I have to admit, Iâve been a bit spoiled the last several months. As a sports science geek, Iâve had the opportunity to meet with some of the leaders in the field and absorb as much as possible. My meeting with Scott Umberger a couple weeks back was no different.Â Scott is the owner ofÂ Umberger PerformanceÂ and, heâs seen it all. Heâs worked with athletes at every level and we couldnât be more thrilled to have Scott on board outÂ PUSH Labs beta program.
Letâs meet Scott and hear his thoughts on the World of sports performanceâ¦
Scott, thanks for taking the time to join us today! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? Where youâre from, what your childhood looked like? Etc.Â
Iâm going to keep this stuff brief since no one cares about my life story including my mother.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. Â I played football, baseball, and ran track in high school. Â I carried my football and track talent with me and competed in both at Robert Morris University. Â Â I spent my summers working for my dad in his construction company, umpiring baseball, and training for my athletics. Â Â Probably the biggest sports performance influence in making me âmeâ was the intervention of Waddie Freeman. Â Waddie took me under his wing and taught me about speed. Â Over the winter of my senior year of high school, he helped take my time from a 4.6 to a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash. Â This lead to me running track and earning a scholarship at RMU. Â We trained at 5:00 am so that I could still play baseball in the afternoons during my senior year of high school. It was then that I learned about speed training and track speed.
WeâveÂ spoken a few times now andÂ IâveÂ done a bit of homework on you and your facility but for peopleÂ who donât know you, can you tell us about Umberger Performance?
We officially opened at our current location a little over 4 years ago. Â My partner is my cousin who is a 9 year NHL vet. We essentially grew up as brothers since our families are very close and neither of us has brothers. Â I have learned a lot from him through his journey of making it into the NHL, and also despite playing on some very bad teams, heâs been able to average .55 points/game in his careerâ¦a testament to his commitment and work ethic.
We wanted to give Pittsburgh something that other cities had, which is World class athlete and performance training in a world class facility. Â Obviously, almost every athleteâs goal is to get paid to play their sport. Â Weâve trained two 1st round NHL picks, however, our true goal at Umberger Performance is to help as many athletes as possible earn athletic scholarships and provide them the opportunity to âget intoâ a university that is âabove their academic pay gradeâ. Â Â Why not get a world class education that cost upwards of $45-65k a year for a huge discount by playing a sport or two?
Amazing! As a former college athlete, I can appreciate the sacrifice coaches like yourself make to help athletes with their goals and aspirations. How did you get into the sports performance field?
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted more. Â I wanted the edge. Â The desire to improve sports performance is what fascinated me and drove me to constantly âfind a better wayâ. Â A teammate of mine in college knew Joe Collins at the University of Pittsburgh, who was also one of the Olympic Sports Strength Coaches. Â Â I ended up interning at Pitt which lead me to work under Buddy Morris. Â That was my introduction to Olympic Weightlifting, Buddy Morris, and Westside Barbell. Â I helped some of my track teammates out at RMU because we didnât have a strength coach at the time. Â That training, as spartan as it was, led the group of us (6 or so) to all hit PRâs at the conference meet. Â That was the icing on the cake for me. Â I was hooked.
You touched on a few âpioneersâ in our field. Any others in the field that had a big influence on you?
Charlie Francis has had the most influence on me. Â He was such a complete coach and practitioner with a very unique mix of coaching AND science. Â Â Top to bottom he is one of the best to have ever lived. Â Itâs a shame that he had the drug cloud hanging over his legacy, especially due to his honesty at a time where drugs were a âpart of the gameâ to put it VERY mildly.
Stuart McGill changed the way that I train all of my clients. Â Heâs a groundbreaking researcher as well as one hell of a presenter.
Dr.Yuri Verhoshansky, Mel Siff, Dr. Yesis, Â Dr. Zatsiorsky, Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk have provided much of my sports science background. George Brooks is groundbreaking when I can grasp his brilliance. Â Â Dan Pfaff and Ralf Mann have recently influenced me in their presentations and writings Henk Kraaijenhof Â is simply brilliant and isnât as appreciated here in the US as much as he should be. Â Joel Jamiesonâs book was great and was a game changer for me in regards to the proper training of the bioenergetic system.
Itâs a pity how some of these guys donât get the recognition they deserve. I know this may be hard to summarize in one or two paragraphs but what would you say is your personal philosophy when it comes to training athletes?
I can sum it up in a one sentence. Â Give them what they need. Â This holds true, from the 8 year old that I train to the 37 year old NHL vet with 2 Stanley Cup rings.
Here are quotes from two very smart guys that I try to model my methodology around;
âTrain optimally, not maximallyâ. –Â Henk
âThe goal is to improve performance which by default means to reduce the risk and probability of injury.â Â –Â Fergus Connley
I have a hard time explaining exactly what I do. Â At itâs highest level, I use a raw version of Charlie Francisâs high/low methodology 95% of the time for all of my athletes. Â I will mix in 5% Block Training for some very unique situations with some elite athletes but their schedules are challenging and typically donât allow enough time to use the Block Training Methodology. Â Personally, I blend Block Training and the Westside methodology for my powerlifting programming.
I typically run my athletes on a 5-6 day high low program. Â Iâve pretty much stuck with 3 days of main training or âcoreâ movements. Â (Not âcoreâ in regards to abs, which is a total garbage word used to sell fitness products. Â âCoreâ here is essentially feet to hands since the body works systematically as one unit.) Â Iâve been pleased with the results of 3 intense training days (with varying intensities from low, medium, high) in the off-season versus 2 used by many âhigh/low practitionersâ. Â Â I will bump over to 2 days per week as the off-season progresses for my more advanced athletes. Â That will allow me to adjust the intensity and use more advanced means like shock jumps, higher volume of sprint work, and more advanced jumps and combined jump/med ball throws. Â It also allows me to back off depending on their team training or sport skill training-GPP to SPP.
Letâs dive into this a little more, give me the bare bones here, can athletes get any better these days? What training methods have you found to be most effective?
I feel in the US that itâs easy to have a big impact immediately through strength training because learning strength is easy and our athletes are so over âgamedâ. Â Sport coaches arenât educated and control too much of our athletes lives so there isnât a realization or demand for something better. Â Look at the rash of injuries in professional sports. Â I donât âbuyâ the athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster as the sole reason. Â Sure thatâs part of it, but the demand on them is insane. Â Iâm pretty sure the NFL guys get 2-3 weeks of an off-season. Â Itâs the most physically demanding sport in the US and these guys donât get much time off.
My main focus is to improve athletic ability in the 95% of my athletes. Â The best answer that I can offer is to âgive them what they needâ. Â In the US, development levels are so damn random that it would take a weekend seminar to break that one down due to the over competition and underdevelopment of each athlete and their sport.
I have spent the last year focusing on getting the majority of my athletes âlooserâ. A major part of their problem is âtight hipsâ. Â Thatâs a whole myriad of scenarios in itself, but since pulling out squatting for the first 4-6 weeks of their off season (GPP and on) Iâve had much better results in improving their movement. Â Hell, they canât hit good squat depth (parallel) without anterior pelvic tilt, so how important is a squat anyway? Â Iâm doing a lot of other prehab and corrective/strengthening movements so it may be the unilateral work or it may be everything. Â I honestly donât know. My main strength work early on is performed using a trap bar with the higher handles. They can still move some heavy weights and it wonât add to their back/hip issues. Â Â In reality, it really boils down to how much I can see them during their season and how beat up that they are from the season.
Â Here’s the link to the actual interview…