The Combination of Coaching and Programming: Part 3

Improving your programming

This is part 3 of a 3-part series. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Improving your programming abilities are just as important as improving coaching. I don’t know EVERYTHING that you need to become a better coach, but I can share the things that have helped make me better. Hopefully the topics I write in the following will help you as well.

ASKING WHY: Probably the best advice I’ve been given to improve my programs was this: Every part of your program – the order, the reps, sets, exercises, organization etc, should be easy to defend. If you don’t have a good reason why something is the way it is, then it should not be part of your training program. I am lucky that those around me like to ask questions. There have been times in the past where I have not been able to explain why I did something. Each time, I’ve modified or deleted the thing in question. Whether in the collegiate strength and conditioning world or in the private setting, time is limited. There is no extra time for fluff or disorganization. Anything that makes a program less than optimal is a disservice to you and your athlete or client.

READ READ READ (again):Like I said in the previous post on this topic, it is important that you are constantly reading. I read books/blogs/articles, watch DVDs, and listen to audiobooks/podcasts about biomechanics, exercise physiology, periodization and planning, about specific sports (especially energy systems and movement characteristics), and anything else I can get my hands on to aid in improving my program design. Here are a few resources I have found useful:

Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System by Donald A. Neumann
Technically a pre-physical therapy text, this is a book that has helped me immensely in understanding the musculoskeletal system. I highly recommend it.

Supertraining by Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff
I don’t have the newest edition, but the previous edition has provided me with an excellence reference. Dr. Siff and Dr. Verkhoshanksy did a great job of condensing very large amounts of information on training.

Planning and Organization of Trainingby Verkhoshansky
One of my favorite books on organization of training.

The aim of this website is toward track and field, but still has extremely useful information. I subscribe to the blog on the site.

VERBAL FEEDBACK: Like I mentioned earlier, I am lucky to have peers who ask good questions of me. I frequently use those around me to read through my programs to look for holes, potential problem, or things that aren’t optimal. The checking they do doesn’t have to be an entire revision of the program. A few questions they have or “huh’s” about the program will suffice to help you out immensely. I also use my athletes to help me improve my programs. I try to create a culture of dialogue, so that they give me lots of feedback on how their training is going. This probably helps me out the most out of any of the verbal feedback mechanisms I pay attention to.

TESTING: Finally, testing is essential. You must test out the best indicators you can to tell you how well your program is working. Performance markers, like vertical jump or 5-10-5 do well to show how your athletes physical development changes. Anthropometric characteristics like bodyfat percentage or bodyweight are important too, if that is a training goal. It is important not to forget that testing is an ongoing process as well. You should be evaluating your athlete on a regular basis. Is she progressing on her training numbers? How is she feeling? Is she moving well? Getting sore? Et cetera.

I realize this is not an all-encompassing list. I hope though that it helps you to progress in the same way I am. If there are more things you can think of, write in below.