How to Improve your athletes. (Minus the tyranny.)

12 Mar

This post is a summary from my personal blog. The original has the same distinctive steps on how to improve athletes but also gives pointers on maintaining your reputation as tyrannical overlord.

This one all serious like. Mine is more hilarious. Choose wisely.

Standards exist for a reason. Without clear, well-defined standards, we have no way of accurately measuring change in performance.

While operating under high stress, there is always a slight lowering of standards (notice, the emphasis on slight. More on this over here.). However, there is a disturbing trend that will inevitably pop up among athletes:

Counting shoddy reps as valid when they are fully capable of completing a clean rep a second later.

You know that rep shouldn’t have counted. I know that rep shouldn’t have counted.

Here’s my quick and dirty checklist for dealing with shoddy reps and lowering standards.

1) Verify the Standards

2) The poor standard is due to a mechanical problem.

3) The poor standard is due to a strength problem.

4) The poor standard is due to the Athlete being lazy.


1) Verify the Standard:

1st of all:

Do your athletes know the standards you expect of them?

Have you clearly demonstrated them?

Do you continually remind them of said standards?

Do you follow these standards yourself?

If not, you have a bigger problem that needs addressing.

How to do it:

Demonstrate the standards publicly. Make it clear that this is what you always expect of your athletes. Make them all perform said movement up to the correct standard to verify that there is no mechanical reason that the movement cannot be completed as required.

If anyone cuts a rep short during training, make sure you refer back to their previous performance. Make sure to emphasis that muscle fatigue is not a reason for bad reps.

If the poor standard continues:

Is the problem mechanical or strength related?

2) If it’s a mechanical problem, it could be that your athlete knows what the standard is but physically cannot complete it because of a limit in range of motion. Can you address it with soft tissue release?

How to do it:

Soft tissue release is a wonderful tool. Make sure to emphasis that you are not only helping make each athlete better, you’re also giving them the ability to do fix themselves on their own.

Make sure to refer them to either an expert, or a resource for them to feel the benefits of soft tissue activation in all it’s many ways.

Note: Soft tissue activation without use of the new range of motion leads to loss of the new range of motion.

Athletes can’t just spend 2 mins one time fixing their issues, they have to constantly address it to make sure they don’t lose what progress they’ve made.

Make sure to give them the tools they need to help themselves.

3) The poor standard is due to a strength problem.

Maybe the athlete has full range of motion but cannot complete the movement due to a strength issue.

If this is the case, you need to scale them down to a point where they can safely perform the movement.

Important note:

In anyway referring to the athlete as “weak” or “inferior” because of a strength issue is unacceptable. Insulting or belittling an athlete because they’ve had to scale down for safety reasons makes you an asshole. Your job is to help athletes perform more reps, better for longer. And then thank you for your encouragement.

Don’t be an asshole.

Assign homework to the athlete. If they have issues with push ups, make them do push ups or dips. If squats are the issue, squat.

How to do it:

Make it easy.

Don’t tell someone to do 100 repetitions a day, ask them to do a few. Say something like, “Do a few really clean repetitions but always keep a few in reserve.”

That means when they do their homework, they will avoid going to failure. This increases the total amount of repetitions they can complete during the day, allowing them to do more work over time. Further more, never going to failure means that the reps will be as correct as possible, further ingraining proper form in the athlete.

4) The poor standard is due to the Athlete being lazy.

What if the athlete doesn’t have a mechanical issue? What if they are strong enough to complete each rep as form dictates?
What if the athlete is just being lazy?
Assume a breakdown in communication. Re clarify the first point about standards.
Make sure breakdown during a workout isn’t due to any of the above issues.
If the problem is really just laziness, the only solution is to monitor the athlete closely and verbally cue them as to whether a rep counts or not.
Make sure that they know that you’re watching them and that you expect more from them.
How to do it:
Always being specific:
Make your disappointment known.
Challenge them to improve.
Final note: Make sure to positively reinforce improvement.
If an athlete does something better then they did it before, you have to tell them.
The only way for them to  improve is for the to clearly know what they need to improve, then to work on that specific skill or problem.
Finally, they need someone knowledgeable to give them specific feedback on whether they are improving or not.

Most of all, they need to be able to perform movements in a setting where they don’t have to worry about getting their heads ripped off if they can’t do something perfectly.

Your job is to educate and encourage. Not to yell at people.
Remember: Don’t be an asshole.

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