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From Player to Coach

We recently added a new addition to our staff, Brandon Long joined our training staff after years on the competition field.  Brandon was a high level American footballer, playing four years of collegiate ball at Michigan State University (Go Green), and three years in the NFL before his career was sidetracked by injury.  Brandon has many years of serious training under his belt from both sides of the bar, under it and coaching it.  I had a few minutes to sit down with Brandon this week and we talked about some of his experiences


Brandon, you have been trained in a lot of ways by a lot of people.  Could you talk for a minute about some of those experiences, and how your thoughts on training have evolved over time?

When I trained in high school, and even into college, I was under the impression, like many young athletes, that the body building paradigm was the answer.   In college, when I had time to do my own training over breaks, my training reflected that.  I was doing isolation exercises to fatigue, doing body building splits.  I didn’t put any thought into mobility work, or any movement based training.  My focus was never on quality of movement and movement patterns, my focus was on heavy weights, lots of reps, and big quads.    The information I had access to, and the people I was around in gyms, that’s what they were doing and I think it’s easy for young athletes to make the connection “if I look better, I will move better.

Fast forward to my NFL career, and I was always hurt. All those isolation exercises didn’t do jack to help me stay on the field.  I believe my longevity was seriously compromised by my poor training philosophy.

Whats the biggest piece of advice you have for young people training for the next level in regards to training?

I made the mistakes for you.  My career was ended by injury.  And I believe my injuries could have been prevented if I had trained smarter.  I was athletic, I was powerful, I was fast, I could play football.  But my body couldn’t stay healthy.  And when I knew I had issues, I didn’t take the steps to correct them, I tried to train through them.  Knowing what I know now, I would have taken a different approach to my training.

What steps?  What would you do differently now if you could go back?

Now, I’ve spent some time educating myself.  I have been learning from good coaches, I have been reading good books.  I see the importance of quality of movement.  I see the importance of mastering basic patterns and developing balance through my body.  Learn to squat, don’t just put the bar on your back.  Learn to use your hips.  Learn to reduce force as quickly as you can produce force.

I’ll tell you one more piece of advice for young athletes.   Your big bench numbers don’t mean anything out on the field.  And chasing big bench numbers without training your upper back and keeping your shoulders healthy is a sure fire way to keep yourself off the field.


You have been coached by a lot of different people in your career, what about some advice for coaches working with their athletes?

Absolutely.  I have been incredibly privileged.  I have been exposed to and molded by so many great leaders and mentors.  Coaches like Ken Mannie and Tommy Hoke, who challenged me and pushed me to my limits.  They got us up early and made us work to achieve our goals.  They took boys out of high school and built men.  I don’t know where I would be without their influence on my life.

If I was speaking to aspiring coaches responsible for shaping young men, I would have a few pieces of advice to impart.

Have a goal in mind.  The goal can’t be to fill a garbage can up with puke.  You should be trying to build your athletes up and putting them in situations to succeed, instead of trying to break them down.   I believe in mental toughness but there is a place for it, and not every drill or exercise should be a test of will power.

Educate yourself.  Learn how the body should move.  Understand the principles behind training.  Watch how your athletes move and make an honest evaluation.   You should be half parts teacher and half parts coach.  You need to educate your athletes about their bodies.  Most of the kids you train will not compete passed the high school level, but you can still have a significant impact on their lives.  Be a positive influence.


Thanks a lot Brandon.  I really look forward to getting some more of your experiences up on this board for everyone to learn from.  We will be talking to you again real soon. 


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