In 2019, I was wrong more than ever.
My beliefs and methods were challenged more than ever. I asked more questions than ever. I sought out more help than ever. In 2019, I really committed to education and mastering my craft through learning from others as much as I can. And it was awesome.
Looking back at how I’ve evolved over these past 12 months of coaching, some undeniable changes have taken place.
These are three training topics that I changed my mind about, for better or worse, in 2019.
1. My Warm-Ups Needed to Be Better
A major shift in my entire coaching process occurred this summer when we hosted a Reflexive Performance Reset (RPR) clinic at our facility. Prior to this, I had RPR performed on me multiple times and really liked the results, but wanted to dig deeper.
Here’s where my “warming-up” world got flipped upside-down.
Why do you even warm-up in the first place?
Most will say they want to:
- Increase body temperature
- Activate muscles
- Increase heart rate
These are all valid points. But how do you do it?
The funny thing is that literally doing any type of physical activity will check off these boxes in a general sense.
A set of Jumping Jacks checks all of those boxes, but you don’t do 25 jumping jacks and then go try a Deadlift PR, right?
Of course not. You have “special” drills that help you prepare for that Deadlift. You may do Band Glute Bridges, because it activates your glutes and helps with your lockout. You may do Bent-Over Lat Pulldowns, because it activates your lats so you can keep a great bar path. You may do some Broad Jumps to excite your nervous system in a hip dominant environment.
But what happens if those drills aren’t doing what you think they are? Your hamstrings and lower back are really working more than your glutes in those bridges. Your lats aren’t firing on those bent over lat pulldowns. Your broad jumps get more lumbar extension than hip extension.
I’d venture to say that this is most of us. Last year, it was definitely me.
That all changed when I introduced the RPR system.
The RPR system is simply a series of drills that can be self-administered with the goal of ensuring proper firing patterns in your movement. We are under constant stress, which shifts our nervous system into a survival state. In a survival state, we fall into compensation patterns that are not optimal for sound movement. RPR hits reflex points throughout the body to shift your nervous system into a performance state, which gives us access to clean movement and rids us of compensation patterns that we would otherwise rely on and abuse unknowingly.
Going through that hypothetical warm-up again, notice that no movement quality was ever addressed, which means we further enabled those compensations and maybe even put ourselves more at risk for a training injury by warming up.
Introducing the RPR Wake-Up Drills prior to that warm-up could help avoid that potential risk and make those Bridges, Lat Pulls and Broad Jumps more effective due to the enhanced firing patterns of those targeting muscles. And remember, RPR is not a muscular phenomenon. It’s a nervous system-based practice. You can combine it with whatever soft tissue practices you believe in and potentially get more out of them.
I’m not saying to ditch your warm-up and only do RPR, although I know tons of practitioners who have done exactly that with huge success. I’m only asking you to open your mind to how effective your warm-up can be by examining what kind of muscle activation, temperature elevation and increased mobility/stability you’re truly achieving.
A warm-up is a vital part of every training session or athletic event. Don’t let it become an afterthought. Don’t let “because this is the way you’ve always done it” be your excuse for holding yourself or your athletes back!
2. I Went ‘All In’ on Tech in Training
Truth be told, I didn’t so much change my mind on this topic as I went from “hot” to “scorching.”
I’ve been supportive of tech in training for quite some time now, but over the last year, my support of tech in the weight room become much more aggressive.
My Take: In this day and age, technology for coaches and athletes is essential for maximal results.
As coaches, we have so many unbelievably empowering tools at our fingertips. If we totally ignore them, I feel we’re just being lazy.
Don’t overreact and go bash me on Twitter just yet. Hear me out. Technology comes in all forms. I’m not saying we need to strap a heart-rate monitor on every athlete 24/7 or have them wear GPS units for every game and practice or track bar speed for every single rep they perform.
As coaches, we can use technology in a myriad of ways. For example, program design and storage.
You might have the sickest Microsoft Excel programming template in the world, but I guarantee you it pales in comparison to any of the strength & conditioning programming apps on the market right now. We use TeamBuildr. We love it. It saves us time, which saves us money, which makes me happy, which makes me a better human and coach. Research the options available and get yourself into 2020 with cloud-based programming, data storage, embedded video tutorials and more. The new generation of athletes responds better to digitized messaging.
Velocity-based training is another type of tech I’ve fallen in love with. This could be its own article, but I’ll keep things brief. VBT is great for tracking movement velocity or power output to build strength, power or speed, but the most impactful feature it has brought to my programming is intent. When athletes can see an actual number or score attached to what they’re doing, it makes a world of difference in their training. PUSH is our VBT unit of choice, but again, there are so many options on the market. Do your research and look into the true impact data can bring to your programming.
Even taking a video of an athlete’s technique on your phone qualifies as using tech in training. As a coach, having your cell phone on the weight room floor used to be seen as rude and disrespectful. Now, if you see me without my phone while I’m coaching, something’s wrong.
Visuals are so important. Seeing yourself on film while being coached up in-person is a recipe for delicious improvements. Right now, I think video breakdown is the most vital tech-based coaching tool we can use to get incredible results. This goes for sport-specific film breakdown, too.
And videos also allow me to provide social media encouragement.
Social media is a powerful thing. Using social media, as a coach, to highlight your athletes’ hard work and accomplishments is an excellent way to build rapport with the athlete. It showcases your program and the athletes you work with in a positive light and can lead to opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise present themselves. Keep it professional on social media, as there are some definite downfalls to over usage, but don’t neglect the power of an occasional post featuring specific praise for one of your athletes.
As I alluded to earlier, these are some of the many reasons I feel technology has become an essential part of coaching. I don’t think we should rely on it, but I think it can enhance much of what we do. You can’t abandon your people skills, but you can support your interpersonal work with technology.
3. I Tried to Cut Back on ‘It Depends’
They may be the two most popular words in strength and conditioning. It’s been a long-running gag that the answer to any question in our field is, “It depends.”
What this means is that people often look for general, definitive answers, but as coaches, context and details are incredibly important to deliver thorough, accurate info.
I agree with that 100 percent. We know context is key and details are important.
However, at some point, you need to be able to explain the principles you live and coach by. And if you change your mind on them over time, you should be professional enough to address them and acknowledge that change is essential to learning and growth.
If your only answer to every question is, “It depends,” you’re not doing many people much good. If you need more context or details to provide the best answer, meet their question with a question of your own. Get what you need to formulate a better answer instead of just keeping things impenetrably vague. This ultimately makes you more valuable and helps people feel like they can come to you for advice.
I fully understand that in order to help, advise and coach well, we need details and relevant context. So instead of saying “it depends” and basically leaving it at that, get the details and context you need to deliver your best answer for that specific person and that specific situation!
It may seem like a little thing, but how we talk to our athletes and clients is ultimately all we have.