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Posted by on in Programming

As coaches we demand a lot from our athletes.  Attention to detail, technical proficiency and a solid effort each and every session.  We also expect our athletes/clients to represent themselves positively away from the weight room; making good choices like wearing their seat belts, drinking plenty of water, flossing, and performing well in the classroom (Thanks Coach John!).  We are more than just coaches; we are educators, teachers and role models.  How would you feel if any of your athletes broke the law?  I know plenty of Coaches would take it personal!  If we expect this from our athletes, why do so many strength coaches break the law(s)?  No, I don’t mean stealing or wearing seatbelts; I’m referring to the Laws of basic biomechanics, Newton’s laws.  

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Over the years I have had the opportunity to view many different “take-home” strength and conditioning programs written for my college/junior hockey players.  I have also had the experience of being a former collegiate athlete expected to adhere to a rigorous summer program without the aid of a coach.  Through these experiences, I have come up with the following conclusion:  A program is only as good as it’s coached.  PERIOD!  A poor program done well is better than a good program performed poorly.  Hands-on coaching is the key to building athletes.  Let me give you another analogy: I can write you up a detailed manual on how to fly a plane.  You may understand each and every sentence, but do you think this would make you a confident, well-rounded pilot?  The answer to this question is obviously no.  Why than are we expecting our athletes to become competent “pilots” with such vague, non-coached instruction?  Below are several problems with strength and conditioning “take home” programs.

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I must admit that as much as I love uni-lateral protocol and the trap bar dead lift, my first love is the hang clean.  I truly believe that this Olympic lift is one of the most beneficial tools in an athletes program.  Why do I like the hang clean so much you may ask, there are several reasons. 

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Get a large group of athletes’ ages 15-18 in a strength and conditioning facility and you’ll have a testosterone level higher than the sales of Jillian Michael’s new Kettlebell training DVD (hopefully not).   Through my experience-training athletes, this can lead to the “one up” mentality where form and execution are compromised in favor of heavy weights.  The “next biggest plate” philosophy where the athlete thinks, “hey I’ll just add another 25lbs to each side” is a humble lesson that no well-instructed athlete should learn in the presence of an educated coach.  As a coach, I have personally learned this lesson and now consistently remind my athletes of “progressive overload”, five pounds at a time. 

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I just had the opportunity to read an incredible book that was impossible to put down.  Dan John’s “Never Let Go” was a gem full of information from a coach with decades of experience in program design, application and trial and error experience.  I enjoy learning so much from coaches like this.  Whenever I look for good read, I always look at “suggested readings” from coaches that I respect.  I also look for two variables that I think are important attributes the author must have: experience and application.   Does he/she train athletes’ regularly and what have they learned along the way?  I want to learn from someone that doesn’t sit behind a desk all day.  I also want to learn what not to do through previous experience and mistakes.  I want to learn from the great coaches that have gone before me.  This is the essence of true understanding. 

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I have had the privilege of learning from some of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the world.  Attending mentorship programs from Coach Michael Boyle, listening to Alwyn Cosgrove and Gray Cook lecture, reading books from the likes of Stuart McGill, Shirley Sahrmann, Hoppenfield and Myers, and becoming a member of StrengthCoach.com, a web site leader in strength and conditioning information and research.  Some may say that I spend a lot of money on continuing education.  I would disagree wholeheartedly! I choose the word invest!  In fact, my business (2,700 sq foot facility in Columbus, Ohio) has prospered enormously from the valuable information that I have gathered from these coaches and put into practice. 

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There is an evolutionary process involved in most professions called learning that can change the way we view things.  Alwyn Cosgrove or Michael Boyle might call these “Ah ha” moments.  Moments that make you scratch your head and think aloud, moments that challenge the way we have done things in the past, moments that allow us to grow (many of us are reluctant to grow for fear or just plain stubbornness).  It is in these moments that good coaches become great, or good coaches remain stagnant because they are stuck with “the way things used to be.”  Alwyn Cosgrove said “If you put a group of the most successful strength coaches in one room and their students in another, the students wouldn’t agree on any training philosophy or principal, whereas the coaches would agree on almost everything.” Indeed it is my personal experience that there are far more similarities than differences between good strength coaches.  Our job is to make athletes bigger, stronger and faster while reducing the chance of sport related injury. 

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