Internship Review: Jackson Strength in Solana Beach, CA

By: Kaitlin Mackay

Recently I spent a week with Curtis and Krystal Jackson of Jackson Strength in Solana Beach, CA. Jackson Strength offers semi-private athletic training for serious athletes, from junior high to professional levels, looking to up their game through improving strength, conditioning, power and speed.

Curtis and Krystal write their athletes’ programs specific to t

heir sport and also coach them nutritionally, helping them meet daily macronutrient needs and providing supplementation to increase sport performance.

I went to Jackson Strength to see a different style of training than my own and interview Curtis:

Q: What is the age range of your clients?

A: “Anywhere between 10 and 53, but the majority of our clients are high school athletes, so 14-18.

Q: Which sports do your athletes play?

A: “Our two biggest sports are volleyball and baseball but we pretty much have at least one athlete from every sport imaginable”

Q: What type of program progression do you use with your athletes?

A: “I don’t follow a strict program progression like you see with block progression…blocks of hypertrophy, strength etc. I don’t have enough time for that kind of progression because my athlete’s off-season isn’t long enough. I write their programs based on their sport and where they are in terms of in-season vs off-season. For a female volleyball player, I’ll focus on strength work throughout the summer and a month before tryouts we’ll switch the focus to power and speed, doing more explosive exercises, etc.”

Q: Do you have a certain style to your programming?  What makes your programs unique?

A: “I almost always have a “filler” between sets of an exercise, instead of a rest period like most coaches have. The filler exercise either complements the first exercise, enhancing athletic performance through increasing mobility, or is some sort of mobility work that particular athlete really needs, regardless of what exercise they are doing.”

Example: Some examples are between sets of DB Split Squat, foam rolling your adductors, or between sets of pressing exercises, working a Lacrosse ball into your pecs and/or rhomboids. One more example is the use of resistance bands to fire up glute activation before starting any squat variation, and in between sets as well.

“I also use a lot of Contrast Training in my athlete’s programming. Contrast Training is when you start with a heavy lift and follow it with an explosive movement that mimics the lift’s mechanics. For example, starting with a heavy 3RM set of Trap Bar Deadlift and following it with a timed Uphill Sprint.”

Methodology: Contrast training helps to stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers with a heavy lift and then use them for power in a way that will benefit the athlete on the court or field.

Q: Who is your favorite strength coach to follow and why?

A: “I don’t have just one that I follow. Almost everyone out there has their specialty. For example, I’ve learned the most about training baseball players, shoulder health, and mobility from Eric Cressey; football players from Joe DeFranco, and core training from Mike Robertson, etc. In this age of specialties it pays to learn from each person’s expertise, know what I mean?”

Q: Ben and I do a lot of knee-over-toe exercises such as the split squat and even incorporate that range of motion in walking lunges. I don’t see any of your clients doing knee-over-toe, why do you do things differently?

A: “For my clientele, mostly young jumping athletes, knee-over-toe can put more strain into an already stressed knee joint. We prefer a vertical shin so that most of the effort is done by the glutes instead of the quad/knee area. In our general fitness population and our non-jumping athletes, we are much more lenient about knee going over the toe and believe it can be very valuable way to do split squats. We prefer to train the VMO using other exercises like Reverse Sled Drags”

Methodology: Rather than coaching his athletes to allow the knee to travel over the toe in a split squat, the knee stays right above their foot, so their shin stays vertical. Training with knee-over-toe isn’t “wrong”, it is just how Curtis is able to train his athletes hard without putting too much work into a knee joint that is already overworked from jumping.

Q: You also nutritionally coach your athletes on the side. Can you give me an example of something you focus on?

A: “When I talk about diet and nutrition with clients, I focus on talking about what to “put in”, not what should be eliminated. Focusing on what they can’t have can be overwhelming and with my athletes, it’s more important that they are getting ENOUGH calories, protein, carbs, etc.”

Q: What supplements do you take?

A: “I take GABA Excellence for sleep, Vitamin C for adrenal health, Primal Clear post-workout as a protein and nutrient source, and Alpha-lipoic acid for heavy metal detoxification. Sometimes I take digestive enzymes and HCL with meals for better digestion.”

Q: Have you made any mistakes that you’ve learned a lot from?

Answers:

  1. “In the beginning, I didn’t have a business plan. You NEED to have a business plan and even if you think you don’t, trust me, you DO.”
  2. “In the past I was once too close-minded. I followed just one strength coach/ideology of strength training and took everything that coach/ideology valued as the only right way. I’ve come to learn it’s best to get information from a range of sources…from the research itself, from experienced strength coaches, obtaining a range of certifications, attending strength conferences, etc.”
  3. “When I started coaching I was too strict with my athletes’ nutrition plans. When it comes down to it, my athletes are young and there’s much more flexibility in what they can eat/cannot eat and still reach their goals…compared to your average adult. Compliance can be lower and they’ll still hit their goals. Plus, they’re kids. I mean come on, I ate candy as a kid and I turned out okay…for the most part.”
  4. “The biggest mistake I made was not knowing exactly WHO I wanted to work with when starting my business.  I wasted a lot of time training the wrong kind of clients and I was miserable because of it. It wasn’t until I switched focus to coaching high school athletes that my business boomed. I was the happiest I’d ever been working and it was because I was coaching WHO I wanted to coach. Work flies by when you’re doing what you love. And for me, that was coaching high school and collegiate athletes.”

Here are my takeaway lessons time from my time spent with Curtis and the Jackson Strength facility:

1) There isn’t just ONE right way to do an exercise.

I’ve been close-minded about the “right” form for exercises, frowning upon exercises coached using different form than what I was taught and currently practice in my training.

2) Don’t get married to one concept- keep an open mind.

So many strength coaches are “married” to one concept, whether that be only following a strict style of program progression, or only getting their information from one source, let’s say a well-respected strength coach like Charles Poliquin. It’s close-minded to only take one way of thinking into consideration. Yes, Charles Poliquin is highly accredited, extremely experienced, well-known and well-respected, but there are so many great strength coaches out there, you’re sure to miss out on important exercises, different forms, styles of program design, etc if you only practice what Poliquin preaches.

3) Figure out WHO fires you up. Surround yourself with that kind of client.

Curtis told me to figure out who I’m training when I lose track of time and the session flies by. That is my ideal training demographic. If possible, I should load up on that type of client. His business boomed when he finally found his ideal training demographic. It may take a little bit to really know whom it is that gets you going, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

Overall, I learned a TON that week with Jackson Strength and have the highest respect for Curtis and Krystal Jackson. They’re both so passionate in what they do and there’s never a dull moment in the Jackson Strength headquarters.

You can check out their website at http://jacksonstrength.com and email the man himself, Curtis Jackson, at Curtis@jacksonstrength.com with any questions about what Jackson Strength can do for you.