There is no absolute way to execute an exercise, there are only strategies.
– What is the intention of the exercise?
– What strategies are you choosing to teach the client in how they perform the exercise to match the intention?
– Do you execute those strategies appropriately?
– What strategies do you value and why?
– Are those strategies in the best interest of your client or are they the only ones that you know?
– Are those strategies sustainable?
– Do they provide long term learning opportunities or short term gains?
– How many strategies are you providing for a specific task?

The choice of strategy and execution of that strategy for a desired outcome is what separates coaches in exercise selection.

The Trio: Lucy Hendricks, Dr. Michelle Boland, & Michael Mullin

April 27th & 28th 2019

The Trio: Lucy Hendricks, Dr. Michelle Boland, & Michael Mullin

Day 1: Saturday with Lucy Hendricks & Dr. Michelle Boland, Fundamentally Sound: Coaching & Technical Mastery, $250

Hours: Five Total, 8am-1pm

Day 2: Sunday with Michael Mullin, Circuiting the Rehab Training Model, $250

Hours: Five Total, 8am-2pm, lunch 11:30-12:30pm

Pricing: 1 day is $250, 2 day is $450

Link To Purchase Tickets

Both Days: $450 DISCOUNT

Saturday April 27th, Day 1: Fundamentally Sound: Coaching & Technical Mastery with Lucy Hendricks & Michelle Boland, PhD, CSCS

Have you ever attended a seminar where they picked you as an exercise demo?
Are those not the best?! You get to feel what it’s like to be coached by the instructor. You get to respond to their verbal and manual cues, which allows you to feel what you eventually want your clients to feel. Out of all the exercises you learned about that weekend, the ones you were coached through will probably be the ones you’re most successful with.

Lucy Hendricks and Michelle Boland are providing you that experience for all the keystone exercises that will push clients towards their goals. Get ready to embark on a 5 hour 100% hands on movement journey, where you’ll experience the most fundamental weight room movements, built from the ground up. You will also creatively increase your movement repertoire by altering load placement and performance variables to drive adaptations in each plane of motion. 

You will also receive comprehensive exercise sheets filled pictures, instructions, cues, and mistakes. We encourage you to take these home and use liberally with yourself, your staff, and your clients. After the seminar, you will get access to a 2 hour video of how to make detailed training and breath work meaningful for each client which will guarantee client buy-in.

Sunday April 28th, Day 2: Circuiting the Rehab Training Model with Michael J. Mullin, ATC, PTA, PRC
 The lines have become increasingly blurred between what rehabilitation and training look like—from performance coaches working more with the rehab staff within integrated performance teams, fitness professional’s increasing roles in helping manage or supplement the recovery process of the clients they train, to rehabilitation professionals transitioning their clients further into fitness programs. 

This program will review some of the more important factors to take into consideration, from some base assessments and intervention techniques to program design and professional strategies. Specifics related to breathwork integration, utilizing activities mid-program to manage what is seen during the session, program development focusing on different types of circuits and supersets as well as considerations on building a referral-base and developing your brand.

About the Presenters:

Lucy Hendricks is the owner and founder of the Holistic Fitness Connector and co-owner of Enhancing Life (Lexington, KY). She also is a teacher at The Lexington Healing Arts Academy Personal Training Program. She is a personal trainer that takes a holistic approach to health and fitness.

Michelle Boland, PhD, CSCS is an exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning coach, author, and presenter. She previously worked as a strength and conditioning coach at Northeastern University and is currently the Director of Education at Pure Performance Training (Boston, MA).

Michael Mullin, ATC, PTA, PRC, is a clinically-based athletic trainer with over 25 years of experience in training and rehabilitation. He is the Owner/Clinician of Integrative Rehab Training LLC and sees clients out of Back Cove Personal Fitness in Portland and Beyond Strength in Falmouth.


“I think the course was great, and for me, was a perfect addition to stuff I was already doing. A lot of your cueing, positions and coaching really helped me to refine how I teach exercises and movement and it really helped to tie up a lot of loose ends for me. I’ve definitely seen much quicker/more lasting results with my clients since the workshop! I’m finding it easier to adjust positions and exercises for clients based on their complaints, and I’m seeing much quicker improvements in movement variability! Some of those challenging cases that I was struggling with have started making progress, which is super exciting to see! Overall was a great experience and has helped me deliver a better service and quicker results to my clients, which is super important for me as a cash based PT! ” – Dr. Matt Longfellow, PT, DPT, SCS, Cert DN, USAW-1

“Coming into this workshop, I was confident I had a fairly good grasp on the basics of breathing and was primarily hoping to learn different ways to cue clients, especially ones who have a hard time with it. I was previously coaching many of the exercises we learned in this workshop, but I was missing a lot of subtle things. Lucy and Michelle exceeded my already high expectations and dove deep into those details that are the key to your clients’ success. I spent an entire week coaching these exercises after I got back, and my clients barely got off the ground. From what looks like a boring week of lying on the floor and breathing, I heard feedback like, “That was the best ab workout I’ve ever had,” “When I’m laying down, my left ribs don’t do that weird flare anymore and they’ve done that forever,” “I feel like I’m truly getting to understand my body,” and, my favorite, “WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!?” These strategies will be a cornerstone of my programming from now on and I’m so grateful to Lucy and Michelle for sharing them.” – Alexis Helmrath, Fierce Mama Fitness

The Power of Words by Jonah Rosner

The term “Strength and Conditioning” has long been associated with the idea of heavy barbells and running until one’s legs collapse. The strength coaches who exploit our social media pages are often shown yelling until their veins pop at an athlete performing a 700-pound squat. Unfortunately, this has skewed the public’s eye on what a strength coach should represent. Negative reinforcement, yelling, exercise punishment, and representing the villain who runs the team into the ground after the loss predominates the strength coach persona. However, as psychology and motor learning research enters the weight room, it becomes increasingly obvious that these traditional strength coach’s tendencies may hinder an athlete’s performance and psychological well-being. Therefore, it’s time we reexamine the words a strength coach uses and understand how much power one’s word choice can carry beyond barbells.

Your words have power…maybe more than your program design.

              First, let’s cover some of the basics on feedback. In sport and the weight room, there are two types of feedback: Task-intrinsic feedback (sensory based) and Augment feedback, which is not inherent to the task. Augmented verbal feedback is going to be our focus today. The initial questions becomes, does all this talking we do as a coach even matter? Rest assured, research shows you still matter.  A study in 2009 showed that video and verbal feedback combined improved performance more than a no-augmented feedback group in university athletes learning the Power Snatch.

              My biggest pet peeve in the weight room is hearing coaches who use words with their clients that they can’t connect to and thus their augmented feedback is meaningless. It’s safe to assume that for words to change someone’s behavior those phrases must mean something to that person. Cues that don’t connect to any of the athlete’s previous knowledge, or schemas, won’t change much. One of my favorite ways to create meaning is to use analogies that innately relate to the athlete’s sport. We often deal with individuals who are attempting to become experts in their respective sport, so why not connect the weight room to movement they certainly understand? A classic study using youth athletes showed the power of analogies. The research found that moving with a position in space, a clock-face verbal label resulted in better remembering than a meaningless spatial direction.

              Next, we need consider how and when we should deliver information to a client to reduce their reliance on our augmented verbal feedback. In other words, it should be the goal of any good coach for your client to eventually not be reliant on your words. We want to create self-sufficient athletes who can recognize and fix errors and perform movement without our help. We aren’t on the field yelling at them to not let their knees cave in as they cut, so we better create some independent athletes in the weight room. Remember that task-intrinsic feedback we talked about? That source of information is always there and it has been proven that experts exploit it more than novices. So our duty as coaches is to point our clients to task-intrinsic feedback vs. our often meaningless augmented feedback. 

“Augmented feedback can become an essential part of the task and prevent learners from processing critical sources of task-intrinsic of from the essential planning process” – Skill Acquisition in Sport (2012)

So when does our feedback create an over reliance on our words? When our verbal statements are provided too quickly after a practice attempt, when they are given during the task performance and when that information is provided too frequently. Furthermore there are a number of ways coaches can reduce their athlete’s reliance on supplemented feedback. We can spread our feedback over trials, delay our verbal guidance until all sets are complete, allow the learners to self-select sets to receive coaching, and lastly by encouraging our athletes to estimate errors before we give our own advice.

How we should deliver Feedback How we should AVOID giving Feedback
Spread coaching over trails Allow time to pass after a set to give feedback
Don’t give corrections until athlete completes all sets Don’t provide guidance while athlete is actually performing set or rep
Ask your athletes which sets or reps they want your thoughts on Don’t give coaching too frequently
Allow clients to discuss or guess their errors before we give our input  

Let’s summarize what all this research means for us practical world coaches.  I like to put it into one phrase:  “we need to create problem solvers, not robots”. So how do we create movement detectives? We give our clients sometime to think for themselves. After a set, ask an athlete: what did they feel? What was good about that, what was bad? What reps were the best, why? Let the individual figure out for themselves what they should be feeling when, what is good and what is bad. We can do this by spreading our feedback out, not giving too much feedback and allowing learners to select feedback only when they are stuck.

Psychological Needs Framework

What about the sensations our words create? Research on motor learning is emerging that shows that the emotions that words instill in our clients can have an affect on retention rates and transfer of movement patterns.  The academia behind this effort mostly stems from Ryan and Deci’s Fundamental Psychological needs framework. To summarize Ryan and Deci claim: “psychological well-being and optimal functioning and learning in a broad range of domains appear to depend on support for the basic needs of competence, autonomy, and social relatedness.” Let’s explore how our words have the power to create competence and autonomy.

              We will start with competence. One can’t look into the idea of competence and motor learning without searching through Gabriel Wulf’s work. In one study, Wulf found that feedback after “good” trials, compared with “poor” trials resulted in more effective retention and transfer in tasks. Additionally Wulf and colleagues found that participants show enhanced intrinsic motivation with feedback after good trials.  Specifically, verbal language that displays errors may heighten concerns about self, which hamper learning. The classic technique of telling your athlete how poorly they performed to “motivate” them may not be the most effective tool to create learning. It appears that complementing our athletes “good” reps and reshaping how we point out errors probably will do a lot more for athlete’s motor learning in the long run.

              Additionally, associating the strength and conditioning environment with positive compliments over negative punishments will impact an athlete’s psychological well-being in the facility. An individual who associates the gym with negative punishments, being negatively compared to their peers, and a constant exploitation of mistakes will develop destructive feelings towards fitness in general. I have seen athletes who head drops as soon as they walk through the weight room door. They have damaging thoughts surrounding what happens here. Not only will this hurt motivation, but it could leave a person with repercussions about fitness for the rest of their lives. It is constantly overlooked that an individual also develops a personal relationship with the gym. Choosing to point out progress and gains could cultivate this bond, while punishment could help ruin it.

Team training involves considerations for peer comparison

A key idea behind competence is that individuals are always comparing themselves to their peers. We live a in society that is founded on competition. Athletes and clients determine whether or not they are “successful” at their sport based upon how they compare to others. Therefore, it is crucial that as coaches we are mindful about how our words encourage or discourage self-comparison. A study showed that “False – Positive normative feedback against peers causes better outcomes and automaticity in movement control.

To summarize, when a person believes they are better at a certain movement task than their colleagues, they tend to perform better in that specific skill. Recently being involved in a team setting I can recall countless experiences where I noticed an athlete was “embarrassed” by how they were performing against their peers in the weight room. It was obvious to me that these specific individuals had a poor relationship with strength training and did not enjoy their time in the gym. Consequently, I think this research does a really good job of revealing a situation a coach should ALWAYS avoid. We should NEVER use feedback that causes a client to feel as if they are “worse” than others at a specific movement. This negative comparison will undoubtedly cause feelings of irritation around the weight facility. Again, we clearly see how a coaches word could entice an athlete to have a negative relationship with fitness in general. This poor connotation around the facility will undoubtedly affect an individual’s motivation when working out with the team.

              The cliché “Growth Mindset” has flooded our culture in pretty much all areas of human development. Countless literature from business and economics to psychological well-being praise its importance. But, could creating a growth mindset with our words actually help our athletes learn skills in the gym? Yes, a study showed that participants that were told a task represented a learnable (dynamic) skill showed greater self-efficacy, more positive affective self-reactions, expressed greater interest in the task, and greater improvement across trials vs. an inherent aptitude group. Additionally it was found that “instructions portraying the task as an acquirable skill resulted in more effective learning (retention) and automaticity of control vs. inherent capacity instructions.”

              So how does this transfer to the weight room? People who believe abilities are fixed view negative feedback as a threat because it reveals less than optimal ability. On the flip side, athletes who believe skills are dynamic are more motivated, show greater performance and automaticity in movement, and learn more effectively. So yes, framing task success as changeable helps your athletes learn skills faster!

Athlete’s autonomy has become a very hot topic recently, and for good reason. It appears that SOME-level of autonomy can be affective tool to enhance motivation. Research shows that giving the learner some control over the situation enhances motor control retention and transfer.  Additionally, a self-controlled feedback group outperformed a control group when asked to transfer a task to a new situation. That being said, not everyone wants autonomy. We all know those clients who want to be told exactly what to do the whole hour they are in your facility. In other words, they come to lift, not to think. However, I would argue that for our type A high level athlete’s autonomy could prove useful. Allowing those high achieving and knowledgeable athletes some input could do wonders to enhance incentive.

Lastly, let’s talk about how essential our word choice is when an athlete is returning from injury. In my opinion, sending the proper verbal cues with an injured athlete is the most underappreciated aspect of feedback. Rob Gray, a motor control researcher at Arizona State conducted a fascinating study on baseball players and post injury focus. Gray found that injured baseball players demonstrated an increase ability to make judgments about their injured body part. Furthermore, this internal focus correlated with 27% less hits and %15 less strikes. To summarize, that natural tendency to think about your injured knee makes you a lot worse at your sport. So what do we do? To return that athlete to a high level of performance it’s critical that we break from the typical rehab model. In rehab we are constantly asking our athletes or clients how that injured area feels. This practice feeds into this negative cascade by shining extra attention on that injured body-part.

So what happens when we finally return to sport? All one can think about is that area since that’s all they have been asked about for the past 6 months. Therefore, as coaches it is crucial that in the ladder stages of rehab we are very careful with our words. Research consistently shows that experts of sport have an innate external focus when compared to novices who portray an internal focus. Therefore, it’s important that we are being safe but we must also encourage an external focus of attention to return to high performance. For example, ask the baseball pitcher where the location of their pitch was vs. how their elbow feels. Next time you have an injured athlete emphasize the external consequences of their movement rather than asking how their knee feels!

Words to Use Words to Avoid
What was good about that? (specifics) Those last two reps needs work.
What did you feel during those reps? (specifics) You felt your legs right?
What reps were good and why? Number 1 and 2 were good, 3 not so much.
Do you want feedback on that set? Let me tell you everything I just saw.
Let’s work on one thing that we can do a little better.  There’s a lot we need to fix.
Do you see the difference when we do that? How’s your knee, how’s your knee, how’s your knee?
What was the difference between that and the last set? Yea that was better.
That last set was really good, do you notice the progress you have made? Not bad, still needs a bit of work though.
Don’t worry about it, you will get better at it, everybody improves! Yikes, not sure if that’s going to get better.
The … and … were really good! Let’s just work on one thing. Let’s just work on the mistakes.
What did you like about today, didn’t like. Maybe we can add more of the stuff you liked. This, this and this is what we are going to do next time.
Wow you’re a natural at that; most people don’t get it too quickly. Most people learn that a lot faster.


      It’s time that the strength coach moves past his/her obsession with barbells. Weights are an essential part of the gym, but still just a component in a complex environment. Past the sets and reps there is an underlying relationship that an athlete cultivates with the weight room. A multifaceted relationship that we as coaches have a large affect on. I would argue this bond matters for more for performance than how in depth your periodization model is. There is no more potent way to enhance or destroy this connection than with your word choice. What you say matters, how you say it matters, when you say it matters. They may not be measured in kilograms, but they still have huge affects on performance.

About the Author

Jonah Rosner is the owner and founder of JAR Performance Science, located in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Jonah graduated form Boston University in 2018 with coursework in physiology and finance. He plans to pursue a PhD is sports science. He has completed internships with Ranfone Training Systems (CT), Cressey Sports Performance (MA), and Northeastern University (MA). Jonah’s personal interest lay in all aspects of performance but specifically data science and statistics of sport, motor control and decision-making in sport and physics of exercise.

His website is He can contacted at and found on Instagram at @JARperformancescience


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Chiviacowsky, S., & Wulf, G. (2007). Feedback after good trials enhances learning. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 78, 40-47.

Chiviacowsky, S., & Wulf, G., Wally, R., & Borges, T. (2009). KR after good trials enhances learning in older adults. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 80, 663-668.

Chatzisarantis, N. L. D. (Eds.), Intrinsic Motivation and self-determination in exercise and sport. (p. 1-19). Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics.

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Hodges, N.J., & Franks, I.M. (2008). The provision of information. In Hughes, M., & Franks, I. M. (Eds.), Essentials of performance analysis: An introduction. (pp. 21-39). London: Rutledge.

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Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2007). Active human nature: Self-determination theory and the promotion and maintenance of sport, exercise and health.

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Program Design: Embed Testing

Embedding testing in program design can be used an assessment of progress.
Are you improving or staying the same? …fear staying the same. 
  • 3-10 RM testing
  • Perform sets to own volition (example: perform sets of 3 until client chooses to stop or can’t maintain) 
  • Density blocks: Number of reps within a timed set or number of sets within a specific duration
  • Open set: client performs reps to own volition
  • Set duration of time and record distance completed on mode of fitness equipment (example- distance in miles completed in 6 minutes on airdyne)
  • Set specific distance and record time to completion (example- time to climb 300 feet on versaclimber) 
  • Record vertical jumps in warm-up routine
  • Timed circuit: record total volume or time to complete 



Picture 1 of 1

A model allows you to have a structure and framework for decisions within various contexts. Drawing out your model can guide program design, assessments, exercise selection rationale, and outcome goals for the client/athlete.

Models are adaptable with new information and will be refined overtime. Models can also provide commonality in language between staff members and incorporation of core values.  

MBT Model Explanation.

It starts with the client. The client will have both session experiences with the coach and a physical goal. The intent and strategies chosen will be in relation to the desired outcome of an experience and goal.

Client experience includes coaching style, types of hard work, and learning.  The client’s personality and temperament will be related to the adaptive personality of the coach as a strategy in achieving the outcome. The coach will utilize values and concepts that are important to them within communication (language used) and exercise selection in order to achieve the desired experience. Exposure and learning various types of hard work including both physical challenge and awareness should be experienced. 

Session experience should include enjoyment in relation to the client’s wants, weight room perception, and adherence to the program. The inclusion of these variables will allow for empowerment, meaningfulness, and acknowledgement of progress. The coach will review and reflect upon client experience and adjust according to the results. 

The physical goal of the client should relate to desired structural and/or functional adaptations.  Assessment should be related to the goal and valued to track progress of the goal. The assessment should direct coach to the starting point for programming in relation the client needs within health and performance based variables. 

The goal of the client should provide purpose to both the client and coach. The assessment should also assist in maximizing strengths and addressing constraints. The variables and goal should be reassessed and adjusted accordingly based upon the results. 


Program & Sequence Concepts

Program concepts and sequence exercises that build on those concepts. Reinforce by using the same cues with sequential pairings; everything we do is everything else we do.

Whatever concepts that are important to you, have a plan to teach them. I use and build my program design based on concepts I value in performance such as loading a hip, rotating a thorax over a pelvis, centering, and loading & propelling. I can build on these concepts during the year through coaching tactics and being creative with exercises.


  1. Designate a concept as a focus of a microcycle.
  2. Sequence/pair exercises using the same cues and that build upon the previous.
  3. Add cues or details progressing from weeks 1 to week 4 in your coaching.
  4. Be creative with exercises. Does an exercise fulfill the concepts that you value in performance and health?


“Not being understood may be taken as a sign that there is much in one to understand” -Alain de Botton, 2004

I’ve been thinking a lot about not what I want to be (position, title) but who I want to be (value system). Your value system may be conditional on your immediate environment, the people you interact with, and what you read and listen to. Confidence in who you want to be can be challenging in environments and cultures that condition us to value the pursuit of status (may be judged as success) or to desire the emotion of happiness. I desire the ability to responsibly use a position and establish meaning in self exploration.

We are susceptible to the influence of external voices about what we require to be satisfied and what to aim for so as to flourish as human beings (Alain de Botton, 2004). Do you know yourself enough to know what you want to become? Learning from others can be your greatest asset in understanding yourself.

Be observant of other people’s behaviors, the qualities they display, their choice of words, their view of the world, their conquest of status over others (how do they use that?), and their genuine expression of care for others. The intent isn’t to understand others but to discern interactions, elements of anxieties, and virtues of character so you can use them in molding who you want to be and who you don’t want to be. You can’t do this without experiences and interactions followed by reflection.

Putting these thoughts into building my personal training/coaching model would be making training and interactions with others meaningful, being responsible for a position of influence over others, considering the impact of word choice, questioning ideological statements within our professional field, questioning the environment you place yourself in, and maintaining an awareness of your ambitions in what or who you are trying to be. 


Shifting Perspective with Continuing Education

“If you’re not understanding, you need to understand enough to formulate a question” –Bill Hartman

When we leave the academic system we know how to speak a certain language using specific words based upon a curriculum (most likely outdated). In relation to specific degrees such as Exercise Science the curriculum is based upon an accreditation program, guidelines, or certification. In many Exercise Science or Strength and Conditioning programs these include:

  • American College of Medicine (ACSM) professional practice guidelines
  • Accreditation standards are outlined by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education programs (CAAHEP)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

There are specific terms and definitions utilized within an overarching language of these structured curriculums. Language involves a method of communication by structuring the words in a specific manner and sharing common definitions to create a common understanding. Sharing the same language is important in communicating with other professionals. Even though each coach has a unique way in which they view the world based upon education (explicit and tacit learning skills), past experiences, and values, a common language connects coaches.  However, the academic system is after all just that, a system.

In the higher education system we focused on specific variables related to the execution of  specific exercises; mostly the ‘Big 3’: clean, squat, bench. I will also refer to these as the sacred cows of S&C. I used the term sacred cows as these movements are not questioned in relation to building variables of strength and power. The exercises are exclusively associated with the acquisition of a specific variable. For example, “we need to hang clean to acquire power…”

We associated performance variables, such a strength, power, and flexibility with very specific exercises:

  • Strength- Back Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press
  • Power- Olympic Lifts
  • “Flexibility/Mobility”- Stretching (with associated sensations)

Assessment of performance ability was revolved around moving a weight from point A to B. The weight room revolved around the ‘Big 3’ without questioning the relevance to performance. These exercises are required in the sports of olympic lifting and powerlifting.

This was the model for performance within the system. Performance variables were defined within the constraints of the system and commonality of language:

  • Strength: “the maximal force that a muscle or muscle group can generate at a specified velocity during strength testing” (Baechle & Earle, 2008).
  • Power- “the time rate of doing work [product of the force exerted on an object and the distance the object moves in the direction in which force is exerted]”  (Baechle & Earle, 2008).
  • Flexibility- “measure of range of motion [has static and dynamic components at a specific joint]”  (Baechle & Earle, 2008).

Movement ‘limitations’ were referenced in relation to a ‘tight’ or ‘weak’ muscle. The solution was foam rolling, stretching, or strengthening. The curriculum viewed the body as a lever system with regional independence of movement. Program design was referenced to periodization of the ‘Big 3’ lifts. Progression and success of a program was related to increased loading. We discussed the use of bilateral vs unilateral lower body exercises until we were blue in the face.

The intent was to create an environment that emphasized the importance of load progression. The execution was in the prescription of the ‘Big 3’ exercises and specific sets and reps within variable ranges.The desired outcome was assessing external load.

This isn’t wrong, it’s just a constructed system that utilizes a specific language and perspective.

If you never leave this constructed system, you will never be able to create your own world. With new experiences we can gain a different perspective on training, performance, and exercise selection. Seeking out opportunities to hear coaches share their perspectives may influence your own intent and execution of a specific exercise is related to a different desired outcome.

The pursuit of understanding and questioning is in continuing education.

I attended several courses relating to respiration, gait, and planes of movement in relation to movement restrictions, pain, and fitness. I began to see things in relation to those concepts. These concepts allowed me to question dogmas in the fitness industry, adaptation, and seeking answers to what the term performance actually means (the ultimate desired outcome).

Postural Restoration Institute Courses

Pat Davidson: Rethinking the Big Patterns

Zac Cupples: Human Matrix

My perspective shifted: I gained an appreciation for lower threshold activities to greatly enhance high threshold performance. These concepts provided a viewpoint to appreciate how consequences of training manifest. I saw movement limitations as respiratory driven and the position of bony structures. I thought about how these ideas could be executed in the weight room with creative positions (orientation of axial skeleton, pelvis, cranium) in relation to the outcome of improving performance. I used concepts of loading and propulsion within the gait cycle with the intent of improving performance variables.

This new information pointed me down a path of exploring our sensory systems, a deeper understanding of anatomy, neurology, the brain, and human complexity. I gained an appreciation of how our brain and sensory systems can change with training.  

I attended a few Dr. Ben House’s Functional Medicine Retreats and gained knowledge about lifestyle variables outside of training that could arguably be more important. I gained an appreciation for environment, purpose, sleep, stress, sun, nutrition, gut health, and community.

My perspective shifted: I focused athlete education on these subjects. I viewed movement ‘limitations’ as possible factors of past experiences, behavior, trauma, and autonomics. This experience truly allowed me to understand what the term networking meant and what having a community feels like.

I watched Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning course at the University of Toronto and explored books related to psychology, behavior and communication.

My perspective shifted: The most important aspect of being a coach is related to human connection. My coaching philosophy evolved into the statement of, be responsible for a position of influence. I become aware of being aware. I started to understand myself to a greater degree. I started to coach differently, with more emphasis on how athletes treated each other, discussing values, asking more questions about them, getting to know them better, placing more of an emphasis on being a good person and thinking about what that means; outside of sport. I started to question what was really important.

I recently attended Bill Hartman’s Intensive II event and now I see the splash of guts and fluids during movement. I see pressure moving down, rebounding, and moving upward with a counter movement jump.

My perspective shifted: I see creating exercises that are designed to move fluid and pressures in different areas based upon how the client manages internal and external pressures. I see the ‘Big 3’ in a different way. I see how a bench press can actually flatten the axial skeleton structure which changes pressure and airflow dynamics. I see how the squat can be used as a tool to teach people how to manage or mismanage pressures within their body depending upon the individual and variation of the exercise. I see movement ‘limitations’ as the inability to deal with internal forces. I understand more about what it is to be human: we are not a lever system, we are a hydrodynamic structure.

My perspective on performance has changed my definitions of the variables that we tend to value in our fields.

  • Strength: the ability to manage pressure
  • Power: the ability to rebound pressure and propel
  • “Flexibility/Mobility”: I do not use these words in my language, but they would be the ability to move structures through a range of motion without restriction. It’s the position of structures and fluid that may restrict joint movement, not the ‘tightness’ of muscle.  

I now see the solution to a problem as more than load modification. I now see an exercise, such as a split squat, as phases of gait and a loading and propelling side rather than something we do to acquire a vague variable such as strength. There is not ideal way to move and there is no ideal ‘movement pattern’. Within the desire outcome of performance there are so many considerations; organism, environment, task.

Question transferability. 

I see responsibility: “whether you like it or not it’s your decision of what strategies you want people to use.”                        – Bill Hartman

Continuing education needs to be more than attending a seminar. It needs to introduce you to something different and expose you to something that makes you question your belief system.  

Identifying events requires people you trust and valuing concepts over modalities. Dr. Ben House and Bill Hartman’s events raised the bar for continuing education by creating a shared experience, building a community, and creating opportunity for communication past the event. Dr. Ben House’s Costa Rica retreat was full immersion in a unique environment and created an emotional attachment to the experience and other professionals in attendance (who I now consider great friends).


Continuing education opportunities taught me a different language and provided me with a different perspective of myself and what I do as a professional. New experiences provided a cycle of self-improvement, which did involve some chaos and transcendence. Information that challenges previous knowledge can be threatening and push you into a state of chaos. It should make you question yourself, not always reinforce what you already know. Each person is different in their openness to chaos and ability to prosper from it.

With each experience and new information, you have to both dig deeper for yourself and combine explicit learning with tacit learning. Utilize the new knowledge.

  • Explicit learning- information, data
  • Tacit learning- experience, thinking, competence, socialization, sharing experiences, observing which requires discussion, mentorship, apprenticeship, and application

I don’t let other people’s perspective bother me at all, neither should you. We all have different experiences and perspectives. You can’t blame someone for something they have not been exposed to, but sometimes we can find ourselves speaking a different language within the same profession.

More experiences will create more questions:

  • Is chasing a number in the weight room strength? What does that mean?
  • What is performance?
  • What does all of this mean for this specific athlete?
  • More isn’t necessarily better.
  • More flexibility isn’t better
  • Maybe how we view athletic ability is changing. Can changing an client’s structure and ability to accept and propel pressures make them more powerful and better at their sport?

We make things too simple. Humans are complex. We need to keep exploring deeper.

Question what we learn in the academic system, explore new areas such as physics, behavior, psychology, etc. Keep pursuing education rather than accepting the ‘known’….because nothing is known.

I have been able to build my model with these experiences in establishing commonalities and filtering. Commonalities of experiences include the importance of teaching both load acceptance and propulsion in training and being a good person as a coach. The power of language and word choice is everything when interacting and connecting with others.

The power of commonality in language also provides professional communities with shared experiences.

Read. Network. Experience. Seek Opportunities. Explore Novelty. Reflect.  

You shouldn’t fear failure, you should fear staying the same.


Baechle, T.R, & Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Third edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Book Review #4: The Body Keeps the Score.

“It is not that something different is seen, but that one sees differently.             – Carl Jung

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. By Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Penguin Books, New York, NY. (2014)

The most effective coaches are those that have the ability to connect with others, understand the importance of psychology, and value knowledge about human behavior. You cannot have physiology without psychology. There is information out there about coaching tactics for personality and temperament (Brett Bartholomew), neurological profiling for program design (Christian Thibaudeau) , and targeting neurotransmitters for adherence.

These can be important considerations for training and coaching, however humans are extremely complex and there is always a deeper level. When you interact with others, that deeper level may include understanding how trauma can manifest itself in the body.

We all interact with people who are in pain (not just physical). Trauma doesn’t have to be one event, it can be the inability to cope with a perceived threat at a young age, in which coping strategies become ingrained in our physiology and neurology. These strategies can be teeth clenching, breathe holding, curling toes, and tightening of abdominals (More Information).

Our current behavior and our response to stress is created by past experiences. Our behavior is based upon prediction, in which we will revert back to the behavior from past emotional or physical stressors. As coaches, we need to acknowledge feelings, create body awareness, appreciate the impact of our clients past experiences related to their current behaviors (this includes creating a referral network), and changing our own behaviors to best interact with that client.

As human beings we belong to an extremely resilient species. Since time immemorial we have rebounded from our relentless wars, countless disasters (both natural and man-made), and the violence and betrayal in our own lives. But traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scale (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations. They also leave traces on our minds and emotions, on our capacity for joy and intimacy, and even our biology and immune systems.”

– Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (p.1)

The Body Keeps The Score

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is the founder and medical director of the Trauma center in Brookline, Massachusetts. In his book, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk shares his years of clinical practice and scientific literature in relation to how trauma can reshape the body and brain (whole body response). He presents treatments such as meditation, sports, yoga, and self expression for recovery.  

Traumatic experiences physically affects the brain and the body, causing anxiety, inability to concentrate, and the inability to feel sensation. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explores the complexity of the mind, structure and function of the brain’s emotional pathways, the ways in which humans are connected and attached to each other, and how emotions/behavior are reflected in movement.

Trauma (which can be solely unconscious) can literally change the structure and function of the brain, increase stress hormones, create hypervigilance to threat (real or imagined), restrict movement, create sleep disturbances, oversensitivity to touch or sound, and increase the perception of pain. These experiences can occur as a baby and contribute to the emotional and perceptual map of the world in the developing brain.

“We have begun to understand how overwhelming experiences affect our innermost sensations and  our relationship to our physical reality-the core of who we are…[Trauma] changes not only how we think and what We think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

Big Hitters:

  • “Social environment interacts with brain chemistry” What is the environment that you are trying to create as a coach? How are you making people feel?
    • Emotions assign value to an experience.
  • “In many places drugs have displaced therapy and enabled patients to suppress their problems without addressing the underlying issues.”
    • “The brain-disease model takes control over people’s fate out of their own hands and puts doctors and insurance companies in charge of fixing their problems.” (p.37)
    • “Half a million children in the United States currently take antipsychotic drugs.”
    • Can coaches and exercise have a greater impact than prescription medication?
    • Do we care enough to find a different solution?
  • Activities such as breathing, moving, and touching can be used to regulate our own physiology.
  • “Being able to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scar.” 
    • Physical movement and emotional expression are valuable for overall health and healing.
  • “Realizing that other people can think and feel differently from us…”
    • WE ALL PERCEIVE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY. You are coaching others with their own perceptions and constructed view of the world, not yours.
  • “Without flexible, active frontal lobes people become creatures of habit, and their relationships become superficial and routine.” (p.60)  
  • “Grounding” (related to treatment) means that you can feel you butt in your chair, see the light coming through the window, feel the tension in your calves, and hear the wind stirring the tree outside (p.70). This is sensation.
  • Our physical shape (body language-nonverbal expression of emotion), tone of voice, and facial expressions feed our emotional pathways (and vice versa) and provide communication and intention to others. This is the body-brain connection.
    • We can experience physical pain from emotions.
    • The heart, guts, and brain are connected and communicate via the pneumogastric nerve. Mind and body are indistinguishable.
    • You’re inability to digest your food can be related to your emotional state (possibly due to exposure to stress).
  • Sense of purpose involves both movement and emotions. Making things meaningful and providing others with a sense of purpose or importance is one of the most genuine things you can do as a coach.  
  • Social support. “Our culture teaches us to focus on personal uniqueness, but at a deeper level we barely exist as individual organisms. Our brain are built to help us function as members of a tribe. We are part of that tribe even when we are by ourselves…” (p.80)
    • “Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect…safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”
    • “Most traumatize people find themselves chronically out of sync with the people around them.”
  • Exercise and movement provides body awareness and increased capacity to manage stress.
    • The “core of our self-awareness rests on the physical sensations that convey the inner states of the body. ” Physical self-awareness provides the ability to release the tyranny of the past and provides a sense of self.
    • Practices such as movement therapy and yoga can be used as sensory experiences by exploring trauma’s deeper impact on the body (neuroscience of self-awareness). Simply noticing what you feel fosters emotional regulation. Sensory (and motor) experiences are important…
    • The flip side is exercise addiction, which can be sensation seeking.
  • “Nobody grows up under ideal circumstances…every life is difficult in its own way.” (p.306)

“When we cannot rely on our body to signal safety or warning and instead feel chronically overwhelmed by physical stirrings, we lose the capacity to feel at home in our own skin, and by extension, in the world.” (p.307)

Overall Score: 8.6/10

When you are a coach, you have a responsibility for a position of influence. I often observe the dehumanization of athletes in relation to the avoidance of human connection. Today, we limit social interaction with the use of technology and often breed a superficial environment. Coaches have the ability to positively impact other individuals but there needs to be knowledge of human behavior (including the information presented in the book), communication skills, and acknowledgement.

We are all different. We all perceive the world differently from past experiences and temperaments. Remember this when you are dealing with others (position of influence).

Have compassion.

This book is dense and emotional at times, however ever since I read it a few years ago it has been in my list for top 3 favorite books. The information presented is invaluable in appreciating behavior, past experiences, pain, and relationships. It is close to a ’10’ because it’s an exploration of the complexity of the human species, and that’s quality to me.

Related Recommended Resource: Seth Oberst, DPT, SCS, CSCS and his Stress, Movement & Pain course

Up next: We shall see….