John Wooden once said “failing to plan is planning to fail.” This applies in life, sport and in coaching. Programming is a necessary, but often challenging aspect to coaching. For a coach, it is important to create a plan and have a blueprint in order to help themselves, their athletes and their trainees reach their goals in as quickly a manner as possible. If you understand what a coach has to consider to create a good program, it can help you identify a good coach or even help you understand how to program for yourself.
To better understand coaching and programming, we can look at the multitude of aspects that must be taken into consideration. It’s not enough to put together a list of exercises and just perform them. Many factors must be considered, such as:
- Actual age
- Training age
- Goals (there can even be more than one)
- Time to train weekly
- Event or activity training for
- Changes in eating
Beyond the basic specifics that have to be taken into consideration, other factors have to be looked at as well. These include but are not limited to:
- Time under tension
- Isometric pauses
- Proper strength ratios between antagonistic muscle groups as well as those between opposing limbs
- Exercise selection
- Training specific muscles to reduce injury, (i.e. semitendinosus hamstring fibers vs biceps femoris and/or semimembranosis)
It’s nearly impossible to learn all of these requirements from one direct source, often requiring multiple books, mentors, classes and life experiences. Programming, just like coaching can require 10,000 hours to master, which is why many great facilities, such as Results Fitness, run by Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove in California, employ staff who’s sole responsibility is programming for their members.
Some of the best sources that have helped me to become better at programming for my athletes and clientele are Charles Poliquin‘s books (specifically the “Poliquin Principles”) and courses, various podcasts, Triphasic Training by Cal Deitz, Louie Simmons’ Conjugate method, and articles on the various differences between different periodization methods, such as block, undulating, linear, conjugate, etc.
Exercise and Workout Programming Resources
There is a never-ending supply of information to learn from, both scientific and in-gym proven based methods. As legendary strength coach Charles Poliquin states, “the human body hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years.” We have training data dating back to the Roman and Ancient Chinese Empire’s that can be utilized efficiently today! In reality, the human body truly hasn’t changed much in the last 100,000 years.
The best place to begin when trying to become proficient at program design is through specific certifications. Many certifications exist that help coaches to begin to understand program design that has been proven to work and are often based on work that has been developed by coaches before them. Some of these include:
- Charles Poliquin’s basic and advanced program design courses
- Michael Boyle’s Certified Functional Strength Coach
- Joe Defranco and Diesel’s Certified Physical Preparation Specialist
- CHEK Exercise Coach C.H.E.K. Practitioner Program
These are all amazing certifications, but it is important to make sure not to only take from one modality. There’s something to learn from everyone, so it’s important never to get caught in the belief that you know everything. Further learning can be taken from these individual certifications’ assessments, but others exist in the field that can potentially be useful. These include:
- Functional Movement Screen
- Dr. Nicholas Romanov’s Pose Method
- Paul Chek’s Holistic Lifestyle Coach Certification
And truly in-depth programs such as Postural Restoration Institute’s 3 introductory courses.
When searching for a coach, some of this information can become useful as well. Going in to your assessment or initial intake with your new potential coach, it is important to have your ducks in a row. Make sure you know what you want out of your training experience and be ready to list all of your major injuries and issues; your coach should have some ideas or be able to put an action plan together almost immediately, or not be afraid to admit if they do not know the full answer to a question or problem and at least be willing to research it. If your coach can’t break things down in a way that makes sense to a 5 year old, then they often do not have a clue about what they are explaining. Look up short articles by some of the coaches I have previously mentioned and create a small base of knowledge on a topic that interests you and see if your coach can answer more detailed questions regarding some of these interests.
Finding a great coach can be one of the most challenging things to do, but great certification programs such as those listed previously, often have a database of certified coaches in your area that can potentially be a great fit for you!
Later in the learning experience, I’ve found that great sources of information can be taken from seminars and podcasts. Even one tidbit from each source can make the difference in you improving for the rest of your life. Kaizen stands for “constant and never-ending improvement” and this is one of my core principles. It’s important to always keep learning and improving your craft, even if it is the most minute piece of information, that may help only one particular client achieve better results.