What studying Joe Defranco, Mike Boyle & Eric Cressey taught me about strength & conditioning.

Everybody has their opinions about figureheads in the industry; these three are my favorite for good reason.

These guys are predominantly sports performance and not: powerlifting, bodybuilding or Olympic lifting only.

They do what’s in the best interests of their athletes, they may have some bias but they don’t use a “one size fits all” mentality.

The Internet is a blessing and a curse at the same time, new information comes up daily and most of it is complete quackery.

But when good content comes out, it’s bloody good.

Simple > complicated.

Keeping a program simple is an art in itself, I remember back to my first week interning at Arizona and thinking to myself “Holy S***, so many tools have been added to my toolbox this week, how am I going to fit this all into a program?”. The truth is I’m not, be true to your “big rocks” and form a program around the basics that work. For me, every program I design will incorporate a squat movement; an explosive hip hinge and a vertical pull movement. After those have been taken care of, ill assess an athlete and establish what their individuals needs are and go from there.

As a general guide, from everything I’ve read and heard, most S&C professionals break each movement down into: hinge dominant, hip dominant, upper body vertical push, upper body vertical pull, upper body horizontal push, upper body horizontal pull, power and core. A program is designed around these “movements” rather than exercises. Personally I like it, fairly straightforward but obviously there are some exercises that don’t fit into these movements.

Lets look at an example: semi-pro footballer. They are going to train a MAX of twice out of the gym per week. Most footballers I’ve worked with have a few issues including: slow acceleration, poor running mechanics, weak glutes, weak hamstrings, dominant quads and the list goes on. Hypothetically to attempt to address these problems we can take a look at my big three rocks (squat, explosive hinge and pull-up), two of these exercises are going to help 4/5 of the “problems”. Yes, there’s a lot more than simply doing the exercises, the coaching, programming and execution are a massive portion but I hope you can see what I’m getting at.

Progression = essential.

“Never confuse movement with action.”
Ernest Hemingway

Just because you’re doing something, doesn’t mean your progressing.

The general adaptation syndrome theory (GAS) roughly says that progression cannot be made in a linear fashion for long term, meaning you simply can’t stack on 5kg on your bench week to week and expect it to work until the end of time.

You will have some times of plateau but a smart program will incorporate this.

Ask yourself these questions:

How is your training being progressed each week?

Have you scheduled a de-load week?

Are you tracking your volume, load and weights?

Lift, drag, sprint, jump and sprint.

I learnt this one from Joe D, you could say they might be his “big rocks” which break down the movements that his athletes encounter during a game. He mainly works with NFL players or Gridiron over here in Australia. Things we do in the weight room must carry over to on-field performance or what’s the point?

·      Getting a new PB for a field sport athlete might be impressive but does that carry over to on field performance?

·      Does it matter than our athletes aren’t performing a full power clean from the floor, or will a below knee power clean do for now? Or even a hang clean.

·      Should we spend valuable time teaching Olympic lifting technique when the same training effect may occur by doing: explosive med-ball work, plyos etc? (More applicable in the private setting)

Pay your dues & everybody starts somewhere.

Two very good points I’ve heard by all three of these guys. I remember Eric Cressey joking on a podcast that his first facility required a tetanus shot before you could start training there. Joe Defranco’s first facility was a 500 square foot storage closet (46.45m2). More on the paying your dues side but Mike Boyle worked in a bar at night and worked in the collegiate sector for pennies during the day. He did the hard yards back then and now he’s well known strength & conditioning coach. There are so many people scared of having a go and then on the other end there’s other people who go HUGE for their first training facility and fail just because they’re in over their head financially. The point of this one is: make a start, start small and having a red hot go.

Build it and they’ll come.

Controversial, yet I disagree. If nobody knows about you, how do you expect to be successful? I’ve asked some really successful coaches how they’ve grown their business and they said: “Just be a good coach”, “Build it and they’ll come”. There’s so much more to it, running a successful S&C business takes: time, effort, great coaching, results, good systems, excellent customer service and the list goes on. All these qualities they don’t teach you at Uni, you need to spend time in the trenches; you need to study outside of S&C, you need to study business, sales and psychology. I know some fantastic trainers and coaches who don’t do well, is it because they’re bad coaches? No, is it because they’re bad at business? Maybe. Lets use these three successful coaches as an example, what do they all have in common?:

·      They have paid their dues.

·      They started small.

·      They have had mentors.

·      They all have a big online presence.

·      They are all good at business.

·      They have mastered online marketing.

·      They all create products.

·      They all have their own certifications or are in the process of making one.

·      They all train athletes, they don’t just write/research training them.

·      They have a system.

Three examples of successful coaches in the industry, there are many more but these are three I respect.

Tim Frey MS.c

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