A Coach's Guide To Hacking Movement
I wanted to take a moment to speak to the following scenario: you have an athlete that looks like they’re incapable of squatting without falling over. Do you prioritize flexibility, spend time on developing technique, or just program a variety of types of squats using high reps to build strength? Unless you have some specific information pointing to an obvious solution you should almost always assume ignorance first.
So much valuable time can be saved by assuming that the athlete simply just doesn’t understand the movement. If you don’t take the time to clarify technique and instead you move forward assuming that the athlete is just weak, you will not only waste time heading down the wrong path, you run the risk of strengthening bad technique. Always start with technique.
Let’s pretend that you’ve ruled out bad technical understanding. What’s next? Move on to mobility. Is the athlete even capable of getting into the required positions? Imagine a back squat, if you will. The athlete has demonstrated that they understand how to back squat, but they still don’t look right while squatting. Did you take the time to see if the athlete can perform an air squat? Can they even perform a goblet squat? Strength is what helps you to move between two points. Flexibility is required to get into both points. Once you’ve ruled out bad technique, focus on flexibility.
Once you’ve ruled out both technique and flexibility you can move onto strengthening. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to work only on one of the three at a time. You most certainly can work on all three concurrently. What you can’t do is strengthen the back squat when the athlete lacks the required mobility to perform the back squat. But I didn’t say you couldn’t strengthen split squats if the athlete is capable of that. You most certainly can identify variation lifts to strengthen while simultaneously developing technique and flexibility for other lifts. That simple statement is the most complicated part of coaching.
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Drs. Chloe Costigan and John Giacalone are both physical medicine specialists, former competitive athletes, and strength and conditioning coaches.