Today's guest post comes from Virginia-based strength and conditioning coach, Todd Bumgardner. I think it's very useful material for all the trainers and strength and conditioning coaches out there. Enjoy! -EC
It’s rare that large successes are accomplished without an idea of what success will look like. Sure, there are the occasional one-off miracles that happen when people swing hard with good intentions, but I don’t believe even those were truly accomplished without at least a loose plan that existed in the action taker’s head. It’s far more advantageous, and consistent, to materialize an actionable plan, with clear objectives, in the real world.
We often think in terms of plans and objectives when examining our businesses, or our financial goals, but a lot of coaches and trainers miss on the powerful outcomes elicited by setting training session objectives. I’m not just talking quantitative outcomes for our clients, but objectives that guide our coaching behaviors. Defining a list of session objectives, for you and your coaches, can dramatically improve your clients’ experience and results.
How We Did It
Chris Merritt and I own and operate Strength Faction together, while also tag teaming the leadership roles at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA—our small slice of semi-private training heaven in Dulles, VA.
The gym’s been running strong for five years now and has a great culture that’s focused on continual progression toward improvement. So we were inherently doing a lot of coaching things right. That set the context for our objectives discussion. We held it at one of our Friday in-services and we opened the floor to all the coaches. Then we simply asked, “What should our objectives be for running a successful training session?”
We involved the guys in the discussion because they coach just as many sessions as we do; who are we to stand in dictatorship? Besides, the opportunity to give input creates buy-in. When folks feel like they have responsibility, and that they’ve contributed to a cause, they’re more likely to take things seriously and give optimal effort.
The outcome: a lot of what we were already doing correctly ended up on paper and we sprinkled in a few more bits to improve our process.
Here’s what we ended up with.
Personal Interaction with each Client by each Coach
We schedule no more than six clients per time slot, and maintain a coach to client ratio of one to three, so we have innumerable opportunities for personal interaction. We have to capitalize on that.
Each coach must, at least briefly, interact with every client that walks through the door during his shift. Our goal at BSP NOVA is to continually improve our interconnectedness and sense of community, so we prioritize actions that help us accomplish that end. It’s not too much to at least ask how someone’s day has been.
Sure, this might sound like a no-brainer, but any coach that’s worked in a busy semi-private training gym knows how easy it is to lose focus and miss out on connecting with people. So we make it a focus and set the intent on connection at the beginning of every shift.
This speaks to our vigilance. Are we paying attention to what our people are doing? Are we checking positions? Are we updating programs based on the clients’ current readiness and ability?
If we’re answering yes to all of those questions there’s a high likelihood that we’ll avoid injuries during that shift. If we answer no, the chance of injury creeps up. Training injuries should be a rarity; maintaining focus keeps it that way.
Be the Best Part of Someone’s Day
We want our gym, our little slice of semi-private training heaven, to be a place of respite from the outside world, where folks can lay down their burdens, train, and have a good time. We’re ever aware that people don’t have to train with us, that Northern Virginia is rife with fitness options, and that we have to give them a reason to choose us over and over again.
Beyond that, our job as coaches is to lift others up. Every day, we have an opportunity to make the world a better place one interaction at a time. Making someone laugh, showing them that you care, or listening to a story that they really want to tell goes a long way toward improving someone’s day. Do that over and over again, with all of the clients that walk through the door, and we’ll make great strides toward making the world a better place.
Focus On Getting Better at One Aspect of Your Coaching
Kaizen, baby! We’re getting one percent better every day. This requires continual self-assessment and acknowledgement of our weak points. Each day we set a focus that toggles between what am I good at, and, where do I need to improve?
It begins with being open to constructive criticism from your leaders and peers and comfort with self-honesty. Nail those, make honest self-assessments, and attack improvement at one aspect of coaching every day.
Sweep the Sheds
I’m personally a huge All Blacks fan, and as a staff we love the book Legacy, James Kerr’s book about their culture, so we’ve focused hard on integrating the lessons from their phenomenal organization into our every day actions. We’ve incorporated “sweep the sheds,” The All Blacks humility-promoting mantra, into our everyday mindset.
Here it is:
"Sweeping the sheds. Doing it properly. So no one else has to. Because no one looks after the All Blacks. The All Blacks look after themselves."
Their point is to never be too big to do the small things while taking personal responsibility and acting with self-reliance. We’ve internalized the same point—but we’ve also extended it to mean something personally for us.
For us, sweeping the sheds also means taking as much as you can off of your teammates’ plates. If you can do a job that helps everyone else out, do it; don’t leave it for the next guy—even if it’s not necessarily “your job.”
Put Clients in the Best Positions to be Successful
Mentally and physically, it’s our job to put our clients in the best positions to be successful while they’re under our supervision. This means checking in with their state of mind and training readiness. It also means altering exercise selection if a given movement doesn’t fit for a certain person right now.
Checking in with clients first thing, and as the session continues, is a must. Without those continual assessments we can’t know whether or not we’re putting people in the best positions to be successful. And we can’t live with not doing that.
Progress in Form and Exercise Proficiency from Set to Set
Our last objective fits nicely with the one that precedes it. If we’re paying attention to our people, and they’re getting better each set, even minutely, we’re doing something right. Not every rep is going to be perfect, and the same is certainly true for every set. But if we’re improving incrementally each time we commence movement, all is right with our tiny, little world.
Set Some Objectives
These six points are by no means the end-all-be-all of training session objectives, but they’re solid examples and they work for us at our gym. Now, sit down with yourself, or your people, and list the objectives that make your training sessions successful.
About the Author
Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS is a co-founder of Strength Faction, an online coaching program for strength coaches and personal trainers that helps fitness industry folks transform their bodies and their coaching. He and his partner, Chris Merritt, just released a great, free E-book on how to keep your training on track, even while you’re training all of your clients. You can download it here: Train Yourself…Even While You’re Training Everyone Else.
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It's long overdue, but after years of requests from our female clients, we've created CSP Strength Ladies Tank Tops. They come in three colors:
We are currently accepting PRE-ORDERS through next Thursday, August 25 for a production run. They should ship out by the second week in September. The tank tops are $24.99 plus shipping and handling.
If you'd like to purchase one, please just add the appropriate size to your cart at the link(s) below, and note which color you'd like (teal, black, or pink) in the comments section at checkout. At important note: these tank tops run a bit big, so you'll want to order a size smaller than you'd normally get.
Earlier this week, I received the following question, and thought it would make for some good video content:
Q: I've been training a couple college guys this month before they go back to school and I had a few questions regarding rhythmic stabilizations. I started implementing them with my pitchers recently and they say they don't feel anything. Should they be? Is there any extra coaching points I'm missing here? Thanks for your time.
A: This video!
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I hope everyone had a great weekend. Here's some recommended strength and conditioning material to kick off the new week:
Physical Preparation with Josh Bonhotal - Josh has been a friend for close to a decade now, and he's doing some great stuff with Purdue's men's basketball and diving teams. I noticed a lot of parallels to what we do with our up-and-coming baseball players from a long-term development standpoint.
It's time for the August installment of this popular series, and with the Olympics in full swing, MLB season in the home stretch, and the NFL season rapidly approaching, there's plenty of material rattling around my brain.
1. Don't criticize what you don't understand.
Maybe it's just because all the aforementioned sporting events are taking simultaneously and we're on sports social media overload right now, but it seems like a lot of people are ranting and raving about high-level athletes' preparation. They're cranky about Usain Bolt's hamstrings issue and how it's being managed. They're shocked the Kerri Walsh Jennings has had so many shoulder surgeries. They're flustered about Michael Phelps using cupping. They're floored by Prince Fielder's retirement after a second cervical fusion surgery. And they're cranky because they're confident that they can do a better job in spite of the fact that they have exactly ZERO knowledge of any of these situations.
If there's one thing I've learned from a lot of work with professional and Olympic athletes over the years, it's that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. What you read in the media is usually a partial truth (if that). For instance, I know of pitchers who have gone on the disabled list with calf strains or neck stiffness when they just needed to iron out mechanics or rest up from a high workload. I've also known athletes whose performance has suffered tremendously as they tried to plow through nagging injuries. They're getting blown up on Twitter when they should be getting commended for putting the team's needs ahead of their own personal health.
The point is that if you don't have any knowledge of the unique situations, blindly criticizing athletes and their sports medicine teams is a cheap shot. And, in my eyes, it makes you look incredibly unprofessional.
I'd also add that it's important to remember that you never know who is reading your criticism. Burning that bridge because you "just had to get it off your chest" could interfere with future job possibilities, or even the opportunity to work with the athletes in question.
So, sit back, chill out, and just be a sports fan, but not a Monday Morning Quarterback. You can't rehab someone on Twitter.
2. Use the bottoms-up get-up to remind hypermobile athletes to avoid elbow hyperextension - and cue "grabbing"the floor.
I love using Turkish Get-ups with athletes for a host of reasons; this drill really trains whole-body mobility and stability and delivers a great training effect without insane external loading. That said, one thing you have to be really careful of with using get-ups is that hypermobile (loose jointed) individuals will often wind up with elbows hyperextended - both on the support and overhead arms.
With that in mind, I like the idea of using a bottoms-up Turkish get-up because it's more grip intensive and strictly mandates a more neutral wrist position. This activation of the flexors of the fingers, wrist, and elbow gets the muscles that prevent elbow hyperextension a little more "pre-tensioned," so it's a lot harder to slip into bad patterns.
The bottom arm is a bit trickier, but I have had some success with the cue, "grab the floor as if you're trying to palm a basketball." That same activation of the flexors can help to keep a slight flex in the elbow.
3. A training effect prepares you, but an education sustains you.
This morning, I woke up to this article about Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel "reinventing himself" this past offseason. Part of that process involved getting started up with Cressey Sports Performance, and we've be really cheering him on as he's put forth a career year to be a big part of the Cubs' success. As the article details, one of Jason's biggest struggles was fading in the second half of the season. This was something he and I discussed at length during his initial evaluation last November. Even though it was 8-9 months away, we started talking about in-season training approaches and how to sustain performance well into the second half of the long MLB season. Thus far, he's done a great job of it; in five starts since the All-Star Break, he's 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA.
I often tell our athletes that the training effects we deliver in the off-season gets them through the first half of the season, but it's the education we impart that should sustain them through the second half of the year. The MLB calendar spans from mid-February (spring training) all the way to early October (and even longer if a team makes the playoffs). Nothing we can do in the offseason is guaranteed to last for eight months, but education certainly can. We need to work hard to help athletes understand what is unique about their bodies so that they can be advocates for themselves - and their own best coaches.
Jason's success has been a good reminder:
[bctt tweet="Coaching isn't just about building athleticism; it's also about educating."]
4. I still don't like Olympic lifts for baseball players.
By this point, most of you have probably heard (or seen) an Armenia Olympic lifter end up with a gruesome elbow injury on the jerk portion of a clean and jerk. It was a combination valgus stress - elbow hyperextension injury - which just so happens to be the exact same kind of stresses that lead to most pitching injuries at the elbow. Keep in mind that this was on a jerk - and the valgus stress is actually magnified on a snatch because of the bar path and distance traveled prior to the attempted catch.
I've written previously at length on my feelings about the topic: Should Baseball Players Olympic Lift? I think there are much better ways to train power in a specific context and with less injury risk.
Some coaches will argue, "But this is a max attempt in the Olympics! Our technique is much better than this and we aren't taking those kind of chances!" The truth is that video doesn't lie; you see a lot of ugly Olympic lifting technique all over the 'net. And, athletes will always want to push the limits and hit personal records. Moreover, baseball players have a lot more funky presentations (valgus carrying angle, medial elbow instability, and joint hypermobility) that muddy the waters further.
Perhaps more importantly, I know of very few high level arms who Olympic lift. We've demonstrated over and over again that you can build huge arm speed without snatches, jerks, and cleans, so why take the chance?
I should reiterate: I think the Olympic lifts are absolutely fantastic for other athletes. Baseball is just a different beast.
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I'm wrapping up my California trip tonight, but didn't want to leave you hanging on this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading/listening. Here are some good ones to check out:
EC on "The Impact Show" with Jim Kielbaso - This might have been my favorite podcast I've ever done, as I feel like Jim and I covered a lot of ground on the business and coaching sides of the equation. He's got some quality stuff in the archives of this podcast, too, so I'd encourage you to check some of his previous episodes out as well.
Invisible Influence - I've become a big fan of Jonah Berger's writing in a similar way to how Malcolm Gladwell won me over years ago. If you're interested in the factors that govern behavior and decision-making, Berger's stuff will be right up your alley. His commentary on "social facilitation" has immediate utility for those in the fitness industry.
Softball and Humeral Anterior Glide - If you like my baseball writing, you'll also enjoy CSP coach Nancy Newell's blogs on training softball players. This is one such example.
I'm out in Long Beach, CA for my fifth annual trip to the New Balance Area Code Games. Now in its 30th year, this event brings together the top 230 high school baseball players in the country. Friday night, I spoke as part of the opening ceremonies.
I wanted to be succinct with my message, and with that in mind, I chose to emphasize the importance of differentiating between processes and outcomes. This is something I try to hammer home with all our in-person athletes at Cressey Sports Performance, but I feel it's an important differentiation for all players to make.
An outcome is - for lack of a better term - a result. It's going 4-for-4 at the plate, getting selected for an all-star team, or getting an "A" on a final exam. It may also be negative: going 0-for-4, getting left off the team, or flunking that final exam. There is never growth in an outcome alone; it's just something that happens after all the work is done. Unfortunately, it's been my experience that far too many people - and particularly young athletes who have had considerable success at a young age - become very outcome-oriented. They devote too much time and energy to celebrating their successes instead of recognizing the processes that got them to that end (good or bad).
Conversely, a process constitutes all the habits and actions that lead to an outcome. It's the hours you spent in the cage fine-tuning your swing before those four at-bats. It's your efforts and attitude that predated that all-star selection decision. And, it's your study habits that culminated in your final exam preparedness (or lack thereof).
[bctt tweet="There is growth in every process, but not in ANY outcome."]
Not surprisingly, there's evidence to suggest that outcome-oriented parenting is an inferior approach to process-oriented parenting. You're far better off praising efforts than you are outcomes, because it's those efforts that remind your kid to bust his or her butt in everything the future holds. Your work ethic and demeanor from tee ball can sustain for decades to help you in your job as an accountant when tax season is upon you, but don't expect your 20-year-old trophies to help you out when the going gets tough in adulthood.
Interestingly, though, this message actually has significant parallels to some conversations I had with respect to the fitness industry just last weekend, when I delivered a shoulder seminar to a room of 105 trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and rehabilitation specialists in Chicago.
At the conclusion of the event, I had several young trainers inquire about how I wound up where I am. In fact, one even asked, "What do I need to do to be you in ten years?" I always find these inquiries challenging to answer because I rarely reflect on success, and frankly don't consider myself successful because it's too early in my career (age 35) to determine that. Perhaps more significantly, though, I can't vividly describe where I plan to be in five (let alone ten) years. If I can't be sure of exactly where I'm headed, who am I to tell an up-and-coming fitness professional how he should get to where he thinks he wants to be a decade from now?
With that in mind, my answer is usually necessarily vague:
[bctt tweet="Embrace processes, but let outcomes take care of themselves."]
The problem is that the fitness industry is unique in that none of these processes are clearly defined. In other words, there is no strict foundation upon which a large body of work in the field is entirely based. There aren't many industries like this.
For example, my wife is an optometrist, and she had four years of undergraduate education, followed by four years of optometry school (including clinical rotations), and then board exams before she could become a doctor. There was a set curriculum, and then measures to determine competency in the areas emphasized in that curriculum. And, even after that proficiency was established, Anna did an additional year of residency where she specialized in cornea and contact lens. You can't just declare yourself an optometrist one day and start a career - but individuals do that all the time in personal training because the barrier to entry is completely non-existent.
So, how do we take this lesson and apply it to our fitness professionals who really want to be great? I think the first step is to heavily emphasize a minimum standard of education: a foundation upon which a career can be built.
While the skill sets needed to be a successful NFL strength and conditioning coach are obviously different than what one would need to do cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation in a clinical exercise physiology setting, there are surely many commonalities across these domains (and everything in between). Here are a few things I think everyone in the fitness field needs to know to create a solid foundation:
1. Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Biomechanics - Structure dictates function, and you have to know what good movement (function) is before you can structure a program to create, preserve, or reestablish it.
2. Physiology - I'm not saying that you need to be able to recite the Krebs cycle by heart, but you should have a clear understanding of energy systems development, the endocrine response to exercise, how various disease states impact exercise, the role of various medications your clients may be taking and a host of other physiological considerations.
3. Coaching Approaches - I'll be blunt: I don't think that anyone should be allowed to train someone unless they've first completed internships under multiple other credentialed coaches. Massage therapists need to complete hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of hours before they can go out on their own, and I'd argue that a bad fitness professional can hurt people a lot faster than a bad massage therapist. Good coaches understand how to not only deliver effective coaching cues, but also do so in the most efficient manner possible. The only way to get to this point is to get out and coach individuals from all walks of life - and then fine-tune when things don't work the way you expected.
4. Interpersonal relations - I've always been surprised at how little formal training in psychology the aspiring fitness professional gets in the typical exercise science curriculum. And, honestly, I think that the psychology lessons taught in a classroom by a "typical" college PhD (and I don't mean that disparagingly at all) are likely a lot different than ones you might learn from successful personal trainers who've had clients for decades, or strength and conditioning coaches who've thrived in college weight rooms for generations. Motivation is a very complex topic. Multiple times in my career, I've had a client walk in and start the session with (paraphrased), "So, I'm getting a divorce." Maybe deciding between a reverse lunge and Bulgarian split squat just became a little secondary?
What These Meant for Me
As I look at these four foundational educational processes, I feel like I was really well prepared on both #1 and #2 when I entered the industry. Having a class in gross anatomy during my undergraduate experience was a game-changer, and I was also fortunate to have some excellent kinesiology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology professors that went above and beyond simple memorization challenges.
Early on, though, I struggled with my coaching approaches. I spoke too quickly, blurted out too many cues, and likely confused a lot of athletes. It wasn't until I got to watch some great coaches at the University of Connecticut do their thing that I learned to be more clear and concise, and make the complex seem simple for our athletes.
Interpersonal relations seemed to come more naturally to me, likely because I worked at a tennis club for eight summers while I was growing up; I was constantly interacting with members across multiple age groups. However, this has actually been my biggest area of study over the past 3-4 years (particularly because I now have employees), and I always have an audiobook in progress with respect to leadership, communication, motivation, and related areas.
What These Mean for You
Everyone in the fitness field has unique preparation. Some folks are very good technical coaches, but not great communicators. Some trainers have a knack for making movements look good even if they don't know the exact anatomy governing that clean movement. Some professionals have delivered outstanding results even if they can't explain the underlying physiological changes that occurred. These successes (outcomes) don't mean that they shouldn't constantly be seeking out ways to improve (processes), so I'd encourage you to do a "self audit" to determine your biggest growth areas.
You can shore up a lot of these knowledge gaps with books, DVDs, and online mentorship programs, but I'm of the belief that the fastest way to learn will always be in-person, as you can pick up information on all four components and see how the fit together. Internships and mentorships are phenomenal in this regard; there is real-time application and feedback. Seminars are also be fantastic, particularly when you have both lecture and practical (hands-on) components.
Speaking of seminars, we just announced the lineup for our 5th annual Cressey Sports Performance fall seminar in Massachusetts. It's September 25th, with an early-bird registration deadline of August 25. For more information, click here. Hope to see you there!
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We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, September 25, we’ll be hosting our fifth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past four years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.
Here are the presentation topics:
Pete Dupuis -- Business Before Branding
All too often, business owners put the cart before the horse by focusing on branding before establishing a solid business foundation. Before you worry about creating the most memorable hashtag on Twitter, you need efficient systems, a sound team, and concrete training philosophies. Anyone can convince a client to hand over their money once, but a consistent and predictable service retains the lifetime value of a customer. In this presentation, Pete will take an in-depth look at the core values, systems and principles that helped to create the foundation of our success at Cressey Sports Performance.
Miguel Aragoncillo -- Enhancing Performance with Plyometrics
Are you using bounding, jumping, skipping or hopping in your exercise programs? From track and field to team sports, plyometrics can enhance your performance. Miguel will cover plyometric basics to address various aspects of speed and power development. Whether you're a trainer or want to improve your own performance, this presentation will cover coaching and programming based on your goals. This presentation includes a hands-on component to identify specific techniques when performing jump training.
Greg Robins -- Lessons in Savagery
Nothing can replace old fashioned hard work in the weight room, but a savage work ethic and intelligent programming don't have to be mutually exclusive. Greg will share several important lessons to get strong, build muscle and become a savage without sacrificing the fundamentals of quality physical preparation.
Chris Howard -- What Massage Can Do for Your Strength Training
Massage therapy is often used to treat pain in the strength and conditioning setting. However, after seven years as a strength coach and massage therapist, Chris has developed methods to integrate massage into training programs for improved performance in healthy individuals. In this presentation, Chris will share his lessons learned on how massage therapy can benefit professional athletes and weekend warriors alike.
Tony Bonvechio -- Reverse Engineering the Novice Powerlifter
The rising popularity of powerlifting has sparked a resurgence in heavy barbell training for people of all ages and experience levels. Tony will discuss how to handle a brand-new powerlifter, including considerations for fine-tuning their technique, writing their programs and preparing them for their first competition. This presentation will feature hands-on movement and technique assessments to highlight what truly matters when evaluating powerlifters.
Nancy Newell -- Tackling the Road to ACL Recovery
An estimated 80,000 anterior cruciate ligament tears occur annually in the United States. The majority of these injuries are suffered by 15- to 25-year-olds who want to get back on the field or court as fast as possible. Nancy will examine current research regarding graft selections, risk factors, and how the strength and conditioning coach can help athletes recover both mentally and physically.
Eric Cressey -- Forecasting Fitness
Fifteen years after entering the industry, Eric will make some projections on what the next 15 years will look like in the fields of health and human performance. He'll pay attention to the business, training, and clinical sides of the equation to help fitness professionals to position themselves correctly in the years ahead.
**Bonus 2:30PM Saturday Session**
George Kalantzis and Andrew Zomberg-- The Method Behind CSP Strength Camp Madness
Group training is rapidly overtaking one-on-one training as the most profitable fitness service. However, an effective group fitness system is often difficult to create and sustain. In this session, George and Andrew will take participants through an actual CSP strength camp. The training session will be accompanied by a brief presentation and handouts that dive into the components of programming, coaching and marketing strategies to drive new business and client retention within a group training model.
Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Hudson, MA 01749
Regular Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $129.99, Regular $149.99 Student Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $99.99, Regular $129.99
The early bird registration deadline is August 25.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
**Bonus session Saturday, September 24 at 2:30pm.
0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (eight contact hours)
We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and most seminars we’ve hosted in the past have sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!
If you have additional questions, please direct them to email@example.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!
PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $65.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.
Several months ago, Laura Canteri contributed a great article on general guidelines for hypermobile individuals as they approach their training. Today, Cressey Sports Performance coach Ashley Crosby builds on this theme by introducing some specific strategies coaches can employ to help their loose-jointed clients feel and move better. Enjoy! -EC
I’m hypermobile, and have worked with hypermobile athletes and general population clients for the majority of my career. Let me be the first to tell you: if you tell me to get into a certain position for a lift, I WILL get there. Sure, it won’t be right 9 times out of 10 and I’ll feel it in the wrong places, but I’ll get there, and unless you are REALLY good at what you do, it’s going to look passable, and I’m going to feed into my dysfunctional movement patterns. And every hypermobile client I’ve worked with has done this exact same thing.
This leads to my first strategy:
1. Always, always, always ask your hypermobile client or athlete where they feel an exercise.
Always. Whether it is their first time lifting or their eight billionth session, ask. It’s not just that hypermobile people can cheat to get into a position, it’s that they very frequently don’t even know how it’s SUPPOSED to feel. Ask them, and educate them.
2. Provide external feedback.
Whether it's using your hands to put them in a position, block them off, poke them in the muscle they should be feeling, or give them a target to reach for, giving them a physical cue makes a world of difference. I can tell an athlete performing a wall slide with lift-off to only lift their arms off the wall two inches, or to stop at their ears, but hypermobile people often want to keep going until they “feel” an exercise.
Use your hands to block them until they learn where to stop, while also telling them to stop at their ears. Using bands (such as when you put one around your knees before a trap bar deadlift to correct knee valgus) also provides a little gentle reminder.
One of my favorite examples of providing feedback is regressing a core exercise down to the floor. We happen to work with a number of hyperextended low backs, and having an athlete push both the low back AND their ribs into the ground while in a supine bent-knee position helps reinforce a good core position. It also makes it easier when I tell them to keep their ribs down in an exercise. It’s like building a library of kinetic context for them. “Oh, this is what she means. I know how that should feel now.” Next time they hear the cue, they have an appreciation for what I mean.
3. Find a way to help them get and then maintain tension.
One such cue I frequently use when coaching a squat is, “pretend you’re standing on a towel that’s all bunched up, and spread the towel apart with your feet. Feel your glutes turn on? Good. Keep spreading it apart the whole time.” This helps hypermobile athletes build and maintain tension in their lower bodies through the movement while also reinforcing where an exercise should be felt.
Need one for keeping the lats tight during a deadlift? I like this other one from Tony Gentilcore:
4. Programs pauses, eccentric work, and tempo work.
Why? These approaches teach hypermobile folks to truly OWN the movement, from top to bottom and everything in between. Too often, a hypermobile athlete will drop into and out of a movement without ever truly feeling it. Pauses and tempos slow them down, and again, helps them maintain tension throughout the movement.
5. Stop before you feel the stretch.
Cressey Sports Performance - Florida co-founder Shane Rye gets a shout-out for this one.
Hypermobility literally means that an athlete can go way beyond the normal end range of motion in a joint before they feel anything. The idea is to teach them to stop and get strong in the right positions. An example would be an individual forcing excessive movement through the ball-and-socket (glenohumeral) joint instead of moving through the upper back. "Normal" mobility folks can't get into nearly as much trouble as hypermobile clients.
And on that note as well, for the love of all things good in this world, stop stretching your hypermobile athletes. Don’t LET them stretch. Have them foam roll, do mobility work if needed, or get soft tissue work done, but stop stretching: the relief from the stretch reflex is temporary, and the “tight” feeling comes back worse as the muscles knot up to keep loose joints in place.
About the Author
Ashley Crosby (@AshleyECrosby) recently finished her MS at Bridgewater State before coming to Cressey Sports Performance, first as an intern and then as a coach. A CSCS and Pn1 certified coach, she runs the strength camps in the CSP-FL location. Previously, she was the social media director for the Cape Cod Baseball League. When she's not coaching or lifting, she's usually watching baseball. In addition to her work at CSP-FL, Ashley works with folks from all walks of life through her distance-based consulting. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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