Home Blog Strength and Conditioning Programs: The Most Important Benefit

Strength and Conditioning Programs: The Most Important Benefit

Written on July 12, 2011 at 6:16 am, by Eric Cressey

This past weekend, my wife and I headed down to Pennsylvania for some friends’ wedding.  On Saturday morning, I awoke at 7AM to her standing next to my bed absolutely covered in sweat and wearing her workout clothes.  As it turns out, knowing that the weekend would be full of not-so-healthy food and limited opportunities to exercise, Anna had taken the bull by the horns and hit up the hotel gym at 6AM to kick her day off right.  It’s no surprise, as she spends quite a bit of time at Cressey Performance.

That, in itself, isn’t a particularly riveting story to kick off today’s blog – until I discovered that the only thing this hotel gym had was an elliptical, recumbent bike, and treadmill.  And, to take it a step further, Anna discovered that there was no power for any of them, meaning that they were essentially just places to rest her water bottle.  What to do?

She could have said screw it and gone back to bed.

She could have woken me up and asked me to write her a body weight program.

She could have tried to run on the side of a busy road, or find a place to sprint in a town that wasn’t familiar to her.

Instead, though, she used the knowledge and experience she had to construct her own body weight training program.  Anna’s an optometrist, not a trainer – but her skill set from asking questions, being in the right environment, and performing dozens of programs put her in a position to handle the curveballs life threw at her.

Coincidentally, a strength coach from the Cape Cod Summer League came up to observe at CP last week, and we got to talking about how you never quite have the continuity you want with training athletes because they go in-season for a big chunk of the year, and because you’re always working around competition and travel schedules.  To that end, he asked me what the single biggest thing is that we focus on when we may only have someone for a short period of time.  My answer?

“It’s the same thing we focus on when we have someone for a longer period of time: education.  It’s our job to make athletes informed consumers who know how to listen to their body, adapt to their surroundings, eat the right foods, get the right amount of sleep, and do the correct programs regardless of what’s going on around them.”

You might think that your #1 job as a trainer is to strip 15 pounds of body fat off someone in two months.  Or, maybe it’s to put four inches on a guy’s vertical jump prior to a scouting combine.

In reality, though, your #1 priority is to educate them so that they’re prepared for the days that they’re on their own.

Education needs to be different for everyone, though.  A true beginner needs to be educated on everything from what to eat during/post-training to how to perform the actual exercises.  If you teach a female client to have a protein and carb shake around a session in a weight training program, then chances are that she would eventually know to grab some Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit if a shake isn’t handy when she’s on the road.  Or, if you teach a young baseball player how to do a dumbbell reverse lunge and a front squat, then he’ll be able to perform a barbell reverse lunge with a front squat grip someday when he needs a good single-leg exercise, but only has barbells at the exclusion of dumbbells.

A more advanced individual might want to know more about his/her unique muscle imbalances and what corrective mobility and stability drills to stay on top of to prevent problems from arising.  Or, these folks might just want to make use of your network to find great gyms and manual therapists in other parts of the country so that they can stay on top of their workout routines while on the road.

Results are fantastic and obviously an absolutely essential part of a successful strength and conditioning program.  However, if you aren’t educating folks along the way, then you’re not cultivating the long-term fitness success they really need, even if they don’t think to consider anything beyond short-term results.

What do you think are the most important things we absolutely have to teach our clients and athletes to ensure long-term success?  And, what are the most overlooked things they need to learn to be successful over the long haul?  Post your comments below!

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26 Responses to “Strength and Conditioning Programs: The Most Important Benefit”

  1. Scott Says:

    Definitely alllll about Education with my clients, if I am not educating them properly, well then I am not doing my job to the fullest of my ability. I want them to be able to succumb and adapt and have a fallback option from something I have taught them in the past.

    GREAT post Eric!

  2. BGP Says:

    Eric – great post.

    As far as body weight workouts go, for those of us with a TRX, what is the best way to get in an upper body pull (assuming no pullup bar). It’s the one area I can never figure out in my on-the-road body weight programs. Thanks.

  3. Maurizio Paolini Says:

    I absolutely agree that trainees must be educated as much as possible, I think that in the long term it pays with a better ability from them at choosing the most educated trainers VS the most “glamours”…..Nice post Eric, I’m just curious of your next project with the great Mike….any anticipations?…:-)

  4. Rick Kaselj Says:


    Great story.

    Doing corrective mobility and stability drills are important for injury prevention and performance.

    Rick Kaselj of http://ExercisesForInjuries.com


  5. Niel Says:

    I’ve been reading Tommy Kono’s book and he stresses this very point. He wants his athletes to be able to stand on their own two feet and think for themselves – not mindless individuals directed to toss around heavy weights.

    Great stuff.

  6. Dom Says:

    hi Eric, superb story and a worthy reminder to everyone to adapt to obstacles, not use them as excuses to quit. Having multipe back-up plans is so powerful.

  7. Jan Says:

    I think education is key – too often I see young guys in the gym with their mates doing bi-cep curls, horrendously bad form bench press (with way too much weight on the bar) and tri-cep kick backs. These guys are only going to learn and progress if we as coaches educate them. It is our job and our duty to make them better athletes but also to keep them safe by training correctly.

    Great post!

  8. Bugs Says:

    I see things the exact same way. Knowledge is power, I always say, and knowing is half the battle.

  9. Wade Says:

    The most important thing we can teach clients is that fitness is easy. As Anna proved, fitness is more about “want to” than anything else. We must also show them that “no way is the way”. The more they train, the easier they’ll find they’re own way.

  10. Jini C. Says:

    …and ANOTHER great post, Eric.

    I’d like to point out that in addition to the obvious benefits to the client, as trainers, educated clients (over time), learn about what to look for in a fitness professional, facility, coach, or program based on what they have learned from YOU. If circumstances then dictate that the their relationship with you must come to an end, the education and training they received from you will be part of an enduring respect-furthering good publicity and enhancing the reputation of you (the trainer), and/or your facility.

  11. Domenic Says:

    Teaching them to recognize when their body is working, when their body is not working, and how to get it working when it is not.

  12. Matt Carlin Says:

    I think education initially is focused on good technique and why they are training the majority of movements – “You are doing this today to train this area or to increase that strength/mobility, etc.”

    BGP – Prone Rows mate! Or Face Pulls! Or do pull ups on your TRX (tighten them up so the handles are high)! Or find a park and do pull ups on the monkey bars!


  13. Darren Alomes Says:

    “your #1 priority is to educate them so that they’re prepared for the days that they’re on their own”

    Could not agree with you more. I try to educate and teach my athletes on what I consider to be smart and important elements of training.

  14. Kris Wolff Says:

    Such a huge point, Eric. I’ve had so many clients tell me that they “heard my voice in their head”. That’s when I know that I’ve done my job. Our first priority is to create lifetime exercisers….that is the hardest battle.

  15. Bret Contreras Says:

    “your #1 priority is to educate them so that they’re prepared for the days that they’re on their own”

    This is exactly what I’ve said for quite some time. Maybe it’s the former teacher in me, but I would hope that if a client spent 6 months training with me they’d know what good form entails, the names of different exercises, and what comprises a decent program.

    Good stuff!

  16. Tim Says:

    I agree with you Eric, education is key when developing athletes of all levels. Teaching the how and why, gives them the knowledge and confidence to perform effective exercise programs when they are on their own. I also agree that education on nutrition as well as recovery modules such as flexibiliy, mobility, SMR, sleep and stress reduction can really be a benefeit for long term success. Too often athletes just concern themselves with the exericses in the workout without any concern for an effective warm-up that targets what they need in terms of mobilty, felxibility and stability.

  17. Fredrik Gyllensten Says:

    Great article, and a very good advice for up-and-coming trainers like myself 🙂

  18. Jeff Williams Says:

    Eric, absolutely agree, but I think that besides education the other just as important aspect would be safety. I guess that with education you would learn about safety so that is why I feel they go hand in hand. Great article.

  19. Steve Says:

    Pure awesome!

  20. Travis Says:

    Reminds me of a great quote- “the teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” We aren’t doing our job as coaches if they are simply just going through the motions.

  21. Pat Koch Says:

    Eric great point. Counter intuitively its the clients who become most educated that seem to stick around the longest. -Pat

  22. Matt Says:

    Education is essential. However, we also need to teach them how to have fun when working out.

  23. jroode Says:

    The importance of sleep and recovery!

  24. Cassandra G Says:

    I would love some feedback from any one who has currently commented or Eric. How do you effectively educate clients in a small group setting. Keep in mind, the sessions are not exceptionally long, there are often 4 people in a group, and you have a variety of skill levels. Do you provide weekend training classes, do you meet with clients individually outside of their small group sessions, do you send them information, ect, ect? We use a variety of methods but I would be curious to know if anyone has some experience doing this, because truly educating the client is the most effective tool any trainer has. It empowers your client to make decisions for themselves, which means a better success rate and better ownership of his/her own journey.

  25. Eric Cressey Says:


    The name of the game is educating them heavily early-on with as much one-on-one attention as possible. If you teach it correctly from the get-go, it’s much easier down the road.

  26. Victor Kizer Says:

    What is sad is that I have worked for gyms who do not want trainers educating clients because they feel they will educate clients out of buying training packages…. very shameful.

    I personally sell more packages based on education and instruction than I ever would trying to ‘blow smoke’

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