Programming is an intimidating task when we look at it from the 30,000 foot view. There’s so many considerations at play that it’s a wonder we can sift through all of it to come to a final product. Something that has helped me in some of the decision making process is utilizing strength standards.
It’s all about baby steps. Visualizing a goal and walking backwards from there to the starting point marking off check-points along the way will make the path much more manageable to plan for.
There’s not much that getting stronger doesn’t address for our clients. Whether the overall goal is performance, weight loss, or getting rid of chronic aches; getting stronger is a part of getting there for general populations. Having strength standards set to guide your programming will benefit you and your clients greatly. We’ll get into the details of doing so later, but here are some reasons to consider taking on this venture in the first place.
What’s rule number one as a strength coach?
Do no harm.
We should base all of what we do on that credo. And if we are committed to doing no harm to the people we work with, we are going to need systems in place to safeguard that mission.
Much like we use our core values as a guide in making business decisions, strength standards are our guide in programming. Taking the time to think through and set sound strength standards provides us with an efficient way to write safe and productive programs for our clients.
Think about how easy exercise selection would become if you laid out simple standards that clients had to meet before moving to more advanced exercises. Not only will this be a safer practice, but it will provide a much more robust learning process for the client. Mastering strength standards will engrain movement patterns and build a solid foundation that makes anything possible.
As a younger coach I would sometimes put people in positions to fail. I didn’t mean to have a client try an exercise they weren’t ready for but I didn’t have systems in place to guide my decision making. Not having those systems in place made me susceptible to a lot of opportunity to make errors.
I would get bored with what was going on in sessions and feel the need to spice things up. Clients would come in and request that exercises be put into their programs and I would collapse under the pressure of not wanting to disappoint them. I also didn’t have an argument in place as to why we couldn’t do the requested exercises.
Failing is not a great motivator. People like to feel competent and enjoy what they are doing. If they look like an octopus falling out of a tree doing an exercise, they probably aren’t going to feel great about what they are doing. Strength standards eliminate that pitfall.
So here’s the phrase that was the catalyst to me adding strength standards to my programming method.
Start where you are.
Jumping to advanced exercises that clients aren’t ready for isn’t doing anyone any favors. It’s certainly not going to get them to their goals quicker. But having standards in place to establish a starting point of competency to build off? That’s the ticket! Add some performance standards (ie. goblet squat 1/4 of BW 10x) to the mix and we are setting up our clients for success every time they come into the gym.
And that’s why people come to us for guidance; success! They want to feel good about what they are doing. They want to be able to do things they couldn’t do before. They want to see where they came from and have a clear path to where they want to be. They want to know we have a plan and know how to put it to action. Strength standards provide us coaches a clear system to facilitate all of those things.
Investing in a coach can and should be something that people put a lot of thought into. It’s a very intimate and vulnerable process especially considering that what drives a good portion of people to do so is insecurities. For that reason and many others, it’s important that you are able to build trust quickly.
Ever since I became a father I have become hyper-aware of how people earn my trust. Every camp or school we have enrolled our daughters into came after an extensive review of the organization’s practices. My wife and I want to know that anyone we put in charge of our daughter’s care has a plan. No plan, no way!
Prospective clients want to know the same of you. They are investing a lot of time and money, not to mention putting their health in your hands, so it is vital that they trust you. There is no better way to earn that trust than to be able to walk them through your tested system of how you get an accurate picture of where their starting point is and a proven path to success!
Strength standards are the path!
In the twenty years I have been navigating the waters of being a strength and conditioning professional I have developed and adapted many different systems to create a sustainable and thriving career. None of those systems are more important than my strength standards. It’s the bedrock of my product and product is king in the end. In my next blog, I will dive deeper into the x’s and o’s of a strength standard system. I’m 100% down with the idea that there’s more than one way to skin this cat. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I just want to share what has worked for me in hopes that it will help you find what works for you.