This week the “Coaches Series” welcomes strength coach Kyle Holland of EXOS. Kyle is a wealth of information and experience in the strength and conditioning field. I was lucky enough to work alongside him at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning where I learned a lot from him and I still continue to learn from him to this day. Knowledge bombs are dropped daily on his twitter account and if you don’t follow him already, you need to. Enjoy this weeks interview and I hope you gain some new knowledge from it to take forward into your coaching.
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) April 11, 2016
Kyle, thank you for taking the time to be part of the “Coaches Series”. For anyone out there that doesn’t know you, could you give some background as to why you wanted to become a coach, how you went about it and where you are currently coaching?
I’ve always been fascinated with human performance, even when I was pretty young before I even knew what strength and conditioning was. When I started volunteer interning in college and saw the impact a strength and conditioning coach can have on people and teams I decided I wanted to pursue coaching as a career.
The path I took to get where I’m at now is pretty simple. I did my research and found out where the best coaches were and I emailed and called them until I found a way to get in the door. I was really lucky because I just happened to have one of the best strength and conditioning programs in college football on campus where I already was at the University of Iowa, which is where I got my start.
Currently I work for EXOS as a Tactical Performance Specialist with the military at JBLM in Washington state.
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) November 11, 2015
Who did you look up to as a young strength coach early on in your career?
Early on the only coaches I knew were the ones we had to study as part of our intern curriculum. We had to read all of Mike Boyle’s articles, books, and watch his VHS tapes and his thought process really made sense to me. I really liked Alwyn Cosgrove, and since then have seen him speak and interacted with him on numerous occasions. I also looked up to Mark Verstegen for his professionalism and the cutting edge training that Athletes’ Performance was doing at that time.
Having worked with a vast range of people from general population to athletes and now UFC fighters, how would you say your training philosophy has evolved over time based on your experiences?
My training philosophy as a whole hasn’t changed much over the years. I don’t want it to sound like we still do the same workouts we did ten years ago, because you should always be searching for a way to do things better. It’s constantly evolving, but I was lucky enough to get on the right path early on in my career and never needed to have some kind of big epiphany and change everything. That being said, today I put more of an emphasis on strength work and conditioning. I spend less time on mobility, speed, and power than in the past and have become a little more basic with just getting people as strong and in the best shape possible.
UFC fighters are probably some of the best-conditioned athletes in professional sports. What is your plan of action regards conditioning when you are preparing a fighter for his next match up?
Before the fighter starts their training camp you want them to possess a high level of conditioning. Training camp is NOT the time to get a fighter in shape. There are too many other things to focus on in MMA, and to add conditioning to the list is not to their advantage. The injury rate in MMA is really high and being in great shape helps mitigate that risk. My approach has always been that once camp starts we shorten the training sessions and focus on soft tissue quality, mobility, and strength. The athlete will get the majority of their conditioning during the rest of their technical and tactical training during camp.
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) May 14, 2013
Athlete monitoring has allowed coaches’ to track a vast amount of data. Are you a proponent of HRV tracking or any other forms of preparedness tracking?
I am 100% supportive of as much data gathering as possible when the person collecting it knows how to use it. There are a handful of sports scientists here in the US who do a great job and the field is advancing rapidly, but it is relatively new here. If it’s not one of the few good people who are leading the way, I trust my eye and can tell where an athlete is at from a readiness standpoint better than some intern or glorified assistant who has been handed the title Sports Science Director.
I like to free style and be creative while I coach, but a system keeps you consistent and true to your principles. pic.twitter.com/uWiFFdPqfq
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) December 18, 2015
I had the distinct pleasure of learning from you and working with you at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. You didn’t strike me as a very easily stressed individual. What recommendations do you make to your clients regards lowering stress and optimizing performance, not just for athletes but for the desk jockey as well?
Not all stress is bad stress and I don’t go there too much with anyone I’m training unless I can see it’s becoming a problem. If an intervention needs to be made, I wait for a teachable moment when their performance has dropped and step in to have a personal conversation about what is going on in their life. It is much more likely that your message will stick with this kind of interaction as opposed to addressing it with everyone in a broad stroke, “topic of the week,” type of education lesson.
Sometimes you have to just have to cut bait with a client/project. As a young coach I used to just train anyone and scoff at the idea of…
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) March 30, 2016
turning down $, but if you can afford to say NO do it. 80% of your stress will come from the 20% of clients you just can’t please.
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) March 30, 2016
What book are you currently reading?
A great friend of mine Brett Bartholomew recommended a book “The Upside of Your Dark Side” by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener and I’ve really liked it so far.
Robert Greene on Mastery | Full Address | Oxford Union – Great video you can listen to during a 20 mile airdyne ride http://t.co/XviYL1fuiS
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) March 26, 2013
Do you have any go to podcasts that you look forward to hearing every week?
I listen to more podcasts than I probably should, so I have two categories. Ones that I listen to while I go for a run or long bike ride and ones that I sit down and take notes on. For fun I listen to Adam Carolla, The Art of Charm, and The Art of Manliness and some others. I listen to some industry related ones like the Fitcast, Pacey Performance, Strength Power and Speed, and Found My Fitness. HBR Ideacast and TED Radio Hour are also great for personal development and education.
What are your top 3 books of all time?
Any book by Robert Greene (top three: “48 Laws of Power”, “33 Strategies of War”, and “Mastery”), “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday, and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I know everyone recommends the last one but if people don’t respect, admire, or like you in some way, how do you expect to coach them?
What advice would you give to up and coming strength coaches who may be starting out in their first job? Something that perhaps you wish you had known when you were in that position.
Look in the mirror and have a really hard conversation with yourself to see if this is really want you want to do. Honestly speaking, it’s a really hard field that isn’t very financially rewarding and your personal life will suffer. We are at an age now where a lot of people want to do this job, so it’s even harder to break through. If you still want to do it, go somewhere where you’ll receive some mentoring and get to work.
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) May 5, 2016
If you could pick the brain of one person from each of the following categories, who would they be and why? (past & present)
1 – The strength and conditioning industry.
Al Vermeil who I actually did have the pleasure of sitting down and talking to. I just don’t think there has ever been a better strength coach past or present.
2 – Historical figure
Abraham Lincoln would be really fascinating to talk to. So would Theodore Roosevelt.
3 – Sports personality
Because you asked sports personality I have to say Chael Sonnen, who I also have sat down and had coffee with. There were a few years during his career where he really did something special that I don’t think most people truly understand or just chalk up as trash talk.
I saved the most important question for last. What happened to Conor McGregor in his last fight and will he be able to reign supreme again? The whole of Ireland awaits your response!
Let me start by saying I am a huge Conor McGregor fan! He went up against a bigger and better fighter and I really hope they don’t rematch. Diaz said something in the build up to the fight that struck a chord. He said “cardio is a martial art too,” and he is 100% right. That’s the reason I love this job.
— Kyle Holland (@kyletrains) July 17, 2014