Alwyn has worked with about 30-40 competitive martial artists, as well as athletes from these sports: figure skating, motocross, supercross, running, mountain biking, boxing, football, soccer, rugby and baseball.
We are also working with Damon Huffman, a pro supercross athlete and Bebe Liang who just placed sixth at the US figure skating championships she's only 12 years old and competes in the same division as Sasha Cohen, Michelle Kwan and Sarah Hughes, so we're very proud of her.
AC: Formally I have a diploma in sports performance studies and a graduate honors degree in sports science. I am certified with the NSCA as a CSCS with distinction, the ISSA as a Master of Sports Sciences, the CHEK institute, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, USA Weightlifting and the American Council on Exercise. I've also studied extensively under Charles Poliquin, Paul Chek, Charles Staley, Eric Serrano, MD, and Ian King, both in seminars and internships.
CB: Extensive! So what is your competitive background?
AC: I competed both nationally and internationally in Taekwon-do from 1988 to 2000. Along the way I won seven UK national titles in continuous sparring (basically fighting).
CB: Congratulations. You've already touched on this briefly, but what is the range of your clientele?
AC: It is very broad. My youngest client is a 9 year old figure skater. My oldest client is 69 years old and is coming to us for spinal rehabilitation.
AC: A saying I stole from Ian King is "Don't take the credit if you won't take the blame!" so despite my involvement with a few World champions I'd like to think my biggest achievements come on a day to day basis helping all my clients achieve their goals.
My own "favorite" so to speak though is a young ice skater called Brittany MacDonald - who came to me as a timid little girl, several years ago, has trained her butt off and has all the potential in the World. Watch out for her-she'll be a name for the future.
Another name I must mention is a lady from New York called Patie Wilson, she lost almost 150lbs training with me and remains to this day the hardest training individual I have ever worked with.
CB: Alwyn, you've also used Turbulence Training (from my GET LEAN and Executive Lifestyle Manuals. What did you think of it?
AC: It is the single most effective fat loss training system in the world today. I've used it. I've studied it. It works faster and more effectively than any other method.
CB: Awesome! Can you describe a typical training day consist of for your clients?
AC: OK - typically we start with a warm up which consists of something basic like a treadmill general warm up, or something more dynamic like an agility ladder exercise or a dot drill
Following that is stretching -- either corrective stretching for my beginner clients, or dynamic or functional stretching for my more advanced clientele.
Following that will be the bulk of the strength workout -- typically a full body workout with everything from Olympic lifts, traditional lifts, Swiss ball training to medicine ball work likely to make an appearance.
To complete the work portion we'll do some metabolic conditioning work (sometimes done on separate days) -- doing interval type training, or some kind of DB matrix.
We'll usually finish with another ten minutes of cardio work, some developmental stretching or self myofascial release work. Then it's post workout drink time ASAP (I'm a big believer in the benefits of post workout nutrition).
AC: It's individualized to the athlete and their needs. Figure skaters and martial artists are generally very similar to be honest - both athletes need to maintain low body weights for their sport.
Basically - everyone's shake is built around x amount of whey protein or free form aminos. Carbs are added accordingly but it varies too much to give you any real formula.
The top level athletes at my facility usually consume a glutamine-BCAA mixture before and during training, and consume up to 30-40g of free form aminos post workout. 30-45 minutes after that - they consume a post workout shake.
My general fitness clients usually consume the post workout shake immediately.
CB: Thanks for summary. In terms of training, how far do you push your athletes?
When do you know that they have had enough?
AC: Usually when they puke or pass out I back off 2-3%! Seriously we use a four week mini -periodization. Every client repeats a workout four times or so.
Workout One: 80% of previous bests. Focus on technical skill, low fatigue and no failed lifts. In rep terms we stop -2. That is, I want the client to end the set when he/she has two to three good reps left in them. I am also conservative with volume in this phase - for example if I have planned to do 4 sets of each exercise we may only do 2-3.
Workout Two: 90% of previous best. Focus on good recruitment patterns, excellent technique, higher levels of fatigue. -1 rep. Complete all sets however.
Workout Three: 100-105% of previous best. Maximal work. However do not attempt a rep you are not sure of completing.
Workout Four: Set new records. This is the workout to give everything you have got. Technique must be maintained, but we are likely to go to failure on some lifts and I may use some drop sets or some other type of intensification tool here.
Workout Five will be a new routine.
CB: I'd really like to hear your tips on training the female athlete. Is it any different from training your male clients?
AC: Not really.
1) Get a coach to help you with your conditioning training - if you can't afford one - hire them to design your program and train on your own. Everyone needs a coach of some sort.
2) Do not be afraid to get strong. Females seem to have an unconscious fear of lifting heavy. Do not succumb to this. Get as strong as you possibly can.
Psychologically however I tend to train females and males differently. I compare males to standards for their sport or to other athletes that I work with. This tends to motivate them more. I ONLY ever compare female athletes to their own performances and their own goals - never comparing them to anyone else.
CB: Are there notable differences between female athletes of different sports when they first come to you for training?
AC: The biggest difference in males and females is that males generally come in to meet me for the first time on their own. Females are typically brought in by coaches, parents or boyfriends.
Females in my opinion have the potential to train harder than males and make faster progress yet they often seem to be afraid to fulfill that potential.
CB: Briefly compare the training of the supercross athlete to the training of a figure skater. Where are there differences? Do you use Olympic lifts with both?
AC: I use olympic lift variations with the supercross guys. In my experience they usually have extremely tight forearms as a result of arm pump and impact through the handlebars so they have real difficulty in the catch phase. The time taken to correct this just so we can do cleans is not worth the return in my opinion so I use pulls.
Supercross athletes need to be trained by developing their "tilting" reflexes, as basically the ground moves under them when they compete - they need to handle the movement of the bike. They also need high levels of scapular stability.
Figure skaters need to be trained by developing their "righting" responses as they move at high speed over a fixed object (the ice) although they are balanced on a less than an eighth of an inch piece of metal.
Core stability is real important for both athletes.
CB: When young athletes come to you for training, does any particular sport stand out as being better than another?
AC: The young kids who have been exposed to a wide variety of sports tend to improve faster. I think parents need to focus on overall athleticism in their kids as opposed to specificity in training.
CB: So in terms of young athletes, do you see any sport producing the most athleticism? For example, some experts suggest that gymnasts are the best athletes at a young age because they have the greatest body awareness. Any comments?
AC: I agree - gymnasts and martial artists tend to have better overall athleticism however with regards to gymnasts it is a moot point.
Gymnasts, along with figure skaters need early specialization. So they violate the rule. The current Olympic figure skating champion is 16 years old. Basically in sports like that - you require such an early degree of specialization to succeed that the rules change.
CB: Do you see young athletes hampered by premature concentration in one sport?
Lots of coaches see that in hockey players here in Canada.
AC: Unfortunately yes. It's more typical in the team sports such as football, baseball etc. I've met a couple of kids who have been playing baseball almost full time their entire lives - who have great baseball skills but have no basic concept of how to move. We had to teach them how to run without tripping up! It happens more often than you would think.
CB: This is excellent information for parents and coaches that are reading right now. What are your goals as a coach?
AC: To improve constantly. I demand more from myself than anyone else ever could. It only takes on hour of reading /studying per day to become a World expert in three years. I predict that everyone reading this will be an expert in something within three years because they will have spend an hour a day studying.
Now whether they are studying "Friends" re-runs or advanced sports training remains to be seen - but trust me - everyone reading this will spend an hour a day doing something!
I reserve the right to keep learning, refine my skills and improve. Other than that - I have a lot to be thankful for.
CB: What is your coaching philosophy?
AC: The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Champions are NOT born. Not nowadays. Champions are MADE and titles are won and lost in training.
CB: You use Olympic lifts. What can you tell the reader is the extra benefit from these lifts as compared to regular strength training?
AC: Time saving. More effective. Higher amounts of muscle recruitment due to the velocity of the lifts. Better transfer to sports. Ground based, explosive, multi joint functional lifts win out every time.
CB: What training gadgets have you used and which ones have you found to be of value?
AC: I've tried almost everything. What I still use is a different story. I do use the agility ladder, jump stretch bands, chains, balance boards, swiss balls, med balls and EZ grips. Other than that it's dumbbells and barbells.
CB: Thanks. Training tools are a hot topic these days. Walk us through your athlete assessment you described in your interview on www.sportspecific.com.</p>
AC: After we do a basic health history and goal assessment we begin the evaluation. Basically we assess posture and ROM in three ways - statically, passively and actively.
Stage one is a static evaluation where we are just looking for postural discrepancies, etc. I get a little more exact - using inclinometers to measure spinal curve, head carriage, etc. but basically it is a gross assessment.
Stage two is a range-of-motion assessment - again we can use goniometers to give a specific "score" to each joint angle and compare that to norms, but again it can be taught as a very simple pass-fail assessment.
Stage Three is what we call the functional movement screen (as devised by Gray Cook) - it's basically seven "exercises" that are scored 0-3 based on your performance of them.
We finish with some basic rotator cuff stability assessments and two abdominal strength tests. Depending on the client we would then use some more performance based tests such as vertical jump, etc.
This gives us the blueprint of the client - where we then design a specific training program.
We also utilize a more advanced assessment with post rehabilitation clientele - this is taken directly from the CHEK institute and is a lot more in depth obviously as clients who are in pain need to be evaluated a little more accurately.
CB: How does the gross assessment determine how you will train? Can you give an example?
AC: For example: If an evaluation reveals tight hip flexors, and weak glutes - we will design a program around stretching the hip flexors and strengthening the posterior chain. Usually by improving an athlete's weak links we improve their on-field performance at a faster rate.
A typical training program would give stretching for everything, and strengthening for everything - giving a net result of ZERO. There is no point in stretching long muscles and strengthening tight muscles - we end up changing absolutely nothing.
CB: Could you list the 3 top tips you could give to an athlete that is just beginning structured training?
AC: Number one - design your plan in advance with your coach.
Number Two: Stick to the plan - be flexible, not dogmatic, but stick to the plan in general.
Number Three: Train to progress, not to impress. Be concerned more with your own development - not what other people think.
CB: Switching topics for a second, can you elaborate on the use of strength training for an endurance runner?
AC: Running is a TOTAL BODY activity. A lot of runners seem to think that they are involved solely in a lower body activity. That's not true. Try running a half mile with your hands in your pockets and you'll soon see how much the upper body contributes. So if it contributes - we need you to TRAIN it to add to that contribution.
As a basic rule - train unilaterally (dumbbells) for running and throw in as many total body exercises as you can think of.
CB: What are key training methods to prevent injuries?
AC: An equal focus on TOTAL training. Cardiovascular, strength and flexibility need to be given equal priority. Movement pattern balance in the program is also important - loading balance, sequencing balance and volume balance.
For example: Doing 2 sets of horizontal pushing with 200lbs on Day one, needs to be balanced with 2 sets of horizontal pulling with 200lbs in that phase, and by doing horizontal pulling first in the next phase.
CB: We're coming to the end of the interview, so let's discuss the end of a workout. Do you use advanced recovery techniques?
AC: Post workout nutrition is number one, along with stretching. If you don't have those two in place, everything else is just a gimmick.
CB: Any use of post-workout ice massage or hot-cold contrast therapy?
AC: I like hot-cold contrast showers. I haven't used the ice massage, as I tend to use more full body workouts. I think it has a big place in hypertrophy specific split routines however.
I also really like self myofascial release work on the foam roller, and "The Stick" - a very cool massage tool that athletes can use themselves.
CB: Thanks Alwyn. Everyone really appreciates your time. Good luck with your new websites and training center. Where can people read more about your theories and programs?
AC: Well Craig, like you, I contribute on an almost monthly basis to Men's Health magazine. I suggest that readers check out the magazine to see more of our work. And again, like you, I write articles and training programs for sportspecific.com - a fantastic strength and conditioning website put together by Ryan Lee. I encourage everyone to check out these resources.
CB: Great advice as always.
CB ATHLETIC CONSULTING