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Don’t Forget About The Coaching

27 Sep

With social networks giving you up to the second updates from the blogosphere you can receive the most cutting edge information on health and training from coaches and researchers around the world. The level of connectivity in modern society has done wonders for professional development in the world of fitness. Coaches are learning at a faster rate and knowledge is spreading like wildfire.  I think this is awesome, however I believe somewhere in all of the seminars, blogging and tweeting a piece of our craft is getting lost in the shuffle.

What do you see when sift through your blog roll?

You have your choice of any technical topic you want to learn about. Energy system development, rehab strategies, hypertrophy, research reviews, even how to get yourself published. It’s heaven for the inspired technician within us.

My point is, the majority of training information that is shared throughout this community is focused on technical methods and training systems.


Well, for one people like to feel smart. Speaking and reading in technical jargon makes people feel important, so naturally young, well-meaning coaches gravitate towards these resources. As a community we focus on science and programming because it can be quantified, it’s always evolving and because  “advanced” methods and programming are sexy. In a field of highly motivated individuals everybody is on the look out for  the next best thing and writing about it gets you more blog hits. 

But, what about the role of the coach?

What about the values and concepts behind being a transformational force in a clients life?

What scares me is I don’t see a fraction of articles or lectures about mentoring young athletes as I do about  the role of the aerobic system or how to market yourself on-line. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the warm human element of coaching has gotten greatly overshadowed by cold, hard science.

Don’t get me wrong, read all the Sahrmann and Verkoshansky you want but realize that if you only look at the technical manuals then you’ll miss half of what the training experience is about. 

The human element of strength and conditioning, actually being a coach I would argue is far more important than any training philosophy or program. The reason this topic is less touched upon is simply because it’s not new. The qualities that make a good coach, teacher and mentor are the same as they have always been, it’s nothing groundbreaking. So, naturally the blogoshpere will skip over it in favor of something that will garner more reads. Too often, people think of the positive impact of coaching to be an implied outcome and  consider the psychology of coaching as an after thought.

I think,  “What a disservice they are doing themselves and even more importantly to the people they coach.”

The truth is the ability to be a good coach takes active intention and character. Consider this quote from Joe Ehrmann’s Inside Out Coaching

“One of the great myths in America is that sports build character. They can and should. Indeed, sports may be the perfect venue in which to build character. But sports don’t build character unless the coach has it and intentionally teaches it”

The ability to be a good communicator and developer of relationships is invaluable in our field. If you are not good at communicating and connecting with individuals your results in the gym will be sup-optimal. If you can’t effectively communicate all of your intelligence to your clients then what’s the point of having it? Even more important, as a coach you have the power to impact someone’s life for the positive or negative for the rest of their life and that isn’t an exaggeration. Your ability to positively impact that individual should be your priority. The programming should come secondary in my mind.

Think of it this way.

Most coaches in our field will be developing young athletes, the majority of which will never reach sports at the highest levels. When you realize this it becomes a pretty stark reality that you are training these individuals for life out side of sports and strength training is simply your vehicle to do so. Whether you are working with adults, college kids or youth athletes you can be a powerful force in someone’s life. Don’t waste on opportunity to have an impact.

The greatest benefit to working for Mike Boyle hasn’t been learning about assessments or programming it’s the wisdom that he has imparted on me about being a coach. He always says “you’ll never know the impact you will have on these kids until 20 years from know.” He’s right, I probably don’t but I am definitely keeping it mind everyday.

If nothing else develop your coaching skills for your businesses sake. Prospective clients become long-term clients because of the coaching and interaction not the programming. We have athletes who have been coming for 10+ years  who wouldn’t know the difference between good and bad programming. Frankly, I don’t think many of them care. They come because of the culture we’ve created and the relationships they have built with the coaches. The clients experience is what builds a sustainable business year in and year out.

Go back and think about a mentor or coach that you had in your life and how they either positively or negatively effected you. Think about the lasting impact they have had on your life. Now go look in the mirror at yourself think about the effect you have on the athletes you coach on a daily basis.

What lessons are you giving?

At the end of every day of coaching ask yourself…

Did I Positively Impact Someones Life Today?

Thanks for reading,

If you are interested in becoming a better coach check out these resources..

Inside Out Coaching

Today Matters


Weekend Motivation

10 Feb

Brendon Rearick sent me this in an e-mail about an article he is working on. Another great quote from John Maxwell in his book Today Matters. This little reminder applies to everything in life from health, to relationships to your professional life.


“If you neglect enough todays, you’ll experience the “someday” you’ve always wanted to avoid”

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Steve Jobs and Coaching

24 Jan

Having recently read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson I have come away with a new appreciation for the man who has been the face of Apple over the last 30 years. If you put aside his astounding lack of interpersonal skills then you find a guy who’s drive for perfection and skill for marketing made him the leader of the worlds most valuable muti-national corporation. He is arguablely the most successful and influential person of our time.

I found Jobs’s story unbelievably interesting. By all accounts he was a complete asshole to everyone he worked with and was a less than stellar family man. However, in spite of his quirks, his vision and drive to develop the perfect product was remarkable and his skill for marketing was unparalleled. These qualities are ones to be desired in any field. Constantly, throughout the book I was drawing comparisons between my work in strength and conditioning and the work he was doing at Apple. Thinking, “How can I apply his thought process to what I do?” This is what I came up with…

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Learning Leadership

11 Nov

Becoming a leader requires an active effort. No one is a “born leader”, it is a trait that is refined through practice. Every human in the world is born with the equal opportunity to lead others. It doesn’t take a special genetic make-up, socio-economic status or a position of power to showcase leadership. It’s a matter of choice. That is all. Choose to lead or choose not to. Try some of these principles I’ve picked up from the leaders who I’ve had in my life and see how they improve your leadership ability.

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7 Guidelines For Training Adult Clients

1 Aug

Along with coaching high school and college-aged athletes I also train a number of middle-aged adult clients. In fact, almost half of the hours I spend training people throughout the course of any week is spent training clients who are 40+! So, if I must toot my own horn for a second I think I’ve gotten pretty dam good at training the aging weekend warriors, stay at home house-wives, overweight oldies and every aging adult in between. I feel very confident programming for this demographic and believe I have some great insight when it comes to restoring function and improving long-term quality of life in adult clients. The truth is the rules I follow are not that different from when training young athletic populations. Here are some of the guidelines I follow.

1). Leave No Stone Unturned  in Assessment

This should be a general rule of thumb when it comes to all clients but I find my assessment sheet becomes more cluttered with writing when it comes to my adult “athletes”. Years of wear and tear lead to a number of injuries and pathologies that often go unnoticed or written off as simply a result of “old age.” The fact is nobody should be in pain and everybody’s dysfunction can be resolved either by me or a more skilled clinician.

It seems like every adult client that I get makes me play my least favorite game entitled “Find My Pain and Dysfunction”

It goes like this….The health and injury history form comes back glowing. No history of pain or injury in sight. I say “Wow, no aches, pains or injuries ever!?!? Write down anything you can think of big or small I have to know!” They answer “No, I’m healthy and ready to go!”. Common sense tells me this is next to impossible and  in my head I think “We’ll here we go again…”

More often than not only  about 10 minutes into an assessment I find out about that shoulder injury from high school hockey when you got buried into the boards. To which they often say “Yeah it’s not a big deal, I just can’t lift my arm over my head, I’ve just got a lot of miles”  Either that or it is the chronic low back pain that they didn’t think was worth mentioning. This is why assessment is so important. To them “It’s just old age” to you it’s pain and dysfunction that needs to be dealt with.

Here is what I do

  • Watch: How do they walk, move, sit, stand etc.. Are they rubbing their shoulder or low back as you go through the movements?
  • FMS: This should be the standard of movement for all humans. Follow the formula and stick to principles and it will lead you to your corrections. Remember if there is pain here the score is 0. Refer to a medical professional or go to the SFMA if you are qualified.
  • Table Assessments: Go here to help confirm your findings in the former. Check things like hip mobility, ankle mobility, hip strength, shoulder ROM. This can be a great way to clarify some of things you may already think that you are seeing through the screen.
  • Have an “Assessment Workout”: After my aforementioned assessments I put all my new clients through a standard “assessment workout.” This works out great as I usually have 30 minutes left  after my initial assessments are done. I use this as an opportunity take another look at all of the major patterns assuming I don’t see a red light somewhere in the FMS. Furthermore, I can see how move through a linear movement warm-up and can get a general idea of their overall fitness level by watching their general fatigue. Now, I can see the clients general coordination and get a glimpse of their conditioning levels in addition to their movement limitations.

Now we know their limitations and where we need to lay some groundwork before we start really training certain patterns. You can see your red, green and yellow lights. Program your corrective work where it’s needed  and start training everything else. If nothing else remember these two things “If it hurts, don’t do it.” and “Pain = Referral”

Just Do It.

2).Full-Out Assault on Soft Tissue Quality

By far the number one need for all adult trainees that I see is improved soft-tissue quality. Everybody that comes in seems to be jacked up somewhere. We do self-myofascial release and mobility work and stretching of some variety everyday. All my clients are familiar with the the roller, lacrosse ball, and tiger tail whether they like it or not. This does not mean dig in every inch of the body. It means tack and dig with purpose. Teach your clients what their problem areas are, how to attack them and why it is important.

I have a confession to make: I still believe in static stretching. Now I know it won’t work in all situations. A lot of people are “locked long” and all the stretching in the world won’t loosen them up. That being said I have a lot of adults who are simply tight. I’ve seen remarkable improvement in hip mobility with a little bit of soft tissue work combined with contract/relax and static stretching. If you know that they are tight and short somewhere then stretch them. See if it helps. If it doesn’t go back to the drawing board. Once again, the FMS should give you the guidelines to figure this out.

In addition to all of this, make sure your clients hydrated. We know hydration improves soft-tissue quality. Keeping proper hydration will ensure that their tissues don’t more matted and nasty than they already are.

It can't hurt to do...well it might hurt a little bit.

3). Explosives and Plyometrics The Right Way

We’ve all heard the research before. As we age beyond our twenties we begin to lose our ability to produce force at an alarming rate. More specifically we see a loss in reactivity as well as the ability to create explosive power. So is it in our best interest in try to promote reactiveness and explosiveness in our aging clients right?!? Well yes, but with the right implements.

We have to think think about “explosiveness and reactivity” in relative terms. What is a plyometric for a 50 year old adult? It might just be a ladder drill  not a continuous 45* bound or depth drop to hurdle jump. You get what I’m saying? They don’t need bounding all over they simply need to be moving reactively and stabilizing their landing as much as THEIR body allows.

As far as building explosive power goes I’m all for KB swings for adult clients who clear the assessments but they probably don’t need to doing olympic lifts. If their patterns don’t clear have them use the shuttle jump or jump squat. My clients do medicine ball throws everyday combined with one of the aforementioned implements. These can lead to a great training effect with far less chance of injury.

I think plyometric and explosive work is necessary for adult personal training clients. We should be training adults to be powerful and reactive so long as we choose the correct means. It comes down to what is explosive in relative terms not absolute terms.

4). Build/Maintain Muscle Mass and Joint Mobility

Everyone knows that as we age we fight the battle against atrophy. As we head north of thirty and beyond it is my belief that we should literally be in a fight to the death to maintain our lean body mass. In addition to muscle atrophy we also tend to see a loss of joint mobility in our joints in which need them most (Big Toe/Ankle/Hip/T-Spine). Our western lifestyle combined with the natural biology of aging makes for double whammy of sorts when it comes to our body breaking down. Failing to battle these two elements will leave us high and dry, making daily function a severe challenge.

Well how do we fight it…??

Enter Dan John, Legend.

The need to battle this loss of function in aging populations was something grealty reinforced to me by Dan John when he came to speak at MBSC for our winter seminar. Dan stressed that the battle against aging is won by increasing lean body mass combined with increasing mobility in the proper places.

Dan brought attention to Janda’s Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes, as it should be a basis for training everybody.

In summary, we have “tonic” muscles that are generally prone to tightness and shortness and are in need of flexibility and mobility in their associated joint as well as “phasic” muscles that are often weak and inhibited and need activation, strength and hypertrophy to provide stability. Lets take a look at  some of the list.


  • Rhomboids
  • Lower Trapezius
  • Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus (Dan said the best sign of virtility is a muscular butt!)
  • Deep Neck Flexors


  • Pectoralis Major/Minor
  • Upper Trapezius
  • Rectus Femoris
  • Quadratus Luborum

This is not all of them but you get the point. Stretch what needs to be stretched and get more mobile. Strengthen what needs to be strengthened and build some lean body mass. Increased mobility means more functional range of motion during daily life an probably less pain. Increased LBM usually means faster metabolism, less body fat and improved visual appearance. Ask yourself, “What middle aged person doesn’t need all of these things?”

Would you rather look like this....

or like this???

5). Locomotion

As far as goals concerning body composition and truly functional core strength I don’t think you get more bang for your buck out of any exercise than you do with carry variations. ( I know this is also Dan John inspired. What can I say he is a legend.)Once we progress to carries from exercises like planks and pressouts I  like to program them as much as possible for a couple reasons.

  1. They provide a great demand in core strength combined with locomotion making them a metabolic challenge in addition to a core exercise.
  2. For the average person back injury comes from picking up, putting things down and carrying things improperly. Carry variations teach you how to do all three of those things correctly if you coach them right. They provide a core demand that these adult athletes can carry over more conciously to daily life.

Along with providing a truly “functional”(there is that dirty words again) core demand these exercises provide full-body engagement during locomotion. So not only do we engage the correct muscles to fire in the right places but we get actual movement at the same time. This is a win-win for gaining muscle mass, burning fat and fighting the upper-lower crossed.  Programming carries CORRECTLY provides for a full body muscle builder, fat burner and posture improver all in one.

6). Single Leg Work

Single leg work is my predominate mechanism for training the lower body in my adult PT clients. The ability to spare the back and train the legs is priceless when working with aging clients since the majority of which have some history of low pack pain.

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squats, Single Leg Squats, Single Leg Deadlift and Skater Squats are my primary lower body lifts of choice. They allow me to train the posterior and anterior musculature of the lower body effectively with0ut increasing the chance for low back injury.

With that being said I have not totally abandoned bi-lateral lower body strength work with my adult clients. All my clients learn to BW/Goblet Squat properly as well perform the hip hinge in some capacity provided they clear the screen. Those without a history of chronic back pain who show me they have the prerequisite stability and mobility to deadlift, will do so. I think the squat and hip hinge is crucial pattern that needs to be trained if we have the ability to do so.

A middle-aged athlete doing a single leg squat

7). Condition, Condition, Condition

Since the number one goal of all my adult clientele is living longer, healthier lives improvement of cardiovascular health and body composition is paramount. There is not a day that goes by when my adults come into train that we don’t get some form of high-intensity work in through some medium. Here are some of the different apprpoaches I take to conditioning a during the last half of our work out…

Metabolic Circuits for time or reps: 30 on/30 or 10 reps of each or something similar.

  1. Goblet Squat
  2. Farmer Carry
  3. Push-Up
  4. TRX Row
  5. DB Curl and Press

Heavy Partner Sled Pushes:

  • Partner 1- 20 yards down/Partner 2- 20 yards back for 6-10 reps

Airdyne Bike Rides

  • Time Intervals: 15/45, 20/40, 30/30: 6-10x
  • Distance Sprints: .2 miles, .3 miles, .5 miles: For multiple reps
  • Long Distance Rides: 3-5 miles: For best time possible

Nothing strikes more fear into the hearts of my clients..