5 Strength and Conditioning Pillars

In October, we had the pleasure of hosting Joel Jamieson’s Certified Conditioning Coach seminar. It was a weekend-long event in which myths were broken and knowledge was shared…because #science.

I’ve put together a short list of the main takeaways from the weekend. I hope that they serve and encourage you to learn more about this fascinating field.

  1. Program Backwards

Find the event, or season in which the athlete is training for and program backwards from there. The two most important ingredients are:

  • The adaptations you want to elicit;
  • The date of their season/event.

Getting clear on what adaptations you want to elicit, allows you to choose what stimuli you need to provide in order for the desired results to occur. Programming backwards allows you to effectively plan each block needed for the different seasons.  By doing so, you can dial the program up and down based on which phase the athlete is in.


  1. Don’t Underestimate Aerobic Development

Recently, “high intensity interval training” (HIIT) has become the new black. Along with that, many people think “steady state cardio” should be ditched altogether.  However, having a solid aerobic base is quite beneficial, both for general health and performance.

From the performance standpoint, if you’re an endurance athlete the reason is obvious: you’re training the energy system you compete in. For short-burst athletes, the reason may not be as obvious. Having a solid aerobic base fuels your recovery between higher intensity intervals and helps you maintain a higher output for a longer duration.


  1. “You Can’t Take Coaching Out Of Training”

This was a light-bulb-moment for me. If you take coaching out of the equation, you can no longer call it training. The two are intrinsically linked.

If you’re not actively coaching your client on and off the field then you’re not training them. You’re just giving them a program to execute.

Helping an athlete develop their mind has always been a part of the strength and conditioning field. Yet, I feel that we haven’t always understood how to motivate and get more out of our athletes.

Ask yourself:

Are your athletes confident in their abilities to succeed? Are they feeling motivated each day? How much stress have they been going through lately? The list of things you need to consider as a coach is continuously growing.

Good coaches become inquisitive of their clients/athletes. Learning how to adjust someone’s program based on his or her emotional/psychological state on a day-to-day basis is vital to long-term success.


  1. The Athlete’s Mindset: What’s The Cost-To-Benefit Ratio?

Being a behavioral-psychology enthusiast, this was my favorite part of the seminar. Joel explained that how an athlete perceives the costs and benefits of training will determine the athlete’s actions.

Let’s use Jane Doe as an example. She perceives the benefits of training to be: improving her performance for when she’s skiing with her family. It’s something that means a lot to her.  With benefits that are so strong, her brain will likely push her to complete more challenging work outs than if she didn’t see the benefits of training.

On the flip side, Jane’s husband, John doesn’t like to train that much. He perceives training to be time-consuming and painful. He’s “good enough” at skiing and has little desire to get any better at it. In John’s case, the costs outweigh the benefits. This will most likely result in poor performance and excuses.

How someone feels after a work out is also a crucial part of the puzzle. If Jane Doe feels great and thinks “Man, that was awesome! I’m so glad I did it!”, BOOM, dopamine floods the brain. This increases the chances that Jane will come back, and perform well next time. Her perception of the costs and benefits related to training are shaping her brain’s feedback loop. In Jane Does’ case, she’s creating a positive feedback loop, while her husband John is continuing to flood his brain with negative thoughts.

Something to think about:

How are your athletes ending their training? Are they complaining about how hard it was? Or are they leaving in high spirits?

What’s more important is what you are doing as a coach. Are you praising their effort, focus, etc.? Or are you letting them leave discouraged and unmotivated?

There are many things you can do to help your athletes leave on a high note. Examples include: hard yet doable finishers, talking to them about their progress, getting to know them better, etc.


  1. The High-Low Model & HRV

The principles for this model are quite simple. A good training week should include no more than three high intensity days, with four lower intensity days mixed in. How to organize this, will vary from person to person. If you’re involved in team sports, chances are your schedule is decided for you.  You’ll have to do your best to help mitigate some of your team training demands, utilizing recovery protocols, nutrition and sleep.

If you have some flexibility in your schedule, I would purchase an HRV monitor. Once you start using the monitor consistently, you’ll be able to adjust your program based on your daily reading. HRV stands for heart rate variability, which is a measure of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. HRV is an indicator of your aerobic fitness and how your body is responding to all types of stress. The more variation you have in between heartbeats, the better your system is doing.

There are a few different HRV apps and monitors you can use (BioForceIthleteOmegaWave, etc.). If you’re willing to spend the money, there isn’t a better tool on the market for monitoring your overall health.

If you can’t cut it right now, an alternative would be to measure your resting heart rate (RHR) every morning a few minutes after you wake up. After you’ve measured it consistently for ~3-4 weeks you’ll have a pretty solid idea of what your trend is. The trick is to measure it at a consistent time upon waking up. No matter what time I wake up, I’ll measure my RHR within 15 minutes.

Once you gather some data, you’ll be able to see what is considered normal and where your extremes are. You can then adjust your high/low training days based on your RHR. If you’re under a lot of stress, and your RHR is higher than normal, make it a low intensity day. If you wake up with an average or lower RHR, then have at it. The nice thing about this technique is it’s objective, no matter how you feel, you won’t be able to fight how your system is functioning. If you’re RHR is consistently high, it means you’re not doing your part in the recovery and nutritional categories.

If you want to learn more about HRV and Joel’s stuff head here. Other great resources for similar articles are ethoscolorado.com and roguedenver.com.

By Stephanie Rose Zoccatelli.