_ This post is inspired by a few recent incidences where coaches have said some pretty ignorant things about CrossFit, and what I do. I completely understand the misunderstanding that so many people have with CrossFit because there is so much crap information out there. But one must only take a second or two to realize that no matter what you are practicing, it could be wonderfully beneficial, or horrendously detrimental depending on the coach and how things are programmed. CrossFit is a very generally defined strength and conditioning program at heart. And that is what I do. I train people to become the most athletic person they can possibly be, using the theory that training every aspect of athleticism in a hyper-controlled manner will do just that. It is difficult to argue the fact that if one is at his/her best athletically, they will be able to adapt to the demands of their sport better than one who is not in “complete” shape. And because this is the goal of my training, I do not practice what uneducated people believe Crossfit to be: a random collection of exercises thrown at you in a violently intense circuit with the goal of moving heavier and heavier weights as fast as possible. Perhaps I don't actually practice "CrossFit"; but again, it's a vague enough definition, and I enjoy being a part of the growing community, so i will continue to claim to be a part of it.
So, to the coaches and people who refuse to take the time to understand what it is that I am actually doing. I will offer a two-fold post. One point is to explain how what YOU are doing is might not the best for an athlete’s optimal performance and slow gains (kind of a dick thing to do on my part, I know, but every now and then it is deserved). The second point is what it is that I do. After that, if you still insist that I randomly create workouts that are goofy and crazy, and just meant to get people running around, I can do nothing but feel bad for your ignorance.
I’ll start by asking a few questions. How much do you make your athletes run, and how often do you have your athletes max? I have found it to be very, very common for coaches and trainers to use maxing out on lifts (establishing the max amount of weight a person can perform for 1 rep) as their go-to test for where people stand. They then use this number as a base, run the athletes through their program before re-testing to make sure their maxes are higher. Well, it shouldn’t really even be a discussion about how wrong this approach is. It makes me cringe to think about 40 young athletes, or 1 beginner client walking into the gym and building up a to a bar with as heavy a weight as possible for one rep.
“But Courage, how am I supposed to get a baseline” you might ask? Simple, have each person perform an air squat or two. If they can’t perform this basic movement through an adequate range of motion while keeping a stable midline and engaging the proper muscles in the proper sequence, they shouldn’t be loading ANY weight to their body! Your program should begin with basic fundamentals of each movement, mobility, and proprioception training, and incrementally heavier loads to prep their nervous systems for growth. If one person proves to have trouble squatting under control, keep them away from the barbell until they prove they can handle it (and this goes for all other lifts as well).
I could go on for days there, but I’ll leave it at that. Now, on to the running question: I get running, especially for high school athletes and teams. But from my perspective it is a tool to build teamwork and enforce discipline, NOT to “get them in better shape”. The thousands upon thousand of studies and articles out there proving that short interval sprints and exercise are the most effective for anaerobic capacity training should end any argument about longer distance running for athletes (unless you are a long distance runner). But again, for teamwork and discipline purposes, I get it, and I support it (as long as it’s done intelligently). Unintelligent programming of high volume sprints and/or long distance running is just asking for injuries and even worse, negating all the hard work and effort the athletes have put into their other training. And this goes double for doing this stuff pre-practice or pre-gym session. If you want an athlete to get better at shooting a basketball, hitting a baseball, running a very specific route, or l lifting a flawlessly performed clean, you better make sure they get the majority of their reps in as fresh as possible. If they are always practicing under high levels of cardiovascular and/or muscular fatigue, you force them to perform movements sub maximally, forming injury-building habits and sub-maximal performance.
When you are halfway through your season, or a client has been training with you for a few months and all of a sudden minor to major injuries start popping up, it should be pretty clear where they are coming from: the coaches programming. The more difficult thing to process is crummy performance, or, plateau-ing. It’s when a baseball player all of a sudden doesn’t have that fire under them each play, or swing; or that person in the gym has low energy and can’t seem to make any gains at all. This is when a good coach takes a step back, looks over the progression of training this person or people have been through (if it’s not written down somewhere you might as well write yourself off as a good coach now, keep everything charted!) and make an adjustment ASAP.
So, “mister perfect” you might say, how would you do it? Well, first off, I am far from perfect, and that is step one: be humble. You are not the best coach in the world; you do not have it all figured out. If your methods do not change over the years it means you are not learning anything from anyone or anything, and the same issues will continue to occur. If you are not adapting and growing as a coach, your athletes will never be able to grow to their potential. Simply put, if you are not constantly evolving, you're not a good coach.
If you have a good year, or you have a good client, here and there, and it is common thing the majority of the time, generally it is because you had a more talented person/group of people who were able to overcome your flaws as a coach with raw ability. What I mean is that if you tend to have a decent percentage of clients that just don;t seem to get any better; or, a few years at a time on a regular basis of a crappy team, with a good team on some other years, you are clearly not a good coach/trainer. If what worked one year does not work the next, adapt, change and continue to grow.
You must spend so much of your time reading studies and articles, and talking to other coaches and athletes about their thoughts and ideas. Try new things, keep notes, and always be open and available to discuss and question anything. One of my three rules to all athletes/clients is ask questions. They, and of course, I, should know why I am having them do all the things I program. I want my athletes to question what I am doing because then they can learn more. The more they learn, the more they understand about what they are doing, and the better they become and faster they progress.
Know exactly what is you are doing. Have a program. I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to a coach or trainer and learn that they have an idea of what they are having their athletes do, but there is zero progression (and yet I have some of these people think that I program complete randomness…hm…). As stated before, if you want your athlete to perform at maximal potential, you will give him/her a program that allows for proper sequential growth. This means that you assess their ability to move, correct flaws, correct imbalances, prep for volume and load, then progressively increase volume and loads through balanced exercises and rep schemes. Attention will always be towards loading the muscles in the proper sequence, performing each exercise as properly as possible before overly loading it, and understanding the program well enough to avoid over-training individual muscles, joints, and the body as a whole. There is no need to go into more detail than this. If you are a good coach, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about and you are probably doing this. If you are an athlete/client, you should be asking your coach if this is what they do, and paying attention to what you are doing and how you are feeling (you should be feeling better and better by the way, and if you are not, you should be able to ask your coach why and be able to easily talk with them about it).
Finally: food. If you are not paying attention to what your athletes/clients are consuming, you are not doing them any good what so ever. As a coach, it is your responsibility to pay attention to the health and well being of your athletes because you are their leader. If you are open and honest with them, they will learn how to take care of themselves pretty quickly, making your job that much easier. But, you cannot expect someone who pays you to help them get better at sports, fitness, and/or life to figure it all out on their own. Simply put, do your job right.
It breaks my heart the amount of coaches/trainers out there that just have no clue what they are doing. It actually scares me because the people who choose to turn to a professional to help them out have no reason to know if that person is total BS or not. Yes, each individual should take at least some responsibility and understand the basics. But, if a person chooses to be a coach, or a trainer, or anyone that puts themselves in some sort of “leader” roll, they better respect that roll enough to know exactly what they are doing. Hopefully what they are doing is good.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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