs the department, know a little bit about it and have excellent, excellent customer service skills.

[00:47:02.32] Regardless of the area of the field you're in, we always are put in a situation to sell our programs or sell our philosophy. Or sell our principles. To the athletes we work with, to our front office, to our athletic administration. We serve others, and we rely on communication skills. These are universal in this field, whether you work at an academic institution, a professional sports team, or in the private sector.

[00:47:30.85] So I really liked your point, to being versatile. Learning to use your full skill set in every realm and in every area that you're working in. And that really speaks to the current state of the field of, we need to be versatile professionals. We need to be dynamic as strength coaches. From the athletes that are coming in the door, to the situations we might find ourselves in professionally.

[00:47:58.31] And we need to step up and continue to adjust and make the most of our situation. So I really enjoyed talking with you today. And that message. What's the best way for our listeners to get in contact with you?

[00:48:14.06] Well, number one, I enjoyed being on. So thank you. I appreciate it. In terms of contacting me, I think the easiest thing is my Instagram account, and I'm on there quite frequently. I know, Eric, you and I have gone back and forth a little bit on there, but I'm on there every day. And so, if you shoot me a direct message, contact me there, then we can kind of transfer over to a phone call or email.

[00:48:36.51] But I mean this when I say this, and I know a lot of people will say this at the end of a podcast episode. Oh, reach out to me. I'm happy to talk to you. And they may be very genuine, I'm not saying they aren't. But I literally mean it. I want to be reached out to. I'm happy to pay it forward to give back. I have been helped by far too many people in this field that I have-- I don't have enough fingers or toes to be able to count. And so, if there's anything I can do to get back and pay it forward in the field of strength, I'm more than happy to do so.

[00:49:02.90] So at my Instagram, so it's @matthewibrahim_. Some other guy has my name evidently, so I had to put an underscore. But direct message there, reach out there, and I'm happy to hop on a phone call and email. We can go back and forth. But I thank you so much, Eric, for having me on. It's been a fun chat here, and I'm appreciative of the opportunity.

[00:49:22.84] Awesome. Matt Ibrahim, Boston, Massachusetts. Thanks for being on today. We want to thank all of our listeners for tuning in, and also thank you to Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.

[00:49:34.75] From the NCSA, thank you for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We serve you, the coaching community. So follow, subscribe, and download for future episodes. We look forward to connecting with you again soon, and hope you'll join us at an upcoming NSCA event, or in one of our special interest groups. For more information, go to nsca.com.

[00:49:56.92] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at publications@nsca.com or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D

Strength & Conditioning Coach, NSCA Headquarters, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Matthew Ibrahim serves as Co-Owner, Director of Strength & Conditioning, and Internship Coordinator at TD Athletes Edge in Boston. He is also an Adjun ...

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