Play the Ball As It Lies: The Art and Science of Teaching Strength is now available for purchase. Below you will find the Introduction which explains a little more about what we teach. We cover general training principles, workout programming, coaching in the weight room, how to effectively use strength, power, and endurance training, and long term planning with several case study examples. You can purchase the book as a pdf here.
This is a text book. It’s not a collection of programs. It is not a template or a training system. We don’t want to sell you another fish. We hope to teach you how to fish. There are plenty of truly excellent systems for physical training. We’ve cited several and we’ve included a recommended reading list to get ideas. We believe most people already KNOW a great deal, they just don’t always know what to do with it. Our goal is to help you put what you already know in a useful framework.
None of what we have written is new, groundbreaking, or takes a political stance, ie, don’t do x, always do y. This fitness industry has enough of that. It’s not that canned programs are bad or don’t work. Rather the opposite; what’s confusing for many people in this field, is that so many things work; group circuit training, bootcamp fitness, high intensity interval training, bodyweight and gymnastic training, geared and raw powerlifting, hot yoga and Pilates. All of the popular movements in fitness spring from one or more essentially effective training principles. Any number of them can “work” in the right context. However, context is often missing from these prescriptions. It is difficult to tease out the working parts when you’re trying to tailor to the individual.
Our goal in both our seminar and this book is to teach you the basics. As we stated before, most tools “work”. It’s the application that matters and the application all comes down to exercising judgment. We want you to learn to use your judgment to find the simplest path and to fit your coaching to the individuals you train.
Thank you for your interest and support.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: General Training Principles
In this chapter, we will review the fundamental principles that should guide your training choices. The most important element in your training practice is the people you train. Knowing who they are, what they need, and how to keep them coming back is crucial to your success. Basic human physiology dictates how these individuals will adapt to the workouts and programs you design. It is important to understand the concept of Adaptation and the principles that derive from it: Accommodation, Overload, Specificity, and Individuality. We review these principles as well as the physiological training effects that result from different kinds of stress. Finally, we take a look at age and how both chronological age and training age will affect how you approach an individual’s training.
Measureable Progress and Goals
Governing Laws of Training
How should we think about Fitness?
Training and Age
Chapter 2: The Workout-General Components
The ability to organize a workout properly sets the foundation for good progress. Even the best programs cannot be successful without proper organization and implementation on a day to day basis. Appropriate warm-ups, prioritization of the different elements, cool down, and recovery makes the difference between success and failure. In this chapter, we will take a look at the different elements that make up a good workout. We will also review how to design and order a workout as well as how to approach general fitness as a programming goal.
Organizing the Workout
Chapter 3: Strength
Strength is one of the most sought after and misunderstood qualities of fitness. Strength is the foundation of most other qualities of fitness including endurance, flexibility, and power. Strength, like many other aspects of fitness is a skill that must be learned over time. In this chapter, we will discuss the fundamental qualities of strength development as well as different ways to approach strength training including exercise selection and programming for different skill levels. This chapter does not contain prescriptive strength programs; rather it explores the concepts important to building an effective strength program.
What is Strength?
What Constitutes Strength Training?
Programming for Strength
When to Use Accessory Exercises
Chapter 4: Power
In physics, power is the rate at which energy is transferred and is expressed as force over time. In sports and all human movement, the two components of power are speed and strength. Neither can be entirely isolated from the other in the quest for, or display of, power in sport. In daily activities and athletics, we tend to think of power as the ability to accelerate a load or one’s own bodyweight as quickly as possible. Sprinting, throwing, and jumping are all examples of power expression. A good coach/trainer can see if an athlete needs to develop more speed or more strength to enhance their power and will adjust programming for that desired effect.
What is Power Training?
Speed or Strength?
Loads Used to Train for Power
Chapter 5: Endurance, Intervals, and Circuits
Endurance training is simply training the ability to express strength over time, time being the most important variable. Strength is a close second. For endurance in all sports and activities, a substantial aerobic base is a requirement. Although basic conditioning can be improved with high intensity interval training, there is no substitute for long, relatively low intensity sessions that enable the body to develop not only cardiovascular adaptations, but position specific strength and postural endurance. Developing endurance for strength activities can be done in the weight room, but endurance sports need to be trained outside the gym. In this chapter we define endurance and emphasize the importance of establishing an aerobic base. We also discuss the role of strength training for endurance athletes as well as endurance training for strength athletes and general fitness trainees. Finally, we take a look at the use of intervals and circuits for a variety of purposes and skill levels.
What is Endurance?
Benefits of Aerobic Work
Strength Training for Endurance Athletes
Energy System Training
Intervals and Circuits
Chapter 6: Complexes, Medleys, and Density Training
There are a large number of training methodologies that do not fit specifically into our categories of strength, power, or endurance. Agility, speed, and conditioning are all training goals typically pursued in a specific sports coaching, but these abilities can also be part of personal trainer’s or coach’s to approach to general fitness.
In this segment, we will be talking specifically about conditioning and the use of complexes, medleys, and density training for general fitness, hypertrophy, or just fun. Many versions of these methods can be used as stand-alone workouts or as “finishers”; short conditioning circuits or activities used to conclude a training session. It is important to remember that it is relatively easy to make a person tired. Fatigue may be a desired end result for many of our clients, but fatigue alone should not be the goal. Instead, managing fatigue to allow for higher quality work is the goal.
High intensity strength endurance workouts should not be the primary training modality of any program. All of these methods can be appropriate within the proper context, but one must understand the training effects and justification for using such methods. Similar to interval training for endurance work, this stuff is strong medicine. Just enough and it will enhance your fitness, too much, and you will erode your base and become specialized in short, medium weight, high-intensity work.
Chapter 7: Coaching in the Weight Room
One of the greatest benefits of working with a trainer or coach in the weight room is constant feedback on form and technique. Teaching your clients to lift with good technique for their body type, limb lengths, strengths, and deficits is key to their success. You must be able to instruct them on the basic mechanics of the exercise you are teaching and make corrections that he or she can incorporate as learning takes place. To do this well, you need to develop a good coach’s eye. This takes time and practice. In this chapter, we outline the basics of good form and observation. We also talk about how to act on our observations; how to know when and what to correct. This should serve as a guideline as you develop your own coaching practice. Finally, we will talk about some specific weight room exercises and considerations when teaching the squat, overhead press, bench press, deadlift, carries, and odd object loading. These techniques are covered in much more detail during the hands on portion of our seminar.
The Importance of Posture
The Importance of Form
Observing and Correcting
Best Practices for Exercise Instruction and Selection
Chapter 8: Segmented Training and Long-Term Planning
When planning for a specific goal that needs to correspond to a time-line, the process can be confusing. This is especially true when considering training for an event that requires more than one dominant quality e.g. wrestling (skill, endurance, strength…). Putting together a plan that successfully mitigates weaknesses, hones strengths, improves skills, and delivers an athlete ready for a specific event can seem mind boggling in its complexity and in many ways it is more art than science. The key to mastering this art is developing good judgment and the ability to know what to prioritize and when. In this chapter, we will introduce the concept of periodization and offer a simple way to develop periodized long term plans for your clients using distinct training blocks.
Segmented Training Plans: Working with Blocks
Rehabilitation: “Fixing What’s Broken”
Accumulation: “Building the Base”
Transmutation: “Very Focused Training”
Considerations in Block Training
Appendix Case Studies
The case studies presented here are in two parts. The first part demonstrates the implementation of a training program based solely on the rehab and accumulation blocks. The goals for these training programs are simply to “get stronger and fit”. We address three different populations in these programs: school children, beginner general fitness clients who are new to strength training, and the novice clients who are familiar with and want to train with barbells to get stronger.
In the second part, we will address some specific fitness goals of endurance mixed with strength endurance (obstacle courses), cross training (training for the CrossFit Open), and training for a sport that requires a combination of power, strength, and skill (Highland Games).
The recommendations we give may seem overly simplistic at times. You will see repetition of exercises and what may look like a minimal number of exercises and training days. View these recommendations through the lens of what we’ve taught in the text. As a coach your goal is to limit the variables. The goal for your trainees is to learn to be a student of their own body. This is the heart of autoregulation.
We utilize a limited number of exercises with specific skill development. High quality work at the minimum effective dose allows for good recovery and consistent progress. If your trainees are demanding more work at the end of a training session, they didn’t work hard enough on the main movements.