HAS THE ATHLETE GONE THROUGH PUBERTY YET?
While puberty is NOT a limiting factor to begin a strength and conditioning program it is definitely a consideration. If your child has not yet hit puberty there are some things that must be taken into account. The first is that they are not hormonally equipped to make big gains in muscular strength and size. They may have the car but they don’t have the gas to make it run. Before a child hits puberty most of the strength gains made will be from improving mobility and neural efficiency. And if your child has not yet hit puberty those two things should be the primary concern of your hired strength coach.
HOW STRONG IS YOUR CHILD WITH HIS OR HER OWN BODY WEIGHT?
Every time I’m at a commercial gym I cringe when I see young kids lay on a bench and struggle to bench press the bar or a weight that isn’t much heavier. I also cringe when I see a kid squat half way down with knees diving in, back rounded, and way up on their toes. I cringe because I know those same kids would probably struggle doing a push up or body weight squat, let alone a similar weighted exercise.
DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN?
This is going to be a case-by-case determinant that needs to be honestly addressed by the coach. I’ve trained gymnasts as young as seven who could pay attention, make changes based on coaching cues I gave, and reproduce movement patterns based on the examples I showed them. And then I’ve also trained teenagers and grown adults who could do none of those.
WHAT ARE YOUR, THE PARENT’S, EXPECTATIONS AND LIMITATIONS?
Before you even consider taking your kid to a prospective strength and conditioning coach you as the parent need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are truly deep-down inside you expecting out of the deal? Is even the most talented strength coach going to take your 12 year-old son and have him playing varsity basketball in 6 months? Of course not!
Bring your kid on time, every time for every scheduled session! There is no bigger pet peeve than tardiness, especially if your son or daughter works out in small groups and everyone else got there on time.
Consistency. This is number one if you want your son or daughter to be successful in the weight room. Consistently missing or cancelling appointments is a sure-fire way for you to waste your time and money. All things done well need consistency. If you can’t commit to bringing them in 2-4 times per week on a consistent basis then save yourself the trouble and wait until you can.
If there are things that we want your son or daughter to do at home to help them in the weight room, make sure they do it! It’s just like homework. If it isn’t done we’ll know about it and we won’t be happy. More often than not it will just be simple mobility drills and/or bodyweight exercises that will only take a few minutes to complete.
NX Level Sports in JS
NFL prospects come to Arnett for added edge
Brad Arnett prepares former Badgers Bradie Ewing (left) and Patrick Butrym (center) and former Homestead standout Brad Thorson for the NFL Combine.
Waukesha - Football is a game of inches. Training for a career in football is a game of fractions.
A tenth of a second. A half of a step. An extra three-fourths of an inch.
So Brad Arnett turns running into a mechanical engineering project for six NFL hopefuls when he hollers "turnover, turnover, turnover" as they sprint across the field.
They don't want to just run, they want to mimic a piston motion with their legs to extend their step and then crank through the run faster.
This has nothing to do with catching a game-winning touchdown. But anyone who wants to make it to the NFL is training like mad right now for the NFL Combine or their college pro day where they'll be scrutinized by general managers with stopwatches.
The most popular training facilities are in Florida, Texas, Arizona or California.
But a few come right to Arnett in Waukesha.
His gym, NX Level, is a nondescript building in the middle of a business park, where he turns college athletes into expert test-takers in the 40-yard dash, the bench press and the shuttle run.
"People say, does this really mean a kid can play football or not? No," said Arnett. "It doesn't measure a kid's heart, doesn't measure his work ethic and it certainly doesn't measure what's on film.
"But there has to be some type of applicant pool decreaser of all the kids that are trying to make it at this level. This year's class has what, 45 underclassmen that declared? It's the biggest number ever.
"There are so many idiosyncrasies on how to do these tests most efficiently and the difference is a tenth or two-tenths. Every way you can help them gain a tenth, it's a draft position. It's going from a free agent tryout to a preferred tryout."
On this day, running back Bradie Ewing, defensive back Antonio Fenelus, defensive lineman Patrick Butrym, defensive lineman Louis Nzegwu - all of the University of Wisconsin - are here for Arnett's expert training.
But also here are returning NX Level devotees, NFL players J.J. Watt of Houston, Chris Maragos of Seattle, DeAndre Levy of Detroit and Brad Thorson, who had been with Arizona.
Arnett has also trained about 300 high school athletes who have gone on to play collegiate athletics.
There's a scale right at the entrance of the gym, but it's a bit dusty. They don't come here to work off beer bellies to fit in skinny jeans. They come to get bigger, faster and stronger.
"It sounds like a cliché, but it's true," said Levy, a linebacker for the Lions. "I'm more mobile. I've run faster times. My bench and my squat - pretty much all of my lifts have been higher. I've achieved my personal best here."
Watt grew up nearby in Pewaukee and in high school started trekking here every morning at 5 or 6, when Arnett opened the building for him. The heat wouldn't be on yet. "It was always freezing in here," said Watt.
"But I wouldn't be where I am today without Brad," said Watt, a defensive end who was Houston's top draft pick (No. 11 overall) almost a year ago. "I'd been working on those combine drills with Brad ever since high school. To have those concepts down I felt like I was ahead of the other guys in terms of my training."
Arnett is a former nose tackle from UW-Whitewater who had been the strength coach at the universities of Minnesota and Arizona but became disheartened by the win-at-all-costs ethos in college football.
"I don't think we do enough to teach these kids how to take care of themselves and teach them life skills," said Arnett.
A friend of his, John Fina, who played for Arizona and with the Buffalo Bills, introduced Arnett to Joe Panos, the former Bills and UW offensive lineman. They established NX Level in May 2005.
With Panos now an NFL agent, Arnett runs a staff of 12 that includes six coaches and trainers. It is not a massive open gym like the YMCA or a meat market like the old Bally's; athletes train and work out here by appointment only. Besides his elite clients, many athletes are high school football and soccer players who come in groups to get ready for the season. NX Level trains for every sport short of synchronized swimming. Athletes can start here as young as 12, although Arnett recoils at the idea of a kid specializing in a sport that early.
"I actually had a parent come in for an assessment," said Arnett. "His son was 13 and he asked me if I thought his son could play basketball at the University of Kentucky."
Arnett is not interested in grooming prodigies, he wants to train athletes.
Working out among the football players is Carroll University soccer player Lauren Demski, squatting a barbell plated with 190 pounds. She isn't bothered by the men in the gym.
"They're more focused on what they're doing," Demski said. "Just like I'm focused on what I'm doing."
For Ewing and Fenelus, that focus is on the combine Feb. 22-28; the others are preparing for pro day the first week in March at Wisconsin. During pro day, NFL scouts can evaluate prospects in drills at the school.
Their commitment can be intense. Fenelus is still going to school this semester; many players drop out to focus on training. He gets up three days a week at 4:45 a.m. to make the drive from Madison for a 6 a.m. workout with Arnett and heads back to make his 9 a.m. class. The other days he's at NX Level at 9 a.m. He also has a son and is involved in his family life, said Arnett.
Arnett believes Butrym is going to test well. He said Nzegwa could surprise people after he battled injuries this past year.
"I think this is the first time in a long time he is truly feeling 100 percent healthy," said Arnett.
Arnett is there to help all of them. Some, like Fenelus, even use the nutritionist and chef on staff, so he eats the kind of food that will give him enough energy for these long days. Everything is geared for the day when they will be evaluated by NFL general managers, coaches and scouting staff.
The test scores at their combines and pro days will follow them for years until they're proven NFL contributors.
"Take, for instance, a lineman," said Arnett. "Kid does everything else awesome. But say he does 19 reps at 225 in the bench press. It's, 'Oh my God, this kid, I don't know if he can physically do it.' The kid right next to him is horrible in everything else, does 20 bench 225, his stock automatically goes up.
"It's a difference of a rep - but that's what it comes down to. Hundredths of second, tenths of a second, a rep here or there makes all the difference.
"I try to get these guys to understand - it's their Olympics. They have to be at their absolute prime. They've got their one shot."
So they work here 90 minutes a day, sometimes more. And the one thing the guys universally despise is the prowlers: push sleds with a pair of 45-pound weights flung on each corner. It's like pushing a tire-less car across Berber carpet. And Arnett makes them do it at the end of the workout when they're already spent.
"It's pretty much the closest thing to death that I've done since coming here," said Levy.
But that drill builds lower body strength and endurance, the kind that pushes players through fourth-quarter fatigue.
There is no hiding among the masses here, either. Arnett keeps his potential NFL client list small to keep an eye on everyone.
"Not that there's anything wrong with it, but a lot of the bigger gyms, you don't get the same hands-on experience," said Maragos. "He knows me and he is constantly on me critiquing me and correcting me."
That's true even long after they've made it. Arnett corrected a hip issue for Maragos. He ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at his pro day a few years ago, but he ran a 4.41 at Seattle last year - a subtle improvement to most of us, but significant in the world of the most elite athletes.
Arnett lives for those kind of personal victories and enjoys watching the athletes he trained go on to all kinds of success. And that is not limited to the famous ones.
He's worked with people dealing with severe spinal cord injuries and painful sciatic nerve complications to give them their independence and strength back. One man was in and out of a wheelchair due to a protein imbalance that affected his muscle control. There is no cure; doctors said he would not be able to walk.
Arnett went to work with soft-tissue exercise, focusing on his range of motion - painful work for the client. Three years later, the client walks on a treadmill, does leg press and even the prowler.
"He's doing things now that people told him he would never be able to do," said Arnett. "I didn't stand here and say you're going to walk again. I'm never going to sell anybody a bill of goods. But he's doing more now than he had done in the 12 years previously.
"Stories like that, that's what's awesome."
NX Level Sport Performance Training
NX Level Sport Performance Training is returning to Schroeder this fall. Owner / operator, Brad Arnett has successfully trained many of Schroeder's top swimmers since before the 2008 Olympic Trials. This fall, the program will add new equipment and exercises to continue to challenge all athletes. The Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center is partnering with NX Level to bring a progressive program to our athletes to help them achieve more in the pool. General Manager and Senior Performance Coach, Troy Dequaine will administer the program at the Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center.
Cost for WSAC Members - Register and Pay
$120 for an 8 punch card
The goals of this cooperative effort are:
- Increase athletic performance - swim, dive and for adult athletes with multisport objectives
- Help athletes stay injury-free and recover more quickly from injury
- Offset physical deficits that swimming develops because our sport is done in the water and is non-weight bearing
- More fully prepare our athletes for a college strength and conditioning program.
Why for my child? NX Level is particularly important for elementary and middle school aged athletes because:
- Increased/improved mobility ESPECIALLY as they grow
- Better body weight to strength ratios
- Better balance
- Better coordination
- Better postural balance
- Improved work capacity
Regardless of the sport your athlete ultimately chooses, NX Level will keep them healthy and allow them to achieve more in the long run.
Progressive Program at the Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center
"Core" strength training (back, hips, gluts and abdominal muscles) is important for stabilization and balance so an athlete can compete at a higher level. "Agility" training helps an athlete apply basic speed to sport-specific movements. We use agility ladder drills with varied steps and movements, coupled with cone drills, to enhance coordination, foot speed and the ability to function in open space. "Speed" training -- moving and accelerating faster -- is used to condition an athlete's neuromuscular system to improve the firing patterns of of the fast twitch muscle fibers.
In order to ensure that each athlete has developed a full range of tools to support them as they pursue their goals, NX Level performance coaches guide them through a pre-designed program ranging from general athletic to specific sport training, individually and in small groups. Working on musculature that is often overlooked and then building to the more specific leads to predictable outcomes of advanced ability and athleticism.
Owner/Director of Performance
Brad Arnett has been working professionally with young athletes to meet their goals for more than 14 years. He played four years of football at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, two of which as a starter, and earned all-conference and All-American honors his senior season. In 1994 Brad began his career as the strength and conditioning coach for Whitewater. After completing his degree in Corporate and Community Health in 1995 at Whitewater and his Master’s degree in Kinesiology in 1996 at the University of Minnesota, Brad remained with the University and worked for over five years as head coach of the Olympic strength and conditioning program. Brad is CSCS certified and a USAW club coach.
In 2000, Brad joined the University of Arizona and served as the director of strength and conditioning, working with athletes in Arizona’s 19 different sports programs. Some of the more notable athletes Brad has trained include NFL football players John Fina and Kevin Barry, softball player Jennie Finch, swimmer Amanda Beard, PGA golfer Chris Nallen, NHL hockey player Jordan Leopold and NBA lottery pick Andre Iguodala.
General Manager - Waukesha; Schroeder Program Administrator & Senior Performance Director
Troy Dequaine joined the NX Level staff in November of 2006. He also interned at NX Level in the Summer of 2006. Troy graduated with honors from Carroll College with a B.S. degree in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Strength and Conditioning. While at Carroll, Troy earned four letters and started three years on the football team. He was All-Conference and Academic All-Conference twice and was voted a Senior Captain by his teammates. Troy's training philosophy is that with consistency/discipline, effort and mental toughness one can accomplish any goal. Troy is CSCS certified through the NSCA.
NX Level Sports Nutritionist Katie Vannucchi at WSAC
NX Level Sports Nutritionist Katie Vannucchi spoke to three groups last night at the Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center. Her comments reinforced ideas for some and gave others things to consider. In the coming weeks, Katie will contribute some pieces to the newsletter and or add information to the WSAC website. The goal is to raise awareness, provide a starting point for Schroeder's athletes and families and become a resource for all.
Take the Nutrition Challenge Sports Nutritionist Katie Vannucchi has assembled a nutritional challenge. Try it and the athletes with the highest totals get a 1 on 1 consultation. Read / print
Sports Nutritionist at WSAC 12/2
NX Level Sports Nutritionist Katie Vannucchi will give a presentation to athletes and their parents on Thursday, December 2 begining at 5:45 PM, 6:30 PM and 7:15 PM. The presentation will take about 30 minutes. read the athlete's nutritional pledge
Katie Vannucchi worked as an intern at NX Level during the summer of 2010 and joined the NX Level team as a sports nutritionist in September of 2010. She graduated from Carroll University in 2010 with a major in Exercise Science and a minor in Sports Nutrition. She has experience working with clients whose goals are as varied as sports performance, weight management, and general wellness. Katie is also a nutrition consultant with A. L. Schutzman, and a sports nutritionist for Brugraff Skating Systems, one of the top hockey skating centers in the country. Katie’s nutrition plans are individualized to fit your needs and help you meet your goals.
Brad Arnett Interviewed by FloSwimming