Functional Training Zones

Training 101: How to Get Your Athletes To Be Their Best

By: Bill Parisi, Founder & CEO Parisi Speed Schools

Twenty-Two years ago, I started out toward a dream. My All-American track career over, I saw numerous limitations in the way American athletes were training for sport, and I wanted to help. Armed with a motivational speech, some equipment, and a $500 van, I drove to high schools in the area looking for coaches and teams that wanted to take advantage of state-of-the-art speed training techniques. That was the simple beginning of what has now become a multi-personal approach to changing the face of American athletics. That was the birth of the Parisi Speed School!

With over 85 facilities in 31 states across the nation, the Parisi dream still continues to expand. The Parisi Speed School has trained over 600,000 athletes nationwide between the ages of 7 right through to the Pro's. Parisi's has also trained multiple Olympic medalists, first-rounders in every major sport and some of the top fighters in the UFC as well. That is not said to impress you, but to impress upon you that the Parisi System works.

Over the past 15 years, The Parisi School has been one of the original, privately owned facilities called upon by in-the-know coaches to prepare college football players for the NFL Combine. The following are a few great tips about training from the Parisi Speed School. If you are looking to go to the next level, these pieces of advice will be a great place to start.

The Athlete's Pyramid

Most athletes believe if they practice hard, learn technique and understand their sport, they have a shot to make it big. Unfortunately, this old way of thinking is not going to lead your athletes to the top of their game. Before you worry about being a knowledgeable technician, you must first make sure that your athlete's foundation is solidly built. The foundation of a great athlete includes speed, strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination, injury prevention, nutrition and mental toughness. To illustrate this we offer the athlete's pyramid. Notice that the size of the base of the pyramid determines the height that the pyramid can reach; the broader the base, the higher the structure. The same is true for any athlete. The broader his athletic base, the higher level of performance he can attain.

Starting with this premise you must then identify your athlete's specific areas of weakness and begin to address them. If at the end of each week you cannot say that you have worked on and improved your athlete's speed, strength, endurance, flexibility or nutrition, you are not doing your job of helping your athlete aspire to the highest levels.

Training is an All Year Thing

Once you understand that there may be some current limitations in your athlete's training, you must next recognize that training is not a "sometimes" thing, it is an "all the time" thing. Not only do you need to train your athletes for the entire off season, but you must train them during the season as well.

Let's face it, many athletes play numerous sports throughout the year and claim not to have the time. If they are not training, they are not improving their foundation. If their foundation is not growing, neither is their potential. During the season, fit in one or two lifting sessions per week to maintain their gains they made in the offseason. Not only will this enhance recovery from their sport games, but you will actually be able to make improvements as well.

Strength Training: Don't Just Think About the Bench

Think about heading into the gym to give your athletes a great workout. Think about them moving some big weight with everybody in the room watching. Now think about the exercise you are imagining. It was probably the bench press. If it was, your training can be better. Don't get me wrong, the bench press is a great upper body exercise, but it is not the most important area of the body to focus on if you want your athletes be great. From now on, I want you to think about your center of power, the area known as the Posterior Chain.

The Posterior Chain is made up of your low back, gluteal muscles, and hamstrings. This area goes from the back of your knees up to the middle of your back.  Your core includes the low back muscles and all of your abdominal muscles in the front of the body. Think of all these areas as your engine. If the engine is super strong and fast, your athlete has the potential to be a fast, powerful player. If this area is weak and slow, your athlete is not only going to perform poorly, but also be at greater risk for injury. Great exercise selections to work this area are squats, deadlifts, lunge walks, step ups, and heavy sled pulls. Get your athletes excited about training this area more than the upper body and you will be moving ahead of your competition.

Learn the Proper Way to Warm Up

Before every running and lifting session, make sure you are performing the proper warm-up. If you think warming up is just running a lap or two and then stretching out, you are light years behind the competition. Today's top athletes perform an Active Dynamic Warm-up. This style of warm-up involves ground based calisthenics and choreographed movements that increase blood flow and temperature, improve flexibility, speed and strength, decrease the chance of injury and help to perfect "on the field" running technique. Old School static stretching has been found to shut off the nervous system right before activity, and also microscopically tear the muscle fibers and stretch ligaments as well. If you are dead set on doing static work, save it for the end of practice and training. Your athlete's body will thank you for it.

Speed is a Skill

When most athletes think of a running workout, they think about running 40's or doing change of direction drills. Today's top coaches know it is not that simple. Not only do their athletes need to perform those drills, but they need to perform them perfectly with impeccable technique.  Running, like many sport skills, involves a best technique, which includes cutting, landing and stopping. Just like 2015 top NFL Draft Prospect T.J. Clemmings, Offensive Tackle from Pitt admits, "Learning how to run correctly had a lot to do with me running a 5.1 in the 40 and 4.54 in the 3-cone at 310 lbs at the NFL Combine. Without really understanding my mechanics and the right way to do things, that would have been impossible". If you do not know the perfect way to run or change direction, and do not understand the theory behind the technique, you are leaving a lot on the table.

No One Can Do it Alone

Finally, we want to remind you that if you want to make it to the top of your game, you are not going to be able to do it alone. In addition to leaning on your family, co-workers, coaches and teachers, seek out specialists in your areas of weakness that can help you overcome and improve those areas. Remember that failing to plan is planning to fail. The Parisi Speed School is here to help. Check out more on-line at

(March 2015)