When your client walks through the door, you never know what unexpected issue they may show up with. Whether they’re feeling sore and lethargic or caffeinated and chomping at the bit to do more than their regularly scheduled programming, you need to be prepared to give them the proper training they need for that specific day.
One of the best ways to adapt the day’s training program is by having a broad and inclusive knowledge of exercise progressions and regressions. The best coaches in the world are great precisely because they can efficiently adapt their programming on the fly. Their studying, experience, and intimate knowledge of athletes allows them to make quick adjustments to get the most out of each training session. One of the best ways to take your skillset to the next level as a coach is by understanding what exercise progressions and regressions are and how it can be applied to your clients.
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.“-C. S. Lewis
What Are Progressions and Regressions?
Progressions and regressions are all about modifying the degree of difficulty of a movement so that the athlete is provided the proper stimulus for the desired training adaptation to take place. Wow, that’s a mouthful. A progression is any movement scale that increases the difficulty, range of motion, loading, or speed of the movement. An athlete may need a progression if their training is too easy. You don’t want them to become bored or complacent and they need to be pushing themselves in every session to advance.
Regressions are the exact opposite — simplifying movement patterns, decreasing range of motion, lessening load, or slowing things down. This can be useful if an athlete is struggling to perform the movement as prescribed for any number of reasons.
Why Assessments Are So Important
Coaches are constantly absorbing feedback from their athletes and interpreting performance. This applies to both formal and informal assessments you make as a coach. If you’re training a group of athletes, you must conduct preliminary assessments to make sure each athlete is given the proper load for the movement. Some athletes in a group will need more advanced movements and others will need more basic patterns. Knowing mobility restrictions, injury history, and simply seeing the way athletes move can help you decide what areas they need to work on and what exercises will give them the best possible stimulus. Assessments will give you all the tools you need to make the right choice for each of your clients.
How to Decide to Make Changes
Depending on the day and the athlete, there are a whole host of changes you may have to make for your client. Every day of training should have a specific goal. Whether you’re training a particular energy system, trying to elicit a certain response, improve a particular technique, or develop a specific skill, you must be as adaptable as possible to make that happen.
Manipulating variables like movement pattern, load, speed, volume, and rest can all help you fine-tune the dose of the stimulus you prescribe to the athlete. Gathering direct and indirect feedback from your athlete is also key. Asking them questions in the warmup and first few sets of training can give you an idea of their perceived exertion. Are they ready to go for the day? Fired up to attack their training? Or are they feeling sluggish? Maybe the week’s volume is getting to them or they have other challenges going on in their life that make it hard to focus on training.
Explain Your “Why” to Your Clients
Sometimes athletes can misinterpret the meaning behind modifications you make to their workout. It is your job as the coach to explain to them the importance of adjustments you make to their training plan. Giving them a more basic movement or decreasing the load or volume doesn’t mean you think they’re weak or not improving
Try to be as neutral as possible in your language and feedback to them. State the facts and explain why your decision was made. It is all in the name of helping them progress as quickly as possible and you are a professional who can make that call.
The Final Word
As a coach, you should have progressions and regressions for each movement pattern based on the style of training you provide coaching for. Understanding a few progressions and regressions for each of the basic human movement patterns will help your clients get better results. Getting your clients better results means you’re a great coach who can build your reputation and business on your ability to work with all different types of clients and get them all lasting results.