I’m in the middle of Joel Jamieson’s book Ultimate MMA Conditioning, and I have to say that (even being only 1/4 of the way through it) this book is about to be one that’s a COMPLETE game changer for me. Even though the title says ‘MMA Conditioning’, the book is not so much about specific MMA conditioning as it is about developing the different energy systems the right way. It’s making me rethink all of the conditioning I program for my athletes. And I’ll have more on the subject very soon.
While reading it though, I’ve come to a couple realizations about my job as a strength and conditioning coach that go beyond just conditioning stuff. As a professional who’s concerned about constantly thriving to get better and always do what’s best for his athletes, it’s quite important to reach out to new resources that will help you get better at what you do, especially in an ever-evolving industry like ours. In our quest to learn new information and get better, the internet has been more than helpful. It’s giving us free information everywhere in the form of blogs, articles, videos, webinars, podcasts, you name it. Of course there will always be information that’s of low quality and it makes it very easy for anyone to put information out there without any guarantees that it’s any good. But with a minimum of educational background and critical judgment, one can pretty easily judge of the quality of information he’s reading.
What we see happening with the age of the internet though, is some trends spreading virally, which can end up changing our perspective on things. One such trend has been pre-hab and corrective training. There is a LOT of great information out there on injury prevention, corrective exercises, and the like. It seems to be the cool thing to write about these days, and I am guilty as charged, like a lot of people. And don’t get me wrong, I do not think there is anything wrong with using injury prevention strategies or trying to learn more about how the body moves. But is this overwhelming amount of information about injury prevention been shifting the pendulum too far? Having all of this information available to you, and being aware of the importance of limiting injuries can make you obsessed with it…when in reality it’s only one part of the puzzle. Continuing education is not just about learning more about functional anatomy and new corrective exercise strategies. It’s about getting better at what you do. And I say this because I’m starting to realize that it’s one big mistake I’ve been making in the last couple of years. Functional anatomy is a very complex thing and it’s easy to get caught in just wanting to learn more and more about that only.
But there are a lot more components to our job that we need to consider and get better at. Conditioning is one of those areas. One of my bosses at a former job once said in a meeting: “the problem with you, personal trainers, is that you’re too good with the lifting part of the programs you write. Programing for cardio is by far your weakest link.” And if you’re wondering, yes, he did indeed used the word ‘cardio’. But when he said that, I didn’t listen for a couple of reason:
- He started by critiquing us, which is never a good way to open the lines of communication
- I was obsessed with strength at that point in my career, and thought nothing else really mattered
- Conditioning was a very simple concept in my head, and if you wanted to improve it you just had to do intervals
- He wasn’t really good at his job anyway
- He was shaped like a pear and his training consisted of squats on a wobble board, Russian twists and machine chest press
Thinking back about what he said, he probably was right. But it’s unfortunate that he was such a close-minded indiviual because I probably could’ve learned a thing or two from him, but I was completely shut off because of his attitude in general.
What I’m trying to say here is that I’m not saying that injury prevention strategies (or any other component of a training program) are not important, but we need to take a step back and realize what our job is. We need to get better at what we do in a more general sense. We want to get better at preventing injuries, but we also need to get better at maximizing hypertrophy, developing speed, improving range of motion, and of course improving conditioning, which I think is too often overlooked in a training program.
Never forget that your clients are looking for a training effect. Let me say that again: your clients are looking for a training effect. Working AROUND limitation is as much our job (if not more) than working ON limitations. Your clients are not looking to do miniband exercises for an hour and half let you tell them how bad they move. They want to reach their fitness goal. They don’t want you to tell them what their goal is.
Think about how you would feel if you were to go in store restaurant, order a pizza and 15 minutes later your waitress would bring you a salad telling you that it’s better for you to eat a salad! This might be a stupid example, but it’s just to make you realize that what we do is still in big part customer service (unless you’re working in a college or a pro team setting). Clients and athletes come to us to get results, whether it’s improved performance, fat loss, muscle gain or whatever else; they expect to get results because they’re giving you their hard-earned money! I think it’s important to always ask your clients what THEY expect out of your services. It doesn’t mean we can’t help them move and feel better along the way, but I think it’s important to always keep the client’s expectations in mind and do what you need to meet them.
Getting better at what we do is not only preventing injuries better. It’s making them lose fat faster, getting them bigger and stronger, maximizing their conditioning, and more than anything else listening to their needs and meeting (or should I say exceeding) their expectations.