Introducing 2013 Presenter, Kelly Starrett, DPT


Today I am excited to introduce another one of our speakers for The 2013 Seminar, Kelly Starrett. Kelly received his DPT in 2007 from Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, California. Kelly is most known for his work with CrossFit athletes, but his experience is definitely not limited to just that. Outside of his work at his practice at San Francisco CrossFit, K-Star has also worked with Olympic gold-medalists, Tour de France cyclists, world and national record holding  weightlifters/Powerlifters, ballet dancers, military personnel, and age-division athletes. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce Kelly Starrett.

JD: If you could, please give our readers a little background information about yourself, what your niche in the world of athletics is, accomplishments, how you got there, education, any products you have available, and/or notable publications.

KS:Thanks so much for introducing me to your community! As for niche, that’s simple. I specialize in everything. No, I mean it. Human physiology isn’t debatable. The stable position and optimal mechanics of the shoulder for example, doesn’t change between sports or tasks.  This is what is so exciting about what’s going on right now in the world of strength and conditioning. The modern strength and conditioning coach is potentially the most valuable member of the performance staff. Good strength coaches aren’t just making athletes stronger and with bigger lungs these days, they are teaching universally applicable movement based principles, diagnosing movement related problems that rob athletes of power, torque, and force as well as predispose them to injury. My job is to help coaches and athletes leverage their decades of experience by helping them translate what they are seeing in the movements their athletes perform. We don’t need correlates to help us understand why an athlete is squatting poorly, we just need to better understand what it is we are observing. As a community we are pretty damn good at making some of the best athletes in the world. My job is to help make those athletes better and with fewer musculoskeletal issues (which of course is the same thing). I have a clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy but I will always describe myself as a strength coach first. The only difference, though, is that I don’t get bogged down in whose programming is most effective; I obsess over the details of helping athletes move more efficiently and what to do when you don’t move so efficiently. In the quest to find efficient and effective tools
to improve the mechanics of the already time compressed coach/athlete, we’ve created some pretty amazing tools in the process. There is always more than one way to skin the mobility cat, but we are biased towards our set of solutions.
While people can find our tools at, all you really need is a couple of lacrosse balls and some old bike inner tubes. We believe that all human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves and we
are trying hard to democratize that process.

As for accomplishments, I currently hold the unofficial world record for internet stretching videos. Let them try.

JD: Discuss with us the mistakes you see made by strength and conditioning coaches in the United States and around the world, and what you feel should be done differently/how to correct these issues?

KS:Let me be clear: if you are a working strength coach, I’m a fan. No one has potentially more impact on the health, performance, and safety of an athlete than you do. To be a really good coach these days, you need to be well versed in performance nutrition, adaptation, injury resolution, orthopedic injury and rehab, and a whole host of other vital areas. This generation of coaches are literally the primary care providers for potentially hundreds of athletes. Writing a good squat program is no longer enough. Even my seven year old daughter knows who Mark Bell, Jesse Burdick, and Louie Simmons are. You’ve got to be a true professional that can handle all aspects of an athlete’s performance. And you’ve probably got to understand and work across at least a couple of dozen sport platforms. So the biggest error I see today is that coaches aren’t fixing the problems that are right in front of them. Instead, they spent countless hours figuring out how to program around a problem. And this is no small task, I understand. A modern S&C session is a time compressed miracle. This is why we need to do a better job helping coaches to understand and address the problems they are

exposing in their athletic populations. As coaches, we make the invisible, visible. So when you begin to see problems, you need to know how to fix them.

JD: What advice would you give a coach to continue his or her education? Could you point our readers in a direction to find the scientific and practical information that would expand their current understanding of physical preparation?

KS: This is a tough one. I’d recommend that every coach go back to school and get a Doctorate in PT. Then, you could forget what you’ve just learned and begin to better understand what you already knew as a strength coach. There are some really excellent thinkers in the strength sphere right now. My advice is to meet and train with them all, seek to understand why they program the way they do, and coach another ten thousand or so hours. Use your gym as a lab, start thinking of your programming as a way to test your thinking and experience.

JD: Let’s talk about some similarities you see across the board when working with this spectrum of athletes. With your site, you put out some great and interesting new ways of helping people get back to “full
potential”. Knowing that you work with a variety of athletes, are there any common issues you see with athletes?

KS: Absolutely. First off, recognize that athletes look like type. Golfers look like golfers, runners look like runners, and swimmers have swimmers problems. This will streamline a ton of your diagnostics. You know heavy benchers are going to be missing shoulder internal rotation for example, so go look for it. Second, it’s simple. Is the athlete able to express full range of motion in all their joints and do they have the motor control to do so? In the other words, are your athletes capable of performing all the movements within your strength and conditioning program? Oh, they can’t lock out their elbows when they press double kettlebells overhead? Not full potential. We need to move beyond simple task completion, we need to make sure our athletes are actually performing the movement well. Oh, and it turns out every athlete I meet is weak, needs better trunk control, better hip extension, more efficient and better developed lungs, needs to eat better…..

JD: With that in mind, how, in a group setting, do you alter the training of individuals based on mobility issues?

KS: The group setting is the coach’s bread and butter, so being able to accommodate crappy range of motion or poor motor control is vital. We can always shorten range of motion, move to dumbbells, switch bars, change training variables (cardio respiratory demand, load, metabolic demand, motor learning, torso positioning, etc.) The real issue is for the coach to create mobility programming for the issues they see that day. This creates a real and topical opportunity to fix what the coach is seeing that day, on the spot, with those athletes. What we don’t allow to happen is for athletes with mobility problems to move poorly because they have bad mechanics. People are going to get sloppy, this is training after all, but we don’t allow our athletes to create poor motor habits because they are solving a mechanical problem with compensatory positioning. Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. If you want you kids to learn to jump
and land with their feet turned out like ducks (collapsed ankle, valgus knee) by all means keep letting them front squat and swing with their feet turned out. See a problem? Fix that problem. Tomorrow you will find the other

JD: Keeping in mind some of the really neat ideas you have on, what are the assessments that you would recommend to coaches to help make sure we’re putting our athlete’s in the best position to improve

KS: This is what is so remarkable about the kind of programs we see in the leading universities, pro-teams, elite military, etc. Modern S&C is really just the formal expression of human movement. It’s like classical ballet of being a better athlete. My assessments are the movements my athletes need to perform. I don’t need a correlate for straight-legged hip flexion. I need my athletes to be able to perform deadlifts and stiff legged deadlifts without sequencing errors or spinal faults. Giving them a trap bar is a temporary fix. Can you bench without losing your shoulder position, yes/no? Can you jerk the same on the left as you can on the right, yes/no? Everything you need you already have. We just need to get coaches to repurpose their incredible programs and lifetime’s worth of experience.

JD: What should our readers and attendees expect to see in your presentation at The 2013 Seminar?

KS:They should expect to have their faces killed. When we present our model to coaches, it immediately helps them to better utilize the programs that they are already having good success with. It’s a little like taking that pill that Morpheus hands Neo in the “Matrix”. You just start to see how much potential we are really leaving on the table.

We are hoping to provide the best possible content for strength coaches with each of our shows. If feel this could provide value for anyone else in the strength and conditioning field please feel free to share.

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