Train from the Heart | Daniel Back
Imagine taking on the challenge of helping athletes reach their full potential. It takes hard work, dedication, knowledge and the willingness to share all of that with others. Daniel Back is a trainer that does just that. Her job is to unleash the potential within other athletes and goes beyond just the physical activities to do so. “I train athletes for their sports. I help them run faster, jump higher, get stronger, prevent injury, develop skills, etc. That includes advising them on things like nutrition, sleep, and taking off days. I also try to instill confidence, provide a listening ear, be a friend, pretty much give each athlete everything he or she needs,” Daniel explains.
Daniel has always been an athlete. He played a variety of sports including baseball and basketball; however, he didn’t have the opportunity to play as many organized sports as he would have liked to. That did not stop Daniel from becoming a great athlete. He played recreationally and just worked on his skills during his free time. It was the time he spent working on his own skills that he realized what he was meant to do in life. “When I was 13 years old, I started working on my vertical jump. I saw some pretty dramatic results within a year and got hooked on the training process right away. I continued jump training into high school, and by age 16 I knew I wanted to train athletes for a career. I first trained someone other than myself when I was 20, and it went from there,” Daniel says.
Daniel knew form an early age that training athletes would be the route for him. While he was and still is an amazing athlete, it just seemed that organized sports just weren’t a good fit for him. “I had great success training my two-foot vertical, and I was touching the top of the box on the backboard as a high school sophomore. So, I was known as a guy who could jump, but early in high school I could also handle the ball and shoot decently. Then I went through a little drama with my coach, which seemed to have a huge negative psychological effect on me. I largely lost my skills and my confidence and was pretty average until my senior year when I got my head on straight and ended up being an all-conference player. Later I played one season of D3 ball and was again largely lacking in confidence and skill and not a great player,” Daniel says.
Luckily, he didn’t let negative experiences deter him away from sports all together. He was able to learn from his good and bad experiences and uses his new knowledge to train others. “As far as athletic development, I learned that getting stronger made me jump way higher and that taking multiple off days in a row works every time. The other thing that stuck out was the huge psychological factor in basketball and other team sports as well. I saw it in myself and others. The same person can be a dramatically different player in one situation compared to another,” Daniel says.
Along with the hard work of being an athletic trainer, comes the rewards of being a trainer. It’s an indescribable moment to see the athlete you have trained to reap the benefits. The bond between an athlete and his trainer is very distinct. They both share in all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears, so they both also share in the glory.
“I can’t speak for all people, but I know that in athletic development you really can’t be in it for the money. Early in life I realized that I enjoy helping people. A mindset that prioritizes helping others is what motivates me to keep creating content and answering questions for free for complete strangers all over the globe.” – Daniel Back
What misconceptions are the most prevalent and popular as it pertains to explosive strength gains for sports performance?
People think that explosive strength exercises are the best way to get explosive strength, which on the surface seems like common sense. But being explosive in strength training is wasted when athletes already sprint and jump all the time. They don’t need to try to develop explosiveness by lifting. For them the purpose of lifting is strength, so they should do whatever it takes to get stronger. If explosive lifting makes them stronger, that’s great, but generally the heavy stuff is necessary beyond the beginning stages.
If there was one myth about explosive gains that you could debunk and wipe from the record so that it would never ever come back which one would it be?
The idea that you don’t have to be strong to be a great athlete. People love to talk about everything but strength. Fast twitch fibers, tendon stiffness, stretch reflex, technique, whatever. All those things are legitimate, but truth is great athletes are all around very forceful people. For people who are not genetically gifted with that kind of force production, getting stronger is a huge piece of the puzzle.
Can you simply explain what block periodization is? What are its advantages and benefits?
Block periodization is dividing training into periods where you focus on one thing more than the other as opposed to training everything equally all the time. When it comes to sprint and jump training, that typically means having strength blocks and explosive blocks. The advantage of that is it allows both of those qualities to reach a higher level than if they are always battling with each other. The tricky part is getting the best combination of strength and explosiveness to happen at the right time for peak athletic performance.
Where in an athletic calendar year should an athlete really concentrate and load up on plyometrics?
Interesting question. It depends on the situation, but in most cases I would say never. Simply practicing sprinting and jumping is much more important than plyos. Plyos target that 5% that I mentioned earlier. They should generally be a small piece of training. The exception would be an untrained athlete who already has good mechanics and might actually develop strength from plyos. In this case, a plyometric program can produce crazy athletic gains in a short time period by causing dramatic strength increase. But even then, it’s a short-term thing.