- Strength training should be progressive. It should be based on quality over quantity. The goal should not be to cram as many reps, rounds or whatever as possible into ten or twelve minutes. I’m just saying.
- In general, the methods used for cardiovascular conditioning should have a relatively low learning curve. Think sled pushing/dragging, bike sprints, and bodyweight calisthenics NOT Olympic lifts.
- For regular people trying to get (and stay) lean and muscular, please google Dr. John Berardi’s 7 Rules of Good Nutrition. It is pretty simple.
- While it is true that there is no perfect program for everybody, it is true that some programs are closer to perfect than others.
- Do not treat clients like patients. You can always train around injuries.
- Training is a process and should be viewed as such.
- Contrary to what some will have you think, not everybody is ready to do the same exact program with different external loads. Sometimes it’s just not that simple. See number 6.
- Someone else said it first but it certainly bears repeating, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” Fact.
- Before focusing on recovery, there needs to be some training to recover from.
- For those parents who are nervous about their kids strength training, please google Dr. Avery Faigenbaum. He has published tons of peer reviewed research on youth strength training.
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.
12 Random Thoughts by Dave Coffin
- Every training program should consist of joint mobility training, strength training, conditioning, and flexibility. The amount of time devoted to each will depend on the trainee and the situation.
- There is absolutely no reason why everybody should not be taking fish oil. It reduces total body inflammation, improves body composition, and promotes joint and cardiovascular health along with a host of other health benefits. If you burp up fish, store it in the freezer. If you forget to take it, put a note on the door to your freezer. No excuses. And no, eating fish twice per week will not cut it, especially when it is most likely farm raised.
- Eat fruit, don’t drink it. Juice has no fiber and more calories, which is not a good thing.
- Women who are afraid of strength training because they do not want to get bulky, should be more concerned with a degenerative bone disease called osteoporosis. If you ask me, that is a bit more alarming than being strong, having some muscle and looking good. But of course that is only if you ask me.
- While it is true that direct arm work probably will not do much to enhance performance, high school kids love training the guns. The key is to prioritize what is conducive to improving performance and do these things first. Movements that exploit several joints should take precedence and if there is time at the end, throw some direct arm work in to appease the appetites of the high school athletes. It is similar to a child getting ice cream after eating their meat and vegetables. If there is not enough time to fit it in, no big deal.
- I was once told that yoga strengthens your body and your soul. You know what strengthens your soul? Sled dragging, wrestling practice and hill sprints. Yoga is not strength training (for the body or the soul). I don’t care what anyone tells you. How would progressive overload apply to yoga? The trainee would need to get fatter? Riiiiiight.
- Warm ups should raise core and tissue temperature. Static stretching is not sufficient. Dynamic stretching alone is also not sufficient. General movement drills such as skips, shuffles, jumping rope, jumping jacks and other calisthenics followed by some dynamic flexibility works. Remember warm tissues are much more pliable than cold ones.
- There are no secrets with regards to training. Consistency, slow progression and balanced program design are the keys. With regards to nutrition, there are also no secrets. If you had a bowl of fruity pebbles for breakfast, you don’t need to go to GNC to buy protein powder, you need to go to the grocery store to buy eggs, oatmeal and fruit. After you eat 3 or 4 eggs and a bowl of oatmeal and fruit for breakfast everyday for 2 weeks, we can move on to lunch. Get the point?
- In related news, America runs on Dunkin. Is there really any question why this is the fattest nation in the world?
- The work done in the weightroom should improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injuries during athletic endeavors. The work done on the field should improve upon sport specific skills. In other words, a strength and conditioning coach should make the athlete stronger, faster and more resilient. A sport coach should make adjustments to stance, swing mechanics, takedown technique, etc. Don’t get the two confused.
- Fruit Two O, Propel Fitness Water, Vitamin Water and any other variation of the original are just an example of how humans can bastardize anything to make a dollar. Drink plain, old water for the love of god.
- You have to realize that you cannot help all of the people all of the time. You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Massage therapy, fish oil, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep are all great for recovery. Unfortunately, you can only control what goes on inside the gym. The remaining hours of the week are up to the trainee to be disciplined.
Dave Coffin is a strength and conditioning coach at Excel Sport and Fitness in Waltham, MA. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.