Home Posts tagged "Personal Trainer"

Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 5

I haven't published a post in this series since September, so this update is long overdue. Here we go...

1. Focus on optimism in training, but pessimism in business.

I'm in the process of reading The Founder's Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman. It's been excellent thus far, and this quote stood out to me, in particular:

"Higher optimism entrepreneurs have 20% lower revenue growth and 25% lower employment growth than lower optimism entrepreneurs who would be less susceptible to the perils of optimism."

Without even knowing it, Wasserman might have explained a big reason why so many fitness professionals struggle when they open their own business (as compared to working for someone else). The best trainers are upbeat, unconditionally positive, and energetic during their training sessions - but that doesn't mean that this approach also works well on the business side of things.

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As I think about the most productive meetings I've had with my business partners over the years, they haven't been sit-downs to talk about all the great things we're doing. Rather, they were meetings where we nit-picked and scrutinized everything we were doing to find ways to improve. In a broad sense, they were very pessimistic.

Wasserman elaborates: "Excessive optimism can blind many founders to their start-ups' critical needs. So, they must be particularly vigilant in identifying the gaps in their skills, knowledge, and contacts - and evaluating whether and when those gaps should be filled by a co-founder."

There's your quick, two-part recipe for fitness industry business struggles:

a. Be overly optimistic on the business side of things and miss key opportunities for improvement and growth.

b. Fail to have the knowledge and resources needed to improve a problem even if you do actually identify it.

2. Effective loss leaders shouldn't devalue your service.

A while back, my business partner, Pete Dupuis, wrote up a great article: 3 Reasons We Don't Offer Free Training Consultations. In it, he outlined three primary reasons why offering free training consults at your gym might not be a good idea. One point he didn't make, though, is that you are effectively devaluing your services.

Now, to be clear, I am not at all opposed to loss leaders in the fitness industry - as long as we have a broader definition of "loss leader." Wikipedia defines it as "is a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services." In my opinion, you can utilize "value addition leaders" with great impact without devaluing your services (the only "loss" is your time). You're simply finding ways to give potential customers something of value before they take the initial plunge with you.

This might be a free seminar at your facility that they attend, or a expedited referral to a physical therapist or sports orthopedist prior to them starting up with you. You might even go to this appointment with them to learn more about their injury and help make the transition as smooth as possible. It's a way to show you care and deliver value before the first transaction.

With our professional athlete clientele, we have a great opportunity to do this prior to them actually getting to Cressey Sports Performance for an evaluation. Maybe it's a function of helping them to find housing (sometimes even at the Cressey residence!), or passing along the information they need for the smoothest travel experience on the way to CSP. Or, maybe it's lining up a catcher for them to throw a bullpen when they're only in town for a short stint.

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There are countless ways to add value to the client's experience with your training facility, but you do need to be a bit more creative to find ways to differentiate yourself even prior to the first transaction.

3. Lead Generation, Lead Conversion, and Retention are the big three of fitness business success. 

Just as powerlifting has the big three - squat, bench press, deadlift - fitness business success has its own big three:

a. Lead Generation - how many people inquire about your services

b. Lead Conversion - how many of those prospects actually wind up paying for your services

c. Retention - how well you keep those clients

If you're a relatively experienced powerlifter, you can usually identify the quickest way to bring up your total. For me, I was always a strong deadlifter, decent bench, and mediocre squatter - so prioritizing the squat was the fastest way to bring up my overall performance.

Similarly, I think every business owner (even outside the fitness industry) would be wise to look at their businesses with this "largest window of adaptation" perspective. At CSP, lead conversion has never really been an issue for us, so we can devote most of our efforts on the business front to lead generation and retention.

Of course, don't overlook "ancillary" efforts like managing expenses, collecting outstanding payments, servicing equipment, and the like as important. While they are key considerations, they just usually aren't "big rocks" on the profitability front like these other three.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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The Best of 2016: Strength and Conditioning Features

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2016 at EricCressey.com: 

1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training

I really enjoyed writing this series, as I can always build on current events. This year, I drew inspiration from everything from off-season baseball preparations, to the Olympics, to new books and DVDs I'd covered. There's an article for every month:    

Installment 15
Installment 16
Installment 17
Installment 18
Installment 19
Installment 20
Installment 21
Installment 22
Installment 23
Installment 24
Installment 25

2. Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective

This coaching series has appeal for fitness professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and exercise enthusiasts alike.

Installment 14
Bench Press Technique Edition

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3. Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success 

While most of my writing folks on the training side of things, I do like to delve into the business side of fitness, too. These posts include various pieces of wisdom for those who make their living in the fitness industry.

Installment 1
Installment 2
Installment 3
Installment 4

The Best of 2016 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success: Installment 3

My topic for our 5th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar is "Forecasting Fitness." I'll be talking about where I think the fitness industry is headed in the next few decades. While I've been pulling together my PowerPoint, I've come up with some good odds and ends that I feel warrant reflection here in a blog. Before I get started, though, just a quick, friendly reminder that today is the last day to get the early-bird registration discount on the event. Hope to see you there!

Without further ado...

1. Humility is a must.

Over the past week, I've listened to podcasts interviews with three of my good friends in the industry: Brijesh Patel (head S&C coach at Quinnipiac), Mike Irr (S&C coach and physical therapist for the Golden State Warriors), and Josh Bonhotal (S&C coach at Purdue). I'm a huge believer (both in life and continuing education opportunities) in the importance of finding common ground. [bctt tweet="Focus on the 90% of things successful people have in common, not the 10% upon which they disagree."]

In all three of these interviews, the coach - in one way or another - stressed the importance of humility. Josh, in particular, commented on how he knew absolutely nothing about training divers (or even the sport itself) when he first started training divers with Olympic medals under their belts. And, rather than trying to employ a "fake it 'til you make it" strategy with them, he was very honest with them about his lack of experience, but also committed to learning as much as he could by observing and asking tons of questions. I think athletes and clients appreciate that humility - and certainly prefer it over a "know it all" demeanor.

2. There are four predominant ways to win over a potential customer in the fitness industry.

Last month, an intern asked me what I felt made some fitness writers successful while others struggled to gain a following. It got me to thinking about the qualities of the prominent fitness writers I know, and the more I considered it, the more I realized that these are the same qualities that make for a good in-person trainer or coach. Here are some of the four primary things the best writers (and trainers) do:

Innovate - These are new ideas that you can't find elsewhere. Think of what Nick Tumminello and Ben Bruno do with the introduction of exercises you haven't seen before. It's what we've tried to do with our baseball-specific approach to strength and conditioning. Ron Hruska did this with the Postural Restoration Institute approach to restoring optimal movement, and Dr. Stuart McGill has done it with his research on back pain and spine biomechanics. In the in-person training realm, this is the trainer at the commercial gym who picks up clients because they see him/her always introducing new drills with clients to keep things fresh. Or, it might be the reason baseball players move from across the country to train at Cressey Sports Performance in MA or FL. 

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Translate - This is someone taking an innovator's ideas and making them more user-friendly for the masses, and it's often necessary because not all innovators make great teachers.  I think Mike Boyle has done a tremendous job of this over the years because he's very well read and a good teacher. In a presentation in Charlotte earlier this year, Mike joked that he has "no problem being the dumbest person in the room." In other words, he asks questions, and in doing so, learns how to best teach the material he's acquiring. Ultimately, this also leads to innovation, too.

In the in-person training world, this is the trainer who has great knowledge, but can "dumb things down" to create an efficient training program without overwhelming clients (who may not be interested in the science behind the training, anyway).

Entertain - This approach finds ways to make otherwise mundane content more palatable. If you read Tony Gentilcore's content, he does this really well; you hear about his cat and the movies he's seen as you're digesting content on shoulder mobility. These are also people who bring to the forefront entertaining stories that you might not have seen, but also offer social commentary (think of Barstool Sports or The Onion). In-person, these are the trainers who make things so fun that you actually forget you're working out.

Relate - This skill creates a sense of acceptance or unity. It's what Girls Gone Strong has done for females who like to lift weights, and why many powerlifters enjoy following other lifters' training logs that are posted online. The exercises aren't necessarily unique or hard to understand, but it gives a glimpse into someone else's reality that feels like your own. In-person, this is why some clients seek out trainers who are more like themselves. Smaller females usually don't want to train with huge bodybuilders, and guys who want to be huge bodybuilders don't want to train with smaller females. Baseball players don't want to train with guys who look like 300-pound offensive linemen, and 300-pound offensive lineman are usually skeptical of little guys who don't look the part.

Keep in mind that all successful writers and trainers do a combination of a few of these things; they never happen in isolation. If you look at EricCressey.com, I have a whole lot of innovation and translation, but less entertainment and relating. Conversely, you can get those latter two things on my social media offerings (particularly Instagram), as I post pics of my kids and own training, plus loads of self-deprecating humor and comical hashtags. 

 

First high-five! They're ready for you, @nancy_newell! #cspfamily #twinning

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on


3. Unpolished writing is a "tripwire."

Let me preface this point by saying that you can be a great coach even with poor writing skills. What I will say, however, is that having unimpressive writing skills will make it dramatically harder to a) get a job and b) acquire clients.

For me, writing is a "tripwire." The second I see an email or resume with horrendous punctuation and loads of typos, it flips the "evaluate this under a microscope" switch. In other words, if someone writes (especially in a professional context) carelessly, it makes me wonder how far their lack of attention to detail extends. Will they show up on time? Will they swear in front of clients? Will there be typos in the programs they write?

In a world where 95% of fitness resumes look almost identical, polished writing can actually be a strong distinguishing factor.

4. Switch "ABC" to "ABCD."

This is borrowed from a slide in my 2016 Perform Better talk, but it's so important that I think it warrants reiteration. 

Many business coaches have written about the ABC approach to selling: "Always Be Closing." I happen to think that's the short-term-gain, long-term-pain approach to building a business, especially in the fitness industry. People are constantly getting pitched on something, and it sure gets old.

I favor the ABCD approach: "Always Be Creatively Delivering." As Pat Rigsby has said, you want to find ways to add value, not extract it. Go out of your way to find avenues through which you can add more value to a client's experience and you'll have a much higher likelihood of fitness industry success.

Wrap-up

That'll do it for this month. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. And, we'd certainly love to see you at our fall seminar!

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6 Objectives for Successful Training Sessions

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?”

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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.

No Injuries

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.

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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.

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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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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/11/16

Monday, Fun day! I hope you all had a great weekend. Here's some recommended strength and conditioning reading to kick the week off for you:

4 Tips for Stronger Client Connections - Todd Bumgardner provides some excellent tips for anyone - especially the personal trainer - who is in the business of dealing with people.

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Usain Bolt, the Movement Police, and Keyboard Sprinting Experts - Doug Kechijian is a super bright physical therapist who isn't afraid to tell it like it is - and this article is a fantastic example of his candor and openmindedness. 

With Scholarship Limit, College Baseball Careers come with a Cost - This is an excellent piece by Dirk Chatelain on scholarship limitations and their financial implications in collegiate baseball. 

Top Tweet of the Week:

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Top Instagram Post of the Week:

 

Working on scapular upward rotation with some @officialccbl pitchers at Fenway today. #cspfamily #capecodbaseball

A photo posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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10 Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success

With my presentation tomorrow in Charlotte, I'll be kicking off my tenth year of speaking on the Perform Better Tour. It's hard to believe that I've been a part of this great experience for a decade now, having given my first presentation back in 2007 at age 25. To "commemorate" this event, I decided to entitle this year's talk, "10 Years, 10 Lessons: How to Perform Better in Business and Training."

PB

In the ten years I've had the honor of presenting on the PB Tour, a lot has changed in my life. I've gone from a single guy with minimal responsibilities to a married father of 16-month-old twin daughters. We have Cressey Sports Performance facilities in both Hudson, MA and Jupiter, FL, and my wife and I split our year between the two. We've got more than a dozen employees between the two locations. I've written six books, co-created six DVD sets, and lectured in six countries and 22 U.S. states. This website now gets over 400,000 unique visitors each month.

I mention these things not to brag, but only to emphasize that I've learned a ton in the past decade. Unfortunately, it's far too much to include in a single 75-minute presentation, so there were some important points that I couldn't include. With that in mind, I thought a quick blog on the topic would allow me to bring things to the forefront. Since EricCressey.com typically sticks to the training realm, I wanted to highlight some fitness business lessons that have come to mind that didn't quite make the cut for my presentation.

1. There are tremendous parallels among business, sports, and military success.

Whether it's leadership or culture lessons, we always have something to gain in seeking out wisdom from other disciplines. I always have an audiobook "in play" on this front. Success leaves clues, regardless of the industry in which it occurs. 

If you're looking for a great book in this regard, I'd recommend Extreme Ownership.

extreme-ownership

2. Contrarians falter eventually - even if they don't realize it.

Particularly in this social media era, you'll see people who always insist on being contrarians. To me, this is a "short-term gain, long-term pain" strategy for professional success (or lack thereof). Being a "renegade" may seem appealing for garnering attention in the short term, but over the long haul, it'll lead to a lot of broken relationships and dissatisfaction.

I spend a LOT of time withholding what I'd really like to say on social media because you never know who is reading and judging. It's easy to say "I got this many retweets for ranting about XYZ," but it's impossible to quantify bridges burned in the process. How many people chose to avoid training with you because you came across as too negative on social media? You'll really never know. To that end, I think that professional restraint has served me very well. I'd much rather be vanilla and get along with everyone.

3. You can change behaviors or beliefs, but it's very rare feat to change both.

You're better off picking one. I first read this in Robert Sutton's Scaling Up Excellence, and as I thought back on my work with both employees and clients, it couldn't have possibly made any more sense.

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If someone is very set in their beliefs (e.g., I won't change my diet), you need to change the surroundings to impact their behaviors (e.g., get junk food out of the house). Make it harder for them to eat like crap.

If someone is set in their behaviors (e.g., lifting with brutal technique), you have to change their beliefs (e.g., teach them what good technique actually is). Make it harder for them to "accept" lifting like crap.

4. Clients want novelty.

No matter how much we've all convinced ourselves that clients simply need the basics, the truth is that they'll always be inclined to seek out novelty. With that in mind, if you don't plan to create it in your training programs, you better create it in your training atmosphere and culture.

5. It's much easier to spend other people's money than it is to spend your own.

This is my response when people ask me whether I think it's a good idea to bring on investors or bank loans when starting a fitness industry. When someone else is throwing in the cash, it's pretty tempting to buy 17 different kinds of leg curl machines when you probably don't even need one.

Think long and hard about whether you need every single dollar you spend when you open a gym.

6. I'm not sure that I buy the "10,000 Hour to Mastery" rule.

Malcolm Gladwell first introduced the 10,000 Hour Rule in his best-seller, Outliers. The premise was pretty simple: those who were remarkably successful in their fields had accumulated 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to attain a level of mastery.

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As is the case with a number of other people in the field, I'm not so sure about this number anymore. 

First, I know of a lot of people who have 10,000 hours that really haven't done much of it with deep study. There are a lot of people who lead very distracted lives. "Deliberate" practice seems to mean something different to everyone.

Second, I think that fitness business success requires mastery in multiple realms. The chances of you getting sufficient amounts in all of these realms over 10,000 hours are really low. For instance, to build on what Michael Gerber presented in The E-Myth, I'd say that I'm a pretty good technician (coach) and entrepreneur (idea generator), but still have a lot to learn as a manager of people. 

Third, remember that we're in a constantly changing field; new research emerges every single day. Putting in 10,000 hours of archaeology training might make you a fossil expert for life, but in the fitness industry, putting in 10,000 hours early in your career and then getting comfortable makes you the fossil - and really quickly.

7. It's good to know your personality and have others who do, too, to keep things in check.

I'm a giver, an eternal optimist, and an "idea guy."

I have a wife that is quick to tell me when someone is taking advantage of my kindness.

I have a business partner, Pete Dupuis, who slows me down on the ideas front to think things through.

peted

Having a great network is important, but having people who understand your personality and not just your expertise is invaluable.

8. Be succinct.

In coaching, you want your cues to be clear, concise, and firm. Don't overwhelm clients with too many cues, and don't give a cue unless you can deliver it with 100% confidence.

In networking, don't send long emails, especially if it's a first outreach. In this busy world, nobody wants to read a novel. Attention spans (mine included, admittedly) are growing shorter and shorter with each passing day.

With your resume, don't list every single course that you’ve taken in college. If you include any at all, only highlight the ones that had a profound impact on you or give you a competitive advantage as compared to other applicants. In fact, you're probably better off trimming your whole resume down. Nobody cares that you scooped ice cream for a summer job when you were 13.

9. Solve problems.

Every successful business in any industry solves a problem.

Paypal made currency transfer easier in an era of writing checks and cumbersome bank transfers.

The Diaper Genie eliminated the problem of dirty diapers smelling up the house if you didn't take the trash out every two hours. Don't laugh, it sold for $75 million all the way back in 1999.

Cressey Sports Performance offered innovative baseball-specific strength and conditioning when others didn't; we found a gap in the market and filled it.

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With all this in mind, if there are already three Crossfits in your town, are you really solving a problem by opening the fourth? Unless you're willing to go down the miserable path of competing on price, you better think long and hard about how you're going to differentiate your offering so that you can actually solve a problem that hasn't already been solved.

10. Peers are likely just as important as mentors.

This is a lesson I've learned from watching about nine years worth of Cressey Sports Performance intern classes. Consider our staff the mentors who are doing the teaching, and the interns as peers to each other. The mentor group hasn't changed much, with the exception of some staff expansion and more expertise at the interns' fingertips. The curriculum has evolved to provide more education, and fine tune the way we teach older material.

However, looking back, some intern classes seemed to thrive a little more than others. When you consider all the factors that could impact these outcomes, the one that seems to stand out is the camaraderie among the intern class. If they lived together - or at least spent a lot of time outside the gym together - they seemed to do even better. Peers have a pronounced impact on the way we process information and, just as importantly, how we reflect upon and utilize it.

Looking back on my own early career development, I was really fortunate to have great peers. My collaborative efforts with Mike Robertson in the early 2000s definitely stand out above all else on this front. Mike really pushed me to be better, and I think he'd say that I did the same for him.

Building on this, what becomes even more powerful is when a mentor becomes a peer. Alwyn Cosgrove really took me under his wing about a decade ago, and now that I'm a more seasoned fitness professional and business owner, I can contribute more of value to discussions with Alwyn. Likewise, I find myself reaching out to former interns of mine for advice all the time. And, sometimes we hire them to "formalize" their "peer" status.

As the old saying goes, you're an average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Make sure that it's a good blend of mentors and peers.

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Do Your Strength and Conditioning Progressions Create Context?

It goes without saying that some athletes pick up new movements faster than others. Usually, this occurs because they have context from which to draw. 

As an example, an athlete might have a great hip hinge because they've done it previously while playing defense in basketball. Having that hip hinge proficiency helps the individual to efficiently learn a deadlift pattern (among many other athletic movements).

Establishing context is just one of many reasons that children should be exposed to a wide variety of free play and athletic endeavors. The more movement variability we have at younger ages, the broader the foundation we build. The wider the base, the more we can stack specific skills on top of it once the time is right.

It's foolish to think, however, that every individual we encounter in personal training, strength and conditioning, or rehabilitation settings will have this broad foundation of context from which to draw. This is where appropriate training progressions become so important. You select exercises with which individuals can be successful not only to build confidence and achieve a training effect, but also to establish context for further progressions.

As an example, if you want to be able to do a quality lateral lunge with overhead reach as part of your warm-up, you've got to be able to string together several movement proficiencies: full shoulder flexion range-of-motion; sufficient thoracic extension and scapular posterior tilt/upward rotation; hip adductor range of motion; hip hinge proficiency; and good stiffness in your anterior core and deep neck flexors to prevent low back arching and forward head posture, respectively.

When I'm teaching this pattern for the first time, I'll always say, "It's just like your back-to-wall shoulder flexion, but with a long lunge to the side."

Back-to-wall shoulder flexion is big-time "context creator" for me because I can teach it to just about anyone really quickly. In fact, I've taught it to seminars with 100+ people without many challenges. More importantly, it creates quality movement from the core all the way up (five of the seven movement prerequisites I noted earlier) - and that has big payoffs later on when one wants to teach anything from a push-up, to a landmine press, to a snatch, to an overhead medicine ball variation.

 

 

#Orioles prospect Will Shepley with a little controlled chaos during this morning's pro crew. #cspfamily #medicineball

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

A lot of folks will read this article and think, "But these is just common sense progressions." I'd agree. However, as we've learned in recent years, in the world of larger group training without individualized programming, common sense isn't so common anymore - and as a result, folks wind up skipping steps and advancing to exercise for which they aren't ready. 

Perhaps more importantly, though, being able to effectively sequence coaching progressions will, in my opinion, become even more important in the years ahead. With the trend of early sports specialization, we're getting "less athletic athletes;" they don't have as much context in place, and wind up having to back-track. Additionally, we have an increasingly sedentary society, which certainly robs individuals of context.

All that said, just remember that if you want to have an exercise in your program, you have to think about how you're going to coach it with all the individuals that may come your way. And, that coaching might involve devising some exercise regressions that build context from which to draw.

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The Best of 2015: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2015 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. 12 Questions to Ask Before Including an Exercise in Your Training Program - I drafted up this article to outline all the things that go through my brain as I'm writing up a strength and conditioning program.

2. 10 Important Notes on Assessments - I'm a big believer in the importance of assessments in the fitness industry, but it's really important to make sure that these assessments are performed correctly - and matched to the population in question. Here are ten thoughts on the subject.

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3. How to Build an Aerobic Base with Mobility Circuits - I just posted this article a few weeks ago, and it already received enough traffic to outpace popular posts that were posted much earlier in the year. Suffice to say that folks were excited about the fact that you can improve movement quality while improving conditioning. 

4. Is One-on-One Personal Training Dead? - In spite of the direction of the fitness industry with respect to semi-private training, I'm still a big fan of one-on-one training - and I think every fitness professional should be proficient with it.

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5. 5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself as a Personal Trainer - Here's a must-read for the up-and-coming fitness professionals in the crowd.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2015" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

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Is Your Strength and Conditioning Internship a One-Way Street?

Just the other day, my Cressey Sports Performance business partner, Pete Dupuis, ran a live fitness business Q&A on my Facebook page, and he delivered some great insights on a number of fronts. I chimed in on one question that jumped out at me as worthy of an entire article, so here is my "expansion" on my initial response:

Q: We have had struggles trying to find a decent referral source for quality interns. How have you had success finding them?

Certainly, there are ways that you can “recruit” new interns. Establishing a good relationship with a nearby college with an exercise science program is a good place to start. Or, you can even look to your former high school athletes who have pursued a degree in a related field; they know your systems and can definitely hit the ground running.
However, I’d argue that the absolute best way to grow your internship is the same way that you’d grow your “normal” training clientele: deliver a high-quality product and generate great word of mouth buzz. In other words, as Cal Newport’s popular book’s title suggests, Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

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The problem, unfortunately, is that a lot of internships in the fitness industry aren’t very good. Before we delve into the “why” behind this, I’m going to let the numbers do the talking for a few paragraphs.

Each year at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP), we receive roughly 200 internship applications; this corresponds to roughly “accepted” 25-30 interns per year between the Massachusetts and Florida facility. In other words, we only accept about 10-15% of applicants.

As a frame of reference, in 2015, the acceptance rate of Ivy League schools ranged from 5.33% (Harvard) to 14.9% (Cornell). Have you ever heard of an Ivy League school saying that they just don’t have enough smart, talented, hard-working kids on campus? Absolutely not – and it’s because their reputation precedes them; this reputation generates a lot of “leads.”

Regardless of whether your issue is not having enough applicants, or not having enough “good” interns, the answer is the same: you need to deliver a better product. It sounds kind of like running a training business (or any business), doesn’t it?

We get 200+ applicants per year for internships because we go out of our way to deliver a quality experience. As a frame of reference, every incoming CSP intern goes through a 10-week online course and a video database of close to 800 exercises. In other words, they effectively have 60-80 hours of studying that needs to take place before they arrive. That’s roughly the equivalent of two college courses.

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On the first day of the internship, during their 90-minute orientation, they are handed about $250 worth of head-to-toe New Balance gear. Each week, there is a 60-90-minute in-service delivered by one of our staff members. Over the course of the internship, they receive free admission to any seminars we host. They can sign out books/DVDs from the large training/nutrition library in the office. Finally, we are always looking for part-time employment opportunities for them during the internship – and full-time employment opportunities after the internships end. We also have a closed Facebook group for all former interns that keeps them connected for everything from sharing employment opportunities, to brainstorming on tough client/patient cases, to finding good referrals in different areas. In the last month alone, it’s led to a new job in Santa Cruz, CA, and a new internship at the University of North Carolina.

Above all else, though, we do our best to empower our interns as soon as they’ve proven they’ve capable of taking on more challenging roles. In other words, the internships evolve to allow their coaching responsibilities to expand as they become more proficient. As an example, in the past year alone, we’ve had two interns – Tony Bonvechio and Nancy Newell – who were so awesome during their internships that they “forced our hand” to create positions for them as full-time staff members.

To me, this still doesn’t seem like enough. These folks are putting their lives on hold to work unpaid internships – and in many cases, moving across the country to do so. They become part of our “CSP Family” for life and we want to treat them accordingly.

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Unfortunately, we are an exception to the rule. There are still a lot of fitness internships that are “observation only.” If you don’t empower a young coach to grow, how can you truly evaluate whether he/she will be a great employee? Supervisors shouldn’t stay as supervisors; they should ultimately become “peers.” In this regard, I owe tremendous credit to coaches Chris West and Teena Murray (now of Louisville) for not only giving me an opportunity to help out during my University of Connecticut years, but for continuing to challenge me in different ways as my internship experience progressed. Great coaches bring their athletes along the right pace, but they also do so for those they mentor on the coaching side of things.

Sadly, a lot of people in the industry view internships as a one-way street, treating up-and-comers as just cheap or free labor. Cleaning may be a responsibility, but it shouldn’t be the only responsibility.

I know I can speak for our staff when I say that we take a lot of pride in trying to go out of our way to help them all develop. We really enjoy teaching.

To that end, a lot of our intern applicants are referrals from previous interns. And warm introductions from previous interns make it easier for us to select the best applicants, too. Just like building and managing a successful training business, it’s a continuous cycle:

CustomerLifecyle

With that in mind, I reached out to our former interns to get their “hindsight insights” on the CSP internship experience. Specifically, I asked "What part of the CSP internship experience did you a) enjoy the most and b) find the most crucial to your longer term success?" I apologize for the lengthy copy and paste, but I think the sheer volume of similar responses speaks volumes (skip ahead to my point after the last testimonial, if you want):

Doug Kechijian, Physical Therapist at Peak Performance in NYC:
“A) Being surrounded be people who challenged me to think critically (this included the other interns).
B) The network you have access to upon completion of the internship/the communication skills you develop from the volume of coaching you accumulate‬‬‬.”

Connor Ryan, Physical Therapist at Drive 495 in NYC:
“A) Gaining family and friends through means of collaboration, learning, and helping be a part of something genuinely special. You can feel the hard work around you from the staff and the athlete's. The environment breeds a standard of excellence.
B) The most crucial component is having network to lean on, having a growing team to learn from, and have people to identify with and push you and help you find others that want to get better and hold standards of performance and progress to a very high level.”

Dave Rak, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at The University of Washington:
“A) My time interning at CSP put me in an environment where I was always learning whether it was from a staff in service, learning hands on through coaching, or even staff training sessions. I was surrounded by professionals who wanted to see me be successful and always pushed me to be better. ‬‬
‪B) The relationships I built at CSP have been the most crucial to my success. They have opened doors I never would have imagined. I can easily reach out to the CSP community of coaches/former interns for guidance with career advice, training/coaching advice, and anything in between. I feel like I am never on my own because I always have someone to reach out to for help when needed.”‬

Tim Geromini, Strength and Conditioning Coach at CSP-Florida:
“A) The most enjoyable part of my experience as a CSP intern was the people I got to work with and for on a daily basis. Clients become friends when you take the time to get to know them and find out their backgrounds. Same goes for the coaches. Everybody has their own style from past experiences and it was fun to see how many different ways you can gain results with the same intent.‬‬
‪B) The most crucial part of a successful CSP internship was being open minded and making the atmosphere a true family feel. If you're not open to learning new styles or open to different personalities, then you won't be successful in this field. It always keeps you hungry. The experience is more fun when you and your fellow interns get along, go to dinner, lift together, and get to know each other. It's a life experience, not just learning to coach.‬”‬

Molly Caffelle, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at The University of North Carolina:
“A) Gaining lifelong friendships with the staff and intern group. The whole CSP environment in general, creates a very welcoming and learning atmosphere. All around best internship experience for any new young professional‬‬.
‪‬B) Learning how to connect one on one with clients. Understanding the true meaning of ‘they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.’”

Rob Rabena-Director of Sports Performance at Maplezone Sports Institute in Garnet Valley, PA.:
“A) I enjoyed being treated like I was on staff as a strength coach and not just an intern. ‬‬
‪B) for my long term success the most important aspect that I learned was every little detail matters from a brand perspective, marketing, coaching, evaluations, facility design, customer service, program design etc. ‬”‬‬

John O’Neil, Personal Trainer at Drive 495 in NYC:
“A) Being part of something special, because of the culture that CP has created, when you put on the logo, you feel like it's a shield and your job becomes important...
B) professional connections, both in job searching and in a network of bright, motivated individuals. As a coach, seeing a high volume of athletes and needing to appreciate cueing different people differently has had great carryover to my every day work.”

Roger Lawson, Personal Trainer and Writer in Boston, MA:
“A) The people, both staff and clients, without a doubt. With all the different personalities and backgrounds coalescing into a giant melting pot of awesomeness, there is never a boring day. The strong sense of community that forms when you spend several hours a week with someone is undeniable. It's a two way street; everyone has something to give and everyone has something to learn.‬‬
‪B) Being around a group of individuals who are striving to better themselves. It's impossible to stay bottom tier of knowledge when you're surrounded by those who are constantly evolving. That kind of environment creates the attitude where betterment isn't "work," but something that you actually want to seek out.”‬

Do You See a Trend?

Every single former intern refers back to becoming part of a family, or something special. They reflect fondly on being around people that empowered them and challenged them to be better, holding them to a higher standard of professional excellence. A good internship welcomes strength and conditioning up-and-comers as an integral part of a team.

Closing Thoughts

You wouldn’t spend a ton of money on marketing your training facility if you didn’t know that your training product was solid, would you? Of course not!

With that in mind, before you start going out to find interns, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it because you love to teach and feel a responsibility to deliver a great product to benefit the future of the industry? If so, make sure a quality product is in place and then have at it. However, if you’re just looking for someone to help you sweep the floors, maybe you’re not meant to run an internship program.

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Is One-on-One Personal Training Really Dead?

Just about every fitness business coach out there will vehemently assert that one-on-one training is "dead," and that you have to go with semi-private (small group) training to stay relevant and profitable. Obviously, we work with almost exclusively semi-private training at Cressey Sports Performance, so I think there is some merit to this assertion.

semiprivate

The rationale for both the business and client is sound. The business can see more clients in a given amount of time, which is a deviation from popular trainers being limited to the number of hours they can train. The client gets more affordable training, allowing them to participate more frequently and do so with a more flexible schedule. Plus, there is added camaraderie from training alongside others in a motivating environment. Win/win, right? 

With that said, there are still some very profitable fitness facilities doing extremely well with one-on-one training thanks to their geography. Usually, these facilities are in affluent cities like New York where rent is very expensive and higher training prices can be charged. It's also common with celebrity trainers who may have clients who seek out privacy during training sessions. My last three true one-on-one clients have all been MLB All-Stars who had short time-frames with which to work, significant injury histories, and challenging family schedules that didn't make our semi-private "pro group" hours feasible for them.

Taking this a step further, though, I've always said:

       Your business model should never dictate your training model.

Business rationale aside, though, I'm of the belief that one-on-one training is vital to the long-term success of the coaches, not just the business in question. One-on-one training is where you hone your craft, learning to get more efficient with your cueing. It's where you learn how to be conversational with clients without interfering with the flow of the session. It's when you learn how to "read" clients: do they learn best with visual, auditory, or kinesthetic cues? It's when you learn to manage a schedule, and build rapport with clients who are new to the "gym scene."

Every single one of our coaches at both the Massachusetts and Florida facilities were successful personal trainers before they were successful semi-private coaches. And, each of our interns needs to demonstrate proficiency in a one-on-one context before we'd ever consider letting them handle scenarios with multiple athletes simultaneously. We hire exclusively from our internship program, so nobody works at CSP unless they've thrived in one-on-one training already; I feel like it's that important.

You see, we might be predominantly semi-private training, but all of our clients receive a lot of one-on-one attention, particularly in the first 1-2 months of training. We created the baseball strength and conditioning "niche," and a big differentiating factor is that we meticulously coach arm care drills in ways that are slightly different for each athlete, depending on their presentation. Can you imagine teaching a prone 1-arm trap raise to 5-6 people at the same time?

One of the "concessions" you make with larger group training is that you are going to let some less-than-perfect reps "go." I've watched large hands-on sessions at conferences with fitness professionals as the participants, and there are bad reps all the time - and this is in a population that should know exercise technique better than anyone! It's just reality. For me, though, I don't want a single bad rep performed with any of our arm care work. The baseball shoulder has so little margin for error that anything less than perfection with technique is unacceptable.

If we teach it meticulously up-front, we not only create a great movement foundation that will make it easier for the individual to thrive in a semi-private environment, but also clearly establish in the client's eyes that we are still taking into account their unique needs. We can do all this because we have sufficient staffing to make this work.

ECtable

Conversely, if you're a single trainer and insist on billing in a semi-private environment and don't want shoddy exercise technique under your roof, you better carve out some time in your schedule for individual instruction. You have to move well before you move a lot.

What does this mean for the original assertion that "one-on-one is dead" (with a few notable exceptions)? Well, I'd argue that it should read:

One-on-one training is dead from a billing standpoint. It's still vitally important from a coaching standpoint - particularly in facilities that don't want to just deliver a "vanilla" product.

The same coaches who tell you to go to semi-private training will usually encourage you to go to watered down, one-size-fits-all programming templates. That might work okay if you're just doing general fitness training, but it fails miserably if you're working with clients who want to be absolutely awesome at what they do.

One-on-one training takes place every single day at Cressey Sports Performance, a "semi-private" facility that has done double-digit growth in every year since it opened in 2007. And, I know of loads of other facilities that incorporate it extensively under the semi-private umbrella.

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One-on-one training isn't dead. It's just being called something else.

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