Single Leg Training – An Athlete’s Perspective

About a month ago, I wrote an article regarding Single Leg Training (CLICK HERE: “Single Leg Training with Mike Boyle”) and the Strength Coach who popularized it, Mike Boyle.  It generated a lot of interest so, I decided to build off of it.  I have the good fortune of knowing an athlete who trained under Coach Boyle while he was in college.  That Athlete is Antonio Valverde and he trained with Coach Boyle while he played Football at Boston College.  The following is my interview, enjoy!

Player Profile from Senior Year at Boston College in 2006.

1) At what age did you begin weight training and what type of regimen did you do?

AV: I guess I started using weights at 17 during my junior year in High Sschool.  I went to a Private Boarding School in Massachusetts called Governor Dummer Academy.  We had a decent gym and we also had Athletic Trainers, but no strength coaches.

2) What sports did you play in High School and what was the training like for them?  Did you have a Strength Coach?

AV: Basketball was my primary sport so I had the misconception that it was not good to lift weights as a basketball player.  I used to only do lunges and work my shoulders because somehow I understood the importance of having strong shoulders for impact and lunges to develop first step quickness.  I also ran track and field 100m, 200m and 400m.  I only started playing football my senior year of HS, and only then did I start to do traditional barbell exercises like the bench press and back squat.  I did start doing plyometric training at a young age.  I was infatuated with jumping high.  I remember using Air Alert Plyometric program and I actually used a pair of Strength Shoes too.

3) You red-shirted at Rutgers and trained with their strength coach, what did that routine consist of?

AV: I redshirted my freshman year at Rutgers, so I got a chance to be more involved with development under Strength & Conditioning Coach Jay Butler.  I arrived on campus really early in the summer and worked out with the upper classmen.  Everything was very new to me so, I had a chance to learn Olympic lifts (Cleans and Snatches) which I loved.  We did a lot of strong man, strength work in the gym, benching, back squats, tire lifts etc. On the field, we did speed and agility work.  Our conditioning test consisted of 110 yards sprints for 16 reps.  I transferred to Boston College and worked with a good Strength & Conditioning coach Todd Rice who was very good with Olympic lifting and sprinting Technique and form.  He really stressed the importance of flexibility and injury prevention. I don’t think too many players were injured during his tenure there unless it was one of those freak accidents which no one could have prevented.

4) What was the difference when you trained under Coach Boyle?  What did you find most effective?

AV: Probably the biggest difference when I trained with Coach Boyle was the focus on developing single leg strength.  The key takeaway was being able to perform our lifts and movements without jeopardizing our bodies and causing injuries.  We would always incorporate auxiliary lifts and movements.  There was also a lot of emphasis on strengthening the shoulder girdle and joint stabilization.  I also ran my fastest times since High School in the 40 yard dash and the other standard testing for a football combine.  Coach Boyle, Jonas Beauchemin (now an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons) and his entire staff definitely helped me develop a lot and improve my overall athleticism.  Most importantly, training under Coach Boyle and his staff allowed me to gain a great deal of knowledge through application by doing the things he was teaching and getting a real feel and knowledge for how things should work, which I apply to my current career in fitness.  

5) How did you find his single leg training versus traditional bilateral leg training?  Was it helpful / more effective?

AV: I found the single leg training protocol to be very beneficial and effective in the development of my speed.  IF you think about it, we do not run on both legs simultaneously.  We run on one foot / leg at a time.  If we strengthen individually strength both legs to be as equal as possible, we can go ahead and assume that we will improve bilateral strength.  With single leg work, we strengthen our legs while developing ankle mobility, knee stability and hip mobility.  I know that my first step coming out of a three-point stance is very important because the knee and hip have to absorb the shock of the step and be able to produce the cycle of the second leg.  If my push-off leg is not strong then, I would just collapse or it would take me more time to cycle through the movement because it would take more energy to withhold the eccentric movement.  Basically, I am trying to say that the 1st step is critical and you need to have enough strength in one leg to absorb such a powerful impact and generate maximum force.

6) Do you focus on single leg training when you train clients or do you do bilateral work as well?

AV: I focus on training my clients in both realms.  I train them unilaterally to address any imbalance issues.  Most clients are not professional athletes so, most of their movements are going to be bilateral.  Sitting on, and getting up from, an office chair is a box squat.  They need to be able to squat properly in order to get out of their chair effectively thousands of times throughout the work year.  But, if they are favoring one side over the other then, they are placing more stress on one side and will compensate over time.  Addressing an imbalance unilaterally will improve their bilateral movements.

7) As a trainer at Peak Performance in NYC, you have a variety of clients but most are from the corporate world.  How do you incorporate what you learned though training as an athlete into your clients’ routines?

AV: Clients love to be pushed, they want to be challenged and I want to push and challenge them.  They face challenges everyday in sales, in the financial markets and in delivering results for their companies.  So, they are athletes not on a field, but in an office.  Most importantly, I do not want them to get hurt.  If they get hurt, they cannot work.  Just like athletes, if we get hurt in the gym we cannot play on the field.  Clients want to feel what it is like to be an athlete at a high level.  I believe everyone is an athlete in their own sense, and can be trained like an athlete at their own individual pace and capacity.  I believe that a lot of my training success comes from the fact that I love all my clients and I want to see them succeed, almost to the point where they actually do not need me anymore.  It may sound funny in our field, but to me that is a great thing.  I have been able to teach someone and get them to a point where they feel comfortable enough to go out and try the things that I have taught them successfully without injuring themselves. 

’8) Antonio, thank you so much for this interview.  There is a tremendous amount of value in the information you provided and the knowledge you gained from your unique experiences as a Division 1 College Football player.  Any final thoughts?

AV:  I want to thank Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance.  In the summer of 2006, he introduced me to dynamic warm up, activation, pre and post workout foam rolling and was very helpful in program design.  These are major keys for a proper Strength and Conditioning program and I incorporate these techniques with all of my clients.  Continue training and learning; this is a field of never-ending education.  Thanks for having me.  

If you are in New York City and want to train with Antonio: click here




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