• Coaches Corner with Bryan Mann
    Bryan Mann, MS, PhD, CSCS, is the Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Missouri. With 14 years of professional strength and conditioning experience, he also serves as an Assistant Professor in the departments of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training.
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  • CoachesCornerBannerCoaches Corner | Bo Sandoval
    Bryan Mann, MS, PhD, CSCS
    Dr. Bryan Mann has been a strength and conditioning professional for the past 14 years at the Division 1 level. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Missouri as well as being an Assistant Professor in the departments of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training.

    1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning?
    I started as an undergraduate strength and conditioning coach in 1999.

    2. What is your training style/methods regarding training?
    This is tough to say, as I try to use everything when it is most applicable. I would say that I have a principle of using science to continue to help the athlete make improvements to their physical capabilities over multiple years. I will use the “power” lifts (i.e., squat, bench, and deadlift), Olympic lifts (i.e., clean, snatch, jerk, and their variations), and “functional” exercises. I will work from a traditional periodization model to a flexible non-linear periodization model over time. 
     
    I will progress athletes using comparisons of their explosive abilities as expressed in peak anaerobic power in watts to their absolute strength and see what the athlete needs to work on to continue to improve—more absolute strength or more rate of force development (RFD)? I make sure that everything in my program has an explanation as for the “what” and “why.” Back to the original point, I cannot say that there is one training style, but the methods that I use are progressive overload for various systems and the ever popular and important, specific adaptations to imposed demands (SAID) principle.

    3. How has this training style/methods evolved over the years?
    Over the years, I have learned not only a lot of “whats” (i.e., exercises, sets, reps, and programming styles) but the “whys” (i.e., what adaptation does this induce) and “hows” (i.e., how to implement this into the program). I try to read up on and understand every new thing that comes out. I have read books on power factor training (shows my age), German volume training, high intensity training (HIT) training, and many others. 
    By reading the books and rereading some of them, I have learned more and gained insight into what it really is and how it can be implemented with certain athletes. 
    What has happened is that I have expanded my circle of knowledge and have been able to apply things at the right time in the right way. Earlier in my career, when all I knew were “whats,” I would get lucky when something worked. Now that I know the “hows” and “whys,” I can usually predict what is going on with their training and what they will need to do next to continue to improve performance.4. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why?
    Rick Perry gave me my start; he challenged me to read everything that I could. I have always thirsted for knowledge in various fields, and he gave me my first taste in the soviet literature. He allowed a young, hungry, ambitious, and often stupid undergraduate student a chance to coach at the highest level possible. While I was a volunteer, Rick would refer to me as his assistant and never his intern.

    Louie Simmons has influenced my career greatly by the fact that he is so open with his information and application of such, and by the fact that he is continually pushing the envelope. Some may not agree with his training methods, but the one thing that everyone can agree upon is that he is very innovative.

    Buddy Morris was my first real insight into training athletes with concurrent periodization, which is a resource that I call upon to this day. Tom Myslinski has been a great mentor to me. He knows everything about programming and has been kind enough to let me sit in on many conversations that he has had with other top level strength coaches. 
     
    Joe “Big House” Kenn allowed me to do an internship under him, and I flourished in his “Tier System,” seeing what parts could go where and how. House is another innovator that pushes the envelope and continues to encourage and champion me, even when I get frustrated. 
     
    Pat Ivey has been a mentor to me, he has taught me more about working with people and how to do it than I ever thought possible. His ability to work with people and say the right thing at the right time is nearly supernatural. He encouraged my continued quest for knowledge by allowing me to go and get a PhD while working as a full-time strength coach. Dr. Andy Fry has been a great resource as well. I have been able to call him at any time with any question and he knows the answer. He has done so much for this field from a research perspective; Andy and Dr. Bill Kraemer are godsends.

    5. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with?
    For one, we will work on areas that need improvement. The first thing we will do is a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) when the athletes get here. That will give us an insight into their momentary movement quality. 
     
    This summer, with my athletes, I am actually going to be doing an additional quick screening of a depth jump with a motion capture system that will measure the joint angles and forces going along with them. Athletes are master compensators, and if something does not show up in the FMS, it may show up under load in the depth jump. While you can look at someone and tell if they are valgus or not, I will actually be able to quantify that this summer, which I am very excited about. 
    From these assessments, we will prescribe some additional exercises or sets to the program to help with their individual needs. We also will use a level system with increasing demands on special strengths and rate of force development as they progress in the system. We will also adapt things to athletes based off of their body, especially if they have chronic injuries or some problem which prevents them from performing a certain exercise. We will adapt to creative things. 
    One of my favorite things to do is to get a guy with bulging discs and work with him. He will end up getting faster—much faster—because of what we were able to do with him that is outside of his normal wheelhouse. 

    6. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning?
    I think the most overlooked concept in this field is the transfer of training. So many people get caught up with how much power you can put onto the bar. Here is the deal—if you are not improving your sports performance, you are wasting your time and your athlete’s time. There are several books out there that talk about predictor lifts for various sports—meaning that by improving this lift, you will improve sports performance. 
     
    Also, I think something that is overlooked is analyzing your testing. I remember a speaker at a conference was on-stage and said, “Because we did our kettlebell swings at the beginning of the workout, our vertical jumps went up.” I went up and asked the speaker what type of statistic analysis he did to see this and he said, “I looked at the profile and a bunch of guys that I saw with big kettlebell increases had good vertical increases as well.” Well, is that really what it was? What about the guys who had good increases on their kettlebell swing but yet their vertical went down?

    My whole view of training changed as a part of my statistics classes. I was supposed to do a mini-thesis about some data that we knew well for regression analysis (which essentially looks at relationships between variables). I decided that I would do it on how the Olympic lifts, namely the clean, are related to vertical jump. We do cleans to improve explosive power, the vertical jump is a test of explosive power, so by the cleans increasing we should have the vertical jump increase. 
     
    This sounds so simple and logical, right? Well, it turns out that our cleans did not have a relationship at all, positive or negative with vertical jump. I realized at this moment, that what we see on a profile might not be what is really going on. 
     
    As a side note, that is what drew us to using velocity based training. Once we quantified the clean as not only standing up with the barbell, but standing up with it at the correct velocity or higher it started having an impact on our clean. Interestingly enough, after this implementation our relationship was 1) Body composition; 2) Squat; and 3) Clean in order of having the most impact on vertical jump. Now back from the tangent—we will periodically run various stats on our profile to see what is going on. What lifts are influencing what tests? Is the new change that we made to training making an impact?

    Something else that I think is greatly overlooked is the use of people on campus. There are people whose sole job is to find out as much information about one particular thing as possible. If you are having questions and you are not consulting with these people, you are not utilizing a useful tool at your disposal. Maybe you have no clue how to run statistics and do not want to talk to a professor who can run them for you. Make friends with these people; not only can you gain more information about your program, but opportunities will open up with you for other things on campus.

    7. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field?
    What I utilize the most are the conferences. They are a great way to pick up new information and meet people and talk shop. I think that this is invaluable. Many conferences will have multiple top level speakers who are masters of something. Not utilizing this information puts you at a disadvantage.

    8. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming?
    I think that specificity needs to be examined. Not in terms of doing sporting movements weighted necessarily, but making sure that you are spending times working on the right things. For instance, for a sprinter, spending entire days devoted to bench press would be a waste of time because they would not want to increase their strength to mass ratio since that would only slow them down. 
    You want to make sure that you are training the proper energy systems. There is no point in having a shot-putter run three miles as conditioning. They will never draw from that energy system, not in training or in competition.   
    If a sport takes place in multiple planes, you need to train multiple planes. Our track coach of over 26 years, Dr. Rick McGuire, once told me, “Bryan, do you know what it takes to be successful in track? The athlete has to be able to run fast and lean left.” If you are not training the track athlete to do that, you are doing them a disservice.

    I do think, however, that we must realize that nothing is specific to the sport except the sport itself. We, as coaches, can never replicate games in the weight room or on the conditioning field, excluding of course sports like track, Olympic weightlifting, or powerlifting. We will be best served improving the general strength and power of the athlete in lifts that are those to improve them athletically, that have the highest transfer of training. 
     
    In Tudor Bompa’s theories and methodologies of training, I remember seeing a correlation matrix of many different sports and which lifts improved results in those sports. The one that I remember for sure was the hang snatch and the high jump. I try to make sure that I develop the lifts that will 1) improve performance of that sport and 2) decrease risk of injury in that sport.

    9. What is your favorite tool in your tool box?
    My favorite tool in my tool box is analytical ability. I love new challenges and figuring out how to overcome those challenges. I love new information, figuring out the “whys” and “hows” behind the “whats” so I can implement those tools. I love reading the research and taking it and applying it. The time when I had the most fun was as a graduate assistant working with all of the injured football players. I had no other administrative duties, no other sports that took up any of my time, all I had was them. And let me tell you, it was a blast. We would rig up all sorts of different special exercises for them to do, and work around various injuries. 
     
    I remember one spring in particular, we had a quarterback and a receiver who had three bulging disks in their backs each. I was charged with just getting them through the off-season and into spring ball without flaring up their back. I did not only that, but took .3 seconds off of the quarterback’s 40-yard dash and added 6” onto the receivers standing long jump. 
     
    Now, let me say this—they are the ones who did the work. If they had not worked hard, and put their everything into the program, they would not have had these results. With as hard as they worked, they would have gotten great results from leg extensions and leg curls. I cannot take credit for their results, only be happy for them for what they achieved.

    10. What are your five favorite exercises?
    1) Squat
    2) Glute ham raise
    3) Snatch
    4) Pull-up
    5) Heavy sled pull

    11. What advice do you have for young coaches who are beginning their careers and hoping to “follow in your footsteps?”
    Always seek to learn everything you can. Not just the “whats” but the “whys” and “hows.” Information is increasing at a tremendous rate, especially with the accessibility that is granted by the internet. You need to be educated enough to read and disseminate the good research from the bad research (yes, there is bad stuff that is published), as well as what is applicable to your population and what is not. The abstract is the advertisement for the study; it is almost like the book jacket in the book store. Do not take that as everything that there is in the study. 
     
    Look to others who have been in the field for advice. There really is not much of anything new that ever comes out, just new twists and additions. If you get the chance to sit down and get advice from someone who has been in the field for quite some time, they will probably have done something similar to what you are trying to do. I recently heard a brilliant young man speak at a conference, trying to come up with his own indices. Much of what he was trying to figure out on his own had already been done before.

    If I had to give one word of advice, it would be parsimony. Parsimony is adoption of the simplest assumption in the formulation of a theory or in the interpretation of data, especially in accordance with the rule of Ockham’s razor. 
    You get the most amount of information from the least amount of work. This can translate to many things in our field, be it conditioning, speed training, weight training, testing, etc. You and your athletes have a limited amount of time, so use it wisely. Do not test things unnecessarily, do not do exercises or workouts just because they are cool.  
    You need to find out how to be parsimonious in order to maintain your sanity. Read more.

    Know why you got into the field and keep that as your beacon. I got into the field to make a difference in people’s lives, and used the weight room and conditioning fields as the vehicle to do it. That has kept me wanting to do more in the field. Do I love the science side of it? Absolutely I do, I’ve been referred to as the mad scientist multiple times. But I could do science anywhere; I do what I do because I want to make a difference.

    Have a back-up plan. I had received advice from many old strength coaches when I was a young pup that you had better have a back-up plan. You never know when the day comes that you are going to get fired, it is a “when” question, not an “if” question, and you need to have a way to feed your family. Along those lines, it is very important to be fiscally responsible and save what you can, everything that you can. We do not get paid much as it is, and saving is tough, but you will need those funds when the day comes that you get let go.

    One other piece of advice is something that I built my career around. I visited Jeff Madden in March of 2004, during my spring break while I was an undergraduate. Coach Madden let me ask every question I could think of and afforded me many hours of his time that day—for which I am still grateful to today. Before I left for the day, he told me, “Bryan, you need to make sure that wherever you go, you do a tremendous job. You need to outwork everyone, and do so many jobs that the university cannot afford to fire you, because it would take two or three people to replace you, and that is just bad business.” I have tried to live up to that statement since that day.
  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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