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Monday, February 4, 2013

Simple Training Philosophies

"We're not reinventing the wheel here."

I can't tell you how many times I have heard coaches (including myself) say that exact phrase to athletes, sport coaches, parents, etc. It's true - nearly every break through in the field of sports performance happens when complex ideas are brought back down to Earth in a simplified context. Sure, we get new tools to use these ideas - such as TRX or Tendo units - but the ideas behind them are still simple. We want to be able to move and control our bodyweight (with devices like the TRX) and be able to train speed with a quantifiable result (I haven't found anything comparable to a Tendo unit for this, but it is an incredible tool). Simple ideas, only with better technology to train with. Keeping that in mind, here are some simple training philosophies that help me get back to basics when I get too wrapped up in trying to, well, reinvent the wheel.


If It's Important, Do It Every Day - Dan Gable (via Dan John) has provided me one of the best philosophies for my programs. While I don't get to work with my athletes every day, I make sure to hit on the key aspects every training session. Lift heavy, train unilaterally, use the entire body at once, train basic movement patterns, lift/move your own body, stabilize what needs stability and mobilize what needs mobility. 


If You're Not Deadlifting, You're Not Lifting - This is my favorite line from everything I've read from Pavel. Maybe it's because deadlift was always my best lift (I am a little biased), but I've noticed a correlation between strong deadlifters and athletic ability. Maybe it's the fact they have well-developed posterior chain musculature - recognized as an important piece of athletic performance and force production - or maybe it's that athletes who deadlift usually take their training more seriously than their "bench and biceps" counterparts.


Have A Reason For Everything You Do - Since day 1, if I try something new in a program, I make sure I have a reason for including it (other than it looked neat on YouTube). If, once it has been introduced, doesn't yield results, no matter how badly I want to include it in training, it is gone. This was a frequent point of discussion with Mike Boyle when I had the fortune of working with him last year. After his decades of experience, he still trains by the KISS mantra - Keep It Simple, Stupid. 


Train To Perform On The Field/Court/etc. - Unless the athlete is a competitive Olympic lifter or powerlifter, their competitive is outside the weight room. With this in mind, lifting the most weight isn't always the best sign of productive training. If I have a 6'8" basketball player, I am less interested in improving his bench numbers and more focused on his agility, mobility, speed, and explosiveness. Simply making athletes stronger isn't a job well done - those gains must apply to their sport performance.


Think Big Picture - Small Steps Lead To Big Gains - I covered this before, but I love Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 and the concept of small, continuous gains over a long period of time. Most of the workouts athletes see in magazines or online advertise "Add 50 Pounds to Your Bench in 6 Weeks" or "Bigger Biceps in One Workout" - immediate results. Other than making it difficult to coach athletes who see (and believe) these ads, they also shift the focus to the short term benefits. If I want a new car, I could sell my computer, tv, furniture, rob a convenience store, and drive off the lot with a shiny new truck by the end of the week.  However...that short term benefit came at a cost - I don't have a bed to sleep in, money to pay for the gas my new car needs, and I'm probably a day or two away from being caught for robbery. The costs associated immediate benefits from training are only slightly less damaging - overtraining/injury - and result in prolonged gaps in training. What good is a huge gain if you're forced to quit training and fall back to square one? Plan for where you want to be a year from now, not a week or month, and keep the goals realistic. 

These are simple concepts, but when new research and ideas are introduced into the field on a weekly basis, sometimes simple is the way to go.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

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