Strength And Conditioning Philosophies: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Strength And Conditioning Philosophies: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

If you have read this blog and put up with my sarcasm for a length of time, you know I have an affinity for several things:

1) Lord of the Rings references
2) Soccersoccersoccersoccer
3) Hip thrusts
4) Online dating
5) Strength and conditioning research

Though only three years into the strength and conditioning game (private sector, woop woop!), I am proud of how much I’ve learned thus far. But just like any rookie, I’m still trying to grasp the wealth of information in this dynamic and constantly evolving field.

It’s as hard as trying to keep up with what the hell is going on in Michael Bay’s The Transformers. But who gives a shit about the plot anyway…Megan Fox is in it!

On one side of the ring, you have the strength coach who swears by conjugate periodization, even if he were handed the cheerleading team. Then the other side, you have the strength coach who hasn’t changed his programming since the days of Elvis Presley. And perhaps you have the coach who’s teeth had to be pulled to finally order kettlebells and teach his athletes the Turkish Get Up. And finally, you have the strength coach who has Strength and Conditioning Journal on-hand and can site the biomechanics of EVERY exercise. Even while doing a #2 on the toilet.

Certainly, none of this is to poke fun at any of these schools of thought. In a field that is overflowing with more people than there are jobs, and an unending influx of elite athletes, it makes sense there’s a myriad of philosophies to go around. If we didn’t differ in our training methods, athletes would remain at a stagnant level of performance, and our careers would suffer.

If we look at the S&C arena, there are opposing views, opinions, egos, accusations, name calling…and did I mention egos? It’s no surprise we can’t just sit in a circle and sing Kumbya, trip on magic mushrooms, and hug it out while listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What Is A Philosophy?

A strength and conditioning philosophy should reflect your core values as a strength coach, teacher, and human being. What are your favorite exercises? What aspects of training are critical for optimal performance enhancement? For injury prevention? Do you value HIIT? Movement patterns? Unilateral strength? Subsystem functional training? CrossFit and herniated discs?

What About Periodization?

Periodization is a term that has its way of making us dizzier than a night of jagerbombs. Over the years, our field has gotten lost in fancy names like “undulating” “conjugate” “concurrent” and “linear.” There’s more of these than there are Victoria’s Secret bras in my drawer. And for all we know, there’s more out there…like a “basic bitches” periodization or a “doggy style” periodization.

Professional football strength coach, Joe Kenn, adds to the overwhelming list of periodization methods, coining the term “intermixed periodization.” Basically, he takes all these methods and combines them into a “do whatever is best for the athletes at that time of the annual plan.” To dumb this down further, swearing by ONE METHOD is a losing game, given the oscillation of athletes’ schedules. Brilliant.

Moving on…

In lieu of various coaches’ exercise selection and periodization methods, I sure have caught myself criticizing old schools of thought. Tossing around my fair share of hate has definitely made me feel great at times, but overall, shitty. Alas, I stopped.

So can’t we all just get along? I mean…stop the name calling, stop the ego battles, and stop the shots fired like that of Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin?

Because, fighting accomplishes NOTHING. Constructive criticism is okay, as long as you have a backbone to defend your honor. Put simply, own your philosophy if you truly believe in its power.

Always, things get hairy when we constantly berate others in our field, especially people who have the courage to conduct research based on science, and hone courage to implement innovative methods.

So before you judge a fellow strength coach like Mike Boyle who has revolutionized the entire industry, and then proceed to stick to your ways of repeated ab crunches post-lift with a side of scoliosis, ask yourself these questions:

Have you looked at the latest Stuart McGill research on back mechanics? Have you heard of the Postural Restoration Institute? Have you learned to utilize the Strength and Conditioning Journal and PubMed? Have you progressed or regressed an athlete on-call given their shitty squat form? Have you reversed incorrect movement patterns based on limitations and postural deviations? Methinks not.

Tony Gentilcore wrote a great post on differing philosophies here. If you’re the hypersensitive, ego-driven, insecure strength coach type, maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.

 

Can’t We All Agree To Disagree?

Now I’m not saying strength coach Mike Boyle will grab a beer with the creator of CrossFit tomorrow. Although, I’m sure he actually would! Because his ego isn’t ballooned up like yours.

Differences amongst coaches are here to stay, which is all good in my book. They are the catalyst of propelling our field further. Disagree with someone? Don’t judge, but ask. Curious about a new method? Collaborate. And be open. I certainly commend the coaches who reach out to others on the reg for new methods – coaches who are invigorated by research, and driven by innovation for their clients and athletes.

As an example, Jay Dyer, U.S. lacrosse’s best strength coach, reaches out to various college departments about programming for other sports. For a lacrosse specialist? GENIUS! He now runs one of the top strength and conditioning facilities in Baltimore, Maryland that services all sports. So what can we learn from this? If we have a specialty, own it, but connect with others for their specialties. It’s good old fashioned #neverstoplearning. We must remind ourselves that we don’t live in communist Eastern Germany. Isn’t it great to know we have access to whatever the hell we want?! So be that Eastern German who hops the Berlin Wall and expand your palette to new worlds.

Expounding further, we should also be smart enough, especially in the college sector, to walk down the hallway to the football, basketball, or Olympic Sport departments to discover why their teams are injury free and so successful. I don’t know, just a grown ass adult thing to do. Or simply, communication skills 101.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, it’s okay to be set in your ways, but save the hate mail for peeps who throw themselves into the fire of revolutionizing strength and conditioning. As long as our athletes are safely progressing into the best versions of themselves on and off the field, we have done our jobs as strength coaches. Remember: your philosophy is for the athletes, not your grandiose ego.

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