Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Notes from 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Arizona State Clinic: Day 1, Session 1

On October 22-23 I was fortunate to attend the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Arizona State Clinic.  Major kudos to Nick Winkelman and all those who helped put together the program.  Below is a transcription of notes that I took from the weekend.  Look for the next two installments in the coming days. 

Mark Verstegen: Performance Systems.  How to Make Sense of Everything You Know

Read Mindset, by Carol Dweck

Keep an open mind.  Critical for the process of learning

#1 goal: Help others!

Create a framework for continuing education.  Praises those for spending beautiful Arizona weekend inside listening to lectures!

Training system is akin to a computer’s operating system

Need a system to yield sustainable results

Skill acquisition – Decision making – Behavior

Mobility – Stability- Symmetry

Strength – Speed – Power

Build the race car for the race.  “50mpg” endurance athlete has different demands than Ford F350

Sports are inherently random, chaotic, and complex.  Control what we can control…Preparation!

Training system

  • Athlete specific
  • Demand specific
  • Movement productivity
  • Movement longevity

Myth of “sport specific training.”

  • Ask what is the ideal athlete for our sport? 
  • What athletes do we actually have? 
  • How can we fit our athlete(s) to those demands?

Principles, not programs.  “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anatomy of a training system.  Framework -> System -> Method -> Applications

Don’t just copy someone else’s system without understanding the principles

Mission– Goals – Core Beliefs – Environment - Population

Hard to say “No” in private business

Strategy = The art of saying “No”

Steve Jobs.  A master filter to the end product.  Think of all the things he did NOT bring to the market. 

Laughs at those who just want to work with athletes thinking athletes work harder and follow directions.  Plenty of lazy and rebellious athletes out there!!!!

Athletic mindset = Behavioral trait of a population that is fulfilling

Be eager; not willing.  Coach Wooden story…player told Coach he was willing to do whatever team needed.  Coach told him not to come back until EAGER to do what team needed.

Goals should be in line with your mission and help in creation and execution of your system. 

Core beliefs = Exoskeleton of training system

Behavior and neuroscience are most important.  We are in the industry of behavioral change.  Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, Recovery…these are our tools.

Every day is game day.   Difficulty of being a parent.  No one is watching the stay at home mom taking care of the kids, unlike the professional athlete constantly under the microscope.  Parenting is ultimate delayed feedback system.   Don’t know if you have done a good job until 40 years later! 


  • space
  • equipment
  • session length
  • staff

Great system on paper is a bad system in wrong environment


  • athlete
  • youth
  • elderly
  • general population
  • non-movers

Feedback loop to evaluate your system

  • Evaluation
  • Components,
  • Staff / equipment/ time / scale (Infrastructure)

Could identify which college strength program every NFL combine athlete came from when arriving at Athletes Performance. 

Warm up = Booting up the computer system.  Think of how many things go wrong when booting up a computer.  Computer boots properly ->Better chance of function

10 minutes of warmup per day = 48 hours of training per year!!  Now do you think warming up properly matters?

How to determine what’s important in your system ->what would your system look like if you took something out?

Scalability – One athlete or fifty?

80% effectiveness 100% of the time >>>>>>100% effectiveness 80% of the time.

Don’t criticize others without knowing resources available.  Do absolute best job with what you have.

Coach’s job is to shuffle cards into perfect hand for environment

Infrastructure –> make it easy to get information efficiently

Why infrastructure matters and efficient information recall matters…Do you really want to be the artist that builds only one bike a year?  “Custom” motorcycle (Orange County Choppers) includes 90% parts off the rack, assembled in an individualized manner.  Only 10% is handmade for the individual. 

Ask questions that matter.  If you ask “how much sleep did you get?”, the athlete recognizes that sleep is important.  Often more effective than giving orders.

Everything is pillar strength

Pillar prep = Massage (TP, vibration, Stick) + Stretch (AIS, PNF, Stretch to Win) + Activate (Cook, G. Gray, Sahrmann)

System as a filter – Used to fly around the world to find smallest bit of information.  When Aussies became great at swimming, flew down to Australia to watch how they moved.

None of us can afford to hurt our clients!

Mitigate risk.  Inexcusable to hurt people

iphone = Small purposeful updates as new information becomes available

Build a system that someone else can implement. 

Build sustainability – Can you repeat your system?  Build lifestyle for sustainability

Evaluate your validation system.  Create feedback loops.

Methods are only as good as your system.  Prioritize and scale.  Filter new info.

Don’t chase methods!   Create a system.

How to communicate with hard-headed sport coaches?  Find out what does the coach believes in.  Ask the right questions.  Create eagerness within system.  Start small (“Just give me ten minutes”)

Take credit for someone else’s work is guaranteed way to get fired from Athletes Performance.  Won’t get fired for good decisions that have bad results.  Will get fired for going outside team attitude.    

As soon as you think you have things figured out…CRASH!

Too much testosterone and ego in the field

Doing the right things creates upward spiral of health.    

Remove labels ; find principles

90% of daily life is in the subconscious.  Ritual ->Habit-> Behaviors. 


Sue Falsone: The Thoracic Spine.  The Missing Link to Core Stability Programming

Locked T-spine = L-spine must move

Diaphragm = Favorite muscle

Lats = Second favorite muscle

Pillar strength = more than the core

C-spine -> facet joints in transverse plane -> rotation

T-spine -> facets 60 deg frontal plane; 20 deg transverse -> transitional joint

L-spine ->sagittal plane facets -> flexion/extension

10 degrees rotation at L spine; 24 degrees rotation at T spine; 90 degrees rotation hips

T-spine + hips = saved lumbar spine

Ribs add stability to protect vital organs

Breathing -> top six ribs move up and down; lower ribs go in and out

If ribs are locked, only place to breathe is superior/inferior = Neck and low back overuse

Body always chooses breath over movement!!!

When she first hit the speaker circuit in front of performance coaches, many were impressed that she knew “Pavel” (Tsatsouline).  Later finds out it is different “Pavel.”  “My Pavel” = Kolar. 

DNS/Prague upright posture = Co-activation of  flexors/extensors, adductors/abductors, internal/external rotators

DNS/Prague School – “This is some cool s#$^%!!!” (Amen to that!)

Body’s default position = Flexion (like a fetus)

Extensors develop as we develop but we always trend toward flexion/internal rotation/abduction

Everything takes us to baby position, both psychologically and physiologically

Train extensors to resist developmental tendency

Brugger’s Cogwheel  - Can’t focus on the core without the rest of the spine

Spine -> Nocioceptive chain

Posture follows movement like a shadow

Process of structural impairment – Thomas Myers

  • Thought becomes strategy (I’m tired)
  • Strategy becomes habit (shut off muscles when tired)
  • Habit becomes posture (kyphosis)
  • Posture becomes structure (fixed kyphosis) –When this happens, you can’t exercise your way out of it

Differentiate between spontaneous oxygenation vs. breathing for other purposes

Costal breathing vs. diaphragmatic breathing.  Neither is right or wrong.  What is appropriate depends on situation. 

Some costal breathing inevitable during athletic movement. 

Mobilize ribs to help neck and back

Pitcher for Dodgers with shoulder pain.  Nothing worked…two weeks off, treatment.  Team wrote him off as head case when this didn’t work.  Turns out diaphragm and ribs were locked leading to superior/inferior breathing pattern at rest, creating stress on GH joint.  Breathing improvements restored pain-free state.

Body must find a stability point.  Psoas won’t let go if we don’t give tone and stability to diaphragm.

Psoas and diaphragm cross between L1 and L3

Breath -> Movement

Movement -> Breath

Breath -> Stability

Stability-> Mobility

Inhalation to create T-spine extension; exhalation to create flexion

Side bending -> opposite side unilateral diaphragm activation

Diaphragm is both a respirator and stabilizer

Mobilize serratus anterior and posterior through breath

If ribs aren’t moving, movement comes from lumbar spine

Inspiratory reserve volume – Creates T-spine extension

Expiratory reserve volume – Sets lower ribcage

Time under tension in lumbar spine -> hypertrophy.  Locked T-spine = lumbar hypertrophy.  Don’t look and move like “Sausage Paraspinal Man” (massive lumbar hypertrophy).

Look for diaphragm/pelvic floor to be parallel.  Posture goes into scissor pattern when they aren’t.  Lumbar has no choice but to move. 

“Rainbow breathing” – Takes away other breathing strategies.  If too extreme for client, then curl into ball on side.

Keep face parallel to ground during supine T-spine mobilizations

“Peanut” mobilization – T4/5 best location

Only earn as much mobility as you can stabilize

When working pec minor, make sure joint motion comes from scapular retraction; not from GH instability.

Breath either facilitates something or inhibits something


Amanda Carlson-Phillips and Danielle Lafata: Nutrition and the Athletic Brain

New approach linking food to mindset

Glucose is sole fuel except in starvation

120g glucose per day – Need continuous supply

Brain function and nutrients

  • Neurotransmitter synthesis
  • vision
  • mental health
  • cognition

Athletes and cognition

  • fine motor skills
  • mental capacity
  • energy
  • recovery

EPA/DHA associated with reduced risk of verbal fluency decline

Higher fish oil intake ->19% decrease risk of cognitive dysfunction

No evidence that B vitamin supplementation will help healthy population, BUT evidence that it can help sub-clinical deficiency levels (i.e. sleep deprived)

Folic acid – helps depleted populations

Always consider populations and funding sources…

Flavonoids protect neurons against injury and activate synaptic signaling; help with rejuvenation and increase communication between new neurons

Wine, chocolate can improve cognition but only low doses are needed (about 1/3 glass of wine or two Hershey Kisses)

Creatine has limited effect on cognition in non-sleep deprived population

Creatine improves performance in vegetarians

Majority of creatine studies are positive

Yellow foods = “Brain type foods”

Don’t fear the egg (good source of choline)

BUT the only choline studies were on rats

As cognitive demand increases, so does blood glucose demand

Reward center – Make us repeat behaviors for survival – Eating food makes you feel good!!!

Our bodies are designed to strengthen neurotransmitter chatter

Fasting biases the brain toward high calorie foods (shown via brain activity scans), but very few studies in athletic populations

Eat clean.  Eat often.  Hydrate.  Recover

Next generation of research – How is human behavior driven to obtain nutrition?  More studies needed in healthy populations

Creatine – Low maintenance dose with athletes

Convincing parents of HS athletes that creatine is not bad?  Plenty of evidence that creatine safe in appropriate doses.  Bigger concern is energy drinks, poor nutrition, lack of sleep/recovery, bad training in HS athletes



great review

Thanks for the notes, Alan.

What a great line up. Everytime I hear those individuals speak, I learn something new, even when I am hearing the same lecture for the second time. Great note taking. Thank you for sharing.

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