5 Things Training College Athletes taught me about getting STRONG & LEAN w/KBs, Part 3

5 Things Training College Athletes taught me about getting STRONG & LEAN w/KBs, Part 3

One of the most frustrating things about being a college strength coach was having to disabuse team coaches of their faulty/wrong thinking about how to physically train athletes to win.

For example, many had a “this is how I trained, so this I how I train my team” mentality.

One such case was my wife’s coach – the Head Volleyball Coach.

The first pre-season I was the team’s strength coach, I was called in to talk with her about why her girls were so sore and could barely move on day 2 of pre-season.

It was because they had had their 4-mile run test and also their 10K meter Rowing Ergometer test. 

They were ALL toast and the Head Coach was MAD. She had to rearrange practice because the girls were sore and exhausted, and she wanted to know why.

So, I asked for permission to speak freely. It was given. And I did.

“What does running 4 miles have to do with repeatedly jumping and moving as fast as possible multi-directionally across the volleyball court?” I asked her (or something to that effect – this was August 1997.)

“It builds an aerobic base,” was her response.

“While that may be true, volleyball is not an aerobic-based sport. It’s a power sport. It’s an  anaerobic-based / anaerobic-dominant sport and requires the ability to produce high levels of power repeatedly. Running long distances trains the opposite of that ability.”  

As a result of that conversation, I got to build the conditioning program, not just the strength program.

See, most people chase fatigue and use that as the measure of their workout’s success.

Even today with the advent of things like “Stop Signs.”

But the truth is, athletes train to 

#3 – Minimize and mitigate fatigue.

And you should too.

They do it to WIN.



Fatigue interferes with force production.

Being tired decreases your strength and power output.

This is the whole point of an athlete’s training: 

Get stronger to minimize the effects fatigue has on his / her body so that he / she can play / perform at the highest of levels.

Fatigue pursued, or left unchecked, leads to:

[X]  Decreased force production (you’re weaker)

[X]  Decreased power output / production (can’t do as much work)

[X]  Changes in exercise / form / technique breakdown, which means you’re no longer training that “exercise” or “movement,” but some bastardization of it

[X]  Opens the door to injury – either acute (think ACL rupture) or delayed and chronic (think elbow tendonitis)

[X]  Increases circulating cortisol levels, which, if left unchecked, can actually create more stomach fat

[X]  Incomplete recovery, which can lead to strength and muscle loss, insomnia, depression, and anxiety (all kinds of fun!)

So, how do you minimize / mitigate fatigue?

1- Stop your set(s) when your speed drops

2- Rest longer between sets – go by heart rate or nasal breathing

3- Add more high quality sets (if necessary) instead of “pushing” or “grinding out” garbage reps


Your CNS – Central Nervous System – is tired and it’s no longer recruiting the high-threshold motor units (fast-twitch muscle fiber + neuron), and those fast-twitch muscle fibers have run out of energy.

And that means you’re no longer using your largest, strongest, fastest muscle fibers –

The ones that most of the college athletes I trained – and in fact all “power-based” athletes – spriters, jumpers, throwers, and Olympic Weightlifters – use to win.


As I mentioned before, if you push through this… “tough it out”…

All kinds of nasty things can happen (see above).

And yes, there are times and sports where you have to resist fatigue and still produce high levels of force.

One of the ways you do that is by slowly “titrating” in the fatigue by removing the rest.

That’s what I did with the wrestling team.

We started the season running 300 yard repeats with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:4. Over the course of the next 3 months we titrated that down and peaked for the EIWA championships with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2.

I’ve always thought that training my private clients using strategies from Olympic Weightlifting (my sport of choice) and wrestling (my favorite college team to train) has provided the best “all-round” fitness levels.

And that was my original attraction to KBs –

Higher-rep Olympic lifts without the precision technique.

One of my favorite modalities for combining the two?


When you program them correctly – titrating down the work-to-rest ratios like I did with my wrestlers…

… You not only do you learn how to manage / mitigate fatigue…

To a certain extent, you become almost “fatigue resistant.”

(Not to mention pretty darn strong.)

I put all these fatigue management / mitigation strategies in a single KB program that gets you stronger, leaner, and significantly better conditioned in the same training block. 


And even though it’s anaerobic dominant, your aerobic conditioning will improve.

And because it’s a single KB program, you’ll be punishing your core muscles too. 

And that of course will make you stronger too. 

It’s the same concept I used with some of my college wrestlers.

So really, it’s the best of all worlds.


Whether you use it or put your own program together, remember, proper fatigue management is the key to getting stronger and more powerful, and even losing body fat.

Stay Strong,


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