Learning to Coach

You never start at the top in any organization or structure. There is always a learning curve accompanied by many humbling experiences.  Like any other organization, there are many avenues in the fitness industry. There are personal trainers, gym teachers, professors, instructors, strength and conditioning coaches at schools and professional levels, and a variety of private industry coaches. The list goes on and on with many branches off of these examples alone. How does one set themselves apart from others or gather the most experience they can in this industry?

There are a few ways to do set yourself apart from the pack. Dave Tate of Elite FTS uses this set of criteria for hiring a coach.

  1. What have they personally done in the sport? At their own competitive level.

  2. What is their education? Education both of terms of degrees, self-education and experience.

  3. Who have they coached? What athletes or other coaches have they assisted in developing.

I personally love this list as it weighs a variety of traits. Not everyone will possess all 3 of these points. That’s fine. That does not mean they aren’t great coaches this just means the chances of them being great increases when hitting these criteria.

I would like to touch on a ground-level floor in coaching. The foundation that will support tremendous growth comes from being in the gym and training with partners or groups of other people. Yes, this is something that most likely 99% of athletes or gym rats have done in their lifetime. But what have they done with this seemingly common experience? Most of them absolutely nothing.

Where the rubber meets the road is in quality. What was the quality of the time you placed into being self-aware and monitoring your own movements and the movements of your training partners? This holds true of your training partners as well. Are they truly paying attention to where their body is located in time and space? Are they paying attention to YOU when it’s your turn? If the answer is no to either of these then you are doing tremendous disservices to advancing your own skillset as an athlete and as a coach.

Quality over quantity. If you do 20 reps with shit form what did we really accomplish? If we’ve just started out and are brand new to lifting, we better get some solid advice from experienced lifters and then take that advice and apply it to our own execution of exercises. If your partners elbows are flared way out to the side doing skull crushers then it is your duty as good training partner to correct them with physical touch or verbal cueing to keep the elbows and arms more vertical. If they can’t perform the technique properly then lower the weight. Also learn to understand they can perform a triceps exercise with elbows out to the side but why and when should they do it compared to the traditional strict skull crusher? The above example would be a neck press versus a skull crusher. One is an isolated single-joint while the other involves movement at the shoulders making it a multi-joint exercise. One has more natural internal rotation of the shoulder and humerus while the other usually needs cues for more external rotation. Both are great but learn how, when and why to use them. The best way to do that is every rep of every set with the person in front of you.

Training with a variety of people over time will teach interpersonal communication skills. Coaching your training partners will force you to pay attention to how you display or perform proper execution in order for them to learn visually as well as force you to find the proper language to effectively deliver a message to the person/persons you’re speaking too. Teaching your grandmother how to stand up from a seated position will not be the same as teaching a friend your age or even a teenager. Building up a diverse base of analogies and examples may help you tell a story that your training partners can relate too.

Every person has something that makes them tick. By paying attention to your training partners you can alter their mood and turn a potentially bad training session into an awesome one! The psychology behind everyone is different. Some people need a little more emotional arousal to get hyped and focused and may respond well to shit talking and a competitive atmosphere. Some need to stay at more of even kilter and remain calm to stay focused so you should talk encouragingly to them and enforce your belief in them. Some people are just competitive by nature and love the challenge of doing another rep than you or their other training partner. Some are self-motivated and love beating a weight or rep scheme they did last week. The only way you can begin to learn the variety of responses is by practicing just like anything else.

The only way this strategy doesn’t work is by being dishonest with yourself and your training partners or simply not giving a shit and not paying attention. Help each other out and pay attention to quality! Learn one another’s tendencies and communicate back and forth with what they feel versus what you see. Offer advice and cues that work well for them. Is this easy? Hell no. Half the time you might be wrong. But you know what? All that does is it encourage you to seek out and find the correct answer or the best possible way of doing so at this point in time. You might accidently learn something or even have a better workout doing this!

The investment is slim to none. It doesn’t cost you a dollar more then you’re spending financially since you’re already paying for a gym membership. It doesn’t cost you a second more of your time because you’re already in the gym training so you might as well coach and be coached. If you’re not training or have never trained with weights in a gym then you have no business coaching which I find quite obvious but feel the need to state this in today’s day and age.

Please don’t be shy and make some friends at the gym. Ask for spots, learn to cue others and help one another grow to their fullest potential. Get started now and coach ‘em up!

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