Responsible Training and Coaching

Mike McKenna

I know some people who train at other gyms.  One of these people comes by and lifts with me once every three to six months.  Every time he comes by, he has the same problem:  he cannot keep his back arched when he lifts. 

Yep, he pulls from the floor and looks like this cat.  His back hump is literally that bad.  I tell him, and he never properly addresses the problem.  When you load the spine in this position, your spine will, sooner or later, get FUBAR.  Seriously dude, learn to keep your back tight.  You’re really messing yourself up.  Now, the back issue isn’t entirely his fault.  As I said, he trains at another gym, and there is a coach/trainer at that gym who should be telling this guy to keep his back tight.  Not just telling him, but requiring it by lowering the weight, giving specific exercises (rdl/good morning/ rack pulls/ hypers) to correct the problem before ever allowing this guy to lift heavy.  That coach has failed in his responsibility to his athlete.  The athlete will get seriously injured.

As a coach, your responsibility it to teach your athletes to train safely and with good form.  Never let the form go bad.  Bad form leads to injury; good form leads to heavier weight lifted; good form leads to faster sprinting and running; good form reduces injury; reduced injury leads to increased recovery; faster recovery leads to greater stimulus, which leads to greater adaption. At times, on heavy attempts, weak points fail and form falters:  on heavy back squats, my hips often lag behind and I need to bring them through faster. But I work on this problem.  I train to get my hips through faster.  I don’t shrug my shoulders and just keep squatting badly.  A responsible coach addresses athletes weaknesses and improves them to the point where the athlete can improve overall.

Responsible coaching also extends to programming.  Doing stupid crap will not make you better.  Making your athletes tired, or putting them in pain, is useless unless there is a point to your coaching and purpose.  When you program for your athletes, look at your goals for them, and then use sound strategies to plan a way to reach those goals.  Some days, your programming might not work.  Change the programming that day.  See how the crowd is responding, and fix it.  If you’re working with one individual, and something isn’t going right, change the programming.  Results are always your goal, not killing your client.  If the clients think that being tired at the end of the workout is all that matters, send them to Planet Fitness and tell them stay on the treadmill.  

A friend of mine just posted this story.  Dumbbell squats on a Bosu ball, huh?  Vogelsong says it was just a little too much weight?  It’s a little too much Bosu.  Look, there is no research that says your stability is increased by using a Bosu ball.  Just use heavier weight off the ball.  The weight and proper form increases your stability and balance.  This exercise, too, is an example of irresponsible training.  The guy, first off, is making $8M over the next two years to throw a ball.  Why is he using a Bosu?  Did he have surgery that limits his range of motion?  Did he have a stroke or other neurological condition requiring him to learn to balance again?  I doubt it.  And what backs up my assertion?  Well, mainly that 70 pound dumbbells on a Bosu ball aren’t standard protocol for training stroke patients.  

Another area of responsible coaching is keeping yourself, as a coach, informed of what really works and what doesn’t.  Keep educating yourself and questioning the exercises you choose and why you choose them.  Change the rep scheme up occasionally.  Get better somehow.  Make a plan for yourself to fill  in the gaps in your knowledge. Apply the new knowledge to your trainees.

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