At the intersection of brains and brawn is TCNJ’s strength and conditioning coach.
I am half meathead, half exercise scientist. I like to lift big, but I also want to do it the right way so that I don’t burn myself or my athletes out.
I was always a big kid. As a high school freshman, I was 225 pounds, and by my senior year, I was almost 275 pounds. But I wasn’t a very good athlete, so I stayed in the weight room to get bigger, faster, and stronger for football.
Once I started seeing the results from strength training, I thought, “Wow, this is fun.” I started coaching my teammates in the gym at 15 years old.
I thought about a career as a physical education teacher and a weight training coach. I wanted to be able to teach kids and have the proper education to also strength train them in sports. But ultimately, I shifted my focus toward weightlifting and coaching full time.
Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid injuries in this field. In 2011, I tore my pectoral muscles. My orthopedic doctor told me this type of injury can make even doing pushups difficult.
Thankfully, I was able to overcome the setback because of smarter training: I hit my weak points and was able to get back to where I was before and reach some of my better lifting numbers. My personal bests are a 455-pound bench press, a 600-pound squat and trap bar deadlift, and a 315-pound power clean.
Coming to TCNJ in 2014 was a great opportunity to start a strength and conditioning program. I’m in my ninth year now.
The best part is when an athlete sees the results. People tend to look at wins and losses, but I look at if an athlete got better — whether their lifting numbers went up, if they got a little faster or stronger, or if they’re healthy again after an injury.
The science behind how we train is fascinating. Every sport requires power, strength, and speed, so we train each program with these principles. Depending on the sport and the time of year, we have teams doing their weightlifting and conditioning with me two to four times a week. Getting in some form of work every single day, doing it with quality, and hitting the basic concepts is what makes you better.
Doing the same thing over and over again — the mental and physical grind — is how the best athletes, the best programs, and the best individuals do it.
Picture: Bill Cardoni