NFL strength and conditioning Coach Brett Nenaber generously took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about working with such elite athletes. He also discusses his own background in weightlifting, and his more recent experience as a Highland Games competitor.
Could you share a little bit about your athletic background and how you became a strength and conditioning coach?
I played football at Arizona State University, where I fell in love with the weight room. The head strength and conditioning coach at the time was Joe Kenn. I was never the most athletic so I knew that my only chance was to outwork the next guy. Needless to say, I was always down in the weight room doing whatever extra I could. I developed a great relationship with the strength coaches we had at ASU while I was a player and that ended up paying off down the road for me.
Right after graduation I did a two year stint in NASCAR as a pit crew member for the Red Bull Race Team before deciding to go back to school and get my Master’s degree. I got lucky enough to have the opportunity to go back to Arizona State where I was a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach under the then current head strength and conditioning coach Ben Hilgart (who was the top assistant strength coach when I played there), and I was able to receive my Master’s degree in Exercise and Wellness. After completing my Master’s, I had the opportunity to take a paid internship position as a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL under my old former strength coach Joe Kenn. After one year as an intern I was hired as a full time assistant strength coach and that is where I still am currently.
What’s a day of work like for you? Can you give us a rundown?
My typical day’s work changes depending on what part of the year we are in. When we arein off-season training or in-season my typical day goes something like this: 4:00am- wake up. 5:00am get to work. 5:30am start my own personal training session for the day. 6:50am pre-practice lift group. 9:00am practice. 12:00-2:30 post practice lift groups. 3:00-5:00 tear down previous lift setup, and set up weight room for the next day’s lift. 5:00- about 7:00 input and analyze data from day/work on programs/take care of other daily weight room duties.
What is the most challenging thing you’ve found about this job?
There are always challenges no matter what job you have or where you work. Having the opportunity to work in the NFL with professional athletes is a blessing. These guys are the best of the best, and are super responsive to training. There is a mutual respect between the players and us as their strength coaches. They know that we are here to help make them the best athletes they can be by pushing them in the weight room and in our field work as well as doing everything we can to keep them healthy and prolong their careers. That being said, with how high-end these athletes are, many of them have special needs and we do our best to give each individual whatever modifications he needs to keep him performing at his best.
How do you guys approach the programming for an NFL team—how do you manage strength cycles for so many different athletes with different needs?
As I said before, our head strength and conditioning coach here is Joe Kenn (also known as House). House created the Tier System Strength Training system and that is what we use in the development for our strength programs. For more information on this training system I recommend getting his book “The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook” or getting membership to his website www.TierSystemStrengthTraining.com and picking up any of the e-books as well as reading all of the other available content on the site. I also have an article just recently available on the website, titled “Differences in the Training of Competitive Olympic Weightlifters and Athletes in Sport”). Additionally, Coach Kenn just launched a 12 DVD package done with Mike Robertson on their Elite Athlete Development Seminar; it’s available at www.eadseminar.com
How does the programming change from the off-season to the in-season?
The off-season is the limited amount of time we have to really train the guys hard. This is when we implement all of our field work (speed work and conditioning). We also use this opportunity to get them as strong as possible while they do not have as much outside stress put on their bodies from playing football. Additionally, we implement many different corrective exercises that are specific to the deficiencies of each player, as well as exercises for rehabbing previous injuries.
The in-season is our longest block of training by far. Our players definitely still train hard during this time, but we also make a lot more modifications due to the stress they incur from playing games week in and week out. We do our best to walk the fine line between pushing the guys enough to keep them strong and playing at their highest capabilities, while also keeping them healthy and ready to compete each week.
Let’s talk about you for a bit, if you don’t mind. My research tells me that you’ve done quite well as a weightlifting competitor and a Highland Games competitor. Can you tell me a little bit about your own training—how it’s structured and how it fits into your schedule?
I fell in love with Olympic Weightlifting during my time coaching at Arizona State. I have done some competing (in both weightlifting and powerlifting) but have really found my passion and talent in the coaching and programming for weightlifters. I am a firm believer that as a strength coach should always “train your program”. By that I mean that if I am going to write a program for a team or an individual, I personally am going to do the program first. This is the only way to really know what the athlete will be going through and how he or she will feel throughout the training program. I would never ask an athlete to do something that I myself have never done. Because of this my training has typically always been geared toward strength and power development.
I have only started getting involved in Highland Games competitions these past two years, and I kind of found that it just came to me naturally. I have never had any previous throwing experience, but the way I train has a lot of carryover into the events in the Highland Games. Obviously, there is a ton of technique involved in these events as well and I am lucky enough to have a couple of the best coaches out there as well as a great training partner in my boss (coach Kenn). I just love to compete (in anything really), and the Highland Games are a fun way to feed that competitive edge. I meanwhat’s better than trying to throw heavy things as far as possible? haha
What are your current training goals? Any upcoming competitions?
For now my competition schedule is pretty quiet. We are in the middle of pre-season football and there is no slowing down in our schedule from here. Once the season ends, my comp schedule will pick up again.
While researching your background, I also found the YouTube channel for Naberhood Barbell Club (love the name!). Could you tell me a little bit about NaberhoodBBC?
Naberhood BBC is something that I started to use as an umbrella for all of the weightlifters that I train to train under. As of right now I have not made it an official USAW sanctioned weightlifting club but that will be happening in the near future. I train and program for multiple athletes both in-person as well as over video and plan on using the NaberhoodBBC to help unite them all. As for anyone who is trying to reach me, my email is email@example.com. I am always open to accepting more athletes (of any level) who are looking to improve in weightlifting, powerlifting, or even just strength and technique in general. I also offer sport-specific strength programming and coaching.
Where else can people go to find you?
For now the easiest way to reach me is through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Instagram @bnenaber