Posted on Leave a comment

Are You Training or Trending?

I’ve asked my good friend and fellow strength and conditioning coach to help me out with some writer’s block.  Jonathan Carroll and I go back a little ways to the glory days of interning at MBSC.  Since then, we have stayed in touch and attended a few different continuing ed events together.  He has since moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and is now co-owner of The Movement Lab Raleigh.  If you want to learn something then definitely look into this guy’s blog and podcast!

 

how-to-get-a-bigger-butt

Since I moved from Boston to Raleigh and opened up my own gym I have realized there is a crossroads when it comes to selling training. A lot of people want what is sexy and social media does a great job reinforcing this. There are many trends such as “build your booty programs” and “high intensity everything” as well as “random acts of fitness” thrown together because of the gram! What isn’t sexy though is just plain old “good training”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the trends that we can embrace and make into legitimate training protocols to get stronger, just look at what Bret Contreras has done with hip thrusts. Hip thrusts were once an exercise that was scoffed at and are now more widely accepted as being a legitimate way to get stronger and build a powerful pair of glutes. My favorite trend though was and still is “Prancercize” – I use this on my recovery days.

Let’s address what exactly good training should include. Are you incorporating the following movements? A hip-hinge, squat, a push, a pull, and anti-extension, anti-rotation abs? At The Movement Lab we have these classified as our foundational movements. Once someone has become proficient at these we will then look to progress to our level two movements such as Kettlebell Swings, Turkish Get Ups and Kettlebell Snatches. The thing is, as a gym owner who knows what good training is – it’s not an easy sell compared to an instagram model in yoga pants and a smoking hot body who is doing the latest version of her for purchase booty program and magical unicorn supplement that has been proven to help a booty grow. In the words of Jay-Z, ” I Can’t Knock the Hustle”. However, when it comes to using a training program that will positively enhance your life, nothing comes close to accomplishing this quite like plain old good training.

A lot of people may want what is currently “hot”. If someone has an amazing body then that means everyone should do what they are doing to get the same results, right? Eh, not exactly. You see a lot of the fitness models on instagram or in fitness magazines are people who have won the genetic lottery. Their training alone didn’t get them that body, in fact they probably have that body despite their shoddy training protocols. Having interned and worked at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning you get to connect with a lot of great coaches who recognize what good training consists of. Simply put, that consists of doing the basics, really well and with lots and lots of practice thrown in. The programs these coaches as well as myself use with the people we train never really veer off course from the main categories listed in the foundational moments above.

You’ll get stronger, improve your quality of life, live longer and when combined with solid amounts of deep sleep and nutrition you’ll probably reach those aesthetic goals of yours as well. The most pleasing feedback from the people I’ve coached down through the years include things like:

“I haven’t felt this good since I was in college”

“I can play with my son and daughter and not be out of breath inside of five minutes”

“Last week my doctor took me off my blood pressure medicine”

You get the idea. I haven’t reinvented the wheel, it’s simply good training practices passed on and practiced over and over. Getting better takes time and in an age where we want it now and not a second later, doing the same program for a month can seem like a year to some. We incorporate the StrongFirst principles at The Movement Lab” such as “Strength has a greater purpose” which you can see in the quotes listed above. We also believe that:

“Strength is a skill”

Yes, you need to practice it. The key to reaching your goals in the gym rest in this quote, not an expensive supplement or a flashy new exercise. Learn the basics and then practice them over and over. To this day I still learn something new when I set foot in the gym. Believe me when I tell you, training is a lifelong process but also one heck of an enjoyable one.

With that I challenge you to explore your current training program and ask the question, am I getting better? You can still keep some main elements in your program constant without changing up everything you do. Here are some ways you can mix things up without changing what you’re doing:

  • Manipulate sets and reps
  • Add time under tension (eccentric, pause & concentric reps)
  • Body awareness. What muscles do you feel when you are performing different exercises?
  • Can you get into the required position to optimally execute a sumo deadlift or a double kettlebell front rack squat etc
  • Add a plus set as your last set in the form of AMGRAP (As many good reps as possible

IMG_3307

Don’t get caught up in trending fitness protocols and just keep training. Small steps are the way forward, Rome wasn’t built in a day. A lot of progress can be made in a year. Don’t believe me?Journal your training for a year based on a program from any good strength coach and you’ll see progress you didn’t think was possible.


photo
Jonathan Carroll
Co-Owner, The Movement Lab
857.523.9437
themovementlabraleigh.com
Posted on Leave a comment

Is Stretching Beneficial Prior to Working Out?

In a way this article title is a loaded question.  Over the years, there have been a number of different theories regarding the type of stretching you should do prior to and after exercise whether it was aerobic or resistance training.  Hopefully I can better explain what I use in my methods and why.

Static Stretching

In a nutshell, static stretching is simply trying to isolate a muscle group and statically holding it on stretch in hopes that it will elongate the muscle fiber.  Some people will go to extremes with this one, but just like anything we should probably avoid the extreme ends of the spectrum (unless you’re a dancer, gymnast, someone who needs to be a human pretzel).

There has been a number of research studies regarding the efficacy of static stretching prior to and after exercise in hopes that this was in fact the answer to all of our problems.  If we stretch prior to exercise or games, we will not get hurt.  If we stretch after exercise or games, we won’t get sore.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that.  Soreness hopefully by now is understood to be something dealing with volume and eccentric stress on the muscles.  It appears to have something to do with a build-up of Hydrogen ions on the area which I realize doesn’t mean too much to the average person trying to learn something here.  Stretching prior to exercise didn’t appear to have any great attributes either.

IMG_4104
Glute Stretch

I will often do some level of static stretching in the very very beginning of the warm up.  I like to open up the hips for starters, and if you take a step back and see that most individuals have chronic tightness in the same areas secondary to our high tech, sit at your desk, kind of lives.

IMG_6407
Groin Stretch

 

Bouncing/Ballistic Stretching

I think that last reference to this type of stretching was in 1924?

Half kidding.  If you’re still doing this type of stretching you either have been cryogenically frozen for the last 100 years, or you believe that whatever science says is false.  Bounce stretching leads to more injury.

PNF

Stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, is an awesome tool for us physical therapists who want to eradicate increased tone with neuro patients, or individuals who are licensed to increase range of motion in someone who is potentially tight.  I don’t say it this way to seem arrogant, but, we health enthusiasts are super eager to show off the new tools we bought at a weekend course.  I agree that it is exciting, but why do we do anything?  We should always have a why, and there is no reason to perform PNF stretching on someone when we can do it either non-manually or realize that it isn’t appropriate for some individuals.

If I do it with my athletes/clients, it is non-manual.  I will often find a way to trick that individuals perception of what is happening.  For example, band leg lower.

Dynamic Stretching

Not necessarily stretching in the sense that you hardly take your muscles into end range of motion.  Instead, you’re gearing up for the upcoming day of exercise or games.  You mimic some of the basic movements that you’re about to do which will prime the muscles and nervous system up without overload as well as raise the bodies core temperature as you’re moving.  That’s what has been shown to reduce injury, increasing body temperature.

I’ve witness a number of strength facilities, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and sport coaches teach athletes/adults how to do dynamic exercises in a way that doesn’t seem logical.  To me, it doesn’t make sense to go 0-100mph without testing the brakes and accelerator first.  So why start with skipping and high knees just to turn around and slow everything down with some knee hugs?

We will use dynamic stretching prior to doing our movement and sprint drills.  This is our last piece of the warm-up in some ways before we ask the athletes/clients to push themselves.  We will start with slower, more controlled movements first and progress to low level running or even sprinting depending on who we are working with.

Putting it Together

So, an example of our warm-up would be:

foam roll, static stretch, mobility, activation, dynamic

For the items not highlighted here, I covered it in another post, check it out here and for part 2, here.

Posted on 1 Comment

Fitting the Puzzle Piece Together

I was recently golfing with a fellow strength and conditioning coach and had a fun little statement about what is going on with my swing.  Normally, I am long with my irons.  This isn’t to toot my own horn, it’s simply because I swing out of my shoes and throw a little extra bicep curl into the swing.  Here’s the problem:  I was falling way too short.  I was making great contact with the ball and everything looked the way it was supposed to (to my own standards), but I was way short.

I know that my infrequent visits to the golf course are part of the issue.  However, I have also not worked on any piece of the spectrum of lifting except strength for the last few months.  A little bit of bench, some accessory work, maybe sit on a bike and think about cardio for a few minutes, call it a day.

In the world of strength and conditioning, personal training, physical therapy, etc. there are some potential short-comings.  With PT, the general consensus is to get them long, get them strong, then get them fast.  That’s great, but you can’t really do that with your athletes efficiently.  Especially if you’re only going to see that athlete for 12-36 weeks.

If you want to be the biggest dude to walk the planet and still not be able to pick up a spare tire for your car, go get your pump on.  If you want to move a house, go lift the heaviest things you can.  But, if you want to be fast and explosive, you better train that too.

Traditionally with strength and conditioning and personal training, you would train absolute strength to develop a base to build off.  True.  But most people coming in off the street have some strength.  Quite the assumption I know.  Most athletes, believe it or not, can already jump or run.  The idea is to make them jump higher or run faster.  Program plyometrics, speed-strength, strength-speed, and power (not all in the same day perhaps) as well as your strength.  This way you’re a little more efficient with your programming.

You can allegedly hold 98 per cent of your strength for a month of not training it.  But, those numbers drop much more significantly with power where you can hold roughly 98% for about a week before you see large drops.

Don’t throw the kitchen sink at your athletes.  Still program intelligently.  But make sure to train some expression of power even if that isn’t your emphasis.  This will allow you to not swing a golf club like a nana.

Some of the speed-strength/power exercises that I like to use with my programming include:  olympic lifts, kettlebell swings, kettlebell snatches, loaded jumps, loaded bounds

You can also place an emphasis on speed with the tempo of the lifts that you are comfortable teaching or that you’re already using.  This would simply require that athlete to explode through the concentric portion of the lift.  I like to remember the “do no harm” phrase here.

I would love to hear what other coaches are using out there.  Please share if you have a different philosophy.

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Two Things That Anyone Can Make Better

A common denominator for anyone and everyone walking in the door of our facility is a lack in strength or stability in particular areas of the body.  Aesthetically, people want to know if they’ll get bigger (insert body part here), but realistically, two that are tremendously important should get better.  Without further adieu, here they are:

1. Anterior Core

Almost everyone I see is tremendously weak here.  It becomes even more clear when you ask someone to perform a simple push up.  They literally just hang on the ligaments of the spine.  How have you made it this far in life without learning how to perform a proper push up???

When I say anterior core, I’m referring to the portion known anatomically as rectus abdominus.  Fancy latin.  It connects the front portion of the ribs to the pelvis and when contracting forces the hips into a posterior pelvic tilt.  Not always great to be in that position, but with proper opposition/apposition it is fairly balanced to our normal 13 degrees of anterior pelvic tilt.

When this is weak, you see a lot of extra anterior pelvic tilt.  Your body just hangs out on whatever it knows will create stability…ligaments of your hips and spine.  Is it any wonder that we have soo much low back pain!?

Strengthen the abs, it will help create stability.  It isn’t the only answer as there are a few other abdominal muscles that are needed to help create that apposition we are looking for (different topic for a different day).

2. Buttcheeks

This is something that we work on almost every day in the facility.  To create almost all athletic motion, you need the glutes.  When developed, they can also have an aesthetic side to them too.

Glutes are great players in power, stability, multi direction motion.  We all have a gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.  The hip joint (where the femur articulates with the acetabulum of the pelvis) also has a great deal of mobility, three planes actually.  Contracting here will create an external rotation element on the femur (thigh) as well as an extension moment.  It can create stability to the pelvis in a closed chain contraction taking shear off the low back.  And it gives us great power and push off in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes of motion.

The right side is usually a little weaker, again, different conversation for a different day.

This is anecdotal at best on my part.  When we screen our athletes and adults though, we see this to be consistent across the board.  Maybe it is indigenous to the Merrimack Valley, but I highly doubt it.  Let me know what you think by leaving a reply below.

Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Training in Cold Weather

It has been asked of me lately what my opinion is on training in the cold weather, or what precautions need to be taken to train outdoors in the winter months?  So here we go…

Aside from the nutrition and recovery side of things, there are certain things to consider when working in the cold.  First and foremost, don’t be a mouth breather.  You look ridiculous for lack of a better statement, and you’re setting yourself up for getting sick.

When you take a deep breath in through your nose, there is a particular pathway that the air must travel that is actually a longer route than straight through your mouth.  This gives the air a chance to heat up and become a little more humid, something that you’re lungs will appreciate.  Not only that, your nasal passageway has mucus and hairs that will trap particles creating a nice little filter for you.

That’s well and good when you’re just walking or standing around, but what if you start running–if you’re into that sort of thing–or moving things around or skiing/snowboarding?

Sure, you’ll have to breathe through your mouth just to keep up with the demands of the working muscles.  Of course it is always suggested to breathe in through your  nose, but let’s be realistic for a sec.  I’ve tried it, anecdotally, and can’t seem to be able to do it for a long period of time without thinking my heart is going to pop or my head explode.  Therefore, I wouldn’t expect any of my athletes to do it either.

Most people on the mountain wear ski masks.  This serves multiple purposes 1. protects your face from sub zero weather and wind 2. creates a barrier from mouth breathing.  Also why lumberjacks have beards, oddly enough, as I doubt they’re making a fashion statement.  There are also cold weather training masks you can purchase.  I myself received a fancy new ski mask that looks like a beard, 2 birds…

What else? In the past, people traditionally wore wool based clothing in the cold because it keeps you warm.  But, what about when you get really warm and start sweating? Then cool down?  The wool based material is now damp and you’re in a cold environment.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what that will lead to.  Having a material that will keep the heat in, but wick the moist out is ideal.  The military has done great research on environmental extremes.  This one is pretty solid–minus in the case of fire as the material seems to melt.  Wicking material covered by a thicker material is solid.  In some cases, they even make a coat or pants with the dry wicking material built in.  Possibly the most amazing thing ever.

Footwear? Wear boots that are pretty airtight. Duh.

Leave comments below.  I would love to hear some other perspective.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

How to Develop Power

At Young Performance, we use a number of tactics to create greater power output for the athlete.  Power, simply, is just the ability to produce force in an instant.  So when we think of power, we think of things like jumps in a variety of fashions.

In reality, I should start off by saying that we need to start by building a strong foundation of strength before we really dial into power.  Some key differences in strength versus power would be the amount of time you’re actually moving the weight.  For power, time is a variable that is measured; and, for strength time isn’t considered necessarily (of course we have our tables that measure relative time under tension, but for the sake of simplicity).  I know this is a huge dump of physics review and believe me I’m gagging just thinking about it.

Now you have a variety of options available to you to help enhance power.  There exists a continuum from general strength to speed/power.  Of course we can start to differentiate different movements into the continuum, but again for the sake of simplicity we will just say that strength-speed, speed-strength, and speed are all products of power.

IMG_0353When I think of my hockey, football, and rugby athletes I think of performing the Olympic lifts and loading them up to fairly high intensities.  The reason for this is to help the athletes absorb force as well as produce a lot of force in an instant to get the bar moving.  I will usually use Olympic lifts with my other athletes as well–baseball excluded mostly–but to a much less degree.  I like to spend my weekend evenings sifting through peer reviewed articles and I have been able to find some interesting statistics.  Mostly that you only need roughly 40% of someones 1RM, or 1 repetition max, to help develop power.  That’s particularly nice for my non-contact athletes who don’t necessarily see the value of a heavy hang clean.

IMG_0385For those athletes who have contraindications to Olympic lifting, or are baseball players, we have a number of other options that we can use.  Most simply, I like to use jump squats with either a weighted vest or dumbbells.  My next go-to would be the kettlebell swing varieties.  It helps to teach extension of the hips and knees in an explosive manner and it does well to keep most athletes in neutral.  I have also programmed things like RFE split squat jumps (RFE=rear foot elevated), split squat jumps, single leg jumps on a box/bench, and landmine push presses.  I feel that these different options help to reinforce the triple extension/jump patterns and offer a variety to the athlete.

We also have our own little built in showcase almost every day.  Especially for our general prep guys.  In our plyometric/power section of the day we include either box jumps or hurdle hops.  We have a number of ways that we can perform them–single leg, medial/lateral, stick, mini-bounce, etc–but the point remains clear.  I am not programming these exercises to weighted, instead, I want to see improvement with the power output.  In other words, I want to see how high they can jump today.

So there you have it, my take on programming for power.  Again, develop your foundation for strength first and then you can enhance your power output.  If you are in general prep or a new athlete to the performance world, you can still jump to enhance the movement pattern.

Posted on 1 Comment

Guest Post: Protein Consumption

In this guest post from one of my summer interns and current sport performance coaches, Jake Schofield, he talks about protein and it’s importance.  Jake has created a niche here with the obesity epidemic and has created some strategies to attack.  If you would like to know more I encourage you to follow his blog at: jakeschofieldblog.wordpress.com.

The most asked questions I’ve heard by many of the athletes that come through the door are about protein, but one of the most common questions is when to take it. This question is up to debate in the fitness industry, since we have not perfected the time and amount for the maximum muscle gain.Protein is a macronutrient just like the carbs and fats that provide energy to our bodies as they’re consumed and broken down. Protein is essential in the production and repair of muscles. Foods that are high in protein are fish, nuts, red meats, and more. Many people tend to use shakes or powders to get the protein they need throughout the day. However, protein from animal based foods have complete proteins which contain all 48 essential amino acids. Plant based proteins are considered incomplete by missing one or more of these essential amino acids.There is protein in almost everything we eat, yet most people do not get enough protein in their diet. In general, someone needs 1.7g of protein per kg of body weight. The conversion from kilogram to pounds is 1kg = about 2.2 lbs. So now that we have an idea about protein, what it is, where it’s from, and what it does. The question really is when is the best time to take it being an athlete.

Here’s my take on this interesting topic. Protein consumption needs to be spread out throughout the day. The body can only break down so much protein at once. So, having a meal with 50g of protein some of that would go to waste. The body needs a decent amount of protein so the best way is to spread it out in portions. As many of us know the best way to eat is smaller portions more often throughout the day. Unlike, the norm for American eating as just breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To better an athlete it should be breakfast, snack, lunch, post-workout, dinner. Now these snacks shouldn’t be chips and sweets, but such foods like nuts are high in protein and a very healthy option for athletes in and out of season. Your body repairs itself constantly throughout the day, but while you sleep is where a lot of the muscle gains come from. So, having protein available throughout the day allows the body to constantly have protein to use to build and repair muscle. Then having stored protein while sleeping from a protein filled dinner will only help build and repair muscles more because the body releases the most growth hormone while in REM sleep. So, protein is very good for consumption for athletes, so do the math and see how much protein you should be taking daily.

Posted on Leave a comment

Training Youth Athletes

A common question that I hear is, “how old do you have to be to start training at your facility?”  To me this is a pretty easy question to answer, but also a loaded answer.

When we talk about athletic development, there are a few windows of opportunity that we can expect to use to enhance performance in athletes.  Just because I have a window of opportunity to advance an athletes potential doesn’t mean I need to get all sport specific with it.  In previous articles I have eluded to spending a great deal of time developing the foundation for youth athletes, or general prep if that is easier to remember.  Just because I have an opportunity to improve athletic ability in a youth athlete doesn’t mean I need to make them proficient in 1RM cleans.  I “can” hold a firecracker in my hand and light it, but it wouldn’t be very intelligent.  Just like I “can” develop maximal cleans in a 10-year-old, but that still isn’t very intelligent.

The lost art of development, playing on the playground.  There are even schools where you aren’t allowed to run!  All because there is a fear of children getting hurt.  I could jump onto my soap box and have a complete rant, but I will stay on point here.  Kids in preschool, elementary, and middle school all are allotted time to go out and play.  They jump, run, bound, throw, play tag, etc.  If that isn’t athletic development I don’t know what is.  I spend the first 30 minutes of training sessions warming up and working on running, jumping, throwing, and agility.  These are the showcase items for my older athletes.

Specializing kids too early is a sure fire way to burn a kid out from ever wanting to play that sport again.  It’s also a great way for a kid to resent their parent.  Allowing a child to participate in a variety of events allows for better athletic development.  Experiencing movements outside of what is normal in their favorite sport will allow them to become more agile and athletic.

What can a child who hasn’t hit puberty expect to do and see?  There is no reason to take a prepubescent child and load them up under the bar.  Develop their ability to perform these exercises that you want to accomplish in the long term development plan.  Squatting, hinging, pressing, pulling are all exercises that can start off with simple body weight.  Once they become proficient in these bodyweight exercises you can consider handling a light weight.  Then slightly heavier.  And heavier.  The point is that these kids will become stronger (mostly through their nervous system adaptation), but not exactly larger.  How could they? They haven’t even hit puberty yet.

Once they hit puberty, the long term plan continues.  Start adding heavier weight and adding new challenges.  They will become more powerful, faster, stronger, insert any synonym.  They now have the hormonal profile to support what you are throwing at them.  But a word of caution: don’t throw the kitchen sink at them.  Allow for normal development.  The newest, coolest thing isn’t the best option.  Often times the new workout it either a fad or a new way of eliciting a response in an athlete who has already developed their foundation.

To sum up, kids can virtually start at any age, however, I wouldn’t really recommend them starting too early.  I have nine and 10 year olds at our facility, but realistically a mentor of mine said 11 years old is a great age to begin.  I’ll stick with that.

Posted on Leave a comment

Long-Slow Distance Cardio

First off, it has been a little bit since my last check-in.  I have been busy with licensure testing, changing a few details professionally, and jumping right into some continuing education.  All those things, plus I have been coaching a high school lacrosse team in the area.

I was kicking back, sipping on a nice cup of coffee the other morning, reading over some “professional development” type material, when I came across a post along the lines of “why do long slow distance aerobic work?”  That  post of course got some great professional feedback, but it got me thinking too.

Most of what I was reading in terms of feedback was along the lines of: why indeed?  Now, I like bang for the buck type exercise regimens.  I feel as though we do a really good job of accomplishing both anaerobic and aerobic work in a relatively short period of time on a daily basis at our facility.  By using simple concepts like HIIT in our lifts we are able to develop strength and power via resistance training at appropriate, demanding percentages; and, also tax the aerobic system at the same time.  We also incorporate a conditioning portion after the lift that works usually on some type of lactic or alactic interval (think Certified Conditioning Coach)  in the preseason phases.

But where can we fit in the long-slow distance type conditioning???

This is where I reflect back to my magical weekend at IFAST, listening to Joel himself hurl information grenades at all of us innocent Performance Coaches.  In a very organized manner, he managed to explain to us how to use each concept that he has written about in books like “Ultimate MMA Conditioning”.  Long story short, one cannot sustain all out lactic intervals 7 days a week for very long.  This makes sense, right?!

With all the concepts in strength and conditioning regarding the importance of the nervous system, this should be a no-brainer.  Simply put, sometimes it is just better to let your foot off the gas pedal, slow down, and let your body (and nervous system) relax.  Let’s find that parasympathetic state for once in our training year.

Now that both sides of the continuum are screaming at me, let me elaborate.  First off, no, I do not think that you should be performing long-slow distance aerobic conditioning all year round–unless your sport is running a marathon or the Tour de France in which case you still shouldn’t do it on consecutive days.  Will you see strength and therefore power decrements as a result? Maybe.  Will you be introducing a new variable into your training regimen? Absolutely!  Cooling the jets for a few weeks will not have an absurd impact on strength/power/muscle fiber type.  But, it may afford you the potential to get even better because you let the body experience a new stimulus.

Personally, I don’t like long distance cardio.  I get bored with it, unless I am chasing a ball or object.  Cycling is more doable, but still, the struggle is real.  However, when no one is watching, I will jump on the Assault Bike for about 45-60 minutes and get in a good cardio sesh.

Posted on Leave a comment

Program Design

One of the first steps to designing a program for any athlete or client should be to answer the basic questions: Who, what, where, when, why, and how?  If we take the time to critically analyze each of these questions when writing out programs, it takes a lot of guessing out of the equation and makes exercise selection, volume, and intensity much more justifiable.

Who is this new client/athlete? Are they a 10 year old who needs to develop a better foundation, or an IT whiz who is great at what they do but doesn’t understand how to get results at the gym?  Whatever the scenario may be, there are a spectrum of exercises that may not be warranted for either individual in the beginning.  Here, our biggest bang for our buck is going to be exposure to as many simple exercises as we can in a logical manner.  It’s not until we get the college or professional/olympic athlete that we start to get very specialized with our programs, or the individual with a huge training age (consistent number of years training).

What is the client/athlete training for?  This will dictate what you’re going to do and how long your cycles are going to last.  If you’re dealing with a strict weight loss or general health client, there is no real competition to peak for unless they have a particular date in mind for a wedding or vacation for example.  Athletes may warrant a little more planning here based on their test performance in the beginning.

Where?  This question can be asked a couple different ways.  Where is the training going to take place?  Is it going to be at your facility under your guidance?  Or could they be doing this on their own either at their home or at a commercial gym?  This could take some serious critical thinking about logistics.  You may have all the equipment that you need, but their commercial gym may not.  It may require that we make tweeks here or there to make the program work.  The other way to read this question is, where does the client or athlete hope to be at the end of this?  Maybe you have an NFL prospect that expects to be a high draft pick based on the combine that you are helping them prepare for.  Or maybe it’s a 12 year old trying to make the club hockey team in town.

When?  When in the day is the training going to take place?  When in the week?  Will this individual fit in with a similar group of individuals?

Why is a huge question to ask throughout the whole periodization process.  It may seem like a redundant question in some respects, but bear with me.  Why is this client or athlete coming to you?  Why are you going to use a particular exercise?  Can we justify everything that we are going to do with this person or are we just putting in fillers?  Every exercise or task must have a reason.  With our overweight client it could be simply that this particular exercise is extremely metabolically demanding.  For an athlete it could be speed work.  For anyone, the correctives should be placed to achieve an optimal position for the joints in the body.

How are you going to make this come together?  Are you going to use any particular system to make this work?  Sit down and plan this thing out.  I was once taught by someone much smarter than myself to start at the end.  That’s how I personally start my program design and it seems to work.  If someone simply just wants to get bigger, how are you going to do that?  Faster? Skinnier?  Plan it out.

That’s the basic jist.  It helps tremendously to sit down and ask yourself all these questions when you write programs.  KISS-Keep It Simple S… is an acronym that one of my mentors likes to use often and it has been probably one of my best tools in the toolbox.  Putting someone on a physio ball balancing doing squats while performing some Harlem Globetrotter ball spinning isn’t going to make anyone better, but, it will probably get someone hurt.  If not physically then maybe emotionally for the trainer/coach because their clientele isn’t getting better.  I digress.  Keep it simple.