Strength Training Isn’t Just for Physical Prowess
As many of our summer athletes head back to school, whether that be middle/high school, prep school, college, etc, it’s good for us to take a step back and review our own performances as strength coaches. Did our athletes’ testing numbers get better? Was our programming adequate? Was it appropriate? What could we have done better? It gives us an idea of what areas we as coaches need to improve upon, because there are always improvements to be made, and it also gives us something physical to hand our clients at the end of their program to say “Here’s where you started, and this is how far you’ve come.”
In working with the many Hockey athletes we have here, I was more than pleased with the results of their testing, and even more pleased with the effort these athletes were giving me day in and day out when they were training with me. Focus, hard work, and dedication goes a long way in the weight room. Of course, I love to have a little fun with these guys as well. Making bets with hockey players via basketball games, trick shots, and H.O.R.S.E. is always entertaining, and almost always leads to me winning those bets. And as know all too well by now, that means lots of 300 yard shuttles and extra work at the end of their workouts. And hey, that extra hard work pays off, because most of these guys scored extremely well in combines and in their showcases over the course of the summer, which is yet another way to mark progress of the work that they do in here.
There is, however, another marker of success that doesn’t show up on testing results or their workout sheets. Confidence. Let me be clear on this, DO NOT underestimate the importance of confidence in a young and progressing athlete. Some of these athletes walk in here and can barely fit through the door because of their massive egos, and it’s my job to knock them down a peg and get them to a satisfactory level. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s athletes who walk in here with their head hung low, are visibly uncomfortable, and move like Bambi in human form. Now imagine Bambi on ice skates with guys trying to knock him around. It’s not a pretty picture and doesn’t exactly build up that person’s confidence in themselves. In this case, it’s my job to build them up, and get them feeling like anything that anybody else is capable of, they’re capable of as well.
You hear people all the time talking about hitting new PR’s on their lifts and posting the numbers on social media. I roll my eyes every single time I see this. There are two main types of motivation, Intrinsic and Extrinsic.
Intrinsic Motivation is done because completing a specific task or action is personally rewarding to you. For example you play a sport because you enjoy the competitive nature, or you complete a puzzle because you love the challenge and feeling of completion once you’ve finished.
Intrinsic motivation is the end goal in the fitness world. While posting every workout you do online is a great, albeit annoying, way to get otherwise unmotivated people into some aspect of fitness, that kind of motivation eventually slows down, tapers out, and then that individual is back to square 1. Once they hit a plateau and can’t get past that five mile mark on their runs or break through to hit a new PR in something, this type of individual feels like other people will judge them for not pushing themselves harder. These individuals need that external attention from friends and family to tell them what a great job they’re doing and how proud everyone is of them. And while those comments are more than likely absolutely true, and that individual is definitely working their butt off, they no longer have a new and exciting number to post…so they don’t. They then begin to lose that motivation to continue on, and we see their training taper and eventually fall completely off.
So, while I applaud all of you extrinsically motivated people, I tend to push my clients towards the intrinsic side as the weeks go on.
How do I do this, and why does it help in the long run?
You don’t have to be an in your face strength coach or personal trainer, that’s for sure. That’s just more extrinsic motivation. The client is doing something to avoid punishment, which in this case is the trainer yelling in your face or telling your client to do an even harder exercise that leaves them less motivated because that individual is struggling twice as much as they were before. That client walks out the door feeling defeated and not confident in themselves at all, and in this industry, that’s going to lead to poor results and a terrible client retention rate.
What you have to do is some sneaky subconscious cueing to sort of nudge them in the right direction. Instead of having a client focus on their results in the gym and the weight they put up, have them focus on how it affects them outside the gym. With my hockey clients I ask every session how they’re feeling out on the ice, and you know what? Every time they come in, they answer with nothing but positives. “I feel faster, more mobile, more explosive; I’m skating more smoothly; I feel so much more comfortable out there.” The list goes on and on. It’s great to hear as a strength coach, because it means your programming is working, and it’s great for the client, because, well, the programming is working! They’ve now changed their extrinsic motivation to workout from doing it to look big and strong, and are now working out to better themselves out on the ice. Their own performance is now the most important aspect of training. They feel more comfortable and confident while playing, which leads to greater results in competition.
We all know in sports, confidence can be the difference between the minors and the big show, a D2 college and a D1 college, making the JV team, or making Varsity. Point streaks in hockey can be attributed to that rising confidence, hitting streaks in baseball can be as well, along with a Quarterback being able to squeeze the football into tight spaces where nobody else can get it but his receiver. These players wouldn’t be shooting, swinging, or throwing as much if they were questioning their own abilities. Confidence is everything. And while it may waver throughout the course of a season, it’s my job to get them strong, explosive, agile, and injury free heading into a season, while also feeling 110% confident in themselves and their abilities. I want them to feel like they’re better than their opponents, and still have that intrinsic motivation to continually work hard, and go out and prove that they truly are better than the other guys.
So while it’s been a great offseason as far as the numbers go in these athletes, it’s also been a great summer of building camaraderie within the athletes working out together, and gaining confidence in themselves for the season to come. My favorite part about working with clients isn’t seeing what they can do in the weight room, it’s seeing what they can now do in their respective sport because of the hard work they put in with me. The same goes for any general fitness client. I’ve seen extremely shy people with low self-esteem come in and train with us at The Way, and have it change their whole demeanor over the course of time. They fit better in their clothes, feel better, are capable of more things, and these clients really gain confidence in their abilities not only in the gym, but in real world situations as well. It’s a really cool process to watch. As rewarding as it is for these clients, it’s equally as rewarding to us as trainers, because these are the types of things that got us into the industry in the first place, right? We’re here to help people.
Good luck on your fitness journeys, and remember, confidence is key. Workout for the right reasons, and you will not fail. Nobody but yourself is in charge of how successful you are. Cheers.
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Eric Fish, B.S., CSCS, is a Strength & Conditioning Coach at The Way HPI located in Cranston, RI. He specializes in Hockey Performance and runs the Sports Performance program, working with athletes of all ages and ability levels.