Recently, I’ve been in discussions with people that I’m teaching, and they ask me “where did you get all this from?” I tend to shake my head, confused, because I don’t really know where I “got it all from”. I can usually point to the most recent people who have influenced my thought, or those with the most radical thoughts, but after that it’s all a blur of interconnecting information. Where did I start? When I was 12, I started with Peter Twist and his book, “Complete Conditioning for Ice Hockey”. I learned about carbohydrates, and plyometrics. I learned that Pavel Bure wasn’t fast, but had great acceleration. I subsequently went to Twist’s camps and trained using his system. Then when I was 16, for some reason, I decided I needed to learn more. So I went to the Chapters and into the “Sport” Section, and bought about $160 dollars worth of books: Agility Training, Boompa’s Periodization for Sport, Michael Boyle’s Functional Training for Young Athletes and Dr. Michael Colgan’s book on training. I’d say I actually did a pretty good job. Then I did my BCRPA Personal Trainer’s certification which involved a bunch of basic physiology and anatomy learning. After that point is when things start to get blurry. I started learning more and more, faster and faster, from disparate sources. I remember a few inflection points: one where I thought sport specific training methodology was the only methodology athletes should follow, then my perspective was bombarded by a Power Lifting makes you a better athlete perspective, then another where I began to consider the concept of general movement quality. Then, finally, my degree at UBC got interesting, and I began to consider the finer points of exercise physiology and functional anatomy. The next courses that made an impact were a cellular and molecular muscular physiology course, and a neuromechanics of human movement course. Finally rounding things out, was a student directed seminar I coordinated where a number of students got together and discussed current topics in the strength and conditioning field. Having the benefit of going through that winding, and confusing road for the past 13 years allows me to see where I could have shortcuted a few things, and gotten straight to the point in a few important areas. Along my road, there were times when it took considerable amounts of time and mental effort to sort through the very different perspectives of say Sport Specific training methodology and Power Lifting for athletic performance methodology. I know now the resources that can explain the differences and points of agreement between the two perspectives. So what are those resources? Where should you start? Well, there’s no perfect route. But I’m going to list a few resources in no particular order to sift through.
1. Pavel Tsatsouline (StrongFirst) Is Pavel perfect? No. But he distills very complex training principles into simple writings that are accessible to anyone. He also covers almost all bases when it comes to training, conditioning, core training, flexibility, and mobility. I would first look at “Power to the People” or “Easy Strength”. Specific to easy strength is the idea of the Four Quadrants, which helps sort out how you should view your training, resolving the “Sport Specific vs Powerlifting” dilemma I mentioned earlier.
2. Dr. Kelly Starrett (MobilityWOD) Now, is Kelly perfect? Nope. Are a lot of people going to disagree with him? Yes. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that he was a CrossFit guy. But his website is rife with knowledge gold nuggets on human movement, “adaptation errors” and how to fix them, posture, breathing, and mobility.
3. Dr. Stuart McGill Owner of the best moustache in the field, Dr. McGill ushered in the “core training” era. However, as many trainers do, they have watered down his concepts with their own bullshit. If you want to go straight to the source, and also understand “injury mechanisms” of the lower back, this is where you should start.
4. The Basics
No specific resource here. But know your anatomy and basic physiology. Like really know it. Buy yourself a couple of textbooks and learn. Sit down with them seriously.
You should also have a good understanding of neuromechanics of human movement and neural adaptations. I suggest Enoka’s Neuromechanics of Human Movement if you’re serious. It will dive deeper into many of the concepts explored by Pavel in his works.
Breath & posture: With its Eastern connotations, this may be seen as woowoo, but I promise at having a clear understanding of breath and posture leads to a clear understanding of movement through tension and relaxation. Here are a couple of resources: breathing and posture.
Periodization: Overtraining does exist. So does under training. The idea of periodization is to walk the fine line between the two. Start with Tudor Boompa’s work, and then explore other types: cybernetic, vertical integration, etc..
Recovery: Stay away from gimmicks at the start, and focus on the principles of recovery. People get caught up the muscular components of recovery, which are important, but I suggest that you should start with learning about the autonomous nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Look up and learn about heart rate variability and the vagus nerve.
5. Charlie Francis Ben Johnson’s trainer has also received his fair share of criticism. But I like his approach to conditioning and speed development.
6. Instagram Follow: Gymnastic Bodies, Dr. Andreo Spina, Rob Blackwell, Cal_Strength, UBC Strength & Conditioning.
In between selfies, and filtered skylines, make yourself better by following some useful Instagram accounts. Many of these accounts have good learning suggest in their posts. They’ll also provide links to other resources.
7. Psychology/Mindset “Mindset” by Caroline Dweck and “Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. Start there if you haven’t already done so. I won’t say any more.
8. Ido Portal Not because I can do any of the wild and crazy movements he teaches, but because his way of thinking is a refreshing take on humanity and what we’re actually doing in the training environment.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it’s where I would start today. If I had to start over, I would want my perspectives to be coloured by the ideas found on this list.