What if you as a Strength Coach were measured the same way your athletes are measured? Would you be a starter or sitting on the bench? You should be asking yourself this question!

We are now capable of seeing a great number of examples of strength and conditioning training on the internet, however most of it is tactically focused.  In other words how to properly execute a deadlift, squat, etc.  I just saw a great technique for reducing back hyper-extension in a glute/ham raise by Eric Cressey.  He had the client fire the serratus with the use of a band to eliminate the back hyper-extension that is often times seen with a glute/ham exercise.  I see Mike Boyle posting videos on training tips.  Brett Contreras is the “Glute Guy” and can show you a ton of ways to fire your glutes.   This is all good stuff and helps on the tactical level, but how does it translate into results for your athletes?  

This type of tactical focus is necessary so you can accomplish the goal of the exercise and also reduce the potential for injury of an athlete.  What it is more difficult to see on social media is the strategy side of the equation. This would be what most people would call the secret sauce.  If you were putting together a portfolio of investments the tactical side is one stock, but the strategy is how all the stocks work together to lower risk and produce the desired outcome for the investor. 

As a strength coach you can read the research on a particular subject and then figure out how you can apply what is uncovered with your clients, but the “how” you incorporate and how big of a dosage is where program design and critical thinking will deliver improvements in your athletes trained.  There are a lot of moving parts.  Age, biomechanics, current fitness level, sport, position, needs of the athlete, etc.  This is what makes this business fun.  It is figuring out the puzzle for your particular athlete that eventually gives the athlete the best outcome possible.  Unfortunately, this is where a lot of programs are lacking.  They stop at tactics, because tactics can be cool, strategy takes much more thinking. 

I believe the strategy side of program design is where the strength coach creates the biggest part of their value added to an athlete and can dramatically change the performance of the athlete.  However, this is much more difficult to put on Instagram.  I see so much criticism of exercise technique etc., but very little discussion on program design.  I call this the “Hows and Whys” of training.  You can buy systems, but all athletes are different and you as a coach have to determine the nuances that can make the difference in average improvements or big gains.  It takes critical thinking as there are a lot of variables that impact results.  You also have to remember that good athletes are already good.  The opportunity for gain is much smaller and harder to get because they are already really good athletes.  Much of the gain will be incremental and in some cases it is a matter of losing less than gaining.  However, incremental gains at the highest level of sport is what makes good become great. 

What would really be interesting is if there was an index of the average improvement in a broad database of athletes on their respective sports and positions from one season to the next.  Ex: What is the average increase in lower body strength and power from off season to the first game of a college tennis player?  If this was known, then the athletes a strength coach trains could be compared to the average improvement of the broader average to see if there is any value added by what this particular strength coach is designing.  It would change the game for seeing what coaches are adding value and which are just good at Instagram. 

We would see in many cases that the improvement the coach adds, although positive, would not be better than the average improvement sport wide. This would negate the Instagram effect and marketing hype of the industry today.  If we tracked this over time with an athlete we would see if the value added is cumulative and how a coach adjusts for maturity of an athlete and time.   We would also discover that there are a lot of smoke and mirrors in this discipline and that a good Instagram post is only a small part of the equation. 

It would also force coaches to improve on their program design and new training strategy and tactics could be evaluated for efficacy and old myths would die a quicker death.  If all of our athletes are measured for their performance why  are we as coaches not measured more accurately and compared to the average of our industry  to see if we are adding value. 

I do not think that anytime soon we will see an average index of performance gains by athletes on a broader basis.  It would be nice, as you could more readily see how your clients are improving relative to the average in the industry. 

However, I do think that you as a coach can look closely at your own populations of athletes and use this information to improve within your own population. 

There is a ton of data tracking tools that can help you see where you are adding value and where you are not.  Ultimately it is the feedback from the athlete that matters.  However, you can better monitor and evaluate your own strategies to see what is working and what is not and then evolve as a coach. 

I have tried spreadsheets and technology, but I have found that paper works best for me.  It allows me to flip back in time and see improvements and evaluate how a strategy worked or did not work.  It allows me to better understand my own strengths and weaknesses and figure out ways to constantly improve. 

Do not rely on the fact that any stimulus to the body outside of the norm will give the athlete some improvement if it is big enough and done long enough.  Spend time being introspective and ask yourself is this the program design of a champion or someone who will sit the bench.  Your client’s career is dictated and judged by the same standard. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS