Blog Archives

Ten More Random Thoughts

  1. Strength training should be progressive.  It should be based on quality over quantity.  The goal should not be to cram as many reps, rounds or whatever as possible into ten or twelve minutes.  I’m just saying.


  1. In general, the methods used for cardiovascular conditioning should have a relatively low learning curve.  Think sled pushing/dragging, bike sprints, and bodyweight calisthenics NOT Olympic lifts.


  1. For regular people trying to get (and stay) lean and muscular, please google Dr. John Berardi’s 7 Rules of Good Nutrition.  It is pretty simple.


  1. While it is true that there is no perfect program for everybody, it is true that some programs are closer to perfect than others.


  1. Do not treat clients like patients.  You can always train around injuries.


  1. Training is a process and should be viewed as such. 


  1. Contrary to what some will have you think, not everybody is ready to do the same exact program with different external loads.  Sometimes it’s just not that simple.  See number 6.


  1. Someone else said it first but it certainly bears repeating, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”  Fact.


  1. Before focusing on recovery, there needs to be some training to recover from.


  1. For those parents who are nervous about their kids strength training, please google  Dr. Avery Faigenbaum.  He has published tons of peer reviewed research on youth strength training.











A Few Things I Have Learned Coaching

A Few Things I Have Learned Coaching

Be honest but tactful

I have found that it is always best to be brutally honest but tactful at the same time.  It is not necessary to yell, scream, act like a jerk and bad mouth those you do not agree with but be honest and support statements with facts not opinions.

Lead by example

  Whether you are coaching high school athletes or general fitness clients lead by example.  If you are a fat slob who never picks up after themselves, talks on your phone and texts your girlfriend during training, eats garbage and you look like you have not bumped into a barbell in about 10 years, guess what your trainees will emulate?  Remember…the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

Try to make sure you are memorable

If your athletes or clients are talking to friends, what will they say about you?  Training methodologies and the application of these methods must be sound and appropriate but injecting personality into the training sessions to get a little extra out of your athletes and clients is not a bad thing.  I am not talking about yelling at anyone because I don’t think most people will respond to that, however, challenging statements such as “If it’s too hard, we can just modify your goals” and “Its called strength training, not weak training” can sometimes bring out a better effort. 

Be skeptical of cool, new ideas

It is not necessary to dismiss every new idea that comes along, however investigate everything with a critical thought process.  When I stumble upon something new, be it a “cool new” training tool or a “cool new” exercise, I try to ask myself what place it would have in the programs I write for people.  If I already have a better option in my tool box to accomplish the same task, it is unlikely that I will scrap what I have used in the past with success for the new option.  The basics became the basics because people used them for years on end and they actually got stronger and better conditioned.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

There are no secrets

The only secret is there are no secrets.  Training is a process much like every subject in school.  It is always best to view it as such and take your time and make progress consistently over a long period of time.  Don’t be one of the lame “four weeks to a beach body”…be a lifer. 

Use less to get more

It seems like the longer I coach people, the more I try to trim the fat off of the programs I write.  Many of the athletes and clients I work with have homework, practices, games, jobs, kids, etc, etc, etc so time is of the essence.  When it comes to their time in the gym, they need the most bang for their training buck.  I allocate a designated amount of time for each portion of the training session and if a client is pressed for time, there are certain parts of the workout that are prioritized over others to allow for the greatest benefit in the least amount of time.

Simple explanations trump long winded scientific mumbo jumbo in most situations

Most athletes and clients do not care about the science mumbo jumbo nor do I care to stroke my own ego and try to let them know how smart I think I am.  I would rather explain things simply in a language that they can understand.

Ten Lessons that Wrestling Taught Me

Ten Lessons that Wrestling Taught Me by Dave Coffin, CSCS


We all have life experiences that help to shape the person we eventually become.  I would like to share some lessons I learned through my experience as a middle school and high school wrestler.  While it is true that I was not the greatest technician in the world, what I lacked in techniques I feel I made up for with heart, guts and tons of hard work.  I think it is safe to say that if you have never wrestled, your threshold for physical exertion is just a bit lower than those of us that have had the pleasure.  Here are the ten lessons that wrestling taught me.

1.  Wrestling taught me discipline…the discipline to eat, train and live a certain way in order to succeed, even if it wasn’t always enjoyable.

 2.  It taught me the importance of sacrifice…sacrificing eating foods I like and going out with friends on Friday night in exchange for running an additional hour or two after a two hour wrestling practice in order to make weight the next day.

 3.  It taught me perseverance…the perseverance to push through extreme physical discomfort and exhaustion.

 4.  Wrestling taught me the importance of commitment…commitment to a team and to myself.

 5.  It taught me that hard work does in fact pay off.

 6.  It taught me that some battles in life can be won with guts and heart.

 7.  Wrestling taught me what the body and mind is truly capable of enduring.

 8.  It taught me how stand up on my own two feet after a personal defeat.

 9.  It taught me that sometimes life is not fair… and I will have to pick up the pieces, suck it up and move on.

 10.  Wrestling taught me that anything worth having in life is worth the fight.

 Dave Coffin is a strength and conditioning specialist in the Greater Boston area.  He develops comprehensive athletic development programs for wrestlers, lacrosse players, hockey players and football players.  He can be contacted at .

Conditioning Considerations for Combat Sports Such as Wrestling


A wrestler since the eighth grade, I can still remember the feeling I had walking off of the mat after my first match in high school.  I felt like I had gotten run over by a truck (which was ironic because I think I actually won by decision) and someone had set my lungs on fire.  That burning in my lungs that I remember is very specific to the sport of wrestling.  That burning is the standard I use to rate the difficulty of conditioning sessions to this day.  I will admit that dragging a sled or pushing a prowler can get the lungs burning a bit and it does make me feel a bit of nostalgia bringing me back to my wrestling days but it is certainly not the same animal.

In this article, I would like to discuss the physiological demands of different bouts of wrestling and why the more traditional methods of cardiovascular training are not optimal for wrestling-specific conditioning.  In the past I have joked that wrestling should be a requirement for one year in high school.  Simply stated, once you have wrestled, every thing else in life seems really easy in comparison. 


Intense activities lasting 1-3 minutes have been shown to stress the lactate system, which is crucial to develop in any type of combat sport.  In research done by Dr. William Kraemer at the University of Wyoming, collegiate wrestlers participated in three two minute periods of wrestling.  “Significant increases in blood lactate levels were observed from rest, between periods and up to five minutes post workout.”

In addition, in his article The Physiological Basis for Wrestling:  Implications for Conditioning Programs, Dr. William Kraemer, et al states that “as a combative sport, wrestling imposes unique stresses on the body (8, 9). From a metabolic perspective, the acid-base balance is severely disrupted. For example, a college or freestyle match lasts between 6 and 8 minutes (including overtime) and can elevate blood lactate concentrations in excess of 15 mmol/L and sometimes reach nearly 20 mmol/L (5, 6)(Figure 1). In comparison, maximal treadmill tests may raise lactate levels to around 10 mmol/L (1)”. 

Practical Application

It is clear from the above findings that long bouts of low intensity exercise are not optimal for developing the appropriate metabolic pathways for wrestling.  An understanding of exercise physiology and the physiological demands of different bouts of activity are crucial in order to develop effective programs.  Marathon runners do not require the same qualities as combat athletes and the old school idea of jogging does not make sense for wrestlers.  I am astonished at the amount of wrestlers who will run cross country in the fall to “get in shape” for the winter.  Think about it.  Why would you perform hours of long, slow running for a sport that requires repeated, short, explosive bouts of activity followed by incomplete rest periods for typically no more than 6-8 minutes at a time?  The hours spent jogging are a waste of precious training time that could be utilized much more effectively.  These athletes would be much better off performing some type of interval training.  Conditioning tools such as pushing/dragging sleds, Airdyne bikes, and battling ropes are great tools to make conditioning more appealing while developing sport-specific conditioning.  Sport-specific is one of the biggest buzzwords in strength and conditioning right now and there is nothing less specific to wrestling than endless amounts of low intensity cardiovascular training.

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

No Pain, No Gain, No Brain

The statement “no pain, no gain” has been hanging around the strength and conditioning world for longer than I have been alive.  While I certainly understand and appreciate the importance of hard efforts and great work ethic, I would like to resurrect another classic term that is not as common among the training community…”know when to say when.”  

I have stated before that a training program must include joint mobility training, strength training, conditioning, and flexibility training.  The amount of time devoted to each component depends on the trainee and the situation.  I tend to be of the mindset when it comes to strength training that, in most situations, a little less is usually a lot more.  Deliver just enough stimulus to produce the desired response.

Here are a few rules of thumb:

1. If you have pain with a particular movement, have a qualified coach troubleshoot your technique.  The problem could may be in the execution of the exercise and not the exercise itself.

2. Devote adequate amounts of your total training time to joint mobility work, flexibility training and tissue work (or foam rolling and lacrosse ball self massage if you have financial restrictions like me).  Please remember that a foam cylinder or ball will never be as good as human hands.

3.  Sleep more than eight hours per night.  I know this one is not training related per se, but adequate sleep is important for recovery from training.

4. Take fish oil daily.  It decreases total body inflammation and supports  joint health, cardiovascular health and has also been shown to lower triglycerides and raise HDL’s (the good cholesterol). 

5. DO NOT WORK THROUGH PAIN.  It is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right.  No pain, no gain does not make you tough… it makes you foolish.  Know when to say when.

Work hard and work smart.

Dave Coffin

I’m Just Saying…

1.  The primary goal of strength training should be to elicit gains in strength and lean tissue.  Some people may not care to be strong.  That is fine.  Please don’t ever ask for help when attempting to  open a jar, shovel snow, push your car out of a ditch, loosen the lug nuts to change a tire, carry the groceries, climb a fence to get away from a rabid dog, or any other physical tasks that may prove important in daily life. I’m just saying.

2.  What you really mean when you say you don’t have time to train is that you don’t care enough to make the time.  My day has 24 hours in it.  How many hours does your day have?  Perhaps you could skip American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Jersey Shore, and all of the other garbage that oozes its way from your television into your living room on a nightly basis.  Wow, look at that.  Thats 3 hours of gym time right there.  I’m just saying.

3.  Most people need more protein, fiber and healthy fats in their diet and less carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are to your body as gasoline is to your car.  If you only drove your car 1/4 mile everyday, you would not fill your tank everyday on your way to work.  I’m just saying.

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

Progressive Overload for Continued Training Success

       Progressive overload must be applied to each and every trainees program in order for adaptations to occur.  This principle states that there must be a gradual increase in the demand of a particular bout of exercise in order for continued increases in strength or fitness.  This is one of the most fundamental principles in strength training and conditioning.  For novice trainees, applying a brand new stimulus (aka strength training) may induce some muscle soreness.  This soreness is normal and is caused by tiny micro-tears to the muscle fibers.  As a result of this, the muscle adapts by rebuilding itself a little bit bigger and little bit stronger.

            The application of this principle could be as simple as this; if last week, you did a set of push ups and got 10 repetitions, this week try and go for 11 repetitions.  This applies not only to strength training but also to any type of cardiovascular exercise as well.  If last week you ran 1 mile in ten minutes, this week run 1mile in nine minutes and thirty seconds or cover more distance in that 10 minutes.  Always strive to do just a little bit better than you have done previously.  Small progressions are the key to continued success in any type of training endeavor.

            This will probably disappoint those trainees who have not made a shred of progress in the gym in the last 20 or 30 years.  You know who I am talking about; the guy who has come to the gym every Monday for the past 5 years and done 3 sets of 10 reps on the bench press with 135 lbs when he could probably do 3 sets of 30 reps.  I mean think about it…does it really make sense to do the same thing day after day, week after week and year after year?  This is also why the lady on the treadmill, who has been walking 3mph for 30 minutes 3 x/week just like her doctor said, has not lost a pound in the last decade.  Initially, the 30 minute walk at 3mph may have been enough to elicit an adaptation.  However, years later, that particular stimulus is no longer enough of an overload on her body.  (Just as a side note, walking is a primitive form of locomotion.  It is how man was intended to get around.  For anyone to say that there main exercise is walking is just plain sad.  Ok, enough ranting.)

  Every subject in school is progressive.  Each grade builds upon the previous to ensure continued success.  In mathematics, you start with addition and subtraction and progress to multiplication and division.  In English, you learn vocabulary before you begin to form sentences.  Strength training and conditioning is the same way.

            Remember this…if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.  Small progressions are the key.  Now get out there and work a little bit harder.