Part 1: Be Honest…We’re all just guessing.

The holy grail of sports performance is the pursuit of the one perfect training formula that reliably produces better performance results.

What we’re all trying to do is bridge the gap between training and performance

Within our profession, we call ourselves different things but I argue that it’s the thought process that determines if a coach is really focussed on performance or is stuck on training.

If we lift big heavy things when we train, we get better at lifting big heavy things in our training, but the transfer of that training to better athletic performance in competition is entirely theoretical (unless all we do in competition is lift big heavy things). And this is where I question the traditional performance thought process.

Critically thinking coaches and trainers know that many of the old ideas about performance development may not be as scientifically valid as we once thought. And many of the so called “performance experts” of the previous generation are now stuck because the foundations of their training methods, which were based in hollow science, cannot adapt as we progress and learn more about what actually works, doesn’t work and why.

So…here’s what I’ve learned:

Be wary of absolute claims of science when it comes to training strategies correlating to improved performance.

Know that there is no one perfect training formula for exercises, intensity, volume, sets, reps, rest, etc. And even if there was, how that makes better competitive athletes on the field of performance and outside of the weight room is all theory.

In the absence of a strong scientific system that dictates absolutes, it is the coach’s thought process that will guide them in designing and implementing training strategies that will bridge the gap and produce actual performance results, not just theoretical ones.

This leaves open the possibility that there are other more effective ways to improve performance than the methods we’re currently using.

If you’re a traditionalist as I once was, this is one of the moments in which you must ask, “is it possible that there’s a better way? A better logic? A better thought process?”

If you believe that it’s no longer enough to simply know how to periodize general barbell strength and power programs, or you’re not entirely convinced that the power clean will make your athlete faster…then you and I are alike.

In general, the traditional thought process assumes that imposing demands in the weight room by making athletes stronger and more powerful will create adaptations that improve performance on the field. I believe that it probably does to a degree, but that thought process is largely a leap of faith. It’s a lot like treating pain: some people get results with placebo, others use the most scientifically validated strategies and get no results or perhaps make their clients worse. In sum, the reasons why we get the performance results we do from the training strategies we employ are difficult to nail down. The cause and effect is not as crystal clear as many strength coaches will have you believe.

So…be honest with yourself and your clients. Training to improve competitive performance is less of a scientific formula and more of an educated guess. And just like you learned when you took your clearance exams, some guessing strategies are better than others.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Comparing Thought Processes.