It’s safe to say that most personal trainers would prefer to train athletes. Athletes are generally motivated to succeed and will work hard to achieve success – you don’t have to “sell” the program. The downside is that athletes and their coaches expect measureable results that make a difference in competitions. Another challenge for strength coaches is that this profession is a saturated market, and many other trainers are competing for the same clients.
To outperform other strength coaches and assure your reputation, you need to consider all the factors that make athletes successful. You also have to avoid making mistakes. Here are six of the most common mistakes trainers make – and what to do instead.
1. Focusing on sport-specific exercises. In an attempt to make rapid progress, a strength coach often will focus on sport-specific exercises to the neglect of structural balance. This neglect will adversely affect posture and performance and will make the athlete more susceptible to injury. For example, chin-ups and dips could be considered sport-specific exercises for a swimmer. However, many swimmers present a forward head posture coupled with round shoulders, a combination that could contribute to shoulder impingement issues. You need to be aware that at the end of a season, swimmers need to focus on external rotation exercises for the shoulders and specific exercises for the muscles that retract the shoulders, such as the rhomboids.
2. Relying on maintenance programs. One popular expression in strength coaching is “All things being equal, the stronger athlete will always win.” That being said, why train your body to be weak? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when sport coaches exert too much influence on their athletes’ strength and conditioning program. Some coaches are so worried that their athletes will get too sore from training that they tell the strength coaches to train their athletes light several days before a competition – or worse, not to train at all. The result is that by the end of the season when the most important competitions occur, the athletes will be weakest. Remember, it’s the volume of training, not the intensity, that is most likely to cause overtraining. During an athlete’s season, prepare for major competitions by reducing the volume first – but still go heavy!
3. Developing the wrong type of hypertrophy. Functional hypertrophy develops the muscles in the best way to improve physical performance. A gymnast and an offensive lineman in football both need strength, but a gymnast needs to develop strength with minimal increase in muscle size, whereas a lineman needs the added weight to control the line of scrimmage. A strength coach must be familiar with the different types of muscle fibers and the most effective protocols to develop them.
4. Training the wrong energy system. Many coaches don’t understand which energy systems are most important for a sport. The result is that a coach may have basketball players finishing practices with distance running, or running especially long distances in the preseason. Learn the energy system requirements of an athlete’s sport first; then determine the best ways to reach optimal levels of each energy system.
5. Focusing on energy system training during the season. Yes, endurance is an important factor in many sports, but athletes should not focus on this factor at the expense of other athletic qualities. Later in their competitive season, athletes need to be focusing on perfecting their skills and competition strategies, not trying to improve their VO2 max.
6. Neglecting body composition. Looking for a fast way to make an overweight athlete quicker? Have them lose some fat. Just five pounds of excess body fat can make a significant impact on how quickly an athlete can move. If an athlete is overweight, during the off-season fat-loss protocols such as the German Body Comp program should be a priority until their body fat is at an optimal level.
Coaching athletes can be exceptionally rewarding, especially since the results of your work are on public display when an athlete competes. To ensure you are in demand in the competitive field of strength coaching, start by avoiding these six common pitfalls.