Regardless of age or ability, strength and conditioning can benefit everyone. Long are the days where only athletes can receive the advantages of strength and conditioning coaches. There was a great divide between the general population and professional, or soon to be professional, athlete. That line has blurred to almost non-existence. What is strength and conditioning? Strength and conditioning is the physical and physiological development of athletes for elite sport performance. The role of a strength and conditioning is to use exercise prescription specifically to improve performance in athletic competition. Mobility, flexibility, stability, strength and power. This is all fine and well but let’s examine what these terms mean.
Mobility: the ability to move or be moved freely and easily
Flexibility: the quality of bending easily without breaking.
Stability: the property of a body that causes it when disturbed from a condition of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or moments that restore the original condition
Strength: the quality or state of being physically strong
Power: physical strength and force exerted by something or someone (aka: moving an object quickly through a range on motion)
These are over simplifications of training terms but they serve a purpose to make it easy to understand why strength and conditioning can service everyone. There is literature for and against certain training principles being applied to the general population (by general we mean, non-athlete). For example, prescribing a 75-year-old woman with back issues a weighted deadlift might not be the best of ideas. I wouldn’t argue against that, but using a dowel (PVC pipe) to work through the range of motion of a deadlift can be extremely beneficial. Balance, joint control and strength development are all being utilized during the movement of the deadlift. It is a total body exercise! I think this is where CrossFit has really found their niche and made an impact. Bang for your buck total body exercises. In the end, they have applied a strength and conditioning mentality and the proof is in the pudding.
Starting a strength and conditioning program can be intimidating, here are some tips to help determine what facility to choose:
1. Trainer experience: A person can have numerous certifications and educational commas behind their last name. Great! Have they ever worked in a strength and conditioning facility? This is important to know. If the trainer has never had any experience in training athletes, especially from novice to expert, this might be a red flag. It is great that they know the principles but do they know the practice. Ask questions! It will be pretty easy to know if the trainer has done this before.
2. Practice what they preach: I am not saying that the trainer has to be an Olympian of even a professional athlete but do they actually apply their training principles to themselves as well as their clients. Most, if not all, trainers have some sort of personal training goal in their own trainer regimen. It can be anything really, bigger bench, mass lifting, kettlebell proficiency. All of these have a protocol in order to achieve a goal. Ask them what they are doing in their own programming and if they do something similar with their clients. If all a trainer teaches is squats to their clients and they never do squats themselves, red flag! Don’t go learn how to use kettlebells from someone who has never used them! Don’t go trainer with someone for a strongman competition who has never trained for one!
3. Have they worked with a specific clientele: “Specifically well rounded’ is a term to keeping mind when looking at a strength and condition facility or coach. They should a master at specific aspects of training and be able to show a whole variety of people how to do those exercises. In other words, how do they modify exercises for injuries or flexibility issues. Can they make exercises regress and progress for all types of abilities? This is a key qualification when looking at a strength coach for non-athletes. They should know how do to certain lifts or training protocols well (not all lifts and training protocols) and be able to convey information so that everyone at all levels can correctly perform the exercise. If they can’t, move on. It is not worth the potential injury or wasted time.
4. Are they familiar with certain injuries: Having had a previous injury should not limit someone form working out. True, some compromises need to be made but total abandonment of training is an overreaction. Let’s be clear, if a trainer or coach is unfamiliar with a specific injury, it doesn’t not make them incompetent or even a bad trainer, it just makes them unfamiliar. In fact, a good trainer will know their limits and refer someone else that has more experience with certain protocols. A warning: I am always leery of a trainer who says they can do everything. I am a firm believer that a jack of all trades, is a master of none. Look for masters, not jacks.
5. Would I train here: When I look at facilities, I always say to myself, “Would I lift here?” If the answer is “no”, I move on. The reason for this is that I don’t want to compromise my regime which will ultimately compromise my goals. Don’t fit a square peg into a round hole. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit, move on. There are plenty of places that will meet any want and need. It might just take a little more effort to fit it but believe me, it is there. I have been to so many places that I have tried to make work which I ultimately left frustrated. Don’t find a house, find a home.
The main thing to remember is don’t be intimidated. Regardless of skill level, go in willing to learn and try. If the facility is top notch, they will get you to where you need to go. Just trust the process. There will be days that every muscle will hurt. That is okay. It will pass and things will get better. Trust the people that you are working with and in the end it is possible to #buildyourathlete.