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Transcending The Niche Categories of Strength Coaching

I always struggle to write these Wednesday blogs. I feel torn in many directions when it comes to topics because my demographic and who I serve changes all the time. I used to only work with adults. Then I started only working with kids. Now I have a widespread network of clients and individuals of all ages who I help reclaim their lives through strength and performance style training. But I don't have a niche, as many coaches seem to have. But what this has taught me about training, and how we can better improve our own future's has been key.

One of my favorite authors on the topic of sport is David Epstein (no relation to Jeffrey), whose written some great books on natural talent, and the process of specialization. The latter book, called "Range: Why Generalists Triumph In A Specialized World," has become one of my favorites over the last several years. Though likely because it serves some form of confirmation bias, as I have worked with such a wide variety of individuals, and I like to think I am still on the right track. Range, as it points out, likes to highlight how many of the world's most successful people in any domain often don't start there. They have large periods of time sampling different fields of work, sport, and beyond. And what they learn from them is key to being able to adapt.

"Everyone is digging deeper into their own trench and rarely standing up to look in the next trench over, even though the solution to their problem happens to reside there." - David Epstein, Range

I used to be a Weightlifter. By training preference now, I am likely still able to claim this training identity. I have coached everything from CrossFit, to Weightlifting, to Wrestling, to Powerlifting, to Bodybuilding (yes, even that), and general fitness/personal training. In each, I have learned many lessons. In Weightlifting, I learned what repetition and skill with a barbell can do for one's strength and athleticism. In Powerlifting I learned what true effort and exertion looks like. In Wrestling, I learned what full blown commitment looks like. In CrossFit, I learned the power of community and its impact on performance. In Bodybuilding, I learned what true failure looks like. And in training the general population, I found out what playing to personal biases and enjoyment looks like. All of these things have profoundly shaped how each group I train now is trained and how they all culminate in a final training methodology.

"A chameleon changes color, but never forgets it is a chameleon." -Vítor Frade

When we look at the different training realms out there, I found so many entrench themselves deep in a hole of a specific style of training. They get so nuanced and specific, they start to build such specific arguments and rhetoric around their training. As much as my fellow coaches expound their training systems, I wonder how many of them have built needles so small they couldn't fit the camel through the eye of it? But to have a broad background, and be able to change colors depending on the person and on the scenario, means more results can be had when we have a large scope of practice.

I'll give a great example. I used to coach a handful of weightlifters. As you coach weightlifters, you learn how to program specific variations or complexes of exercises to fix skill deficits without having to alter the program entirely. Different loading mechanisms can increase skill, or strength, dependent on a need. So when a high school athlete I do hybrid coaching with (part online, part in person) needed to develop more power, and only had consistent access to a barbell, we figured we can use a wide variety of Olympic Lift variations to get the power benefits we need. And in only teaching the Lifts for ~15 minutes each, they've been able to get solid results in both skill and power development through learning the lifts via specific complexes. But my knowledge of the Olympic Lifts from coaching transferred easily.

As I've worked with a number of baseball and softball players, you learn how to develop more range of internal rotation at the hip and how to stabilize it. As I've worked with some more weightlifters and powerlifters recently, these lessons have proved helpful for those who need a little more Internal Rotation to access deeper positions in the squat.

As I've worked with more general population clients, I've realized how all the years of improving mobility and coordination in kids transfers to opening up movement freedom for my adults. As I've worked around and consulted with a few more CrossFit athletes, I've realized how valuable the rotational work I did with Baseball and Softball athletes can be for those needing more movement freedom.

So while I find a deep desire to fit in with other coaches, I almost wish more coaches were like me as well. Who had a broader base and weren't pigeon holed into singular realm. The ability to go above a singular realm of training discipline allows you help more people in total, but also at the individual level. When you can take lessons from one domain and apply it to the other, more people win. And you win as a coach.

Now, perhaps you're an athlete whose reading this, hoping there was going to be something for you. There is, because these principles can also apply to your life as an athlete. Play a different sport for a while. It doesn't need to be competitive, it just needs to use your body differently than your main sport does. Pick up a hobby and learn a new skill. Do something which can put your body and mind in a different space with different problems. This allows you to transcend your sport and allow you to solve problems differently, giving you more opportunities to succeed in your sport.

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