There are many ways that an athlete might describe their game. Sam Pedlow, Team Canada Beach Volleyball team member, describes his quite simply: “Jack of all trades who hits the ball as hard as he can.”
“One of my strengths has always been strength … I’ve just been successful using that to my advantage. And statistically, we’re hitting the ball so high, so hard, that the attacker has the advantage … so I rolled with it and it worked for a long time,” explains Pedlow.
With over 100 national team appearances under his belt and five OUA championship appearances under his belt, you might think that volleyball was always written in the cards for Pedlow. But as he recalls, it wasn’t always so clear cut. “I actually got recruited by almost nobody. At provincials, Brenda Willis at Queen’s, she saw something I guess other people didn’t and asked if I was willing to attend Queen’s,” recalls Pedlow. “Funny enough, both Brenda, who was my coach at Queen’s, she told me I was potentially cut a few times, and the national team coach for beach also told me I was potentially cut a couple times. And in both situations, it worked out in my favor. In the end, so I'll take it.”
After graduating from Queen’s and moving onto Western for a master’s degree in physiotherapy, Pedlow was introduced to powerlifting by making some new friends in Western’s gym. “Whenever you went, there was always that group of guys in some form in that corner doing crazy stuff. And I was like, this feels like sports to me. And I got crazy strong, and I really enjoyed it.”
Now, powerlifting and volleyball may not seem like a symbiotic match, but Pedlow recalls returning to volleyball after powerlifting, “I came back to the sport and all of a sudden, I was jumping eight inches higher. It was wild. I was never a big jumper at Queen’s. I started deadlifting and squatting like crazy and I jumped way higher. I came back and I had a ton of success, and then I started playing internationally once I made the national team and it just kind of steamrolled into today.”
The realization that training outside of sport-specific movements is something that Pedlow really practices in his own training business now. “I don’t think we should be using super light loads to imitate an arm swing because when it comes game time, you’re going to default to your strongest pattern. And that strongest pattern is not going to be you with a red band pretending you’re hitting a volleyball,” explains Pedlow. “Now that I’m training hundreds of clients around the world … it’s become very apparent how much more proper exercise selection, RPE’s or monitoring intensity or using tech to monitor different components of your lift, how valuable that can be in accelerating what you’re doing in the weight room to help supplement you in your sport.”
With a cognisant approach to training comes Pedlow’s advice for younger athletes. “What I’m seeing in youth sport right now is these kids are being overloaded with volume like crazy. These kids now are practicing three days a week, four days a week for three hours at a time,” says Pedlow. “We need to show them that not always just working harder makes the most sense. I would rather the youth or anyone be intelligent about the way they approach, whatever it is, their occupation and strength training, their sport … if we can intelligently approach any of those domains, then you’re probably going to be successful.”
Tune into Episode #125 of The Athletes Podcast to hear more about Sam Pedlow’s thoughts on what he wishes he knew as a younger athlete, the direction of Olympic volleyball, how he utilized Instagram to grow his business, and how he navigated his way through tough injuries.