You went to school to become a strength coach. You learned the X’s and O’s of personal training through certifications. You gained knowledge and skills through educational seminars.
And now, your job is to coach your athletes through training to improve their overall health and performance.
But, they don’t really care about being educated. They just want to achieve their goals.
Simple: allow your athletes to be a part of the process without making them the process. You can do this without forcing educational information down their throat, and instead, gently layer in subtle education along their training journey.
That’s the key: take your time and be subtle about it. Don’t hit them in the face with a 20-page PDF printout from the start since you’ll likely lose them.
Remember: training is a process so educating them has to be as well.
You can educate your athletes through 3 easy steps: phase descriptions, coaching notes, and phase recaps.
STEP 1: PHASE DESCRIPTIONS
Writing a brief description for an upcoming phase (i.e., a 4-week training block) should be quick and easy. It doesn’t have to be a research paper. Your athletes are looking for efficiency and accessibility so it should be your goal to capitalize on that.
Here’s a short and sweet example you can use in an email to one of your athlete’s prior to starting their next phase to give them a glimpse of what to expect:
I’m excited for you to get the ball rolling in this next phase!
You’ll notice a slight uptick in reps across the board since one of your goals is to build muscle mass (hypertrophy). You had also mentioned some recent knee discomfort during squats so I added in some hip hinge exercises like deadlifts and hip thrusts this phase to keep your knee feeling good while also continuing to train your lower body without setbacks. Lastly, I know you wanted some arm farm going into this phase so be ready to fill the sleeves!
I’ll see you next week. Have a great weekend!”
Now, you could’ve certainly dug in a bit deeper and really outlined the entire phase. But, let’s be honest: most (if not all) athletes don’t really care about that stuff so let’s save them the time.
By putting together a quick and easy description like the one above, you’re still educating them in a slower, more digestible format so that they can learn at their own pace.
If, perhaps, they ever have a specific question in an area of expertise, this then serves as your time to shine and spend a little bit more time providing quality information as an educator. However, remember to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
STEP 2: COACHING NOTES
Adding in coaching notes in your training program is a surefire way to get the attention of your athletes so that they feel included in the process. It’s also a great way to make them feel like you’re individualizing the program for them and them only.
There are many ways to go about doing this. However, I like the following 2 formats:
- Individualize a short phrase of confidence or empowerment
- Provide clear and concise task-oriented cues
You can individualize a short phrase to boost confidence or empower an athlete with something as simple as:
- “You got this, Adam!”
- “All you, Sylvia!”
- “Go time, Marc!”
It doesn’t have to be long. Short and sweet typically works best. The goal is to have the athlete read it, understand it, and then apply it in their lift or exercise. Using their name really makes it personal to them and them only.
You can provide clear and concise task-oriented cues for any exercise of your choosing. However, be sure to keep it clear and understandable.
For example, if you’re using the Trap Bar Deadlift, you could use the following coaching notes:
- Hinge your hips back, engage your lats, and stay tight
- Grip hard and push your feet down through the floor
- Squeeze your glutes and keep your ribs down at the top
These are just a few examples, but you can begin to see where you could take this. Keep the coaching cues short and sweet, and most importantly, to the point.
All the while, these coaching cues will serve as a reference point for your athletes. They can always refer back to them while knowing that your in-person, vocal coaching is what truly sets the stage. However, for online clients, the entire notion of coaching cues and notes become even more important.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to add a “benefits” section in your training programs, which briefly and efficiently outlines how a particular exercise will benefit an athlete.
Let’s continue to use the Trap Bar Deadlift as the example exercise where we could say the following:
- Feel this in your glutes, hamstrings, and lats
- This will help build lower body strength and power
Again, just a couple of examples here, but remember that you’re the coach so it’s important for you to use your own voice and style with each individual athlete. Be creative and educational, but make sure to do so in a clear and concise format.
STEP 3: PHASE RECAPS
Conduct a phase recap at the end of each 4-week training block. You can do this in-person in a short, 5-minute conversation. You could even do this through an email or submission form entry. It doesn’t have to be long. Again, let’s keep this short and sweet.
Here’s an example of questions you could ask:
- How would you rate the previous phase on a 1-5 scale? (1 = Awesome | 5 = Disappointed)
- What are some new things you’d like to work on in your next phase?
- Can you list 3 exercises that you liked and why?
- Can you list 3 exercises that you disliked and why?
The education piece happens over time through a few phases of performing this process over and over again. In time, they will gain a better understanding of exercises they like and dislike, and more importantly, why. They’ll also begin to appreciate how each exercise is helping them while giving you as the coach a better opportunity to hit the target with respect to their specific goals.
You can use this information and insight to build out the next phase of training. It’s like a revolving door from step 1 to step 2 and then to step 3. Ultimately, you can continue to cycle through these 3 steps to provide constant levels of education in a subtle way.
This third step also allows each individual athlete to feel like they’re a part of the process and that you value their feedback. That’s what it’s all about: value them and they will value you right back.
BONUS – STEP 4: DIGITAL MEDIA
If you’re pumping out content in a variety of areas in digital media (i.e., YouTube, blog articles, podcasts, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), then this ultimately represents free, educational content for your athletes.
Trust me, start putting content out there that you believe in and stand by. Post it. Share it. At some point, one of your athlete’s will come up to you and ask about a specific post.
Boom! There you go.
This is another entry point for you to educate your athletes in the training process.
You want to educate your athletes in the training process, but you don’t want to overwhelm them. Make it short and sweet. Keep it to the point. Most importantly, layer it in slowly over time. Use phase descriptions, coaching notes, and end-of-phase recaps. As a bonus, start pumping out digital media content, which they will inevitably come across in their social scrolling journey on their phones.