Interview with Scott Umberger - Part 2


I'll be honest with you, the previous blog post with Scott Umberger from Umberger Performance was just a teaser. If you really want to know what Scott thinks about youth injuries and the world of strength & conditioning - and believe me, you do- then keep reading. He'll also tell us why Michael Jordan was such a legend and why he's  so pumped to get his very own PUSH device. Oh, and one other thing, he's not shy; if you don't know how to run or jump, he'll tell you...

What direction do you see the field of strength & conditioning heading? Do you think we still have a lot to learn?

The problem is that the field is so young-  having officially started in the early 80’s.  The colleges and universities aren’t teaching what needs to be taught because our taxpayers don’t think there's a problem.  The government won’ t invest in research for a problem that doesn’ t exist.  There are some serious stats coming out in the amount and percent of injuries in youth sports.  Orthopedic surgeons are speaking out about the amount of kids that they are operating on and are outraged by it.  I think that this will start the conversation.  The problem is that the sport coaches and the majority of “performance coaches” don’t know how to run, jump, and throw.  At no point, in an exercise science/kinesiology degree, is a student taught how to run, jump, throw, and change direction.  This obviously effects the knowledge of S&C coaches but what about Physical Therapists (PT) and Athletic Trainers(AT)?  I’m not saying that a PT needs to be an athlete but they should know how to perform a body weight lunge properly.  I've trained a few in my adult boot camps that don’t know how.

That's very interesting. How do we fix this issue? 

Maybe they should get into masters programs?  Maybe a S&C coaching degree should be like a PT and AT program where they are in it for 6-7 years. Why not learn the physiology of human performance?   Maybe we would at least get some respect from the AT and PT community.

Take a look at a random high school or elite college team sport practice.  The athletes don’t run correctly.   How or why would they?  The sport coaches that they've had their entire lives may know their sport from playing (maybe through college),  but they know nothing about physical fitness or human performance.  The gym teachers don’t know anything because the universities aren’t teaching it.  The statistic is that something like 80% of recreational runners get hurt training for 5k’s and other races.  There are many reasons for the injuries.  How many are due to not knowing how to run?  Excessive running volume and heel pounding don’t lead to a healthy lower bodies, especially in those that are overweight.   Every athlete should know what an “A skip” is and how to perform it.

I think that it will get worse before it gets better,  but I have hope that since it’s about the kids, that we’ll pull our heads out of the sand and start doing things the right way.  It has to start with less games which is attacking our “instant gratification” society.  I’m hoping the intelligent parents will rebel against the system and find coaches and organizations who value long term development.  It’s going to be a fight between youth injuries and the culture being a blend of “little Johnny” being an All-American and fitting in as he grows ups.

Do you think there is a gap between researchers/sport scientists and coaches that actually work with athletes? If so, what can we do to bridge this gap?

Obviously there is in regards to the general research available.  I do think that we are moving in the right direction.  As the saying goes, “research confirms what most of us have been doing for years”.  Nutrition is the biggest gap that exists. How the hell are researchers going to find a group of people who are going to eat a certain way for 7 days let alone 90 days+ to see actual changes both physically and in their blood data?  I really like the concept of blood testing to customize diets to each individual.

Is there anything that frustrates you as an S&C coach?

That title! Hahaha!  I prefer physical preparation coach.  Part of the industry sits in a weight room and waits for the athletes to walk in.  “Work ‘em hard coach”. We are looked at as weight coaches.  In football and wrestling we are the “beat the athletes asses” coach after practice and in the off-season.  Sure some guys do dynamic warm ups and screen their athletes but how many legitimately focus on real speed work where they are doing power speed drills and legit sprint work not lactic conditioning.  The testing and evaluation that the athletes endure is a joke.  300 yd shuttle tests?  I used to have athletes do them because I didn't know any better. I sought and found practical solutions.   Why not test them on criteria that are relevant to their sport and position?  We simply don’t know in the US because we aren't taught it at the University level, nor are we taught this in the CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) course, which is the industry benchmark.  300+ NFL lineman running 300 yard shuttles evaluates what?  How about the 100 yard “sprints” that many college American Football Teams are using that last 15-20 seconds? What is the purpose?

With the exception of the sports of Olympic Weightlifting, weights are only a piece of the puzzle.  People want to argue about what type of squat is best for XYZ athlete?  Ha!  How about teaching the kid how to sprint or move correctly and efficiently? Doesn't their sport require that?

I have a personal unicorn.  What is it?  Not knowing with utmost certainty if what I’m doing is really working.   With the very small exception of individual sports like track, are we really improving athletes?  How and why?  There are at least 15 “sports performance” facilities in Pittsburgh that think that they are creating miracles.  Adding 20 lbs to a skinny ass high school kid is going to help him out a ton, no kidding.

Slow eccentric bodybuilding only helps so long.  The problem is that the trainers that are doing this kind of training with elite athletes are getting away with it because the athletes that they are training are freaks.  It’s cyclical maintenance and post-season recovery mass so they are getting away with it. David Boston of the NFL may be the best example of that. He looked like a Greek god after gaining a bunch of lean mass and was a few tenths faster in the 40, but he was out of the league after a Pro Bowl season.  Maybe some of the cause of that was off the field issues, but it doesn't appear that getting “jacked” helped his career.  Train like Tarzan and play like Jane?

I love the honesty Scott! Ok, let’s have a bit of fun to finish off. In your opinion, who are the top 5 athletes in the world today?

Wow! That’s a HEAVY question!  To be honest, I don’t watch enough sports to give you an educated answer.  I’m not dancing here… I train three NHL guys so I’m watching hockey most of the year. (My wife hates me.) I work 80 hours a week so I don’t get much TV time.  I’m at the point in my life where I don’t know what I don’t know and there’s a lot of it.  So I’m “fear learning” trying to get caught up.

That being said, I’d have to without a doubt say that the decathletes are the best overall athlete in the world.  They prove that with performance numbers each track meet.  Michael Jordan is my personal favorite of all time.  He had it all physically (especially impressive being 6’6’’) as well as the drive and intellect to be the best.   I haven’t personally worked with Lebron and Kobe.  Nor have I worked with St. Pierre and Anderson Silva.  Their greatness regularly has me in awe.  Not to mention the huge freaks in the NFL, NBA, and Rugby. It’s hard to argue their “athletic ability” against one another.  Is speed the greatest determinant of athletic ability?  Bolt would be the #1 athlete that’s ever lived based on that.  I don’t agree with it, but I don’t strongly disagree because it’s hard to say.  I’m just not really sure.  Joe Montana, whom I don’t think that was best ever, wasn't a freak as much as a master practitioner at what he does.

Thanks again for your time Scott. Any last words?

I’m looking forward to using PUSH to help justify or confirm if my methods are working.  I just read two articles, one by Bryan Mann through EliteFTS and another by Carl Valle. These world-class coaches are talking about performing cleans “wrong” which resulted in great testing numbers but zero carry over to performance.  Why? #1 Athletes were going too heavy which prevented them from properly driving through their legs and #2, they were making the lift a “total body lift”.  I’m referring to the rocking movement used to gain momentum to “get the weight up” instead of focusing on crushing weights between 40-70%.   It’s strength speed verse speed strength.  Real OL’s don’t convulse before an attempt. Why should the rest of the athletes?

I’m looking forward to utilizing the PUSH device to help me coach the athletes in the appropriate velocity ranges given the desired goal.  I simply can’t afford 5 Tendo Units or 5 Gymawares.   PUSH should also help me handle the complaints from my driven/hard working guys who want to smash heavy weight.  Most of them are very intelligent kids and seeing the velocity of their bar movement will very easily make my case.

Thanks for taking the time to pick my brain and see what I’m doing here in Pittsburgh.  Given your background Matt, I’m really interested in learning how I can validate my training via PUSH and your personal knowledge.