STRENGTH, POWER AND BALANCE TRAINING
Mid-America Nazarene University Strength Coach Tom Cross shares his secretes to strength, power and balance training.
By Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 1999
Tom Cross is the strength and conditioning coach at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. He is one of most respected strength coaches in the nation and is a frequent speaker at NSCA conventions. It was there I saw Coach Cross, Dustin Hada and Whitney demonstrate their Strength, Power and Balance training program. I thought they were just outstanding. Whitney's form was so perfect. It was a thing of beauty but that is a trademark of Coach Cross and his athletes.
Coach Cross has four different warm-up routines. He calls them Complex I through Complex IV. Two complexes are done with a barbell and two are done with dumbbells. I like the four variation concept because that prevents staleness or plateaus. For those on the BFS High School Program, you can do this ten-minute warm-up routine if you are on a block system if you workout before or after school. For those in college, I recommend you give it a try.
Coach Cross also has a unique routine doing Olympic style lifts on a special balance board. It's called the Cross Balance Board. In future journals we will explain Complex II, warm-up routines and the Cross Balance board routine and how you can purchase his Balance Board. In this article, we will explain the Complex I warm-up routine.
Coach Cross believes his Balance Board has important training benefits from a proprioceptive neuromuscular control concept. It also is an ACL preventative measure and creates balance. There is a firing of small muscle fibers to help the athlete maintain control of ankle, knee and hip joint muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Whitney states, “I have to remain tight and in perfect form on the Cross Balance Board.”
There are five exercises in the Complex I - Barbell warm-up routine. The first is a Muscle Snatch: do one set of 6 repetitions. Simply move the bar from mid-shin vertically to an overhead finish position. Keep the back tight and place the bar over the heels as illustrated.
The second exercise is the Shrug and Upright Row as illustrated by Whitney. Do one set of 6 repetitions. The third exercise is a Snatch Squat. Stand erect with a fully extended Snatch grip and Squat below parallel. Keep the bar over the heels and stretch the bar. You may want to turn your feet out a little as shown by Whitney. The idea is to balance yourself perfectly on the entire foot. Do not lift your heels off the ground. It is imperative to keep the eyes on target straight ahead, remain tall or upright, spread the chest and lock-in the lower back. Do one set of 6 repetitions.
The fourth exercise is to do a Back Squat with just the bar and press it up fully, keeping your body totally in balance. Coach Cross says, “cheeks to heels.” You can use a snatch grip or a closer grip. Again, eyes on target, spread the chest, sit tall, lock-in the lower back and keep your knees over toes. Do one set of 6 repetitions.
The fifth exercise is a simple Bent Over Row with a flat back. Start as shown by Whitney and bring the bar to the chest while keeping in the same position. Do one set of 6 repetitions.
After these five barbell exercises, do 2 sets of 12 steps doing a walking lunge. Whitney is using a 10-kilo plate (pg 71). Notice her long stride and back knee only about one-inch from the floor. Notice the position of the plate in relation to her head. Eyes on target, be tall, spread the chest, lock-in lower back with knees and toes in straight alignment.
Whitney went to Plattsburg High School in Missouri and even attended a BFS Clinic at her school. “I really remember the Box Squat,” said Whitney. She was a three-sport athlete at Plattsburg participating in volleyball, basketball, track and softball in the summer. “I was excited about lifting,” remembered Whitney, “but didn't lift as much as I should have.”
Whitney decided to accept a scholarship for softball at MidAmerica Nazarene University which is sponsored by the Church of the Nazarene. It is an NAIA school with about 1,400 students of which about 55% are Nazarene members. Men's varsity sports include football, basketball, track, baseball and cross country. Women's varsity sports include basketball, cross country, track, softball and volleyball. Nearly 80% of MNU students receive some form of financial aid.
Whitney had some knee problems from summer softball after high school and went to Coach Cross for help. “Whitney's knees came in on the Squat,” remembered Coach Cross. “That was the first thing we fixed.”
“My knees are a lot better,” said Whitney. “I have no problems in softball or any lift now. I have really improved. As a freshman, I was the slowest on the team and I didn't start. Last year (2nd year) I was one of the fastest and a starter.”
Krystal Kennard, MNU softball coach, explained, “Whitney is now a lot more aggressive and confident player.”
During the summer of 1998, Coach Cross wanted Whitney to start training a little, try some Olympic competitions and see how she liked it. Whitney said, “If I didn't like it, I didn't have to stick with it. But I love competition. I decided to go for it.”
Whitney has won gold medals at every Olympic meet she's attended and she passed her Level One U.S.A. Weightlifting Club coaching course. “I never thought I'd be winning gold medals. I didn't think I'd do very well. You should have seen me when I started. It was pretty ugly,” laughed Whitney. “But I've worked at it. It's not something that has come easy.”
One of Whitney's major goals is to qualify for next year's collegiate national meet. She currently has a 67.5 Clean and Jerk and a 45 kg Snatch for a total for 112.5 kilos (247 pounds). Whitney needs only 7.5 more kilos to qualify.
Coach Cross says, “She'll get there if she wants it bad enough.” Whitney competes regularly in St. Joseph, Missouri which is a national hot bed for Olympic lifting. Whitney praised, “Wes Barnett (national champion) and Dennis Snethen have helped greatly. I'd like to give them credit.”
Whitney lifts twice per week during her softball season and states with conviction, “You are not going to get big muscles from the way I train. I've lost body fat and gained muscle. My clothes are not as tight and I'm faster and a lot stronger and more flexible. I believe I have improved my looks through lifting. I just want to hit them over the fence and I want to gun'em at home. That's the best feeling.”
Whitney is majoring in athletic training and wants to be a strength coach. “Coach Cross has built my confidence. He threw me into coaching here with some of our athletes and at clinics. I've really enjoyed it.”
Coach Kennard said, “Whitney is a 3.1 student. She always studies on the bus when we travel. Whitney is serious.
Whitney believes the spiritual side of life is important and one should always keep trying to progress. “My family is so important,” reflected Whitney. “My mother and father are still together and that has brought stability and security. They provided a strong work ethic growing up on a farm. Also, here at MNU we have chapel service twice a week in the morning. We have an FCA chapter. With our dorm life we have devotion once a week and Wednesday we have a church service.
“Being on the softball team is really great because we have bible study. It's also a time we get to share our feelings. We develop a bond and just want to stick together. We also have a team chaplain that is with us before games. On Sunday, of course, we have a number of services.”
MidAmerica Nazarene University was founded in 1966 and is a comprehensive liberal arts school. It seeks to transform students for a life of service and leadership. The university is also committed to serving the church and its global mission. For more information about MNU, call 1-800-800-8887 or visit www.mnu.edu.
With great coaches and a university providing a fertile educational and spiritual envi