Home 2012 January (Page 2)

5 Coaching Tips for Up-and-Coming Fitness Professionals

I know we have a lot of "rising stars" in the fitness and strength and conditioning communities reading this blog, so I thought I'd throw out some of my top coaching suggestions along these lines.

1. Always coach at 90-degree angles.

You'll never see everything you want to see from a 45-degree angle, so you're better off directly in front and/or to the side of the one performing the exercise.  Imagine what happens when you are coaching deadlift technique, for instance.

From the side, you can observe neutral lumbar-through-cervical spine, whether the athlete is pushing through the heels or toes, and whether the movement is turning into too much of a squat.

From the front, you can watch for hip shifts, knock-knees, turning-out of the toes, and grip width (in the case of the conventional deadlift and sumo deadlift).

From a 45-degree angle, you can see some stuff - but never with as "unobscured" a view as you'd prefer.

2. Never cross your arms.

This is the single-best way to say "Don't talk to me; I'm in a bad mood."  The problem is that you might not even be in a bad mood, but that's the way clients and athletes perceive it.  "Open arms" equals "open to interaction."

3. Don't sit down.

How athletic is this posture?

The only way you could make yourself any more unappealing as a strength coach or personal trainer is to rock a turtleneck like the one the guy in the photo has.  Standing up gives you a better view of the training room and makes you more approachable.

That said, a lot of coaches and trainers may get cranky knees and lower backs from standing on hard training surfaces for hours and hours on-end.  If this is the case, you've got a few ways to break the wear and tear:

a) Demonstrate more exercises - simply getting moving will help things out, especially if you are doing a lot of ground-to-standing transitions

b) Put a foot up on a bench or weight rack here and there - going to single-leg stance can redistribute your weight and give you breaks in the action (while keeping you standing)

c) Play around with footwear and training surface - In a given day, I might coach in two different pairs of shoes and even go barefoot for a bit.  I think our lower extremities like the variety (and I generally feel best in my minimalist footwear or barefoot).  It's also helped me to bounce back and forth between the harder rubber training surface and the softer astroturf we have at Cressey Performance.

4. Find out whether clients/athletes like "demonstrate" or "describe."

Some people are visual learners; you need to show them what you are asking them to do.  This is especially true among beginners, and those who don't have strong athletic backgrounds (as well as those who are very forgetful).

Other people just need to hear the "what" and a few coaching cues, and they'll go right to it and be successful.  They'll actually be annoyed with you if you slow things down too much and get in their way when they are ready to train.  These are generally the more experienced exercisers who may have already mastered some derivative of the exercise in question (for instance, learning a 1-arm DB Bulgarian Split Squat from Deficit after they've already learned a regular Bulgarian Split Squat).

As an interesting anecdotal aside to this, last year, we had a professional baseball player come to us who had previously trained at a large facility in a group with more than a dozen other players who were all doing the same program off the same dry erase board.  He spent much of his first day with us bad-mouthing the other facility, saying that all they did was "grab-ass" and "stand around," never getting anything done.  After his first session, he made a point of saying how much better he liked our business and training model.  The reason was very apparent: he was a "describe" learner in light of his previous training experience, but he'd been plugged into a "demonstrate" model with a lot of less experienced athletes.  All they did was get in his way.

It's important to identify what kind of learner people are early on in their training with you - but also to appreciate that their learning style may change when they're presented with unfamiliar exercises.

5. Find different ways to demonstrate energy.

Many up-and-coming coaches worry that they aren't "Rah Rah" enough to be successful in this field.  They seem to think that the only way to win people over is to be over-the-top excited all the time.  The truth is, though, that the majority of the most successful people in the industry aren't in-your-face yellers, non-stop clappers, or bouncing-off-the-wall coaches.  Guys like Todd Durkin and Dave Jack who have seemingly endless energy and great coaching ability are actually rare exceptions in our field (and I learn a lot about coaching each time I watch those two).

In reality, a lot of the other high-energy guys I've encountered use that enthusiasm to cover up for a lack of knowledge, and athletes eventually see through it. Plus, it's impossible to be high-energy all the time, so when these individuals are having rough days, they often lose their #1 coaching asset.  You simply can't have bad days as a coach or trainer.


That said, there are a lot of ways to show enthusiasm without yelling all the time.  Having a spring in your step is an extremely valuable asset in a trainer or coach's toolbox.  If you were to watch me at Cressey Performance, I never "amble" around; I always have spring in my step and am getting from Point A to Point B quickly, as it allows me to do more coaching (and interact with more people) in a given hour.

Being excited about what you're coaching is also paramount; tell athletes/clients what it's doing for them and why that's important.

Creating relationships should be a means of building excitement as well.  Ask clients about their backgrounds, how they're doing, and what their goals are.  People get excited and motivated when they find out that you are interested in them.

There are countless other ways to demonstrate energy on a daily basis: picking the right music, clapping your hands, creating competition among athletes, sending emails/Facebook posts/Tweets to athletes before they come in to train, or pairing up certain clients who you know will push each other.  The only limitation is your creativity - and you'll find that it's easier to create energy once you know clients well, as you'll know exactly which buttons to push to get the reaction you seek.

These are just five coaching tips that immediately came to mind when I sat down to write this post this morning, but there are surely hundreds more that warrant attention.  To the coaches out there, I'd love to hear some suggestions from you in the comments section on important lessons that up-and-coming trainers and coaches need to learn early on in their careers.

Looking for more coaching cues, business tips, and programming ideas?  Check out Elite Training Mentorship, an outstanding online continuing education resources.

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Strength Exercise of the Week: Prone External Rotation

The prone external rotation is a strength exercise for the posterior rotator cuff that we've added to our strength and conditioning programs over the past few months with good success.  And, while the primary goal is to increase shoulder stability via improved rotator cuff function, the truth is that this drill also served as a motor control exercise to reeducate folks on what should be moving and when. We use this drill a lot with guys who are in a dramatic anterior pelvic tilt, and start everything with the "gluteus tight, core braced" cues.  Effectively, this means that you force the athlete to actually externally rotate the shoulder instead of simply arching through the lower back to get to the desired "finish" point.  You'll be amazed to see how many athletes have significantly less "observable external rotation" when they are locked into neutral spine.

You also want to cue the athlete to keep the scapula (shoulder blade) on the rib cage, but he/she doesn't need to be aggressively pulled into scapular retraction in order to get there.

Once the scapula is set, I tell athletes to think about getting the ball to rotate in the socket without allowing the head of the humerus to slide down toward the table.  This is a very important cue, as many athletes will allow excessive anterior migration of the humeral head during external rotation exercises; we want them to learn to keep the ball centered in the socket.  If an athlete is really struggling with this, we may place a rolled up towel or half-roller underneath the anterior shoulder as feedback on where things should be.

Very rarely will we load this up, and in the rare instances we do, it wouldn't be for more than 2.5 -5 pounds.  The shoulder is a joint with a broad range of movements that mandate a lot of dynamic stability, so we want to make sure things are working perfectly.

I'll generally include this movement in the warm-ups for sets of eight reps - or we may use it as a filler on a lower-body day between sets of more compound strength exercises.  It can also serve as a great follow-up to shoulder mobility drill geared toward improving external rotation, as this is an avenue through which you can add stability to the range-of-motion you're creating.

Give it a shot in your strength and conditioning programs and then let me know how it goes in the comments section below!

For more exercises along these lines, I'd encourage you to check out our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/3/12

Here's my first list of recommended reading for 2012: How to Pick a Gym in 2012 - This was a Yahoo Sports article to which I contributed.  If you're looking for a place to train in 2012, give this a read first.  Then, ignore it all, move to Hudson, MA, and train at Cressey Performance! 4 Reasons Everyone Should Squat with Chains - Mike Robertson has an excellent compilation here.  It makes me realize how spoiled we are to have chains. My Personal Journey to Hell and Back - This was an outstanding post from Jason Ferruggia on where he's been over the past decade.  If you need motivation, look no further. Orioles Prospect Oliver Drake on his Training at Cressey Performance - We've been doing some videos with our pro guys on their training experience with us; here's the first installment:

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The Best of 2011: Stuff that was Fun to Write/Video

Today, I'll wrap up my "Best of 2011" series by highlighting the pieces that I enjoyed creating.  Check them out: 1. 11 Years, 11 Lessons, 100 Pounds - This T-Nation article recapped my long journey in the strength and conditioning world to get to where I am.  It was definitely one of my most popular articles of all time at T-Nation. 2. The Fitness Business Blueprint - This product was a blast to create because I think it filled a gaping hole in the market.  Until we launched it, nobody had created a fitness business product that didn't just discuss how to grow a business, but also how to improve as a trainer/coach.  I had a blast collaborating with Pat Rigsby and Mike Robertson on it.

3. What I Learned in 2010 - I enjoy writing these articles every year, because they serve as a great opportunity to revisit some of the most valuable lessons from the previous year.  And, as the saying goes, the best way to master something is to teach it to others. 4. Strength and Conditioning Program Success: The Little Things Matter - This was a fun blog to write, as I did so right around the time when several of our athletes were recognized for some awesome achievements.  It gave me a chance to reflect on why they were successful - and why many other folks aren't.  There will be some valuable takeaways for you, regardless of your athletic or fitness goals. 5. Oblique Strains in Baseball: 2011 Update - I'd written about oblique strains in the past, but they continue to be the big fat white elephant in the corner that is being ignored in the context of baseball development.  Hopefully this article got some people to start paying attention to the fact that it's just the fallout of a lot of things that are wrong with the current approaches being employed with respect to baseball strength and conditioning. 6. The IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification - I was fortunate to be a contributor on this awesome resource that will hopefully change the tide of how high school athletes are trained.  Based on the feedback we've received thus far, it's already helped tremendously in this regard.

7. Strength Training Program Success: How Dr. P did at 47 What He Couldn't Do at 20 or 30 - This blog (and accompanying video) were awesome because our entire gym got involved on this goal - and were there to see our good friend accomplish it. 8. The Everything Elbow In-Service - This was an in-service I filmed for our staff this summer to prepare them for all the elbow issues that may come through our doors.  It lasted 32 minutes, and sold far better than I would have imagined - and led to a lot of requests for us to continue filming staff in-services and making them available for sale.

9. Strength and Conditioning Programs: Think the Opposite - This has a few tips about a counterintuitive way to achieve success in training and in business. 10. Hip Pain in Athletes: The Origin of Femoroacetabular Impingement - FAI is becoming more and more common (especially in young athletes), and in this blog, I talk about some of the reasons why. That wraps up our "Best of 2011" series.  Thank you very much for your support of EricCressey.com in 2011; I'm looking forward to making 2012 even more memorable! Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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