T Nation

Strength/Talent Discrepancy in Athletes


After clicking on the link to Defranco's Training (www.defrancostraining.com/ask_joe/ask_joe.htm#question02) I was impressed at the strength of these guys. Men who flip 500# tires, a QB doing farmers walks etc. However, these guys seem to always be reaching at their desired sport. Rutgers and Penn don't have the best football programs and the only reason Vinny Ciurciu stayed with the Panthers is because the 2 backs ahead of him got hurt.

My question is where are the athletes who are training and making that big jump that have an impressive strength and conditioning program? To be more clear, are there any high profile athletes who can trace their success to a S&C program? Is it a simple rule that the cream rises to the crop and the rest of us average Joe's have to scrape and claw just to make it in whatever event we choose?


Dhani Jones is a great example. He was a highly touted LB at Michigan. Didn't reach his full potential under Michigan's HIT program but survived the NFL with his God-given talent. DeFranco helped develop him and now he's got a fat contract with the Eagles.

Brian Cushing is another example. He was a skinny HS kid a few years ago. Got serious in the gym and now he's going to be a true freshman OLB with the defending national champ USC Trojans. A lot of Trojan fans expect him to see some major PT this season - that's an impressive feat for a kid that was in HS just a few months ago.


The 2 examples are both high profiule guys who did what they should have and stayed on track. For the majority, it seems that yes there are some big strong dudes out there but it is the thouroughbreds that make it regardless.


Defranco trains kids out of New Jersey so I doubt they'd all be going to big name schools. Besides if Penn of Rutgers offered to pay for my schooling I would definetly consider playing for them.


Ryan Krause with the San Diago Chargers comes to mind. He is actually a family friend and was a good devision II player. However a big factor in how early he got picked up in the draft is after his last season of college ball he trained his ass off! He went from around 220 to 250+ and was the biggest Tight End at training camp. He also got faster and from his little playing time (5 receptions with 16 yard average per rec.) I would say kept his skills.

I don't know if he will become a big time star but I'm sure we will see some good things out of him, and if nothing else he is allready rather wealthy expecially for his age!


As a former collegiate strength coach, I feel I can add a couple of points concerning this issue.

At any level less than the top, their will always be a way to outwork someone else and gain an edge. We had lots of weight room freaks who couldn't do anything on the field due to deficits in other areas. However, a few guys on the edge can move themselves up through their conditioning. That's why coaches recruit athletic prowess and not strength- strength is easier to build.

At the NFL level, every damn guy has hellacious talent and puts himself over the top with good training or somebody else who is just as talented outworks him and gets the roster spot. No one in the league is the product of hard work and grit alone.

How about the NBA? Who comes to mind when you think of a guy who did more with less due to work ethic? Larry Bird is probably who you are thinking about. But look at him- 6'10" and a sweet shot that was the product of talent and work. He had the goods from the giddy-up. It just sounded better in the media that the hard working white guy could compete with the more talented black players. Don't get me wrong, he was and is my favorite player ever, but I seriously doubt he outworked Mike who was legendary for his workouts. The common denominator? TALENT.

Most baseball players are trained in such a piss-poor manner that anything they do is bound to help. Billy Wagner comes to mind- marginal pitcher, 94 mph. Two off-seasons later- 99-101 mph. Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan were great before they committed to conditioning and prolonged their careers with Clemens' dominance seemingly endless.

Having prepped many guys for the combines and a few rehabbers, I feel like the difference is about 10%. If you aren't already within 10% of the competition before you start conditioning, forget it. At least in the NFL.


Well-said. Strength is important, but there's MUCH more to being a good athlete than strength.


I am primarily talking about NCAA/NFL football and the only guy that has ever come to my mind as making the jump because of a S&C program is Adam Archuleta. Many times the stronger players are second string or lower. The issue is is the S&C coach a little narrow minded or is truly making a great athlete next to impossible? I don't have the answer.


Well, I wouldn't say impossible. But speed, agility, eye-hand coordination, and most importantly drive on the field-hallmarks of a top athlete-are all harder to develop than strength in my opinion. If any individual is low on these qualities, strength alone is not enough to compensate.


Everyone here has touched on the basics. The biggest differentiator is athletic ability. Although you might think it is hand-eye coordination, etc, it really isn't.

All of us know kids who had as good a shot as anyone in college, but they lacked the ability to get open to take the shot....to break free, elevate, and shoot. It is even worse to watch these guy try to D-up a great athlete.

If anyone has watched Adam cover a guy in the NFL, or has really watched the 'Freak of Training' video, you'd quickly see that things like anticipation, catching the ball cleanly, and judging the ball at the highest point is something he is NOT good at..... not at all.

He was lacking in both pure rate ability and pure strength ability when Jay got him....so Jay trained both. He trained the muscular ability lock to absorb the force created under extreme power situations, and he trained all of the elastic qualities. Jay truly embraces training power absorption and trains the entire force curve.... different than many modern S & C programs.

As we all know HIT programs are far from close, but so are many other programs... Developing excellent strength is only good until a level of strength is reached where it is no longer the limiting factor.....then it is eficiency of movement and elastic qualities... this is where most programs falter...

Besides for Jay, only Christian, Kelly Baggett, and DB address this factor sufficiently....IMO

This is the reason why most college coaches recruit rate dominant athletes....because they know that their S & C programs are really only suited to build strength.... they cannot express that idea, but they know it to be true...so they recruit quickness over sttrength..

you see, it is easy to move an athlete closer to Max Power if they are fast...just add strength....

But, the key is how do I help move an athlete the other direction....towards rate......?


So, was it hand-eye coordination that allowed Adam to rise to the top.....nope. It was Jay creating an amazingly explosive athlete....and Adam trusting him for 5+ years straight....

We all know strong guys who just don't translate into powerful athletes.....why?

The answer is simple.... but not easy....

Coach JR


In defense of most strength coaches- they are coaches of strength and most possibly power. The rest of the game belongs to the other coaches.

In observing some collegiate programs covered by popular media, I've seen some top players using smith machines. Not sure if confusion will occur.



true, but not a defense....

The limiting factor for most athletes is speed and understanding of what you are required to do... all facets of being an athlete require knowledge and dedication.

The biggest difference between each level is the speed...without question.

This is a display of the appropriate application of power...

For linemen, it is more to the strength-speed side of the equation, for the little guys it lies much closer to the pure rate side...

So strength coaches should take each athlete, assess where each athlete is currently along the force curve, and then assign a training protocol that will move the athlete along the force curve in the direction needed for their position.... train their weakness.

Currently, most strength programs can take the weak and fast and move them towards greater power by adding strength....

The key to greatness is to have a base of great strength (like what Joe D, and the Westside guys are amazing at creating), but then to display that great strength in the form of amazing power at the appropriate places on the force curve (positionally)....

I know many many guys who are as strong as NFL guys...but they don't have the feet (elastic qualities and coordinated movement). This is a factor of not training the qualities they lacked.... they chose teaching their muscles to have high force and duration qualities over displays of power in short bursts...both can be trained...oh-well, their loss.

You are correct in saying that most S&C programs focus on strength and power.... this is why the strong, but non-elastic athlete is not recruited... the focus would never lead to gains for this athlete... that athlete needs to train rate and elasticity... this area is still new to our way of thinking...

But, we are slowly addressing how to train elasticity into a ground-bound strong guy...

It s possible to teach an athlete to be explosive whatever their background... Olympic displays of rate? Nope. But, that isn't needed for the NFL...

Thanks Chubs...I hope this helped.


"Average" Joe's don't have the desire to be the best. Thats why their "average", but just because your body is average, doesn't have to mean your mind has to be also. You can put your mindset onto whatever level you desire your body/endeavor to become, and if you believe it fully your body will start to follow and soon will "catch up" sort of speak to your mind. Desire/passion/persistence come from within and cannot be taught. All the strength programs in the world can't and won't make an athlete great (competively speaking), if there is no drive to begin with. And drive does not mean try a few times, fail then quit and do something else. Drive is doing something until your goal is met, no exceptions.

Just my few cents... Good luck



How do you train elascticity and efficentcy of movement?


Agree. There are also physical aspects to being an athlete that have nothing to do with strength nor drive.


Amen Brother
One of the most intelligent responses ever






JSAL just gave you possibly the single best source for developing athleticism on the web..... and it is very free....

Quite a few people disagree with Nuttal's work here, on Charlie Francis, and on SportSpecific, etc. But, how many have tries the techniques......? What I thought...

If you want it all broken down simply, just got to Kelly Bagget's site.... the guy takes the complex and breaks it down very simple for you... maybe 30 articles or so... guy is smart when it comes to explosion. This site will take all of DB's writing and give you a practical application.... plus Kelly demystified the whole book in an article on Innosport.. guy just gets it...

After having said that, I think most average Joe's would easily do just as well on the Joe D's programs, Christian's programs, etc....these guys get amazing results also...

But, Innosport offers so much insight for free.... frankly, much like Christian's works, it kinda cheeses me off... because the knowledge was so simple, yet unknown for so long....

Guys like Rooney, CT, Kelly Bagget, Charlie Francis, Jay, me, and many other top coaches realize that you must train the entire spectrum of the force curve, and that prior to displaying force, you must first be able to absorb and stabilize it... this is all done progressively.

If you are strong (relative to your bodyweight), then you must work RFD exercises, and force absorption -> force display exercises..... ie, plyometrics....

The funny thing is to watch the entire spectrum of jumps that are used.... makes me smile and know that someone bought a plyo book from Borders....

Light Hops and Skips
Upwards Hops, Jumps, and Bounds
Force Absorption (Altitude Drops)
Force Display (Depth Jumps)

Make this progresssion and understand the loading parameters involved, and the elasticity will come....all of the above are done into an athletic stance or various lunge stances...

Couple these with preparatory exercises like Reactive Squats -> Squat Jumps, or Olympic Lifts for MaxForce and RFD and you will improve your elastic qualities....

I prefer the easier lifts due to most kids blocking O-Lifts....but if you really know how to teach them, the O-Lifts are great....

Remember the first thing though: if you muscles cannot lock up so your tendons can properly absorb force, then the whole idea of trainign your elastic components is false...

Weak muscles will never fully lock so your elastic components can absorb force... no force absorbed, equals no extra force output... so then it is just muscle, and not elastic + muscle...

Muscling a jump or muscling a run = sit on the bench you slow piece of crap.... simple enough.

So prior to any type of "plyo / reactive work" you better be damn strong...... that is why such good gains are made on programs focused on just that: relative strength.

But, the final piece is to A)have relative strength (in ALL necessary muscles), and then B) train elasticity and RFD...

The effciency of movement comes later.

Like I said, and Joe D will tell you...probably Rooney also: Form will take a top runner and make him elite, btu it won't take a mediocre runner and make them fast...

Form helps, but relative strength is a must...

Watch Adam run his 40 from the combine.... awful....plain awful. Loks like a 6 year old....save for the 4.4 part...LOL

Strength, Power, Force Absorption emphasis = wicked speed.... even if it is ugly...

Hope this helps.....

Get back to me when you are done at those two sites... plus invest in CT's second book, possibly the Parisi Decel, Agiltiy, and 40 yd video....plus Francis reall helps to understand the micro and macro cycle of integrating sports training with lifting....

These will ehlp with teh basics.... all good to have on the shelves...

Kelly and CT outline loading parameters I agree with completely.... very smart guys.

Rooney and Innosport provide some learn by seeing and by being told...

Francis, as anyone will tell you knows way too much about getting fast... sickening honestly. LOL, his site is so chock full of great discussions that I have pulled all-nighters just perusing the archives...

Hope this helps.

Good luck.


PS~ Sorry I didn't proofread...



You nailed the problem when you said something to the effect of there being the wrong FOCUS in most strength programs.

How this relates to the point of the thread is a little gray but I take your point well. The thread is about whether strength programs alone can take someone to the next level or is there always an underlying current of potential. In the case of Archuleta, he seems to be a prime example of what smart training can do. He is, however, one guy. Maybe more are coming.

I think that a good point to cover here is, what makes a player's potential good or bad? How do we define athleticism? Is it important to be a pure athlete or to simply excel at the demands of your position/ sport? It gets very confusing when you try to seperate what an athelete brings naturally and what has been built into him.

The answer is- who gives a damn? Whether he meets the demands of the game through natural ability or training or some combination thereof is irrelevant, so long as he gets it done.

That being said, training focus is EVERYTHING. Whether an athlete has inherent qualities or not, the demands of the game dictate what qualities should be trained. With that in mind, we see that football is primarily a burst/recover sport with high demands power, speed-strength, ACCELERATION (or rate as Jumanji put it), and lateral movement. There is almost never a point in which limit strength or absolute speed are utilized.

Limit strength is the ability to generate force irrespective of speed and absolute speed is the maximum distance covered per unit of time irrespective of force generated.

In other words, they are the opposite ends of the force-velocity inverse continuum. Max power is the point of greatest compromise between the two. ACCELERATION is the ability to generate speed in a compressed unit of time (tourque). So it stands to reason that while strength is a component of power, any strength that issues a resultant loss of velocity and thereby power (of which acceleration is a product) is negative in it's result on the ultimate test of effectiveness- DOES IT INCREASE ONE'S ABILITY TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF THE GAME?

As per why most strength coaches don't do a better job with this?

Most collegiate strength coaches don't know their ass from a horse collar. I mean way over half and maybe as many as 90% have no damn clue what they are doing except to repeat the routines of others and take whatever the NSCA says as gospel. (BTW: check out shugart's article on the NSCA convention. Allen Hedrick is on there touting functional training ala strongman as some great new thing. I was doing this shit with high school kids ten years ago. I am CSCS and used to attend that thing, but the more I went, the more I just got bombed and looked for women.)

I feel most sc coaches fall into one of two categories:

Book types who have all the latest science that is ten or twenty years behind the real world people...and...somebody's ex-star player or weight room freak who came by it fairly naturally anyway and doesn't know shit.

I actually worked for a guy at the D-1 level who saw me reading a worthless book by a has been NFL strength coach and asked to borrow it. I read anything and everything so I just figured he was thinking the same thing as I had only been there a couple of weeks. Three days later, our summer workouts were posted and they were a photo copy of the program in that shitty book. I am not kidding. This guy was making 60 g's and inside the first three months guys were paying me to meet them at the local gym and train them privately. On top of that, the program pretty much treated everybody like shit. That is when I left coaching and went into the private sector.

The third and minority group are people who have put their own and other's asses to work and distilled out the crap and are left with the good stuff. Jumanji, it sounds as if you have gone to some lengths to educate yourself and elevate yourself to that third group. Great stuff.

PM if you'd like to compare notes sometime.



DAMN!!! This is great stuff. I thought I was all but alone in the notion that in order for a spring or other elastic object (muscle) to create RFD that it first had to be able to handle the loading of stored energy and thereby the first component of strength training should be to build capacity to receive energy in the the muscle and then worry about releasing it. This is really terrific stuff!

Ti 350