In Part I, I outlined 6 aspects you “Need to Have” in order to develop a successful training system. Today, I will cover 6 common mistakes that can derail an otherwise sound training program.
Need to Avoid
#1 Need to Avoid: Getting too Fancy – As I’ve detailed before, I think “functional” is thrown around too freely in the industry. Performing overhead squats on a stability ball isn’t a function in any sport I’ve ever seen. Don’t get me wrong, overhead squats are one of my favorite exercises and stability balls are a great training tool, but two good things don’t always equal something great. It’s important to train sport-specific movements, as well as improve balance, mobility, reaction, and other fine motor skills not commonly associated with the weight room, but there is a point where it’s just eyewash. “Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.” If you only focus on auxiliary lifts and ignore some of the basics, your athletes will make little, if any, progress. Everything has its place in a training program, but you can’t build a Mercedes by focusing solely on the stitching of the seats.
#2 Need to Avoid: Focusing on the Wrong Goals – Everyone loves moving big weights and having impressive maxes on bench/squat/etc but how much does that transfer to the athlete’s sport? Everything I do with my athletes has a purpose, and that purpose is to improve their performance in their sport. It’s easy to focus on the improvements that happen in the weight room (and it looks better for marketing to say athletes improve their bench by an average of X pounds at your facility), but those gains are meaningless if they are detrimental to the athlete’s performance in their arena. If I’m interested in increasing an athlete’s raw strength and 1RM bench and squat, I am going to focus on exercises that will yield greatest gains on those lifts. This is great if you’re focused on improvements between initial and exit testing, but terrible if your goal is to prepare the athlete to perform at their peak for an entire season. Training is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Always remember, the ultimate goal is to help the athlete improve performance in their arena, not in the weight room.
#3 Need to Avoid: Talking Out Your A** – You don’t know everything, that’s ok, no one does. Just don’t pretend you do. If an athlete comes to you with a question you don’t have the answer for, admit it. Don’t make something up to protect your pride, instead, say “I’ll check on that and get back to you” and FIND the answer. Providing incorrect information to your athletes does nothing but put them at risk (as they are likely to trust in you and act on what you tell them, even to their detriment) and damage your credibility when they learn your full of it. I do everything I can to learn as much as I can, and if an athlete comes to me with a question I can’t answer, I take that as a reason to learn everything I can on the subject. It helps me improve as a coach and the next time it comes up, I’ll be prepared to provide an accurate response.
#4 Need to Avoid: Incomplete Coaching – For most athletes, strength and conditioning professionals will be the only resource they have available. As such, it is imperative that we provide as much guidance as possible and help ensure a more complete development. Most athletes, especially high school or collegiate, won’t realize they have mobility restrictions, or realize their lingering pain may be a significant injury, or recognize the effect of their diet. I am not saying you need to wear the label of therapist/doctor/dietician/etc (in fact, quite the opposite – see #3), but provide what you can and recognize when you should refer them to another professional who can help. As far as applying this to your training system, ensure that every athlete dedicates time to a proper warm up, mobility work, corrective exercises, proper recovery, and soft tissue work to gain the most from their training. The system needs to be as thorough and complete as possible with the available resources, or athletic development may suffer.
#5 Need to Avoid: Monotony – Repetition = good, monotony = bad. It’s that simple, but unfortunately not that easy. If you want to improve at a task, repetition is required, but this can quickly lead to monotony and boredom in training. It’s a fine line to walk, but as coaches it’s our responsibility to find new ways to train the same concepts and provide the repetition necessary to improve, while having enough variety to maintain interest & focus. For sports coaches, this means varying drills to train the same specific skill. For strength & conditioning professionals, this means manipulating exercise selection, volume, rest, speed, or periodization by using a plan such as the Hybrid Model of Periodization. Training is only effective when the athlete is engaged in the activity, and nothing kills interest quicker than monotony and boredom.
#6 Need to Avoid: Accepting Mediocrity – This is one of my biggest pet peeves, not only in training, but life in general. I firmly believe mediocrity is below me and strive to stay above average by working harder than others, so when I see athletes wasting natural abilities with laziness, it sets me off. I wasn’t always this way, I attempted to coast through college, doing as little as necessary to get my degree, but I realized if I want success in this world (and this industry), it’s going to take more than average. This is even more true for professional athletes because there will always be another person with their same skill set just waiting for an opportunity. If your athletes are complacent, do what’s necessary to change that mindset and get them motivated. Never accept mediocrity – not from your athletes and certainly not from yourself. Force yourself to be great, because no one else can and no one else will.
I hope this has provided some insight and useful information to help you improve your training system. Remember, it’s more than exercises and weights – training is made of several integrated pieces, and if there are any weak spots ,the entire system will collapse. Be the best possible coach you can be, and strive to improve on that every single day.
“A single day is enough time to get a little better.”
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW