Q&A With Dr. Joel Seedman: How to Develop Your Own Training System

Part 2 of a transcript of an interview with expert strength and conditioning coach Dr. Joel Seedman.

Dr. Joel Seedman, owner of Advanced Human Performance, is one of the top strength and conditioning experts with 13 years of experience training top athletes, powerlifters, bodybuilders and people who just want to get stronger and live without pain.

Through his constant curiosity and investigative process, he experiments with new methodologies that redefine how we think about strength and conditioning—which you can regularly see in action on his Instagram.

I had the opportunity to interview Joel to learn more about how he's developed as a strength coach to help others become better and more inquisitive strength coaches. You can read the first part of this interview here.

LaPlaca: Why is your training philosophy different from some of the other top coaches out there?

Seedman: I have a very sensitive body, which I think it is a blessing in disguise.

I feel like I have the ultimate lab rat body; it will respond to whatever stimulus you will give it. If I don't do things just right then my body knows immediately so it basically gave me constant feedback about what proper technique, proper positioning, proper rep ranges, proper time under tension works for me. I started to apply these lessons when working with my athletes and clients, and they also started feeling infinitely better.

And I think it is coming to the realization that when you see or notice pain or inflammation in yourself or in your athletes or your clients, you shouldn't accept it as par for the course. You need to realize that something is wrong and change it. Not just foam rolling or doing soft tissue work because that's just treating the symptoms. Actually finding a way to get rid of the root cause of any pain.

Do you recommend that novice coaches experiment with their own training?

At some point, everyone has some type of pain and tweaks and injuries and inflammation. When this happens, you need to train through it rather than rest it. By training through it, it forces you to find just the right training formula because anything that's not perfect will hurt and make your injury worse.

But by training through it and finding the proper way to train, you can actually make an injury feel better. The injury is your perfect opportunity to figure out the problem. If anything, you need to train more because that is your chance to dig deeper.

So at this point, how do you continue to learn and improve?

The more I learn, the more I realize that I still have so much that I need to learn. So I think that is important...to never stop learning and never think that you have come to the right answer. But at the same time, not really falling prey to the idea that all of these different coaches out there have it 100 percent figured out.

When you read something about a coach, even if they are world famous, not automatically saying that it's cool or awesome. Rather, you should investigate further to see if whatever they claim is legit. You should read everything you can but always be skeptical and determine for yourself whether a training principle works.

How do you come up with your unique training protocols, such as your Ankle Pushouts or the Single-Leg Stand?

I didn't have a mentor ever really in this field and I actually attribute that [as] a huge factor that helped me get to where I am. To me, you have to actually do it yourself, you have to find your own path, and you have to go on the journey on your own to really become the master at it. That doesn't mean you cannot learn from other people, but if you just try and have one mentor and you rely on them 100 percent, you end up not thinking for yourself.

Things like the Ankle Pushout and the Single-Leg Stand, I was trying to figure out how to correct biomechanical and neuromuscular deficiencies that were causing my movement patterns to break down. I was doing everything possible—shooting and analyzing video—to see what caused the pain, what eliminated the pain and what made it worse. Then I could see what I had to do to implement those things and improve the movement and then try it out with clients and athletes.

Say what you want about Westside Barbell, but they're one of the strongest gyms in the world and I've noticed that your Bench Press and Squat technique are quite similar. What are your thoughts on them?

I think the best training methods out there are going to be somewhat similar because it is going to all come down to whether or not they have looked at the human body and dissected things down to the smallest detail. That might be slightly different from coach to coach in terms of how they examine and interpret it. But it's going to be similar because science is science, and the human body is the human body.

When you mention that with Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons probably came across a lot of the same stuff that I did in my research. Obviously, he did that well before I did but I think some of the things have led us on a similar path. We obviously have some differences...he obviously trains people a little bit more for powerlifting specifically and I train people a little bit more for max functionality. But there are a lot of similarities because there should be a lot of similarities in proper training techniques from coach to coach.

You teach a very interesting Lunge technique that I've found is highly beneficial. How did you come to teach the In-Line Lunge? 

I had faulty gait mechanics, foot positioning, hip issues and a lot of inflammation, and the Lunge was actually making things a lot worse because I was following standard guidelines. So I had to forget everything I learned and read about the Lunge and start from scratch.

So that was part of it. Also was finding positions that did not hurt my joints. And again, my body is not some unique alien version of a human body, it is a human body just like everyone else's. I have seen this with other clients. They do the Lunge wrong and it hurts. They do it right and it doesn't hurt, regardless of what previous injuries they had.

I also put myself into Lunge variations that felt almost impossible, such as an eyes-closed variation. The only possible way I could maintain balance and lock it in, and stabilize my body was through proper technique. I would find that my body would be forced to find the right position based on putting myself in these ridiculously hard variations because anything but the perfect technique and I would not be able to hold it. That basically showed me that this is how you do a Lunge.

This is the most stable position, this is the strongest position, this is the most biomechanically sound position, this is the technique that places the least tension on the joints and most on the muscles, this is the right technique, this is the right way to do the lunge, and it ended up being the same every single time. And it was the variation that I teach.

What areas of strength and conditioning would you like to explore further?

I think actually going back and doing a lot of the same research that we have already looked at, but actually doing it with proper training techniques. For example, when you look at eccentric training studies and studies on what is the best rep ranges. Well, unfortunately, a lot of these studies were done without proper coaching and cueing and instruction. So it is not to say that you cannot take anything good away from this study, but there are a lot of issues with a lot of these studies because there are very few strength coaching protocols that are performed correctly or used with proper instruction or cueing. I would like to see more stringent guidelines used in terms of what does proper training look like.

Now, let's apply proper training to this study so that we can actually extrapolate accurate data with high-quality repetitions. Most often you see a bunch of junk reps, and how much information can you take away from that? Instead, let's do reps with perfect form and technique and see what the results are. Now we can take a lot more information away from the studies. 

What was your motivation for becoming a strength coach?

To help people move properly. I was sick of seeing people in pain. I like to help people get healthy. Obviously, I wanted to get myself healthy; that is how I got into this in the first place. I was sick of feeling like crap and sick of feeling lousy when I was supposed to be feeling good as a young man who was exercising "correctly," and realizing there are a lot of other people in this same boat. And just trying to be an example to athletes as well. A lot of these athletes do not come from the best background, so trying to be a good figure head

Also, just trying to be an example to athletes as well. A lot of these athletes do not come from the best background, so trying to be a good figure head for them. I try to be a good example while helping people with their bodies and achieve the best outcome that they can so that they can feel good.

What was one thing during your studies that really pushed you to get to where you are today? 

I think realizing that the human body is incredible. It can do pretty much anything we want it to do, but unfortunately, a lot of those things are not beneficial. There are only a handful of things that we can do that we really should be doing on a frequent basis. So just because our bodies can do some of these incredible crazy things doesn't mean that we should be doing them. There is a big difference there and I think that is something that I had to realize. It was a big eye-opener for me.

For more information about Dr. Joel Seedman please visit his website and YouTube channel.

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Topics: COACH | STRENGTH COACH | POWER | INJURY | STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING | MENTOR | INFLAMMATION | HUMAN BODY | TRAINING TECHNIQUES