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Texans Fitness Corner

Welcome to Dan Riley's sixth installment of Texans Fitness Corner. The response continues to be overwhelming. Dan responded to five of the questions this time around and we will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to

NOTE:Before engaging in any new physical activity, always consult your physician.

I'm back online. I left town to attend a major trade show in San Francisco.It was exciting to observe and actually try many of the new pieces of equipment now available on the market. I was sore for three days.

There is a tremendous amount of competition between and among the major strength and conditioning vendors.Technology continues to improve.

I'm currently preparing our budget proposal for the 2002 season. Initially we'll use the training room, locker room and weight room in the Astrodome. We'll begin training our players in March of 2002, as soon as the rodeo leaves town.We'll move into our new facility when it is completed in July of 2002.

We toured the Astrodome two weeks ago to begin planning for the future. We looked at every available space to plan for meeting rooms, eating areas, the locker room, weight room, and training room. It was very exciting.

My last trip to the Astrodome was with the Redskins in 1987. It was for a Sunday night game against the Oilers. We got waxed. It was a packed house and the crowd was one of the best I'd ever seen or heard. It was so loud our players couldn't hear our quarterback, Doug Williams. Sean Jones was getting off the ball before our left tackle, Joe Jacoby, moved from his stance.

The support and passion Texan fans bring to our new stadium will provide a decided edge for our players.

Let's get back to answering some of your questions.

I have been training for 17 years and have never been injured in the gym. I was taught that good technique was the key to injury free lifting. What mistakes do the pro's make that causes them so much pain?

-- Brett

I agree with you Brett. Injuries shouldn't occur in the weight room. I have misled you if you think our players are getting hurt in the weight room.Coaches would eliminate a drill if players were hurt with any degree of frequency. An athlete should not perform any exercise or activity that increases the potential for injury.It's my responsibility to provide our players with the safest and most sound program available.

During my 19 years with the Redskins we had one injury in the weight room. Ironically it was Houston native, and future Hall of Famer, Darrell Green.He was engaged in a conversation with a teammate while removing a 25-pound plate from a piece of equipment.

He didn't realize it, but there was a five-pound plate in front of the 25. He pulled the 25-pound plate off and the five-pound plate fell and landed on his big toe. Fortunately nothing was broken. Our trainer had to drill a small hole in his toenail to release some of the accumulated blood and pressure. He missed practice that day.

Our players have not been hurt in the weight room.They are injured while practicing or playing the game. I'm amazed that more injuries don't occur.Anyone that has had the opportunity to view a game on the sideline will tell you how much faster and more violent the game is than it appears on television.

For example, in 1982, my first year with the Redskins, they won the Super Bowl. The starting linebackers were Neal Olkewicz (228 pounds), Rich Milot (230 pounds) and Mel Kaufman (225 pounds). Today linebackers are averaging 250 pounds and more. Overall players are bigger and stronger. The field is the same size. Collisions are more violent.

In 2002 our Texans will play five preseason games, 16 regular season games. If we made the playoffs as a wild card team, there is the potential for another four games.Add six weeks of summer camp and practicing twice a week in pads during the regular season. That's a lot of collisions.

Before we go out to our first practice in pads, I tell our players, "This is the best you're going to feel until the season is over."Some players are seriously injured and placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season. After some games it looks like a mash unit in the training room. Some players have chronic injuries that bother them all year until they have surgery at the end of the season. Joint sprains and separations occur regularly. Players frequently break or jam fingers. Elbow and shoulder joints also take a pounding.

We had a Redskins player (Ray Brown-currently with the 49ers) severely break his thumb on Sunday during a game.On Monday he had surgery. The doctors inserted pins into his thumb and placed a cast on his hand.He resumed lifting that Thursday and played with a cast on his hand the rest of the season.

We had a routine we called "No Hands." We used it when a player hurt a finger, hand, wrist, or elbow and couldn't push or pull.By eliminating the wrist and elbow joint they could continue to perform upper body isolation movements. Our "No Hands" routine included the following exercises.

10 degree flys

Hammer pullover

30 degree flys

Hammer post delt

Hammer lateral raise

Nautilus pullover

50 degree flys

Nautilus post delt

70 degree flys

Hammer rotator cuff (internal rotation)

Nautilus lateral raise

Hammer rotator cuff (external rotation)

Manual biceps curls (resistance provided with a towel wrapped around the wrist)

Manual triceps extension

When organizing a program, there are similarities between and among the weight lifter, the body builder, the track athlete, and a football player. There are also some differences. When you and I work out we are well rested and healthy.It's an ideal atmosphere for training. What you do in your training sessions may be ideal for you but may not be reasonable or feasible for an NFL player.

Strength training is only a part of the process to prepare the players to play the game. Best of luck. Go Texans!

*Special thanks to Coach Riley for taking the time to respond to my questions from last month. It is important to me as a sales professional in the fitness industry to understand the importance of strength and conditioning in general. Your facts and opinions are substantial and I will utilize them to better myself and my client's knowledge of strength training. It is equally important for the fitness industry to understand both free weight and machine exercise benefits so that our industry can move past the ridiculous arguments that have separated advocates of each side. Thanks again and best of luck in 2002. *

-- John Terpak III* *

Thank you for your comments. I agree with you completely. There is nothing wrong with having a preference for equipment.As a professional I'd be concerned when that preference becomes a bias for, or, a bias against, the type of equipment used.

I have learned (the hard way) it's not the equipment used that is the key to gains, but how the equipment is used.

This can be best illustrated by one of the earliest documented examples of strength training. In Ancient Greece, Milo of Croton, was preparing for an athletic competition. His training regimen included hoisting a baby bull onto his shoulders for resistance.

Milo walked up and down a small incline daily.Each week the bull grew heavier and his muscles adapted to the additional weight of the animal. Milo continued this protocol until the bull grew too heavy.

I don't recommend the equipment or the techniques.It does however, illustrate how easy it is to get stronger.The evolution of equipment can be traced from many centuries ago and continues to evolve today.

There are some exercises that are more effective when performed with a piece of equipment specifically designed to target an area of the body. There are also many exercises that can be performed with any equipment and not compromise the results.

I encourage variety. One way to create variety in your training is by performing the same exercise with different equipment.

Thanks for your comments. Some of our older readers may recognize the name John Terpak as one of the most respected names in strength training history.

*I am interested in the strength and conditioning field. How did you get your "foot in the door" at the professional level and what advice do you have for someone who is trying to get started in this field? *

-- Jason

I was very lucky to get started in the early 1970s.It was easier to get a job during the 70s and early 80s, than it is today.

Times have changed. You might have an easier time becoming a rock and roll star than becoming a full-time strength coach. Major colleges have a full-time strength coach and an assistant.They also have student assistants, part-time assistants, and some with volunteer assistants. Year after year the supply of qualified and unemployed strength coaches multiplies.

I know people that have spent years (after obtaining a Master's Degree) trying to get a job and finally gave up and found an alternate career. There are literally thousands and thousands of eminently qualified applicants with only a few openings each year.

You may decide to pursue a career in strength training, regardless of the odds against you. I'd suggest you obtain an undergraduate and graduate degree in Physical Education.It's a must to get some hands on experience at the college level.If you're good (and lucky) you may eventually get hired part-time and possibly full time. Use the college you are working at as a podium to generate some exposure for yourself. Publish in coaching magazines, volunteer to lecture at high schools, and coaching clinics. If you're lucky it may lead to something.

Best of luck. Go Texans!

*I just began working out again after about 3 years of doing nothing but gaining weight. Should I lose all the weight before I start lifting again? *

-- Tim

The first thing I'd suggest is get a complete physical. After your physical you should seek the services of a Registered Dietitian. Develop a conservative food menu plan for the next year.It took you three years to gain the extra weight. Don't try and lose it all in a short period of time.

Don't plan on losing more than a pound a week. As you begin to lose weight you may have to adjust the amount of weight you lose to ½ pound a week. I read a statistic that 95 percent of all diets fail without an aerobic component. I'd strongly urge you to include an aerobic activity as part of your weight loss protocol.

It need not be a strenuous workout. Initially I'd recommend walking. It doesn't require any special equipment and it is low impact. The key is the frequency. If possible, walk daily. The duration is important but not nearly as important as the frequency. In an ideal world I'd recommend you walk daily and work your way up to a minimum of 30 minutes.

I'd also suggest you begin your muscular fitness workout immediately.Adding muscle will provide you with more energy and burn more calories.Perform a total body workout twice a week.Make sure you lift twice a week even if you are forced to eliminate your aerobic workout for that day.

There's a great book called, "Diets Don't Work." The logic is that if any one diet worked there wouldn't be any fat people.Remember, be patient. Too often people set unrealistic goals and fail in their attempt to lose the desired amount of weight. Lose ½ pound a week, and you'll lose more than 25 pounds in a year.

Once you reach your goal, monitor your activity level and caloric intake for the rest of your life.Maintaining a given weight is easy. Losing body fat is difficult.

One last tip. You must learn to enjoy exercise. We are a society that enjoys comfort. When the temperature gets warm we turn on the air conditioner.When it gets cold we turn up the heat. When we get hungry we stop at a fast food restaurant.We ride around the parking lot looking for a space closest to the store.

Best of luck with your weight loss. Go Texans!

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