Clance Laylor, AAS CEO and founder, and PK Subban, AAS athlete, were featured in an article highlighting the unique training methods of Athlete Activation System. 
Brian Bannan sat down to chat with Laylor to find out what really goes on at his facility, Laylor Performance Systems. 

By Brian Bannan:

When you step into Clance Laylor’s gym it is all about the work. His facility at Spadina and Wellington in downtown Toronto has all the tools to train the modern athlete, but it is not a place to be pampered. Athletes share space and pick up their own weights and there is definitely no towel service. Sprints and certain lifts are done outside on a nearby 50 metre laneway. This gym represents work and “if you’re not about that,” Clance says, “this place is not for you.” This is a gym for serious athletes who are dedicated to their craft. For the past 6 summers, PK Subban has returned to this facility to prepare for the long grind of the NHL season. Under Layor’s tutelage, Subban has transformed himself from a developing OHL star into the durable Norris trophy winner we watch today. I spent an afternoon with Coach Clance earlier this summer and got a chance to peak behind the curtain and see what it takes to help build an elite athlete.

Clance Laylor grew up playing football and running track. A self described “gym rat and fanatic”, Laylor was an early devotee of strength training. He saw the benefits that increased strength had on both his sprinting and explosiveness. An off-season knee injury during a pickup basketball game dashed his hopes of receiving a NCAA football scholarship, but it also lead Laylor down the path to becoming the strength coach he is today.

Laylor studied under the legendary sprint coach Charlie Francis and had a front row seat watching the explosion of Canadian track stars in the early 80’s. Francis was both a coach and a mentor to Laylor and scores of other athletes. He was known to go to great lengths to allow his athletes to compete. He would routinely buy groceries for those that could not afford them. Francis was also able to provide an avenue in track and field to help kids from underprivileged backgrounds to rise above their circumstances. “He is greatly underappreciated not just as a mind, but as an individual,” Laylor says of Francis.

While training with Francis, Laylor got a chance to study Ben Johnson. “It’s embedded in my mind watching that power production out of the blocks.” He also saw a 170 pound Johnson squat 600 pounds for 4 reps; an astounding number for any man, let alone one Ben’s size. Laylor made a connection around this time that strength training was integral part of performance. This has remained one of his key tenets to this day. Laylor’s mantra is “lift hard, lift heavy, run, jump and throw.” He has created a seemingly simple program geared to produce maximum athletic results.

Today, Laylor coaches football and hockey players as well as sprinters and Olympic lifters. Each athlete has an individualized program catered to suit their needs and the requirements of their sport. Hockey players typically show up featuring tight shoulders, hips, quads, adductors and ankles. Laylor likes to start his hockey players with Olympic lifts like cleans, snatches and front squats. With a short summer, typically 8-12 weeks, to both rehab the previous season and build for the season to come, Laylor needs the absolute most bang for his buck. “Olympic lifting done with progression, systematically,” allows Laylor to open up tight areas and improve his athlete’s co-ordination, quickness, core stability and explosive power. Laylor seeks to improve his athlete’s range of motion, then to add strength to that new range of motion. This is the key to longevity and durability he believes. Subban has played 364 of the Habs last 376 games so there is obviously proof to Layor’s methods.

When Subban walked into Laylor’s gym in 2008, he had already played 3 full seasons in the OHL. He had been drafted in the 2nd round by Montreal and had won a gold medal at the World Junior championships. Obviously, this was an athlete who had experienced a lot of early success. Yet, Laylor saw a structurally unbalanced hockey player with too much body fat. Subban also showed poor technique, most likely due to a lack of proper coaching, in many of his lifts. But how do you convince an athlete that is seeing success in his sport that he must change his routines to optimize his results? “He’s a smart guy,” Layor says of Subban, “He’s hungry. He knows he needed that something. He locked into it and trained his ass off.”

Now Subban is a walking billboard for the Laylor system. He is healthy, he trains hard and he has the right diet. Subban added another world junior gold and as well as an Olympic gold and a Norris trophy for best defensemen since he started his off-season training with Laylor 6 years ago. Laylor says that the key to PK’s success is his work ethic. “That’s what sets him apart…. He always wants more. He comes in and he wants to compete.”

With a roster full of elite athletes, Laylor has trained the best of the best. Where does Subban rank in that list? “Is

[PK] the most gifted athlete I’ve seen? No. But is he one of the most mentally strong athletes I’ve seen? Yes. He’s not gifted. He works. He’s had to work to get where he’s at.” Laylor marvels at the change in Subban over the last 6 years. When I ask Clance about PK’s leadership with the potential of him one day becoming the Captain of the Montreal Candiens, he has no reservations about recommending #76 for the job. “His work ethic sets the standard [at the gym] He’s at the head of the pack. I would put that ‘C’ on his chest.”

We often marvel at the athletic feats of the sporting heroes we watch on TV. At times they seem to be from another planet with the skills they possess. Yet, PK Subban does not simply lace up his skates and be great. The science of sweat and hard work is administered and monitored by Coach Laylor under the hot summer sun in preparation for the moments we watch. There is no secret formula for success at sport’s highest level. There is simply a Coach and his pupil putting in the work daily to realize their ultimate potential.

As a final question, I asked Laylor where PK can go from here. Seemingly closing in on the peak of his abilities, how much higher can Subban reach? “I want PK to be the prototype defenseman; to be the number 1 best defenseman all around. He’s a couple years out. From the performance side… [he has] things to work on to bring him to another level. The level he should be at. ” That is a scary thought for the other 29 franchises in the NHL. A durable, strong and healthy Subban will continue to be a nightmare match up for Habs opponents every night. “There’s definitely more to come,” Clance Laylor says, “100%.”

I would not bet against either of these two.

Brian Bannan writes a weekly hockey column on all things Montreal Canadiens for . As a former fitness trainer, Brian has a keen interest in the work that goes on in the gym to produce the results in the athlete’s arena. Follow @brianbannan on twitter for all the latest on the world of sports.