In my last article I talked about the five benefits that come from building a consistent training model within your team—or even if it’s just you. If you haven’t read that one yet, I’d suggest checking that one out first and coming back to HOW to build a consistent training model.
Let’s talk about what it means to be consistent.
A consistent training model includes coaching standards that one or more trainers follow when it comes to coaching and training. In a nutshell, it means everyone agrees to coach a certain way in order to keep consistency for all clients.
Another important aspect of this approach is consistency within regressions and progressions, from one exercise to another. In the last article I went over the benefits of consistency when it comes to training people with chronic pain and those who are terrified of lifting weights.
Here’s the problem with not following this approach correctly:
- Asking clients to do exercises a certain way without any rhyme or reason can really frustrate them and make them feel like there’s no purpose to what they’re doing.
- Being too detailed with coaching can result in clients overthinking during lifting, which can prevent them from progressing or worse, scaring them from certain exercises-
- It can be frustrating for a team to try to follow a training model that was never set up in the beginning, as this doesn’t allow new trainers to successfully learn.
Luckily, I’ve worked through all of those problems over the last decade and now I can help you try to avoid them by giving you five guidelines when building your new consistent training standards.
1) Standardize Your Positions and Lifts
Write out all the positions your clients do exercises in.
2) Side Lying
4) Half Kneeling
5) Tall Kneeling
6) Split Stance
Write out your standards, or put in different terms, rules. What does this position need to look like every time it’s coached? Come up with 3-5 different checkpoints that you go through mentally each time.
Next, write out all your exercise categories, which are all the lifts that your clients do regularly.
- Bilateral Quad Dominant (Squat)
- Bilateral Hip Dominant (Hinge)
- Split Stance (Split Squat)
- Single Leg (Single Leg Hinge, Step Up, Single Leg Squat)
- Vertical Pulling
- Vertical Pushing
- Horizontal Pulling- Horizontal Pushing
The horizontal pull in a 3-point row will look very similar to a half-kneeling cable row. The standards around the lifts stay the same, and the position is coached the same no matter what exercise is being added to it.
You now technically have all your “rules”. You’ve got your ideal way something should be performed, but you need to make sure you—the boss/head coach—are not the only one who can actually live up to these standards on the training floor.
Which brings me to my next guideline…
2) Set Up Your Coaching Standards with The Appropriate Learning Objectives
This means that whatever you wrote above needs to be able to be recreated by someone else. You need to ask yourself:
“What do I need to set in place for someone to be able to follow my standards who doesn’t have my experience?”
Answer: Learn how to break down the end goal through progressive learning objectives. Your end goal: Establish your standards.
If you want staff members to recreate what you do, the material needs to be a purposeful sequencing of learning objectives that meet each new staff member at the beginning levels of learning and comprehension.
Mentors, bosses, and head coaches who are really good at what they do oftentimes struggle teaching other coaches what to do. That doesn’t make them bad coaches—it just means they need to work on becoming educators.
I used to be one of them. I worked at a personal training school as a teacher and for the longest time, only half the students caught on to what I was trying to teach. A little over a year in, someone who had a different set of skills and background than me, showed me how to breakdown my training into progressive objectives like the picture below.
At the bottom of the pyramid we have what you would consider the beginner/initial objectives that people should have a grasp on before moving on up.
Most interns and employees are expected to evaluate and analyze movement after just one seminar or one team meeting on how to do things, but they never got the foundation that was required for them to be successful.
So after you’re done creating your standards, before you introduce it to your team or set up a system to onboard new staff, take some time to learn how to break down your work to progressive educational material.
A common mistake I see bosses do is, they handout their standards on something like a sheet and they ask their team to follow it.
This sheet technically has all the information someone would need to be able to coach it, fix the compensations, and go through all the variations that you could write on someone’s program. Easy, right?
But what if they don’t recognize the difference between regular bracing and over-bracing when they personally do the activity? How successful will they be at reading that mistake on a sheet of paper and then fixing that mistake on the training floor? Not very successful since they can’t even tell the difference in their own body.
If following that sheet was the end goal, we would have to break it down into a list of objectives, starting at the bottom of the pyramid. After you have your list sequenced in a progressive order, you want to plan out how you will deliver each objective, and how you’re going to test each one.
Objective: At the end of this session, the new staff member will be able to recognize the difference between bracing and over-bracing during 90/90
Delivery: New staff member takes three coaches through 90/90 and practices seeing and feeling the difference.
Test Objective: New staff member takes head coach through 90/90 and verbally confirms whether the coach is bracing or over-bracing.
I know this seems like A LOT of work, and if you think all the great speakers do this, you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, the fitness industry isn’t filled with a lot of great educators. There are a lot of great speakers, but those two qualities are not the same.
Learning this will make you stand out as a mentor/boss. It’s a skill not many people have. Yes, it’s more work, but if you take the word “consistency” seriously when developing your model, it’s WAY less work than you think.
HERE is an example of a lesson plan from my mentoring. This is what an initial session looks like. Notice the level of comprehension I’m expecting in phase 1. It would look very similar if it were a new employee.For more about learning objectives, click HERE.
3) Scale the Amount of Detail to Meet Each Client
The number one problem coaches have when they try to get their members to pay attention to how to do things is, clients hating it. They don’t want to think that much, they can’t handle the cues, and they complain about having to follow certain “rules” when exercising.
Always try to remember that detailed coaching doesn’t mean everyone is always perfect! The good thing about rules is that they’re meant to be broken. That’s where the art of coaching comes in—knowing what is “good enough” when deciding how detailed to get with a client.
That decision is usually very intuitive for a lot of coaches who have been doing this for a long time. That intuition can’t just be passed on to someone who doesn’t have much experience coaching.
A few observations during an initial session that can help build that intuition faster are:
How well did they take cues during their first session?
Did they handle a few cues at once? Did they lose the first cue when you introduced the next one? These observations matter and will influence the level of detail you give each person. Is this the kind of person that needs to learn one thing at a time so they don’t get frustrated? Or do they handle multiple things at once?
Paying attention to these things will help you change how you approach this person when you coach them and write them their first program.
What position were they successful in and which ones did they struggle with?
By making this observation, you can start making predictions on what positions and exercises clients do best in. If it takes more than five tries to make the exercise look anywhere close to your standards, you start to get an idea of which exercises to do and which ones not to do for their first program.
If they struggle getting in quadruped without shrugging and complaining that they only feel their neck…
What core activities would you want to avoid for their first program? Planks? Bear Crawls?
Most activities that you could consider are based off of a good quadruped position. By knowing this kind of information beforehand, you know how much detail you can throw at them and what positions they’re most successful in.
It can be very frustrating to be expected to do something that is too much. Adapting your model to each client is the key to avoid resistance.
*To learn about my client on-boarding program and a more in-depth look at how I communicate to clients about it, check out these two other articles on TrueCoach:
4) Set Up Language Standards That Don’t Break People
Avoiding exercises out of the fear of doing it wrong is the last thing you want from clients. This can be avoided by changing the delivery and how it’s communicated.
The reason people develop fear of progressing isn’t because of the amount of detail they have to pay attention to. It’s usually a result from the words used when giving a reason for all the “rules”.
If you’re communicating your standards to your clients and lifting the way you teach them is considered good and everything else is bad, you’re subconsciously creating lifting as a binary thing. That’s when problems happen.
Instead, you can sit down and figure out how you’re going to present this to someone, what language are you going to use, more importantly, what language are you NOT going to use.
The filter you have to run everything through is:
“Will this make my client feel broken?”
If you’re going to be successful with clients learning your standards and developing high levels of independence, you need to introduce things slowly. They also need to be pushed to really pay attention and gain some body coordination. That means the first few sessions they’re doing a lot of “basic” exercises and learning a few cues at a time. It’s not that much of a workout at first, and that’s ok.
If you were to write out how you describe your first few days, which statement would pass through the filter written above?
- “Before you can safely lift weights in here, you’re going to have to learn the basics and build a foundation. If you don’t, you’ll end up hurting yourself.”
- · “The first two days will be a lot learning when it comes to our basic positions, cues, and lingo. We find that people who spend a couple days doing this are way more successful with us! I’m excited for you!”
The way things are communicated changes how it’s perceived by clients. Working on slow progressions the first two days is no longer because they’re broken, weak, and not capable. It’s just because they’re learning the lingo, cues, and position.
Words can empower someone or they can instill fear in them. As coaches, we have an opportunity to make movement and lifting weights an empowering thing to do.
5) Develop Communication Standards That Let Coaches Be Different
Having everyone follow the same training principles doesn’t mean you create robots. Coaches will prioritize different things, they’ll gravitate to different exercises, they’ll like certain cues better than others, and that is totally okay.
Sometimes on Tuesday one coach will say, “Lean forward a little bit.” And on Thursday the other couch will say, “Try to stay upright.”
Even if one way is better justified by the other, the last thing you want is for clients to think one coach is better than the other. In these scenarios, if clients notice, it’s important to come up with things to say when these discrepancies happen.
Client: “Well, Jon told me to exhale on the way down!”
Coach: “You could argue for both”
Coach: “I can see why he did that, this is why I’m saying on the way up…”
Client: “Jon didn’t tell me to do that last time”
Coach “We only choose to coach so many things, he probably had already coached a few other things. We all tend to have different hierarchies on the things we pick”
The Final Word
There are many different ways to successfully coach your clients, but there’s no denying that it’s necessary to have a system put in place that will make it easier to educate and prepare younger, newer trainers and keep your clients on a tangible path forward. It might take some extra work in the beginning, but in the grand scheme of things it will pay off.