Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
5 Ways to Increase Technical Proficiency in the Weight Room
As Coaches, few of us are fortunate enough to work with college/professional athletes on a weekly basis. Genetically gifted individuals who are strong, skilled and relatively easy to coach. I refer to this population as ” auto pilot” athletes. Give them direction, demonstration and they can make a bad program look good! In contrast, a young, hyper-mobile teenager whose only experience in a gym was a dodge ball class in high school is quite another story. I am fortunate enough to work with both populations. I train youth athletes (ages 13-18), and many of my Athletic Development Programs in the summer cater to the college and professional athlete (hockey players). Regardless of training experience, our clients represent our product! Coaching is an art, and many times the best coaches can get the most accomplished with the least amount of verbal interaction. Below are five ways to enhance “technical proficiency” in the weight room without over coaching.
1.) Reduce the Weight:
I have placed load as number one for a reason. Too many times as coaches (myself included) we sacrifice form for weight. Want your athletes to look better? De-load; drop weight, simple as that. We all want our athletes strong, but not at the price of technical proficiency. We can accomplish great things as Coaches by telling our athletes “Rack the weight. It looks too heavy. Lets go 5lbs lighter.” You would be surprised how easy this can “clean up” bad technique. Let’s quit over coaching exaggerated loads and egos.
Any time I see a potential exercise, the first question I ask myself is: “Can I find an effective progression?” I want to break the movement down (eliminate joints) and then build it back up. This is my thought process regardless of training population. If I can’t find a logical progression, the exercise will not be in my program. If an athlete struggles with form, many times we regress the athlete to further hone his mobility/stability skills. If there is no progression, how can we accomplish this? How can we build technical proficiency?
This is more important for the youth training populations. Building technical proficiency takes hours and hours of deliberate practice. Can we expect a young athlete to grasp the concept of a hang clean if he only performs the exercise once per week? Lifting weights with technical proficiency is a skill! How many C-Cuts, swizzles, and hockey stops are performed before young Johnny learns how to be an efficient, effective young skater on the ice? This takes years and CONSISTENT practice. Too many times Coaches are quick to switch exercise selection to “change things up” in the weight room. If we “changed things up” on the ice and didn’t master the basics, we would be doing a major disservice to our youth hockey players. If you can’t skate, I don’t care how hard you shoot the puck; you will never be an effective hockey player.
4.) User Friendly Protocol:
I like exercises that give me a great bang for my buck! As a coach who trains large groups, I also like exercises that can be performed safely, effectively and are user friendly. What do I mean by user friendly? A user-friendly exercise allows the athlete to attain technical proficiency by means of the lift itself. A great example would be the trap bar dead lift or Goblet squats. These exercises still need adequate hands-on coaching, but are much different than implementing the traditional dead lift and back squat in a large group setting. Don’t kid yourself for a second; these “user friendly” lifts can be humbling as loads are increased!
5.) Hands-On Coaching:
I had a youth football player come into my facility earlier this year and he told me that his Strength Coach “sat behind a desk” during workouts. This made me cringe. If you want an office job, be an accountant! The best Coaches are “hands on” coaches. Many times coaches can use anatomical landmarks to place the athlete in the proper position; better yet, a good demonstration may be all that’s needed for the athlete to grasp the concept. If you have the time, video is another great teaching tool.
Technical proficiency reigns supreme in the weight room. It’s our measuring stick as coaches. Before each workout I imagine a large window in front of my facility. Peering through this window are my mentors, fellow strength and conditioning professionals and parents. Am I proud of my product? Are my athletes/clients safe? Is technique proficient? There is no such thing as the “perfect” workout, but it’s our job as coaches and trainers is to constantly seek better ways of improving our product, our system, and our craft. It starts with technical proficiency!