& CONDITIONING PROFILE #3 - Matt Jordan
CB ATHLETICS will be featuring a new strength coach and
an insight into their conditioning philosophies. There are
many great coaches out there that are unrecognized and that
may even live in the same city as you or an athlete you
know that is looking for advanced instruction.
Strength Coach Matt Jordan is fresh from the Olympic games
in Salt Lake City. It was an event that he says is "truly
a different environment than any other sporting event you
Matt, getting a chance to watch the Canadian team at the
Olympics, wow that must have been amazing! Are there any
moments that stick out?
Emotional is a great way to describe the Olympic Winter
Games. There was of course the fabulous feeling of watching
Catriona Le May Doan win a gold in the Women's 500 meter
and the feeling of despair watching Jeremy Witherspoon fall
off the start in the Men's 500 meter.
will start with Jeremy's race. Jeremy is one of the most
powerful athletes I have ever encountered. He is a true
physical specimen. His best quality as a competitor though,
is his mental toughness and his ability to perform under
immense pressure. The first day of the 500 meter competition
he was looking great. In fact, the day before the finals
I sat with him after he set a personal record in a timed
lap in practice and he was relaxed and confident. No one
expected what was to follow 24 hours later.
I can say is that sometimes even the best and most consistent
athletes make mistakes. In Jeremy's case he caught the ice
with the toe of his blade (this is a matter of millimeters)
and stumbled to the ice. There is no good explanation for
why this happened. I view it as a matter of probability.
Take 200 races from any elite athlete and at least one will
contain a "fatal error". This is a matter of statistics
and the law of probability. Jeremy just had his happen on
the wrong day.
have to mention though that the next day, after the bitter
disappointment of falling in the first 500 meter race, Jeremy
came out and skated the fastest 500 meter time of the day,
beating the current world record holder and the eventual
gold medalist. Too bad the determination of the medalists
in the Olympics is based off a combined time in the 500
meter over both days of competition otherwise Jeremy would
have probably won the gold. Jeremy is now back from the
Olympics and is training and competing once again. This
incredibly disappointing day has been overcome and Jeremy
will return once again to win many medals, including Olympic
for Catriona, all I can say is she stepped up and pulled
off one of the best performances I have ever seen. After
the first day of competition, Monique Garbrecht-Enfledt
from Germany was only 3 hundreds of a second behind Catriona's
time. That was the first time in two years that anyone had
been that close to Catriona in the 500 meter.
2 was simple - Catriona had to beat Monique and to top it
off they were paired together. Catriona opened up fast and
down the final straight away she had a 10 meter lead over
Monique. Catriona crossed the finish line first and won
the gold. As you can probably imagine, I, along with all
the Canadian Team, were ecstatic. Catriona is one of the
best competitors I know. She is also a wonderful person
and it was a great feeling to watch her win a gold medal.
Matt, you have worked with many female athletes, correct?
This is correct. I work with several female athletes including
snowboarders, alpine skiers, speed skaters, hockey players
and baseball players. I am a strength and conditioning consultant
for the National Sport Centre in Calgary and I am the Head
Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Olympic Oval at
the University of Calgary.
What type of programs do you typically implement for these
My programs vary depending on the athlete I am training.
I have several athletes for whom I prescribe weightlifting
(i.e. Olympic lifts), but I always base my decision on the
type of training to be given on the training age of the
athlete and of course the desired training effect.
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach! That is amazing. What
is your education and professional education background?
My undergraduate degree is in Kinesiology and I am completing
a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology. My main research
area is the effect of whole-body vibrations on skeletal
muscle. In addition, I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning
Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA, and a certified Level
II Weightlifting Coach through the NCCP.
We've discussed vibration training a little in the past,
can you describe it at a general level, with respect to
skeletal muscle adaptations and where you see this fitting
in the future of athlete training?
Vibration training is a very interesting training modality.
Vibration training causes a large increase in muscle activity
due to reflex muscle contractions and the resonance properties
of muscle tissue. I believe vibration training also has
a positive effect on the hormonal status - increases in
GH and testosterone can be observed after vibration training.
Vibration training can also lead to substantial improvements
best way of describing this in simple terms is a quote from
a physiologist in Holland: "Vibration training re-wires
the nervous system". This is obviously not a scientific
explanation but it does give an idea of the potential of
vibration training. Vibration training can also help with
recovery and can be used as a warm up tool prior to programs
designed to improve explosiveness. My research is designed
to evaluate the acute effects of vibration training on muscle.
Hopefully I will have a better explanation of how vibration
training makes us more explosive after I conclude my research
in the summer.
What are your experiences in training elite young female
athletes? Do you only work with elite athletes?
I have been working as a strength and conditioning coach
for several years now. Over this time I have had the opportunity
to coach several elite level and developmental level female
athletes in alpine skiing, speed skating, snowboarding,
hockey and baseball. I have also trained non-athletes and
individuals who are just trying to improve strength and
body composition for aesthetic purposes and health reasons.
I have found this work to be very rewarding and it has been
a lot of fun.
the high performance environment that I am working in, most
of the female athletes I coach are very dedicated and committed
to their training, and this makes my job much easier. I
have found that female athletes have the same potential
for improvements in strength and body composition as male
of the biggest factors in female athletes achieving this
improvement is getting them to realize the benefits of strength
training and then getting their heads around the misconception
that the weight room is reserved for men who are "trying
to get big". I hear this comment way too often from female
athletes who are just starting out in the weight room.
What are your personal achievements as a coach?
I have had the opportunity to train several elite level
female athletes. This includes medallists in World Cup Alpine
Skiing (i.e. Downhill, Giant Slalom, and Slalom), medallists
in World Cup and World Championship Speed Skating, and a
medallist in the Goodwill Games in Snowboarding. After the
2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City I can also add
two female athletes who medalled in Speed Skating, and several
top 8 finishes in speed skating and alpine skiing.
Matt, were you fortunate enough to have any involvement
with the Canadian women's hockey gold-medal performance?
No, not this year. I worked with the female hockey team
prior to the 1998 Olympic Winter Games but I was only an
assistant strength coach at this time. Three years ago,
I worked with a couple of female hockey players who participated
in the 2002 Olympics but their strength coach is now my
colleague Jason Poole.
the male side, I have trained several world cup and world
championship medallists, as well as actors and martial artists.
My most recent accomplishments are an athlete who won the
gold medal in the 500 meter in speed skating at the Olympics,
and a kickboxer who just won a North American Title Belt.
to day though I think the weight room is filled with opportunities
for personal achievement. I consider it to be a personal
achievement anytime an athlete accomplishes a goal whether
it is a positive change in body composition, a new personal
record in the power snatch, or an improvement in their front
squat. I also consider it a personal achievement when an
athlete or someone who is just out to get in shape trains
with me, improves and then decides to make strength training
and fitness a regular part of their lifestyle/training regime.
It is great to hear Canadian success stories. With your
experience, you have undoubtedly learned a lot about training
for the female athlete. What are your tips for the elite
female athlete and for the young female athlete? How do
these differ from the males that you work with?
are some general tips for female athletes:
Learn proper lifting technique.
Progress slowly with the type of lifting you are doing as
well as with the load you are using. Don't ever sacrifice
technique for quantity.
Learn how to focus during a set and to really push yourself.
Plan to get stronger every workout. Add a little bit of
weight to the bar every workout, even if it is 2.5 lbs/side.
Of course this is only if you have accomplished the required
number of repetitions in the previous strength training
session with GOOD technique.
Plan for regular variation in your workout structure and
are some tips for female athletes that are different from
Learn how to coordinate movement of the ankle, knee and
hip in squatting type movements e.g. stepping up onto a
box, lunges, squats, single leg squats. Female athletes,
and many male athletes for that matter, will often have
a difficult time maintaining alignment in the hip, knee
and ankle during squatting movements (this is evidenced
by the knees coming inward during a squat). Find a qualified
professional to teach you the proper mechanics of these
Don't be embarrassed to push yourself in the weight room
and to show the effort you are putting in. I find a lot
of times female athletes who are just starting out are shy
to show that they are really working hard during a set and
this will limit their performance.
Don't think that just because you are lifting weights you
will automatically "get big". This is a fear of young women
that they will get too big. Putting on muscle mass is not
easy and even if you do it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Increasing your muscle mass will go a long way to improve
your body composition.
As a quick aside Matt, what are some of the lifts and athletic
activities that hold special interest to you? You really
enjoy the Olympic lifts, correct? Are there any totals that
you are particularly proud of? Have you tried much speed
skating yourself or have you been able to take advantage
of the beautiful slopes out there?
I am a recreational competitor in weightlifting. I really
love the Olympic lifts. There is so much more to them than
a bench press or bicep curl. This is not to say that I don't
enjoy other strength training methods as well. I also participate
in martial arts and I have been doing martial arts for 5
years now. I currently practice Muay Thai Kickboxing and
Jiu-Jitsu. Both styles are offered through the club I train
at. Other than this, most of my time is spent working and
Matt, everybody that has watched speed skating is amazed
by the physical structure, raw power, and incredible endurance
of these athletes. What is like to stride all out for 500m
in this event?
The television does not do it justice. When you are ice-side
and watch one of these athletes scream by you at 60 km/h
and then hit the corner, their body leaning at a 45 degree
angle to the ice, you realize just how amazing it truly
is. I am astounded at the power these athletes can put out
- the speed skaters are unbelievable to watch.
What are the training methods that give speed skaters and
cyclists such dominating thigh musculature? Does it start
with genetics? Is it the volume of intense muscle contraction
from their events?
Genetics play a huge role in sport. There is no question
about it. The nature of the sport is important though in
the massive thigh development we see in speed skaters and
cyclists. Just for fun, try squatting down so that your
thighs are parallel to the ground, maintain this position
and then sprint for 1 minute without allowing your knee
angle and back angle to change (CB - "For fun?"). This will
give you an indication of the type of pain these athletes
role of strength training is also very important and it
is probably the most important factor in obtaining massive
legs. Unlike sprinting in track and field, thigh volume
(i.e. leg size) is very, very important in speed skating.
We have a specific thigh volume that we are trying to attain
with each athlete. Strength training is by far the best
way to seriously increase thigh development. The speed skaters
spend a lot of time doing different types of squats and
dead lifts (e.g. front squats, back squats, single leg squats,
Bulgarian split squats...).
Getting back to the female athlete, what is the #1 mistake
you see girls making?
It's simple. Too often, female athletes are not pushing
themselves in each set.
So how does a coach correct that? Is it simply a matter
of time and comfort, and that after a while the female athlete
will develop more focused training? Are there any tips that
can speed this process?
I think the coach can go a long way in setting the atmosphere
to help athletes become more focused during training. This
is one area that I am really going to try and improve upon
this year. I try and stay serious during training sessions.
I think the coach sets the tone on how the athletes will
Matt, are there any nutritional issues that you see as greatly
different between the genders? Are there any techniques
that you find more valuable in females as many females that
are health conscious also seem to gravitate towards vegetarian
I find female athletes have a greater propensity to not
get an adequate protein intake during the day. I encourage
all my female athletes to consider taking a protein supplement
and of course to eat lean sources of protein throughout
Matt, before we end the interview, can we touch on the dark
side of female sport? Those who are knowledgeable in health
and fitness know just how prevalent bone health issues are
in older women, and many people also are aware of the health
issues plaguing female sport (i.e. concerning practices
in gymnastics). Can you shed any light on these issues?
This is a very difficult subject and I am afraid I am probably
not qualified to answer most of these questions. All I can
say is that I try my best to make sure that I reinforce
the right concepts and support all my athletes in becoming
self-confident. I think if we all do our part as fitness/coaching
professionals to set the example and the standard on what
is appropriate to say to young impressionable athletes,
and if we live by these standards ourselves, we will go
a long way in making our clients healthy, both mentally
That's a positive attitude and is no doubt conducive to
learning good health. Staying focused and serious during
the session is great advice. What are the 3 top things you
have learned in your schooling and experiences as a strength
1. Everyone has a different physiological and psychological
makeup and training responses will vary depending upon the
Keeping athletes motivated and helping them to stay focused
and determined is as important as one's knowledge of strength
training and exercise science.
There is always more to learn.
Good point. How would you describe your philosophy?
Approach every training session like it is the gold medal
race/game at the Olympics. This does not mean you have to
push yourself to the maximum every session - sometimes training
is easier sometimes it is harder. It simply means that confidence,
focus, a positive attitude, and proper execution of the
training plan are the goals in every training session...these
mental attributes make a champion and allow the body to
reach its full potential.
Great words of advice. What are your short-term goals?
My goals are to continue to work with Canadian amateur athletes
through to the next Olympic Winter Games in 2006. I also
want to start working with more hockey players. Skating
technique and strength training are my background and I
think I could make a difference with hockey players.
Any athlete would be wise to seek your advice! Matt, you
are a pretty young guy with a great amount of success. Congratulations.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Will you pursue
a doctorate in coaching or exercise physiology? Will you
continue on at the University of Calgary or do you think
our country will expand its major coaching centers throughout
I have a couple of possibilities for my long-term goals.
I see myself pursuing a Ph.D. and possibly getting more
into research at some point. In the next five years though,
myself and one other colleague, a strength and speed coach
for USA bobsleigh, are planning to start our own training
centre for high performance athletes.
Finally, can you offer any words of advice to coaches, students,
or athletes that want to learn more about training, or follow
a career in strength and conditioning? Any tips to those
that want to continue schooling in exercise science? You
yourself were very wise to seek the advice of Dr. Sale,
perhaps you could briefly describe this experience and what
In this industry you have to be self-motivated to learn.
I try and read for at least 2 hours a day on topics related
to sport science and strength training. Also, making contacts
is a great idea. I have benefited greatly from some of the
contacts I have made throughout the first couple of years
of me trying to break into this industry. Finally, get involved.
I volunteered for two years, and then worked for another
two years getting paid next to nothing while I started working
as a strength coach. The experience and the reputation you
gain from this type of work cannot be replaced by any amount
thank you so much for your time. This interview has been
amazing. CB ATHLETICS very honored to know an individual
that has amassed such experience and experiences. Congratulations!
This will undoubtedly be a great resource for CB ATHLETICS,
young female athletes, and coaching hopefuls. Good luck
with your future aspirations!