STACK Answers Your Questions

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Friday Inbox (on Wednesday) August 5, 2009

Apologies for moving up the Friday Inbox, but technically this is the end of the week for me since I'll be vacationing at a lake house in the Ozarks with college friends over the next few days. Good, innocent, clean fun should be had by all (note: I will not be blogging about the reunion since family and a certain lady friend read the blog). I'm trying to convince Cuse (Matt Siracusa) that this mini-getaway will make for a great 'Fusion' piece in the October issue, but he disagrees. With that established, on to your questions for the week:

Tamara (Walla Walla, Wash.): Love the Summer Training Guide issue, but why isn't there an eight-week guide for softball players? STACK: I've received a few questions wondering why a certain sport is not included in our guide. Long story short: limited space in the mag. I have a dream that one day at least one STACK issue will consist of nothing but 66 pages of unadulterated text, but until that happens, your hard-working content team must abide by strict word counts. However, we do have plans this year to offer an eight-week training program for softball players online. Trust me, we're not trying to ignore your sport. Until that time, obviously incorporate appropriate drills/exercises from the other sports into your training and check out our softball page for training, nutrition and recruiting advice from top collegiate and Olympic coaches/athletes.


Friday Inbox (on Wednesday)
August 5, 2009

Apologies for moving up the Friday Inbox, but technically this is the end of the week for me since I'll be vacationing at a lake house in the Ozarks with college friends over the next few days. Good, innocent, clean fun should be had by all (note: I will not be blogging about the reunion since family and a certain lady friend read the blog). I'm trying to convince Cuse (Matt Siracusa) that this mini-getaway will make for a great 'Fusion' piece in the October issue, but he disagrees. With that established, on to your questions for the week:

Tamara (Walla Walla, Wash.): Love the Summer Training Guide issue, but why isn't there an eight-week guide for softball players?
I've received a few questions wondering why a certain sport is not included in our guide. Long story short: limited space in the mag. I have a dream that one day at least one STACK issue will consist of nothing but 66 pages of unadulterated text, but until that happens, your hard-working content team must abide by strict word counts. However, we do have plans this year to offer an eight-week training program for softball players online. Trust me, we're not trying to ignore your sport. Until that time, obviously incorporate appropriate drills/exercises from the other sports into your training and check out our softball page for training, nutrition and recruiting advice from top collegiate and Olympic coaches/athletes.

Ben (Columbus, Ohio): What's the coolest college weight room you've been to?
Hmm [stroking white beard of wisdom], good question. Most big-time schools break up their athletic training facilities into two separate weight rooms/areas: one for Olympic sports (basically every sport other than football) and the other one for football. Since there are more football players on campus than any other sport, colleges usually have a separate facility for those athletes so there can be two or three sessions per day that the guys can get in the weight room (at their convenience around classes, training table and study tables). Keep in mind, college strength coaches have NCAA-mandated time limits per week with college athletes, so it's essential to get them in and out efficiently and effectively.

With that said, I'd have to go with LSU, Ohio State or Georgia for the most stunning facilities. LSU's football weight room, led by strength coach Tom Moffitt, has a clean and efficient training space and every piece of equipment is strategically placed. Connected to the weight room is the indoor practice facility, which is one of the nicest I have visited on my travels (you can tour here).

Ohio State football's facility, Woody Hayes Athletic Center, is harder to get into than Fort Knox. If you don't have a secret security card or know the right person, you're not getting anywhere near the weight room (I'm also pretty sure the secretaries at the facility sit behind what appears to be bulletproof glass, but I cannot confirm or deny this). Like LSU, Ohio State's football weight room is connected to their indoor practice facility. When I met Ohio State football strength and conditioning coach Eric Lichter for the quick tour, I was in awe. When he asked what I thought about the weight room and indoor practice field, I simply uttered, "Holy [expletive]."

Georgia's Olympic training center is brand-spanking new and awesome. It's huge and has up-to-date equipment that most facilities don't have yet. Like most college weight rooms, everything is color coordinated (in this case, black and red). One interesting note: the UGA strength coaches have a sign posted on the door that prohibits any athlete from wearing colors that are not red, black, white or gray. They take their allegiance and pride for UGA seriously down there.

Finally, Florida's football weight room was pretty sweet, too, but it was undergoing renovations when I was down there for a shoot with the volleyball team. It's probably finished now and would definitely make my list of "best college weight rooms."

Juan (San Ysidro, Calif.): Who is the fastest athlete you've seen?
Lots of questions this week dealing with "the best, strongest or fastest" athlete. If that's what you want, then that's what I'll provide. This is definitely a tough question to answer because how are you defining "fast"? Linear speed? Speed respective to that athlete's sport? Who would win in a burlap sack race?

Off the top of my head, I recall Beanie Wells and Ray Small booking it during their timed Flying 20's at Ohio State. Basically, the players jogged the first 20 yards to build some speed/momentum, and then kicked it into high gear for the final 20 yards, which was timed by S+C coach Eric Lichter. Beanie covered the final 20 yards in 1.88 seconds. He probably weighed 240 pounds at the time. What does that mean? If he busted through the line and built downhill momentum, he's going to either blow by you or truck over you in the open field if you're a DB. Very impressive. His teammate, WR Ray Small, clocked in at 1.87, which was the fastest time of the day for that particular training group.

Also, I know Mario Manningham had a disappointing 40-time at the NFL Combine last year, but he was lightning-fast during his preparation for the combine. I recall him running between a 4.40-4.45 during his pre-combine testing with Tim Robertson. What was really jaw-dropping was his ability to quickly cover the first 10 yards of the 40, which is what recruiters and scouts really value. We'll have training videos with Manningham, who should make monumental strides in his second NFL season, posted soon.

Finally, David Oliver, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 110m hurdles, has no problem getting up and down the track (the hurdles do not hinder his speed at all, so I'm curious as to how fast he is without those barriers).

Scooter (Richmond, Va.): How many full-ride baseball scholarships are available at the Division I level?
Scooter, glad you asked so I can promote a new piece on the site. Last week I wrote an article that should answer most questions you have about the baseball recruiting process. I'm sorry to report that fully-funded collegiate baseball programs only have 12 or less full-rides available to spread among 20-30 guys. Most collegiate baseball players only receive enough money to cover books—honestly, you have a better shot at receiving academic money.

If you're a softball player, here's an article outlining the recruiting process. Over the next few weeks, we will have similar recruiting pieces devoted to each sport to keep you informed.

Francesco (New York City, N.Y.): What should I focus on during my basketball training?
Well, I'm not sure what your strength and weaknesses are on the court, but it's a general consensus from all the basketball strength coaches I've worked with that you should recognize your skills as a player and work hard to enhance the strengths and improve the weaker areas. Some of the best general basketball training advice I've come across is from Elias Karras, founder of EFT Sports Performance in Chicago. He claims that a basketball player needs to focus on five areas during training every day: 1) Mobility/flexibility, 2) Strength and conditioning, 3) Speed/agility, 4) Nutrition and 5) Recovery/maintenance. Luol Deng, one of his top clients, focuses on each of these five phases during every workout.

Rodney (Lebanon, Ind.): I bench 315 pounds.
[slow clap that builds to applause] Rodney, you win "This Week's Reader of the Week [Redundant]" (TWROTWR) award.

Keep the questions coming. For next week's Inbox, I'd like to know your thoughts about this year's Summer Training Guide. How did the workouts improve your game this summer? What were some challenging drills/exercises? What would you like to see in next year's issue?

Twitter to stay up to date on the latest STACK articles, videos and shoots with pro athletes. You'll also get daily workout and nutrition tips from the industry's top experts.

Friday Inbox
Friday, July 31, 2009

A couple weeks ago we asked STACK Nation to rank eight athletes based on:

• Athletic ability for their respective sport
• Who you would want to read a training/life feature about in a future issue of STACK Magazine
• Top name in the sports world

After pillaging through numerous responses, we've compiled the list. Without further [Freddy] ado:

1. Tiger Woods
2. Dwyane Wade
3. Sidney Crosby
4. Peyton Manning
5. Derek Jeter
6. Kevin Garnett
7. Serena Williams
8. Landon Donovan

Quick Thoughts:
It was a little surprising to see Tiger take the top spot, but you gotta give the man credit: he dominates his sport like no other athlete on the list and exceeds each criterion (though I don't recall "ability to marry a blonde Swedish nanny" as one).

The biggest shock, though, was at number three with "Sid the Kid." Crosby's quest for Lord Stanley made an impressionable mark for a few of our readers who ranked him number one overall. Also, it was a subtle way of telling us that we need more hockey content (don't worry, we have a two puck pieces in the upcoming August/September issue.

The middle portion of the list played out as expected with aging stars Manning, Jeter and Garnett consistently ranked among readers in the four to six range.

Hey, it's the 21st century so where's the gender equality? Serena's showing in the rankings was a little disappointing.

Finally, no love for our May 2006 cover athlete?

Now, some raw, unedited reader comments:

Sam (Voorhees, N.J.): I'm currently injured as I write this and have been for the past five months. This gives me more respect for D-Wade, who had to endure almost two years of injury and came back stronger than ever. Not only is he well-spoken and handles his career well (holding out for an awesome free agency next year!), but he is maybe the best athlete on that list, in my opinion. His ability to always score in a moment, his above average shooting ability, his ability to hold his own without missing games all season, as the star on an average team. Just his ability to come back from an injury—which I must tell you, is not a given—should hold his place as a cover story.

STACK's Take: D.Wade definitely received a ton of love from the readers and almost stole the top spot from Tiger. As far as "The Flash" for a cover story, we're working on it, Sam. In the meantime, check out Wade's athlete page for his recruiting, training and nutrition advice.

Thomas (Calgary, Alberta): Tiger at 1, Crosby number 2.

STACK's Take: Really? Spurning Crosby, a fellow Canadian, for a golfer? Thomas, it's a good thing I refrain from providing last names and contact info in this mailbag or else you might have to move. That's equivalent to an Indiana native not placing Manning as number one (and numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8).

Jackson (Indianapolis, Ind.): Peyton Manning #1. Football and protein shakes are my life.

STACK's Take: [Fist pump].

Taylor (Santa Monica, Calif.): Woods, Wade, Serena, Jeter, Manning, Donovan, Crosby and Garnett. Outside of Tiger and Wade, Serena has more of an impact on her sport and fits your list requirements more than some of the other guys.

STACK's Take: Agreed, Taylor. Serena did place high on quite a few reader submissions, but her overall ranking dropped due to [male] readers intimidated of her athletic prowess (pure speculation).

Wally (Syracuse, N.Y.):
Peyton Manning – 1: AMERICA IS FOOTBALL!
Tiger Woods – 2: Golf? No. OK, he is the best.
Dwyane Wade – 3: Just signed Jordan deal; another pair of shoes I can't buy. Good balla, tho.
Kevin Garnett – 4: Better ranking if he would shave.
Derek Jeter – 5: Baseball is better than Sidney.
Sidney Crosby – 6:
Serena Williams – 7:
Landon Donovan – 8: Who is this?

STACK's Take: I ran through a gauntlet of emotions reading Wally's e-mail. I laughed at the candid assessment; I pondered running his comment on Crosby (my editor's response: "Kyle, you know better."); and ultimately I wept for society's future. However, Wally wins the first "This Week's Reader of the Week [Redundant]" (TWROTWR) award. Even though I was a little taken aback by your removed comment about Serena, (I'm guessing you're not Facebook friends with Taylor from Santa Monica), I respect Wally's patriotic gridiron nationalism.

Great feedback for the first Friday Inbox. If you have a question, comment or complaint, you know what to do.

X Games Mark the Spot to Be
Thursday, July 30, 2009
by Matt Siracusa

Today officially marks the start of the X Games, a four-day event that's so extreme that the full name can't even be spelled out and is instead substituted with the letter "X." It was 15 years ago when, for the first time, athletes of all types in the action sports world came together for the inaugural Games.

Los Angeles, the unofficial capital of action sports, will host the Olympics/Super Bowl/World Cup of action sports events. There's really nothing else to compare the Games to; it's the biggest event of the year!

During the past year, STACK began to dive into the action sports realm, and we've gotten to know some of the best in the business. Below is a list of all the STACKletes that will be competing at X Games 15. Be sure to check out our videos and articles with them on STACK TV and the STACK magazine home page.

Check your local TV listings for full coverage of the Summer X Games.

Men's Skateboarders
Pierre-Luc Gagnon: Big Air, Big Air Rail Jam, Vert
Ryan Sheckler: Street
Danny Mayer: Vert

Women's Skateboarders
Tamara Drybrough: Street
Gaby Ponce: Vert
Lea Taylor: Vert

Kevin Robinson: Freestyle Big Air, Freestyle Vert
Dave Mirra: Freestyle Big Air, Rally Car Racing
Zack Warden: Freestyle Vert

Moto Cross
Ronnie Renner: Best Whip, Step Up

It's a Midwest Thing
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Location, Location, Location. Yesterday we were at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness Center, situated in our office's backyard in lovely Independence, Ohio, to capture training with Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Andy Alleman. Pulling up to the facility, it was assumed that Alleman would be doing some light lifting indoors since NFL Training Camp is just right around the corner—that was far from the case (we all know what happens when one "assumes").

The bearded Alleman took his training to the pavement—literally. On an 85-degree day in OH-IO, Alleman performed two circuits in the facility's parking lot of what can best be described as Strong Man Competition stuff you watch on ESPN at 2 a.m. when you're bored (wait, no one else does this?). With dump trucks serving as soothing music, humidity so thick you had to cut it with a spork and a gritty suburban landscape in the background, Alleman performed two strenuous sets of the following circuit:

• Tire Flip
• Sledge Hammer
• Farmer's Walks
• Sled Backpedal
• Log Cleans
• Prowler Push
• Battling Ropes

According to Alleman's trainer, Dave Morgan, this was a "hybrid cardio workout" designed to train anaerobic work capacity. For our non-kinesiology majors: it was hard.

Meathead Quote of the Day: "Get mean with it."
—Dave Morgan, encouraging Alleman during his second set of Prowler Push

All-In for Alleman. If you wonder why a guy would push his body to the limits just days before Training Camp starts, then you don't know Andy Alleman (writer's note: I didn't know Andy Alleman before yesterday either). Alleman states, "It's an everyday grind. But that's the difference among high school, college and the NFL. It's my job as a professional." Alleman is highly dedicated and is proud to play at the pinnacle of his passion, but he definitely doesn't take it for granted. Like all football players at any level, he realizes that there is always someone out there wanting to steal his job if he slips up so it's fear that motivates him to flip tires in a parking lot in Independence, Ohio on a hot Monday afternoon.

Quote That Makes You Want to Run Through a Brick Wall: "Sacrifice for a dream—it's your career and your life so take a risk or chance."
—Andy Alleman, describing how he took control of his football future

Pay Attention, O-Linemen: Alleman shared some interesting perspectives on playing in the trenches. Most notably, he claimed that "aggression" is an offensive lineman attribute that is overemphasized. Surprising, but he believes that young linemen wanting to play at the next level need to focus on developing precise footwork and hand placement. Alleman isn't suggesting that your on-field demeanor should be rainbows and butterflies, but the nasty aggression that overmatches high schoolers won't necessarily cut it in college ball. It comes down to skills.

Special Thanks: To Dave Morgan, president of Enhanced Fitness & Performance. Mr. Morgan, a legendary Ohio high school football and wrestling coach, was gracious enough to open up his facility and sit down with us on camera to provide his expert coaching advice. I can go on and on about Morgan's devotion, passion and training knowledge, but here's probably the best way to describe the man's loyalty to training: he wears a necklace with a kettlebell pendant (no confirmation on how much it weighs).

"E" for Effort (or is it "A" for Effort?): Gold star of the day goes to our outstanding videographer/video editor Michael J. Farris for jumping in after Alleman's workout and performing about 75 percent of the circuit. I'm not sure if Michael was curious or crazy, but regardless, he did an excellent job avoiding heat stroke or pulling a hammie, so overall it was a successful day.

Running Like the Wind

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
by Matt Siracusa

We're not just writers, editors and designers here at STACK; first and foremost, we're athletes who just happen to be gifted with the power of the pen.

Over the weekend, three members of the STACK Team went full force as they took a break from writing about sports training and decided to jump into an actual competition.

The day's competitive activities started early for one certain STACK employee. Although there was an early morning shower on Saturday, this STACK writer had already left his house to compete in a soccer match. Unfortunately, he didn't receive the memo that people usually don't come to a pick-up game of soccer when it's raining out, and he ended up wasting his time driving a half-hour to the soccer fields.

Luckily, he was not alone in the failed soccer endeavor and was instead able to work on some set pieces with the help of his future bro-in-law. The STACK writer was able to get a quick workout running around and scoring in an empty net but this, however, was just a warm-up for the main event of the day: the race.

Though I am not much of a runner, I thought I would give it a shot and enter a race for the first time in exactly two years [my last race was a 5K for my high school alma mater], and this time the race was a bit longer than what I am used to. To some, like my one opponent from work, Ms. Sarah Gearhart, four miles is a warm-up. To others, like my other work opponent, Mrs. Rachel Trem, four miles is a typical workout. To me, four miles is, well, four miles, which is a lot easier to mentally break down into quarters of a football game, which I normally do whenever I run [but the odd number of a 5k makes that too difficult to do]. Either way, I was a runner who was outclassed by my opponents but that would not hold me back from competing.

As the race was about to begin, I noticed that there were a lot of serious runners ready to compete. I couldn't tell you how many sports bras, short shorts and iPod armbands I saw, and of course, there were a few shirtless guys trying to show off even though it was relatively cool out [if you're reading this, you know who you are]. But even though I had none of the above on me, and Ms. Gearhart and Mrs. Trem started in front of me, all decked out in their running gear, I had a secret weapon on my feet.

No, they weren't Acme-made roller skates with rockets on the sides. I've seen way too many Wile E. Coyote cartoons to know the outcome of that great idea. I was going to be running the event practically barefoot. Technically I had shoes on, but I was rocking a pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO shoes that are designed to simulate running barefoot.

As many of my opponents looked down, wondering what I was wearing, I was looking straight ahead to see who I would be passing up next. By the end of the race everyone knew what company made the shoes as they all saw the label on the bottom of the sole when I passed them. As I came to the third mile marker, I suddenly noticed that I was all alone and had so much of a lead that I finished the race running backwards. While I was being hoisted up after breaking the course record, I realized one important thing: the race hadn't even started yet and it was all in my head.

I wish I could say I finished in the top 10, even in the top 50, but at least I finished. As I ran alongside my fiancée [who will remain nameless; she does have red hair, though, so that drops about 96 percent of the world's population], trying to make her laugh and not pay attention to all the people passing us up, I realized that the race was no longer a competition, just 33 minutes and 30 seconds of fun [yup, that's my time; my fiancée finished a little bit after me. I had to leave her when I saw a couple pass us up while pushing their twins in a stroller].

And although Ms. Gearhart finished in the top 10 of her age group and Mrs. Trem outran me only seven months after having a baby, I felt like I was the true winner of the race.

I was the only one to run with bare feet, so I won that category. I made my fiancée almost fall down laughing as I sang out loud to her because we both didn't sport iPods and were trying to pass the time, so I'm obviously the funniest competitor. And, I was covered in more sweat than the two ladies combined so I feel like I got the better workout.

Running may not be my thing, and I would rather be on a pitch than pavement, but at least I finally got to field-test my FiveFinger shoes and will be able to give a full analysis of my experience working out in the shoes in one of our soon-to-be released web exclusive articles.

Keep your eyes open for the shoe review, and if the ladies in the office want a rematch, next time I get to choose the sport.

Training the Strongman Way
Monday, July 27, 2009
by Zac Clark

Sled pulls, log presses and tire flips are just a sample of what I'll see today when I spend the afternoon in Cleveland with local product Andy Alleman, an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins. He'll be hammering out a final workout before heading back to Florida for the start of training camp on Aug. 1.

Forget Shawne Merriman's Muay Thai training or Twitter-foe Chad Ocho-Cinco's off-season boxing regimen. Alleman's getting it done the old-fashioned way through Strongman training—just like the events you see in the World's Strongest Man competitions.

Alleman, a 2007 NFL Draft third-round pick, will be battling for a starting spot after appearing in 15 games for the 'Fins last season, starting the final four regular season contests and the opening round playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

While STACK has featured a small sample from the Strongman vault (see Vanderbilt baseball swinging the sledge hammer), this will be our first look into a complete training program for hammering the muscles and building endurance.

The workout will also feature the one-of-a-kind Battling Ropes system. Check back later this week for highlights from the day's activities.

Red, White and True
Friday, July 24, 2009

The USA Softball Women's National Team captured its third World Cup title last night by defeating Australia 3-1. Grand marshals for the victory parade consisted of an impressive STACKlete trio: Monica Abbott, Cat Osterman and Lauren Lappin.

Abbott dominated the ladies from down under with 11 whiffs in just over five innings. Osterman, rocking out her Under Armour headband, sealed the deal with three punchouts to close the game. To learn how these skilled pitchers—who rank 1st and 2nd respectively on the NCAA career strikeout list—honed their craft, check out Abbott* and Osterman's STACK TV athlete pages.

*Wanna know why Abbott is one of the best in the world? Check out this Kneeling Physioball Throw she performed during my shoot with her at the D1 Sports Training Facility in Knoxville, Tenn. I challenge any athlete, male or female, to perfect this difficult drill. On a lighter note, she might be one of the funniest athletes I've ever interviewed, though most of that footage hit the editing room floor.

Offensively, Lappin ignited the squad with a fence-clearing shot in the bottom of the third inning. We captured Lappin's intense weight room training in Florida as she prepared for the '08 Olympic Games in Beijing. The former Stanford superstar hit the weights hard and was then gracious enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions (yours truly might have went over the allotted time, thus making the rest of the team wait on the bus until the interview was complete).

One final note: We've received a ton of great questions so far for the first edition of Friday Mailbag (also, if you're creative, feel free to send me some names for the mailbag since it's a little too generic for my tastes right now). Keep the questions coming by submitting them here, and we'll post the first mailbag Q&A session next Friday.
4,000…and Counting
Friday, July 24, 2009

Apologies for shameless self-promotion, but I was notified today by our diligent content controller Rachel Holzaepfel that we surpassed 4,000 videos in our ever-expanding library.

From our first videos of Peyton Manning posted in September 2007 to our most recently added Nike Know This Channel, sponsored by the Nike Trainer 1, we are committed to offering you the best training, nutrition and recruiting advice on the web.

Our initial hope was to conduct a couple training/interview shoots per month and slowly build our library, but due to viewer demand and popularity of the first few videos, the project quickly took off. During certain months, each content director is on the road once or twice per week, gathering the best footage with the top athletes and coaches in the business. Sometimes it's extremely tiring jet-setting from one city to the next and living in the airport (yes, I have personally slept in a few airports after a couple shoots, but I have never showered in the sink), but it's always worth it.

After the footage is captured on tape, our hard-working video editors at Moonstruck Productions break down the raw footage into separate videos, thus beginning a three-step editing process. Once the videos are flawless and approved, they're delivered fresh to the site for you to enjoy. It's a long process, but we make it look easy.

A special thanks to you, our STACK Athletes, for making our videos some of the most respected in the athletic community. Your desire to become a better athlete fuels our desire to keep providing high quality content.

Don't forget, if you have a question for our Friday Mailbag, always feel free to contact us.
Brees, LT, Rodgers and Boller at Fitness Quest 10
Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Coolest dude ever" is how our vp of content Josh Staph describes 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Drew Brees.

Josh is out in San Diego today at Todd Durkin's Fitness Quest 10 facility to capture Brees' workout before NFL Training Camps start. Among those training at the facility today are a few NFL players you might know: LaDanian Tomlinson, Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Boller.

This morning, Durkin put the Saints signal-caller through functional and explosive movement drills with plenty of plyos and med ball throws. After a short break, Brees, Rodgers and Boller will take the field for a few throwing drills.

More updates to come.

Motivational Graffiti:
As seen on the wall at Fitness Quest 10: "Do or do not. There is no try." –Yoda
Friday Mailbag
Wednesday, July, 22, 2009

Baffled because you're not seeing improvement in the weight room? Looking for the fastest way to improve your 40? Want to know the best lift to increase your vert? Confused about technical training terms? Not sure what to eat or drink post-workout?

If you have questions, we have plenty of answers (think "Sleek Squad" as opposed to "Geek Squad"). If there's something you want to know that we haven't yet covered in STACK or on, email us and we'll get back to you.

Send us any and all training, nutrition and recruiting questions, and we'll get them answered in a weekly Friday Mailbag. We'll provide essential, professional advice to boost your game safely and effectively.

When it comes to training, there's no such thing as a stupid question so let's hear from you, STACK readers!

Meet the STACK Team
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
by Matt Siracusa

Since the launch of our first issue in 2005, the STACK team has been giving our readers an inside look at some of the top teams and athletes across all sports. Through training programs, nutrition advice, lifestyle choices and recruiting tips, we've traveled all over the U.S. (and Canada) to create what is now one of the top 10 largest sports properties in the country.

Although we've provided our readers an in-depth look at what it takes to make the jump from high school to the next level, we've never really given you the chance to get to know the STACK team on a more personal level.

We take great pride in our work and feel that we have a closer bond with our readers than other media companies that write to a broader audience do. It's now time for us to give you the inside scoop on the people who put together the content you see in the magazine and on so you can find out what we're all about.

Training Department Bios

Zac Clark
The most recent member of STACK's training department is no newbie when it comes to writing about sports. You may have first read Z. Clark's work online as he wrote some unbelievable web exclusives before getting the call up to the bigs and becoming an official member of the training department.

Zac is also our local hockey guru. Not only did he stand between the pipes throughout his youth and during high school, in college he worked for USA Hockey at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Along with his many articles online, you can see Zac's touch in other areas of When you check out the site each day, there are always new articles to read. Well, you can thank Zac for that, because he's one of the few people in the office who knows how to rotate the content on, and he's got it down to a science.

The training department is excited to swipe up this highly-rated writer from the minors. Z. Clark always strives for perfection and brings fresh ideas to the table.

Fun facts about Zac
Favorite sports movie:
All-time favorite sports team to follow:
Cleveland Indians
Favorite music to listen to when working out: Classic rock
Favorite desk item: My bag of mixed nuts
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: Mike Jordan
The most famous person on your cell phone: Kyle Woody
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: Too hard to answer

Matt Siracusa
A former high school running back and linebacker standout, Matt has traded in his pads and helmet to shoulder the load of our extreme/action sports training department. The cosmopolitan man who proudly wears a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" hat and five-fingered toe shoes in the office also offers a fresh perspective in our gear/source sections of the magazine. Voted football team captain as a senior at John Carroll, 'Cuse (as he's affectionately referred to in the office since the prefix "Sira" is too long to say) also leads our Fusion and Psyched departments of the mag.

Even though he has a gridiron background, this sports renaissance man possesses a fervent passion for the "other football." With a memory like a steel trap, 'Cuse is quick to recall soccer names and teams that other workers in the office confuse with actors from television shows like The Wonder Years or Perfect Strangers. This go-getter was recently recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first person to contact every MLS media relations department in a calendar month (editor's note: the Guinness Book of World Records comment is not true, but the effort is).

A hard worker who offers a plethora of creative ideas, this Ohio-native is growing his hair out to pay homage to one of his idols, "Grizzly Adams" (which makes his fiancée none too pleased). 'Cuse is always willing to lend a hand (or foot) to any project and does an excellent job with his writing and video responsibilities. Be sure to check out witty writing in this said blog and other mag/web pieces (just don't go too overboard since there's an unspoken competition for page views and star ratings).

Fun facts about Matt
Favorite sports movie:
I like them all. I have a separate section in my DVD library devoted to sports movies. There is no way I can pick one.
All-time favorite sports team to follow: Liverpool F.C. It's a soccer team to all the people who don't watch the most popular football in the world.
Favorite music to listen to when working out: Back in the day, my high school coach got me hooked on the Temptations while working out, but nowadays I just let the shuffle do the work.
Favorite desk item: My rubber band ball that I made when I had a bad case of writer's block. It's a little bit smaller than a baseball.
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: Both EA and Crash Conditioning shoots. What can I say, I love Canada.
The most famous person on your cell phone: Kevin Robinson
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: Fernando Torres. I know the majority of our readers don't watch soccer, but when your nickname is El Nino and you're a top player in the world, who wouldn't want to be him?

Kyle Woody
If you were to ask Kyle to write down one word to describe himself, he'd probably ramble off a couple of paragraphs and you'd have to interject to stop him. That's not to say that Kyle is shallow and self-absorbed; it's just that Kyle tends to get carried away when it comes to writing (or talking). His articles in the magazine are only a glimpse of what were poetic, free-flowing pieces showcasing his passion for sports because they sadly had to be cut down to the proper word count. But no matter what gets cut, Kyle still hopes that one day he'll be given an entire page of text to express his true feelings on the topic of his choice (keep dreaming, Kyle).

On a more personal note, Kyle was born and raised in the well-known sports town of Martinsville, Ind., which he talks about daily. A two-sport athlete in high school, Kyle excelled in football and baseball. You can find his helmet retired in the Martinsville High School Hall of Fame.

Kyle is considered to be the shortstop of the office team. He's always willing to step up to the plate and work on new and exciting projects, including constantly contacting teams and coaches, and is the go-to guy when it comes to last-minute training shoots. Kyle always has a story in his mind and a story to share.

Fun facts about Kyle:
Favorite sports movie:
For my money, nothing beats the goosebump-inducing All-Valley Karate Tournament montage from Karate Kid when Daniel LaRusso is kicking Cobra Kai tail while Joe Esposito's "You're the Best Around" plays in the background (probably one of the most underrated songs of the '80s). As far as sports we cover at STACK, All the Right Moves (before Tom Cruise went off the deep end) is the best high school football movie ever.
All-time favorite sports team to follow: Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Rams and Martinsville Artesians
Favorite music to listen to when working out: None since it's too difficult to carry my oversized boom box everywhere and stores stopped selling cassette tapes in the early '90s. If I had to listen to something, it would be "Journey" or "Def Leppard."
Favorite desk item: I haven't seen my desk for nine months. Okay, my BIC Cristal blue pens (BIC, if you're reading, hook me up).
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: That's like trying to choose between my unborn children. I enjoy every athlete, coach and strength coach that contributes to STACK.
The most famous person on your cell phone: Probably my best friend and former college teammate, Bill Slama. He was named the 2000 Indiana High School 3A Defensive Player of the Year by some obscure (and probably out-of-print) publication. He claims he picked off Jay Cutler in the state championship game, which Bill's team lost in overtime. I always assumed that if his team would have won the game his life would be completely different, like Uncle Rico's from Napoleon Dynamite. He would have gone pro—in a heartbeat—making millions of dollars and living in a big ole mansion somewhere, soaking it up in a hot tub with his soul mate.
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: Rollie Fingers because of the killer 'stache.

Scott Mackar
A former first team all-state athlete in high school and a first team all-world when it comes to writing training articles, Scott heads up the training department like a man on a mission. When it comes to work, Scott is strictly business and needs to be in order to set up training shoots and interviews with some of STACK's more notable superstars.

Every member on the STACK team has a fair amount of knowledge about all types of sports but Scott's area of expertise falls under the three sports that he is extremely passionate about: football, basketball and golf.

A country boy from Chardon, Ohio, Scott spent most of his high school summers on the football field and basketball court trying to perfect his game, and he nearly did, being ranked second in the state of Ohio in three-point percentages in a season, and a first team all-state cornerback.

His love for golf didn't come until after his undergrad days at Mercyhurst College were over and he spent some time writing for a paper down in southern Florida. He took advantage of the sunny weather and played golf just about every day. If Scott is not working hard in the STACK office, chances are he is probably hitting the links, playing in local tournaments and ever so slowly lowering his handicap.

A vital member of the team, Scott is always willing to help out his teammates with forwarding along contacts, brainstorming new ideas and even sacrificing his own time by going on last-minute video shoots. STACK is lucky to have an all-around athlete/training director in Scott Mackar.

Fun facts about Scott
Favorite sports movie:
All-time favorite sports team to follow: Cleveland Browns
Favorite music to listen to when working out:
Favorite desk item: Nectarine
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: Jared Allen
The most famous person on your cell phone: Paul Rabil
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: Tiger Woods. I love golf. Other than working for STACK, I'd want to have the life of the best golfer in the history of the game.

Editors Bios

Sarah Gearhart
When it comes to professionalism in the work environment, nobody in the office can compare to associate editor Sarah Gearhart. While the majority of us come to the office everyday in our casual attire, Sarah can be found well-dressed in the latest fashion and ready to work on whatever the day entails (like editing this piece).

Like most members of the STACK team, Sarah wears many hats throughout the day, metaphorically speaking. From editing pieces to working on video shoots to gathering gear for the source section, she does it all. Not to mention she takes up the bulk of our Next Level section and she writes all the nutrition pieces (she can pretty much write up a diet for everyone in the office).

Sarah's hard work and detail to perfection are vital when it comes to editing the web articles that the STACK training department hands over, but she does her work with a smile on her face. She doesn't complain but does whatever it takes to keep the STACK team moving forward. Even though Sarah works hard throughout the day, she also devotes some time for light conversation and funny jokes every now and then—and if you sit near her, be prepared for her giggling.

Fun facts about Sarah
Favorite sports movie of all time:
All-time favorite sports team to follow:
The Cavs, baby.
Favorite music to listen to when working out:
A little old-school MJ (RIP) and indie rock all the way, and some Jay-Z.
Favorite desk item: My endless pack of gum that I've been chain-chewing lately to stay focused.
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: Too many to name. I enjoyed interviewing Kara Goucher three days after she ran the Boston Marathon. She's not only an inspiration to young athletes, but also to me. Talking to her really got me pumped to run my fourth marathon. I was also a fan of Amar'e Stoudemire because he's one of the funniest guys I've ever met.
The most famous person on your cell phone: No comment.
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: I would be Dwight Howard because I'd want to know how it feels to have shoulders as big as his.

Rachel Trem
Rachel Trem is the Miranda Priestly of the STACK office—just kidding (if you don't know who she is, go watch The Devil Wears Prada on DVD). Always willing to work with each writer independently so the best articles possible are produced, Rachel is at times the heart of STACK.

A master organizer, Rachel pulls each issue of STACK together. Like a goaltender who is the last line of defense, she protects each issue of STACK Magazine with her careful edits and eye for design.

It can be a little difficult sometimes to get a hold of our editor as she's out of the office twice a week due to her newborn son Theo, who has already begun his training at seven months old to become a STACK cover athlete in 2031, when he turns pro. The mother of the office, though, is always willing to drop what she is doing at home and help out anyone on the STACK team who needs her.

Rachel is a fan of all sports and loves editing the articles you see in STACK Magazine. Her only biased opinion can be found in the Source section of the upcoming Aug./Sept. 2009 issue, as she chose the athletes she found the most easy on the eyes.

Fun facts about Rachel
Favorite sports movie:
Lucas, Bull Durham, Major League, Remember the Titans, and not a movie, but I love Friday Night Lights the show... LOVE it!
All-time favorite sports team to follow: The Tribe
Favorite music to listen to when working out: Beyonce's B-Day Album, Ice Cube, Diddy [Really just "Can't No Body Hold me Down"--my college theme song :)], Kanye [preferably the College Dropout Album"], Ben Lee, JT, Steve Miller Band, Lauryn Hill, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Regina Spektor, The Killers, Ciara, Jet, N.E.R.D., Limp Bizkit, Snoop, American Idol performances, Jay Z, Nelly, U2, Journey, Gavin Degraw
Favorite desk item: The picture of my baby Theo hugging and kissing me and my husband.
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: Marshawn Lynch. He was ridiculously funny.
The most famous person on your cell phone: Unfair question; I rarely interview. At one time, maybe Torii Hunter or Chris Chambers. Although once at a Diddy party in Vegas, I sat between Usher and Brian Urlacher.
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: Beckham. I think I might sit and stare at myself for the full 24 hours. Besides that, he's an incredible athlete [yes, I know he's out of his heyday, but still incredible]; he's international; he's a celebrity; he's got super cute kids; and he likes to shop.

Content Operations

Rachel Holzaepfel
Rachel aka Rae (we can't have two people with the same name working in an open office; it gets too confusing) is the glue that holds the STACK team together. She is the unsung hero of the group as her work gets overlooked by some but in reality, she keeps the team on target. Rotating content, uploading videos to STACK TV, editing articles (even editing this exact sentence), Rae is probably the most skilled member on the STACK team.

Relaying information from team member to member, from the tech team to the sales team in New York to the other bigwigs in the company, without Rae's web of information keeping everyone on the same page, STACK would be lost in the sea of media.

Not only though is Rae a hard worker, she's also the office's personal chef. At least twice a week Rae offers up her culinary skills and brings in some of the best homemade treats that anyone has ever had (Martha Stewart better watch out). At times the STACK employees may look a bit thicker due to Rae's masterpiece dishes but it is definitely worth the extra workout to burn off the calories.

Although Rae never gets a byline at the end of the day, her contributions to STACK keep us all on the same page and up to date with one another.

Fun facts about Rae
Favorite sports movie:
She's the Man, The Cutting Edge and Center Stage (if you count ballet as a "sport")
All-time favorite sports team to follow: USA Men's Volleyball; I also enjoy watching college football, MLS soccer and tennis.
Favorite music to listen to when working out: I love high-energy music…Muse, Franz Ferdinand, Manchester Orchestra, The Killers, The Hush Sound
Favorite desk item: My cup of delicious Starbucks coffee
Favorite video shoot/phone interview: I don't create content—just handle it—but my favorite shoots to watch are Maryland Men's Soccer and Matt Ryan.
The most famous person on your cell phone: My phone is celebrity-free because other than the occasional coach or STACK reader that calls me up with a question, my day is spent talking to the STACK Team.
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: I would be Roger Federer—he's an amazing tennis player but is humble and hard working. Plus, I could finally beat my dad and brother at tennis.


Craig Vavrock
You're probably wondering to yourself who is this guy, but much like Rae, Craig secretively steers STACK in the right direction. Known in the office as "the controller," Craig is in charge of the most important aspect of the company: the payroll.

Craig actually handles all the finances for STACK, keeping the books up-to-date and everyone in the office happy with paychecks—including the freelance videographers/photographers the STACK team uses to conduct video shoots. A more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, he is one of only three STACK employees whose desk is not in the bullpen [which is a big open space where all writers have their desks; we exchange ideas and talk training all day long].

Not only is Craig waiting for the day when he can move his desk back to join in on the excitement of being a STACK writer, he is also waiting for the launch of STACK Outdoors, which will cover all of his favorite sports like fishing, hunting and his all-time favorite, mushroom gathering [he calls it hunting, but trust us, there is no stalking of prey or setting traps].

All in all Craig plays a vital role on the STACK Team and like Rae, has no byline, but he knows his role is very important and works extra hard to keep everyone happy with cash in their bank accounts.

Fun facts about Craig
Favorite sports movie:
Any Given Sunday, Necessary Roughness
All-time favorite sports team to follow: The Browns
Favorite music to listen to when working out: Hard rock or country
Favorite desk item: The time stamp… it's like a half-second of fun every time you stamp something. The shredder is definitely my favorite item in the office though!
Favorite video shoot/phone interview:
The most recent LeBron shoot
The most famous person on your cell phone: Mike Tyson….not the actual MT, just a buddy with the same name.
If you could be a pro athlete for a day, who would it be: Brett Favre……class act!

Cink Leads Golf's Training Revolution
Monday, July 20, 2009

Congrats are in order for one of our very own STACKletes, Stewart Cink, for his memorable comeback against legend Tom Watson to capture the 2009 British Open Championship.

Due to his resilient focus and precise shot placement, Cink birdied four holes on the back nine to force a pressure-filled playoff against Watson. Calm and collected, Cink was master of his swing and ball flight domain to secure his first major championship as a pro.

Immediately following his first taste from The Claret Jug, ABC asked a still-in-awe Cink about his approach on the final day. Cink responded with, "Well, in that situation, you just try to block out everything your opponent is doing…I just didn't want to do anything stupid." Cink continued with a perfect analogy all aggressive athletes should take notice of, "I watch a lot of football and the prevent defense only prevents wins."

In September 2008, our training director Scott Mackar caught up with Cink to discuss his golf training and mental approach to a demanding game. Here were Cink's thoughts about maintaining discipline during pressure situations:

"The pressure can get to you—it can get to everybody, and it does. You just have to be prepared. Muscle memory takes over. I think it's important to let your body swing the club because the muscles don't forget how to do it. It's when your mind gets in the way and it starts trying to control things when you have trouble. The best way to approach pressure situations, for me, is to have as much of a 'switched off' mind as you can; just a blank mind and let the body do everything and let it happen naturally."

Standing on the famed Turnberry Course in Scotland, Cink thanked a few individuals during his trophy acceptance speech, including his trainer, Christopher Noss. The game of golf hasn't evolved much since the 12th century, when, allegedly, Scottish shepherds knocked stones into holes to pass the time. However, one aspect of golf is revolutionary: the need and demand for off-the-links training. The contemporary Cink proved yesterday that his commitment to the weight room played a role in his mental and physical conditioning during his showdown against Watson, an all-time great. Bring your golf game into the 21st century with training advice and videos from Noss and Cink.

After watching the Cink training videos, check out some more insight and info from the 2009 Open Champ:

The most important six inches in the game of golf

How golf training does more than add distance and power to a drive

The real story behind Tiger Woods' fist pump

The sweetest thing about high school golf

Stance and set-up advice from the 2009 Open Champ

Who's the Best?
Friday, July 17, 2009

There's a passionate inter-office debate going on right now regarding the best athlete(s) listed below. Since we're arguing back and forth without reaching a universal conclusion, we'll let you, the reader, decide!

Using the following criteria, rank the listed athletes 1-8, with 1 being the top athlete.

• Athletic ability for their respective sport
• Who you would want to read a training/life feature about in future STACK issues
• Top name in the sports world

Derek Jeter
Peyton Manning
Landon Donovan
Sidney Crosby
Serena Williams
Dwyane Wade
Kevin Garnett
Tiger Woods

We know it's comparing apples to oranges (which, I've never understood that phrase because technically apples and oranges are round-shaped fruits, but I digress). Let us know your thoughts. It's not as easy as it looks.

Good luck, and we want to hear from you! We'll post the official STACK Nation rankings when your feedback is acquired.

EA Sports, It's in the Game! 
Thursday, July 16, 2009
by Matt Siracusa

As my colleague Mr. Woody mentioned, I was previously up north in Vancouver, Canada for EA's fall line-up preview, and let me just say this, those Canucks sure know how to have a good time. Games, pro athletes and un-athletic media people trying to relive the glory days pretty much summarizes what I saw, but we will get into all that in a minute.

First, I would like to go on record saying that I did not compete in any physical game of basketball with Dwight Howard. However, before the event even kicked off, I got to spend some one-on-one time with the big man as we went head-to-head in NBA Live 10.

It was a classic rematch of this past year's NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and the L.A. Lakers as Dwight and I went back and forth scoring on one another.  Luckily for me, I got some tips from one of the head designers of the game because Dwight can ball on the virtual hardwood and had a couple sick dunks on me.

But as we played I got to talk to him about some topics other than the game. We talked about the importance of leadership on a team as well as team chemistry, along with some more laid-back questions like his all-time favorite sports movie and what he does to lighten things up in the locker room.  When the interview was done and the game was over, I honestly couldn't tell you who won (Dwight, if you read this, I want a re-match), but the day had just begun, and Dwight was just getting started.

As I hurried to catch up with the rest of the media for the event that had already started, I ran outside to the outdoor fields to find three more professional athletes representing another EA franchise game. Each athlete worked hands-on with some less–than-skilled media as they coached us through some exercises that they work on daily during training.

The next stop was back with a familiar, always-smiling Dwight Howard for some posting up moves. He quickly shared with the media some of his secrets to his success down low and was able to turn one short Canadian reporter into a serious threat in the paint for his Saturday old timers' league.

Next stop was at the NHL 10 franchise, where Boston Bruins' bad boy Milan Lucic was waiting to go one-on-one along the boards and drop the sticks with one unlucky reporter. As I figured, one of the local news reporters jumped at the opportunity to square off with the pro (I mean, hockey is their national pasttime). Milan quickly demonstrated why he is so dominant along the boards as he showed the cameras how to fight for the puck, and if need be, drop the gloves and do what hockey players are known for—fight—and only pretended to fight with the reporter who still looked like he was about to wet himself.
Once the horn sounded and it was time for us to rotate to the next game, I needed a break from all the testosterone that was being released from the previous athletes.

As I walked over to the makeshift tennis ball court for the Grand Slam Tennis portion of the day, I was looking forward to polishing my serve with Venus Williams—I'm not really a tennis player, but I have been known to be pretty dominant with a Ping-Pong paddle in hand. Venus offered some helpful tips on how to properly serve an ace and brought my 35 mph serve to 43 mph in just three swings of the racket.

As the final horn was sounded and we moved to the last part of the play with the pros' portion of the day, my mindset went from laid-back to full-on competitive mode, because this was the FIFA 10 franchise with MLS star Sacha Kljestan of Chivas USA, and it was my time to shine on the pitch.

Most of the media got involved in this last portion as Sacha worked on set pieces and gave up some helpful tips and explained why they are so crucial during a game. He then provided some crosses for us to receive and put the ball in the back of the net. I only had one real good chance to strike the ball with my head, and unfortunately it hit the top of the crossbar.

Lastly we finished off the training with some PK's, and as Sacha scored the first goal, I was next in line to give it a go. With one swift kick from my left foot, I went top corner on the keeper, and he had no chance to make the save. We have all this on video to prove these triumphs and glories of the day.

The physical training of the day was done for me and the rest of the media, but the competition was just getting started for the pros as they went head-to-head with one another in each franchised sport to see who would be crowned King/Queen of the Court.

I could go on sharing the incredible athletic performances of each athlete as they fought for bragging rights and the coveted EA trophy, but you are going to have to wait for the video to go live to see everything that went down. (Hint: The winner claims to be a former all-world athlete in the sport of kickball.)

The rest of the day was filled with testing EA games with the pros and getting to know more about the new improvements with game developers. There was no rematch with Dwight and myself for NBA Live 10, but I did score a goal against one of the developers of FIFA 10 while he tried to school me on the game.

Though it is nice to be back in the STACK office where there is always something exciting and new going on, I can't wait to get a call and invite to the next big event and fly out for some fun with the EA crew.

Everything's Bigger…in Tennessee
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Albert Haynesworth: Largest. Man. Ever. His hand swallowed mine during the initial meet and greet. Not only was he a great athlete to work with, but also a very nice, humble guy. There were about 20 current U. of Tennessee* football players in the indoor practice facility for a voluntary workout during Albert's on-field drills, and they couldn't take their eyes off him. It should be illegal for a man that large to move so fast. Best of luck to NFC East running backs this season.

*I have no idea if the collection of UT players consisted of superstars, benchwarmers, full-ride guys or walk-ons, but I can tell you this much: they're huge and committed to training (9 a.m. voluntary sessions in the summer). For all you high schoolers striving to get to the next level, just remember, the competition is cutthroat and sometimes it boils down to who's hungrier.

Workout Overview: Haynesworth started the morning with some on-field position-specific drills. Here's what separates this All-Pro from other 6'6" 350-pound NFL players and men roaming this Earth: his footwork. He moves as well as some of the NFL DBs from last week's shoot at IMG (okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but his graceful agility was very impressive for a man his size). One point to ponder for all you d-linemen—or any athlete—is to always work every possible plane of movement you might encounter during a game. Haynesworth worked on his up-field explosion and his lateral "pursuit-and-chase" ability, as well as his backpedaling technique. True, it will be rare when he backpedals in a game, but if he does, he's ready for it.

After the reaction, speed and agility work, the former UT great hit the weights. Since NFL training camp is quickly approaching, the workout was light on lifts, but heavy on intensity* and sets. Tripp Smith, director of performance at Competitive Edge Sports and Albert's strength and conditioning coach, focuses on supersets in the weight room to cut down on time, add an element of conditioning to the workout to get the heart beating and keep a player's weight in check. Lots of emphasis was placed on shoulders, traps and legs today—all necessary components to deliver a vicious slobberknocker on the field.

*The Tennessee strength staff wears "inTensity" t-shirts to the office. Appropriate and very clever, if you ask me.

Reader-Submitted Question: In the last blog entry, I asked readers to email a question to ask Albert. After reading through numerous submissions, Owen from Duluth, Minn. is our big winner.

Owen: What is your biggest weakness or area you need to improve on as a DT?
Albert: [smirks] "None."

There you have it, Owen! Thanks for all the submissions, and we'll continue to ask our readers for questions they want answered during upcoming shoots/interviews.

Special Thanks: Shout out goes to Tripp Smith, director of performance at Competitive Edge Sports based in Atlanta, Ga. Smith's father, Chip, is one of the most renowned independent football strength coaches in the country. His top clients include Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey and about 300 other NFL players. Tripp knows his training and created a great summer program for Haynesworth this off-season. Be sure to check out Tripp and Haynesworth on STACK TV in the near future.

Putting the "Sport" in Sports Agent: Images of "Jerry Maguire" flood the mind when one thinks about a sports agent (well-dressed, clean, proper, finely coifed, former "wannabe athlete" who was cut by the middle school basketball team). However, this isn't the case for Albert's agent, Chad Speck. A former Clemson strong safety, Speck performed every on-field drill that Albert worked on in the morning (and quite well I might add). I can't even make this up. Some agents talk about "commitment" to a client, while others prove it.

Pat on the [STACK] Back: I was able to catch up with U. of Tennessee basketball strength and conditioning coach Troy Wills in the weight room for the first time since our training director Scott Mackar worked with him for a training shoot. He was very complimentary of the October 2008 magazine article and thought the videos were amazing. Troy mentioned that all of his players were reading the October '08 issue in the weight room and raving about the training videos on STACK TV. College and pro athletes are checking out our ever-expanding library of training videos and articles, so you should, too.

Motivational Graffiti: Painted on Tennessee's weight room wall: "Great players and great teams want to be driven. Ordinary players and average teams want it easy."

Slim Shady Never Left: Workout music of choice in the Vols' weight room: Eminem.

You Know You're a Big Shot at UT If… you have your own street. On-campus UT streets are named in honor of legendary athletes and coaches. For instance, hanging a left on Phillip Fulmer Way, instead of a right on Chamique Holdsclaw Drive, which wraps around to Todd Helton Drive, will get you on Johnny Majors Drive and take you to The [Robert] Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, but don't go too far on Johnny Majors or else you'll hit Pat Head Summitt Street. Road not traveled on: Peyton Manning Pass, but bonus points for a creative street name.

55 Means 55: Encountered five different cop cars nestled along the road (129 North) during the 10-minute drive into campus for the shoot. If you don't want to volunteer money to the great state of Tennessee, abide by the speed limit.

Heavy Metal: Airport metal detectors detect metal. If you pass through a metal detector with metal on your body, an alarm will sound, thus causing personal embarrassment and a delay for other non-metal-abiding travelers trying to quickly go through said metal detector. Please be a responsible traveler and dispose of all metal and metal-based products in the bins conveniently located next to the conveyer belt. Such items consist of metal and may cause an alarm: nifty aviator sunglasses purchased for $10 at a mall kiosk, a snazzy oversized belt buckle, necklaces (non-A&F puka shell variety), fanny packs containing antique coins, bling-bling cubic zirconium earrings and keys to an '89 Chevy Astro van.

O Canada 
Monday, July 13, 2009

The STACK team is on the road again this week to tirelessly bring you fresh video game, life and training content.

Today, our go-to video game guru Matt Siracusa is visiting our friendly neighbors to the north for an event in Vancouver promoting the upcoming EA Sports NBA 10 video game. Cover athlete Dwight Howard will be there to talk about the game and to display his prowess in the paint during an on-court session against our overmatched content director. Matt, best of luck trying to get a shot against the 2008-2009 Defensive Player of the Year.

Matt will have an update on his one-on-one with Dwight as well as some info on other athletes in attendance.

I'll be heading down to the "Marble City" tonight (for those of you who aren't familiar, that's Knoxville, Tenn…thanks, Wikipedia!) for a morning training shoot with Albert Haynesworth of the Washington Redskins. The mammoth DT, who recently signed the largest contract ever for a defensive player, will be training at his alma mater in preparation for his NFL Training Camp. I'll keep you updated via Twitter and a blog entry on Tuesday afternoon. If you have a question for Albert about his training, recruiting process or anything in general, feel free to send it to me at Just remember, keep it clean and STACK-appropriate. If it's good enough, I'll give you credit during the interview. If it's bad, I'll let you deal with the 6'6" 350-pound All-Pro. Fair enough?

Greetings from a busy Tampa International Airport… 
Wednesday, July 7, 2009

A few observations, thoughts, rants and tidbits from the video shoot at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.:

IMG Academy: A monstrous complex that caters to all athletes—every sport, every age, every gender, every country in the world. Here's the one interesting aspect about the facility: if you stand in the weight room, for example, to your right you can see some of the most gifted NFL athletes grinding through another workout. Look immediately to your left, and you'll see a group of eight-year-old kids getting swoll. IMG is a busy place day-in and day-out with younger athletes, high schoolers, college athletes and pros all over the place trying to fine-tune their skills in their respective sports. The IMG staff knows what they're doing, and they do it very well.

DBs Galore: The list of NFL defensive backs training yesterday included: Houston Texans CB Dunta Robinson, Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro S Quintin Mikell, Indianapolis Colts CB Tim Jennings and Baltimore Ravens speedy CB Fabian Washington.

We were able to acquire some great training video content from the day-long shoot, which included on-field position-specific drills in the morning led by former NFL CB Otis Smith; an afternoon communications/leadership workshop (more on that in a minute); a weight room session in the afternoon; and finally a grueling hill workout out by the golf course. I'm not going to spoil all of the training details, but I can say that whether or not you're a DB, these on-field drills and hill workouts are a must to increase speed, improve footwork (which, by the way, is flawless among these NFL vets) and enhance peripheral vision.

There is No Off-Season: I really can't do the day justice on paper (or computer screen). It's difficult to convey to you how hard these NFL guys got after it all day (well, until you see the videos at least). Let's put it this way: these established pros willingly came to IMG to vigorously train for three days and live in housing at the IMG Academy just to prepare for NFL Training Camps. These guys are committed to training, competition and improvement in all areas of their games. At the end of the day when the players were pushing their bodies through various speed races on the hill, the trainer asked Dunta Robinson how many sets the guys should do. He responded, and I paraphrase, "As many as you want us to do. I didn't fly here from Houston to do nothing." Below is the itinerary of the players' day to give you a little perspective:

7:00-8:30am: Breakfast
9:00-10:00am: Evaluation/Stretch/Warm-Up
10:15-11:45am: Position-Specific Training
12:00-1:30pm: Lunch
2:00-3:00pm: "Game On" Seminar at the Sports Performance Center
3:15-4:50pm: Strength Training
4:50-5:15pm: Pool/Ice Bath Regeneration
5:30-7:30pm: Dinner/Evening Massages

Many Thanks: The staff at IMG was very friendly, accommodating and most importantly, they chauffeured me around in a golf cart all day to save my legs (hey, it was a nine-hour shoot, so cut me a break). Special thanks to PR Coordinator Dan Tierney for providing us a quick tour of IMG's state-of-the-art training facilities. Be on the lookout for an "IMG Facility Tour" video in the near future.

Weather: "Sticky" is the best way to describe the weather in Bradenton and Tampa. If you were lucky enough to muster some saliva between the cotton balls in your mouth, the spit would evaporate in mid-air before hitting the sidewalk. However, at IMG, the show must go on between the humidity and random three-minute rainfalls. A special shout-out to Gatorade for keeping the athletes and my videographer properly hydrated throughout the day.

Travel Tips: Listen, if you're an able-body male over the age of four and a half, there's no reason to slowly pull a suitcase on wheels in the airport. Pick up and carry your bag like a man. If you're running to catch a flight, you'll get a great cardio and strength workout.

When in Florida, bring cash for the toll roads. If you're unable to foot the $1 toll, they'll issue you an "IOU," even if it takes 10 minutes for the tollbooth guy to fill out the paperwork as angry cars wait behind you. Oh, and if you don't pay the "IOU" within two weeks, expect a $100 fine.

Celebrity Sighting/Meeting: As I mentioned earlier, after lunch the players attended a really cool seminar/improv session to improve communication skills and leadership ability on and off the field. The communications specialist conducing the funny and insightful seminar was none other than Steve Shenbaum, the red-headed actor who played the band camp director in American Pie 2. And I don't care if referencing that movie dates me.

On the Road
Tuesday, July 6, 2009

This week we're sending the content team all over the continental United States to work with top strength coaches and NFL athletes coast-to-coast.

This morning, Scott Mackar will be situated in Los Angeles County at Elite Athletics for a training shoot with Tennessee Titans speedster Chris Johnson and his trainer Travelle Gaines (who we worked with for the Reggie Bush cover shoot and training session). Johnson burned a legit 4.24 40-time at the 2008 NFL Combine, so all you speed-hungry athletes out there should be able to pick up a point or two from his training.

Between his hectic travel schedule, Scott will offer up a few quick postings about the training, as well as some exclusive photos from the shoots.

On Tuesday, I'll be down at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a video shoot with some of the NFL's best defensive backs. It's actually pretty cool and unique because about seven or eight DBs from various teams are convening at the IMG campus for a week-long training session before the start of NFL Training Camps. Yep, sorta like summer camp for these NFL vets, but without bonfires, s'mores and letters back to the 'rents complaining about being homesick.

On Tuesday or Wednesday I'll post some observations and musings from their workout, which will include on-field DB drills and a session in the weight room.

STACK Blog Announcement
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hey, we're creating a new feature on the website affectionately known around the Internet as a web log or "blog" for short (yes, we know, groundbreaking). We hope the blog will give our loyal readers up-to-date news, articles, videos and happenings at STACK. We'll be able to provide daily/weekly updates of our travels, athletes and coaches we talk to on a regular basis and other cool "stuff" going on in the world of sports training. For now, the blog will appear on our STACK Magazine home page, and then in a short while we will have a Blog tab that will provide you with even more access to the experts that give you the best training information on the World Wide Web. Thanks for your commitment to STACK, and as always, feel free to contact your hard-working writers for feedback. Yours in training, the STACK Team.

Here's a glimpse at some of the fresh article and video content recently rolled out on

It's back! STACK's second summer training guide is now live. Get expert training advice for the summer months to improve your game for fall, winter and spring seasons.

Linear speed training from the Michael Johnson Performance Center

Explosive speed and conditioning drills courtesy of the Utah Jazz

On-field skill development from NY Mets stud David Wright

Conditioning for the pitch from the 2008 MLS Champs Columbus Crew

Texas Longhorns' strength training for sprinters and distance runners

The trainer for the US Men's National Volleyball Team offers a full-body workout

After reading the philosophy and purpose behind each sport-specific workout, be sure to download and print the PDF version to use each week this summer.

35 training and interview videos with Indianapolis Colts punishing DE Dwight Freeney

Also, check out Freeney's entire power and strength workout to use as your own.

25 interview videos with skateboarding sensation Ryan Sheckler

19 nutrition videos from NY Jets nutrition consultant

Hit the slopes with STACK at the 2009 Winter Dew Tour

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SPORTS