Continued Education is an Important Component of Training
Staff Trainer Alex and I recently were certified as Functional Strength Coaches (CFSC) by a Boston organization called Body by Boyle. Mike Boyle has been a leader in strength and conditioning for decades. Boyle is a highly opinionated strength and conditioning coach with years of experience - qualities I appreciate about him and his organization. He and his team not only pay attention to the latest research, but also apply common sense and practical application to their opinions and are then willing to take a stand. Sometimes they get it wrong - and are willing to admit that - most often they get it right. It’s no surprise then that they have been voted one of the top gyms in the world for a number of years - they get results in a safe and effective manner.
The certification process is well designed. It is has a written component followed by an eight-hour practical exam. The practical exam is a great addition to most certifications because it tests your ability to teach and perform training. It demands that you rationalize the ‘why’ behind your exercise prescription. At the conferences I attend I am often amazed by the number of strength coaches who move horribly. We may not need to be as fit as our most elite clients but we do need to demonstrate and correct movement patterns. A 19-inch neck and biceps as big as a Chipotle burrito do not qualify anyone to be a personal trainer. Our industry needs to demand more and CFSC is a refreshing step in the right direction.
On the drive home from the certification and reflecting on the content, I felt that much of what we do at Pete Mueller Performance Group is spot on, but I also left with new perspectives. Other owners and trainers challenged me with their ideas and I wondered, are we staying on top of the industry’s best practices? Can we be more systematic in our programming? Are we doing all we can do to help our clients move more athletically which will allow us to challenge them with the appropriate intensities it takes to add strength and power? Are we managing our programming to deliver the safest and most effective training based on the latest research?
Points to consider:
Address tissue adhesions first - Use foam rollers as a means to address trigger points before activity, see an orthopedic rehab specialist to do soft tissue work periodically or hire a great massage therapist to work on you. Nothing beats hands on work by a professional but between sessions soft tissue adhesions can be addressed with foam rollers, lacrosse balls and firm medicine balls.
Stretch - some static, some dynamic. The industry has gone back and forth on this notion of stretching warm or cold muscles. If the goal is to “deform” tissue in order to gain length in soft tissue, then cold may be more beneficial. Think controlled movement on the pre-activity stretches, not just static stretches that are held for more than :30. Move through an active range of motion with great posture.
Activation - perform movements that ‘turn on’ trunk, shoulder and hip stabilizers. Most people need reminders to use the proper muscles to move and stabilize. We often use compensatory patterns to get the job done and open the door for overuse injuries. A great example is a typical long distance runner who efficiently “pulls” himself or herself forward using hamstrings instead of “pushing” forward incorporating glutes, hamstrings, quads and the muscles of the lower leg.
Never add strength to dysfunction - “perfect movement patterns are good enough.” If you can’t lift it pretty don’t lift it. Take the time to develop great lifting habits and you will see your strength and power production steadily increase while minimizing the chance of injury.
Assess movement patterns each and every workout. Continue to improve your technique and be careful not to fall into the habit of allowing poor movements because the intensity is high. Refer to the point above.
Whether you are self-directing your training or looking to hire a coach to put you through the paces these components should be included in each and every session along with a thoughtful progression plan. That plan should, in its most simplified form, increase intensity (load) while reducing volume (reps) over time and have built in periods of active recovery or tapering to maximize gains in strength and power and minimize overuse injuries that can come from overtraining. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘working out’....Train! Anyone can raise their heart rate and get hot and sweaty. Training requires a thoughtful plan and the results from that plan will be spectacular at any age. Strength and Power are the elixir of youth!