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.

CONCLUSION

      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 JARperformancescience.com. He can contacted at jarperformancetraining@gmail.com and found on Instagram at @JARperformancescience

References:

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Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., & Sekiya, H. (2001). Motor learning as a function of KR schedule and characteristics of task-intrinsic feedback. Journal of Motor Behavior, 33, 59-66

Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., & Sekiya, H. (2005). Support for an explanation of the guidance effect in motor skill learning. Journal of Motor Behavior, 37, 231-238.

Armstrong, T.R. (1970). Feedback and perceptual-motor skill learning. A review of information feedback and manual guidance training techniques. Technical Report No. 25, Human Performance Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Baudry, L., Leroy, D., Thouvarecq R., & Chollet, D. (2006). Auditory concurrent feedback benefits on the circle performed in gymnastics. Journal. Of Sports Sciences, 24, 149-156.

Belcher, D., Lee, A.M., Solmon, M.A., & Harrison, L.,Jr. (2003). The influence of gender-related beliefs and conceptions of ability on women learning the hockey wrist shot.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 74, 183-192.

Blandin, Y., Toussaint, L., & Shea, C.H. (2008). Specificity of practice: Interaction between concurrent sensory information and terminal feedback. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 994-1000.

Chiviacowsky, S., & Wulf, G. (2002). Self-controlled feedback: Does it enhance learning because performers get feedback when they need it? Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 73, 408-415.

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.

Erikksson, M., Halverson, K. A., & Gullstrand, L. (2011). Immediate effect of visual and auditory feedback to control the running mechanics of well-trained athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29, 253-262.

Ford, P., Hodges, N.J., & Williams, A. M. (2007). Examining action effects in the execution of a skilled soccer kick by using erroneous feedback. Journal of Motor Behavior, 39, 481 – 490.

Gray R. Differences in attentional focus associated with recovery from sports injury: Does injury induce an internal focus? (2015)  Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology,  37  (6) , pp. 607-616.

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.

Jourden, F.J., Bandura, A., & Banfield, J.T. (1991). The impact of conceptions of ability on self-regulatory factors and motor skill acquisition.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 8, 213-226.

Li, W., Lee, A. M., & Solmon,M. A. (2005). Examining the relationship among dispositional ability conceptions, intrinsic motivation, perceived competence, experience and performance. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 24, 51-65.

Li, W., Lee, A. M., & Solmon, M. A. (2008). Effects of dispositional ability conception, manipulated learning environments, and intrinsic motivation on persistence and performance: An interaction approach.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79, 51-61.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000).  Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development and well-being. American Psychologist 55, 68-78.

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

 Shea J.B. (1977). Effects of labeling on motor short-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 3, 92-99.

Swinnen, S.P., Schmidt, R.A., Nicholson, D.E., & Shapiro, D.C. (1990). Information feedback for skill acquisition: Instantaneous knowledge of results degrades in learning. Journal of Experimental Pyschology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 16, 706-716.

Winchester, J.B>, Porter, J.M., & Mcbride, J.M. (2009). Changes in bar path kinematics and kinetics through use of summary feedback in power snatch training. Journal Of strength and Conditioning Research. 23, 444-454.

Winstein, C.J., Schmidt, R. A. (1990). Reduced Frequency of knowledge of results enhances motor skill learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory, and Cognition, 16, 677-691.

Wulf, G., (2007b).  Self Controlled practice enhances motor learning: Implications for physiotherapy.  Physiotherapy, 93, 96-101.

Wulf, G., (2007a).  Attention and motor skill learning. Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics.

Wulf, G., Chiviacowsky, S., & Lewthwaite, R. (2010). Normative feedback effects on the learning of a timing task. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81, 425-431.

Wulf, G. & Lewthwaite, R. (2009). Conceptions of ability affects motor learning.  Journal of Motor Behavior, 41, 461-467.

Wulf, G. & Lewthwaite, R. (2010). Effortless motor learning? An external focus of attention enhances movement effectiveness and efficiency. In Bruya, B.(Ed.) Effortless Attention: A new perspective in attention and action (p75-101). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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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 

THE MODEL.

THE MBT MODEL

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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.



Tips:

  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?

Reflection

“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).


Conclusion

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.


References

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

Hard Work

Hard work is the basis for everything you desire to achieve. It is applying your ability with focused attention and the exclusion of other abilities. You must know the purpose or intended outcome of the work especially in relation to the type of person you desire to be.


Types of Hard Work
  1. Physical Savagery: 

    • Primitive instincts of hunting and killing
    • Suffer, Competition
    • Do you know what a 10 out of 10 feels like?
    • You will need to train at the level you are going to compete at, its called preparation.
    • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

     


  2. Physical Awareness

  • Sense of Self/Body Awareness
  • Can you feel muscles working?
  • Learning, Variability
  • Can you be thoughtful about instructions and the details when you need to be?
  • Internal & external standpoint
  • Be aware of how your actions effect your surrounding environment

3. Humility & Gratitude

  • Show appreciation and return kindness
  • What type of person do you want to be? If you don’t know that then who are you?
  • Humans require social connections so build them
  • Make things meaningful

4. Perspective

  • What you do during the other 23 hours of the day outside of the weight room dictates success and adaptations
  • Manipulate the environment around you towards your goals and values
  • Address social relationships, sleep, nutrition, habits/routines
  • Seek out things that you lack=reflection

 

Saying you haven’t gotten better at something is basically saying you didn’t work hard to get better at it. Some people have no idea what it is to work hard or have a distorted perception of what hard work is. If you want to improve you need change. 

Women in S&C Leadership Positions

 
It may not necessarily be getting females into leadership positions. Many individuals who hold leadership positions or titles do not demonstrate leadership qualities. The conquest of a title may be less important than the acquisition of the skills and qualities of leadership.

Providing females in the S&C field with these skills may have more value long term. 


Provide solutions in skill sets that include:
  • Critical conversations skills
  • Thinking about solutions (which most likely can be found in your own behavior) instead of identifying faults in others
  • Self awareness (there is purpose in understanding yourself)
  • Learning how to promote the growth of others (empowering) instead of spending time establishing hierarchies/inferiority
  • Identifying skills in others that will help them succeed
  • Listening skills instead of waiting to speak over others (creating mutual respect)
  • Being adaptable to how you interact with different people (not being rigid in your own behaviors)
  • Learning how to be adaptable/open minded (without being overly agreeable)

  • This is similar to pursuing grades over education, money over satisfaction, or individual accolades over team goals.
  • Don’t teach them how to win, teach them how to play

  • Where is this in the academic system? 
  • Where is this in internship curriculum? 
  • How are we providing solutions within ourselves?

Check out the following article for more insight:  Cultural and Occupational Barriers Facing Women Professionals in the Field of Strength and Conditioning 

Coaching: Perception, Context & Perspective.

Coaching: Perception, Context & Perspective.

“More awareness translates into greater survivability” (Lipton, 2015)


“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as WE are.”

Perceive: become aware or conscious of (something) or to interpret (someone or something) in a particular way. Self awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. There is a difference between how you perceive yourself (a false perception can differ from who you actually are), how you think others perceive you, and how they actually perceive you. 


Context: the external circumstances of the present moment and your internal state that has been influenced by past experiences. If context is different, your perception is different, thus your responsiveness is different. 


Coaching is both understanding how to best interact with others that may have a different perspective than you and being aware of your own behavior. All are needed to assist in the goals of the athlete/ client.