- "The Science of Strength and Conditioning: Dr. J. Fowles"

    1 - STRENGTH & CONDITIONING PROFILE: Dr. Jonathon Fowles

    Dr. Jonathan Fowles is an assistant professor at Acadia University in the School of Kinesiology where he teaches Applied Human Anatomy and Physiology, Fitness Programming and Advanced Fitness Assessment and Training Methods. He also pioneered the strength and conditioning program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

    CB: Hello Jonathan! I hope the beautiful East Coast of Canada is treating you well. Why don't you start by describing your academic current position?

    JF: I supervise honours undergraduate students in the areas of advanced training and recuperative techniques and the biochemical response to exercise. This department is very 'hands on' and into applied knowledge, so I am also quite involved with training and testing the varsity teams here - working closely with Football, Hockey, Basketball and Rugby. I also consult with the National Sport Centre - Atlantic and the National Coaching Institute - teaching the task 1 & 2 Level 4/5 NCCP program modules.


    CB: Can you describe some studies or projects that you are working on right now that are applicable to athletes?

    JF: I am working on three exciting projects, one is on advanced training methods for hockey, one is on advanced recuperative methods (cold-tub) after intense interval running, and the other examining the regulation of transporter proteins during chronic creatine supplementation in muscle. For the first study, my honours student (Captain of the varsity hockey team - Matt Price) and I have developed a hockey skating simulator which simulates the exact number of strides and time of a sprint from the end line to opposite blue line. We have the ability to set different resistances for overload on this "off-ice" simulator, and we are comparing on-ice skating sprint time, speed and acceleration every meter during a 30m sprint. The guys who have done the training thus far really felt like it gave them that extra 'jump' in their sprint.

    The cold-tub study is with another honours student to determine the acute affects of cold-tub on a subsequent bout of intense exercise (i.e. whether it alleviates the delayed fatigue response). I presented the transporter protein (Na,K-ATPase) data at ACSM last summer and will be following that study up with some more work in the area.


    CB: That definitely has a hardcore science edge. What is your educational background?

    JF: I completed my Ph.D. in exercise physiology at Waterloo (working with Dr. Howie Green) and my Masters at McMaster University (working with Dr. Digby Sale and Dr. Duncan MacDougall) doing work on neuromuscular fatigue. I was inspired to start the educational process by Dr. Howie Wenger (exercise physiologist for the St. Louis Blues) at the University of Victoria. I also am a CSCS and PFLC (Professional Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant offered by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology).


    CB: Jonathon, you helped set up a strength and conditioning program at McMaster University and then you went on to do the same at the University of Waterloo. Can you describe these to the readers?

    JF: When I was at McMaster, I was asked by the athletic director to develop a strength & conditioning program for the varsity athletes. Within a year and a half, I was working with more than 10 teams and 200+ athletes. It was a great initiative that was subsequently taken over by some guy named Craig Ballantyne...

    After my experience at Mac, I went to the athletic director at Waterloo and said that I wanted to develop a strength & conditioning program there. Within a year or two I was also working with more than 10 teams and 250 athletes. In the third and fourth years of the program at Waterloo, we got more into the individualized testing and training, but I was training and educating coaches to be able to supervise the programs on their own once I was gone.


    CB: That sounds great, but can you identify any weaknesses or obstacles facing strength and conditioning programs in Canada?

    JF: I would say the most difficult thing about developing these programs at Canadian Universities, is the lack of resources (monetary, equipment) available to support the programs. At both Mac and Waterloo, I was one person working (in my 'spare' time) with more than 10 teams. That means that I had limited contact time with any one team. Compare that to schools in the USA where you might have 5-8 FULL TIME, paid strength coaches just with the football team.

    It is one thing to set programs and testing goals with athletes, but working with them one-on-one doing specialized agility, power, speed & strength, is really where the gains go to the next level. Canadian Universities just don't have the budget to make it a priority, so many times it is left to volunteers, that may or may not have the training and expertise required. I have tried to correct this here at Acadia, where we have set up a specialization in personal training and qualified students are put on practicums to work with the teams. This is part of their work towards getting certified as PFLC's and CSCS's that I supervise.


    CB: Great to hear you are making a difference in this area. Clearly everyone will benefit when properly educated coaches are training the athletes. What is your training philosophy?

    JF: My philosophy is simply "To train effectively". That means understanding the science of training - because there is no substitute for sound, intelligent training - but also understanding your body and how it reacts to training. Not everyone is the same and therefore not everyone can do the programs published in Sports Illustrated or Muscular Development and expect the same results.


    CB: Can you give the reader some tips for becoming a better athlete?

    JF: To become a better athlete they should become rounded. Understand your sport, your body and the preparations required to be at the top of your game. This is a holistic approach that covers everything from the relative importance of resistance training, speed or other training, with a balance of recovery, sleep, and sport psychology. A lot of times a coach will take a well-rounded athlete over one that is highly skilled, because the well rounded athlete is adaptable to different situations and is more consistent throughout the year - someone you can count on when the going gets tough in playoffs.


    CB: Jonathon, any special tips you want to give to female athletes? Do you observe any training differences between the two genders?

    JF: One thing I have noticed, particularly at the varsity level with female athletes, is that can push themselves a bit more in the weight room than what they think. There seems to be a stigma attached with the weight room for women, and many times, the female athletes don't really realize how strong they are! I remember one time I was working with a volleyball player who regularly trained 3 x 10 with 95 lbs on the squat rack, because "that's all she thought she could do". I spotted her as she worked up to 8 reps with 185 lbs! Now, I don't recommend throwing on as much weight as you can and going for it, but within a properly supervised program, female athletes can develop significant gains in strength, if they work at improving, by stepping up the weights when things get a little easier.


    CB: What are some advanced techniques you are using?

    JF: In the weight room I use pyramids to heavy tri-sets (rest-pause) for major muscle mass gains. This always seems to work with my clients to improve mass and strength. It's a major overload to the muscle and requires time for recuperative so is done in the early off-season in sports that require a little more size and strength.


    CB: Can you describe that a little more please?

    JF: Basically the athlete performs 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps, with appropriate rest (2-3 minutes) between each set, and pyramiding up in weight. Then after the pyramid, the weight that was done for 6 reps is lifted in a tri-set, using rest-pause. You do the weight for a set (usually around 6 reps) then wait 30 seconds, then lift again (~4-5 reps), rest for another 30 seconds and try one more set (~3-4 reps). There is a lot of physiology to explain why this works, but basically its like getting ~14 reps at a weight you could normally only do 6 times = HUGE OVERLOAD.

    This is done with one primary exercise per bodypart, per workout. Again, it is tough work, so you have to have about 6-12 months of training under your belt to get any results. You can only do this for about one month to 6 weeks before you start overtraining, so then you back off to less sets and see your strength jump!!

    For the more athletically focused training, I use complex (resistance + plyometrics) supersets. I find it effective and efficient. The jury is out as to whether you get added benefit over combined resistance and plyometrics, but the benefit is that the athletes get into it, and get their plyometric work done in the gym - they don't have to do a separate work out for it. There are a lot of details about how, when, what exercises to do, far more than I could cover in this interview - but I did present most of this information to the NSCA sport specific conference for football in 2001.

    I also have used cold-tub for advanced recuperation following intense training. Once again, the jury is out as to the scientific proof, but anecdotally, it works for many athletes, especially during training camp. I am involved in a number of research projects to investigate its effectiveness.


    CB: Awesome. So what type of clients do you use your training techniques with?

    JF: Right now I work mostly with university athletes - mostly because I enjoy that group. They are keen to learn and improve and of course, workout in the same building. I also consult with national level and professional athletes, and I really enjoy the challenge at the highest levels of performance to get that little bit more.

    I have worked with the National Swim Team, Field hockey team and some coaches and athletes Track & Field and Rugby. Professionally I have worked with athletes in the CFL, NHL, NFL and some professional tri-athletes and soccer players.


    CB: What are some of your personal achievements as an athlete or coach?

    JF: Well, you know the old saying - those that can't do, coach. I was always good at most sports, but never exceptional at anything. Except for being able to understand the athlete, the science, and the training, and how it all fits together to make it work in a particular sport. I would say my biggest personal achievements occur when one of the athletes I work with comes up to me and says, "You helped me to be a better athlete." And that's what gets me excited to figure out new ways to do an even better job.


    CB: Awesome. And what are 3 of your top tips for building muscle?


    1 ) See above - rest pause tri-sets. These are very effective.

    2 ) Get away from the 1 body part per day thing. Many people are brainwashed into this philosophy popularized by the bodybuilders in muscle magazines that can train this way because they are on the juice. To build muscle effectively and intelligently, you need to have intense workouts that activate a sufficient muscle mass to encourage a hormonal response to support growth at the site of stress. This usually means combining muscle groups - such as back-chest, legs-shoulders, or back-tris, chest-bis, legs-shoulders or


    3) Pre-and post-workout nutrition. This is one of the very few 'ergogenic' muscle

    building aids that is scientifically proven to increase the protein synthetic response following a workout. I always say choose food first, but if there was ever a time for a protein shake, it is within the first 15 minutes after a workout.


    CB: What are your goals?

    JF: To be a true kinesiologist. I want to be someone who understands the science and is

    actively exploring the edge of understanding by conducting research, but has the practical knowledge to work with the 'people on the front line' who use the information (athletes, coaches, layperson with health problem etc). I would like to stay involved in training at the varsity and elite level and manage a career scientifically at the same time.

    Oh, and write a book on what I've learned. I've had it in the back of my mind for about 10 years, and finally got some publishers interested. The topic would be "applying sports conditioning concepts to your overall concept of health". Similar to the 'complete' athlete idea I talked about before.


    CB: Before we conclude, can you describe some common training mistakes?

    JF: See 1 body part per day argument. Another is simply bad nutrition. Reliance on Gatorade and drinks - people need food to get all the micronutrients and antioxidants and all the other wonderful things we know about how important it is to have variety and balance in a diet.

    In regards to the recent - 'stabilization - balance' craze, so many people are going so overboard with the balance boards and all the hot gimmicks, that people have strayed from getting really sound gains in the gym. I think that including these things is great, but you really need a foundation of strength to get something out it.

    CB: Thank you so much for your time Dr. Fowles. For any students considering undergraduate degrees in Kinesiology in addition to experience working with elite athletes, CB ATHLETICS highly recommends Acadia University, simply because they have such a passionate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable guy like Jonathon Fowles on their faculty.



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