By Sean Mcloughlin
We are now in an age where information is cheap and widely available on the internet, it seems there are many experts and guru’s who have the answer to your problems with a quick fix or secret technique.
All you have to do is subscribe to a website or pay a small fee to the magic programme to unleash the awesome power within.
Is this the right direction for progression? Unfortunately not for me.
Almost weekly I receive a message asking "how I am and how we should catch up, but then…… I’m on this (fill in the blank) programme and I don’t seem to be making any progress/ I don’t know if I’m doing this right. Can I send you a video so you can correct any mistakes you see?"
I’m never going to be a coach who turns someone away who is asking for help, I’m invested in the business of improving technique and movement, and I want to see people succeed. I return the message with some technical tips (hopefully useful) and words of encouragement so they can return to their program with some positivity. This is what they were looking for, technical feedback, validation of their current progress and direction to move forward.
But what I’m wanting to question with them would actually do the opposite of all this. Before starting a program we first need to look at where strengths and weakness are currently situated, training volume and frequency, objectives and goals that we are working towards. The problem with choosing a program from an online source is that it doesn’t offer any of these, they are numbers on a page that can not replicate true coaching or program design. I often see athletes working themselves to improve front squat numbers when they already exceed required strength for the clean, the issue is skill and not strength so you can be searching for the answer in the wrong area, and a blank expression is returned when this revelation is presented to them.
The library of knowledge now available does have advantages of exposing the masses to technique and programmes that have worked for others in the past, it preserves that knowledge and we learn from it, but doing what you always do will get you what you always get! Progression can sometimes require us to push into the dark places of training, we don’t want to go there, it’s where we are weakest and try to avoid. Most of us given the choice will lean towards our strongest areas, having someone evaluate the situation from the outside gives them a view of the entire situation and they can decide on where to work from.
So what are the options if not online program selection?
Work with a coach will always be my number one recommendation. You can not replicate working with a great coach, I am lucky enough to have worked with many but I wish I had approached them a lot earlier. They have the ability to evaluate the full scale of work to achieve your long term and short term goals, provide positive feedback and honest on the spot critique of work. Even if it’s once a week or once a month, this is where you need to start.Online coaching. The next best thing is working remotely with a great coach, and there are many that are offering this service now. You still get the full scope of program design tailored to your requirements but with delayed feedback via video of your movements. You can feel a lack of connection through this service so if possible go and meet your chosen coach to get a feel for each other, arrange a skype call if not and just have an open conversation to get the ball rolling.
Find A Gym
Find a gym that has athletes already at the level you aspire to be. We’re often told we are the average of the five people we surround ourselves with, so be around knowledgeable people who inspire and want to see you achieve success. You can sometimes skip the unnecessary period of searching for answers by taking advantage of experience from others. From here you can gain some insight into where you need to improve and then if needed search for a program that fits your needs. Be sure to factor in what your personal needs are and what the program is designed to produce, if they don’t match then you can be simply wasting time and money.
I wouldn’t completely exclude the online format of program choice as you can see, but it seems to be the first choice of the majority of people I encounter and not the last. The personal aspect of coaching has no comparison, nothing will replicate honest and confident feedback, support when things get difficult or validation of your hard work and commitment.
So the answer is more of “where is my best coaching option” more than “what is the best program”.
Seek out and work with great people, not programs.
By Sean McLoughlin.