Keep it Simple!


The training process can become cumbersome at times if, as a coach, you are constantly trying to digest new information. This is especially the case for how many methods of training there are out there and how many exercises you have at your disposal. There’s so much that can be done, but so little time to do it in! Worse yet, there are many, many ways to do it right. To make your life a little easier, we’ll go over the basic, simple areas to consider when designing programs and coaching your athletes.

Safety is King

The main duty of a strength coach is to “do no harm” and help to decrease rates of injury. There should never be injury in the weight room! It is our responsibility to teach our athletes how to lift successfully and, in the case of snatches and cleans, how to properly miss them as well. Without this knowledge, we put our athletes at higher risk for injury.

It’s All About Movement

Proper technique is a must! Not only for safety reasons, but also for achieving what we are training to achieve. I’m not even just talking about lifting; moving, in any way, is absolutely crucial. It’s called “motor learning” because it is just that: a learning process to move efficiently! The more efficient our athletes move, the more successful they will be at their sport. They will be stronger, more powerful, and faster than that athlete who didn’t spend time on the basics of learning and practicing movement. Moving in the most efficient way would mean that the athletes’ joint segments would move in unison as their muscles contract quickly within themselves (rate coding) and with each other (synchronization); and, overall, more muscle fibers would be recruited to contract for the given movement (recruitment). 


It is extremely important to have some kind of plan for training. There are numerous ways to do this and, depending on the time of year, sport, and position, all of these programs may look different because of the ever-changing objectives that must be accomplished. Just know that you should have a plan that will lead to the attainment of the physical qualities your athletes require for their sport/position. Oh, and you should probably follow these rules and principles when designing your program.


Make sure that you have proper progressions set in place for your athletes. If you work in college, you aren’t going to start a freshman back squatting if he/she cannot perform a solid bodyweight squat. You would progress them from simple to advanced with the movements they perform. Each movement is still a squat, working the same muscle groups in the same pattern; they’re just different in the intensity (load) and overall coordination that must be overcome.

Another progression would be progressing different movements that build on each other to form a completely different, more complex movement. So, again, this is progressing from easier to more advanced movements. An example of this would be teaching the snatch, where the top-down method would be utilized. You would start by teaching the overhead squat (receiving position), advancing to pulls from different positions (power position down to the floor), and then power snatches and full, squat snatches.

Finally, progress the intensities slowly. This will allow your athletes time to adapt properly. If you throw them to the wolves right away and have them pushing 100% 1RM, they will have no room for progression in that phase of training. This will also allow your athletes time to prepare for the higher intensities to come. If they weren’t properly prepared for such intensities, there is higher risk of injury involved.

Use the “Big” Lifts

Once your athletes are ready for the basic, bigger, multi-joint movements, they should be performing these movements. It will depend on which movements and variations you program because of sport/position and time of year, but they should definitely be used. They provide great benefits for stability, force and power production, and they’re just plain fun to do! 🙂

Monitor Your Athletes

It is of extreme importance that you monitor your athletes’ progress. This could mean that you test some performance measures periodically or just use some kind of daily chart. This will allow you to see if your program is doing what it is supposed to do for your athletes, as well as help to see how they are adjusting to the workloads. If they are feeling weak and tired all the time, you may be able to find the root problem. Sometimes it could just be from lack of sleep, but many times they’re trashed from training. If it’s from training, it’s time for you, as their coach, to adjust accordingly.

Now What?

I’ve given you some basics to consider, which should make it easier on you. That was my hope anyway! 🙂 Time to go coach some athletes!


The ideas, comments and materials presented herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion or otherwise.

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