The Essential Expansion of STA Sports Performance

Posted on EliteFTS
By Jordan Houser

There are two prominent clichés in the coaching industry. The first (and most painfully overused) claims that to become a top-level coach you must, “pay your dues.” This cliché almost certainly developed from the idea that you can’t walk out of a classroom and into a head coaching position.Someone is always doing the dirty work. And for the first position in your career, that someone is you —with or without pay. The second adage goes like this: “if you want to become the best, you have to learn from the best.” This should need no explanation.

The legitimacy behind these sentiments is incontrovertible; the very fact that they were able to develop into clichés is evidence of their applicability. These clichés, when paired with one another, combine the dual approach for success in any life pursuit: the merger of both practical experience and educational proficiency.

A telltale sign of the credibility of any “expert” can often be revealed through one simple question: what is the source of this person’s knowledge?

For Ben Woods, owner of STA Sports Performance in Elma, New York, the answer is clear. And it is very promising. Woods’ personal athletic career began to flourish early in high school. His performance as a well-rounded athlete in multiple-season play garnered attention from collegiate scouts that soon led him to a Division I school. “I played four sports,” Woods said. “I was a fairly good enough football player that I ended up earning a full Division I scholarship to play football at [SUNY] Buffalo.” While attending SUNY Buffalo, Woods studied exercise physiology and human performance. He started 46 games as part of the football team and, upon graduation, chose to pursue his dream of professional competition. “One of my many goals was to play in the NFL,” Woods said. “[I had wanted to] since I was in high school.”

With his collegiate education complete, Woods set out as an undrafted free agent in search of the perfect fit for his talents. “I was at different camps with different teams bouncing back and forth,” Woods said. “[I was] kind of living out of a suitcase for a while, trying to make my NFL dream happen.” During this time, Woods sought education from whomever he could, including several big names of the strength industry.“I first met Buddy [Morris] when I was in high school,” Woods said. “I got to train under him, [even though] he was only there for a short period of time.” Woods’ first encounters with Morris left a lasting impression on both his personal athletic career and his competence as a trainer. “[High school] was where I got my first exposure to some of his training methods,” Woods said. “It was nice, because I was only in high school at the time, playing football.” Several years later, Woods had yet another experience with Morris.

“When I was in college, I was playing football under Turner Gill,” Woods said. “He was our head coach [when] our strength and conditioning coach left. They ended up bringing Buddy Morris in.” Although the duration of time Woods was able to train under Morris during college was short-lived, he describes it as instrumental to his development as an athlete and trainer. “He wasn’t even there [at UB] for a full year before Pitt brought him back down to their program,” Woods said. “But during those seven or ten months, or however long he was there, it was awesome. I got to learn so much from him as an athlete. I trained under him every day and picked his brain as often as I could. I knew he was at the top of his profession.”

Woods also traveled to Columbus, Ohio to train under another titan of the strength training industry: Louie of Westside. “You always hear the stories of how brutal the sessions [at Westside] are,” Woods said. “They are just as they say they are.” The intensity, however, according to Woods, has never diminished the extreme focus of the Westside experience. “Even though you get so much stronger and get so much out of it, the educational aspect of it is [still there],” Woods said. “Each exercise, each rep, [and] the way everything is coached, they’re always stressing technique [and] focusing on the task at hand.”

The most influential aspect of Woods time with Louie came about through Louie’s ability to explain his techniques to lifters of every intellectual level. “Louie is one of those guys that is so brilliant in his thinking and his thought process,” Woods said. “[But] he can dumb things down and make it so understandable. If you talk at a high level of expertise to a guy that doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about, he’s going to get lost.”

During this time that Woods spent training, learning, and attempting to break way into the NFL, he was presented with a dilemma in his life. “I couldn’t quite walk on to a final roster with a[n NFL] team,” Woods said.

“I ended up hitting a crossroads. I got married [and] I realized that I need to start bringing an income in.”
Woods new status as a husband meant his life needed to change. “I couldn’t live out of a suitcase and have part time jobs,” Woods said. “I ended up hanging up my cleats and pursuing my career in performance training.”

Woods immediately cultivated STA Sports Performance and has continually expanded the facility since. The gym that began as a small 600-square foot building quickly doubled to a 1200-square foot location — but even this new facility proved insufficient for the constantly growing clientele of STA Sports Performance. By 2012, Woods and his staff were forced to expand again. “We’re part of a huge sportsplex in Buffalo,” Woods said. “It’s one of the largest performance centers in the whole western New York area.”

This updated location has allowed Woods to outfit his facility with the state-of-the-art equipment needed to optimally train his clientele, including five indoor turf fields and 4500-square foot weightroom. “We’ve got great equipment that makes things a lot more efficient,” Woods said. “We’re trying to maximize and optimize everything we’re doing with our space.”
Woods and his staff train athletes of nearly all professional backgrounds, including NFL, CFL, MLB. NBA, IAAF, NWSL, and even Olympic gold medalist athletes. The majority of STA Sports Performance clients are youth athletes in the junior high and high school age range.

Through the combination of his personal experience as an athlete and his willingness to sacrifice to learn from others in the industry, Woods has created a sports performance facility so wildly successful that the number of clients has grown more quickly than the building can accommodate. This has led to the continual expansion, which is anticipated to continue into the future. He is excited about the prospect of this, and claims that he always sees himself in the weightroom.

Ben Woods culminated something great — but first, he paid his dues. He learned from the best to become the best. And maybe the clichés are right after all.


Approach the Bar

Posted on EliteFTS
By Ben Woods

Every coach should know that physical preparation is a necessity for all athletes to improve performance and health, but at what point in their training process can compound movements such as the squat and deadlift be introduced and used with a bar?

Having the opportunity to work with many adolescent athletes (ages nine and up) I get to oversee first hand their physical development specific to their needs as an athlete first and then to their sport. After an initial assessment to address any strength/mobility imbalances and to determine their fitness state, the training process begins. Depending on what level they’re coming in at we focus on improving basic GPP (General Physical Preparation) movements and coaching good quality movement patterns through exercises starting with calisthenics, jumping/landing drills, dragging/pushing sleds and prowlers, med ball throws, strength based exercises, etc. then progress as needed.

Compound strength exercises are great for young athletes when done correctly as these recruit a larger number of muscle groups and teaches them to fire in unison to complete each rep. The strength gains from these help build more efficiency and coordination in movement. Most of our squats are done onto a parallel or below box teaching proper depth and allowing the athletes to generate more force through their hips. We usually start off with goblet holds with kettlebells or dumbbells, which also helps build stability through their core and maintaining a neutral spine. Another benefit of using a box squat in their training is that you can teach it AND train it at practically the same time. We coach their technique during each rep emphasizing the importance of doing it right and also monitor their strength levels every session.

Introducing the Barbell
When we feel as a coach that the athlete is physically ready and prepared to handle the next step in the progression we will proceed. The way we introduce the barbell is through the lightened or reverse band method (pioneered by Louie on Max Effort Movements). The setup is fairly simple; we choke (or attach) a resistance band to the top of the power rack on each side above the point where they start the descent of their squat and then loop the other end around the bar. Typically we use a mini or monster-mini bandwith most of our youth athletes and have them warm up with that and the bar first. Our exercise selection usually varies will select from a back squat, front squat, and Zercher squat with this setup as well as performing different deadlift variations with the bar. We stress giving coaching cues each rep while spotting them and only increase the weight based on their form and how well they’re moving the bar. For younger athletes we may initially keep the reps at 10 and then drop the reps to five, as they are ready. Higher volume for younger athletes will give them time to learn the technique and also begin to benefit from the exercises.

Inside STA Sports Performance Center in Elma, NY, one of the best training centers in western New York.
The benefit of using the reverse bands is that it optimizes and creates more leverage throughout the movement. It helps them to maintain proper form at the most susceptible positions. Athletes are normally weaker out of the bottom and typically then lose form so the band will deload a percentage of the resistance. As the athlete progresses in strength and stability the bands can be removed and the lift continued to be trained.

Building strength in younger athletes is essential as a preventive measure for injuries as stronger muscles can hold up against greater impact forces and aid in protection for the joints. In addition, as athletes get stronger and see their physical improvements it starts to build a more confident individual. This goes farther beyond just the weight room and athletic field, but in life. We’ve had athletes start in our facility that at first were extremely shy, self-conscious and timid but after they started to make improvements physically and see the hard work pay off, the improvements mentally were just as great, if not more. They were more confident in school, at home, even with the friends they chose to hang out with. And to think, it all started with the iron.

Each athlete should have goals and reasons why they are training. Whether physical improvement for their sport or just general fitness, the foundation you’re helping them pave for the rest of their life is invaluable. You, as a coach, are instilling positive habits they can take with them regardless if they ever play a professional sport or not. Plus, you also may be investing your time and planting the seed for another great powerlifting career down the road.


Simplifying Weight Management for Athletes

Published in EliteFTS
By Ben Woods

One of the best pieces of advice I received for managing an athlete’s weight for their sport was from Louie during a weekend visit to Westside. He said you always want to measure weight gain for athletes based on speed. If an athlete is putting on body weight during training while at the same time getting faster and/or jumping higher, then one can assume they are putting on good weight. Theoretically, if an athlete puts on weight it can slow them down, because you now have more weight to overcome gravity. This is a big reason why world-class sprinters weigh closer to 200 pounds not 300 pounds.

At STA Performance one thing we do is monitor our athletes’ body weight as well as test their vertical and broad jumps frequently to give us feedback. If I have an athlete that has a goal to put on, for example, fifteen pounds over the off-season, I want to make sure the majority (if not all) of that weight is benefiting their performance on the field. Accommodating the weight gain with maximal and explosive strength gains through proper training can offset this.

Playing college football at the Division 1 level some of our coaches were very fixated at having their players at specific body weights for a position. I remember a lineman being told he had to go from 270 to 300 pounds in an off-season for camp and what does that kid do? Stuff his face all summer. Now he got up to 300 pounds but you can barely swipe a credit card under his feet when he jumps because he just added almost 30 pounds (of mostly body fat) to his body and not nearly enough strength to benefit his performance.

Whether your position is an offensive lineman or the point guard for the basketball team, each athlete has an optimal weight for their position where they can play at their best. The key is finding it. My recommendation is for a coach to set up a testing protocol, if one isn’t already in place, to measure your athlete’s explosiveness (whether it’s a box jump, vertical jump, broad jump, 10-yard dash, etc.) as well as monitor their body weight and do this periodically during your strength and conditioning program. Along with good nutritional intake, this can make for a good parameter when a coach or athlete wants to increase their weight.