Ryan Horn, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Wake Forest, joins the show today to talk about his 14 years in the business, training and developing athletes, coach-athlete relationships, lessons and principles, in-season training, fatigue management, and creating a prescription for each athlete you work with.
Ryan first caught the iron bug at a young age, lifting weights with his older brother in the garage. He quickly immersed himself into the preparation aspect of sports performance, coaching his teammates throughout highschool and educating himself in the field. Currently, Ryan oversees the development of basketball at Wake Forest, which is the result of taking any and all opportunities as they came to him, garnering a broad array of experience along the way. Ryan believes that coaching so many different types of athletes over the years has allowed him to have more range and creativity within his current role.
We dive in discussing the unique demands of basketball and the typical athlete that Ryan trains. While it is often thought that basketball players don’t like the weightroom, Ryan emphasizes that they simply lack the exposure and time in sport preparation that other athletes might get due to the fact that basketball players are playing their sport every day, year round. With this in mind, Ryan has recognized the importance of starting with no assumptions when an athlete first walks through the door. He takes a “human first” approach, regardless of the level of the athlete.
Next we discuss the day to day training of Wake Forest basketball while in-season (at the time of this interview). Ryan discusses the unique demands of working with basketball players and the need for a complimentary training program to handle not only the demands of the sport but what’s going on in the classroom and their travel schedule as well. With limited time to work with the team, Ryan notes how he needs to be efficient with how he prioritizes training and manages stress while being fluid with his periodization.
When talking about fatigue management in season, Ryan tries to find each athlete’s rhythm while using smart movement selection in more bite sized training sessions. Using a minimum effective dose for each day allows him to vary the training stimulus to match up with the athlete’s practice sessions while blending what’s optimal with what’s realistic. Overall, he takes a big picture look at the athletes demands, and aims to compliment the sport, not compete with it
Next up we discuss exercise selection and application for individual athletes. Ryan sees exercises as delivery systems for stress, and the specific exercise selection is going to be different based on an athletes needs. Ultimately, he is trying to find a way to load the quality or the outcome that he is trying to achieve while getting buy in from the athlete. He believes that his athletes should enjoy what they’re doing in the weight room, so he allows room for autonomy within the program so that they eventually develop ownership over the process.
We switch gears here to discuss the onboarding process with a new athlete and the development of the coach-athlete relationship. This all starts with the initial assessment and evaluation of where an athlete currently stands, looking at what they can do and how it applies to their respective sport. Ryan notes the need to take into account the expectations around the athlete and making sure that they’re ready to play. He’ll look at an athlete's biomotor and bioenergetic abilities using a force plate and agility testing along with body composition to get an overall profile of where the athlete stands.
When asked about how he balances off court conditioning with what his athletes are getting from playing their sport, Ryan emphasizes the importance of understanding what the exact demands of the sport are, both in practice and games. Ryan has found that basketball players are lacking in aerobic development and tend to be sympathetic dominant, so he initially uses aerobic capacity training via cardiac output or tempo variations to shift autonomics and increase the athlete’s ability to recover between bouts of activity. As they build their preparedness, he’ll incorporate more aerobic power work, alactic capacity, and then a small block of lactic work just prior to the start of the season.
While he doesn’t measure heart rate variability with his athletes, he will measure resting heart rate along with heart rate recovery in a training session. Subjectively, he’s constantly observing his athletes from their ability to switch it on and off to their body language when they’re warming up in order to accurately prescribe training. When it comes to monitoring, Ryan wants his athletes to buy in and understand the why behind any information he’s collecting. Furthermore, he wants to educate his athletes to make better decisions when they’re not with him and become accountable for the other 22 hours of the day.
Enjoy and hit that subscribe button if you learned a thing or two.
3:00 – Ryan’s background
9:00 – The unique demands of training for basketball
14:00 – Day to day in WF basketball
16:30 – Fatigue management
19:00 – Movement tracking, power training, and exercise selection
30:00 - Prescriptions for new athletes and coach-athlete relationships
35:00 - Training based on sport demands
40:00 - Flipping the switch for athletes
56:00 - Ryan’s recommended resources
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