Virtually any method of strength training will illicit a response in a novice, detrained or untrained lifter. A program with any significant level of intensity, weather it be lifting soup cans, P-90-X, INSANITY, CrossFit, or Westside Barbell’s conjugate method, will enhance the strength of an individual in just a few months. For this reason it can be very deceiving or misleading to interpret the data shown by the exposure of training protocols on novice athletes as a qualification of a programs efficacy and efficiency. We see this all the time on TV in the form of the Shaker Weight, Tony Little’s Gazelle training, The Perfect Pushup and Zumba. Something is always better than nothing but what does this breed?…  relatively inexperienced coaches with a minimal amount of knowledge or development having initial success with clients, attracting more people to programs that requires minimal coaching. So how do you differentiate yourself and your program from others? Here is the best suggestion I can give you:

Take the Time to set a Good Foundation of the Basics

When dealing with a new athletes take the time to restore the range and correct pattern of basic movements. Anyone can slap weight on a barbell. It takes skill to teach someone how to move with virtuosity. Setting this foundation will raise your athletes ceiling in the long run…increasing their potential, decreasing the risk of injury and ensuring them a more fruitful and productive athletic life. Here are some basic concepts of movement.

Core Strength

The ability to support and maintain a neutral position of the spine as you move about the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows. This position evenly loads the vertebral discs of the spine…reducing shear and creating a safe and effective transmission of forces.

Posterior Chain Engagement

Teach athletes to access the biggest most powerful muscle groups in the body…the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors. This can be done by initiating movement with the hips, balancing weight in the heels, turning over the pelvis to stretch the hamstrings and maintaining a strong lumbar curve of the back.

Move in Proximal to Distal Patterns

High levels of power are generated from the center out. This happens in a wave of contractions from the high force low velocity muscles of the core to the low force high velocity muscles of the extremities.

Restore Full Range of Motion

Athletes should be moving through their anatomical full range of motion. Partial range of motion results in partial strength and partial flexibility. To ensure good muscular balance and enhance muscular recruitment require full range exercises. This should be the first plan of attack…DO NOT WAIT!! Your athletes won’t learn to go full range once they develop a 400lb quarter squat.

Anyone can use intensity to get people in shape. It is the knowledge of movement and mastering an appropriate prescription in strategic doses that will ensure the continued athletic development of clients. Use these principles to differentiate yourself and your program from others.


How Intense is Too Intense?

As a community we love and enjoy and celebrate the results of intensity. Whatever it is you may be chasing with your fitness: getting stronger, running faster, looking good naked, getting off your medication, having more energy or going to the CrossFit Games; intensity is your quickest way to acquiring those results. There is a paradigm shift happening in the fitness industry as the previous model of coming into a fitness facility and sitting on a silly machine using less functional movements, or wiggling on an elliptical has been proven in efficient and often ineffective. But people working out with increased intensity correlate to a higher risk of injury. Any drug that is potent requires a calculated and responsible dose.  Going heavier or faster usually leads to a degradation of safe and efficient technique at some point. So where is the line where the “juice is worth the squeeze” so to speak.  Here are some basic rules of appropriate intensity.

Lay Down a Strong Foundation of Good Movement FIRST!

Spend a good deal of time teaching and refining proper technique, without intensity first. Spend time in the bottom of the air squat, with a pvc pipe or training bar teaching and coaching proper positions. Believe it or not this is very challenging for the athlete neurologically. Practice develops flexibility, timing and awareness of where you are in space. If you put a priority on excellent movement, your athletes will adopt the same values and pride in doing things right, not to mention that you won’t have to police movement standards as much…those reps will count!

Make Sure That Athletes Can Repeat Solid Movement Without Coaching

Doing things right once is good, but as soon as the coach leaves we often see athletes return back to bad habits. People should not move well only when you fix them, but you should be able to glance back across the room and see that those mechanics are still there. Spend some time with the eagle eye, checking back in and being relentless with your demanding cues until it is just muscle memory for the athlete.

Start to Add Load or Speed Until Mechanics Start to Slightly Break Down

Once you have put the work in to drill in those neurological pathways of how to move properly on their own, start to add some intensity to workouts by adding load or speed. When that beautiful squat snatch starts to turn into a rounded back muscle power snatch press out that you cannot recognize as an actual movement, drop the load or decrease the cycling speed and come back to planet earth. You want athletes to find the point where that breakdown happens, slow them down or decrease the weight and then coach them. After that you can push that intensity back up and hopefully that breakdown starts to happen later. Constantly bad movement, gone uncorrected is coaching negligence.