The Case for Strength: Level & Playing Time

I remember back in high school playing basketball. And we had a coach that tended to go with the older players as starters and bring in the underclassmen as subs.

Looking back our coach probably had his reasons for his line-up. Older players would graduate soon and this would be their last year to play high school ball. Or maybe the older players had more experience and a longer relationship with the coach. And it’s possible that the older players were simply bigger and stronger and got more playing time as a result.

Seeing as how a year later, when I graduated high school, tipping the scales at a buck fifty, I wasn’t going to be intimidating anyone on the court with my physical presence.

But this didn’t help my competitive nature and desire to be a starter and on the floor getting more playing time.

Maybe if I were a little more on top of the literature back then I could have advocated for myself by hitting the weight room a little more frequently. Actually, who’s kidding who? I never hit the weight room at all as a high school athlete. But I probably should have.

Because the truth is that stronger athletes:

  • play at a higher level
  • get more playing time

But this isn’t just an opinion but findings from a research study by Fry & Kramer (citation below) that looked at a number of performance tests of American college football players playing NCAA Division I, II and III. In total 19 NCAA programs participated in the study involving almost a thousand players (n=981).

The authors of the study looked at five performance tests and compared this to level of play (i.e. Division I, II or III) and playing time (starter v. non-starter). The performance tests they looked at included:

  • bench press (BP)
  • back squat
  • power clean
  • vertical jump (VJ)
  • 40 yard dash

The tables below show how players performed in the bench press (BP), squat, clean, 40 and VJ based on division. From left to right the three black bars represent Division I, Division II and Division III respectively.

Table from Fry & Kraemer (1991) showing performance tests compared to level of play. In each case higher level players performed better than lower level players i.e. D I > D II > D III.

So it’s pretty clear, that for American football anyway, the stronger you are the better chance you will be playing at a higher level.

Now what about within a level, is there a difference in strength between starters and non-starters? The tables below look at the same five performance tests and broke down the numbers to distinguish between starters and non-starters. The black bars represent starters and the gray hashed bars represent non-starters. The bars are paired based on level of play going from the left to right. i.e. the first two bars on the left represent starters (in black) and non-starters (gray hashed lines) at the D I level followed by the same arrangement for D II and D III players.

Table from Fry & Kraemer (1991) showing performance tests comparing level of play and starters v non-starters. In each case higher level players and starters performed better than lower level players and non-starters i.e. D I > D II > D III.

So if current Chris could go back in time and talk to high school Chris I’d be sharing the points above with him. And while the sports are different, i.e. football v. basketball, the evidence is quite clear. In almost all instance of performance measures, stronger players will get to a higher level and have a better chance of starting versus their weaker teammates.


Fry, A. C., & Kraemer, W. J. (1991). Physical performance characteristics of American collegiate football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research5(3), 126-138.

Stretch For Increased Strength Gains

Did you ever have quizzes when you were in school?

I’m talking about surprises quizzes that were given without advance notice.

Train at Least 3 Times per Week

Have you ever heard the term muscle-confusion? This is commonly used in the marketing pieces of fitness centres to tell you how you’ll get better results by doing something different all the time.

40% Better Results w/ Coach vs. DIY

I remember back when we were building our house. We had decided to do a natural rock wall and stairs in our backyard using some huge boulders. 

Strength – How Much is Enough?

There are a number of things we can do to improve our health and fitness. Strength training is one of the more popular options.

Lift Heavy or Lift Lots?

There can always be a number of ways to achieve a result. As the expression goes, many roads lead to Rome. But the more specific we can be with our goal the more specific we can be with the prescription.

How to Fix a Strength Plateau

Anyone that does resistance training does so with the goal of getting stronger. Individuals coming off an injury want to get back to regular activity as soon as possible and do this by increasing the strength of the supportive muscles.

3 Ways to Get the Best Results When You Workout

Last weekend I was in Tofino for a wedding which is a really beautiful place but not exactly a  weekend getaway. Give yourself some more time if you go.

And if you plan on doing some surfing make sure to use a wetsuit. I went for a quick, maybe a few minutes, swim in the ocean and it was refreshing. I’m not sure you’d last more than 10-15 minutes in that water without a wetsuit though.

But I’m not writing you about road trips or swimming in the ocean.

Instead I want to you understand there are a few ways you can get better results when you train. Here they are.

3 Ways to Get the Best Results When You Workout.

#1 – Prioritize Your Weak Links

Most times when this is mentioned to us we think of bilateral differences such as my left arm is weaker than my right. But you can think of this in other ways as well.

For example after sitting for almost 12 hours in the car and on the ferry yesterday I noticed my left hip gets tighter than my right. And I notice more tension in my right trap than in my left.

You don’t always have to think of your weak link as being related to the loads you can lift. This can also be deficits in your range of motion and the quality of your movements.

Try and pin point the things that you are the most aware of and address these first.

#2 Focus on Your Posture During Your Most Challenging Movements

If I have difficulty performing push ups I am most likely going to compensate when I do them.

My hips might sag.

I might struggle to press my body off the ground.

And my head might sag as I lower myself to the ground.

All of these things are indications of my posture, and therefore my core, breaking down, during the lift.

Imagine yourself standing against a wall with your heels, hips, shoulders and head touching the wall. Now freeze yourself and place your body in a push up position.

Not many people maintain this when they do push ups.

Why does this matter?

You will better recruit your core musculature with proper posture and be less likely to put undue strain on your back.

#3 Don’t Forget to Breathe (properly)

Ever notice what happens when someone gets fatigued?

Their respirations increase, don’t they?

No big surprise there.

But what also happens is that the breathing goes from diaphragm-based to chest-based.

And as the chest starts to heave and fall the traps and neck muscles are triggered as well.

And this disrupts our ability to maintain our posture as well as our ability to maintain a stable position through our trunk.

So the take home messsage from all of this is that when you do address your weak links make sure you maintain ideal posture and then relax your breathing. Allow the breathing to happen from lower down rather than in your chest and you’ll be in a better position to address your deficits and get better results.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ‘always moving forward’

Kelowna’s Ultimate Athlete Training Centre is Here

They say good things come to those that wait.

This must be true because we’ve been waiting for something like this for a while now. And pardon my language but it’s shaping up to be pretty friggin’ awesome.

Why I am so excited?

Because Kelowna has yet to have the combination of the right equipment, in the right location to provide everything an athlete needs to become the best they can be.

How do I know this?

I’ve worked in, had memberships at or contracted space in every fitness related venture in town.

From the big box commercial gyms with thousands of members but only one squat rack.

Or the gym that tried to be sports specific and even had a rack with platforms and bumper plates. We tested that place out a few times with some athletes and the first time we did some Olympic lifts the staff came running out yelling us not to drop the bumper plates. Seriously, I don’t think anyone had ever done an Olympic lift there before.

And then there’s the local community gym which don’t get me wrong is a great place with super friendly staff but doesn’t really work for training athletes.

Calgary Stampeder Dimitri Tsoumpas Pushing The Prowler In Preparation For The Upcoming CFL Season

But we got to the point where we needed to do things at a higher level. And the space we’re moving into and the equipment we’ve acquired is going to allow us to do this.

What type of equipment are we talking about here?

How about 4 squat racks and platforms. Over 2300 lbs of weight plates including 700 lbs of bumper plates. Want to learn the Olympic lifts and get more powerful? We can definitely help you out there.

But the racks, see the picture at the top, aren’t your basic rack. They have swivel chin up hooks, dip attachments, super band pegs and a landmine attachment. We can easily train 12 athletes at a time on these 4 racks/platforms.

And the benches lock right into the racks. See the pins on the base of the bench at the top? This allows you to quickly and easily slide the bench into the rack to the right spot, lock it in place and go from there.

But we didn’t stop with just racks, platoforms and plates. In our strength/power area we also have dumbbells to 120 lbs, squat stands, an Olympic bench press, a glute ham developer, plyoboxes and med balls.

Jump over to the other side of the facility and this is where we’ll get your heart racing.

Whether it be with our competition kettlebells, upto 48 kg, our battling ropes, trap bars, sandbags, slideboard, bands, tubing, jump ropes, Prowler, TRX or chin up station there’s more than enough variety to develop all the energy systems.

48KG Pro Grade Kettlebell With A Smooth Handle And Ergonomic Design

To top it all off we’ve got a separate area for warming up, foam rolling, stretching and core work.

Lastly, as you come and go you can grab a water, Gatorade or shake which is included in your membership.

The record board for the facility will be going up soon. It’s going to fun to see all the hard work that is about to happen, the successes that will follow and how far we can all go with this.

Stay tuned for an open house coming where you can come check it all out (and get in on some amazing membership offers!)

Too excited to sleep these days,

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ‘always moving forward’

Corrective Exercise Gone Bad

Did you ever watch those tv specials ‘When Animals Go Bad’?

You know the ones I mean? They show video footage of a normally docile and affectionate pet or animal that just snaps and some poor unsuspecting soul pays the price for it?

I remember seeing an animal handler have a koala bear freak out at Busch Gardens in Tampa once. The little kids that were so curious to see this cute bear all rushed the handler and surrounded him quickly.

And if you can imagine to a koala bear seeing all these little monsters running at it and screaming the koala bear thinks it’s getting attacked.

So the koala starts clawing at the handler to get away. The bear doesn’t want to be held by the handler while all these little people are charging forward.

And up until that point I never realized that koalas have sharp claws. But after seeing the handler get sliced and diced by the koala I don’t think of these animals as cute and cuddly anymore.

Long story short the koala ended up back in its habitat. And the handler was taken away on a stretcher for stitches and medical treatment.

So what the heck does this have to do with training and fitness?

Well just like at the zoo sometimes we have different intentions of the final outcome.

In this case the koala bear, the handler and the little kids all hoped things would have turned out a little differently.

The handler probably didn’t forsee a trip to the hospital for stitches and maybe a shot.

The bear didn’t forsee what it perceived as an apparent attack.

And the little kids didn’t realize they wouldn’t be able to pet the bear and were a little distraught to see the bear attack the handler and be wisked away shortly after still snarling and trying to defend itself.

Now back to the gym.

Imagine you have an assessment performed by a fitness professional who identifies a weakness in your body. And this weakness is causing you pain and an inability to perform certain activities and sports. Further this deficiency is causing you to compensate, because other muscles are trying to help out, creating even more problems and dysfunctions.

If you’re like most people you’d want to fix this weakness.

So maybe your fitness professional shows you the perfect exercise to address this issue. Or maybe you pick up a book. Or find a video that shows how to do the exercise.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well here’s the problem.

When you are dealing with weakness the body is very good at finding alternate ways to get you from A –> B.

For example if someone lacks lateral glute strength they may reach for a piece of tubing or a band and perform clam shells or some lateral band walks.

Which would be a great exercise. Provided it is done properly.

And that’s the catch.

Most people compensate when they do these drills. They recruit neighbouring muscles beside the ones that are weak and this allows them to get from A–>B.

But while they may stimulate the weak muscle slightly the bulk of the load is picked up by the adjacent muscles. (synergistic dominance)

So instead of eliminating a dysfunction by strengthening a weak muscle, we have put increased demands on the neighbouring muscles and made the situation worse.

Case in point…have you ever heard of someone going for rehab for an injury, being given some exercises to do but saying they didn’t notice much difference or relief?

So what’s the take home message from all this?

Use the services of a top notch fitness professional, especially when working on corrective exercise.

And don’t rush the koala bear at Busch Gardens.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                    ‘always moving forward’