A Training Conversation with Phil Daru

I had the privilege of sitting down with Phil Darue. Our conversation began with me talking about how I trained with weightlifting coming up. I learned how to snatch, clean, and do jerks. I came up in the weightlifting crowd. People come up as either a weightlifter or powerlifter, and now, you can be a crossfitter or a bodybuilder.

One of the things I wanted to ask Phil, who came from more of a powerlifting background, that if I set up a day of training. I typically have a technical coordination movement (a snatch or clean for example) and then I have my athletes do absolute strength work. But that coordination work can entail explosiveness, force development, and anything along those lines. So my whole question, is how do you replace technical coordination movements in a powerlifting set-up or a condensed conjugate.

Phil responded that it depends on what the focus is. He mentioned using landmine work and said the dynamic work they do with conjugate, having the goal to improve the weight on the bar and lift maximal loads in a meet. To his point, “If a guy is stronger than he is fast and we need to improve on his dynamic capabilities, we will use things at a higher velocity to allow that to happen.” Furthermore, Phil continued saying, “The movements in powerlifting: squat, bench, and deadlift, we can use supplemental lifts in that same world to still work the specific velocities that are conducive to something like an Olympic lift.”

My next question to Phil had me asking what he would do for his fighters. I might have even stolen the question directly from something I saw on his YouTube channel. Seeing athletes do jumps with a trap bar, as an example, I asked, “Is that something you would do for a dynamic effort.”


Phil quickly responded, “Yeah.” He also instantly added, “It really just depends on the speed on the bar.” He even mentioned using velocity-based trainers to help with that and understand that. He also said you can use specific percentages based upon what speed is relative to the power that it is supposed to be.

Phil, ever the humble and knowledge-seeking person, turned the tables and asked me a question. Direct quoting Phil, “From a percentage-based perspective, what is the speed on the bar for, let’s say, a maximal effort power clean?”


My response was, “Max effort? .8 to 1 meter per second.”


Phil chimed back, “That is pretty much dynamic effort. We would use accommodate resistance to allow for compensatory acceleration to occur.” He mentioned using bands because they create over speed. He also mentioned that it eliminates the athletes from overthinking. To drive the point home, Phil pointed out that Olympic lifting is a sport. The sport of Olympic lifting can be used to get better at other sports. But the goal is to get bigger, faster, stronger.


Phil, who trains mainly boxers, fighters, and football players, talked about his whole goal is to get the stimulus adaptation that will correlate over to the sport being trained for.


I then gave a hypothetical of using bands in a back squat, front squat, or even a zercher, and the bands are pulling the athlete back down at the top. In theory, it felt similar, but not exactly, to catching a clean at the top to create a similar transfer. Phil talked about the same concept of pulling yourself under the bar, grabbing the stretch-shortening cycle, and that the deadlift, a pure concentric motion, doesn’t have that.

Phil then talked about eliminating the eccentric based upon where a fighter is within their fight camp. He spoke to doing a lot of isometric or contrast sets. He spoke of doing a maximal isometric and going right into an explosive movement like a counter movement jump or something of that nature. The whole point he was trying to make was to not overload the eccentric at this point in the training for the fighter.


Me, getting a little off-topic, I had to ask, “If you are training somebody with a contrast method, say an athlete does a squat double and then goes and does a jump, bound, or whatever. So science will tell you to wait 2 to 3 minutes and you’ll get the best response. But I think about your case [Phil’s] with fighters, and it is like, there may be a point in the fight where they have to react quickly. So is it really power output being trained or power endurance?”

Direct as ever, Phil, with confidence, “It’s power endurance. It’s power endurance closer to the fight.” He gave the example of potentiation clusters. He said the goal is to increase work capacity while being able to sustain power output and repeated power outputs. The idea he hit upon is using the contrast methods to induce motor unit recruitment but, and this might be obvious, it doesn’t generate maximal power output because it is incomplete rest. I added in, “Right, right. But that isn’t the quality your looking for.”


Phil, ever the cerebral assassin, “If a guy has conditioning, we may have to work on their ability to produce that power in isolated fashion so I may give them that rest period.” He spoke about that a lot of the athletes a lot of the time are conditioned and don’t have the maximal power output. To which Phil then gave a counterexample about heavyweights needing the conditioning. The angles Phil is touching on, seeing, and exploring showcase his tremendous mind for the world of strength and conditioning.


My final question dealt with a lot of coaches asking the question about what lift(s) to have athletes do, in whatever sport, to have the biggest results for whatever sport the athlete is training for. Or more specifically, what type of training do you recommend?


Phil said it starts with the assessment protocol. He stressed seeing what is being worked with, injury history, and health history. He stressed, “We go from the inside out.” Making sure they are healthy, the lungs are working properly, and the heart is pumping the right kind of blood. From there he went on to say that the effort to eliminate as many asymmetries as possible and have the athletes be competent in movement strategies. Phil continued, “And from there, we want to see what their joint prerequisites are to see what positions they can get into safely without load before we load them.” He stressed he can put an individualized program based upon that.

Recap

Phil finished off by saying they follow a condensed conjugate method and his like for a concurrent style because his guys always have to be ready because there is no season. With his guys having to be constantly ready, needing to work all these systems, he used the metaphor of a stereo to describe the focus and training between each time frame. Sometimes the bass needs more of the sub-woofer pulsing, and sometimes the mids need a little compression, and other times the treble needs a boost. The point is to dial the sound into the perfect frequency for what is required at that moment, for that athlete, at that instance.


DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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