The primary reason I visited Boston last week was for the AAHPERD convention, but it wasn’t the only reason. The convention wasn’t schedule to begin until Tuesday, but I drove up on Friday night to allow myself a few extra days in the area. I spent Saturday morning observing at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Woburn, Mass. and then spent Monday afternoon and evening at Cressey Performance in Hudson, Mass. Talk about big names in the business!
This is a quiet time of the year for most training facilities, with the current turn over between high school sports, college sports, and professional sports. In both facilities, this gave me a little more time to
harass pick the brains of the coaches and interns that were working. At both facilities, the ‘lull’ in training was apologized for, but I was more than happy to see their athletes in action and to talk shop with coaches.
Each setting provided me with a number of ideas for programming, and I’ve already made several changes to what I’ve been using with clients and as general recommendations. I’ve modified and improved the template that I use, and I’ve already received good feedback about it. I’ve learned a lot of my program design strategies from Coach Boyle, Eric Cressey, and Tony Gentilcore, and seeing their own programs in action provided clarity to several of my questions, and reassured other ideas I’ve been having. While I was observing in Woburn, Coach Boyle came over to me and asked if I was seeing everything okay. My response was something along the lines of, “Well, this is exactly what you talk about!” It was one of those ‘Duh’ moments where I realized that seeing the programs in action was simpler than I thought. There’s an established system, and it was adhered to by each of the clients. What I found more important than the programming that was followed was the coaching that I heard and saw.
Cueing began from the second a client entered either facility till the moment they left; the coaches were on. I noticed in both facilities that coaches provide instruction to clients in the Wooden-esque, “Do this, don’t do this, do this.” They provided a cue, and usually demonstrated it, gave an example of a common mistake and usually demonstrated it, and then repeated the proper cue and technique. This addressed the needs of visual and auditory learners, and provides a good starting point for someone to complete a movement. When clients weren’t completing an exercise with acceptable technique, cues were refined and personalized to allow for success. This success may have been as simple as a coach using a different phrase for a movement, but frequently included gentle positioning from the coach. I’ve found that subtle touch definitely helps clients figure out appropriate positions; tactile feedback is important. (If you’re questioning it’s importance, Tony Gentilcore wrote a post on it this morning.)
In the short time I spent in each facility, I learned several cues that sounded great. Words were spoken and bodies were touched, and movements looked cleaner and crisper. If I were to detail each and every ounce of knowledge I gleaned from the experience, it would make for a short story. Instead, let me provide you with two episodes of Strength Coach TV, a YouTube series hosted by strength coach Anthony Renna. The first video you’ll see below is of the MBSC facility in Woburn, and the second one is of CP. In each of them, the coaches take you on a tour of the facility and discuss how the facility design was influenced by programming and exercise selection:
In both videos the question of expansion is covered, which is ironic because both facilities have expanded since the videos were taken. Each facility expanded the space that’s used for warm-ups, and CP now has more office space like Eric mentioned.
I find that most lay people are easily confused by all of the scientific talk that is a part of exercise. Terms like VO2 max, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, reciprocal inhibition: They’re confusing for most people. Exercise science is a very broad field, but there is an art to simplifying it. During a conversation at Cressey Performance with Tony Gentilcore, I mentioned to him that the CP system seems to be explained and taught to clients rather simply. In response, he said something along the lines of:
“Move well. Get strong. Crush the competition.”
That makes sense, and it works for everyone, regardless of what “the competition” is. From professional athletes to those who want to kick aging’s ass, movement quality and strength training are essential factors to address. It’s a message that I’ve tried to share with readers, and will continue to teach to as many people as possible.
I’m grateful to Mike Boyle and his staff, as well as the staff at Cressey Performance, and the numerous interns and clients that I chatted with during my visits. Both experiences were a blast, and I hope return to Boston sometime soon. If you’re a trainer or coach, I’d highly recommend heading to Boston, or observing your local facilities to get your learn on. It helps you learn, network, and improve your craft.
Not a bad way to spend two days.