2 Key Strategies for Creating Effective Strength and Conditioning Programs

About the Author: Eric Cressey

One of the questions I’m asked the most frequently is “How did you learn how to write strength and conditioning programs?”

Unfortunately, while it’s a tremendously common question posed to me, I haven’t yet determined a quick and easy response that would work for everyone.  While this may make it seem like I haven’t learned anything in this regard, the truth is that I get more and more effective and efficient with creating programs every single day.  What’s my secret?  Well, I actually have two of them.

1. I NEVER reinvent the wheel.

Our philosophies are constantly evolving, and I’m always working to integrate new concepts into our programming to improve outcomes for our clients.  These ideas may come from things I’ve read, seminars I’ve attended, other programs I’ve observed, or – most importantly – feedback our athletes have given us.  I absolutely, positively, NEVER overhaul a program, though.  Why?

If you change everything, you learn nothing – because you can never appreciate what modification it was that worked (or didn’t work).

2. I build on previous successes, rather than starting from scratch with every new client.

I absolutely loved the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan Heath.  I read this book back in early 2007, and I still refer back to it all the time.

One of the key points that the Heaths make in this book is that an idea will always be more readily accepted if it is incorporated into an individual’s existing schema.  As an example, if I give you the letters TICDGFASOH and then ask you to list all the letters I included to me 20 minutes later without writing them down, most of you won’t be able to accomplish the task correctly.

However, if I reordered those letters as CATDOGFISH, you’d accomplish the task easily.  You know the words DOG, CAT, and FISH – so it would fit into your existing schema.  This applies to strength and conditioning programs, too.

When I attend a seminar, whenever a new technique is introduced, I try to immediately apply it in my notes and in my brain to an existing client of mine.  How can that subtle modification make this individual’s program better?

And, when I evaluate a client for the first time, I ask myself how this client is similar to a previous client of mine.  I’ll look back to that old client’s program to see what we used to get results – and then I’ll tinker accordingly based in the new client’s more specific individual needs.  I absolutely NEVER open up a blank Microsoft Excel template and write something from scratch, as it’s always easiest to tinker with what’s worked in the past.

What does this mean for the up-and-coming strength and conditioning program author?

Get out to as many seminars as possible.  Visit other coaches and observe their programs.  Read books and watch DVDs to learn about how others incorporate different strategies and strength exercises in their weight training programs.  Your goal is to expand your existing schema as much as possible and – in the beginning – create the strength and conditioning programs that will end up becoming the foundation for all future programs.  After the first few months, you are simply “tinkering,” not overhauling.  Never reinvent the wheel, and always build on previous successes.

Want to see how a comprehensive program is set up? Check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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