4 Quick Tips To Be A Better Coach

As most fitness professionals eventually learn throughout their career, being successful is more about being a great coach than it is about how many exercises you can demonstrate. The best programs are the ones that have high compliance and that can only be achieved through efficient coaching. While being an effective coach takes years of practice, I have listed four tips below that you can implement immediately to increase your results.

1. Listen

We all say we do it, but most of the time we really don’t. At least not the way we should. Ask questions that will force self-evaluation. Open your mind and ears to really let your client put themself out there. What do they really want and how can you get them there? Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know why they are working with you. Take a genuine interest in each one of your clients and the details of their lives. Once you know what makes them tick you will be able to motivate them far more effectively. As the old saying goes: “You have two ears and only one mouth for a reason”.

2. Change Your Perspective

Often we always think about how we would handle a situation or react to something. When dealing with others, however, we neglect to realize that their perspective is different based on their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Try to think of ways you can put yourself in your client’s position. If you go out of your way to understand their situation, you will often come up with some very innovative solutions to the problems they may have.

Recently, I started logging my food to experience the process that I have my clients perform. This has led me to come up with better strategies to make the process less painful and teach them more about food quality. This has led to a much higher compliance rate and, of course, better results in physique improvement.

3. Embrace The Positive

As a coach it becomes very easy to only focus on the habits that are inhibiting progress. This leads us to spend most of our time telling people what not to do instead of praising them for all the positive adjustments they have made. Unfortunately, this leads to frustration for our clients and can even have a demotivating effect.

The best fix to this is to make sure that you recognize or point out 2 positive markers of progress for every negative habit you address. If you are struggling to find changes that you can praise the client for then you are likely doing something wrong. Start by setting less challenging weekly goals that you and your client feel confident that they can achieve.

4. Go Beyond

The average client meets with their coach two times per week for an hour at best. Touching base for 2 hours out of 168 leaves little time to focus on anything but a couple exercises, a brief conversation, and the ability to tackle one major obstacle per week. It’s no wonder that despite our best efforts the margin of success is fairly low. However, you can do things differently.

The best coaches are the ones that go that extra mile. Simple things such as sending a text message to your client about how proud you are of them or emailing them an article with more information about a problem they are facing can go a long way. These are the kind of actions that make your client want to keep giving 100% and that show them that you are a team.

Press Your Way To A Better Body

There are few things that feel better than moving heavy weight around and one of my favorite places to put it is overhead. There are a couple ways to get it there, but regardless the method, you can’t help but feel like the king (or queen) of the world. It is the essence of weightlifting at its finest: pick heavy stuff up, put it down, and repeat.

My favorite way to get the barbell overhead has always been the push press. Basically, it is the equivalent of standing barbell (military) press preceded by a drive from the lower body. It is a fantastic exercise for developing strength and power, but can also be used for fat loss. Not only are the shoulders taxed highly, but the core shares a great load of work to transfer power from the legs and stabilize the body throughout the press.

It is important to note that this is an advanced exercise. Many fitness professionals these days are not very fond of any overhead pressing, but I will say this: there are no bad exercises, only bad applications. If you have pain in your shoulder or in your lower back during overhead pressing, don’t do it. Or try dumbbells for more freedom of movement. If you are pain/injury free, then get after it! Putting weight over your head safely is a fundamental movement pattern and can lead to great results.

The Technique:

The Dumbbell version:

For Strength: Typically for strength purposes I recommend keeping the weight relatively high and the repetitions relatively low. I believe the optimal range is 3-6 reps with 75-85% of your max weight. Stick with sets of 3-5 and rest periods between 90 and 120. The focus here should be on controlling the negative (letting the bar down to your shoulders) to increase your time under tension. Your tempo should be something like 3-1-1-1

For Hypertrophy: My favorite use of the push press for hypertrophy is through a method my buddy, Nick Tumminello, calls the 7-4-7 method. Basically you load a bar with a moderate weight and do 7 standard military presses. Then rack the bar and add a little weight and do 4 push presses with the new weight. Next, you rack the bar and unload weight until you have a little less than what you did the first 7 presses with and then you do another 7 presses.

I know this sounds a little confusing, so here is an example: I load the bar with 95lbs and do 7 standard military presses. Then I add 20lbs and do 4 push presses at 115lbs. Next I strip 30lbs off the bar and do 7 more military presses at 85lbs.

Believe me, this is tough and pretty humbling. Make sure you start with fairly conservative weight. I recommend this for 3-4 sets at the beginning of your shoulder training session.

For Fat Loss or Metabolic Training: The push press is great for getting your heart rate elevated on its own, but it also great to throw in a metabolic circuit provided that you are proficient with the exercise. I would keep reps in the 8-12 range, but keep the load fairly low (50-60% of your max) and rest when your form starts to get sloppy. Another great option when doing higher reps of the push press is to use dumbbells which are much easier to ditch should you need to bail on the exercise to avoid injury.

The Simple Tip That Will Change Your Squat Forever

“Externally Rotate.” That was the Facebook status posted by my buddy, Joe Drake, a couple months ago. Joe is a smart guy, and if you’re a fitness nerd like he or I then you probably know what that means, but most people read that and start scratching their heads. Let me break it down for you; it describes the process of rotating your legs so that your knees move away from the center of your body (picture turning your toes out while standing). Was Joe saying that you should stand in that position or walk around like that all day? No. What Joe really was addressing in those 2 words was the use of this technique while performing squats, and frankly, he was dead on.

“Sit back slowly and push your knees out” is a common cue I use with clients to teach them how to externally rotate their femur correctly while squatting (in addition to placing my hand on the inside of their knee and lightly coaching it outward). It is also critical to make sure only the knees are moving out and the feet stay static. This one small adjustment makes a huge impact on the quality of the squat and can improve your range of motion, save your knees, and provide better activation of the glutes.

Many individuals have difficulty achieving full range of motion in a squat or experience knee pain. There could be a myriad of reasons for this, but in my experience, this will make a significant difference. Let’s look at this from an anatomical perspective.

Warning: It’s about to get nerdy in here!

By externally rotating your femur in your acetabulum (hip socket) you are able to create more space for depth. Depth = More Range of Motion = Better Results. This also puts your body in a position of greater stability. In addition, when you externally rotate, you create more hip torque and tension/activation in the glutes which allows you to drive out of your squat more forcefully. Lastly, you save yourself from future knee pain because the closer your knees travel towards the midline of the body, the more stress is placed on the connective tissues that keep your knees from exploding out of your legs. Yes, I know that sounds dramatic, but trust me, knee pain sucks and you want to avoid it at all costs.

Being able to execute a beautiful squat is a skill that few people have. Hopefully this little tip will bring you closer to being one of the people. Now go out there, put some weight on your back, sit down and back slowly, externally rotate those knees, and dominate!

It’s Just A Tool

It has become common place to hear fitness professionals say “It’s just a tool that you have in your toolbox” when asked about any piece of fitness equipment. Let’s evaluate that for a second. What they are implying is that when you are performing a job (helping a specific client reach specific goals) you must select the right tool (piece of equipment and/or exercise) for that job with respect to efficiency (how quickly or how well it can be performed. ) Makes sense, right? You wouldn’t paint the whole interior of a house with a 2” paintbrush, you would use rollers.

Unfortunately, while I agree with the original statement, I would like to add that too many people become attached to specific tools for reasons such as personal bias or marketability and ultimately fall into the same trap they encourage others to avoid. This is commonly seen right after a trainer does a weekend workshop on a new piece of equipment and begins programming every workout with that one piece of equipment. Whether it is due to excitement or the fulfillment of having their clients think they are so up to date, the outcome is the same, they have now made the tool a training system. Although this may not seem like a big deal, they have now made the tool more important than the client. Instead of looking for the most efficient way to bring the client to the goal, the trainer is now looking for the most efficient way to get there with the new tool.

There are many great tools out there like suspension trainers, sand bags, and kettlebells, but no single tool is the best for all applications. If there was one piece of equipment that could do it all, there wouldn’t be so many available! The responsibility of you as the fitness professional is to educate yourself with the tools available and determine where they fit best. You can’t build a house with only a hammer. You have to also use a drill, screwdriver, nails, and pliers.

The tool is only as good as the application and the application is based on the variables presented. Who is the client, what are their limitations, what are the goals, what do you have access to, and how much time do you have? These will dictate the program. The client is paying you to help reach their goals, not your goals for them. Be very careful not to confuse these two, because they can decide how successful you will end up being.

The method isn’t nearly as important as the principles that guide the method, and remember it’s just a tool.

Enhance Your Training With Pre-Workout Potentiation

Back in April I taught a 1 day workshop at Florida Atlantic University that discussed the important elements of a training session. Half of the workshop was dedicated exclusively to preparing the client/athlete to actually perform the exercises in the training session. In other words, I spent about 2 and a half hours covering the warm up.

Now I know that sounds kind of crazy, but the warm up basically sets the tone for how well the athlete/client will perform for the day. Obviously, if our athletes/clients can move better, then they can move more weight or add more range of motion to their exercises which equates to better results. More and more people are becoming aware of this fact as evident in this article and this one, so I won’t bore you by writing a long-winded post on all the details and science (that’s why I included those links). Instead, what I want to tell you about is something I have been using in the warm-up process that has been very successful.

When I first taught my warm-up presentation, it looked like this:

SMR (foam rolling) -> Unloaded Dynamic Movement (squats/lunges etc) -> Core Stabilization/Joint Mobilization

Now, the warm-ups I used with my clients look like this:

SMR (foam rolling) -> Unloaded Dynamic Movement (squats/lunges etc) -> Core Stabilization/Joint Mobilization -> Pre-training Potentiation (Game-Changer)

What the hell does pre-training potentiation mean? It means that I use explosive movements to dial in better responses from the central nervous system. This really isn’t a new concept. In fact, there is a quite a bit of research and information on a training protocol called contrast training. The difference is, by utilizing high-output, explosive exercises prior to your main lifts for the day, you can enhance your nervous system response and still recruit more muscle fibers and motor neurons. I believe this also helps you “get in the groove” before training and allows you to focus better.

The way that I apply this with clients is by choosing 2 explosive movements that best replicate the priority exercises for the day. For example, if squats and pull ups are the priority exercises for the day, then I would choose jump squats and overhead medicine ball slams. The jump squats focus on explosive hip and knee extension and the medicine ball slams fire the lats explosively. We would probably perform 3 sets of 5 repetitions of each exercise, resting 1 minute between each set. It is important to use only a very light load (or no load at all) so the client doesn’t experience fatigue.

I have been utilizing this approach for the last 6 weeks and have seen great improvement in strength and quality of movement. What are your thoughts? Give it a try and let me know what kind of success you have with it by emailing me at david@dc-training.net.