Blog Archives

Ten Pointers for Program Design

1.  Every time you bench press, perform a set of rows.  Dumbbells, barbells, cables, whatever.  Your shoulders will thank me for it.

2.  Every time you press weights over your head, perform a set of  pull ups (or pull downs, which make you a little bit of a coward).  Why you ask?  See #1.

3.  When it comes to core training (specifically the abdominals), perform a little less spinal flexion and a little more spinal stabilization.  Think a little less crunches and a little more exercises where the torso remains rigid and resists motion.  Notice I did not say perform all of one or the other.  Remember, there are no bad exercises, there are poor applications.  If you sit at a computer or a desk all day or if you have the posture of a caveman, perhaps movements that bring your spine into a position that its been in for 8-10 hours may not be the best idea. 

4.  Include single leg variations such as lunges in your training.  They are great for building single leg strength and are also great as a dynamic flexibility exercise to open up the quads and hip flexors on the trailing leg.

5.  If your knees are bothering you, work on your ankle and hip mobility.  It could help.

6.  In none training related news, just as a follow up to number 5, if you have general joint pain, eat fish oil.  Eat more than it says on the bottle.  A lot more. 

7.  I like to think of strength training and cardiovascular conditioning as separate entities.  The goal of strength training should be to get stronger…not tired.  The goal of cardiovascular conditioning should be to increase work capacity and overall endurance.  This will probably make you tired.  Thats ok. 

8.  In training, perform the most demanding exercises first.  Work on power before strength and strength before endurance. 

9.  Warming up is important.  Really important.  It has become much more important to me as I have gotten a little bit older.  The following template for warming up works well for me:

  • Joint Mobility (whatever is appropriate for that day)
  • General Movement (arc trainer, jumping rope, skipping, shuffling, calisthenics)
  • Day Specific Warm Up (bodyweight exercises and warm up sets)

I sometimes incoporate core circuits as part of the warm up.  Not always.  Just sometimes.

10.  Easy weeks of training (deload weeks) can be a good idea every four or five weeks for certain trainees.  These weeks are a good time to take it easy and spend extra time on recovery.  Think extra joint mobility work, some massage therapy, lots of sleep, etc.

There you have it folks.  Ten program design pointers, free of charge.  Have a great weekend

Work hard and work smart.

Dave Coffin

A Bit of a Weekend Rant

Whats up guys?  Happy friday.  I thought I would deliver a response to some of my favorite (or least favorite) quotes that I hear on a somewhat daily basis.  Enjoy.

“Squats are bad for your knees.”

The knee is a joint.  It is meant to move.  I have never heard my 2 year old son complain about knee pain when he goes into a deep squat to pick up his toys.  He is not focusing on his form.  He is moving the way the human body was intended to move.  Now, there are certainly circumstances where the application of the squat may not be appropriate for certain trainees at certain times in their training due to orthopedic issues or mobility restrictions, however the goal should be to resolve these issues and restore joint movement.   Again, the knee is a joint.  Joints are made to move.  


“I need to do more cardio.” (this is usually in a conversation regarding fat loss)

No you don’t.  You need to pay more attention to your diet.  This is not to say that cardiovascular work is not helpful, however fat loss is 90% what you are putting in your mouth.  Remember…you will never, ever, ever out train a crappy diet.

“I eat sooooo healthy and I just cannot lose weight.”

Riiiiiiight.  Newsflash…muffins are not healthy.  They are cupcakes in disguise.  I don’t care if it is bran, flax or whatever. Eating a piece of cake will never be part of a balanced breakfast.  To this list you may also add, “whole grain” crackers, 99% of flavored yogurt, breakfast cereals, “whole wheat” pasta and granola bars.  Eat more protein (think lean meats, fish, and some dairy), healthy fats (think fish oil, olive oil and nuts), and vegetables and fruits.  Build meals around protein sources.  Protein will help you build and retain lean tissue.  This is not an opinion this is a fact.  When you go grocery shopping, try to do 99%  of your shopping on the perimeter of the store.  You will never find twinkies or potato chips in the produce section or stashed under the beef or boneless chicken breast.   

“I don’t want to get bulky, I want that long, lean muscle.”

There is no such thing as long, lean muscle.    There is only muscle tissue.  There are Type I muscle fibers, which are the slow twitch fibers and Type IIa and Type IIb muscle fibers which are the fast twitch fibers.  Now I know what you are going to say;  Dave, marathon runners have that long, lean look to them.  People, that long, lean look is called skinny and weak.  So glad we got that cleared up.   

There you have it people.  Have a great weekend.

Work hard.

Dave Coffin

Quick Easy Recipes & Quick Easy Cardio

Hey there internet folks.  I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.  For this exciting installment I would like to offer some simple solutions for quick meals and quick conditioning sessions.  One of my favorite quick meals is poor man’s chilli.

2lbs of ground beef or ground turkey (at least 90% lean), 2 cans of beans (black or kidney) rinsed in cold water, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, oregano.

Brown the meat in a saute pan.  Add beans, tomatoes, hot sauce and seasonings.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  I usually split it into 3 servings however you could probably get more like 4.  Divide them into small tupperware containers and put them in the freezer.  There you have it.  Lots of protein and lots of fiber. 

For the quick cardio option try this:

20 seconds of burpees followed by 2o seconds of rest.  Repeat 8 times.  Have fun throwing up.

Work hard.

Dave Coffin

12 Random Thoughts on Training and Nutrition

12 Random Thoughts by Dave Coffin

  1. Every training program should consist of joint mobility training, strength training, conditioning, and flexibility.  The amount of time devoted to each will depend on the trainee and the situation.
  2. There is absolutely no reason why everybody should not be taking fish oil.  It reduces total body inflammation, improves body composition, and promotes joint and cardiovascular health along with a host of other health benefits.  If you burp up fish, store it in the freezer.  If you forget to take it, put a note on the door to your freezer.  No excuses.  And no, eating fish twice per week will not cut it, especially when it is most likely farm raised.
  3. Eat fruit, don’t drink it.  Juice has no fiber and more calories, which is not a good thing.
  4. Women who are afraid of strength training because they do not want to get bulky, should be more concerned with a degenerative bone disease called osteoporosis.  If you ask me, that is a bit more alarming than being strong, having some muscle and looking good.  But of course that is only if you ask me.
  5. While it is true that direct arm work probably will not do much to enhance performance, high school kids love training the guns.  The key is to prioritize what is conducive to improving performance and do these things first.  Movements that exploit several joints should take precedence and if there is time at the end, throw some direct arm work in to appease the appetites of the high school athletes.  It is similar to a child getting ice cream after eating their meat and vegetables.  If there is not enough time to fit it in, no big deal.    
  6. I was once told that yoga strengthens your body and your soul.  You know what strengthens your soul?  Sled dragging, wrestling practice and hill sprints.  Yoga is not strength training (for the body or the soul).  I don’t care what anyone tells you.  How would progressive overload apply to yoga?  The trainee would need to get fatter?  Riiiiiight. 
  7. Warm ups should raise core and tissue temperature.  Static stretching is not sufficient.  Dynamic stretching alone is also not sufficient.  General movement drills such as skips, shuffles, jumping rope, jumping jacks and other calisthenics followed by some dynamic flexibility works.  Remember warm tissues are much more pliable than cold ones.
  8. There are no secrets with regards to training.  Consistency, slow progression and balanced program design are the keys.  With regards to nutrition, there are also no secrets.  If you had a bowl of fruity pebbles for breakfast, you don’t need to go to GNC to buy protein powder, you need to go to the grocery store to buy eggs, oatmeal and fruit.  After you eat 3 or 4 eggs and a bowl of oatmeal and fruit for breakfast everyday for 2 weeks, we can move on to lunch.  Get the point?
  9. In related news, America runs on Dunkin.  Is there really any question why this is the fattest nation in the world?
  10. The work done in the weightroom should improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injuries during athletic endeavors.  The work done on the field should improve upon sport specific skills.  In other words, a strength and conditioning coach should make the athlete stronger, faster and more resilient.  A sport coach should make adjustments to stance, swing mechanics, takedown technique, etc.  Don’t get the two confused. 
  11. Fruit Two O, Propel Fitness Water, Vitamin Water and any other variation of the original are just an example of how humans can bastardize anything to make a dollar.  Drink plain, old water for the love of god. 
  12. You have to realize that you cannot help all of the people all of the time.  You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make it drink.  Massage therapy, fish oil, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep are all great for recovery.  Unfortunately, you can only control what goes on inside the gym.  The remaining hours of the week are up to the trainee to be disciplined.


Dave Coffin is a strength and conditioning coach at Excel Sport and Fitness in Waltham, MA.  You can contact him at