A Dose of Remedios
An Interview with NSCA Coach of the Year,
Robert Dos Remedios
by Alwyn Cosgrove
Robert Dos Remedios is the current NSCA Strength Coach of the Year. When the biggest strength and conditioning organization in the world says that someone is the best they've got, we should listen.
Dos, as he's known, has been a long time mentor to me. Training 150 athletes every work day, you know he has plenty of knowledge to share. The S&C community has known Dos for years; it's time we introduced him to Testosterone.
T-Nation: Dos, what are your goals as a coach?
Robert Dos Remedios: To build better athletes. My primary purpose will always be to help an athlete perform better through my comprehensive training programs.
T-Nation: In a nutshell, what's your training philosophy?
Dos: Good question. I like to believe that my job is first to build work capacity and then to hone in on more specific performance strength and speed training.
With many of our sports (especially football), there's also a very big discipline factor as well. I think that with my population of college athletes, my job as an S&C coach is very different from a "performance coach" who works with a few athletes who pay them. I have several variables that these coaches don't have to deal with, such as motivation. Because of this, I often have to take much more of a disciplinarian approach in training.
T-Nation: Dos, tell us a little about your current coaching commitments?
Dos: I'm the Director of Speed, Strength & Conditioning at College of the Canyons. Basically, I'm in charge of the year-round conditioning of all of our intercollegiate athletic teams. At present time, we have seventeen competing teams.
T-Nation: What's your educational background?
Dos: I've always been interested in strength and conditioning since entering college and playing competitive football. I have a BA in Social Science from the University of California at Berkeley and my MA in kinesiology (with an emphasis in biomechanics) from California State University, Northridge. I'm also a CSCS and a USAW club coach. I've been a strength and conditioning coach since 1989.
T-Nation: And what's your training background?
Dos: I've been training since I entered high school. I had the good fortune of being one of the strongest athletes in the PAC-10 conference when I played football in college.
The funny thing is that if I only knew then what I know now, I would've been a lot stronger! The athletes I work with today have it so much better than I did because I never had someone to guide me until my junior year in college when I met my strength coach up at CAL.
I learned a lot of my "hypertrophy" style training from the gym rats at the local gym in Burbank when I was growing-up (your usual Muscle & Fitness lingo). I then started receiving some real insight into how to train properly when I met my strength coach in college. This was the first time I was ever told why I was training a certain way or why we used a periodization scheme or trained for function like we did.
T-Nation: I've joked around that you were training athletes full time when I was just learning about actin and myosin!
Dos: Yeah, I've been doing this for quite a while. I think that experience is the biggest factor of all when it comes to folks in this industry.
Sure, you can get all the degrees in the world and come fresh out of college claiming that you're the end-all, be-all of conditioning gurus, but the reality is that you probably don't know shit unless you've been in the trenches for a pretty long while.
One of the things you said in the past really stuck with me. You said you won't even listen to guys talking about their programs unless they're actually getting paid to do this for a living. I think this is something that I can live by as well, especially with all the self-proclaimed gurus found on the internet these days.
T-Nation: Who are your typical clients and what are your personal achievements as a coach?
Dos: My "clients" are our community college athletes. I feel I have the best job in the world as I get athletes who are with us for one to two years who hope to get scholarships to continue at four-year institutions. This usually results in many, many motivated athletes who are willing to do whatever you tell them to succeed at the next level.
Our football athletes are the perennial USA national champions year in and year out, and we have many division one athletes who are with us due to lacking academics. We have many kids come through our program who have or will play in the NFL.
Many people ask me if I ever want to "move up" to the four-year level to coach. No way. I've had numerous opportunities to leave in the past, but I love it right where I am!
T-Nation: Describe a typical training day for your athletes.
Dos: In the off-season I'll get a team two to four days per week. Each session will consist of strength training plus one or two things I pull off my daily "menu." Menu items consist of things such as strongman training, linear speed, agility-chaos training, explosives and reactives, etc.
I try to do one or two things from one particular emphasis each session. In addition, the athletes will have off-season sport practice. Everything we do is to better their performance on the field, on the court, or in the water. Yeah, it's "functional training," but not the stuff everyone immediately thinks about when they hear that term!
A dysfunctional athlete...
T-Nation: How do you monitor training intensity? How far do you push your athletes?
Dos: I heard long-time Kansas strength coach, Fred Roll, talk at a seminar once. He said something pretty profound to me. He said that in all his years of training athletes, he'd never been able to "break one down" physically.
He wasn't referring to running an athlete into the ground. He was talking about running down an athlete from the prescription of "x" amount of volume and intensity. He basically said push them and push them hard. When they look like they're getting there, push them a little more.
Fred was all about building work capacity, and obviously some mental toughness as well. I like to think that this is also my training style. We hang our hats on our conditioning level and how hard we train year-round, and that really gives us a mental edge in most of our sports, especially football.
Bottom line, I rarely have to worry about one of my athletes working too intensely. Don't misunderstand me though; I'm a big believer in rest and recovery when it's warranted. I'm just not sold on the whole pampering-the-CNS trend we're seeing these days.
T-Nation: Do you train males and females any differently?
Dos: No. If you look at my basketball or soccer workout on the board, it's for both the men's and women's teams. I don't believe that we need to train them differently at all. Heck, they have the same identical sport performance needs!
Now, as far as how you might motivate the two, there might be some differences. I will say this: I'll put my females up against anybody when it comes to being technically sound and getting after big weights.
T-Nation: When young athletes come to you for training, what's the first thing you
do with them?
Dos: One of the first things we do is the bodyweight full-squat. I like to see what I'm starting with and a butt-to-ankles squat can often tell you a lot about an athlete. From there we might look at a single-leg squat as well.
I was recently asked what I thought was the number one exercise. I said a full front squat. I don't think there's another exercise that can tax so many muscles and work both upper and lower body flexibility at the same time.
We don't back squat our athletes because I see back squats as more of a problem than anything. When we first made this change, we had a huge difference in load numbers. These days the numbers might be confused with actual back squat numbers with many, many athletes going well beyond 400 pounds.
Go ahead and get all over me for doing single leg squats because there's "not enough load." My volleyball athletes do sets of ten with 40-plus pounds of external load. What can you do? Oh, and yes, the athlete pictured below can regular squat a shitload as well.
T-Nation: Let's talk about non-athlete, aesthetically driven trainees. Any general thoughts there?
Dos: Knowing that nutrition plays a much bigger role than training when it comes to weight loss and body shaping, I'd have to say that diet would be the first concern.
Also, there needs to be constant overload in training. Many of the programs I see these days fail to adhere to the most basic principle of training and conditioning — the overload principle. Hey guys, this is basic Exercise Physiology 101. If you don't try to push your body farther each time, you won't see gains. Period.
I actually think that aesthetically driven programs are much easier to develop than performance driven programs.
T-Nation: What are your thoughts on nutrition? Also, as a vegan yourself, any thoughts on vegan athletes?
Dos: I'm about as old-school as they come when it comes to nutritional recommendations. For mass gain, eat! You have to have a calorie surplus if you want to gain mass. Also, you need to train your behind off! From my experience, most folks just don't understand what training hard really means.
For fat loss, I'm a big proponent of interval-style training. Whether it's running on a treadmill or spinning in a cycle class, you really need to get out of your traditional aerobic state when training. It just makes so much more sense to train this way as it's much more calorically challenging.
As for vegan athletes, I only had a couple in my career and both were female. I have some solid insight into this though since I've been a vegan for over 18 years. For me, it's all about getting enough calories from varied food sources. Like any athlete, a vegan athlete should be eating all day long: snacking on fruits and vegetables, Clif bars, trail mix, etc. Soy or other vegetable protein shakes should become a part of your performance life.
I've had no problem maintaining muscle mass and strength and power on a vegan diet. While I'm no longer an athlete, I do like to think that I train pretty hard every day. A typical day for me looks something like this: bowl of oatmeal and a banana for breakfast, post-workout soy protein shake, Clif bar, two soy meat sandwiches and one-fourth cup of nuts for lunch, couple of pieces of fruit, huge salad with at least two to three types of beans, couple of cups of pasta with marinara sauce, fruit, pea-rice protein shake for dessert.
Guess what, guys? You can get jacked and strong as hell without ever eating a single animal product, just like my brother from another mother:
Don't believe the hype, boys. It's always funny as hell when some 140 pound "bodybuilder" is concerned with eating anything that might have traces of soy in it because he doesn't want it to negatively affect his Testosterone levels. Uh, sorry pal, but you got many other problems to worry about.
I've carried around 245 pounds with approximately 11-12% body fat for many, many years now with no ill effects. If you guys saw how much soy I eat, well, let's just say that I should be Roberta by now.
T-Nation: What are the three best tips you could give to an athlete that's just beginning a structured training program?
Dos: First, don't rush into an exercise. Learn how to perform all exercises properly.
Second, use compound exercises such as squats, presses etc. as these exercises will not only recruit more muscle groups, they'll get your body used to using your muscle groups the way they will really have to be used in real life.
Lastly, understand the concept of overload but don't go overboard. Too often
athletes get wrapped-up in how much load is on the bar so they cheat, forgetting the whole reason why they're doing the lift — to get stronger. There needs to be "function" in your program design, from exercise selection to your choice of periodization schemes.
Yeah, the term "function" has got this bad rap and I know what you're thinking — you have to be a little wirey CrossFit looking guy to perform these cirque de soleil-style exercises. This is a fairy tale. My athletes lift big weights.
And you know what? As a by-product of this type of performance-based training, most of them are more jacked than the guys trying to get huge in the gym. This Chinese weightlifter's back got this way via Olympic weightlifting, not because he was trying to get jacked.
T-Nation: What about recovery techniques?
Dos: I'm pretty old school, and one of the oldest tricks in the book as far as recovery goes is ice! We're big on ice baths and ice packs for our athletes after hard training, regardless of whether or not there's an injury. I can't think of a better restoration tool than rest plus ice! I've also started incorporating more foam roller time with my athletes.
As far as training methods go, I feel like we do a good job of manipulating our
volumes and loads so that we don't over-train during a long season or even the off-season. We also change up exercises quite a bit so that we avoid overuse of a particular movement such as bench press, back squats, etc.
I'm also never afraid to close up shop and tell the guys or girls to go home and relax. A day or two off can often do more for progress than anything else.
One more thing on this subject. I know we live in an age where everybody is timing their nutrients, nobody wants to strain the CNS, and God forbid you're not doing your foam roller exercises on a daily basis. My reality is this: I have athletes who survive on Mac and cheese, ramen noodles, and Kool-aid. They don't have any money to buy any supplements including a multi-vitamin, and they only get a few hours of sleep each night.
These same kids get bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner every single time we test, year in and year out, like clockwork. Now, I'm not saying that nutrition and rest aren't important. I'm just saying that I think, in general, they might be a bit overblown.
T-Nation: Who in the field has influenced or helped you?
Dos: I go to anyone and everyone who has something to offer. I've "stolen" from some of the best minds in strength and conditioning. Once you think you've got it down and there's nothing else out there that can help you improve your programs, you're done.
Robin Pound, my strength coach at CAL (and ex-Phoenix Suns S&C coach) was very influential to me. He taught me that conditioning was indeed a science. To be a successful S&C coach, you not only needed to study the science, you really needed to explore, ask questions, learn from others, and constantly manipulate your programs to keep improving them.
You've influenced me too, Alwyn. You've undoubtedly influenced not only how I train my athletes and myself but how I look at others in the field. The "filter" that you and Mike Boyle talk about when it comes to all the information out there is about as important a tool as anything we have. We have to be able to separate the "shit" from the "good." And believe me, there's a ton of worthless shit out there.
T-Nation: Thanks for the props. Have any tips for up-and-coming coaches?
Dos: You must keep learning! Also, don't be afraid to admit that there might be better exercises out there for your athletes. Sometimes S&C coaches get pigeon-holed into outdated, stale training programs due to their egos.
I'm also a firm believer that we must venture out of our boxes from time to time to observe and even experiment with styles that we might not seem to agree with. If anything, it can help validate why you don't tend to do these things. We talked about this at length one time, that in spite of our beliefs in the Olympic lifts and multiple sets etc., we're closer to the HIT guys than we think!
T-Nation: What's your biggest complaint about the industry?
Dos: The internet has spawned one of the most ridiculous, laughable creatures of all-time: the self-proclaimed training guru. All I can say is "buyer beware" because, believe it or not, some of these guys don't train a single soul and many of these "programs" out there are total fiction. Yup, they've never been tested on a human being. I don't need to name names; these "gurus" know who they are.
T-Nation: What's the best piece of advice you've heard recently?
Dos: It was actually something you said a couple of weeks ago, Alwyn, about not listening to coaches/trainers talk about their programs if paying their mortgage isn't dependant on how effective these programs are. That's a pretty effective filter.
T-Nation: And what's the worst?
Dos: I don't want to give a specific example, but in general I see a lot of people passing off "new and innovative" exercises that are different for the sake of being different. Most of the time they're just a simple, traditional exercise done at a different angle or on a different piece of equipment. I understand that this sort of shit sells and that people want to be doing something "cutting edge," but enough of this shit already. Go train.
T-Nation: You have a new book coming out soon, right?
Dos: Yes, I have a book coming out this summer that will outline all of my performance-based training programs. The tentative title is Men's Health Power Training and the premise is that there's a reason athletes can get jacked without that being the goal of the training: sound conditioning programs.
T-Nation: Where can people read more about your theories and programs?
Dos: Our Cougar Strength website is www.canyons.edu/departments/pe/strength.
T-Nation: Thanks for the interview, Dos!
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