That Which Does Not Kill You..

Is supposed to make you stronger. And less injury-prone. And more explosive. And healthier.

Unless of course, that thing is a badly designed strength and conditioning program.

This may seem like a rant, and irrelevant now that Dan Riley is gone, but I am just slightly enraged that our Texans were apparently being told this was the best they could do.

Let's take a look at what the Texans have been doing and why it may not have been in their best interests.

First and foremost, I am not a certified and licensed dietician, nutritionist, trainer, coach, exercise science major, kinesiologist, or anything like that. What I am is a person who is a mildly dedicated lifter and a person who reads a lot to try and accomplish his goals. Do your own research to know whats right, legal disclaimer, legal disclaimer, blah, blah, blah.

Anyways, I was thinking about this post when, a while back, a Texans website ( I don't remember if it was here or DGDB&D) commented on the Texans' strength and conditioning program. Upon the firing of the strength and conditioning coach, I decided to look back and see what our Texans were doing and what absolutely sucked about it.

Here is the Texans' strength and conditioning players manual. I am basing my evaluations off of this document, found off the official team website.

 Here's a quick whey protein fact sheet with references.

The first point I find irritating is his hatred of protein supplementation. Protein is integral to muscle growth and muscle maintenance, and the average person's consumption is simply not adequate, especially for someone looking to bulk up (like a certain quarterback trying to protect his knee). Furthermore, the benefit of protein supplementation is mainly convenience. It is simply much easier to chug down a shake than it is to cook and prepare a full meal.

Also, protein supplements, like instantized whey protein, offer the benefit of rapid absorption. Detailed on the fact sheet above, and in many other sources, is the importance of protein intake within a certain window post-workout (generally 30-45 minutes after exertion) to greatly aid in strength and muscle growth, along with recovery. The digestion and absorption of whey protein is very rapid, making it the preferred choice of protein intake immediately after a workout. Preparing and eating something like chicken breast immediately after a workout is unreasonable (being at a training location away from home, etc.), and, depending on the digestive processes of the person in question, will put them outside the window of optimum absorption. It's simply more convenient to have easily consumable protein readily available.

Also, I hope his oft-mentioned Registered Dietitians know, but many athletes, especially those who have lots of high intensity physical exertion along with weight lifting, are calcium deprived. Supplementation with calcium is very important for high-intensity athletes, and should probably be recommended for football players as well.

Pet Peeve: On page 12, he claims there is no reliable way to measure body fat percentage. Air displacement is stupidly accurate and easy. I'm surprised the Texans don't have access to that.

On page 39, he states that plyometrics are useless because you do not perform the actions in a game; therefore, they will never transfer. That is ridiculous logic. Players never lift weights on the field, or even perform actions that resemble many weights that you recommend lifting, yet Riley continues to recommend that. Plus, that's entirely beside the point, as research shows again and again that plyometrics help with things that translate to every sport, such as explosiveness, change of direction, and speed.

On page 47, Riley makes a long series of statements that eventually boil down to, "Stretching doesn't matter, because anytime your perform a more intense activity, you'll just be sore again." That series of statements alone lead me to believe that this guy does not know what he is talking about. Flexibility is incredibly important to speed and power generation, as well as injury prevention. If you perform a new, more intense activity and you are sore, it has little to do with flexibility, and a whole lot to do with lactic acid production from using untrained muscles. Increased flexibility over the long-term helps with overall performance in athletics, along with helping prevent tendon and muscle tears. Riley then recommends you stretch every day, but gives no information to his players on how to do so.

On page 49, Riley claims there is no difference in using a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine to perform similar exercises. This is blatantly false. Going from machine, to barbell, to dumbbell opens up a new range of motion, changing the exercise you are going. Machines isolate a muscle and prevent the use of stabilizer muscles. Dumbbells, on the other end of the spectrum, force your body to not only move them up and down, but balance them from moving left and right, forward and back. This strengthens the entire muscle group, and provides more functional strength as you are training the supporting muscles along with the main muscle. Its like having an entire strong shoulder as opposed to only a strong anterior deltoid.

Finally, we move to the one thing that absolutely drove me insane about this entire PDF. On page 55, he has a list of legs workouts, with the most repeated one being leg press/squat. Not only was I upset because in no way is the leg press interchangeable with a squat, but the squat he wanted to perform was a machine squat! Nowhere in Riley's workout was there space for true barbell squats. Barbell squats are the MOST important lift for lower body strength as they train the entire posterior chain as a unit and the hips and quads heavily as well. Barbell squats are also integral to knee health.

Contrary to popular belief, correctly performed squats are good for your knees, strengthening the muscles around the knee joint and quad, allowing it to support the knee as well. When I received a large tear in my MCL in high school, Doctor DeLee of Texas Orthopedic Group in San Antonio told me very specifically that the best thing I could do to rehab my knee was deep barbell squats after the initial recovery phase. It worked great.

Barbell squats are simply the most important lift you can do, and machine leg press and machine hack squats simply wont cut it. They don't train the whole posterior chain, and they put extra stress on knees.

Another thing that bothers me about the Texans' workouts was what it didn't have--dead lift and any kind of Olympic lifting. Dead lift is a very good way to train the hamstrings and glutes to be very powerful--excellent for all athletes. Olympic lifting is a staple for explosive athletes around the world. Like plyometrics, Olympic lifts, like power cleans and snatches, train the body to move weight fast. Snatch, in particular, also helps a lot with rotator cuff strength.

 

In review, I have no questions left as to why the Texans have suffered so many injuries over the years. Their strength program was simply not preparing their bodies. Training muscles, particularly the legs, does not prepare the joints for stress. It just makes individual muscles strong. Isolated muscles also do not translate well to functional strength on the field because the neural pathways are not trained to work together. Plyometrics really are key to speed and agility increases, and to neglect them seems unwise. Neglecting barbell squats for football players was enough to get him fired, and I am truly surprised Dan Riley lasted this long.

If you made it this far, good job. If you see something I said that's stupid, let me know. I hope this didn't seem to much like a rant or being off topic, but it's meant to inspire discussion. So discuss!

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