Book Review-Matt Wenning’s POWERLIFTING TRAINING A Developmental Approach

Book Review – Matt Wenning’s POWERLIFTING TRAINING

A Developmental Approach

Coach House’s 10 Golden Nuggets

Website note: when writing a book or product review, we pondered the best way to display the information in a straightforward manner with decisive points of emphasis.  We wanted to get you the reader interested in what material the author has produced without doing all the homework for you.  Meaning?  We want you to make the choice based on Coach House’s nuggets is there enough interest for you to invest in the product and put in the work to make your own interpretations of the material.  In effect, “Absorbing, Modifying, and Applying” this information into your own program. As we have found out sticking to the goal of 10 Golden Nuggets is extremely tough.  With that said, these are Coach House’s nuggets, the ones he felt were important to express to the masses.  Coach House will tell you he reserves the right to be wrong.

In this review, we will add in specific notes when applicable after a nugget in reference to how this information has value and serves as a reaffirmation and more justification of our Tier System Strength Training Model as well as our LTAD model as a whole.  Those notes will be in RED.

By now, most of you who follow me, know I am a big fan of the information that Matt Wenning has put out over various outlets the past several years.  Matt’s ability to simplify the complex is a tremendous asset to any coach and athlete.  His continuous journey under the bar has helped him refine his training principles and allowed him to share his learning experiences with all of us.  In this text, he once again helps reinforce our model of training, bringing to light information we may have forgotten and given us new nuggets to “Absorb, Modify, and Apply”.  Matt shares his own journey of education and strength in the first part of this manual and then gives us the nuts and bolts of his interpretation of the Conjugate Method in the second half.  Matt has become another outside influencer for both my personal and professional training development.  I am fortunate he is willing to share his knowledge freely and passionately. 

10 Golden Nuggets

1 – Youth Development

The real reason for various activities during your youth is to develop work capacity and an ability to tolerate things that may be painful or slightly uncomfortable, as well as learn to deal with being tired and fatigued.

Various activities at an early age, help inspire overall physical growth.  It is important that we as parents and coaches, who find our youth excited about physical activity to expose them to as many different athletic stimuli as possible.  This will produce a more well-rounded athlete when it is time to choose a specialization.  The early emphasis on specialization is one of the major reasons we are seeing overuse adolescent injuries continue to spike.

As a huge fan of basic tumbling skills for Block Zero programming for youth, Matt’s big tip for parents is enrolling children between 4-8 years old in tumbling and gymnastics programs.  Some of these characteristics are more difficult to learn as one gets older.  Some mays see this as specialization at an early age, I personally see gymnastics and certain forms of the martial arts as a great introduction to general fitness skills that carry over to an abundance of sports as well as the start of developing relative strength.

2 – High volume training definitely has its place in the developing lifter.

I also believe this to be true when developing entry level athletes to strength training.  This is why I prefer to begin all athletes on certain variations of Volume Accumulation Training (VAT) when they begin the process of handling external loads.  The premise of VAT is to establish a training load at a certain repetition number week one, and then for 2 more weeks, increase the volume by increasing the reps per set while maintaining a flat load (same) for each week.  This is an excellent way to both build general strength and lean body mass at the same time.

3 – Raw lifters need more volume. The raw lifter only has his muscle to rely on, so more hypertrophy is needed, therefore more work needs to be done.

The raw lifter is very similar to a sporting athlete.  Our athletes use minimal supportive gear, if any at all.  Also, in some sports that additional lean mass that occurs when instituting more hypertrophy work also serves as a cushion to help protect the athlete for various contact, collisions, and falls that may take place during competition.

4 – Potentiation of Weak Muscles

Prioritizing weak muscle groups is not only a great way to warm up, but also to ensure proper volume in these areas for injury reduction and future growth.

We actually implemented this type of belief system when we developed our extra workout plan for our athletes to supplement the 3 main sessions of the week.  These programs were short-fast paced routines that were specific to certain improvement areas or used as return to play and prehab routines to enhance protection.  I personally have added this style of work to my Pre-Activity Prep and for the lifter this is an added benefit of additional volume to certain muscle groups. Last year we did implement it with our athletes.  It was a work in progress.

5 – Law of Accommodation

States that utilizing the same stimulus or exercise for too long will cause little to no training effect.  Easiest way to adjust is to change exercises.

One of the major components of the Tier System is exercise choice and order.  Each session has a specific rotation of movements and we rarely repeat a movement in one working week.  As the athlete progresses through their career, the variability becomes more enhanced by sequentially rotating exercise on a cycle to cycle basis.  I have found that it takes a sporting athlete longer to adjust to a new training movement than a competitive lifter.  We must remember the athlete’s training year is dictated by sporting practice, therefore the strength program adjusts based on the specific phase of the training year.

6 – The first 3-5 years of training, volume should take priority, even over Maximal Effort and Dynamic Effort training.

Again, this is why I am a proponent of VAT training early in an athlete’s lifting career.  I also like to keep additional training stimuli in my tool box and when the athlete is prepared, introduce the new methods at the appropriate time.  We have all made mistakes, and I learned in my time at Arizona State especially, that some of our athletes were not prepared to perform certain movements at certain intents. This is what lead to our Quadrennial Plan developmental programming as a form of Long Term Athletic Development

7 – Most Accessory Work is based on the Repetition Method.

Preferably for tier 4 and 5 movements, movements we classify as major assistance or strength mobility (DAVE TATE), the repetition prescription will consist of higher volume work regardless of what training cycles for the top 3 tiers are.  Our goal in tiers 4 and 5 is to increase work capacity as well as build muscle.

8a – Bands and Chains help muscles into having to work through the entire lift, therefore manipulating the strength curve to some extent. This makes sure the middle and the top of the lift do not miss work do to bar velocity creating inertia.

8b – Band and Chains teach the body to maintain velocity as long as possible and drive through portions of the lift where free weights would become lighter.

The Law of Accommodating Resistance popularized by Louie Simmons allowed the principle of Compensatory Acceleration as explained by Dr. Fred Hatfield to actually be expressed to fruition in my opinion.  Dr. Hatfield explains that the goal of compensatory acceleration is to continuously increase bar speed through the ascent of the lift taking advantage of improved leverages.  By speeding up the lift, the athlete is exercising power. 

I had one major issue when I began experimenting with this principle. As the leverages became more advantageous and the bar speed began to increase, we had to but on the “brakes” before completion or the bar may have left our hands or flew off of our backs in certain movements.  For the sporting athlete, this would put them at a risk of injury.

What we found was, the lighter the load the sooner you would need to decrease bar speed.  The addition of chains and bands was the answer to being able to stay in acceleration longer and therefore provide a better return on investment for those who were aware of compensatory acceleration as a mode of training.

The addition of chains and bands and more importantly it’s proper usage as a tool, can be a game changer for any athlete who is physically prepared to implement this advanced protocol into their programming.  The ability to elicit acceleration (and a power component) through a longer duration of a movement has a tremendous benefit to athletes of all sports.

9 – Warm Ups are dictated by needs – warming up muscles that are weak links in the movement or do not functionally correctly.

Our Pre-Activity Preparation work is based on rebooting (activating) small muscle groups that will be involved in the priority movements of the session, as well as working the posterior shoulder and posterior chain which are usually lagging in most athletes.  We also emphasize our root (core), neck and trap region for our main sessions.  This allows us to thoroughly prep the athlete for the session as well as bringing up improvement areas.

10 – Advanced Lifters need more volume in special exercises, while beginning lifters need more volume in the basic exercises (perfect form).

As an athlete progresses through our Quadrennial Plan, the rotation of special (supplemental) exercises increases and the volume of work done with Block 1 and 2 Foundation lifts are minimal.  Most movements that are now Tier 1 movements follow a sequential rotation on a monthly basis.

Although I concentrated on the programming portion of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Matt’s journey.  He definitely learned to hit the curve balls of life and his ability to fight adversity and win is why he is a success today.

Best Success and Word’s Win,

Coach House

Book Review – Unplugged MacKenzie, B., Galpin, A., White P.

Book Review – UNPLUGGEED, Mackenzie, Galpin, White

Coach House’s 10 Golden Nuggets



Website note: when writing a book or product review, we pondered the best way to display the information in a straightforward manner with decisive points of emphasis.  We wanted to get you the reader interested in what material the author has produced without doing all the homework for you.  Meaning?  We want you to make the choice based on Coach House’s nuggets is there enough interest for you to invest in the product and put in the work to make your own interpretations of the material.  In effect, “Absorbing, Modifying, and Applying” this information into your own program. As we have found out sticking to the goal of 10 Golden Nuggets is extremely tough.  With that said, these are Coach House’s nuggets, the ones he felt were important to express to the masses.  Coach House will tell you he reserves the right to be wrong.

Unplugged is a game changer for those who are analytically driven and those who have not yet entered the world of “app” based training.  This book brings the perspective from both sides and shows the positive and negative impact of relying on technology to serve the greater good.

This book resonated with me on numerous critical points when it comes to utilizing technology in the training setting both for my athletes and for me personally.  It definitely reaffirmed a lot of my personal beliefs of how technology should be implemented in a training environment and has really helped me bring a sense of balance to my own daily lifestyle.

Technology has a tremendous amount of merit in helping us develop the most successful plans we can for higher achievement.  We must understand that it is a tool to help assist us as coaches to make the proper decisions moving forward.  It should not be the only factor in addressing the needs of a team, athlete, or yourself.  The human element can never be ignored.

As you can imagine, selecting ten nuggets from this book was extremely tough.  I did my best to pick the ones that truly stood out to my personal philosophy as well as ones that would provoke enough thought in you to pick up this book and begin the unplugging process yourself.

10 Golden Nuggets

  1. From recreational sports leagues to the pros to youth sports, we’ve abandoned spontaneous, chaotic, and unbound exploration for a predictable, controllable, regimented grind that does little to satisfy beyond the narrow, self-limiting goals we set for ourselves.

  1. So why is our over dependence on fitness technology a problem? First, we’ve distanced ourselves from nature to the point that we barely even notice the world around us, let alone allow ourselves the physical, mental, and emotional benefits that regular, unfiltered immersion in it can provide. Second, we’re sacrificing genuine, deep interactions with real humans for the artificial community that online apps provide. And third, we’ve stopped listening to the innate instincts that our body provides, preferring to be semiconscious and outsource decision-making to technology that is often wildly inaccurate.

  1. The lesson is that you should use technology to see what your eyes can’t, but recognize that it’s only a tool to find data a coach must then use to inform your programming. Just because we are measuring more doesn’t mean we have a greater understanding. Data is knowledge that requires interpretation to applicable. We need to get back in touch with our natural awareness and instincts.

Never Grow Up

  1. A child doesn’t need a rigidly organized workout to have fun and stay healthy while being active. They just need to get outside and go for it. Far too many kids are missing out on the simple joys of creative, unstructured, and minimally supervised play.

Lenny Wiersma

  1. “Relying on technology is dangerous because it can limit a person from going from the cognitive stage to the autonomous stage. An athlete needs to be able to feel to make adjustments.”

Think for Yourself

  1. One quick way to reclaim intuition is to reassert our right to make decisions about our own well-being. You’re tired – sleep. You’re hungry – eat. Your restless – move. You don’t need to wait for your devices to make these choices for you.

  1. In fact, the eyes of an expert coach who has amassed years of experience can spot flaws in our technique far more readily and instinctually than any piece of clothing with a chip embedded in it or four-dimensional video analysis, and can find problems in our programming that no algorithm would ever detect. Our wearables and smart devices will always have limitations and leave gaps that only human beings, with their combination of experience, instincts, and judgement, can truly fill.


  1. To me it’s the job of every coach to empower their athletes with the know how to learn and grow on their own. If coaches want the best for their athletes, they have to encourage their independence, like a parent teaching a child to drive. Coaching can’t be present for every moment of the day. This means that you, the athlete, are going to have to learn how to do things on your own.

  1. You need to forgo technology algorithms for self-discovery, experimentation, and learning. Unplug more often, use technology as a learning aid instead of a taskmaster and reengage with yourself, other people, and the natural world around you.

As you can see from my choices, I am very much a proponent of free play and exploration with all athletes, but especially children through pre-teens.  The self-exploration and discovery that is necessary in the learning process is critical at the age of overall psycho/social and physical development.

I believe in coaching! This occurs with interaction between athlete and coach, not athlete and IPad or coach and a dashboard.  There is merit in utilizing devices to aid in the development process, but should not and cannot be used as the be all for your athletes’ development.  They are not robots and most devices cannot determine adjustment based on mood and environmental factors.

As I mentioned earlier, this book really helped bring perspective and balance to my own training.  Not worrying or concerning myself with programming my watch, utilizing my velocity equipment daily has made my training more enjoyable and focused.  But, nothing has made me more focused and dialed in to my training than this quote from Josh Everett, “If you need music to motivate you to do something, you should find something else to do.”  This has really been a game changer for me.  And NO! I am not going to go cold turkey, but I very rarely bring my own music and headsets to training hall any longer.  If there is music on at the facility, I do not concern myself what it is.  My concern is on the specific movement I am training and the training session as a whole.  My motivation is having a quality session and improving my overall strength.

If you have become addicted to the plugged-in life and are operating like you are robot, I highly recommend UNPLUGGED to you.

Best Success and Words Win,

Coach House




Product Review – Matt Wenning’s Conjugate Training Secrets Volume #1

Product Review – Matt Wenning’s Conjugate Training Secrets Volume #1

Coach House’s 10 Golden Nuggets

Website note: when writing a book or product review, we pondered the best way to display the information in a straightforward manner with decisive points of emphasis.  We wanted to get you, the reader, interested in the material the author has produced without doing all the homework for you.  Meaning?  We want you to make the choice based on Coach House’s nuggets if there is enough interest for you to invest in the product and put in the work to make your own interpretations of the material.  In effect, “Absorbing, Modifying, and Applying” this information into your own program. As we have found out, sticking to the goal of 10 Golden Nuggets is extremely tough.  With that said, these nuggets, are the most important to express to the masses.  Coach House will tell you he reserves the right to be wrong.

Brain and Brawn, Matt Wenning exemplifies both, being one of the strongest men in world and one of the smartest (M.S. Biomechanics) powerlifters and strength coaches I have come across.  Matt’s interpretations of the Conjugate Method are by far the most user-friendly description I have come across and I have been studying the conjugate method for well over 15 years. 

In this DVD package Matt maps out his programming, showing the structure and evaluation process of designing a plan based on Max Effort movements combined with accessory choices to enhance your specific weak points/improvement areas.  Matt has a tremendous eye for enhancing technique and is spot on in his delivery to his athletes and clients.

Matt lives his system to the tee.  His ability to stay healthy throughout his long career only enhances his statement of the “one who trains the longest is the strongest”.  Matt has been an asset to my personal goal of deadlifting 500 pounds at the age of 50 (completed the feat at 51) and freely gives back to the iron game.  I look forward to reviewing several other of his products and sharing them with all of you.

Best Success and Words Win,

Coach House

10 Golden Nuggets

  • Definition of Conjugate Training

    • Variable Methods and Means

    • Multiple Modalities

    • Rotate Bars, %’s, Foot – Hand Positions

    • Body Mechanics

  • Speed Day = not HOW MUCH >>>>>>> HOW FAST!

  • Law of Accommodation

    • If you do something to long you will become status quo

    • Anything used to long (volume, intensity, mode, duration etc.) will no longer create a positive training effect

  • Law of 72 Hours

    • The body cannot do an extreme workload in the same muscle groups per every 72 hours

    • This doesn’t mean you can’t do moderate to light work (note – this fits into the basic fundamentals of the tier system’s unique movement rotation on 3-day strength training work week)

  • GPP

    • Goal – you need to be in good enough condition to withstand the rigor and demands of the training session

  • “It’s not what you can do, it’s what you can recover from”

  • Warm Up – Preparation

    • Potentiation of weak or hard to activate muscle groups

  • Accessory Work

    • No more that 4-6 movements

    • Rank in order from biggest weaknesses to less important things

  • Longevity comes from TRACTION exercises – It is a game of compression and traction

  • Trick your body into growing muscle

    • “Confusion causes Growth”



You’re Fired! Surviving a Layoff in the Crazy World of Coaching


Surviving a Layoff



You’re fired!  Two words you would prefer not to hear during your professional career.  In full time coaching, it is sometimes inevitable.  Some have even said you aren’t a “real” coach until you have been fired.  I beg to differ on that statement, as I don’t think anyone really wants to get fired.  They are not giving out merit badges for losing your job.

Having been on both ends of the table, I can tell you as hard as it is to lose your job, it may be harder telling someone else they have lost theirs.  Rarely does anyone just straight tell you “you’re fired” anymore.  In this politically correct world, you will get the “we are moving in another direction” or “your contract will not be renewed”.  Usually followed by, thanks for a job well done!  Since the majority of my 28 years as a strength and conditioning professional has come at the major college and professional levels, I have seen many good people lose their jobs.  In some cases, coaches may get an interview with the new head coach. I have also heard “we will not be retaining your services”.

The day and age of strength and conditioning coaches hiding behind the support staff moniker, student service department, or athletic department administrator are over in high level settings.  Most of us are now tied to a head coach and if you know this going in, you accept the good and the bad.  The evolution of sport specific strength coaches will continue to increase as Head Coach’s salaries continue to rise. Head coaches are gaining more power in the entire decision making process and everything that encompasses their programs success.

Let’s face it, you want to be a big timer, then you must accept all that comes with it.  In “big time” college and professional sports, you better be associated with a winning program if you want to keep your job.  That’s right, you want the bowl bonuses, NCAA championship bonuses, and everything else that you are entitled to when the team is winning, then you better be prepared to pack your office when the team doesn’t succeed.

Oh, guess what? No one cares how great the improvements in the strength and conditioning program are if you do not win on the field or court. So don’t tell me how much faster the team is or how much their leg strength improved.  If your team loses too many years in a row, you’ll be out because the new coach has his own guy.

I hope I have make myself very clear to those of you who are driven to be a major college or professional strength coach.  That is, coaching is not all rah, rah, run out of the tunnel to a cheering crowd.  You could do everything right and still lose your job.  This is a very strong reality, regardless of your skill set.  Yes, you could very well be retained.  When I worked at the collegiate level, I was retained seven out of eight times there was a head coaching change. Most of scenarios where I was retained were in the 90’s before the explosion of strength coaches became a true extension of the sports staff.

If you are coaching at the Division II or III level, you may consider positions where you have a teaching option. You possibly could earn tenure.  So if you lose your coaching position, you still have your teaching spot to fall back on.

So where does this leave you?  How do you survive a layoff?  I survived because of the following three points which are crucial in a successful survival.


It starts with family.  It is extremely important early on in this career choice that your loved ones understand you are not entering the typical 9-5 job.  You will move, settle in, move, settle in, and move again, and again, and possibly again.  If you are married or have a serious long term relationship your significant other will need to understand what is at stake and what the consequences are if the team you are associated with is not successful?

Your children are an important part of the equation and should understand the possibilities of moving away from friends and family, regardless of a good or bad season.  It is only fair to them that they understand your career is not like that of their friends parents.  Your children’s friends will think its real cool to go to games but will want to know, “Why Johnny has to move?”

Your number one ability to survive the layoff is an understanding, supportive, and positive family.  It stems from support you give them before the layoff happens and the support they give you after.  You will have that moment of “did that just happen”, but to survive it you have to be prepared for it and your family does also.  That means investing time in your family before any layoff occurs.

I survived the initial shock because my wife has given me unwavering support through this journey.  There was never a time where I saw a look of concern on her face.  She always knew the best was yet to come.  This allowed me to stay the course and be true to who I am and what I believe in.

As much as you have to prepare your family for the possibility of losing your job, you also have to be preparing yourself for that possibility.  It’s not hard to figure out that if things don’t look right or don’t feel right they probably aren’t.


There is no question in my mind and heart that you will survive any layoff if you remain confident.  My definition of confidence is “with faith”.  Depending on you personally, this can be religious, spiritual, and/or a belief in your professional abilities. Always fight for a bright horizon.  Take an accurate assessment of the season, perhaps reach out to a peer, noting what improvements can be made and move confidently in to the future.

Confidence is the key.  If you have continually mastered your craft your confidence should be extremely high.  If not, how do you expect to succeed in any life issue especially losing your job?  I never doubted that my skills were superior because I always continued my professional development and I knew I could confidently walk through any open door.  I also am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  I believe that at that time in my career, I was supposed to get fired. Why you ask? Because my family and I proved we could survive and continue to flourish!

Living in a depressed state of emotional being will not take you far.  You have to stay strong! You have to keep fighting the good fight. You have to remain positive and sharp.  You never know who you are going to meet.  They may give you your next great opportunity.


You have lost you job. Now what? You need to take action! You have to decide what direction you are going to move into and go all in to achieve success.  Develop an action plan.  A better term may be “ATTACK” plan.  By going into attack mode, you are not going to dwell on past occurrences, you are going to be driven to success in your future endeavors.

Your action/attack plan can consist of almost anything that is relative to what you want next in your personal and profession life.  If you are fortunate, and you had a solid contract, you may have more time in developing your action plan than others.  I hope this is the case.

Do not be afraid to venture into a new avenue of your profession.  For my wife and me, we made a very quick decision when we realized that “our” guys were not in a position to hire us.  There was limited coaching movement during this cycle and my contacts did not have a position available on their respective staffs. We decided we would bet on ourselves.  We made a very conscience decision to move into the private sector with the least financial investment.   That’s right, coaching in the private sector.  (I have the upmost respect for any individual or family who has the confidence in themselves to invest in putting their name on a store front.  Running a business is a whole different ball game.  I commend all of you who are succeeding as private sector coaches.)

We decided that we would control our own destinies and futures by creating a program that would supersede any other similar model.  Instead of buying or leasing a building, we sublet space in a training facility of a former college teammate and started right away.   This plan allowed us to survive financially and keep me in the profession.  It also allowed me to be ready for any opportunities that came our way.  As fate would have it, just as the business was ready to explode, we were approached with the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to coach professional ball.

Without FAMILY, CONFIDENCE, or an ACTION/ATTACK plan, I would not be in the position I am today, a NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach.  My family never wavered. My confidence never surrendered. And because of my action/attack plan I made myself a better coach.  My improved coaching skills made me a better candidate when the search committee evaluated me, netting me my dream job.  Five years later, I stood on the sideline as a NFL strength and conditioning coach of a Super Bowl team.

No one wants to be laid off.  We love what we do and want to continue to work.  We don’t count hours in this professional because we have a true enjoyment watching others succeed and knowing we may have had a small part in that success.

I have spoken about what I believe will help you survive a layoff.  Now, I will add in some things that can help before that day occurs.  Which I hope never does.

First, it is imperative that you and your legal team understand and negotiate the terms of your contract.  I hope you are on a contract.  Contracts can be very deceiving, I promise you.  A single word can be the difference between you receiving what you believed you were owed and getting nothing at all.  TRUST ME, I KNOW.

Secondly, you must maintain your network.  You have to keep in contact with all the coaches you have created a positive relationship with.  Early in my career, I corresponded with various coaches at the start of their seasons.  It doesn’t have to be long note, just a friendly reminder to keep you in their thoughts.  Even in this time of email and texting, I still recommend a hand written note.  I routinely wrote up to 50 notes a season.  I also encourage you to attend the major conferences in which you may have an opportunity to shake their hands, engage eye contact and have a brief conversation with them.  For many years as an NSCA member, I attended the January Coaches Conference and always stayed additional nights so I could attend the AFCA Conference and visit with coaches.

Third, stay on top of your trade. I hate to tell you but, just because you have a good job, a certification or two, a master’s or PHD, doesn’t mean you know everything.  Our profession is changing exponentially.  Find that one thing that will separate you from the pack.  Identify something within our profession you have a strong desire to learn and go all in.  You will need a niche.  Everyone knows lifting weights.  What is going to set you apart?  In this era of strength and conditioning there are several areas that are now leading to full time positions; nutritionists, data analytics, GPS, readiness applications, and psychology to name a few.  Don’t sell yourself short.  Give yourself every opportunity to succeed in this profession.

I only know one way to give you this type of information, and that is from the heart.  Absolutely, my goal in the beginning of this article was not to sugar coat this topic.  You can’t be afraid of being fired if you want to be a member of big time athletics.  You have to be prepared for the possibility every single day.  If needed, use this as your motivation to give your best every day.  If you are able to do this, you will survive anything in life. WORDS WIN!

This Article as published in the NSCA Career Development Guide and led to my presentation at the 2016 NSCA National Conference in New Orleans






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