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June 19, 2013
How Often to Change Your Training Program? Are you not Entertained?

“Always seek perfection. You will never attain it, but if you try, you may pass excellence along the way.”

Vince Lombardi

This Hall of Fame football coach and teacher believed no detail is too small or unimportant. His favorite play was the “power sweep”, which he once discussed in a lecture attended by another Hall of Fame coach John Madden.

Madden recalled “Lombardi spent eight hours talking about this one play.  He talked for four hours, took a break and came back and talked four more. Then I realized then that I actually knew nothing about football.”

Unfortunately, training programs have slowly evolved into a provision of pure entertainment. Elaborate warm-ups and exercises exist in a program just to keep things fresh. The rationale is that by constantly changing exercises, and sometimes even renaming old movements to make them seem “new”, you are able to increase and maintain motivation…entertainment if you will.

The reality is that training should be about progress towards a goal, not entertainment.

Entertainment Step 1 – What is Your Goal?

Good entertainment, but little athletic benefit…

After initial screening and subsequent evaluation on the force plate via the scan (see Sparta Point), we always sit down with each athlete to review the results and plan the next phase.

After sitting down with hundreds of athletes in the last month, I can almost predict the first question out of their mouth. It is a question that seems to be ready before I have even reviewed the results, explained their improvements, and presented injury risks.

The answer we all seek is the future, specifically, “How will my workout change?”

However, this is where goals become the critical first step in motivation. For athletes, the goal should be to improve your movement efficiency, which can both enhance your sport’s performance and reduce your injury.

This efficiency is best enhanced with more practice, not new practice (see Sparta Point).

Entertainment Step 2 – Cultivate your Movements like Wine

When programming exercises, we look at the neuromuscular effects of a movement, the power of each training movement to provide a specific stimulus. The subsequent neuromuscular adaptations involve a learning curve, with the neural changes often occurring first. It is interesting to note that baseball players never get bored with a repetitive drill like hitting off a tee, and quarterbacks never get tired of working on their drops because these are such complex skills requiring repetitive rehearsal. If the goal of exercise is to enhance movement efficiency, then shouldn’t the concept of repetition be the same?

We are frequently asked how often we perform movement screens for return to play and to reduce future injuries. The answer is simple, every repetition of every set is a movement screen…it’s called coaching. You would be surprised how much you learn from repeating the same exercise each week, getting deeper and deeper into an appreciation of the movement, like a sommelier with wine.

You must feel the movement in specific places while performing the exercise, taste the sticking points, and then be aware of its finish (i.e. the muscle soreness or neural fatigue).

Entertainment Step 3- What can be varied yet still progress?

Despite the improvements, often times, movement signaturesTM do not change over an athlete’s season or off-season. The sport stimulus is so strong, anthropometrics are extreme, or previous training history was so focused that the pattern remains. So athletes can be “sentenced” for life to a particular set of exercises. Therefore, we vary the loading schemes (sets/reps/weight/speed) of these exercises every 1-3 weeks (see Sparta Point).

In-season presents more of a challenge because intensity (speed, weight, etc.) is limited due to the higher priority of playing your sport, especially in professional seasons of more games. However, we have a found an effective solution for these environments, a flexible framework. Framework is a software term we use describing the workout structure, yet flexible refers to providing options. The athlete is presented 2 options based on their movement signatureTM need. While one option may provide a greater, proven physical stimulus, we cannot underestimate the power of choice.

However, if you are an athlete building a flexible framework, it could be time to reevaluate your goals; are you training for entertainment or efficiency?

Or if you are a coach, is the entertainment value of variation for the athlete or yourself?

June 19, 2013
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4 thoughts on “How Often to Change Your Training Program? Are you not Entertained?”

  1. Great article. As a Performance Coach myself I can truly appreciate the points presented here. Well thought out and thought provoking for the coach and athlete alike.

    Adam Dunham – Performance Specialist
    PGA Center for Learning and Performance

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