Elements of Progress.

Elements of Progression.

Progression in the weight room is not solely based on external loading (i.e. how much absolute weight lifted). Progress can be accomplished in various ways in order to improve performance, movement options, fitness, experience, and may even assist in external loading abilities.

Here are some valuable elements of client/athlete progress:

  1. Accumulation of volume is one of the key components to improving qualities of fitness. Increasing the number repetitions and/or sets throughout a training program is fundamental to progress.
  2. Progress through various positions (i.e. 1/2 kneeling, tall kneeling, etc.) and expose to positions that the body struggles to achieve (i.e. if client lacks hip extension, progress through positions that challenge hip extension, then you can challenge those positions under loading).
  3. Progress through coaching cues. Simplicity is king but an element of progression can be attention to detail or changes in the focus on attention. For example, the first couple weeks teaching a split squat can be focused on heel contact on the ground then can progress to hip shifting or alternating arm reaching as a variation. Use simplicity in exercise selection and language then progress with detail and variations for increased complexity.
  4. Progress through intent of speed. Start with static positions and isometric holds then progress with dynamic activities then progress with the intent to move with speed. External feedback will assist with this such as velocity tracking technology (Tendo, GymAware) or Keiser equipment. When doing deceleration, acceleration, or change of direction drills (especially with clients with low sport or training history) progress with the intent to move faster (motivate).
  5. Progress with adding different planes of motion as a variation to exercises. This could involve hip shifting (frontal plane), contralateral reaching/punching/rotation (transverse plane), or changing the placement of the load within exercises.

The purpose of having regressions and progression lists are to be able to guide decision making and have a aim based on current abilities, standards, and future goals. Progression is focused on long term access to the movement being required and challenging positions, movement, movement under load, and the strategy being used throughout the movement (i.e. muscles used during movement and loading).

Overall progress can be the improvement of performance. The ultimate goal for athletes is on-field improvement (not solely weight room improvement). Athletes are categorized as people who are participating in weight room activities to make changes towards sport/on-field activities. If absolute load lifted in weight room sessions is the sole measure of progression it may negatively impact overall performance. Overall progress for general population clients (low sport or training history) can be improved performance, fitness, quality of life, reduction in pain, and achieving intensities or volumes that previously were a challenge. You have many tools in your tool box, use them for long term progress and sustainability.

A Consistent Approach to Coaching.

Programming and progression will be discussed further at the workshop Lucy Hendricks and I will be hosting September 2019. For more information, see below.

Location: Hype Gym, NYC

Date/Time: Sunday, September 29th 2019. 9:00am-4:30pm (lunch 12:00pm-1:00pm)

CLICK HERE for the event’s page.

MBT Exercise Creation Model

Preview for the UPCOMING MBT Training Model & Implementation Online Course!

A Process for Creativity in Exercise Selection

The goal of the process is to match intent with strategy to create an exercise then coach the exercise with proper execution. An exercise is the loading of tissues for mechanical and physiological benefits. Positions are the shapes in which the body is placed to target specific muscles to move bones and to be able to target as much muscle mass as possible.

The process of exercise selection can be overwhelming without a process. Choosing exercises should have a purpose and we should explore our creativity based upon that purpose instead of choosing exercises and rationalizing them later. We tend to choose exercises based on certain loading abilities and associations instead of a specific intention.

  • Am I starting with a exercise or the intent?
  • Am I associating a exercise with a specific quality?
    • Such as associating the back squat exercise with the quality of strength
  • Starting with the intent will allow you not be married to specific exercises

The Exercise Creation Model has a three tier process to create an exercise. The first tier and foundation is position, second tier is fitness qualities, and the top tier is variations. This tier system was created to evaluate and analyze a thought process for exercise selection, ways to progress, and subtle strategy changes. There are many ways to progress, in which you can change position, change fitness quality, or add a variation.

The Exercise Creation Model will help you be more individualized with your clients/athletes, have a guide for exercise selection and program design, and explore various ways to strategize and execute an exercise.

The UPCOMING Training Model & Implementation Online Course will go into more detail and take you through strategies and execution for exercise selection, as well as training principles and model development.

But while we wait for that, here is the steps within each tier:

Base First Tier: Positions are used to target specific muscles to move boney structures. Positions include, but are not limited to:

  • Supine
  • Prone
  • Sidelying
  • Tall Kneeling
  • 1/2 Kneeling
  • Standing
  • Front/Back Staggered
  • Lateral Staggered

Middle Second Tier: Fitness Qualities

  • Qualities: Strength, Power, Endurance, Hypertrophy, etc.
  • Resistance (load): Strength, etc.
  • Tempos (Eccentric, Isometric, Oscillations): Strength, Endurance 
  • Accommodating resistance (Bands, Chains): Speed, Power
  • Velocity (intent to move with speed): Speed, Power
  • Timed Durations/Length of set : Strength, Endurance, etc.
  • Volume/Sets and Reps: Strength, Hypertrophy, etc.

Peak Third Tier: Variations 

  • Create an exercise variation build on position and fitness quality desired
  • Create an exercise variation with additional components of progress such as static or dynamic execution, plane of motion, range of motion, RNT input, barriers and references, placement of loading, cues (focus of attention)
  • This is the creation of strategy related to goal/intent, client, needs analysis, real time modifications, and progress
  • Fulfill with execution


Three Tier Process for Exercise Creation based on Intent-Strategy- Execution


Example of Process with the exercise created being a Bilateral Squat based on the Intent- Strategy and follow through with Execution. I first choose a bilateral stance position for a two foot ground reference and sagittal plane dominant position. Second I add a six second tempo for the eccentric phase. Lastly, I choose an anterior loading placement, cue the client to find their heels, and add a band around the knees (from the front) to teach client to posterior shift. The exercise is created from the bottom up based on the client, goal, direction of progress, and real time modifications. For more information on Squat Progressions check out Lucy Hendricks Article.
Another Example of the creation process with the exercise created being a 3 Point Contact 1 Arm Row. First I choose a prone position. Second I choose a rep/set scheme that is focused towards the client’s hypertrophy goal. Lastly, I focus the attention on the stance leg (left leg in picture) and reaching with the arm on bench (right arm in picture). The exercise is created from the bottom up with a connection between the trainer’s training principles and client goals (and abilities).

Now you need to Execute!

That’s why Lucy Hendricks and I created a workshop that is 100% hands-on!

Have you ever attended a seminar where they picked you as an exercise demo? For 5 minutes, 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 your clients will need to feel.

Out of all the other attendees who didn’t get coached, you’ll be more successful getting your clients to execute that exercise correctly.

This workshop allows you to be coached, demo, practice coaching, and walk through some troubleshooting with every single activity! Instead of 5 minutes of personal attention, you’ll have a whole day of movement and hands-on learning.

If you’re wanting your staff under one consistent model, this is the workshop for you and your employees. Learn to develop movement standards where everyone gets to develop their own training talent and skill following the same principles.

Going through our Consistent Training Model will allow you to manage multiple people in one session while keeping the coaching quality high. You will creatively increase your client’s movement repertoire by altering load placement and performance variables to drive adaptation in each plane of motion.

Location: Hype Gym, NYC

Date/Time: Sunday, September 29th 2019. 9:00am-4:30pm (lunch 12:00pm-1:00pm)

CLICK HERE for the event’s page.

Play. Laugh. Move in Different Ways. Have Fun. …and Lift Some Heavy Things.

We have ‘recess day’/ variability day when training has been long term & consistent.

Introducing drills in warm-up that are externally focused and involve unpredictability for change of direction, drop step, crossover, and multidirectional movements (more videos to follow) are great ways to teach skills with play, laughing, jokes and fun. There is a lot of laughter during these videos.

Drill: Wall Ball Reaction Drill

3 x week sessions usually involve: Day 1: Strength day Day 2: variability: “Recess day” to explore different movement strategies Day 3: volume day

Seated 1 Arm Row.

The use of passive constraints to manipulate a task: External objects are used to assist in finding certain references and muscles.

* The dumbbell behind the foot is used to find heels and hamstrings. The ball between the knees is used to find adductors. The weight in the hand is used to find abs and close a space. The weight of the cable can be used to reach and feel a scapula move.

* Training Principle: Proximal structure position influences movement of distal structures
* Focused Attention: Heels. Opening a side of the thorax and closing the opposite side.
* Guided Experience: Initiate questions before providing feedback. What was that like? How did that feel? 

Leg Transition Chop.

Creating an exercise to match intent. The intent of the exercise is to transition from leg to leg working on frontal plane mechanics.

* The chop will assist in centering over a leg: stacking the nose over the zipper line, over the knee, over the big toe.

* Training Principle: All athletic skill acquisition includes the ability to transition from leg to leg; gait, skating, throwing a ball, or changing direction (push mechanics).

* Guided Experience: What was that like? How did that feel? Where do you feel your weight? Why do you think this is important?

* Focused Attention: Arch of the foot.

* Client accomplished a personal record weight in the Trap Bar Deadlift 💪 which was an externally focused activity. To finish the session, we turned to thinking about the body and feeling muscles in specific areas, which was an internally focused activity.


Most people just need to gain muscle mass, lose body fat, and accumulate volume.

The idea of ‘fixing’ a fitness client or using some of your new continuing education catch words to tell people they are something that needs to be fixed is a lack of understanding of the end game and the big picture.

* “You shouldn’t deadlift because your thorax is narrow”

* “You’re so jacked up, I’m surprised you haven’t gotten hurt back squatting yet”

* “You don’t ‘manage pressure’ well in your pelvis so you shouldn’t squat” Can you even explain what pressure management means?

* “You need to do these specific exercises because ‘you’re extended’”

These are all promoting mindsets of ‘there is something wrong with me’. We sometimes like to prove our value and spit out some new knowledge we learned at a con edu event but lose sight of fitness. 

At the end of the day you need to just expose people to different experiences, strategies, loading, velocities, durations, positions, patterns, stances to ultimately IMPROVE fitness (allow to accumulate more and more volume). Exposure is variability.

Be careful with your words. Show them something else without taking something from them or making them feel like they are something that needs to be fixed. * How about “let’s try doing it this way”
* How about “let’s work on this strategy”
* This is what I am seeing with this assessments so our strategy will be X to assist in your goals… I love to learn. You may too. Absorb it, filter it, but don’t let it suck you in to only staring at the bark of a tree instead of seeing the whole forest.

“It is far better to render beings in your care competent then to protect them. And even if it were possible to permanently protect them and banish everything threatening, everything dangerous, and therefore everything challenging and interesting, that would mean only that another danger would emerge” – Dr. Jordan Peterson 

Socialization by Keaton Worland

Gym Partners, Group Classes, Semi-Private Training, Tribes.

Each of these satisfy the human need for relatedness through socialization.

As humans we have a fundamental need to be connected with or able to relate to other humans.  Relatedness, how connected and secure we feel in our environment, is dictated by our personal relationships and past experiences to help to regulate and guide our behavior.  So, if we lack the sense of connection and security to our environment, we as humans may lose our motivation to act and dysregulated behavior may ensue.1  This can take form as an elevation in heart rate, poor sleep quality, reduced work efficiency, or even social seclusion.  We have to have strategies to help us self-regulate.

A logical first step in regulating behavior in a new environment is to develop relationships to allow any threat perceived to be dampened.  Coaches are positioned to have a pivotal role in helping regulate their clients behavior. However, it requires well-developed soft skills (communication, listening, empathy, etc) so that a coach can be ‘socially agile”.  Social agility is the ability to recognize the differences between people and knowing how to adapt in every situation.2  This ensures coaches provide a secure environment that fosters learning, enhanced experiences, as well as high achievement.  

Some form of specific achievement is often the initial driver (external motivation) for a client attending a gym regularly, but they tend to have high levels of uncertainty in their approach causing them to struggle to accomplishment their goals.  Uncertainty can be extremely stressful on the human system. This stressed system becomes rigid and lacks control because of forebrain (neocortex) inhibition.3  This means decision making becomes increasingly difficult as forebrain inhibition shifts decision making to the reptilian and limbic brains (this is the Jacksonian-Dissolution Theory in a nutshell).4  This level of the human operating system is built on making predictions based on the stored memories of past experiences and helps to shape our future behaviors.  But if there are few to no past experiences to pull from, our brain makes a decision and then retrospectively analyzes the result. This can quickly lead to a dysregulated system.  Dysregulation, in this sense, tends to bias the human system towards increased sympathetic activity making behavioral decision-making even more difficult (more reptilian).3

By clouding the decision making process, the brain becomes uncertain about how to ensure organism safety.3  This is evident in clients who lack “relatedness” or gym (social) relationships.  These individuals tend to seek peer-imitation as safe-to-fail experiments during their workouts.  This is inefficient and dangerous as well as a clear indicator that they WANT help but may not know it yet.  When help is needed there becomes an innate desire to seek out comfort, assistance, and support of close friends and family.  This concept of relatedness is rooted in our biology.

From infancy, humans learn to securely attach to caregivers.5  A secure attachment fosters intrinsic motivation to use exploratory behavior in order to connect with the environment.4  However, given an infant cannot navigate the environment, they have to use nonverbal social cues such as: facial expressions, vocalizations, feeding, etc; to communicate needs. 6 In comparison, new clients tend to struggle navigating their environments and create a similar need response, but their nonverbal social cues manifest as alterations in body language.  Both examples use the social engagement system (SES) as a means to convey this NEED message. The purpose of the SES is to close a physical distance between two beings so they can relate. 4,6 The only difference between these two examples is context.  

So what context has changed from infancy to adulthood?  When distressed, the infant has learned to send a need signal to their secure base:  parent/caregiver. This keeps them socially rooted. The adult, on the other hand, is more likely to use body language to create an impermeable boundary to prevent others from knowing of their insecurities.  As a result, they turn inwards, reducing social engagement. This is because the human nervous system has emerged with specific features that react to distress aimed to maintain visceral homeostasis (regulated physiology to promote health growth and restoration).4 Letting others perceive vulnerability would be a threat to survival and results in a signal to stay away.  This comes at a cost because these reactions will limit sensory awareness, motor behaviors, and cognitive potentials.4  The resolution to this matter appears to rely on our ability to develop relationships (build a tribe), as the socialization process needs to be bidirectionally regulated.

Socialization is a part of who we are as humans and we need to be socially engaged.  We used to form tribes to help decipher between friend and foe, danger and safety, as well as create modes of communication to ensure survival and a sense of belonging.7  Our tribes were, and still are, built on shared beliefs, attitudes, and intentions in life.  We, humans, are social-seeking animals.8  

So underlying a client’s quest to achieve their goals is their desire to belong to a tribe and have well-developed relationships that work to co-regulate each other’s systems when in distress.  A coach’s role is to help make this a reality by creating an environment that supports learning to allow for improved impulse control, facilitate role acceptance, and establish meaning amongst members.9

The ability to self-regulate and express conscious control of decision-making allows one to begin to succeed with process-oriented goals.  Initially a client will rely solely on a coach’s decision-making for their programming, but as they grow and adopt the beliefs and customs of their tribe they will begin to be able to make their own decisions.  For example, a coach programs a squat, but the client is competent enough to select the variation. By becoming a part of the process the client can develop a level of autonomy in their own health and wellness as well as help others grow within the tribe.  Furthermore, by emphasizing “a process” it teaches delayed gratification and mandates impulse control.9  Clients come in with expectations that are often unrealistic and must be managed to ensure motivation is sustained long term.  This is particularly important with regards to the result-laiden member. It must be known that results are not immediate, but there is power in consistent hard work.  This shifts one’s mindset to the process rather than the end-game, allowing for principle learning and solidified behavior change.

Roles are structural components of groups and represent the patterns of behavior expected of an individual within a specific social context.9  The development of role acceptance is the first step in gaining competence and autonomy, the two other fundamental human needs.1  The ability to demonstrate behavioral competence and autonomy in an environment will immediately enhance the experience, drive motivation, and increase behavioral adherence.  This will optimize not only learning, but results.

All humans must develop sources of meaning to provide structure to guide behavior and allow an individual to discover what is important, what is to be valued, and what is to be lived for.9 Initially, most clients are extrinsically motivated and have arbitrary extrinsic goals.  Extrinsic motivation tends to be regulated through the use of incentives, consequences, and rewards, but lacks true meaning and value associated with achievement.1 Without a “why”, purposeful action cannot be sustained.  Humans are only truly motivated for activities that hold intrinsic interest by having the appeal of novelty, challenge, or present with an aesthetic value.7  As coaches we aim to cultivate a culture that moves a client towards intrinsic motivation in order to better self-regulate within the environment.

Although coaches strive for socialization through impulse control, role acceptance, and added meaning; caution is warranted in not creating a dependent environment in the process.  A dependent culture lacks accountability and responsibility for clients making it difficult for them to move into a more intrinsically and self-regulated state. Coaches must create a social atmosphere, but in the end, it is essential to practice the principles of “detached caring.”  “Detached caring” promotes client learning by allowing them to take responsibility for their actions and apply the principles and processes taught, while respecting the environmental boundaries.  As coaches, we have the compulsion to overcorrect and hyper-analyze our clients’ movements, but this is ineffective and demeaning to our clients.2  We have to respect our clients’ abilities and trust our coaching process to ensure we are empowering our clients towards their goals.  Without this aspect of detached caring from a coach, the process of socialization will never be solidified and growth of the tribe will become increasingly difficult.

A tribe is only as good as the sum of its part.  The collective will move together, but requires each member to adhere to their role.  The more developed each individual becomes, the stronger the tribe becomes. In turn, the Coach’s goal should be to guide each individual to gain strength through competence and autonomy to allow the tribe to become more resilient as a whole.      

In conclusion, the importance of our ability to socialize with others has been strongly depicted throughout our evolutionary history, and it is not by chance that tribes continue to be formed.  It is our human nature to be connected to others whom we can relate to and communicate with on a regular basis because socialization is a part of who we are. In the end, in order to create an experience worth sharing and developing, coaches must detach themselves and allow their clients to grow into their own as they pursue their personal “why.”  

About The Author

Keaton Worland is a Doctor of Physical Therapy as well as a performance coach in Saint Louis, MO. He has a special interest in human behavior as it relates to pain, learning, and human performance.  To learn more about Keaton you can follow him on Instagram @keaton.worland.dpt


  1. O’Connor, E. (2018). The Psychology of Performance: How To Be Your Best In Life.  https://thegreatcourses.com.
  2. Bartholomew B. Conscious Coaching, The Art and Science of Building Buy-In. 2017.
  3. Collins NL, Feeney BC. A safe haven: an attachment theory perspective on support seeking and caregiving in intimate relationships. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000;78(6):1053-73.
  4. Porges SW. The polyvagal theory: phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system. Int J Psychophysiol. 2001;42(2):123-46.
  5. Hong YR, Park JS. Impact of attachment, temperament and parenting on human development. Korean J Pediatr. 2012;55(12):449-54.
  6. Porges, Stephen. (2003). Social Engagement and Attachment. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1008. 31-47. 10.1196/annals.1301.004.
  7. Ryan RM, Deci EL. Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. Am Psychol. 2000;55(1):68-78.
  8. Clear J. Atomic Habits, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Avery; 2018.
  9. Arnett, Jeffrey. (1995). Broad and Narrow Socialization: The Family in the Context of a Cultural Theory. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 57. 617. 10.2307/353917.

Lifetime Fitness.

Your collegiate athletic career has come to an end.


  • Do you only associate exercise with sport?
  • Did your strength and conditioning coach teach you anything you can maintain?
  • Did they provide you with education about lifetime fitness or only short term gain strategies?
  • Did you LEARN how to train and take care of yourself?
  • Did you learn how to appreciate the process and the virtues of character that come with exercise?
  • Can you apply what you learned to establishing responsibility for your own health and fitness?