T Nation

Mark Verstegen

Any comments on this guy? He?s trained Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm and his training philosophy focuses on core strength, which he develops through a variety of swiss ball and unilateral exercises.

I?ve always been sceptical of the whole swiss ball/core crowd, but I read Verstegen?s book, Core Performance, and was impressed. For a book aimed at the mass market, it contains a lot of high quality information. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the book, as I see them:


  1. Program is well-rounded and includes units of strength training, plyos, energy system work, flexibility, mobility, nutrition, and active recovery. One or more of these elements are neglected in typical mass-market programs.
  2. Periodization. Most mass-market programs are not periodized, but this one is, and the set/rep recommendations are suitable for most intermediate athletes. The periodization scheme incorporates some elements of the conjugated approach, with most training qualities trained in each phase.
  3. Sensible nutrition recommendations without any hype or fads.
  4. Focus on torso strength. Strength in the torso is often neglected and is vital to athletic performance. It is arguable that a focus on heavy deads/squats/overhead presses adequately develops torso strength without any specific strengthening exercises, but I think Verstegen?s approach is also valid.
  5. Recognition that athletic power is not based solely on absolute strength, but also on speed, reaction time, and flexibility.
  6. Use of mobility work (movement prep) as a warm-up.


  1. Where are the deads, squats, power cleans, etc? The program incorporates split squats and Romanian DL?s, but I can?t help but think that some of the big exercises are missing. Does anyone know if Verstegen uses squats, deads, or power cleans with his elite athletes? I compete in indoor rowing so absolute strength isn?t that important for me, but for strength/power sports I would think that they should be included.
  2. Evangelical approach. Verstegen seems to think he can change your life philosophy with a swiss ball, and his ?Core Life Principles? are obnoxious. He should let the program stand on its own rather than descending into this kind of quasi-religious nonsense.

If you?re interested in finding out more, you can find info on the book at www.coreperformance.com. You can find info on Verstegen?s training center at www.athletesperformance.com. Incidentally, there?s an SI with Nomar on the cover where he credits Verstegen?s training methods for much of his athletic success. Verstegen claims Nomar is at 6% bf but from that picture he looks like 10% or more. Agree? Disagree?