sam-portland---junior-strength-and-conditioning-coachWelcome To Sportland…

Here I simply introduce myself and explain some of my fundamental contructs towards training.

My name is Sam Portland and I am your coach. I started getting involved in strength and conditioning when I was seventeen. I was taken under the wing of an ex professional rugby player and he started letting me train with him. Once a week we used to perform weighted circuits and then progressed onto the big barbell movements. I followed and he led. Playing rugby that year I broke my leg. This gave me more inclination to lift weights. This was my first real injury and I wanted to work hard and rehab myself well. Like anything I didn’t know where to start. With my physiotherapist at the time I started working on getting my legs strong again. I also took this as an opportunity to pack on a lot of missing upper body mass that I needed to compete at the senior level.

From here I got the bug for lifting weights and training hard. This is because I saw and knew how much of a vital part strength and conditioning was for athletes. Especially for myself as I needed to gain some serious strength and size. Fortunately for me I was relatively fast and played on the wing so speed was an inherent trait of mine.

Click to see me in action on the field!!!

Fast forward a few years and I was a qualified personal trainer and had a degree in human performance from Brunel University. Throughout my time at Brunel I was the strength and conditioning coach with the Rugby team and also assisted with a commonwealth wrestler, England sevens rugby player and varying track and field athletes. From their I attained an internship with Wasps Rugby and never looked back. I ended up with a total of Four years coaching for one of the most successful clubs in European rugby. As a coach at Wasps Rugby I spent two seasons working as a sports scientist and rehabilitation strength and conditioning coach. Along side this I was strength coaching with semi professional rugby sides and lead the strength program with a privatized athletics company. Now I work as lead speed and power coach with Ealing Trailfinders Rugby team. As an adjunct to this I am a keen outdoorsman and enjoy hiking, kayaking, climbing and other adventuring. I also compete at National League rugby.

Click to Check out my trip to Everest base camp!!


If I were to attempt to sum up my philosophy in short, it may resemble the following.  If we define philosophy as ‘the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience’; this sets the scene for an ever changing environment typically driven by the perspective and vicarious learning of an individual. Therefore, I feel this is to be more of an exercise displaying how I have structured my general practice within the coaching environment based upon the knowledge I have acquired over my career of coaching. As a coach but firstly a person I like identify with theories of Growth Mindset (Prof. Dwek). However, I do feel that there needs to be periods of consolidation of knowledge, perspective and coaching in order to actually attain what is effective and what isn’t. This is largely congruent with the journey you take an athlete on over the course of your physical preparation relationship. Within the short piece I aim to provide an insight into my general organization of training and theoretical bias to training.

Stimulus is the starting point of any adaptation process. Being able to understand how to ‘dose’ your athlete is largely an individual process. Essentially for me this is the balance between the following; frequency, rest, load, intensity and density. There is no wrong or right way to handle this equation. Within my programming across varying sports I have used simple seven-day micro cycles adopting block periodization (Verkhoshansky) and then on the other end of the scale using a 14-day roll over cycle (Dan Pfaff) of a conjugate regime where an athlete cannot manage high training density due to the fragile nature of their CNS. Based on my experience I have prescribed the same training program to a 13-year-old academy athlete and a 28-year-old international rugby player. Stimulus is all relative and circumstantial. One element that I have consistently stuck by is the concept and analogous notion of ‘the iceberg’ and ‘the pyramid’. The general concept of this is that you need to be able to build a strong base of work for the athlete to excel with higher levels of stimulus. This base provides you with the foundation of capacity to do two main things 1) recover from the higher end work and 2) tolerate the high end work as it has happening. This concept is transferable across all aspects of training as it it representative of the nervous system interacting with the peripheral muscular system and what ‘input’ or ‘stress the it can handle.

Stress management is pivotal for the strength and conditioning coach. Stress in accumulated within the body via seven different systems. These are:

  1. Cardiac
  2. Cardiopulmonary
  3. Hormonal
  4. Detoxification
  5. Metabolic CNS
  6. CNS
  7. Neuromuscular

It is extremely important for any coach and athlete to understand that the body does not differentiate stress. It only speaks one language. The only differentiation it can make is between Local and General. Therefore when programming you must consider the whole picture as it will all stress the body. The idea is to provide enough stress for the body to adapt and recover in time for the next session. With that being said it is important to read the signs and see when an athlete is either getting too stressed or not receiving enough stimulus. However I am yet to meet and ‘under trained’ athlete.

This leads nicely into the general preference of training organisation. The table below highlights my fundamental pathway of training. Influenced largely by the approach from Maslow in that everything is tiered and feeds into the next higher level of ‘performance’. This is also underpinned by training classifications from Verkhoshansky. For simplicity and fluidity, I like to structure lots of my training models in this format as it allows me to generate a clear picture of the end game and where my current athlete fits on this sliding scale. The example given is just one facet of the training approach.





Exercise Classification


1 Introduction to resistance training Develop the athletes’ capacity to withstand introductory loads. Highlight and train any areas of weakness within the athletes’ kinetic system.


Bodyweight Squat, Push Ups, Chin ups, Lunges, Hinge patterning. Low


Integration of external Resistance Development of general strength qualities. Squats, Deadlift, Bench Press, Pull Ups, Prone Pulls, Landings and Extensive jump training.




Specialized Preparation Increase strength in sports related movements.


Intensification of the above. Medium


Sports Specific Resistance Training Introduction of special strength training. Exercises fulfilling the necessary criteria of Dynamic correspondence High


When developing neuromuscular strength e.g. maximum force produced in compound lifts, my preferred method of training is an adaptation of the recently popularized triphasic training. Subsequently this leans towards the way I prefer to train the strength shortening cycle. I am a strong believer in the idea that you must train all parts of the strength shortening cycle through all areas of the force velocity curve. This is something that I inform my programming utilizing force plate technology and velocity based training. My aim when considering this data is to push my athletes towards the optimal strength characteristics that their position requires. An important consideration for this is that the individual athlete is not ignored with regards their inherent movement strategy. For example, an athlete could be a high force producer versus high elastic; this type of athlete who relies on muscular strength to create movement would be trained completely to that of someone who relies on using the elastic component of a muscle to create movement. This should be periodized and placed in consideration to the time of year, competitive phase and training age of the athlete in question. This preferred training approach can also compliment jumping, movement skill and linear speed development coaching streams and progressions. Whilst you cannot replicate the true load and stress that sprinting elicits on the system you can help the prepare the connective tissue for the proceeding task. A sample of this system is highlighted below in this eccentric training stream:


Stage 1

Submaximal Slow Eccentrics

Stage 2

Heavy Slow Eccentrics

Stage 3

Accommodated Heavy Slow Eccentrics

Stage 4

High Speed Eccentrics


Jump training is an essential part of the transfer of training in being able to increase the rate of force development. My preferred method of developing jumping ability is an adaptation from Yuri and Natalia Verkhoshansky’s work on progressive jumping. This methodology of power development complements the above reference to the triphasic training approach very kindly. Understanding the athletes level of susceptibility to the stimulus cannot be made more evident within the progressions of jump training. The progressions of manageable rate and intensity of eccentric change are key to the optimal development of explosive power. Understanding the minimum effective dose and how that if this is exceeded the athlete will not benefit greatly from the more intensive means of training when appropriate e.g Using depth jumps as a level one stimulus. Have a watch of these videos as I am performing submaximal extensive training means. I have been grooving these patterns for a while now and am feeling great benefits.

Extensive Running Circuit:

Extensive Jumps:

Extensive Sled Work:

As a strength and conditioning coach I do feel that there are lots of small battles to fight and constant variables to adjust. This will constantly force you to reflect and reconsider your approach to training. Whilst 80% of what you do might stay constant there will always be 20% of variability. Within this 20% you probably have with in the region of 20,000 things to consider based on sport, training age, technical proficiency, athlete health to name a few key components. Whilst all these represent the theoretical side of coaching; I personally feel that the skills of psychology and relationships are where the best gains are made.

I am really grateful of you checking out the website and I would love to work with you. Make sure you check out the services provided to see how you can benefit from training with Sportland.


Sam Portland



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *