Paul Balsom: Why Leicester motto is 'lift heavy to get strong'
Written by Simon Austin — November 1, 2019
PAUL BALSOM says Leicester City have a motto of “lift heavy to get strong”, which puts them at odds with a lot of other clubs.
Speaking on the latest edition of the Training Ground Guru Podcast, the Foxes’ Head of Performance Innovation explained how Leicester Tigers rugby team had helped shape his side’s philosophy in the gym.
“Our motto is ‘lift heavy to get strong’,” Balsom said. “That is not a philosophy that is shared by a lot of clubs.
“Our experts in this area believe we need to put lots of forces through the muscles to improve maximal strength - that may be neuromuscular or it may be through increasing muscle fibre size.
“We don’t do a lot of Olympic lifting with our first team, we tend to do more isolated sort of work, again with the player in focus.
“We went to Leicester Tigers, who at the time were very successful and went to their Head of Strength and Conditioning and actually brought him on board as a consultant for a period of time, because we wanted to see how they were attacking strength and power training.
“That year (2012) we made some pivotal changes in the way we trained strength that we still use today. Mitchell Willis, who was an intern at Tigers, came and joined us and is still with us (as Strength and Power Coach).
"Our philosophy on strength training is actually quite different to a lot of other clubs.”
Balsom said players have a big say in their gym programmes, which is part of the club’s overall philosophy of individual empowerment.
“The player is involved and if they are a new player, it could depend what their strength training background is,” he said.
“The player is involved in this decision about how they will train strength. Once they are educated they understand the importance of it. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account.
“This was an idea we as a staff had - that players need to understand why they are doing things and take more responsibility.
‘It got to the stage where you’re taking them from the changing room to the gym and telling them exactly what to do and they go out onto the training field and there’s no responsibility on themselves to take care of their own health and fitness.
“We never sat down and did lectures with them, but it was small talks, sending messages to their phones, posters here and there.
“It wasn’t rocket science, just installing that understanding of why they need to do a weights session, for example. Talking to the staff recently, that has increased even more.
"Anything we do, each individual player is in the centre.
"They try to accommodate the needs of the player and work out what works for that individual. If that individual understands why they need to do this and that, life becomes so much easier.
"Certainly, it was something that was very important for us. You have to have the backing of the manager, but all credit to the players, a really good bunch of players.”
Balsom joined the club as Head of Sports Science and Performance Analysis in 2008, but this season has moved into a Head of Performance Innovation role.
Under him are Head of Performance Analysis Andrew Blake and Head of Fitness and Conditioning Matt Reeves, along with the new Head of Football Analytics Mladen Sormaz.
“Two members of staff in particular, Andrew Blake and Matt Reeves, were with me almost from day one,” Balsom said.
“Matt pretty much runs the sports science department and Andy is the senior performance analyst. My role has naturally changed, to not being there on a daily basis.
“With everything going on in the world of data and analytics and moving into a new training ground, we came to an agreement that when I renew my contract we will also change my title, to include innovation.
“That is the ability to be looking around different clubs, new technology, trying to work with new companies on different areas of tech and prep to move into our new training ground hopefully next year.
Most of my work is towards the analysis and data side at the moment, more than the sports science side.”
Balsom will be presenting at TGG’s Big Data event at Emirates Old Trafford on November 22nd.