Getting Into the Industry

These days it seems like every guy that lifts weights wants to be a strength coach. College and professional athletes rely on their strength coaches to give them a competitive edge whether it’s through strength training, conditioning, rehabilitation, or regeneration amongst many other things. The coaching staffs at these schools or for these professional teams also rely on the strength coaches for these same things along with building mentally tougher athletes as well as setting the tone for the entire program. That said, what should the inspiring strength coach do to get in on a piece of the action?

1 – Knowledge is power

You need to know your anatomy, and more specifically functional anatomy. That’s the first place everyone should start. When you think you have anatomy down, continue to learn.

2 – Read at least one hour per day

There are so many aspects to becoming a strength coach and you’ll never know everything. Keep exploring new topics and never stop exploring. There are so many areas you can focus on, whether its nutrition, biomechanics, programming, anatomy, new training techniques, or even personal development. The fact of the matter is I doubt there is anyone out there that reads too much.

3 – Realize that you need to know much more than just strength training

This basically piggybacks off of #2, but whether its nutrition, mobility/stability, speed training, or how to continually motivate and connect with athletes, you need to know it and understand it. It’s so much more than just a couple sets of hang cleans followed by some squatting and benching. The sooner you realize that strength training is one of many different aspects of this job, the sooner you’ll be on your way to having a successful coaching career.

4 – Find a mentor(s) and learn as much as you can from them

Every strength coach started in the same position as you are in right now and almost all of them are willing to lend a helping hand to an up and coming strength coach. Find someone who has a very good reputation and learn as much as you can from them. Ask them as many questions as you can think of and make the most of learning from someone who is the position you hope to be in someday. Plus, when you finally have a job and your own teams, you’ll always have someone or a couple of people to shoot emails to and call when you have questions.

5 – Intern/Volunteer as much as you can

This is an obvious one; you need to get out there and get experience. If you look at almost all strength coaches resumes you’ll find they interned and/or volunteered many hours when they were young to get their foot in the door. Furthermore, when interning or volunteering, if the strength coaches let you actually get on the floor and coach the athletes take full advantage of it. It takes time to be able to successfully coach up an athlete so they actually understand what you are talking about. In a perfect world you should intern/volunteer with a couple different coaches at different schools to learn as much as you can from as many different people as you can. The more your exposed to, the better as it will help you develop your own philosophies and systems.

To take it a step further, most colleges and professional teams are looking for someone who has a master’s degree. Get as much experience as you can so that when its time to get that masters degree you can also get a graduate assistantship. As a GA you’ll basically be a strength coach, running your own teams, all while learning from other like-minded coaches, get paid a monthly stipend, and go to school for free. Not a bad gig.

6 – Learn how to communicate

Whether you’re standing in front of the women’s soccer team giving them a run down of everything on the agenda for the day or coaching up an athlete one on one, you need to know how to communicate with them so they understand exactly what you want, and as easy as it may sound, it takes time to master. Furthermore, while in the weight room there’s a lot going on, from loud music to other teams and coaches being loud. Because of that, often times you’ll need to raise your voice so someone of the other end of the room can hear you. I’ve seen some coaches do this and it always seems like they are yelling at someone and some coaches that do this and it always seems like they are coaching someone. It’s a huge difference and one that takes time to master.

7 – Remember that your number one goal as a strength coach is to keep the athletes as healthy as possible at all times

It doesn’t matter how strong they are if they can’t get on the field or on the court. If an athlete has their leg rolled up on and ends up with a torn ACL there’s nothing you can do as a coach. However, if an athlete is running and cuts or stops quickly and ends up tearing an ACL, it reflects back on the strength coach. This is where the countless hours learning about corrective exercise, rehabilitation, and regeneration come in handy to keep everyone healthy and on the field. Chasing numbers and having some strong athletes is always a good thing, as long as it comes second to having healthy athletes.

20 Random Strength & Conditioning Thoughts

Here is a very random post that has 20 different thoughts that have been going through my head.

1. Most people lack thoracic spine mobility. Correct it in some way every time you see your athletes and/or clients, chances are they need it.

2. Figure out more ways to continue to educate yourself. One of my favorite ways is to listen to podcasts in the car to and from work.

3. Strength is the gatekeeper for all performance and injury prevention.

3. Don’t judge other strength coaches programs, judge their outcomes. Are their athletes healthy? Do their teams win? Are they a positive influence on their athletes? Those are the things that matter.

4. I am extremely late to the party on this one, but Joel Jamieson’s book Ultimate MMA Conditioning is a game changer. It should be mandatory reading for all strength coaches. Why it took me till earlier this year to read it is beyond me. Also, Joel picked a terrible title for the book in my opinion, as its applicable to any and all sports.

5. It doesn’t matter how perfect your program is or how hard you push your athletes, the ability to recover from training is the key to it all. Sleep is the number one recovery tool. It also gets overlooked for some flashier things.

6. The autonomic nervous system rules everything.

7. The base of any athletic success is movement. Athletes need to move efficiently, some athletes are strong enough to muscle through movements, but in doing so it requires a lot more energy. These are also the athletes that end up getting injured.

8. Landmine Presses are incredibly underrated and should be a staple for overhead athletes.

9. There is what you know and what you can implement. Two totally different things.

10. Most sports have a HUGE aerobic component to them. An aerobic foundation will lead to a healthier, more resilient athlete. Its a no-brainer, but a fit athlete is able to perform greater amounts of high-quality skill work compared to a less fit athlete. Athletes need strength and power late in competition, and that doesn’t come from the anaerobic system.

11. Look at quad dominant movements in three different categories; bi-lateral (back squat, front squat, ggoblet squat, ect.), supported uni-lateral (front split squat, RFE split squat, ect.) and unsupported uni-lateral (1-leg squat, skater squat, ect.). All require different demands on the body, all have their place, and all are important.

12. Do more Turkish Get Ups.

13. The same goes for crawling. Do more of it. Lateral crawls, bear crawls, ect. On top of that, read Original Strength by Tim Anderson. Its an inexpensive book and a quick read that will explain the importance of rolling and crawling.

14. The Pacey Performance Podcast is right up there with the Strength Coach Podcast as one of my favorite podcast for strength coaches. Rob Pacey gets so many smart coaches, most from overseas, on the podcast that have so much to offer. In a lot of ways, the profession of strength and conditioning overseas is way ahead of us in the U.S. We can learn a ton from these coaches.

15. The Pareto’s Principle is alive in well when it comes to programming. 80% of your results come from 20% of your exercises. It’s your job to figure out what those 20% are.

16. Coaching is all about relationships. People are just more willing to follow someone with whom they have a positive relationship with. Remember, we don’t coach strength and conditioning, we coach people.

17. Training outside the sagittal plane can have a huge impact in athletic performance, yet it gets neglected in programs a lot.

18. The weight room has to be a safe environment. Low risk, high reward is always a win-win.

19. Tissue quality is important, very important. Spending 5-10 minutes a day improving it is time well invested.

20. Athletes need more eccentric/decelerative strength. Landing mechanics is huge for injury prevention. The guys at Movement As Medicine had a great post a while back on this topic called Building the Breaking System. Check it out.

As I said, these are some random thoughts that have been going through my head the last couple weeks. Hopefully it makes you think and you can take something away from a couple of the thoughts.

A Email Exchange with a Former Intern

I just wanted to take a quick second to share with you a question I recieved from a former inter, a question that I feel most younger aspiring or current strength coaches might have themselves.

The original email;

Hey Craig,

I was wondering if you have any books you could recommend to me as a good read for strength and conditioning. I have been reading Functional Training for Sports by Boyle, and have been starting to read Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz.

If you end up having any free time in your busy schedule, I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. Thank you.

My response;

I could go on forever because I am kind of a nerd when it comes to reading and/or just learning in general. I’m sure you have heard of or read some of these, but this is what comes to mind.

S&C/Physical Therapy Books:

• Movement by Gray Cook
• Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes by Shirley Sahrmann
• Advances in Functional Training for Sport by Boyle (I’d wait, he’s writing a new book coming out within the next year)
• Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett
• Low Back Disorders by Stuart McGill
• Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Shoulder and Hip Dysfunction by Evan Osar

Personal Development/Coaching Books:

• The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
• InsideOut Coaching by Joe Ehrmann
• How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
• Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
• The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
• Make Today Count by John Maxwell

I’d also listen to as many podcasts as possible. Things like Mike Boyle’s Strength Coach Podcast, EliteFTS Sports Performance Podcast, Pacey Performance Podcast, the FitCast, ect.

Finally, find some people you trust through either knowing them personally or following their work and listen to everything they have to say. For me that’s obviously Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, Charlie Weingroff and Gray Cook, along with a lot of the stuff coming out of the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI).

Hopefully this helps some younger strength coaches and potentially even some strength coaches that have been in the game for a little while. I personally went back and re-read some of these books, which has both reminded me of some things that I had forgotten about, as well as taught me some things that I may not of understood the first time around (Movement is a wealth of information).

Random Thoughts

Here are a few random thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head the last couple weeks.

When It Comes to Programming, Simplicity Trumps Complexity
With all of the information out there it is very easy to feel like you aren’t getting everything into the program that you need to. Did you do enough tissue quality work? Enough activation? Plyo work? Power and strength? When it comes to programming, keep it simple and make it simple. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of the athletes we are working with at the college level are not advanced. Simple, solid programming will work wonders for them. If you have an hour with a group, the first half hour should be dedicated to foam rolling, stretching/mobility work, activation, a dynamic warm up, and some plyo work. The second half hour should be dedicated to power and strength work. As Dan John advocates, push something, pull something, hinge, squat, carry and core. If you don’t have an hour, cut back on the first half hour block, the power and strength work is more important.

KISS

Eric Cressey wrote a great article about this the other day, which you can read here, that I agreed with 100%.

Core Training and Conditioning Need to Be Planned Just Like Anything Else
Far too often I think core training becomes an afterthought. The more I learn, the more I realize that core training is extremely important and needs to be approached with the same importance that is put on the big lifts. There are so many core “buckets” that need to be filled: anti-extension, anti-rotation, chops, lifts, carries, get ups. All of these categories need some type of progression and/or regression, just like any other pattern you would program.

The days of throwing some core exercises at athletes at the beginning or end of a workout to get a big “burn” needs to end. Put some thought into it, your athletes will benefit greatly from it in competition.

Just Like the Core, Conditioning Needs More Attention
As strength and conditioning coaches, we spend tons of time trying to progress athletes properly throughout the year when it comes to the big lifts, but spend little time thinking about long term conditioning progressions. One of the biggest takeaways from Joel Jamieson’s fantastic book Ultimate MMA Conditioning was that we need to both condition year-round and there needs to be a focus on the type of conditioning we are doing at specific times throughout the year. The other huge takeaway is that aerobic training isn’t dead, but that’s for another time.

palloff press

Stick With Exercises Longer
The best way to get better at something is to continually practice it, so why would strength training be any different? As fun as it for us as strength coaches to change exercises from card to card, by doing so we may be doing our athletes a disservice. For example, going from bench press, to close grip bench, to incline bench might not be what’s best for an athlete. By the time they start getting efficient at the movement, it gets changed. Sticking with one however, might be more beneficial for long term development. Far to often I feel we as strength coaches make changes to programs because we are tired of certain exercises, not that changing them would be more beneficial to our athletes.

Get Ups and Dead Bugs Are Becoming Some of my Favorite Core/Activation Exercises
The more get ups and the more dead bugs I do the more I feel there are extremely beneficial for athletes to be doing, maybe daily. I am more apt to use dead bugs as an activation exercise at the beginning of a session where I am more apt to throw get ups somewhere into the strength program as some active work between sets of a multi-joint exercise. That being said, I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to where you should program either one of these exercises.

deadbug1

For anyone interested, Tony Gentilcore wrote a great article of the benefits of dead bugs here.