Top 10 Tips For Strength Training Success
A Strength Training Success Guest Post by Jim Smith, CSCS
As a student of strength athletics, I always try to keep the “beginner’s mind”. When I go to seminars, take a course or talk with other coaches in the industry, I want to open my mind and never let my own pre-conceived notions stand in the way of a learning opportunity. I also realize that I don’t know everything. It is my responsibility to gain as much knowledge as I can to make sure I can provide the best training for my athletes.
Over the years, I have learned a great deal and I hope to share with you some important tips so that you don’t make the same mistakes I have made.
Tip #1: Listen to Your Athletes
You not only have to listen, you have to poke and prod and get them to talk! I figured that if something was hurting, something didn’t “feel” right or they were having problems, they would tell me. That is not always the case. They are stubborn and don’t want to show you their weaknesses. So it is always a struggle and constant dialogue to get them to understand the importance of communication so they can provide you with essential feedback about how they are responding to the program.
Tip #2: Care About Your Athletes
When you really show your athletes that you care, they will give you 110% each and every workout. Ask them how their day was. How was that test? How is their mom doing? Are they getting enough rest? Tell them and show them that you care and it will go a long way in how productive the training sessions will be.
Tip #3: Competition = Intensity
Athletes thrive on competition, so why not bring that competition into the weight room? There isn’t a workout that goes by where I don’t pit one athlete against another, or challenge the athletes to reach new goals or new levels of intensity. When you get inside their head, they will forget that they are training and just go all out for the competition. Place these competition “finishers” at the end of the workout and you will see how great they are not only for jacking up the intensity, but for bringing the athletes closer together.
Tip #4: Warm-up is the Key
Only recently have I began to understand the importance of a good warm-up. I’m not just talking about crossing your arms in front of you and then benching, I’m talking about a real warm-up. A 10-15 pre-workout set of flowing movements; some loaded and some unloaded. This pre-workout routine sets the tone for the entire workout and charges the CNS. You can also use these same activation, mobility and dynamic exercises for an off-day recovery workout.
Tip #5: Don’t Believe the Hype
There is no one best tool. In any one workout, I might use kettlebells, dumbbells, thick ropes, barbells, axles, tires, weight vests or just bodyweight movements. They are all great, and assuming you teach good form, all very effective. Don’t get caught up in one group or one company saying their equipment is the best or their equipment is all you need. It is a combination of various implements that is most effective when training a variety of different types / levels of athletes.
Tip #6: Throw the Workout Away
Well, you don’t have to be that extreme. What I mean is, auto-regulation is very effective for adjusting each individual athlete’s workout depending upon their current state of recovery. When you walk into the gym with the workouts you wrote up for the day, you might notice something during the warm-up (remember that everything the athlete does is an assessment). The athletes aren’t really moving quickly, or they might be a little sluggish. They might not be recovered from the last workout or they just came off a game. This is when you throw away the workout you had for them; this is auto-regulation. You need to make real-time adjustments by not forcing the athletes to do a certain workout or certain exercises at a certain intensity when they’re not ready for it. If you do this, you will ensure continuous progress in their routines.
Tip #7: Box of Chocolates
Athletes are like a “box of chocolates”, you never know what you’re going to get. Some athletes have had effective high school training programs before coming to you. Some athletes have never touched a weight. Some athletes have injuries from bad form and / or bad coaching. Some athletes are superstars with explosive genetics and all the potential in the world. Don’t treat each athlete the same way. One athlete’s weakness might be another athlete’s strength.
Tip #8: Stalk the Hot Chicks
I never would have thought I would be calling the good strength coaches in the industry “the Hot Chicks”. I mean, have you seen them? A pretty motley group of guys. But yeah, you should stalk them. Read their blogs, watch their videos, read their articles, buy their products and email them. Reinvest in yourself each day by setting aside time to read their stuff and interact with them. This is an amazing way to accelerate your learning curve. Remember, keep learning with a beginner’s mind.
Tip #9: Respect
Too many coaches out there don’t walk the walk. This means they don’t train themselves. Also (and more importantly) they program blindly. Programming blindly means they sit in their office and write programs with exercises, volumes and intensities that they themselves have never tried out. How can you write out a program sequence if you don’t know how one exercise affects the other. Fatigue changes the entire game. I come from the old school where your actions speak louder than your words. You need to train and you need to train with your athletes. Showing your athletes that you are willing to do what you are asking them to do will be HUGE in developing a mutual respect for one another.
Tip #10: Focus on Quality
Quality in strength athletics could mean; quality programming, quality form, quality relationships, quality recovery, quality warm-up, quality intensity¸ quality “setting an example” and so on. Everything you do reflects upon your character and be very aware your athletes are always watching. Be a good example for your athletes and give them respect. They will respect you in return and always work hard for you.
I have learned these 10 tips only from years and years of experience. If you take them and really apply them to your life and to your program, you will not make the same mistakes I have made.
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