Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Interview with Kyle Holland

1. Kyle thank for your time. Could you give my readers your background, and how you came to be a strength and conditioning coach?

-Growing up I wanted to be a great football player. I worked out in my basement growing up, but when I became serious about it I started going into the weight room at my high school in the mornings to try to gain an edge. Well….it didn’t work. I had no direction and my training had no rhyme or reason besides that I benched a lot. Then, one day I was watching TV and saw a bit about NFL Combine Training, at which point I discovered that athletes train differently and there were trainers who specialized in sports performance. A few years and majors changes later, I finally figured out that I needed to follow my passions and make this my career and life’s work.

2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?

-The internet is the biggest problem and, at the same time, the best tool in strength and conditioning. There are a number of great websites and blogs (like allthingsstrength) that have a ton of really useful information out there that are great resources for education about a number of topics within strength and conditioning. It also opens up the lines of communication between elite coaches all over the world, and the rest of us have the benefit of seeing these interactions on different forums. On the other hand…….everyone claims to be a guru and seems to have something to sell. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with people making money on the internet, but not if you haven’t actually trained people. If the website claims that the person is world renowned and has some hidden secrets to sell you for X amounts of payments, check their bio before buying. The one page websites with the blinking CLICK NOW TO BUY are a dime a dozen. There are a lot of stupid scams from pretend trainers out there and it makes us look like used car salesmen.

3. Describe to my readers what it is like to work at a facility like MBSC?

-It is very dynamic and challenging because you have to be a chameleon because one minute I’m training an NFL hopeful, then next hour I’m training Mrs. Johnson from down the street because she needs to lose a few pounds. Later that night I get 12 middle school kids coming in to train for the first time. MBSC is the perfect environment for a young coach who wants to improve because you get a chance to coach/personal train a lot of people everyday who are completely different and possess a wide range of issues. It is the ideal place to get Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours he talks about in his book Outliers. Plus I get to interact and pick the brain of one of the great coaches and brilliant minds in strength and conditioning on a daily basis.

4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?

-Mike Boyle. He has been a great mentor and has had a huge influence on me as a coach and a person. Chris Doyle, Garnett Vamos, Bryan Dermody, Walter Norton Jr., and Joe Kenn have all influenced me in different ways. I’ve also learned countless things, positive or otherwise, from everyone I’ve ever worked with. My coaching style is a melting pot of many different and unique coaching styles. As a personal trainer, Alwyn Cosgrove has also been a good resource.

5. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:

- Strength Training: The Science and Practice of Training – Vladimir Zatsiorsky
Starting Strength – Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore
Functional Training for Sports – Mike Boyle

- Random: How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Make the Big Time Where You Are – Frosty Westering
The Fred Factor – Mark Sanborn

* I am a book-a-holic and have spent a bulk of my income at so there are too many books to mention, these are just probably the three best in strength training and personal development that I like. The list could really go on and on.

6. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?

-Another benefit of working at MBSC is that I can go to any Perform Better seminar on the bosses’ ticket (thanks Mike!). But honestly, the real education comes when you actually start doing the stuff. I put myself out there a lot doing various internships and that’s what really educated me and taught me how to coach. I almost broke myself financially several times doing internships trying to gain experience and knowledge while coaching. I lived in rat-holes and even out of my truck for a while last summer so I could put myself in places where I could learn and surround myself with like-minded people. Knowledge is power and if you want to see things first hand and learn by doing, you have to put yourself out there and get dirty.

7. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)? (the blog and podcast from strengthcoach is great),,
-There are probably a lot more out there that are great but I honestly don’t spend a ton of time reading the online stuff.

8. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs)?

-The functional movement screen is a great tool for assessment and it seems like it’s becoming more widely used. Program design is based around movements that are ground-based, three dimensional, and use multiple joints. As far as my methodology on training and periodization….I feel like we could write a book on this topic. I’ve seen a number of different programs work for so many different athletes, and there are so many methods out there. I really can’t take it when people argue over which is better linear or conjugate, what the Russians do, or isometrics, or Westside. It’s exhausting.

- For youth, training should resemble play.
For middle school – high school, a base of strength should be developed using the basic “big rock” exercises.

With college age athletes you can start mixing in things that are a little more dynamic. When they’ve attained a base level of strength they can add some accommodating resistance with chains and bands. Complexes are great things to add in when an athlete reaches an appropriate training age (plyometrics and jumps super-setted with strength movements, etc.).

The priority with professional athletes is keeping them healthy so their training will be dialled in much more. Single limb exercises, core work, and rehab/prehab/”whatever you call it” work is paramount.

-These approaches sound conservative, but that’s because it is simple. Coaches don’t need to make these things incredibly hard and complicated. Creating a competitive environment where the athletes truly feel like they are getting better is the most important thing. If you prepare your athletes mentally and emotionally by challenging them with their physical training and teaching them how to win by reaching goals, you’ve done your job no matter who you’re working with.

9. If you had to pick one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?

-In a perfect world where every athlete I worked with was a great lifter that was dedicated, it would be the back squat. That being said, I wouldn’t program it into everyone’s’ program because athletes of different sports have different body types, and not all of them are going to be mechanically fit to back squat, and there are more effective exercises for those athletes. I know the back squat has taken a hit lately, but physically it is a great for developing lower body strength, and mentally it is a great confidence builder. An American football player who is in the fourth quarter of a tight game and it’s fourth and goal on the 1 yard like, is going to have a little bit more “swagger” after enduring a challenging strength and conditioning program where he and his teammates attacked and crushed the goals they set for themselves. That is what you’re strength program should be all about.
If back squat is #1, then the single leg squat would be #1A. The single leg squat is another great strength exercise, and it is also great from an injury prevention standpoint.

10. What are you long term ambitions in this field?

-Become a head strength and conditioning coach in the NFL or a major Division One American Football team. I want to be an effective leader who helps contribute to a team works together and competes to achieve at the highest level.

11. What annoys you?

-Ignorant, close minded people who see everything in black and white and refuse to evolve and learn. The more I coach and the more I learn about this field, the dumber I feel. Sometimes I don’t know if anything I think is right. If you don’t strive to be a life-long learner, than you should quickly change your philosophy on coaching and life. Stay humble and hungry.
-Young strength coaches who think they know everything because they’ve read a few articles and gone to a seminar also piss me off. These people are easy to find because they’ve found the time to write a lot of articles, and you have the expectation that they’re going to be good coaches, but they aren’t.

12. Last question. What advice would you give to other young coaches, like myself getting into the field?

-Volunteer and find a good mentor who will help you grow as a coach and person. Also, get out there and see as many coaches as you can. Take a chance and learn. Remember, you can learn from bad and good. The best lessons I’ve learned so far didn’t cost money, but they did take a lot of work. You’ve done this yourself Robbie, which is why you’re going to do great things.

Kyle, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you?

-I should hopefully have a few articles online somewhere soon so keep an eye out for that if anyone is interested. I can also be reached via email at

-Thanks Robbie, you’re a smart dude and a good friend!


  1. Have been enjoying the interviews Robbie.
    Hope you are enjoying your travels, I will be stateside again soon!

  2. Thanks Howard.

    I am currently in Ireland at the moment, but I am taking off to Seattle to Tim Vagen next week.

    Thanks for checkkin out the blog ;-)

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