Mike Boyle Interview

Mike Boyle is an internationally recognised strength and conditioning coach and he recently took the time to answer some of my questions about all things strength and conditioning.

NG: Thank you for the interview. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your current coaching commitments?

MB: For the summer I have about 20 National Hockey League and minor league players training four times a weeks as well as my Boston University Hockey players. In addition we have about 300 collegiate and high school athletes working out in our two facilities.

NG: Can you tell the reader your educational or previous career background and how you ended up developing Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning?

MB: I'm actually a Certified Athletic Trainer so I started out on the sportsmed side of things. I have a bachelors and a masters from Springfield College. I've worked in the college environment for 25 years and also worked in the NHL for 10.

NG: What in your opinion are the essential skills needed to be a successful athlete in a team sports? Are there similarities between the various sports (American Football, Soccer etc).....what training makes the difference?

MB: For team sports it all about strength, speed, and conditioning. We waste way too much time with sports specific bullshit. Get your athletes strong, get them fast and get them in shape.

NG: Many Pro sports don't seem to have much of an off season and raining and competing week in, week out is extremely demanding. What particular issues do athletes face trying to maintain fitness - how do you make sure that your athletes maintain their fitness levels during the season - what are your 3 top tips?

MB: 1-Get lots of frequent, brief and intense workouts. In-season training looks a lot like HIT training.2- Fitness is relative, Guys that play a lot of minutes need more rest, not more work. Guys that don't play a lot need to get extra work in on game day.3- Make post-workout nutrition a priority. Shakes post game are key.

NG: What's the one thing that really gets under your skin when it comes to the strength and conditioning.

MB: Lying. It is amazing the bullshit that gets thrown around. This is a particular problem in the US with American football. Coaches lie about test results and that places undue pressure on other coaches to match these unrealistic results. I think a lot of these guys should have to film testing so everyone could see it.

NG: S&C coaches in the UK and Europe are always looking to America as the leading nation in S&C. I have to say I think the Europeans have a lot to offer the Americans. What do you think of the state of S&C in the UK and Europe.

MB: I think there are lots of great coaches abroad but, they don't coach “American” sports. Americans don't really understand sports like soccer. I think there is a broad range in training philosophy with European soccer from very progressive to Stone Age aerobic based programs. The US has a huge edge in facilites and equipment. American strength and conditioning was born out of an American football mentality and it is tough to break.

NG: You know from my articles that I'm not a fan of long slow steady state cardio training, it's a tradition that dogs many team sports in the UK. Is it a problem in American sports, do the coaches still get athletes to complete endless hours of long runs during training? What's your opinion and solution?

MB: I'm with you. I hate long slow distance training. It's getting to be less and less a problem in team sports in the US. There are still some dinosaurs left in ice hockey and soccer over here but, I think we winning that battle as it applies to team sports. The place we are losing it is in fitness. My solution? Get Oprah to interval train. Oprah can change the world.

NG: How do you monitor training intensity, how far do you push your clients?

MB: Depends on age etc. With my personal training clients I work on feel. I ask them about their day, their week etc. With my pro athletes we start very easy and build every week. I work on a work capacity model where we just keep adding more and more each week. It's only a 10-12 week off-season and we have a lot to do.I learn the most from my college players that I work with year round. I really need to manage them to keep them fresh. It's much harder.

NG: How do you approach training players from different age groups?

MB: The older they get, the safer it gets. Young kids are resilient. They can front squat, clean etc with no problems. As my guys age we do less Olympic stuff and more single leg stuff that doesn't load the spine as much.

NG: I know you study the field a lot. Who do you go to for training advice?

MB: Truth is, it gets tougher each year to find new info. In the past 5 years most of my new ideas have come from the physical therapy world. Mike Clark, Gray Cook, Mark Comerford, Shirley Sahrmann. However, I think we have gone too far with the therapy side. I think these folks are brilliant but, they don't do what we do. They can provide ideas but, they don't actually work with athletes for a living. I'm really lucky to be on the Perform Better circuit. I get to hang with some of the best in the business and talk training. Mark Verstegan, Alwyn Cosgrove, Todd Wright, Al Vermeil. The list is endless.

NG: Who else in the field has influenced or helped you? What are the best tips you learned from them and can pass on to your readers?

MB: I've been heavily influenced by Vern Gambetta. He was way ahead of his time. Mark Verstegan and his staff (Craig Freidman, Darryl Eto, Anthony Slater, Sue Falsone) have always been great sounding boards for me. I really like Todd Wright, he's the strength and conditioning coach for mens basketball at University of Texas. Alwyn Cosgrove and Jason Ferrugia really get me thinking. I'm also a big Ryan Lee fan. He's showed me how to really make a career out of this stuff.

NG: What tips could you add of your own?

MB: KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Great technique and great effort. Coach, that's the job. NG: There seems to be a real boom in 'old school training', tyre flipping, car pushing, strongman type stuff etc in America. I guess if you are competing to be a strongman it makes sense!!

NG: What are your thoughts on it's application to development of sport performance?

MB: I think it's a dangerous waste of time. I like heavy sled work as I can see its application. Beyond that, I don't have much use for it.

NG: What supplements do you think work?

MB: Protein supplements work. Fish oil is essential. I think a Greens product is a good investment. I also think that the Glucosamine/ Chondroitin supplements work if you have joint pain. After that it's a crap shoot.

NG: What are your goals as a coach?

MB: I want to be remembered as an honest, ethical, hardworking guy who gave people good value. Beyond that, I'm not too concerned.

NG: What advice do you give athletes when it comes to recovery, how do they manage to keep training without breaking down?

MB: We roll, stretch, and do lots of mobility work. I think you need to care for your tissue. I also harp on my athletes about nutrition. As I said earlier, postworkout nutrition is a big deal.

NG: What are your thoughts on the use of whole body vibration in strength and conditioning?

MB: I'm becoming more and more of a fan. I think there is something to it although I'm not exactly sure what it is. It clearly is not a passive exercise fad. The big issue is in practicality and affordability. You need at least three units to make it work with groups.

NG: What's the latest Mike Boyle project?

MB: I've just bought back my training business in the last six months. Did a huge renovation in conjunction with my friends at Perform Better. Most of my energy is focused on getting that business back up and running.

NG: Before we finish, I'm asking all of our contributors for their top five books. The ones every S&C coach should have in their library? We've had some great answers and I'm building a virtual library on the links page of the web-site. What are your top 5? MB: Just go to www.strengthcoach.com I have a recommended reading list with all my favorites both from the training side and the personal development side.