Coaching the Experienced

Some months ago I came across a question on a fitness board:

“Who has trained people for Triathlons? What is one of your go-to exercises?”

Despite a board size of more than 6,000 members the question went unanswered. I have my speculations as to why.

First, in training one size does not fit all and there is no such thing as a “go-to exercise” as every athlete is different. The closest “go-to” for Triathlon would be the sport specific swimming-biking-running training in that order.

Speculation 1: The client has never competed in a Triathlon, but is fit enough to consider it a goal.

Speculation 2: The client HAS competed in a Triathlon (or some type of endurance event) and wants to improve their performance.

I am not speculating the trainers inexperience with Triathlons, I figured that fact was obvious and this is not a knock on the trainer. If anything, I’m glad they asked.  What I hope didn’t happen is the trainer telling the client “Yes, I can do this.” and in reality cannot deliver the goods.

How does one Coach the Experienced?  Afterall, EVERYONE can benefit from a good Coach.

Not everyone that hires you will be a total beginner. Some have years of training and you could find yourself being compared to past trainers/coaches.
A percentage have reached a level of competence.
Not every trainer is capable of taking someone past a certain point of performance. This doesn’t mean the Trainer is bad, it simply means the trainer lacks experience with populations above a particular skill level.

Training defined by the individual and their needs.  It would do little good to improve the powerlifters 100m swim time, the sprinters maximum effort bench press in a bench press shirt or develop the swimmers ability to balance on one leg while standing on a Bosu Ball.

Programming Considerations Primary type of strength and fitness required,The sports speed and movement needs,The sequence of events,Rest periods,Athletes relative strength, Athletes dynamic range of motion vs the sports range of motion,Strength deficits,Athletes training history, Athletes injury history, Timeline between last competition to the next competition, Competition history, Level of competition (local event vs International/Olympic qualifier), Athletes disposition in training (Introverted or Extroverted), Athletes age and gender (Youth through Masters Class), High frequency injuries found in the sport, Is the athlete in/out of Prehab-Rehab.

These considerations are in addition to the athletes health history, and frankly there are always other considerations.

Coaching My method is simple and draws from combined experiences in training combat athletes,Powerlifters,CrossFit athletes,high school sprinters and military populations.

Shut Up,Observe and be non-judgemental. The client already has a level of skill.  You starting point in training will differ and too much cueing can be distracting.

Ask the trained client to perform several sets/reps (or whatever the relative measure happens to be), shut up and watch what happens naturally. You are trying to answer the question “How can this be made better?”

I’ve found that natural athletes are often visual, or visual-kinesthetic learners. As a coach this means your technique, and ability to communicate it needs to be solid when demonstrating a movement and it should try to approximate what it is you want the athlete to accomplish.  Video taken from multiple angles has proven invaluable in these cases.


No,not a coach.

Define the desired outcome and draft the path towards it. We want improved performance by objective measures, but subjective measures cannot be overlooked. We also want to improve safety, which outweighs everything else. The task is figuring out what needs to be done, and addressing it with the safest and most effective means via a sane risk to benefit ratio.

Establish Secondary Trust and Credibility. Trust and Credibility are hard to come by and easy to lose. Initial trust was earned during the consultation and screen, or at least by people observing your actions in training.  As a trainer, you are ALWAYS BEING LOOKED AT, AND JUDGED AS BEING COMPETENT OR INCOMPETENT.  Secondary Trust is achieved when you and the athlete have resolved part of their issues, or found and solved issues they didn’t know existed.

Make singular changes, observe the results and apply polish.  Sometimes it’s as simple as repeating a singular performance change that is so significant that little flaws get corrected in the process.

If multiple flaws are present, address the one of greatest concern first. Be prepared to repeat efforts until it is minimized. Keep reps at manageable numbers to avoid fatigue  and allow for the appropriate neural adaptations to occur. This is a learning process.

After a 90% hit rate can you move on to the next issue. I like to stack my fixes by adding the new fix onto the previous.


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