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SERIOUS SHOULDER ROUTINE YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “SERIOUS SHOULDER ROUTINE”.

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MUSIC:
Beatport: https://www.beatport.com

Incline Bench Press VS Barbell Strict Press for Football Players

When I first began working out, it was a way for me to gain a competitive advantage in football. I wasn’t quite in high school yet and most of my friends hadn’t ever thought about touching a weight. My dad showed me some of the basic bodybuilding style dumbbell exercises and, of course, the bench press. I quickly realized that the bench press was awesome. Being very enthusiastic about my new passion, I tried to talk to anyone that would listen about working out. I read and watched everything I could get my hands on about lifting weights. It seemed to me very early on that the bench press was the king of all exercises. Working out with the varsity football team only furthered my feelings of the bench press. The bench press took priority over everything. Looking back on it now, being trained by old-school minded football coaches that were relying on their own experiences growing up this comes as no surprise.

As my passion for training grew into my profession, I have learned that yes, the bench press is indeed still awesome. However, it is not necessarily the king of all exercises, especially for football. It is easy to see why people fall in love with the bench press. Pressing a bunch of weight off of your chest looks awesome and everyone can learn how to do it relatively easy compared to say a squat or deadlift. It is also an easy comparison to football players and specifically lineman given that they physically over power another player by pressing with their upper body.

Let’s take this a step further and change the angle of the bench press to an incline bench press. I have heard from multiple football coaches that they believe the incline bench press is the most important upper body lift for lineman given that the angle at which they are pressing is very close to the angle at which they play at. Again, I can see how this is an easy comparison given that yes, the angles are closely related. However, if you take into consideration how the body actually distributes force via the kinetic chain, I make the argument that there is another exercise that translates to the football field even more than the incline bench press. The barbell strict press.

I am not writing this article to argue against the incline bench press but rather argue for the barbell strict press. When you take into consideration the very definition of the kinetic chain you can begin to see my argument take form. One definition of the kinetic chain reads “Human movement is accomplished through the integration of the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. The nerves, muscles, and joints must work together in a chain to produce motion (kinetic). These three systems are also referred to as the kinetic chain.” I like to simplify this definition for my athletes and instead explain to them that the human body is a big computer that has a lot of different parts that must work together to achieve the things they do on the field and in the weight room.

By referring to how our kinetic chain works to produce motion, it is clear to me why the barbell strict press is superior to the incline bench press when discussing “sport specific” training for football players. In my opinion, sort specific training in general is bogus but that is an topic for another day. Also, I need to mention that this article is pertaining to training football players but I believe the barbell strict press is an advantageous exercise for athletes of all sports given the benefits of training the kinetic chain in the way it is meant to be trained.

The argument for the incline bench press given the similar angles is a valid one, until you consider that the athlete is also not lying on their back pressing from a stable surface during competition. Sure, the angle is similar but the function of the kinetic chain is nowhere near the same. The barbell strict press on the other hand trains the kinetic chain in a much more similar way as lineman blocking on the field. Force is transferred literally from the feet all the way through the body and out the arms in both the strict press and football field. The coordination between joints and muscular groups not to mention the balance involved in the strict press is second to none in pressing exercises.

Again, I am not arguing against using the incline bench press. I use it with my athletes and there is something to be said for benching heavy weight. It is obliviously important to gain raw strength and the bench press is one of the best exercises for this. I just think it is important to understand what you are gaining when prescribing exercises to your athletes and if the barbell strict press is missing from your program you may want to reevaluate its effectiveness.

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Strict Press Video


Can’t play video? Click here: Barbell Strict Press

Principles Over Methods

When I first entered the strength and conditioning field I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could. I read articles detailing specific exercises, I read books about programming, I did it all. I learned a great deal through reading, and talking with people that were already successful in this field. However, it seemed as I learned and discovered new things the same question kept creeping into my head. “Why?” For me, it wasn’t good enough to learn new things and simply apply them. I needed to know why I was doing a certain exercise or why I was writing a program a certain way. I believe wanting to know “Why” came to me naturally because for me, if I didn’t know why I was doing something then how could I possibly adjust it or improve upon it? I understood very early on that knowing the “Why” would make it easier for me to think on my own instead of constantly relying on books or mentors. I needed to have my own set of beliefs or rules that I could base all of my decisions from.

For me, I had great mentors at the university I worked for as an intern and then a graduate assistant. They taught me the importance of principles over methods. The first time I heard that line, “Principles over Methods”, it was like a ginormous light bulb went off in my head and I was like “Yes, that’s the answer to the question that’s been nagging at me!” I needed to develop my own set of principles to live off of. By having principles every decision that I would be faced with was made very simple, it either fell under my principles and I used it or it didn’t and I ignored it.

In a field with an abundance of information and unique ways of thinking this simplicity was like a breath of fresh air. This simplicity also allowed me to have the confidence in my decisions and gave me a “Why” for everything I did or do. This is a big complaint I have with the strength and conditioning field. It seems a large portion of people are worried about methods or the “How” of something instead of having any principles or “Whys”. I find this ironic because if you have principles then the methods or “How’s” comes to you organically. I feel that most people fall in love with the “How’s” of something because they are afraid of missing out on something. I can see how this can easily happen. You discover a new exercise, or method of doing something and you feel that it can be beneficial your program. However, without having any principles to live by eventually you are throwing every shiny new method into your program and not having a very clear understanding of exactly “Why” you are doing what you are doing.

I’ll admit, at times it takes a great deal of self-discipline to say no to something and stick by your principles. For those of you that read my article Why my High School Athletes Don’t Do Olympic Lifts you know that I don’t have my high school athletes perform Olympic lifts. Does this mean I dislike the O-lifts? No. Does this mean I don’t see the benefits that they offer? No. Neither of those are true. The O-lifts can be a great tool for athletic performance and if you use them in your program then great. However, they do not fall under my movement based principles and therefore I do not use them, it really is that simple. Other exercises that isolate a certain muscle group such as GHR’s are great exercises but again, they do not fall under my principles so I do not use them.  

I did not write this article to say that your beliefs should line up with mine. I wanted to write this article to give some people a direction that may be struggling with the abundance of information and ways of thinking in this field. If you are one of those people that are always grabbing at the newest method or shiny new toy then ask yourself “Why?” Why are you adding that exercise? I also hope that is article encourages you to have the self-confidence to develop your own principles that you can live by. Following are the principles I follow. Again, these are my principles and in no way am I saying yours have to match mine.

My Principles

 

  • 8 Movements that I use
    • Push/Press (Vertical and Horizontal
    • Pull (Vertical and Horizontal)
    • Squat
    • Hinge
    • Carry
    • Crawl
    • Roll
    • Hang
  • Perform a variation of each movement EVERY workout.
  • Perform as many different variations for each movement as possible.
  • For every bilateral movement done in the week perform a unilateral movement in the same plane.
  • Every exercise should be done in a full range.

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Building Bigger Biceps YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “Building Bigger Biceps”.

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MUSIC:
Beatport: https://www.beatport.com

Implementing a Movement Based Program

One reason I love training athletes is the entirety of the training. When training athletes, there is more to it than putting as much weight as possible on the bar. I am passionate about making sure my programs have as few holes as possible, making it as complete as it can be. Yes, when training athletes getting stronger is obviously an enormous goal, but along with that an effective program should cover many different facets of training.

One of those “holes” that I take pride in covering is restoring natural human movement to my athletes. Yes, as a high school strength and conditioning coach I work specifically with high school athletes by restoring natural human movement patterns, which should be a part of every athletes program no matter their age or skill level. You may ask “If these movements come natural then why must we train them?” The answer is a simple, “If you don’t use it you lose it.”

Even great athletes find most of the natural movements surprisingly difficult at first because they likely haven’t done it in years. Exercises that they are more accustomed to, such as bench pressing and box squatting, will no doubt make them strong as hell, and if that is their sole purpose then great. However, athletes are in the weight room as a way to help them reach their full potential as an athlete on the field, court, etc. Getting strong in lifts like the bench press or box squat is certainly important but those are simply a means to an end and not their sole purpose.

Why is restoring these movement patterns important?

Think of the natural movement patterns in terms of nutrition. Without having any formal education or background in nutrition, most people generally know what is good to eat and what isn’t. I would hope most people can look at an apple and a doughnut and choose which one is better for them. Moving naturally is good “nutrition” for the human body. After all, it is natural for a reason. By restoring movement patterns that should come natural to us we can ensure that the foundation we are building on is as safe and efficient as it can be.

Natural movement creates a healthy foundation for athletes and is important because not everything athletes do is naturally healthy for their bodies. There is nothing natural about running into another human being for three hours a night on a football field or throwing thousands of baseballs on a baseball diamond. These movements are a lot like the doughnuts. They are fun to do but not too healthy for our bodies going forward. An athlete’s life being the way that it is with the doughnuts being necessary we need to make sure we are countering those doughnuts as much as possible by taking in as many apples as possible. Moving naturally would be the apple in this scenario.  

This is where my job as strength and conditioning coach comes in. I include as many natural movements or “apples” in my programming as possible. The idea is to use these natural movements to create a solid foundation on which the athletes can build upon with strength training and other forms of sports performance. Otherwise, if we jump straight into strength training and speed and agility work, along with other aspects of training without building a solid foundation of movement we are simply adding to the problem and bringing more “doughnuts” to the table.

How do I implement a movement based program?
  • Implement natural human movements into the program.
    • Crawling
    • Hanging
    • Rolling
  • Full range or it simply does not count. For example, when we perform pull-ups they are full hang strict pull ups, when we squat we always go full depth.
  • Perform conventional exercises on an unstable surface (I.e. gymnastic rings)
    • Push-ups
    • Inverted rows
    • Pull-ups
  • Include all the planes of movement each workout.
    • Horizontal Press/Vertical Pull
  • Implement unilateral (one side at a time) exercises for every bilateral (both sides at time) exercise we do.

Injuries are bound to happen in sports, its part of the game. What I can say though through my three years as a strength coach at the high school level and a couple more at the collegiate level is that by restoring natural movement patterns I have not only seen a decrease in soft tissue, non-contact injuries, and overuse injuries, but I have also seen improvement in the ways my athletes move in the weight room. Who would have thought that by improving an athlete’s body weight squat and goblet squat their back squat would improve? I just had to throw some sarcasm in their somewhere didn’t I?

Here is a list of natural human movement patterns and examples of how we do them in my program no matter what sport I am training.

Crawling
  • Bear crawl forwards
  • Bear crawl backwards
  • Crab crawl forwards
  • Crab crawl backwards
Benefits:
  • Shoulder stability (Compression)
  • Hip mobility
  • Coordination
  • Movement of synovial fluid
Bear Crawl


Can’t play video? Click here: Bear Crawl

Crab Crawl


Can’t play video? Click here: Crab Crawl
Hanging
  • Dead hangs
  • Knees to elbows (On rings)
  • Flips (On rings)
Benefits:
  • Grip strength
  • Shoulder strength
  • Decompression of axial skeleton
  • Upper body stretch
Knees to Elbows


Can’t play video? Click here: Knee to Elbows

Flips


Can’t play video? Click here: Flips
Rolling
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Front rolls
  • Hollow throws
Benefits:
  • Body awareness
  • Mobility
  • Learning how to fall
Shoulder Rolls


Can’t play video? Click here: Shoulder Rolls

Hollow Throws


Can’t play video? Click here: Hollow Throws
Carrying
Press/Push
  • Vertical Presses
    • Barbell strict press
    • Barbell push press
    • Kettlebell press (unilateral)
    Horizontal Presses
    • Bench press
    • Sled push
    • Push-ups (conventional or rings)
Pull
  • Vertical Pulls
    • Pull-ups/Chin-ups
    • Rope climbs
  • Horizontal Pulls
    • Inverted rows (bar or rings)
    • Single arm inverted rows (unilateral)
    • Sled pulls
Squat
(All Full Depth)
  • Goblet Squat
  • Back Squat
  • Font Squat
  • Zercher
  • Pistol Squat (unilateral)
Hinge
  • Barbell deadlifts
  • Barbell RDL’s
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • One leg RDL’s (unilateral)

Killer Back Routine YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “Killer Back Routine”.

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Stop Counting Reps and Sets

Even at an early age I was an analytical person. I needed to know specifics about why I was doing something and what the expected outcome would be. I guess being this way meant that the opposite was also true, because I hated flying by the seat of my pants. I hated not having a plan and could never understand how people could just go by feel, especially when trying to accomplish a goal. So when I began weight training at the high school in the summer before my freshmen year and the coach gave us our workout sheet to record everything we did I was in nerd heaven. We recorded our sets, reps, and the weight we used. Being the nerd that I am, I made notes in the margins about technique, how the weight felt, etc. I loved seeing my improvement from week to week even if it was in small amounts. Luckily for me loving this process is probably the biggest reason I quickly became one of the strongest athletes on the team, even keeping up with kids a couple years older than me. When trying to become stronger, keeping to a strict number of sets and reps and methodically increasing the weight will work wonders. I guess what I am trying to say is that when wanting to get stronger it is always wise to have a plan.

 

Now, I told that story so I could tell this story. As told above, I began weight training as a means to be a better football player. My number one goal was to become stronger and remained my goal until my playing days were over. However, my love for bodybuilding continued to grow as I got older. In the off-season’s I would play around with certain exercises and bodybuilding techniques to see if I could get a specific body part to grow or look better. This experimenting worked and I grew bigger and more developed aesthetically. What I also did was carry over my analytical brain to my bodybuilding training. I kept notebooks upon notebooks of sets, reps, and weights used. I used the same exercises for weeks and even months, afraid to stray off script and ruin any progression I had created. This worked, to an extent. However, I eventually began hitting walls and plateaus, not seeing the improvement in muscle size or shape I was accustomed to. This frustrated me because I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, or so I thought. I realized something needed to change so my nerd side took over and I began to research and read all the bodybuilding content I could get my hands on. What I realized was that what needed to change was my way of thinking. I had to pretty much do the exact opposite of what I had done when I was training for strength. Bodybuilding is more about feel and less about staying on script. This was an enormous challenge mentally for me. I hated the thought of just going by how I felt and not having a concrete plan. I needed to make a conscience effort to change my way of thinking and it worked! This is what I did:

Changes I Made
  • I stopped counting my reps, instead went to failure more often.
  • I stopped counting all my sets, if a certain exercise felt really good that day I kept doing more and more sets.
  • I stopped writing down my accessory exercises.
  • If an exercise didn’t feel good on a certain day I scratched it and moved on.
  • I switched up the exercises I did more often. Sometimes every workout.
  • I payed more attention to how my muscle felt during the exercise.

 

Now, I don’t want to confuse you. Weight training is about progressive overload. No matter your goals your body needs a reason to change or it simply won’t. You must consistently challenge your body’s limits in order to induce change. There are times to have a concrete plan and record absolutely everything you do. There are also times where you must go by feel and listen to what your body is telling you. In order to help you differentiate when the right time to do either one is I have made a list for each circumstance.

When to Record Weights, Reps, Sets, Etc.
  • When strength is the goal.
  • When you are following a specific program in order to achieve a certain goal.
  • When your goal is a tangible aspect such as a maximal weight or reps performed.
When Not to Record Weights, Reps, Sets, Etc.
  • When training for size and or shape.
  • When executing accessory type exercises.
  • When an exercise feels really good. (Just keep going through sets)
  • When an exercise feels “off”. (Scratch it and move on)

Again, this is just what worked for me. You may find that other tactics work for you but I hope that this gives you some idea of how different ways of thinking can lead to differing results.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support this site by subscribing with your email.

3 Exercises to Improve Bench Press Lockout

In all the years that I have been weight training I can count on one hand the amount of people I have come across in the weight room that wasn’t trying to get a bigger bench press. This is not counting the hamsters running on the elliptical for an hour at a time. Everybody, and I mean everybody, wants a bigger bench press and if you are the one person that doesn’t well then just keep quiet because you are weird anyways. I will always say that the best way to get good at something is to simply do it and do it often. If you want a bigger bench press then you must bench and bench often. However, there are ways to be creative and work on specific parts of the lift. Training specific parts of a lift is a form of weak point training and is how powerlifters train for competitions. Side note, you do not need to be a powerlifter training for a competition to use these techniques. Instead of looking at the bench press as one single lift we break it down into one lift that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are exercises and techniques to target each of these different parts of the lift and in this article I want to focus on the “end” of the lift which we refer to as the top or lockout portion. This is a common part of the lift to get stuck on, myself included. In the bench press the lockout portion of the lift involves a good bit of triceps so these three exercises I am about to discuss will also improve your triceps strength and size. These three exercises are very similar with some slight differences that make each unique but effective at helping you improve the lockout portion of your bench and thus a bigger bench overall.

Pin Press

The pin press is a great exercise for training to maintain tightness in the upper back, especially at the bottom of the lift, something that most lifters struggle with. It also trains explosiveness out of the “hole” or bottom portion of the lift because you are pressing from a dead-stop. However, as stated in the intro, the greatest advantage that I find with the pin press is the benefits of improving the lockout portion of the bench press. By shortening the range of motion of the lift, the pin press allows you to handle heavier weight and overload your shoulders and triceps. This will improve both your shoulder and triceps size and strength which will in turn strengthen your lockout. What separates the pin press from the floor press is that your entire body is still included in the pin press, legs included, something that the floor press does not include in the lift.


Can’t play video? Click here: Pin Press

In the video you will notice that the pins are placed right above my chest. I like placing the pins directly above my chest, not too high above, so that I can also practice staying tight at the bottom of the lift.

Floor Press

The floor press is unique because it takes away the bench. You set the pins at the very bottom of the rack and lay flat on the floor. Usually it puts you in a tough spot to un-rack the weight yourself so you may need a liftoff. Your legs are also lying flat on the floor, this will completely take your legs out of the equation. By taking your legs out of the lift even more emphasis is placed on your triceps. This is the reason this lift is effective at increasing triceps strength and size.


Can’t play video? Click here: Floor Press

In the video I am pausing at the bottom of every rep. The length of the pause can very but I highly recommend pausing to train explosiveness out of the bottom of the lift.

Board Press

The board press is a great exercise for training every possible sticking point of the bench press. You can use a one board press, a two board, three board, and a four board press for training different sticking points throughout the bench press. For the purpose of training the lockout phase of the bench press a three-board press is usually the go-to exercise. This obliviously shortens the range of motion so that you can handle heavier weight. The tough part of this lift is that you usually need two buddies to help you out. One holding the board on your chest and the other to give you a spot. You want to make sure that you keep a normal bar path when executing a board press. Do not change anything you normally do in your conventional bench press.


Can’t play video? Click here: Board Press

There are two ways you can use the board press. One way is like how I did it in the above video, bring the bar into the boards and think about squeezing the bar down into the boards, like you are trying to crack the board. This is a great way to train to squeeze your back, maintaining tightness throughout the lift. The other way is to barely touch the board before pressing it back up. This is effective at training to maintain control throughout the lift.

 

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support this site by subscribing with your email.

Weighted Carries (The Secret Weapon)

In the field of sports performance it can be difficult to differentiate yourself. As a strength and conditioning coach there are not many tools that I have available to me or that I utilize that many other coaches don’t use as well. The things that work the best have been around forever because well, they work, so there are very few “secrets” in this field. However, I believe what might differentiate myself from others is that I believe in the simplest answer being the correct one. Now, I am well aware that there are many other strength coaches that think like I do but there are also many that enjoy the process of over complicating things. Does overcomplicating things work? I’m sure it does. Does overcomplicating things use up a lot of precious time to make yourself seem smarter? I know it does. Instead of using a bunch of fancy equipment or three to four exercises to solve one problem more times than not a single exercise can solve many problems. A great example of this and an exercise that is a staple of my program is the weighted carry. Unfortunately, it is too simple of an answer to be effective for most people. You mean simply carrying heavy weight fixes problems a, b, and c? But where is the BOSU ball? Or the wobble boards to stand on? Enter eye roll emoji here. Weighted carries are simple but great exercises that have many benefits for athletes, rehab patients, weekend warriors, etc. Below is a list of the benefits of carries and also a number of different type of carries.

 

Benefits (In No Particular Order):
  • Metabolic Conditioning
  • Grip Strength
  • Improved Balance
  • Hip Strength
  • Shoulder Stability
  • Shoulder Strength
  • Core Strength
  • Creates Tension Throughout Entire Body
  • Improved Posture
  • Teaches Breathing Under Tension

 

Types of Carries
  • Notes: The videos below were filmed using kettlebells. Most of these carries can be executed using a number of different types of equipment such as dumbbells, trap bars, barbells, sand bags, weighted buckets. Basically anything heavy.
  • Carries can either be done for time or distance. Both are great!

 

Farmer Carry

Probably the most conventional of the carries the Farmer Carry is popularized by the strongman competitions where they carry enormous amounts of weight for a certain distance.


Can’t play video? Click here: Farmer Carry

 

 

Suitcase Carry

The Suitcase Carry is the farmer carry with one hand empty. This is a great exercise to work on core strength and also balance.


Can’t play video? Click here: Suitcase Carry

 

Waiter Carry

The Waiter Carry is one of my favorite carries especially when working with athletes. It takes a great amount of strength and stability to carry heavy weights over-head.


Can’t play video? Click here: Waiter Carry

 

Suitcase + Waiter Carry

The combination of a Suitcase Carry and Waiter Carry puts stress on the body like few exercises can. The weight I carry over my head is usually half of the weight used for the suitcase portion.


Can’t play video? Click here: Suitcase + Waiter Carry

 

Goblet Carry

Goblet carries are easily done carrying a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell. It can also be done carrying a sandbag or heavy potato sack. Anytime weight is carried at chest level in front of your body breathing becomes a factor. Thus, this is a great exercise to build abdominal pressure and to learn to breathe under tension.


Can’t play video? Click here: Goblet Carry

 

Ambiguous Objects

 

Ambiguous objects are great to carry because the weight is usually distributed unevenly throughout the object making it a great functional exercise. There, I used the word functional that everybody goes crazy for and in the case it actually fits! Ambiguous carries are just that, ambiguous. You can carry anything that you can lift off the ground. Some common objects are physio balls filled with water, sand bags, potato sacks, buckets filled with water, etc.

Another great way to carry heavy weight is on your back. Simply filling a backpack with random, heavy objects make for a great workout. Be creative and have fun with it!

 

Trust Me, They Work

 

I wouldn’t ever ask anyone to try anything that I haven’t already tried myself. Weighted carries are a personal favorite of mine and have been a part of my personal program for a long time now and I can honestly say they have helped me in a number of ways. I have also seen my athletes reap the benefits of doing all of the carries listed above. If you are looking for an easy way to fix a number of problems try adding weighted carries into your program. They just might be the key part that you have been missing.

5 Quick Reminders of Why- For Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Strength and Conditioning is a tough Profession. Long hours, lots of education and not always fair compensation. We put up with a lot of stuff. However, in the end we know it is all worth it. That is why we continue to grow and do what we do.

 

5 Whys of what we are contributing to our athletes of the next generation are:

TEAMBUILDING

We do it to foster an environment that shows kids that they can do something bigger than themselves; that with the help of others they can be more.

 

IMPROVED ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

We do it to build our athletes into the best they can be both physically and mentally.

 

DISCIPLINE/CONSISTENCY

We do it to build “buy in” to the idea that there will be NO cutting corners in the path to success.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

We do it so they understand it’s okay to call each other out in a respectful way. This can be done to build understanding and acknowledgement that it’s for the betterment of themselves, their team and their future.

 

ENJOYMENT/FUN

We do it so kids can have fun while getting productive work in.
– The old saying of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, rings true here.

These Whys always bring a smile to my face when I look back at them. When you are having thoughts on why do we do it, look above. These reminders help me every day to put things back in perspective, that I am helping to create something bigger than myself. That my athletes are awesome and will go out and be more. Thanks for reading.

 

Ryan Leibreich MS, ATC, CSCS, USAW-1
Director of Strength and Conditioning
Pro Performance RX
ryan@properformancerx.com