Damon Davis has been at Auburn University for 11 years and is currently in his eighth season as the strength and conditioning coach responsible for the training of men’s basketball. He also works with the men’s and women’s golf teams. Davis spent his first four years at Auburn as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, the last two with the baseball team.
Prior to Auburn, Coach Davis was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Iowa from 2004-2008, working with baseball, track and field, cross country, and softball while assisting all other sports. Before that, he was an intern with the Chicago Bulls from 2002-2004.
Freelap USA: We are still hearing the same gripe about not having enough time to teach slightly more complicated aspects of training such as cleaning and snatching, yet a lot of time is spent on corrective exercises and other less impactful movements. Can you share why the foundational movements are so important?
Damon Davis: I don’t believe that the WL derivatives are any more time-consuming to teach than some of the more foundational movements in the weight room, because if we, as coaches, have taught the foundational movements properly, then our progression toward more complexity should flow smoothly. The rate of force development in the second pull of the snatch and clean is greater than any other movement performed under load in the training environment.If we, as coaches, have taught the foundational movements properly, then our progression toward more complexity should flow smoothly, says @CoachD_AU. Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, coaches assume that any movement done at a high velocity will accomplish the same stimulus and is a viable substitution for these movements. However, this is not the case because, when done properly, the Olympic lifts will elicit a greater stretch reflex and higher RFD than other movements that have become “viable substitutes” for the snatch and clean and jerk.
Freelap USA: Single-arm snatches with light dumbbells are still used with athletes. With many coaches misinterpreting velocity-based training, can you make sure they understand what is wrong with the idea that bar speed with light weight may not translate in the real world?
Damon Davis: Exercises should be classified to understand what stimulus they provide to the neuromuscular system in an effort to create an adaptation. The purpose of performing a barbell snatch is to elicit a strength-speed stimulus, which means that a substantial weight is moved at a relatively high velocity. The issue I see when performing a one-arm DB snatch is that we are asking the athlete to use a bilateral movement when the limiting factor will ultimately be how much weight they can support overhead. My contention would be that a bilateral lower body movement, limited by how much an overhead unilateral upper body segment can support, will ultimately limit this lower body stimulus.Exercises should be classified to understand what stimulus they provide to the neuromuscular system in an effort to create an adaptation, says @CoachD_AU. Click To Tweet
Additionally, due to the upper body limitations, I don’t believe that the stimulus in this case would yield the desired strength-speed goal. It would also not meet the requirements for speed-strength unless the possibility of throwing an implement was a safe option. In that case, another exercise could meet the goal with greater safety and efficiency.
Freelap USA: Al Vermeil was a huge proponent of stiffness, and many like you have been influenced by the legend. Can you explain how you prepare athletes for rapid contractions and jumping in a basketball setting?
Damon Davis: I’m a big fan of periodization and having a yearly outline to get from point A (start of off-season) to point B (peaking at championships). The lightbulb moment I had learning under Coach Vermeil came when I saw his pyramid of development, which basically shows that you must have a foundation of certain biomotor qualities or abilities before others above them could be maximized. The base of the pyramid is work capacity and upon that strength is developed, followed by strength-speed, speed-strength, and finally speed. Preparing athletes for repetitive explosive contractions follows much of that order of development throughout the year in preparation for peaking in championship season.
Freelap USA: You find a lot of value in general training, while the trend with some programs is to get way too hyper-specific. How do you sell the coach and athlete on the importance of training like a “football player” instead of doing a lot of basketball drills and agility movements in circuit-style fashion?
Damon Davis: Higher levels of specificity are needed with greater training ages; however, in many sports—particularly basketball—specificity is placed first and foremost, while most athletes have zero to little general training, especially when it comes to strength work. This, in my opinion, is why we see so many overuse injuries in high school and incoming collegiate players. It is unfortunately an adapt-or-die system as it currently stands, with the amount of practice and games being played coupled with the lack of training knowledge at the high school level.Basketball is (now) working through the infancy stages of understanding the importance of training…If you want to run faster and jump higher, you’d better increase your force capabilities. Click To Tweet
I believe that basketball is simply working through the infancy stages of understanding the importance of training, due to the fact that it was still taboo in the ’80s and, to some extent, those fallacies still exist today. If you compare the NFL combine to the NBA combine, you can look at the vertical jump as something they both perform for an evaluation tool. In the history of the NBA combine no athlete has ever gone 40 inches on the standing vertical jump and only a handful will attain that height each year even with the use of a 15-foot approach run. In the NFL combine, a dozen or more players each year will jump 40 inches or more on a standing vertical. If you want to run faster and jump higher, you’d better increase your force capabilities. Football is just ahead of the curve because training is more ingrained in their culture.
Freelap USA: With years of in-the-trenches experience, how do you sustain the energy and drive to get athletes better while learning? It seems that many older coaches slow down their learning demands because they have families, but you are always learning and polishing your craft. What is the solution for career longevity and performance?
Damon Davis: The energy and the drive come from time spent around athletes who are truly focused on doing what needs to be done to win championships and working toward playing at the next level. Honestly, I’m a big learn-by-doing type; therefore, I still train regularly, which helps with my programming and understanding what is truly feasible during the time frame we have with our athletes. Even though our field is evolving through the use of technology, instant access to information (good and bad), and navigating a new generation of athletes, I believe we can look at the modalities and training methodologies in this field that have stood the test of time, not because that’s the way it’s always been done, but because they have yielded results in performance and the well-being of our athletes.
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