Nicholas Jones: How Research and Technology are Influencing Strength & Conditioning
Nicholas Jones is the founder and director of DNA Sports Performance based in the UK. Throughout his career Nicholas has worked with a wide variety of sports and athletes (both able-bodied and disabled) including endurance, aquatic, track, combat, team and racquet disciplines.
His focus on high-end performance results has allowed him to work with organisations such as the University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, Welsh Rugby Union, English Rugby Union, Sale Sharks, England and Wales Cricket Board, GB Water Polo, GB Cross Country Skiing and GB Wrestling.
Nicholas’s athletes and teams highlight his theoretical knowledge, practical coaching and people management skills for allowing them to move into elite levels of competition.
He is also very passionate about academic research and will have his Ph.D. on genetic training applications published in the near future.
Ascending to your elite level in strength and conditioning coaching must have required a lot of hard work; what made you first want to get into this field?
When I was younger I used to be a goalkeeper in football, so my inspiration to be a strength and conditioning coach came from that. When I was training to get better, the environment that I was exposed to didn’t have anyone to show me what to do.
I was just thrown into a gym with professional football players and told to do some training so I thought there must be a better way of doing this; somebody must be able to show me how to do this. That was my motivation.
For anyone looking to become a strength and conditioning coach, what are three pieces of advice you would give them?
1. They need to have a lot of experience. Practically coaching, doing lots of work with lots of different people, sports, and different individuals. Just get out there and coach that would be number one.
2. They must have a scientific underpinning to what they do. Going to university and getting academic qualifications behind them, obtaining professional accreditations through the UK Strength and Conditioning Association or relevant association in their region. Getting accredited is the next thing.
3. You’ve got to really want to do it as a career and really persevere. You will get plenty of knock backs but carry on going, continue to reach out to people to get involved with coaching them.
You have worked with a lot of experienced athletes from different sports, such as Athletics and Golf. Before moving into a different sporting field, how do you prepare yourself with the knowledge and abilities to draw the best out of an athlete?
Before I work with an individual in sport I try and do a lot of reading academically around that discipline and see what the research tells me about it.
The next thing I’d definitely do is to have a face-to-face meeting with that individual athlete and really drill down and discuss with them what they want from the program and then the biggest part would be to sit down with their coach.
When I work in the swimming environment for example there are three coaches who are pool-side all the time so I go and stand with them and watch the guys swimming and just chat to the coaches about what they are trying to achieve with the sessions and what they want from the strength and conditioning program accordingly.
Over the years of strength and conditioning coaching, you must have seen changes in training techniques and advancements in technology, which advancement do you think has been the most important in helping you improve an athlete’s performance?
I think the advent of data collection, quick and easy data collection is good. There are lots of different systems out there that will capture jump height data, speed data etc. really quickly and quite easily.
A huge step forward has been GPS collection as well. The information it gives you from the competition environment is really important and valid but then in a practical sense I think just being able to work hands on with an athlete easily more and more is the key. You should never move away from that; you can collect all the data you want and we can use all the fancy gizmos and kit in the gym, but just working with athletes and getting to know what they really need and doing the real simple basic things well is key.