Damian Luniewski is an accredited ASCA Professional Level 2 and EXOS Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach in Poland, with four years of experience in the sports industry. He participated in a three-month internship at the ALTIS facility in Atlanta, working under the supervision of Dan Pfaff, Stuart McMillan, Andreas Behm, and Kevin Tyler, among others.
Damian currently works with players in various sports disciplines, tactical athletes, and sports teams, preparing them for national and international events: track and field – sprint and middle distance running (Polish Indoor Championships), rugby (Men’s Extraleague, Central Junior League , U18 team, U20 team), basketball (Central Youth League, Women’s Extraleague), windsurfing (European Championship and World Championship), ice hockey (U20 team, German league, Swedish league), floorball (Women’s Extraleague, Men’s Extraleague, U19 Polish Junior National Teams), American football (PLFA 2, Polish National Team), football (Central Youth League, 2nd Women’s League, Football Academy), Polish U19 Women’s Floorball Team (WU19 WFC 2022 World Championship), Firefighter Combat Challenge 2022, 2023 (USA), squash (BETARD WSF World Masters 2022, Polish Championships 2022, 2023), and OCR (Polish, European, World Championships, Dubai Cup). He also collaborates with athletes after injuries during the RTA, RTS, and RTP phases.
Freelap USA: Last year, you traveled to the U.S. to do a three-month internship with ALTIS. Can you share your motivation to travel to a new country to do an internship, even though you had already been working as a coach for a while? What were your biggest learnings?
Damian Luniewski: Yes, I spent the last three months of 2022 in the U.S., having the opportunity to do an internship at ALTIS. My motivation was—and still is—continuous learning and exploring different ways of working in sports. I believe that such a trip is a good idea regardless of the stage of one’s career. It is always valuable to gain a different perspective. This was definitely not my first adventure of this kind, and I am already planning more on different continents.
I wanted to intern at ALTIS because of my fascination with speed training. Additionally, from the beginning of my journey, Dan Pfaff and Stuart McMillan were kind of “remote” mentors for me, whose work I constantly followed and took advantage of learning from online.
What did the trip give me? Before the internship, my mind was filled with question marks. What is the biggest difference? What accounts for the gap between American and Polish sports? A three-month trip to the U.S. was supposed to give me an answer to this question.
Training methodology? Definitely, but not entirely. The influx of information “from across the ocean” allows us in Poland to acquire the same theoretical knowledge and create a similar training environment. COMMUNICATION and a long-term, well-thought-out athlete development system are the things that are worth highlighting. With the same smile on their faces, the coaches dedicate almost all of their free time to interns, course participants, and athletes, and topics repeated tens of thousands of times are brought up and discussed again.
My stay in the States showed me that combining self-confidence with high personal culture and the ability to create a friendly relationship significantly accelerates training outcomes. Treating athletes with respect and avoiding a condescending attitude builds trust and facilitates daily work.Sport is built on relationships, and a methodical, scientific approach doesn’t always compensate for personality deficiencies. Every message that comes from us matters. Click To Tweet
Sport is built on relationships, and a methodical, scientific approach does not always compensate for personality deficiencies. Every message that comes from us matters—it is worth considering how many areas of daily life our actions and words influence. The trip helped me think about the cause-and-effect relationship our advice and actions can have, as well as the impact that arrogant language can have on an athlete.
Freelap USA: You work with a bunch of different elite athletes in sports like athletics, rugby, windsurfing, squash, American football, and floorball in Poland. No one can be an expert in every sport, so how do you manage to consider the sport-specific demands of all these different sports in your programming for individual athletes?
Damian Luniewski: As you mentioned, I have the pleasure of working with athletes from various sports disciplines. It is incredibly fascinating but also demanding in terms of continuously expanding my knowledge. As an S&C coach and/or physiotherapist, it is achievable—this is what sets us apart from coaches in specific sports disciplines.
The Head Coach must possess very specific technical and tactical knowledge related to a particular sport. As S&C coaches and physiotherapists, however, we have a much broader spectrum of knowledge concerning the functioning of the human body. As a result, we can adapt this wide range of knowledge to a specific sport or athlete.
General training principles are universal. What makes training programs different is the 20%–30% of components that consider the specifics of a particular discipline (energy systems, the time window in which strength is generated, etc.).
I always conduct a comprehensive analysis before starting any collaboration—I search for high-quality scientific research, watch videos, and talk to coaches of the specific sports discipline. Then I select training methods based on that. This, of course, requires further research and updating of knowledge.
Freelap USA: Floorball and windsurfing are two sports that most coaches won’t be very familiar with. What are the physical demands of these two sports, and how do you physically prepare your athletes for them in general?
Damian Luniewski: Floorball and windsurfing are indeed two unique sports with specific physical demands. Here’s an overview of the physical demands of each sport and general strategies for preparing athletes:
Floorball (Unihockey): Floorball is a fast-paced indoor sport similar to hockey. It requires a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, agility, speed, coordination, and quick reflexes. Physical demands include:
- Endurance: Athletes need good cardiovascular fitness to sustain high-intensity efforts throughout the game.
- Agility and speed: Quick changes of direction, acceleration, and sprinting are essential for maneuvering on the small court.
- Coordination: Precise stick handling, shooting, and passing skills require excellent hand-eye coordination.
- Strength and power: Athletes need upper and lower body strength for shooting, tackling, and maintaining balance.
- Reaction time: Quick decision-making and reflexes are crucial for intercepting passes and reacting to game situations.
To physically prepare athletes for floorball, training programs should focus on the following:
- Cardiovascular fitness: Incorporate interval training, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), to improve endurance and simulate the intensity of the game.
- Agility and speed drills: Implement ladder drills, cone drills, and shuttle runs to enhance quickness, acceleration, and changes of direction.
- Stick handling and shooting practice: Regular training sessions dedicated to improving technical skills will enhance coordination and shooting accuracy.
- Strength and power training: Include exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and core exercises to develop the overall strength and power necessary for game actions.
- Reaction drills: Use drills that simulate game situations to improve athletes’ reaction time and decision-making abilities.
Windsurfing: Windsurfing is an outdoor water sport that combines aspects of sailing and surfing. It requires a mix of physical and technical skills, along with adaptability to changing wind and water conditions. Physical demands include:
- Balance and stability: Athletes need to maintain balance on the board while dealing with wind and water movements.
- Core strength: A strong core is crucial for stability and controlling the sail.
- Upper body strength: The arms, shoulders, and back muscles are engaged in maneuvering and controlling the sail.
- Endurance: Windsurfing sessions can be physically demanding, requiring sustained effort over extended periods.
- Flexibility: Athletes need good flexibility to adopt different body positions while sailing.
To physically prepare windsurfing athletes, the following strategies can be employed:
- Core stability exercises: Focus on exercises like planks, Russian twists, and stability ball exercises to strengthen the core muscles.
- Upper body strength training: Incorporate exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and rows to develop strength in the arms, shoulders, and back.
- Cardiovascular endurance: Engage in aerobic activities such as swimming, running, or cycling to improve overall endurance.
- Balance and stability training: Include exercises like yoga, balance boards, and stability exercises to enhance balance and stability on the board.
- Flexibility exercises: Implement a regular stretching routine to maintain or improve flexibility, especially in the lower body and upper body regions.
Freelap USA: Can you give us an example of a strength training program for a windsurfing athlete and one for your floorball team considering sports-specific demands?
Damian Luniewski: As I mentioned before, floorball is a sport that includes a wide range of physical demands. The session presented here is one of my strength and power training units during the season, where I opt for conjugate periodization. Typically, this entails one gym session per week, where I strive to work across the entire force-velocity curve, adjusting the percentage contribution of each zone within the macrocycle scale.An accelerometer helps me accurately adjust the loads required for working in specific zones of the force-velocity curve. It also motivates athletes to give their best during training sessions. Click To Tweet
I utilize an accelerometer in some of the exercises, which helps me accurately adjust the loads required for working in specific zones of the force-velocity curve. It also serves as a means to monitor external loads and as a tool to motivate athletes to give their best during training sessions. Since this is a once-a-week gym session, it is structured as a full-body workout.
1. KB swing banded 4×12; 90 seconds rest
2. BB hang power snatch 3×1/120 seconds rest
Start with 45 kg
Peak velocity >2,3 m/s, 10% drop
3A. Trap bar DL 5×2 0.4–0.5 m/s avg. velocity
3B. Broad jump 5×5
180 seconds rest
4. Dual dumbbell push press 3×8
90 seconds rest
5A. Dual dumbbell floor press 4×6; start with 2×15 kg, RiR 1–2 TUT 20X0
5B. MB supine chest throw 4×5 2–3 kg
150–180 seconds rest
When it comes to windsurfing, structuring a training program can indeed be challenging. The training cycle for windsurfing in Poland depends on various factors, such as whether there are favorable conditions for water training or if the athlete is attending a training camp abroad at that time.
1.Split stance dual dumbbell clean & jerk 3×2/each side
Start with 2×15 kg, add weights
90 seconds rest
2.Front SQ 3×5 0.3–0.4 m/s avg. velocity, 20% drop
120 seconds rest
3A. Dive push-ups 4×8–10 TUT 41X1
3B. Chin-ups 1xMAX, 3×40%–60% from MAX TUT 21X1
120 seconds rest
4A. Lateral lunge & twist (medball) 3×6/each side 4–5 kg ball
4B. Mountain climber 3×10/each way
90 seconds rest
Given the unpredictable nature of wind and weather conditions, it’s essential to maintain flexibility in the training program.
In line with the above, you can also opt for conjugate periodization. Some positions in the strength and power training are specific to windsurfing. Once again, the accelerometer proves to be helpful in selecting appropriate loads, especially when microcycles are irregular, and the load needs to be adjusted based on the athlete’s availability within a specific time window. This flexibility allows for better adaptation to the varying training conditions and helps optimize the training program for windsurfing.
By combining adaptability, alternative training methods, periodization, and individualization, it’s possible to create a training program that maximizes the opportunities for development in windsurfing, even in the face of varying conditions and athlete schedules.
Freelap USA: You are very driven to develop yourself professionally and personally. How do you plan your own development as a strength and conditioning coach and sports therapist and what advice can you give young practitioners?
Damian Luniewski: It’s true, I am highly motivated to continually develop myself both professionally and personally. My greatest motivator is helping others and my ultimate professional goal—the Olympic Games.
Personally, I plan my schedule of training, workshops, and conferences each year, as well as the range of literature I want to absorb. Additionally, I set a goal to acquire new skills, such as diagnostic skills using equipment (force plate, VBT, etc.) or specific training methodology skills and mastering a new element in my work system.I plan my schedule of training, workshops, and conferences each year, as well as the range of literature I want to absorb. Additionally, I set a goal to acquire new skills. Click To Tweet
Planning your own development as a strength and conditioning coach and sports therapist is a key element in achieving success in these fields. Here are some tips that can help you in this process:
- Set goals: Define clear long-term and short-term goals that you want to achieve in your career. These goals will drive you and give you direction in your professional development.
- Continuous learning: Stay up to date with the latest research, trends, and advancements in the field of strength training and sports therapy. Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars, and pursue relevant certifications to expand your knowledge.
- Seek mentors: Find experienced professionals who can guide and mentor you. Their knowledge and experience can help you navigate challenges and accelerate your development.
- Gain practical experience: Apply your knowledge by working with athletes and teams in practical situations. Internships, volunteering, and observing experienced practitioners can provide valuable hands-on experience.
- Reflect and evaluate: Regularly assess your strengths and weaknesses and analyze your experiences. Identify areas for improvement and create a plan to develop them.
- Build a network: Establish relationships with other professionals in the field. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and engage in online communities to connect with like-minded individuals and share knowledge.
- Embrace feedback: Be open to feedback from athletes, colleagues, and supervisors. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for growth and enhance your coaching and therapeutic skills.
- Maintain balance: Take care of your own physical and mental health. Find additional hobbies to cultivate, allowing yourself to take a break from your main passion and gain a fresh perspective.
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