Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Manifesto

I've written a lot on my blog about my philosophy/style of training. I make no bones about thinking that "my" style is the most effective one to improve strength, power and athleticism. If I knew a better way to achieve these goals then I would be doing that.  Heck, it can even help improve your body composition if you do it with enough gusto. Despite all this, I recently got the urge to lay it all out on the line here anyway.

I've been doing this long enough that I believe that I'm at the point where my style is more or less cemented into place. I don't foresee me suddenly making any huge changes in the way that I design training programs, but I will say with 100% certainty that I will add/subtract things as I deem necessary when their usefulness to me/my clients change.

My style is largely based upon the teachings of Cressey Performance (Tony, Eric and Greg), Dan John and Jim Wendler. If I were to apply percentages to this I'd say it's probably 40% CP, 30% Dan John and 30% Wendler (that's 100%, right?). Truthfully, the 3 sources of practice listed above are really very similar in a lot of ways. The most important (in my eyes) quality that I've learned from these sources is simplicty. So many coaches want to make the programs so unique and perfect that they fuck it all up and make it over-complicated. Training is really a pretty simple thing to do.

From Cressey Performance I've learned the importance of assessing clients so that you can then correct their imbalances. I take a slightly more remedial approach to the types of assessments that I do, because I can get away with it with my particular population. When it's truly necessary for me to learn/apply a more complicated or in-depth assessment, I will. For now, basic assessments and traditional mobility exercises applied appropriately have been working fantastically. From CP I've also learned the true power of medicine ball training (Get it? True Power?). By utilizing this tool, you can teach athletes how to produce more force in an open-chain exercise using "sport specific" (God I hate that term) movement patterns that they can translate to the field of play immediately. I try to apply medicine ball training to every session of every program that I write, even if it's something as simple as slams and vertical throws.

From Dan John I learned the concepts of truly simplistic training and the 5 basic human movement patterns. Coach John has been doing this for a very long time and has moved quite a few pounds of weight in his day, so when he talks you should be listening. At one point in his life, after many years of lifting, he saw some of his best gains ever on a simple 2x/week training program. That's it. Two days per week. While I don't think everyone should be training only twice a week, the idea stays the same: the best progress will be made when applying small consistent efforts over a long period of time. If you go H.A.M. and train 6 days per week for 4 months and then get burnt out and don't train again for 4 months, then you didn't make a lot of progress. If you lift 3 days a week, feel great and make it through a full year of training then your gains are going to be through the roof. Make sure you're training all 5 movement patterns (squat, hinge, push, pull and loaded carry) then you're going to be strong and powerful.

When I heard Coach John talk at the NSCA Ohio Clinic a few weeks ago he also talked about the idea of a "perfect program" in the sense that there isn't one. No single program can account for every variable and apply every little nugget of knowledge that the coach has. It's impossible. Instead of trying to write a perfect program, focus on writing "pretty good" programs. As long as your clients/athletes are getting stronger, faster and staying healthy then you're doing a really good job.

While Coach John introduced me to and helped me understand the concept, Wendler has really helped me apply the "small, consistent efforts" idea with his 5/3/1 program template. He urges you to "start light, progress slowly and break personal records". If you're willing to put in the hard work necessary, then over time you will see a lot of gains. Training is a process, and you have to be invested in it to get to where you want to go. Jim is also a huge proponent of "moving like an athlete", which is a concept I appreciate. Athletes run, jump and throw so you should too. Chuck some medicine balls, sprint and jump over hurdles. These are simple things that will improve your athleticism drastically. He's also one of the biggest proponents of my favorite conditioning tool; the Prowler. It's no secret that I'm not big into conditioning (for myself), but when I do it, it's generally by pushing the sled. Lastly, you'll know this if you've ever written something he wrote, Wendler is a huge "no bullshit" kind of guy: no bullshit reason about poor training, no bullshit reason to not train, no bullshit exercises that don't work, just no bullshit. I like that.

These three sources are very different but have all really taught me the same things, which I apply to my program design. Sprint, throw and jump. Lift heavy barbells and lift them fast. Use basic, compound exercises (clean, snatch, squat, deadlift, press, pull and carry) and get strong as fuck at them and good things will happen. Keep your auxiliary exercises short and to the point. The best corrective exercises are often-times movement based (if you want your squat to get un-fucked, well then squat every damn day). Keep your conditioning short and sweet. There's no need for gimmicks and tricks, and there are no shortcuts to success; just hard work and consistency. Most importantly, that strength is the foundation for everything else you want to achieve. Nobody ever said "Oh, sorry I can't, I'm too strong for that".

With that being said, there's a handful of things that I truly don't adhere to. It certainly doesn't mean that these things are bad or useless, it just means that I have not found them to be as effective with my clients and athletes and have since discarded them. There's a legitimate chance that I come back to these things somewhere down the road and find them beneficial; I'm not too proud to do this. I don't think that we, as strength coaches, need to be doing a dozen corrective exercises with athletes. Two or three specific correctives (to me, mobility and activation drills) should be sufficient and anything more than that should probably be handled by a sports medical professional (AT/PT). I don't think that many athletes need a ton of conditioning outside of their pre-season phase. Athletes (especially younger ones) are playing so many sports so often that they get plenty of conditioning there. I don't believe that we should let athletes get away with sub-optimal technique on their Olympic and power lifts just because "they are athletes, not weightlifters". That's a shitty excuse for poor coaching. Does an athlete need to have a flawless snatch? No, of course not, but they/you should still be striving for it. I like my power exercises to be power exercises and my strength exercises to be strength exercises; your intention should always be to move that bar as fast as possible. Lastly, I refuse to believe that donuts are bad for you; they just taste too fucking good post-workout.

Many people who know me personally think that I'm a cocky bastard (meh), but I'm not so brash to think that I'm the only one doing what I do, or that there aren't a lot of coaches out there doing it better than I am (*gasp* is that humility?). I know there are lots of ways of getting results that I'm not utilizing, but I apply my system well and it's been effective in my utilization. I know I'm really good at what I do, but I can look at other guys on my "level" (Dan Atkinson, Dave Rak, Miguel Aragoncillo, Greg Robins, Mike Sirani, etc) and think to myself "shit, they are fucking good, how do I get there?" I know that I'm on the right track, but there's always more things for me to learn, adapt and apply. It's all a process and I'm really looking forward to it.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

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