The Conveyor Belt of Development
BY TOM SUMMERS, HEAD STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH, PINNACLE PERFORMANCE
I was fortunate enough to spend time with the longest serving collegiate Strength & Conditioning coach (S&C) in the world; he was small in stature but huge in character, and was named Jim Radcliffe. He headed up the University of Oregon’s S&C programme and I learnt plenty from my time with him. The one key ‘take home’ was how he and his team deliver 400+ S&C sessions EVERYDAY. This isn’t cramming 400 gym members into plentiful lines of treadmills and dumbbells, more overseeing the prescription and delivery of that number of individualised, coached, and periodised training sessions to future NFL, MLB, MLS, Olympic, and other sporting potentials.
Anyone who works in a distribution or time-constrained industry will understand the limitations in getting anything done and ensuring high level service and excellence at every stage. I imagine the distribution of thousands of boxes in a ship yard, management of hundreds of employee shift rotations in a large firm, and the scheduling of thousands of kids and their subjects preferences in school all carry huge challenges and responsibilities. So what can an athlete, and indeed a coach, learn from completely different industries?
Well, everything done on a large scale needs to run like clockwork and with a decent amount of autonomy. A restaurant takes bookings and works to ensure food is delivered promptly whilst a logistics company manage location of trucks and ships to maximise load carries. For this reason, ‘Jimmy‘ created a ‘conveyor belt’ of development where every athlete followed set parameters, agreed disciplines, and most importantly understood the purpose of it all.
The athletes arrived in the perfect facility – 24 complete Olympic platforms, a mezzanine of mats and rollers, a line of leg press and hack squat machines, and a 40 x 8 metre indoor track (literally S&C porn). But left to their own devices the athletes would have been all over the place, wasting time, and most likely have slowed down the ‘belt’. For this reason every athlete entered on the mezzanine and followed a prescribed 15 minute preparation programme, followed by a delivery of a sport-specific programme with coaches on the floor to supervise and ensure the athletes were working correctly and safely. Lifting content was efficient and concise, and there was no guess work or exercises just for the sake of sweating. These 150kg NFL hopefuls were pushing, pulling, squatting and hinging heavy weights, not re-inventing the wheel.
When they completed their session they left. No curls, no whatsapp’ing their mates, and certainly no snap-chatting their abs. In fact, they were probably going to eat and refuel ahead of their next session.
As I watched dozens after dozens of incredibly talented and strong athletes complete their training, I was in awe of their dedication and efficiency. I wanted to be part of it, I wanted to thrive from being part of this environment.
It has previously been said that we are a combination of the 5 people we spend the most time with. So who challenges you? Who pushes your level of training? Who enforces you to arrive in plenty of time and prepare fully. Who corrects you if your technique is poor? Who pulls you in to line when you miss a session, take the foot off the pedal, or set the bar too low? And who celebrates when you truly achieve something new?
Learning the lessons from Jimmy and his experienced team on the US West Coast, we have developed our own type of conveyor belt at Pinnacle Performance. Over 500 hours of individually written, specifically coached hours of training every week are completed under the Pinnacle umbrella. It is an absolute pleasure to see the dynamics of individuals or groups who train together, and certainly the athletes who achieve the best results.