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Guest: Eric D’Ágati
Release Date: 2/7/2022
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Steve Washuta: Welcome to the Trulyfit podcast where we interview experts in fitness and health to expand our wisdom and wealth. I am your host, Steve Washuta, co-founder of Trulyfit and ultra Fitness Business 101. In today’s episode, I speak with Eric DÄgati about building a sports-specific strength program.
Eric’s credentials run the gamut here I can talk about everything from you know him being in the industry for 20 plus years, and owning big gyms and small gyms working with Gatorade players of the year, and Pro Bowl players and Olympic gold medalists World Series champions to you know, advisory boards he serves on I mean, he has done it all in the industry. And he’s absolutely a wealth of knowledge.
But specifically, in this episode, I poke Eric to give us really good insight and tips because he has so much experience in this realm. As to building a sports-specific strength program. A lot of new younger trainers, the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the like, are finding themselves in roles where they are not used to working with a sports team because they were taught from their certification level how to work on a one-on-one basis.
So it’s way different. For a host of reasons that Eric explains, we go over from like a hypothetical conversation standpoint, if you were just hired as a strength training coordinator for let’s say, a high school football or baseball or basketball team, how exactly do you go about running a program, we talked about how he uses the FMS screen.
And if he uses it with individual athletes, as opposed to the whole team, or when he would use it when he wouldn’t use it, how it’s different training particular positions in each sport and how you have to take that into consideration that you’re not just building a blanket program, different conditioning tips and drills that Eric likes to do. And just general macro thoughts on conditioning and how one should potentially go about it or not go about it. Overrated extra exercises, and a host of other things.
Again, Eric was an absolute wealth of knowledge and I hope to have him on the podcast again down the road. You can find him at a bunch of different places, but I think it’s easiest just to go to Eric he Ric D Gotti d A g a TI on Instagram. With no further ado, here’s Eric. Eric, thank you so much for joining the Trulyfit podcast wanted to give the listeners and audience a background on who you are and what you do in the health and fitness industry.
Eric D’Ágati: absolutely safe. Thanks for having me. I’ve been in this industry for just over 20 odd years. And with that done that and a lot of different ways and a lot of different places. Primarily, you know, for a title. I’m a performance coach on the fitness side of things, primarily working with athletes and improving their performance by helping them stay on the field.
Also over the course of the years, I’ve had my own facility for 12 years, which is a multidisciplinary fitness center, which had everything from chiropractic care, physical therapy, nutrition, fitness, performance, and then now I’ve moved on to doing more consulting with teams, organizations, schools, as well as a big piece of what I do is training other trainers and sports medicine professionals are going out and teaching around the world.
Steve Washuta: Wow, that’s fantastic. And obviously, you’ve already worn a lot of hats in the industry and done it all. So I’m sure we’ll have a long conversation that touches on all of those. But I have to ask first is a New Jersey guy, where exactly are you either located now or where were you from in New Jersey initially?
Eric D’Ágati: I live in Wayne. So in the north part of Jersey, I always joke that I’m 30 minutes to three hours outside of Manhattan.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, St. Xavier. I’m from a small town called Kenilworth that’s in Union County. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but very well aware. Yeah. So there’s a gentleman that I used to work with when I was in high school. I’m not sure if you’re aware of him, but his name is Sal Marinello. And he’s a strength coach who’s been you know, a long time in the fitness industry in your area. So
Eric D’Ágati: okay, not familiar with the name but I’m sure it’s connected. There’s only usually three or four degrees of separation and yeah,
Steve Washuta: yeah, exactly. And, and I know you’ve worked out of the Robert Wood Johnson. Was that a gym or is it a hospital that you’ve worked with?
Eric D’Ágati: I did an FMS certification there a million years ago, and that was the only contact that I had had with the or the BJ
Steve Washuta: Yeah, I’d seen that on your site and I know some people who had you know affiliated with that GM so But moving on here, I want to talk today about building a sport-specific program strength programs. So you know, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, they are churning out, trainers left and right here we can talk about at another point how the barrier of entry is too easy.
To get into this industry, but now that a lot of people are entering in and becoming personal trainers, something that they’re doing or trying to do right away, is help out with individual teams, let’s say a baseball team or a basketball team, or like in a high school level. But it’s quite daunting if you’ve only worked one on one personal training before, this is a totally different game. So where do you start? Hypothetically,
Eric D’Ágati: it’s a completely different animal. With that, the first thing I would say when working with a team, is you need to get the appreciation and buy-in from the coaches. Because if you don’t have that, it’s going to be really tough to get this thing to work. So I, fortunately, work with a really great group of coaches right now.
I am there for what they need me there for. So I don’t have the role of the traditional high school strength coach who shows up at their coffee in the newspaper at three in the afternoon, and I’m there for whoever’s, you know, whoever shows up in the weight room that day, I am specifically brought in as a consultant for whatever each coach needs.
The first thing is, is understanding what that coach is really looking for? And what are their pain points, really? And is it that they lost some of their key players due to injury last year, and we need to do whatever we can to try to fight that from happening? Is it that we’re just physically getting beat up on the court or on the mat or on the field, and we need to get, we just need to get stronger? Is it that we’re, you know, we don’t have a very athletic group, and we need to be faster and more athletic this year? You know, it really depends on what each coach is looking for.
Asking those key questions of saying, alright, what is the main goal, what is ultimately the one thing I could give you, for your team more than anything else, because we get caught up in in the program, and not what the program is built there to provide. And what I mean by that is I tell every team when I start with them is we’re training with one purpose in mind.
That is for us to win games, to win meats to win matches. And it is not to get good at exercise, right. And so we understand that everything we’re doing is a means to an end that if we, if we deadlift or we bench or we squat, or we do any of these things, we’re doing that not to get good at those things, but use those as a vehicle to get good at what we’re going to be doing on the field as a team.
Steve Washuta: That makes perfect sense. And I just want to hit on one point you said or at least what I heard from that is, there isn’t a blanket program that you’re using. It’s not like you’re saying, Oh, I’m working with a new baseball team, I’m going to print out my 100-page sheet and hand it to this baseball team, you were sitting down, you were having consultations, and conversations, and really making sure that it is specific to set team and said, Coach,
Eric D’Ágati: yeah, I wish it wouldn’t make our lives a lot easier if I could just, you know, just, you know, rattle those off and just send them a link. But, you know, each team’s situation is unique, they have unique in terms of first, like I said, How much is the coach bought in? Right? And are they going to be involved? And then how much are they going to be involved? are they actually going to be in the weight room there with you?
Is it going to be all on me if it’s going to be all on me? And how much time that’s going to require? And then also how much they’re engaged is also going to dictate how much the players are engaged? Is this something that, hey, we’re bringing in because we think we feel like we have to do this? Or is this something we’re bringing because we truly believe in it? And this is a part of our programming.
The expression of kind of this is how we do things in this program. And so it’s expected that this is just part of the culture and understanding that is first and foremost. And then you have obviously logistics of you know, in schools that I work with, we may have, you know, six to eight different sports all vying for a small, you know, 20 by 30 weight room, that that can barely fit one team, let alone multiple teams at once.
So how much access? Are we going to get to the weight room? What type of equipment do we have access to? What kind of type of time do we have? Are we dealing with athletes that are also playing multiple other sports? These are a lot of the questions that if you don’t ask that you’re going to miss out on some major, you know, key factors in your program.
Steve Washuta: Well, it seems quite daunting already. But hopefully, as we go down through these other questions I have you’ll answer them and it’ll seem a little bit less daunting. But let’s walk through Okay, so we get through that part, the coaches buy in you meet the players, there’s some sort of plan in place from a macro perspective.
You talked about the FMS screen before that you did it a Robert Wood Johnson, are you doing that with each individual player, and let’s actually maybe take a step back for those trainers who are not familiar with an FMS screen can you describe?
Eric D’Ágati: Sure. So what the FMS screen the Functional Movement Screen is it’s a biomarker for your movement competency. What that means is that every movement we do comes from a simple set of primary foundational patterns. The FMS just did was, is take some of those patterns and set you up with a specific set of positions and In postures and ask you to move through certain patterns and score that objectively.
With that, what the research that has come from that in almost 30 years now that’s been in existence and but in the 15 years that I’ve been a lead instructor with them is that they found correlations that the people don’t move well tend to get injured more often. That’s how it kind of caught traction in the athletic community, in the sports community, because they, they looked at NFL players, and the ones who, who moved poorly and did poorly on our screen had a 35% higher likelihood of ending up on the injured reserve.
So that starts catching the eyes of people in personnel who are saying, we need to protect our investments, and then it goes from the NFL to, to every other major sport you can think of to now in the US military to now or even with industrial workers in the workforce, and basically looking at this as one factor. And how do we mitigate risk? And do you have any risk factors as far as your movement competency being one of those, this doesn’t predict your performance, and it doesn’t, it doesn’t remove the risk of injury, it just tells you if you could possibly have some of those things, and then you have to actually have a plan to actually do something with that.
Now, that being said, in an ideal world, I’d love to have all my players be able to do that. But that’s not always possible, from a time constraint to a budget constraint. And those sorts of things, because it does take some time, I can personally screen usually for athletes in about 20 minutes, in 20 minutes, and about a dozen an hour. But if I have a football team of 5060 kids, that’s going to be tough to try to wrangle in and with it, especially if they have a limited budget of how much they have exposure to me.
In a perfect world, yes, I’d love to be able to have a movement screen on everybody. But it doesn’t always make itself available. So now I have to now that’s going to affect my programming as well. So I have to be a little bit more cautious in my programming. Because if I had a if I had a screen on everybody I know not only what what flaws people have, but I also know what everybody’s good at. And I know that it’s going to be safe to start implementing a certain drill. Or I know if there’s certain drills that I should avoid.
For example, you give up a baseball team, I had a high school team that I did do movement screens on. We had out of 30, I think was 37 players, I think we had only two that actually had a passing grade in the squat and the deep squat out of 37. In I think as a whole the team, all they had pain on at least one of the seven patterns. The coach was standing there next to me as I’m doing the screen. I said, you know, you’re watching what’s happening here. He’s he said, this makes a lot of sense.
Now I know we’ve been trying to squat for years, and we can’t, you know, we’ve tried everything we tried on the boxes, we’ve tried different variations of squats, and we just couldn’t get kids to do it. And I said, Well, yeah, because they don’t have the movement competency to do it in the first place before even build the capacity of that.
There are a lot of other ways we can still get them bigger and faster, stronger without putting a bar in their back and having them squat. So the FMS just gave me that guide to saying, here’s what I should not do. And then here’s what I’m okay to do. And here’s where my baseline is to start. If I have that great, but that’s not always the case.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, and you know, we’re not working in a vacuum here, time is a factor. And there’s only so much time that you have with these individual players or time that they have to work on their own bodies. So while you’re working on, let’s say, knee valgus, you’re not necessarily working on catching ground balls. So there is a time factor that’s involved. And obviously, you have to walk that line. But I do think understanding the FMS screen and having an idea of it, even if you’re not using it is still a huge advantage when analyzing the athlete.
Eric D’Ágati: And just really just taking a step back and understanding movement. And to be able to say, to a coach, when it really gets to you know, this is we’re talking about entry-level fundamental level when it really gets to the highest level is when I can have communication with a coach who’s working with and I in baseball is a great example.
Because I work with it quite a bit, is if they have a kid who can’t get down on a round ball, I can explain why it gets a movement barrier that he has that’s been that’s now become a barrier, their skill acquisition. So you can hit them 1000 ground balls a day and you can get them all the drills, they just physically can’t do that. Right? You’re trying to teach them a language they don’t understand.
I can remove that barrier if I can get them to move a little bit better and take that roadblock out. The same thing could go for pitchers’ delivery or hitters’ swing or really anything athletically if you understand movement and say okay, I want to just be able to check this box to say you move well enough that that’s no longer your issue.
Then because people take it to the other extreme, and we get people who get so wrapped up into this world of corrective exercise and this whole thing of just improving motion, just mobility and movement, mobility and movement. If you don’t have a measurable to say you have enough movement, that’s not your problem, that you end up spending time that you could have been working on their strength
They’re the speed or the power, they’re there, change your direction or some of these things that they do need, that you miss that because you didn’t have a system. And that’s where it becomes less daunting is if you have a system of checks and balances, to say, I’ve checked that box, we have enough of that. Right? I deal with this with other coaches when conditioning is a huge battle. And this is why having a good line of communication and trust with your coaches, his coaches love to run their players and sometimes run them right into the ground.
This I could go on a soapbox forever about and from, whether it’s day one, and they’re doing conditioning tests, which I think is or maybe one of the biggest waste of time that you could possibly do. Because it doesn’t necessarily do anything and it doesn’t change anything. If you’re going to run them a bunch anyway.
What do you need to test for in the first place? And you’re going to tell me that your varsity starting centerfielder, who bats third and is an all-state player is not going to play if he doesn’t pass your conditioning test? Yeah. Does he even really need it that much if he’s playing baseball, so like, asking the whys of these things, and getting your coaches to trust you to say, this is what we need for conditioning, and not anything more than that.
Any more running is going to defeat everything we’ve done in the offseason. So getting them to buy in that we got this and getting them to understand we’re conditioned enough. We don’t need more of that we need more. This is truly about just having a system of checks and balances.
Steve Washuta: And I would also assume that those drills and conditioning more often than not, unfortunately, all call them they’re very gym class esque, where they’ll just tell the athlete, you have to run two miles, we’re gonna record your time. It’s like, well, you know, I’m I’m a linebacker, you know, what, what am I running for more than four seconds at a time? Why am I running long distances here? So I do think that’s that’s another thing.
There’s just there’s a lot of antiquated conditioning drills in the amongst the coaching, and that’s why people hire people like you to make sure that doesn’t happen. But I want to go back to something you said before or something you were about to say when you were talking about the different athletes, a pitcher compared to a first baseman in this case, let’s talk about a catcher compared to a first baseman, where is it a catcher would have to sit sort of asked to grass for long periods of time, right?
That’s going to be needed a different sort of overview of their body as a first baseman who might have to maybe have the ability to stretch, and you’re not worried about him throwing as much as you don’t throw it first base now, are you looking at all of those things and building specific programs for each player
Eric D’Ágati: depends on the level of the program. Most high school programs are not quite at that level. And also because most hosts high school programs, your kid who catches also sometimes plays first base and also sometimes pitches. Same thing when you have football teams that have rosters of 30 players that are playing both ways and that your caterer is a quarterback is also a linebacker, and they have very different unique demands for each thing. So you try to address some of those things.
But it depends on the level of the program, how specialized their players are. And then the other thing is the access you have to the players is that yeah, there’s one, there’s one thing if you’re training an NFL Defensive Back, and that’s what they’re going to do for a living. And they’re not only just defensive back there is safety versus a nickel versus a corner is very, very specific. Whereas if I have a cornerback in high school that also is their running back and he’s also the point guard on the basketball team.
And he’s also the second baseman on the baseball team. You know, there’s a lot to handle now it’s just more matter of just make them as make sure that they they have at least a baseline a movement competency make sure that they have a baseline of general physical preparedness and overall relative strength, and that they can at least have the durability to handle the demands of everything that put their body through. And we can’t get real specific because that specificity changes every 12 weeks.
Steve Washuta: Now is the offseason program part of something you’re involved in are only in season and what would be, I guess just general in a general sense. What is the major difference from your perspective in working with athletes offseason is supposed to ensue
Eric D’Ágati: the biggest problem is that most people don’t do in the season. That’s the reality. That’s a huge mistake. I am that is one of the biggest things that this that you’re on constantly competing for time with coaches. I’ve had this conversation more times than I can count is that they’ll be very, very invested in the offseason program and they’ll want to start lifting with high school football is a perfect example because they’re usually the most boarding in the weight room.
They’ll want to start now they want to start their season’s over, you know a lot of the teams if you’re not in the semifinals or finals, you’re done now they’re going to want to start lifting in the next you know, week or two.
First of all, I mostly teams I try to convince them to push that back at least a couple of weeks to give their bodies a break from the physical demands that they just went through and With that, there’ll be very bored in and then the offseason you’ll want to You can’t wait, you’re chomping at the bit to get started, but not realizing that these are 16-year-old kids that it’s a long grind from December, all the way through. And that’s before you even put pads on.
Now you’re gonna have in there, five, six days a week for three, three hours plus at a time that we do all that, and then we get to the season and we don’t train anymore. And you basically have to explain to him the fundamentals of how exercise and training work is that if you lift up everything’s your body says, Oh, my gosh, I better get stronger. If you’re going to keep doing that. If you stop lifting up heavy things, your body says, Well, I guess I don’t need that strengthening. And so what happens we do basically a 12 Recruit regression program from when camp starts.
They’re at their weakest when ideally they need to be at their strongest right now, when we’re going into what your the whole purpose of this was for was to try to win a state championship. And so in-season training is probably one of my biggest pet peeves that I see at the at the high school level that is often overlooked.
If they do anything at all, is that they spend so much investment in their offseason and they don’t keep it up during the season. It doesn’t take a lot. You can get away with to 25 to 30-minute workouts a week, that can maintain a lot of what you built in the offseason if you do it right. And if you map it out, right with your schedule, and it won’t eat that much into your time it’ll pay huge dividends and keep your people on the field and keeping them fresh from when you want them fresh when we’re headed to championships.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that’s that’s a great point. I think, too, that you know, in the football world, there’s a lot of trickles up and trickle down. And I don’t think for whatever reason that has trickled down yet meeting the NFL is doing that college is doing that.
But the high school quite hasn’t caught on where they’re still a lot of times, hitting three days a week, in between games, whereas in college, they’re in uppers than they’re lifting one day, then they’re watching film and doing mobility work another day, and they’re and they’re not hitting as much as high schools are. So hopefully that’s a trend that changes over time.
Eric D’Ágati: And then other sports have other you know, have each has their own unique battles have to fight when you’re dealing with baseball, and baseball has, you know, in especially in the Northeast, and you get it, you know, rainouts, two days out of the week, you know it from April to May, and now you have to play four games in a week.
You know, to try to find the energy and time to still have some practice and work on the skill stuff that you need to develop and you still have to and then try to find time for strengthen conditioning and there it’s not easy. It’s not an easy task. But you have to be that’s why you have to be committed to it as a program this is part of our culture and this is how we do it.
Steve Washuta: What do you think are some musts are some absolutely knots as far as exercise types that are being used. Now, let’s say just let’s just keep it what we’re talking about in like high school programs, Are there exercises that you’re saying people are too focused on them, we don’t need them or things that are missing that should be integrated into these programs.
Eric D’Ágati: Um, one, I think in terms of things that I would pull out is first, there are two probably things The first is the things you can’t teach really in coach really well. So there are some things that could give you great benefits. And I’ll give you two examples like a barbell deadlift, and or the Olympic lifts can give you huge benefits.
But if you don’t know how to coach them, or you don’t have the staff on-site, to know how to coach them really well, and oversee those lifts, you’re going to wash away not only all the benefits, but you’re going to increase your risk significantly. So if I’m in a situation where I’m not going to be hands-on to oversee those lifts, I don’t plug them into your program, because I don’t trust that the, you know, freshmen pitching coach, or that the JV line coach who is only experienced in a weight room really is what they had back in high school 10 years ago.
They’re not they don’t have the ability to have the watchful eye and the coaching skill to coach those things, that’s fine. That’s who I have to to help me implement this, I just won’t, won’t give them an exercise that complex. So that’s, that’s number one is only put in what you know, we can safely teach and execute. So you actually even get the benefit of it. Because remember, we’re not doing exercise to get good at the exercise, we’re doing it for an end result. And then to is distance running long, slow distance running.
From a physiological perspective, that doesn’t match the demands of 90% of the sports unless it is cross country. And also from the fact that they don’t understand that there is everything we do has a cost. It has there’s a training cost to everything there’s a metabolic cost, which may be a good thing, whatever some calories, there’s a physiological cost, which may or may not be a good thing because if I go into a really taxing practice or workout the day before a game now I’ve I have no physiological reserve going into the next day.
Not a good thing. But there are also structural costs. So like I have an example of a kid who’s on one of the teams that I work with he’s a division one recruit getting he’s got about a dozen different schools looking at him. He’s a big lineman. And he sometimes that’s because wait get away from he went to one of the schools that are recruiting when they said you need to lose weight, you start running. And he said, Coach, the school said, I need to start running.
Now, this kid’s knees rub together when he stands there, he’s just a big body that he can’t control, you tell him to start running, it’ll be you just start your timer and when his knees blow out because he’s not he can’t handle the structural costs. So for whatever metabolic benefit you get from that, it’s going to its 10 times worse, than what he’s going to pay structural costs.
When you go and do and run a bunch of polls for football, or for baseball, or you’re running a bunch of gassers, you have to understand the structural toll and the physiological toll that’s taking? And is it really worth it? Are you getting anything out of it. And if you know, you think you’re getting better condition for your sport, that may not always be the case. There are other things that we can do that will get you much better condition with a much lower structural cost much lower time costs, that will be much more efficient, effective for your sport.
Steve Washuta: Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. Because I agree, there are always trade-offs, there’s no solution. But some of the trade-offs are not good when you’re doing these, these drills, he’s gassers, and things of that nature.
I know that I like to do things like boxing with some of my athletes because it’s still high intensity, and it’s endurance, and they’re moving rotationally and they’re using their arms, and they’re using their legs, and we’re working on footwork, what are some of the maybe out of the ordinary things that you’re doing with athletes to keep them conditioned, but it’s not just your run of the mill gassers
Eric D’Ágati: Okay, so if you’ve ever been an athlete, or you’ve been a coach, you’ve never been in a practice where we’re, you know, the kids have said, Oh, good, it’s time for conditioning. Like they get excited for conditioning because it’s been framework, that it’s punishment, right. So they just want to get through it, and they hate it. Then the coaches have their tough-guy attitude of this is what it takes.
We’re building mental toughness, which is a whole nother week, it’s been a whole nother podcast. So that’s a bunch of nonsense, but so if I can take it where it doesn’t feel like that punishment, that’s an I’ll give you the one thing that I do with field sports. That is probably one of the best drills that I found is that what we do is we take in this is where I will group them someone on position, and I will box off sections of the field.
So let’s say for you keep using this example of football, I’ll have the linemen in a small box, I’ll have the the backs and linebackers and then a moderate sized box, and then the skill outside guys in a bigger size box. Then what we do is we put everybody in those boxes, I call out to names, right. We’re gonna have Steven Eric, here we go, you got 30 seconds, or 20 seconds, whatever we said is our time, go. We play TAC. They have to chase everybody down and try to tag them and we compete to see who can get the most people. With that, you’re working on reading.
You’re reading people’s hips, reading people’s feet, being able to break down, change, direction, accelerate, decelerate, there’s a huge conditioning component. They are gassed when they’re done, but they’re laughing. They’re having fun, they’re competing. And they don’t feel like that’s conditioning. It is tremendous conditioning. There are so many dynamics to that, of working on their ability to do all those things. That is my that is a great go-to, for for conditioning that people generally don’t think about.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And what came to mind when you said that is also like dodgeball, right? In a very similar way where you have to catch you have to locate the ball, you have to move your hips, you’re throwing overhead, which you do in a lot of sports, and, you know, you’re moving in all directions, you’re moving laterally, you’re ducking, you’re jumping. So I think that that’s probably something else that again, doesn’t seem like punishment, but you’re working on conditioning esque things.
Eric D’Ágati: Yeah. And, you know, whether it’s that or if it’s on a strength perspective, you know, using, you know, using things doing things like tug of war, or doing different drills with battle ropes, those are the kind of things that, that that is they feel like play, but they’re actually checking a lot of boxes in terms of physical attributes we’re looking for in terms of, you have to learn things that have direct carryover in terms of positioning, leverage, self-organization, translating into things in your grip, being able to generate power, learning how to manage your breath, all those things we can sneak in here in something that feels like play. And the coaches like it because there’s a competitive element, and then the and then the kids like it because it doesn’t, it’s just not another Gasser running from here.
Steve Washuta: So I’m going to break down sort of where we’ve gone so far. You initially maybe meet with the coaches and the team and you get a sense of direction from the coaches and from the team and what the players need. And what the coaches are working towards, then you make a plan some sort of prescription on what you’re going to do, you’re overseeing the athletes, we’re making sure that there’s in-season training, also, not just just training beforehand, we’re making sure that training is commensurate with the athlete and the sport.
If if it is, again, football, we’re not going to have the run five miles for conditioning, we’re going to have them play tag and do things where they’re moving their hips and feet in all directions that mimic the sport itself. And is there is there anything else I missed that you feel is like a vital component to tell someone who would be brand new to working with a high school sports team?
Eric D’Ágati: Yeah, I think getting building the trust and rapport of the kids themselves and getting them to buy in. Right? I, you know, I don’t like the role of being the mean strength coach that shows up that everybody’s scared up and No, no, you know, Coach, the guy, he’s here, and he’s gonna beat us up and make us run. It is more about trust and building.
Where I tell, the first thing I say is the first most important and most valuable asset we have is communication. Especially, let’s say if we’re working with a sport, like track or for working with even baseball and softball is that I explained to him that our number one goal here is to keep you on the field to keep you on the track, right and that no one ever hit a homerun no one ever, you know, won a race from the training room, right, you need to be able to be your best ability is your availability. So with that, we need to keep you healthy.
In sports, other than, you know, your contact sports, you know, like basketball and soccer, I would count as a contact sport and football is really a collision sport. With those things, there’s, there’s a warning, it’s sports that don’t have that element, there are warning signs that will come up. And then even in those sports that do have it. If helmet goes into your knee, I can’t you know, that’s the nature of the sport, right? That’s what happens.
But for the other stuff, the hamstrings, the hip flexors, the Kilis, the sore shoulders, all that sort of stuff, your body is going to give you a warning sign. And we can do one or two things, and anybody who’s ever been an athlete knows that we do one or two things, we can just ignore it and try to talk through it. Or we can go and try to do something about that. And so I explained to them look if you can pay attention to your body.
If I give you no other gift as someone who’s in charge of improving your performance is to create greater awareness of your body. If you can be aware of that I got a little twinge here that doesn’t feel right, this doesn’t feel like it usually does. You can communicate that to me and or the athletic trainer. That’s another piece we should get into is the importance of a team approach on the professional side.
But is communicate that to me now. And now maybe I can give you some mobility or stability drills or some things you can do to remedy that. And it may only set us back a couple days or a week or so if you try to tough it out and ignore that. Now you may be shut down two or three weeks with which within sometimes a season that’s only six eight weeks, you may miss half your season because you wanted to be stubborn ignore this where we could have resolved a lot of this if we caught it earlier and done it and a lot less painful time staking way.
Communication is number one and getting people to understand I appreciate that every school team that I work with, I give them my cell phone number and I get texts every single day. Hey, Coach, I got this what can you help me? You know, can you help me with this? And sometimes it’s like, no, you got to go see the athletic trainer, or sometimes it’s Hey, try these things, sees if they help. And then when I’m there, you know, next week, check with me and we’ll see what you can what else you can do.
Steve Washuta: If you have the time, Eric, I’d love to finish touching on what you just mentioned, for the professionalism of networking and working as a team I know as a personal trainer, which got what propelled my career in having golf, a golf coach, right a golf specialist, having a physical therapist having a sports medicine doctor having an orthopedic doctor having a neurosurgeon all these people in my circle that I referred out to and they referred back to me not only did I learn, but I also didn’t step on any other toes, which was very important. And that wholesale approach to the clients helped my client which in turn gave me better reviews as an expert, which got me more clients. So can you talk about how that works in your field?
Eric D’Ágati: Yeah, that is huge. Your your your, your network makes you that much stronger. But unfortunately, we go into it. And I probably made this mistake in my younger years as you go into building that network hoping to get more clients out of it.
Whereas ultimately, you want to build the network where you become the trusted resource for that network to the point where I have enough rapport with the athletic trainer and have enough rapport with the team doctors that they trust me to decisions that I’ll make and I’ve had multiple occasions where they, you know, I’ve had that the doctor and the physical and the physical therapist and the athletic trainer say, you know, they’re good as far as we’re concerned, but we want you to clear them because you spend more time with them, you know that you know, the dynamics that the sport is going to put them through and what they need to be able to handle.
I don’t want your stamp of approval before we actually give the coach the green light because the coach is going to shove them out there as soon as possible. So and then getting the trust of the coach to say, look, coach, here’s, here’s what the, here’s what the plan is to bring. So and So back to the field, here’s where you can start using them, you’re going to start using them today, just in practice, I only want this all you want them doing this for now. And then let’s see how they respond. And if they respond, well, then they can do this tomorrow.
Then if they’re doing that, then hopefully, by the end of next week, you’ll have them for good, right. And if they can, they can trust you enough to do that. And understand that look, if you trust me through this process, now, we can make it a week or week or we can do it, you know, the old school way you can make it a month. But you have to be able to build that rapport to do that. And that’s not about handing out business cards and getting referrals that just kind of being that resource. And it’s a very cool situation when you can become that resource and have that lane, that people really they know that you’re the go-to for that.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more Necco those thoughts. And I imagine whether you’re currently doing it, or you’re thinking about doing it, you’re going to develop maybe an online course of sorts, that has all of this information so that you can teach others what you’ve learned throughout your career.
Eric D’Ágati: Yeah, so ironically, that’s something a project that I’m involved in now. A colleague of mine, Mike Perry, has a great facility up in the Boston area called skill of strength. Mike and I met through FMS, we’re both leading instructors with FMS, we became friends years ago. And we were talking, we were both down at FMS headquarters about a year or so ago, for one of our virtual courses.
And we’re just spending some time are talking about okay, well, what do we think could be next in terms of that’s not out there? Like what do we see in terms of education that’s missing for our world, because we go out, we teach trainers and strength coaches and physical therapists and athletic trainers and like, what’s our biggest weak link, what’s our Achilles heel, and we both kinds of ironically landed on the same spot. It was programmed design, like, and what I mean by that is, we have a lot of courts, we have a lot of really cool courses. We have a lot of really cool information and stuff out there, that people go out and grab, but they don’t have a system to tack it to.
So one of two things happens, they go out and take that method course of whatever it is kettlebells or FRC or FMS or a mobility course, or any of these things, right. They take it and one of two things happens one, they go back Monday, and everybody’s doing that, right? Forget what we did everything up until now, everybody on Monday now needs more mobility, everybody now is going to use a kettlebell, everybody now is going to go to use whatever thing I learned this weekend. That’s I’m all in on that. All I’m going to do.
I’m that guy now. Right. And that is now the new silo that I’m going to live in. And I am going to only do if I’m a kettlebell guy, I’m only going to do if Pavel says to do it, and I don’t look ever outside of my silo. That’s one way it happens.
And we get caught into that trap, and we pigeonhole ourselves into one method of practice. The other mistake we make is, we go and take a course. And I can’t tell me at times, I’ve had this where people who’ve gone taking one of my courses that it’s all it’s great information, I love it, I love it, I can’t wait. Then they get back Monday. And now reality since and I have my full list of clients or I have my full client load. patient load is a physical therapist, or I’m in the athletic training room and it’s like it How am I going to plug it? Where am I fitting the time to do this?
How am I doing this? How did like this doesn’t fit exactly in the plug-and-play system that I have? And so you know what? I liked it, but I can’t I just it doesn’t work in my situation. Because they don’t really have a system, it’s just it’s just emergency triage that they’re doing, whether it’s on the training or rehab side, and they don’t have really a system that’s methodical.
Because of that, they they keep learning new stuff that they that they acquire, and then they just as soon forget, because they don’t have a system to actually apply it. The concept of our principles of program design and say, Look, there’s some guardrails, and there’s some checklist of principles that apply to anything if you’re using exercise as a modality for improving someone’s fitness, health, wellness.
Those guardrails and those principles are what we teach and then whatever methods you want to plug in, good for you, we don’t really care at the end of the day, whether you use a 531 system, whether you use West Side, whether you use Pilates, whether you use strong first doesn’t really matter is you can take all of those things and put them in one big melting pot if you have the right principles and checklists to say okay, now I know when I use kettlebell swings versus deadlifts versus something else.
So now I have a system to put that up against. Now it is a lot less daunting because I just have a simple checklist to say, Okay, did I check this box? Do they move? Well, yes. Okay. Do they have enough strength? Yes. Do they have enough power? Yes. Okay. And then now I just go through, where is your weakest link? Okay, well, maybe your weakest link has nothing to do with what happens in the gym, your lifestyle, recovery stinks.
We invest our time in teaching you about the importance of sleep and the importance of nutrition and hydration and these things. So if I have a checklist, it’s that simple, is that I just have a really good checklist to kind of go through and say, Where is our where do we need to focus on and that’s how I build a program around that. And I don’t waste time doing drills that you do for things that you don’t need.
Steve Washuta: That’s absolutely fantastic. And certainly from the National Academy of Sports side. I can tell you that’s needed for trainers. Because like you said, they are inundated a lot of times with a lot of information. And a lot of different new modalities. Not only do they not know where to put them. But they feel like they have to get everything in just for the sake of getting everything in, right. So it’s like, if they look around the room.
They say, okay, if I’m training with this client three times this week. I have to use each piece of equipment. Why just because it’s there. So I think I think that’s going to be a life-changer for people. Also people who are passionate, but they just don’t have the sense of the next step. And that’s, that is a lot of young personal trainers that I work with.
Eric D’Ágati: And and with that. So you know, we even had, we’ve run a couple beta courses for professionals in our network for this. For the live course for this, which will be we’ll have dates, you know. Posted in the next coming in the coming weeks is that when we have case studies. And we say here’s your case study, and we put people in groups. Say you need to write a program for this individual to understand that. Okay, here’s, here’s the difference between a program. Which is not the same thing as a workout, right. If you’re just giving workouts, that’s something different than a program is ultimately what leads you from point A to point B. The workouts are the means to kind of fill that in.
And then within a workout, you know. We had really smart, you know, people that were in that room that had lots of experience. Yet they have that session short and it it intimidates them in that? Well, there’s a section in every session chart that has the same sections to them, right? They have a warm-up, they have this and that. And they Well, there’s a section for power. But this case study. All right, well, let’s give them medicine bolts, so gross. And so when we review the case study on the whiteboard, you say, Okay, you get medicine ball throws why? Well, you know, that’s their power. So do they need power? This is the case study was a woman who’s looking to lose weight.
And power is not anything that has nothing to do with their goals. So we don’t just have to fill in it. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to fill it in. Right? And just because there’s a progression of things that you may learn. And of all the, you know, different models that NSM may have. Where there’s this stabilization, equivalent training, and then there’s the, you know, this equivalent training. Well, what if I don’t need stability? Yeah, then don’t do it, then don’t do it, then it’s okay. But if you don’t have a system to check that box. Everybody gets stability, even though they need built may need it or not need it.
So unless you have checks and balances. You’re going to spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t getting them closer to their goal. And so the difference between a good trainer and a great one. Is that a good trainer will still get your results. I’ll just get you there faster because I can sift through all the nonsense. And say these are the biggest steps to take to get there safely and effectively. And I’m not going to waste time doing anything that’s unnecessary, because I already checked those boxes.
Steve Washuta: Do you mind me asking what is that first step?
Eric D’Ágati: So the first step is finding out as much as you can about the situation. Whether it’s the client, whether it’s the team, okay. Then part of the course that we talked about is key questions. Sometimes these key questions are more valuable than any assessment that I did. I’ve kind of gone full circle with assessments. That’s what I really got into it first. Is I did Paul checks, internship and I did Paul Cohen’s internship, and I did every NSM course. I did all these things.
I had this really amazing assessment. The problem was, is it was an hour and a half. That’s a problem when I’m trying to run a facility at the time. That I have eight trainers that I’m trying to scale out and duplicate myself where I’m the bottleneck. Everybody has to go through me for assessment. And then I’m realizing You know, a lot of this information I’m gathering is cool, but it doesn’t apply to this individual. And this data collection, if I’m not going to do anything with it, why am I collecting this data? Yeah, it’s really cool to know exactly what the goniometer how many degrees of glenohumeral internal rotation you have.
But this person can’t touch their toes. They have poor breathing strategies. Or they just want to be able to pick up their grandkids and lose a couple pounds. Like, this doesn’t matter. And so, and it wasn’t gonna change my program anyway. So why am I bothering collecting that data? So I can sharp shoot more with even which assessments I would do more. But even on the assessment side. As much as I’m into that, so the most powerful assessments they do are some key questions. That I’ll ask you.
Because if I miss some of these things, I’m going to really derail your program. So if I don’t know what you do throughout the course of your day, right. And now you’re going to show up for your six o’clock workout. And I have a hit workout plan for you. But I never bothered to ask what you do. And then I don’t realize that you’re loading pallets all day, right. Or, you know, you run a trucking company and you’re load, you know. Getting in and out of trucks and getting, you know, loading pallets on and off in a warehouse. Like the last thing you need is a hit workout at the end of the day.
Yeah, right, I need to learn how my job is to manage stress. And put as much stress into your body as possible to create a positive response. But not too much that it’s going to create a negative response. And so I need to know those things. I need to know your medical history, your injury history, your training history, what have you been successful with? What have you done in the past? Because all that’s gonna lead me down a path to write your program just as much as anything I do. As far as physical assessments.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, I That sounds absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t agree more. I think a mistake that people make too, sometimes. Just will hand the client a sheet that might be sort of their Parkview medical assessment form. But they don’t actually have a conversation with them. And then what happens is the client then gets to decide what’s important and what’s not. Right. So when I sit down, you might not think that you broke your ankle at 22.
Because now you’re 55 matters. But it does matter, right? Because now there could be imbalances that you’ve never noticed. That if I would have known that you had this ankle brake. That you were hobbling on during your tennis career. I could change and shift what I’m going to do in the program. So you have to have the actual conversation with the client. And not just hand them a sheet and then get the sheet back.
Eric D’Ágati: Well, Steve, you and I know because we’ve seen enough people fill out those charts and go no sign. Okay. Can we get started? Yeah, that nobody’s paying attention to those traits.
Steve Washuta: Now, half the time they come back. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve had a heart attack three years ago. I said That’s not on your list that wasn’t on your sheet.
Eric D’Ágati: Yeah, no, I , we have some great stories. We tell them the course about that. The one I tell is I had a woman. I was using her as an example for moving screen. And I said, you don’t have any injuries that we need to know about. No, no, nothing. And I go through and I say You sure you don’t have anything? You have a big? You have a couple of big scars on your knee. She’s like, Oh, yeah, well, I did have those ACL surgeries, I go plural.
She says, Oh, well, I had four of them. Said you forgot for ACL surgeries five minutes ago. Like that’s pretty important for me to know that’s going to impact our programming. But people aren’t going to be forthright. And so that’s why I want to have again, checks and balances to know these things. Because yeah, parku doesn’t cut it apart. Q is is a thing to kind of cya then to have that.
But you need to pick that thing up and read it and then ask the question. No injuries, nothing’s hips, knees, shoulders, low back. Nothing will say Oh, will I do this? Oh, well, I do have this oh, well, there, you start to get the full picture. And sometimes even that’s what the purpose of a movement screen does is you realize that. You know, they have no range of motion in that one ankle and you say. Do you ever do anything to the ankle? And they say, oh, yeah, you’re right. When I was 22, I did break my ankle.
Okay, what do you do? Well, nothing. I just wear boot for like six months. And then I just started back playing tennis again. I think okay, well, you, you skipped some pretty big steps there foul. And so now we have to go back and undo 30 years of bad movement. That you layered on top of that already restricted ankle?
Steve Washuta: Yeah. I think it’s important just to quickly to go over the mental side of that. Because this is why it happens. So so people aren’t unaware. They’re not trying to hide it from you. And it’s not necessarily like naivety. It’s this amnesia we have about our own medical history where we don’t think it’s a big deal.
So we forget about it’s like. I forgot how difficult it was the first six weeks of my child. Because we just but I’m sure if I got back to that moment. I you know, I’m not sleeping at night, and it’s very difficult. So I sometimes forget about the surgery that I’ve had or difficulties that I’ve had, because we’ve dealt with them. We’ve gotten past them and we just have this natural ability as humans to have this amnesia about difficult situations. That’s why we have to really prove to our clients.
Eric D’Ágati: There’s kind of two edges that we have in great Cook. Who’s one of my mentors I’ve had the gift of working with for the last 15 years. Who created the FMS says who’s there’s people who don’t think they can do things when they actually can’t. Those are the safest people. Those people just never get fit because they never challenge themselves. Because they’re scared of everything, right.
Then you have the other side who’s a way more dangerous person. Who thinks they’re way better than they really are. That’s the album that you scored four touchdowns in their state championship game 25 years ago. And don’t realize that that was a different human being than that standing here right now. That you can’t do certain things. You can’t just jump into the weight room and pick up where you left off.
So those are the most dangerous individuals because they overestimate what they can do. And that’s why having again, that checks and balances. To know of having a system to say. Here’s what it is safe for you to do from a movement standpoint. From a challenge standpoint, from a physiological standpoint. Knowing where here’s where our baselines are. And here’s where we can start you based on who’s really here in front of it. Because I always say when we write programs. I need to know three things we talked about. Knowing about your past medical history, injury, history, training, history, that sort of thing.
Your present is what the assessment processes. The court, the interviews, those key questions uou know. Where you stand right now in terms of your movement. Your body composition, your strength, your speed. All those things are, that’s the present. Then the future is worth what’s the environment you’re trying to get yourself prepared for. Then then I have to be able to match those demands.
So that’s really the three key factors that I need to know in terms of writing your program. Then now once I know that information. I have a pretty good idea up until then I have no idea. So I get texts, I get calls. You probably get the text to Hey, can you give me a good workout for baseball? Hey, can you give me a good stretch for my low back? You know, there’s no answer to that. No. And so the more the longer I’ve done this, the more I realize that I don’t know.
And it depends are my two favorite answers? Because I don’t know stretch. Reload that maybe you just why is your low back. Maybe the first thing I ask is why do you think you need to stretch? Yeah, what maybe it has nothing to do with your low back why your low back hurts. And if I stretch it, you know, I could actually make it worse.
So they’re like, Oh, what do I do that? And so like, just to get people to understand it. It’s a little bit more complex than just here. You know, I had a coach, come to me and say. Coach, I’m sorry, hey you’re supposed to meet with me to discuss the offseason programs like listen. I’m a little bit of a rush. And could you just give me some stretches. I can give to the girls so we can so we can avoid injuries this year. I said really? What do you what? What subject do you teach? While I teach history? I said, Okay, well listen. So if we got 10 minutes, just give me a brief overview. Like there was a revolution and there was a civil war. It was there was like, there was a couple of war wars, Vietnam somewhere in there.
That’s pretty much it. Right? I got that covered. That’s we’re good. Like, that’s pretty much but it’s not that he was again. From the standpoint of being malicious about it. It’s just they don’t understand that there’s a lot more of a thought process to this. And, and getting people to appreciate that increases your value. When someone when you spend that time asking those questions. Before you ever ask them to do an exercise before you even go and do it. That means they understand that you’re invested in this. Not just them and get them to understand this is about them.
This isn’t about you. This isn’t about me selling you Eric’s program. Because I if you call me up right now and say, hey, I want you to work with my son. What are you going to do for him? I have a guy right now on looking startup next week. He’s a high-level lacrosse player. What are you gonna do? I don’t know, I have no idea, I have no idea until I meet with him and look under the hood, I have no idea what I’m gonna do.
And I may his biggest thing he may need has. He may never touch a week ever with me because his biggest need may be learning about his nutrition. His biggest need may be learning. About other things that have nothing to do with what you think it’s going to be. And so that’s where you know having that again. I keep coming back to having a system to know. All right, well, I know what boxes need to get checked. For you to get from here to where you want to be as a lacrosse player. I just need to see which ones you already have checked. Before I know can tell you what I’m going to do. Because I’m going to do the ones that aren’t checked first.
Steve Washuta: Eric this has been a wealth of information. I can’t thank you enough where can the audience and listeners find more about you. Your program your upcoming course, everything or to God?
Eric D’Ágati: Sure. The easiest place first place to start is my website is my name e Ric da je ATI Eric daddy.com. And because I do a bunch of these as well as going out and teaching all over the place. I have a thing right on the homepage. It’s an ask Eric forum where you just drop in a question that goes directly to my email. I’ll get back to you in a couple days with hopefully an answer. And if not an answer resource we can get the answer in terms of the course. That is called Principles of program design.
We have Facebook, Instagram, and all that stuff you can follow me on all those things. As well as fall principles program design any of those. Like I said, we’re going to be having some online courses that we’re going to. We’re looking to get out so many courses as well as an online version. Hopefully by spring, and we’re going to be getting updates for 2022. In the coming weeks for live versions of this. Which are hugely interactive. That we’ve like I said that a couple betas of that are going to be that have really gone awesome. And we’re excited to launch those throughout 2022 In a couple of different locations throughout the country.
Steve Washuta: My guest today has been Eric D’Ágati thanks for your time.
Eric D’Ágati: Thank you very much.
Steve Washuta: Thanks for joining us on the Trulyfit podcast. Please subscribe, rate, and review on your listening platform. Feel free to email us as we’d love to hear from you.
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