Tristan: Alright, welcome in everyone. We have with us on the line a very special guest. He is Nate Blazevich, hailing from the Pittsburgh area out there in Pennsylvania. Nate, really appreciate you joining us here today. How's everything going with you?
Nate: Oh, number one. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited about this opportunity to speak with you guys and, you know, talk about these topics. You know, it's... The unprecedented events that have been going on here obviously affects everybody, but I think all in all, our best foot moving forward is to take just a positive approach to it as best we can.
And just like anything in life, just keep grinding and keep moving forward.
Tristan: No doubt, and we'll definitely get into that here in this interview about what you can be doing in these unprecedented times for sure. But first, I definitely wanted to learn a little more about you. Our listeners want to learn a little bit more about you. It's Nate Blazevich of Blaze Sports Performance. I want to know how did you get so lucky with the last name there to automatically know what to name your sports performance franchise? And also, just give us a little bit of your backstory. So where'd you come from? When did you decide that physical training was going to be the path for you?
Nate: Right. So I guess with the name, I would have to thank my parents, number one. But with the name of the business, you know, that was just growing up, you know, Blazevich is such a lengthy last name that most people would just call me Blaze. So it kind of was easy with that. Obviously it works well with the sports performance side in that regard.
Like probably most people around athletics, you know, you kind of grow up playing them and you're surrounded by them. So it's kind of, you know, once you go to school and you play your sport and your collegiate years are over, kind of two options. Do I try to pursue sports in another way, or do I just go into the working field?
So I couldn't really see myself not being around athletics. So I had to try to find some way to still be around it, with what, you know, educational services are around. And I got my degree in biology, which is very broad, didn't really know what to do with that. So I looked into physical therapy first. And looked at, you know, they needed like 3.75 GPA. At the time I had a 3.4, but I was playing college football and getting a degree in biology. So it was difficult. And then I found strength and conditioning and saw what that, you know, encapsulated, and I was like, that is for me, that is what I want it to be. I want to be the guy in the weight room, you know, instructing the lifts, getting athletes to be bigger, faster, stronger. And I've always enjoyed working out. I've always enjoyed pushing myself and the process that went into it and I kind of fell in love with the process and wanted to be able to help others. I was fortunate that when I was entering my freshman year in college. I had someone that took me under their wing and kind of showed me the proper way to work out and things. And I feel that without that, I wouldn't have been part of the player I was. So I kind of wanted to be that person for others. And that kind of led me towards my business because at the high school level and below, there isn't really anybody. So, you know, at the collegiate level you have strength coaches. But underneath that, kids are kind of on their own or instructed by someone that's not necessarily a professional.
Tristan: Got it. So you obviously played football in college, was lucky enough to have somebody take you under their wing to really show you the ropes. What other sports did you play growing up?
Nate: Basketball in high school. Basketball.
Tristan: Got it. And then anything else? Or is there a, I guess I'm wondering if you see a majority of your clients playing one sport or the other?
Nate: So, it's kind of intermixed. I do have, it depends on more so the sport is what I've been seeing. So most of the athletes I have that only play one sport are baseball and softball players. And football and basketball, most of them end up playing multiple sports. There are a few that specialize only, but in terms of the specialization, baseball has been the number one clientele group I've seen that only plays baseball.
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Craig: Okay. So I want to get back to your journey a little bit more. You mentioned majoring in biology in college. Right out of school, what kind of career path did you take?
Nate: So whenever I graduated from Thiel with my biology degree, I went onto the University of Pittsburgh to receive my master's degree in health and physical activity. And while I was there, I was an intern with the men's and women's basketball team for that whole year. And I feel that that really solidified my choice in what I wanted to do for a living, just being around top tier athletes on a daily basis. And, I ended up taking a job out in Greensburg, Pennsylvania at the, it was called Galaxy Fitness, and I was in charge of the Parisi speed school there. So that was my first job in the private sector working with athletes. It was interesting coming from collegiate athletics to the private sector. The clientele group's a lot younger, obviously. So I had to kind of change the way I looked at training and approach. It couldn't be as specific because the kids I was dealing with were middle school, high school, and elementary school level. So that was an interesting change for me, but it was really enjoyable to see how big of a difference it makes and not only their athletic ability, but their confidence levels.
Craig: Yeah. Speaking about different levels in an athlete's development, is there kind of an age range that you prefer or an age range that you specialize in where you can make the biggest impact?
Nate: I mean, in terms of age I prefer, you know, high school and above are the easier athletes to work with because they have better, you know, cognition of where their body positioning is at and things they have greater experience with sports. But the ones that I do see the biggest change in are the younger athletes cause they come from being very raw and they really don't know what is right or what is wrong, and you kind of mold them and teach them the proper ways and you'll see such a big difference in them.
Tristan: Extending that a little bit, is there something common that you see with a new client that comes to you that they often need to work on maybe that they can work on before coming to see you?
Nate: Right. So I think the biggest issue is with them being forced to sit in school for seven hours. Sitting is what's kind of diminishing our athletic performance. A lot of them have very weak hamstrings, very tight hip flexors, and a lot of them have weak glutes because they're just sitting all day. So those, those areas of their body are just under utilized and neglected because they're sitting. So I have to spend a majority of the time, you know, strengthening the glutes, the hamstrings, the hip flexors, and stretching and mobilizing is, I probably spend 15 to 20 minutes of the workout just getting their bodies primed and ready to go because they've been sitting for so long.
Tristan: Sure. So do you get a lot of guys that are trying to better themselves, or is it maybe some guys that are returning from injury that they're trying to get back to where they were?
Nate: A little bit of both. A little bit of both. I mean, most of the clients I have are healthy. But I do have some that, you know, may have not trained as hard as they should have and then ended up getting injured. And then sometimes you'll have a physical therapist that will recommend that they go to someone once the physical therapy is over. Because a lot of parents assume that, "You know, okay, my, you know, my client or my athlete went through physical therapy regiment. Now they're cleared and good and they can do anything back to where they were." And that's not always the case. I mean, if you look at, you know, like an ACL injury for example, the therapy rate is like six to eight months of recovery, of therapy, but they're not fully back to 100% until almost two years.
And a lot of it is they just stop after physical therapy and stop with the exercises they were doing, thinking that they're all healed up. And it's something you have to keep up with on a weekly and daily basis.
Craig: Yeah. I see people falling back into bad habits of what they started with. Hey, so on, on your website, we saw some details about speed classes, and I thought that looked really interesting for some of our athletes listening in. Can you tell us a little bit about what those speed classes entail?
Nate: Right. So, the speed classes are mainly for my younger aged athletes, because a lot of parents will come up to me and just say like you know, they don't run right. Or they're just really slow. And, you know, they go to a hitting coach, they go to a pitching coach, they go to a shooting coach, they go to whatever coach it is for their sport.
And a lot of them neglect that running in speed and agility is a very vital part of sports. It's always thought of an afterthought. You know, a lot of coaches kind of instruct their kids to go out and run and then not understand why they're not getting on base or getting to a loose ball, and a lot of... They just neglect that part of the game, which is so important.
Craig: Can you walk us through any examples of drills that you do to develop those types of skills?
Nate: Right. So, in terms of like linear speed, some of the drills we'll do are some wall drills. Those are the drills you'll see where the athlete will hold onto a wall at like a 45-degree angle, and they work on staying on the balls of their feet. They drive their knee up, and then the coach will give a cadence such as switch. And you'll switch legs as fast as you can. It's a good drill to work on, on knee drive, rate of force, and how to properly strike the ground at the ball of the foot. So that's one of the drills we'll do. I'm a big fan of the push sleds for acceleration. Mainly because the angle that they have to push the sled is very similar to an acceleration angle when an athlete first starts to sprint. It's very good at teaching how to apply force into the ground because if you don't, the sled doesn't go anywhere. We have some different drills we can do even for athletes that have to run like greater distances. So for top-end speed mechanics, you can hold like a PVC pipe over your head and do some high knees and some sprints overhead to work on your top end speed mechanics. So, that, and just working on the arms alone, I've found to make a big difference in the younger age because a lot of them just don't even use their arms when they run a arms crossed their body or the arm stays straight. So just simple running mechanics makes such a big difference.
Tristan: Yeah. A lot of tidbits you can pull out of that answer there. Building on that, you mentioned earlier that a lot of your clients that come in are maybe lacking in the back end. By that I mean the glutes, the hamstrings. We really need to build those muscles up. Is there any sort of drills or exercises that you can give us here? Walk us through, similar deal, that can help them build that up on their own time or with a trainer like yourself?
Nate: Right. So, a lot of sports are anterior dominant. A lot of quad dominant movements go into it. So, I mean, number one, you have your back squat which is a very good posterior chain developer. You can vary that in different ways. You can do a box squat where you sit back onto a box and then, you know, fire up from there. You can do, Romanian dead lifts are a very good exercise to hit and isolate the hamstrings and glutes. Leg curls are a good one. Reverse lunges, glute ham raises, glute bridges are a bunch of different exercises that you can perform both at home and at a gym that would help to develop that posterior chain.
Tristan: Got it. And real quick, you mentioned a couple of exercises there involving weightlifting. Is there an age that you see with your clients that you think are maybe too young to start the weight lifting and should focus only on the body workouts? Or is it kind of fluid?
Nate: So one of the biggest myths that needs to be debunked is a lot of athletes' parents are afraid that if they start weightlifting, it will stunt their growth, which there is no scientific data that proves whether that's true or not. In fact, weightlifting does release growth hormone. And, in terms of an age, I would say moreso, you have to make sure that they can move fluently with their own body weight.
If they can't perform like a perfect body weight squat, then it would make no sense at all to even attempt to put a barbell on their back, or even have them attempt a goblet squat with a dumbbell. So essentially for me, my criteria is good quality movement. If they can't achieve good quality body weight movements, then I don't feel comfortable adding any resistance to that.
So there isn't necessarily an age like, "Okay, age 10 is when they need to start it." Everyone's different, but at the end of the day, I think the commonality is quality movement.
Craig: Okay. Going to the other age spectrum, kind of say college athletes or above, are there any kind of bad habits that you've noticed that they've developed over time before they've worked with you that you can then help correct with them?
Nate: I would say the most common thing I see is with my football players, I have. A lot of the coaches preach, you know, the weight that's on the bar, and it's not how good does the exercise look? So I have a lot of guys that really want to pack on weight on the bar and kind of neglect their form cause they're really worried about chasing numbers.
And we have to try to get them to understand that we're not trying to train weightlifters, we're trying to train athletes. So the goal we're trying to accomplish is does this exercise movement transfer over to your sport? And if adding more weight with that form doesn't do that, then we're doing an injustice.
So that's kind of the biggest problem I see is guys trying to do too much weight in neglecting the actual form and movement of the exercise.
Tristan: Sure. Fundamentals are always important, especially when it comes to something like weight lifting. Now, we touched on this earlier, it is a little, obviously unprecedented times we're living in right now with the virus going around and a lot of folks being constricted and quarantined and so forth. I'm sure it's affecting Blaze Sports Performance. You mentioned to us before the interview, you are doing some one on one training, but it's sparse to say the least. How are you adapting at this time? And also want to ask you if you can walk us through maybe a workout plan for the kids out there who are quarantined, self-quarantined, whatever the case is. But still want to maintain their athleticism.
Nate: Right. So, I mean, number one, we need to make sure that we're just trying to stay sanitized as best we can. You know, wiping everything down, washing our hands, trying to limit the amount of social contacts we have, which that's kind of almost out of our control, but what we can control is what we do at home.
And, in terms of at-home workouts, you can start with, you know, if you don't have access to any weights or bands, is body weight. So, like we've touched on a little bit earlier in the podcast was things you could do to develop your posterior chain. So you have, you know, body weight squats. You can do different lunge variations. You can do forward lunges, you can do split squats, you can do reverse lunges, side lunges. You can do a Bulgarian split squat where you can put your back foot up on a couch and squat. Different ways that you can vary the intensity with that is you can add a tempo to these exercises. On the downward phase, you can go down for four seconds and hold it at the bottom for four seconds and come back up. Different ways that you can add time under tension for the muscle to try to elicit some more strength gains and growth. If you do have access to weights, you know, you can obviously do a goblet squat where you hold a dumbbell and squat. You can hold dumbbells and lunge. At times like this, you have to get creative with what you do. I've seen some guys use towels for resistance. Things that you know, you might not think of. You can use a door handle and kind of interlock the towel within the door handle, and you can do some body weight rows. You can work on your posterior chain with some hamstring curls. If you have a hardwood surface, you can lay a towel down on the ground, put your heels on the towel while you're laying in a prone position, elevate the hips, and bring your legs out. And then that's a good exercise to try to use the friction or resistance of the towel against the surface and strength in the hamstrings. So, you can use your couch, you can do dips and pushups on a couch. You can do a glute bridge off the couch. I mean, the possibilities are kind of limited only to your creative ability.
Tristan: I need to see that video coming up on your Instagram page here soon. The at-home workouts with Nate Blazevich and just walking around different parts of your house, doing dips, doing whatever it is. @BlazeSportsPerformance there on Instagram if you folks want to check out some of his other works. But I definitely want to see that one Speaking of which, you know, at Hustle, we are all about utilizing technology to advance our sports training here. Do you utilize any sports tech today in your training?
Nate: I don't. I've used primarily, you know, just social media to kind of just drive my... What I have going on here with our videos and our posts. Just utilizing that. I think we have a great reach. But I've definitely thought about having some online things for our clients to use when they're not here in the gym or when they don't have access to a gym.
Tristan: Sure. And where do you see maybe the future of that going? You mentioned a little bit about getting those classes going. Anywhere else that you're kind of dipping your toe into the water in terms of utilizing more tech?
Nate: Yeah. I mean, cause I only have access to the athletes during certain hours of the day and throughout the week. There's only so much, you know, being in the private sector, so much finances that parents can allot towards training. So if I, you know, branched out towards an online. service where they have access to an app where they can, they can do workouts at home or they could do workouts at the gym when they can't get here. I think would definitely be beneficial towards not only the betterment of the athlete, but also as a business owner.
Tristan: Got it. Thank you again for your time here today, Coach. We're going to get into a little round at the end of this interview, but I had a quick question pop into my head regarding stretching. It's kind of like you said earlier, regarding weight lifting at a certain age, it's kind of a myth. We've heard here on the podcast that kinetic versus non-kinetic stretching is also kind of a myth, but is there one brand of which that you prescribe to? Standing still and stretching or maybe getting it in through calisthenics. Which way do you lean in that debate?
Nate: Right. So with the stretching that we do here, I do it on a purely dynamic basis. Sports are very rarely performed in a static position. Everything's moving. So I like to stretch the muscle in regards to how it actually functions. And it is a kinetic movement is a way, you know, the muscle functions. So I like to do dynamic warmups to get the blood flow going to the working muscle, increase that elasticity, increased the core temperature, everything that's needed to try to prevent injury. I do some static stretching, but for the most part it's just things that you would kind of moreso see at a low level yoga class. Like you have your pigeon stretch to stretch out your glutes and your piriformis. I have like a hip flexor stretch that I do, but beyond that, everything I do is more dynamic in nature just to get the muscles activated and primed and ready to go.
Tristan: Sure. You made a great point there. You rarely play sports standing still, you know, not playing darts out here and it's a little more intense than that. Well, Coach, I appreciate your time here again today. Before we let you go, we want to get into something would do with all of our trainers here on the podcast. It's a little rapid fire round. We're just gonna shoot some questions at you. You fire back with the first thing that comes to mind. Sound good?
Nate: Sounds good.
Tristan: All right. I'll start where I always do. Name your favorite sports movie of all time.
Nate: Friday Night Lights.
Craig: Got it. Are there any good YouTube channels that you pick up new tips from every once in awhile?
Nate: Westside Barbell
Tristan: Alright. Let me ask you here, after a big game, what is the best post-game meal?
Nate: Oh. Dinner with family and friends.
Craig: Hey, that works. A question I have is do you want to shout out any coaches, other coaches that made a big impact on your life and career?
Nate: Number one for me would definitely be Tim Beltz. He was a strength coach for the University of Pittsburgh men's and women's basketball team for almost 20 years. And he took me under his wing when I was there for grad school. And, he showed me all the ropes and in fact, in 2016, one of their strength coaches went down with an injury, I was one of the first people that he called to bring me in to fill in for her spot. So if I didn't have that connection and relationship early on, I wouldn't have had that opportunity to get to work with, you know, 13 different teams at the University of Pittsburgh. So Tim Beltz is definitely one of my mentors and one of the people that put me in the position to be where I'm at today.
Tristan: Love it. Love it. Alright. Last one here. You mentioned you played football in college, but you were playing basketball back in high school before that, so I gotta ask Lebron or MJ?
Nate: Hmm. You know, I grew up watching MJ. And I grew up watching Lebron. They're both fierce competitors. They both play the game differently, so it's hard to say, especially because basketball is a team sport. But if I had to pick in my gut, I always go with MJ.
Tristan: Yeah, I knew which way that was going. And you know, you go with the foundations, you started watching MJ before you're watching LeBron. So now I can't knock it there. Obviously we'd love to have either or both on my team. Coach appreciate you joining our team today. Again, it's Nate Blazevich. @BlazeSportsPerformance. You can check them out on all the social channels there. Appreciate your time, one more time, and again, good luck weathering the storm here. Hopefully everything is on the up and up sooner rather than later. And hopefully we get to check in with you down the line as well. Maybe once we see some of those couch workout videos coming out. Sound good?
Nate: Sounds good. I appreciate your time. Thank you.
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