It was surely not the typical route that most have had to go but it started with a general interest in exercise at the middle school level. From there in high school I was always seeking out information on various strength and conditioning practices to improve my own development as an athlete. What really helped was having my father as a coach. He attended clinics and was able to get some great stuff from the University of Iowa, Iowa State, and other great coaches. I went to speed and strength camps throughout high school and picked up a lot great habits from them.
Upon continuing football in college, I really narrowed my focus on becoming a strength and conditioning coach. I attended as many seminars and visited as many coaches as I could, taking advantage of vacations to meet some great people in the field across the country. I was taking on personal clients and writing programs for other athletes from late high school and throughout college. I then took an internship at IFAST with Bill Hartman and Mike Robertson and learned an overwhelming amount from them. From there I took what I knew and presented it to the athletic staff at Northwestern College (IA) and was appointed to my current position as Head Strength and Conditioning coach overseeing football. I also collaborate with volleyball, wrestling and am in charge of two high school S&C programs.
2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?
Being satisfied. With all the great research, practical evidence, and results people are putting out, why are there still people stuck in the dark ages with their programs? I have seen handfuls of programs from D3 to D1 that 2 days on the program can trump the volume of single joint exercises I do in 3 months. Some coaches reach a certain level and they are satisfied with what they read, how they train, and what they need to know since it got them there. This mind set is killing the profession and these people are putting out GA’s whom are only spreading this mentality. As a young coach it can be extremely upsetting to see coaches stuck in their ways which makes me appreciate those whom are evolving with the information and getting it out for others to benefit.
3. You interned with Mike Robertson and Bill Hartmann at IFAST. What was that experience like?
These great individuals have done more for me in terms of setting my mind on the right path than I could ever have hoped. They were pretty much like talking to open books full of information on the various aspects of movement, strength training, and communication, an often over looked part of coaching. I was exposed to a wide variety of clients which was a great way of seeing the different methods of attaining all the individual goals. Being there really helped me see the importance of integrating what you get from a very extensive evaluation and applying it to a program that always far exceeded the athlete’s expectations. If there was one thing I learned right away it was you don’t know ANYTHING. Read, practice, and teach it. Teaching someone how to do something properly will ensure that you actually know how to do it.
4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?
I think you can say Mike and Bill are a given from the past question. Another coach that impacted me early on in college was Dos Remedios. I went to College of the Canyons and spent an entire day there soaking up everything. He was even gracious enough to talk about any aspect of his program with me thereafter. He had nothing to hide and all the results to prove what he preaches. Of course all the coaches that I have met and interned with have had an extremely high influence on what I do. You are a product of who you learned from and exposing yourself to as many people as possible will help you sift through the good and bad. I would however consider another big influence on me as a coach is being an athlete and participating in sports in general. With a lot of emphasis on what program is best and development, being able to understand the mental and psychological demands of sport is remarkable. Having gone through the demands of a sport and having a good idea as to when you have to regulate or modify training is very important. Often times they are capable of much more than what they think they are capable during certain times of the year, especially in-season.
5. Sometimes there seems to be a huge gap between some physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches. How in your opinion can this gap be bridge?
Just from my experience and from who I have learned from, the bridge is becoming more of an old screen door. Old screen doors have holes letting more and more in and out but still do the job enough to keep out the big things. Just from the short time I have been “in the field” it seems like S&C coaches are taking more and more little things (prehab, FMS, PNF…) but are still apprehensive to the bigger components of each other. This would include more extensive evaluations and not putting load to dysfunction for S&C coaches. I think communication and willingness to change would make the transition seamless. With the great specialist out there (McGill, Sahrmann, Cook) and progressive coaches getting results with these concepts, more people will not be so hesitant to open that door. Because if you get results that is all that matters. The result is Winning! You win when athletes are healthy, improving performance, and are prepared.
6. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:
- Strength Training: Block Adaptations in Sports Training by Viru Physical Therapy (Covers everything on how certain means effects the body and appropriate times to do so)
- Rehabilitation: The Athletes Shoulder by Andrews, Wilk, Reinold (If your athletes have shoulder problems...get this book!)
- Nutrition: Precision Nutrition by Berardi/Omnivore’s Dilemma by Pollan (One is a sound program that I continue to have great results with, the other is getting me to watch where my food comes from not just what it is)
- Business: How to Win friends and Influence People by Carnegie (Will expose some simple things you are doing that could be holding back your business, relationships, life)
- Random: Season of Life by Marx (what being a “man” really means. Inspirational but not preachy at all)
7. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?
There are a lot of great smaller college Midwest coaches that visiting them is always a great learning experience. I attend a few local seminars and try to get to one bigger one every year. There are also great online seminars that you can “attend” which are great for people on a college budget. I also hold a performance training class at nights at a local facility. Here I educate clients on importance of proper warm up, mobility, strength training, and of course train them. I just find getting out and seeing how coaches are handling several athletes like I do is much more valuable than hearing how they do it.
8. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)
Once you shuffle through some of the junk that the internet spits out it is easy to find some great on line resources. Strengthcoach.com has great articles and hands down the greatest forums. A couple of other great sites include SBcoachescollege and Precision Nutrition.
For Blogs a generally read several: Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, Tony Gentilcore, Alwyn Cosgrove, Nate Green, Mike Boyle and a few more.
Not a huge pod cast guy but a couple that I really love to listen to most often are In the Trenches podcast (Robertson) and The Strength Coach Podcast (Boyle).
9. If you could chose one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?
Well, if you are going to use the word exercise and not lift, I am going to have to say forward sled pushes. I know this question has been asked and this is a popular answer but there are so many reasons why this is useful. Your ability to train the localized muscle groups under load that are heavily involved in running is a big plus. You also have the ability to alter work/rest to develop several energy systems. You can also use it to promote efficient loaded movement and posture (neutral spine, lower body PAL mechanics) by just doing the exercise with perfect form as well as identify faulty patterns (abduction of the up leg, rotating torso).
Assess- With athletes ranging to about 100+ I integrate assessment measures into the workouts. This includes FMS movements built into the warm up in order to constantly assess progress in the movement pattern throughout the program. I will give an extensive evaluation to critical players and injured athletes.
Design/Periodization- The joint by joint approach is very evident in my design. I believe in foam rolling, warm up, mobility, speed, lift...K.I.S.S.!! I buy heavily into block periodization for advanced athletes and concurrent approach with developmental ones. I believe in using appropriate means throughout the training stage (General, General Specific, Specific). I find the volume of unilateral training increasing more and more in relation to bi lateral this off season and have had zero muscular issues via training, spring ball, running.
11. Last question. What advice would you give to young coaches, like myself getting into the field?
Train people. The more people I train, the more I find what works for certain populations. Education is a lifelong process and a lot of what you need to know in this industry are things you will have to seek on your own and won’t get in class. Take advantage of your free time and meet people doing what you wish you were. Observe them, intern, volunteer with them. If you don’t have a list of goals you will not be able to justify your current efforts. Sit down, write it down, and do everything in your power to get it done, then repeat. And finally, take advantage of any opportunity that will get you closer to where you want to be. You aren’t going to start your career where you wish you could end up.
RB: TJ, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you, and any projects that you may have coming up?
TJ: You can visit me at http://www.tjlensch.blogspot.com/. Currently working on getting a couple more articles out about physical preparedness and getting my teams ready to dominate their Summer programs. If you have any questions or comments feel free to shoot me an email.