I have been training full time professionally, for just over 5 years. In this time period I have had the luxury of working with every sort of clientèle imaginable. I have worked with athletes, kids, and regular people of varying skill levels, motivation levels, and aspirations. Their motivation varies from wanting to be more active, too wanting to make it professionally. From these experiences, I know that I have not always done the right thing, but I have learned a lot along the way. These experiences have provided me a lot of insight when working in different situations. I hope to pass some of this insight along to you the reader so that 5 years from now you will be much further ahead than I am currently.
#1 Research Guides, Other Factors Drive Programming
First and foremost I am a research junkie. If there is a new topic, paper, textbook out I usually find myself purchasing it and debating it with fellow S&C coaches. Early in my career I would be changing my mind often on different aspects of training whenever I read a new paper, or book. However, now I find myself merely keeping these concepts in mind when I design my overarching plan.
There are many factors that are going to drive your program design including, facility layout, athlete training age, athlete motivation, athlete schedule, and overall training situation. In my current position I am responsible for anywhere from 75-100 athletes weekly. Some of which come 2x / week some of which 5x / week of every level of motivation and skill level imaginable. Am I going to lay out some daily undulated block model for my 8 year old athlete who has trouble coming consistently 3x / week? What about a 3:1 loading linear model for my 18year old playing 3 sports? It just isn’t rational to assume that they are going to be able to keep up with the demands of such a plan.
As a newer strength coach or trainer it is important to keep in mind the “OTHER” factors when designing your programming. Yes we all want to write profound programs that take into account every scientific piece of information that we have read, and incorporate advanced loading parameters. However, in reality the programs will be dictated by many other factors including but not limited to: client consistency, facility equipment and layout, what the client enjoys doing, and how much time they have to train a day. When designing your program, design it to fit the client, don’t try to fit your client to your favorite program. Be flexible.
#2 Every Client Will Teach You Something
Throughout my career thus far, I have had the privilege of working with a variety of different types of people. I have worked with children as young as 6 all the way to men and women aged 65 or older. Each one of these clients demanded a slightly different coaching style in order for them to achieve success. I think one of the most important things that we need to remember is that even though you may have a love for working with high school football players, or university hockey athletes, anytime you have the opportunity to work with someone and enrich their life you should welcome that opportunity.
From training and building relationships with my adult clients, I have increased my ability to hold conversation and be engaging in a training system. I find myself using these skills on a daily basis, whether I am out with friends or networking with other coaches and trainers in the field. From training my younger athletes, I have learned to think on the fly, watch for potential hazards, and lead a group. Again these are skills that I am putting into practice every time I step in the gym.
Understanding and drawing out the lessons from every client that you get the opportunity to work with is what will ultimately make you the better coach. Also understanding that you are making an impression on that client the entire time they are working with you. You may not enjoy working with every population. However, every client you have has a niece, nephew, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, or colleague that may need training in the future. Leave a lasting impression on everyone you work with so that they will recommend you in the future. You never know who is going to send someone your way that fits exactly into the population that you love.
#3 Less is More
Finally I think “less is more” might be the most important statement a young up and coming strength and conditioning coach can adhere to. If you have read my article on training to failure, then you may understand my current point of view about annihilating your athletes. I believe whole heartedly that monitoring your athlete’s progress, waving your loading parameters, and allowing athletes to recover from training sessions is the most appropriate way to allow them to perform on game day.
“Less is more” also applies to the training planning process. Often I see programs that try to fit every single element of training into a single macro, meso, or microcycle. It just isn’t possible or advisable to try to train all qualities at all times. Planning the training process so as to focus on specific training qualities and maintaining training residuals is often far superior. The small exception to this rule is if you have a small training window in which to work. Then marginal gains in size, strength, and power may be made at the same time, although this is far from optimal. Having a plan and adhering to the essence of it over the long haul should lead to superior results than trying to train everything always.
Finally, “less is more” also applies to exercise selection. Having a program with too many exercises in it is almost as ineffective as having one trying to train too many different qualities. Also varying your exercises too frequently so that the athlete never approaches any sort of mastery at any one lift will stagnate progress and lead to frustration. Fewer exercises with more frequent loading will yield better results, and allow the athlete to increase their skill level for said lift. Also varying your exercises too often between cycle’s forces athletes to have to learn new skills often thereby decreasing the quality of work they are capable of completing.
Keep it simple, less is more.