Category Archives: strength training

A Few Things I Have Learned Coaching

A Few Things I Have Learned Coaching

Be honest but tactful

I have found that it is always best to be brutally honest but tactful at the same time.  It is not necessary to yell, scream, act like a jerk and bad mouth those you do not agree with but be honest and support statements with facts not opinions.

Lead by example

  Whether you are coaching high school athletes or general fitness clients lead by example.  If you are a fat slob who never picks up after themselves, talks on your phone and texts your girlfriend during training, eats garbage and you look like you have not bumped into a barbell in about 10 years, guess what your trainees will emulate?  Remember…the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

Try to make sure you are memorable

If your athletes or clients are talking to friends, what will they say about you?  Training methodologies and the application of these methods must be sound and appropriate but injecting personality into the training sessions to get a little extra out of your athletes and clients is not a bad thing.  I am not talking about yelling at anyone because I don’t think most people will respond to that, however, challenging statements such as “If it’s too hard, we can just modify your goals” and “Its called strength training, not weak training” can sometimes bring out a better effort. 

Be skeptical of cool, new ideas

It is not necessary to dismiss every new idea that comes along, however investigate everything with a critical thought process.  When I stumble upon something new, be it a “cool new” training tool or a “cool new” exercise, I try to ask myself what place it would have in the programs I write for people.  If I already have a better option in my tool box to accomplish the same task, it is unlikely that I will scrap what I have used in the past with success for the new option.  The basics became the basics because people used them for years on end and they actually got stronger and better conditioned.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

There are no secrets

The only secret is there are no secrets.  Training is a process much like every subject in school.  It is always best to view it as such and take your time and make progress consistently over a long period of time.  Don’t be one of the lame “four weeks to a beach body”…be a lifer. 

Use less to get more

It seems like the longer I coach people, the more I try to trim the fat off of the programs I write.  Many of the athletes and clients I work with have homework, practices, games, jobs, kids, etc, etc, etc so time is of the essence.  When it comes to their time in the gym, they need the most bang for their training buck.  I allocate a designated amount of time for each portion of the training session and if a client is pressed for time, there are certain parts of the workout that are prioritized over others to allow for the greatest benefit in the least amount of time.

Simple explanations trump long winded scientific mumbo jumbo in most situations

Most athletes and clients do not care about the science mumbo jumbo nor do I care to stroke my own ego and try to let them know how smart I think I am.  I would rather explain things simply in a language that they can understand.

No Pain, No Gain, No Brain

The statement “no pain, no gain” has been hanging around the strength and conditioning world for longer than I have been alive.  While I certainly understand and appreciate the importance of hard efforts and great work ethic, I would like to resurrect another classic term that is not as common among the training community…”know when to say when.”  

I have stated before that a training program must include joint mobility training, strength training, conditioning, and flexibility training.  The amount of time devoted to each component depends on the trainee and the situation.  I tend to be of the mindset when it comes to strength training that, in most situations, a little less is usually a lot more.  Deliver just enough stimulus to produce the desired response.

Here are a few rules of thumb:

1. If you have pain with a particular movement, have a qualified coach troubleshoot your technique.  The problem could may be in the execution of the exercise and not the exercise itself.

2. Devote adequate amounts of your total training time to joint mobility work, flexibility training and tissue work (or foam rolling and lacrosse ball self massage if you have financial restrictions like me).  Please remember that a foam cylinder or ball will never be as good as human hands.

3.  Sleep more than eight hours per night.  I know this one is not training related per se, but adequate sleep is important for recovery from training.

4. Take fish oil daily.  It decreases total body inflammation and supports  joint health, cardiovascular health and has also been shown to lower triglycerides and raise HDL’s (the good cholesterol). 

5. DO NOT WORK THROUGH PAIN.  It is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right.  No pain, no gain does not make you tough… it makes you foolish.  Know when to say when.

Work hard and work smart.

Dave Coffin

I’m Just Saying…

1.  The primary goal of strength training should be to elicit gains in strength and lean tissue.  Some people may not care to be strong.  That is fine.  Please don’t ever ask for help when attempting to  open a jar, shovel snow, push your car out of a ditch, loosen the lug nuts to change a tire, carry the groceries, climb a fence to get away from a rabid dog, or any other physical tasks that may prove important in daily life. I’m just saying.

2.  What you really mean when you say you don’t have time to train is that you don’t care enough to make the time.  My day has 24 hours in it.  How many hours does your day have?  Perhaps you could skip American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Jersey Shore, and all of the other garbage that oozes its way from your television into your living room on a nightly basis.  Wow, look at that.  Thats 3 hours of gym time right there.  I’m just saying.

3.  Most people need more protein, fiber and healthy fats in their diet and less carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are to your body as gasoline is to your car.  If you only drove your car 1/4 mile everyday, you would not fill your tank everyday on your way to work.  I’m just saying.

Progressive Overload for Continued Training Success

       Progressive overload must be applied to each and every trainees program in order for adaptations to occur.  This principle states that there must be a gradual increase in the demand of a particular bout of exercise in order for continued increases in strength or fitness.  This is one of the most fundamental principles in strength training and conditioning.  For novice trainees, applying a brand new stimulus (aka strength training) may induce some muscle soreness.  This soreness is normal and is caused by tiny micro-tears to the muscle fibers.  As a result of this, the muscle adapts by rebuilding itself a little bit bigger and little bit stronger.

            The application of this principle could be as simple as this; if last week, you did a set of push ups and got 10 repetitions, this week try and go for 11 repetitions.  This applies not only to strength training but also to any type of cardiovascular exercise as well.  If last week you ran 1 mile in ten minutes, this week run 1mile in nine minutes and thirty seconds or cover more distance in that 10 minutes.  Always strive to do just a little bit better than you have done previously.  Small progressions are the key to continued success in any type of training endeavor.

            This will probably disappoint those trainees who have not made a shred of progress in the gym in the last 20 or 30 years.  You know who I am talking about; the guy who has come to the gym every Monday for the past 5 years and done 3 sets of 10 reps on the bench press with 135 lbs when he could probably do 3 sets of 30 reps.  I mean think about it…does it really make sense to do the same thing day after day, week after week and year after year?  This is also why the lady on the treadmill, who has been walking 3mph for 30 minutes 3 x/week just like her doctor said, has not lost a pound in the last decade.  Initially, the 30 minute walk at 3mph may have been enough to elicit an adaptation.  However, years later, that particular stimulus is no longer enough of an overload on her body.  (Just as a side note, walking is a primitive form of locomotion.  It is how man was intended to get around.  For anyone to say that there main exercise is walking is just plain sad.  Ok, enough ranting.)

  Every subject in school is progressive.  Each grade builds upon the previous to ensure continued success.  In mathematics, you start with addition and subtraction and progress to multiplication and division.  In English, you learn vocabulary before you begin to form sentences.  Strength training and conditioning is the same way.

            Remember this…if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.  Small progressions are the key.  Now get out there and work a little bit harder.