Monday, December 29, 2008

What Makes a Good Strength Coach?

This is an excellent question. I was just listening to a Mike Boyle Podcast on this subject and it prompted me to ask myself what I believe makes a great strength coach.

With the fitness industry now becoming a more respected industry and a viable profession, what qualities make up a great strength coach? Ask many coaches and trainers and you will get different responses. Here is a list of qualities that I believe make a great strength coach. This is by no means an exhaustive list but just some essentials that I think are important for current strength coaches and for people wanting to enter the fitness industry.

Quality # 1 - Focus on serving your client, not yourself

This is hugely important. When you take on a client, whether they be a housewife or a high school athlete, ask yourself what is your motivation working with that client. Are you training them to make yourself look better & more successful or are you training the person wanting to help them achieve their goals and accomplish their dreams. The most successful trainers and coaches I have ever met have been SERVANTS! Yes, that is right. They have learned to SERVE others and to pour their passion, their soul and their energy in to helping that person rise to higher levels. This is the most important aspect of being a coach in my book. Serve others, listen to them, encourage them, love them and guide them. People really don't care how much you know or who smart you are. They care about the fact that you genuinely care about them. Do that and you will have a client for life!

Quality # 2 - Passion

If you have passion you will have energy. Passionate energy will drive you to learn, apply and grow. The more you learn and the more you grow the better your clients will perform and better results they will have. Nobody wants to hang out with a trainer who is boring, lacking enthusiasm and passion. People want to be around passionate people. Ask yourself this question; when was the last time you hung out with a boring person who lacks passion and wanted to get hang out with them again in the future? The answer is probably never again would you want to hang out with them. A great strength coach has Passion, LOTS OF PASSION! Passion gives you energy and energy is contagious. Passion is also a choose to be passionate about strength, fitness, conditioning, health, power, fill in the blank. If you want to be a great in anything you must have passion as that passion will drive you to learn and to empower yourself which ultimately allows you to EMPOWER others!!!!

Quality # 3 - Initiative

We have all seen people with tons of talent that haven't done anything with their talent. Chances are you know many people right now who would fit this profile. Talent alone will get you no where if you lack the INITIATIVE to take action. You must take action and get the ball rolling. If you are planning on becoming a world class strength coach you must start by taking your fist seminar or reading your first book. Most of the best coaches I know are great not because they are necessarily more talented than others, they are great because they take action ALL THE TIME! Initiative is one sets apart the best from the best. People who are LESS TALENTED than most often become the most successful because they out study, out train and frankly work much harder than people with tons of talent. Having lots of talent sometimes can be a curse if you fail to plan ahead and prepare yourself like most less talented people do. The best strength coaches have the initiative to get the ball rolling , take some risks and put themselves into a position where they might fail.

QUALITY # 4 - Learn all the time!

The best strength coaches are constantly learning. I think of people like Josh Henkins who I have know for over 12years. Josh since 1996 has constantly been studying under the best and brightest minds in the industry and has taken just about every certification out there. In fact to this date he still takes certification and by no means feels like he has "Arrived" and is above taking seminars. The best of the best continue to study, to grow, to read and attend seminars. It is super humbling to me to see a person like Pavel taking seminars and certification so he can grow as a coach and as a leader in this industry. If Pavel is studying like he is, shouldn't we be studying as well? My twin brother Keats Snideman is also one the brightest minds I have ever seen in the fitness industry. The amount of knowledge that he possesses is scary and it is because he is a ferocious reader. I know of not one person who reads the amount of fitness, health, nutrition and science books like my brother. If you want to be a great strength coach, read alot, attend seminars, and pick the brains of the best and brightest in the fitness field.

Quality # 5 Stick with the Basics but be open to new ideas

This has been one that I have struggled with in my career as a trainer. I am a constant learner and am therefore always looking for new methods, new tehcniques, and new ideas. The challenge I have had is that earlier in my career I would totally abandon older, proven techniques and completely jump ship. I really got hooked with the whole wobble board, swiss ball and balance training in the mid to late 90's. I swallowed the "functional training" pill and became a functional guru. Well, with my best intentions in mind, I quickly realized that my clients were losing their muscle mass and thus were losing enthusiasm because I has stopped loading them. It was a couple of years later that I realized I had lef the best and most proven principles behind in order to become a "whoopie cushion" guru.

More than decade a later I have left behind what didn't work and kept what did. I believe it is always good to experiement and be looking for better and more efficient ways to improve your training and programing. But it should never be at the expense of plain old fashioned classical weight lifting. In my opinion the following movements should never be left behind or forgotten:

* Squatting (barbell or kettlebell)

* Deadlifting (barbell / kettlebell or dumbbell)

* Pressing (both overhead pressing and horizontal pushing)

* Pulling (Pull ups, Chin ups, Rows)

* Cleans (barbell and kettlebell)

* Snatches (kettlebell and/or barbell)

QUALITY # 6 Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

This easily could be a sub-category of Quality # 4, (learn all the time), but it must be said. Learn from the best and you will minimize the amount of time it takes you to become excellent and proficient in your craft. There are some GIANTS out there that have proven systems and methodologies that work. Does that mean you cannot be innovative and creative? Of course not, but it means that correct principles are the compass to get you to where you want and need to go. Principles never change! Model people who are successful and take what works. Always, I repeat always give credit to those who have helped you and have been gracious enough to invest their time and energy in mentoring you.

QUALITY # 7 Fail Forward

Do not be afraid to take risks (although better to take calculated risks...obviously). Try things, do things, take action. You will fail and make mistakes......and this is totally normal. That makes you human and will make you more humble. Take responsibility for your actions and for your failures. As John Maxwell says, "you cannot learn from your failures if you refuse to take responsibility for them." So true! At the end of their lives, successful people will have failed more than unsuccessful people for the simple fact that they actually attempted a lot more things in life!

So there it is. Not an exhaustive list but definitely some qualities that would make a strength coach a "better"' coach!!!!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Back to Squatting with the Barbell

I have not squatted with a barbell on my back since the 90's. Years of SI joint issues and two disc herniations kept me from squatting with barbell. Why? It hurt too much. Years later I can proudly admit that perhaps it was my technique that was keeping me from barbell usage. My twin brother Keats Snideman was just out visiting me in November and he showed me a different technique. The technique he showed me was the LOW bar version of keeping the barbell very low on my back, literally 1/2 an inch below the spine of the scapula which is pretty darn low. I had never even tried this version. It almost feels as if the bar might slp off my back it's so low. What keeps the bar in place is the TIGHT contraction of all the upper and mid back spinal musclues (rhomboids, middle and lower traps, erectors, posterior deltoid). The only limitations are in my wrists/forearms and in my shoulders as I still lack the adequate flexibility in those areas.

The version not only feels better it on my back I feel much stronger in my hips. Years of kettlebell swings and snatches has strengthened my hamstrings and glutes but have not strengthened by quads. I feel that the quadricep muscles are starting to come alive for the first time in almost a decade!
Much of this information can be found in the Book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, perhaps one of the best strength training books I have ever read. If you are a strength enthusiast, this is a must have book!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hollidays, Training and Birthday's

We got back from Hawaii a couple of weeks ago and what a trip it was. So fun to see Marianna experience the beaches, the pools, the turtles, the fish. Everything is so amazing through the eyes of a child. I wonder what she thinks when she sees and experiences all these things for the first time. If I could make it back to Hawaii once a year I would be very content. Hopefully we can make it happen every year.

Training wise I took a week completely off when I got back from Hawaii and have ramped it back up this week. Training calendar looks like this:

Monday = Conventional Stance Deadlifts / Incline Bench Press / Weighted Pull ups
Tuesday = Sprint days at the Track / Speed work / 20 meters, 30 meters, 40 meters
Wednesday = Back Squat (with the bar really low on the back) / KB Clean and Press / Pull Ups
Thursday = Speed work on the Track / More 20's, 30's & 40's
Friday = Back Squats (again) / Snatches / Weighted Pull Ups / Heavy KB Clean and Press
Saturday = Active Recovery / Lots of Stretching
Sunday = Walk / Russian Sports Massage

(and Grease the Groove COC gripper work every day)

My strength goals are to increase my strength primarily in my Squat, my press and my Pull Ups. Also working on closing the number 2 COC gripper. Almost there!I will sprinkle in some swings and snatches to keep up a decent base of conditioning, although I feel as if my track warm ups are getting me in decent condition. My Speed goals are to get my 100 meter dash time back down to the low 11's by spring and to sprint a 10.8 or 10.9 second 100 meter dash by summer. I turned 35 years old last Wednesday so I know I am racing against my age and my lack of sprint conditioning. However I feel that I am more strong in ways I never was back in my mid 20's. I don't recover as fast as I did but I feel that I still have plenty of speed ready to BURST out.