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Training Athletes vs Training "regular" folk

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

1: Do you Train Athletes and Regular Folk Differently?

I first asked this question several years ago and it's stuck in my head for years since then.

I'd really like to say no, in fact the first time I was asked this question, that's exactly what I did say.

Truth is, that's not entirely true.

While I do stick with the same basic principles regardless of who is standing in front of me, whether they are looking for my help with Injury Management, General Fitness or preparation for a sporting event. There are distinct tracks that my head takes on how to utilise these principles with the individual.

With the general fitness folk, life is relatively easy, they are likely going to take the Bootcamp Program or do the Daily Workouts.

The bootcamp runs in the mornings, but people can utilise the program anytime they are in, if they do they will gain significant amounts of strength and endurance over the 12 week program, even more if they run multiple cycles of it.

The Bootcamp crew hard at it:

The Daily Workouts are for the guys who don't have the convenience to stick with a structured routine, so our lunchtime/evening sessions reflect this.

Full body sessions that vary in nature enough that anyone will see gains regardless of whether they come in once per week or 4 times per week. Obviously the 4 x guys will see a greater increase in general fitness than the less frequent people, but suboptimal, real life schedules often prevent people training as frequently as they'd like.

Joanne, a lunchtime irregular regular:

Our rehab guys, those looking for injury management, the goal is to get them into the general fitness programs described above. It may happen, it may not happen, that depends on the nature of their injuries.

But once we have done a thorough assessment and used that to rule in and rule out the exercises they will utilise, we build a bespoke program for them. And keep a close eye on them to ensure they are improving both in terms of the injury symptoms and their overall fitness.

Then there's the athletes.

Most of the competitors that train in Wg-Fit are combat sports or kettlebell sports, but we also have rugby lads, triathletes and a few others.

How we approach their training is very close to how we approach the injury management clients. A deep assessment shows us the weak links that need to be shored up, points out the strengths that need to be leveraged and helps us to design the program that best suits them.

Where things get a little more nuanced for the athletes that I don't do so much with the other clients is the peaking periods prior to an event.

As we move from general physical preparation, the usual Strength, Mobility, Endurance methodology and we begin to think along the lines of energy systems.

This energy system thinking is in all our programs, but it becomes the core feature of our athlete programs.

We create the programs to emphasise the most relevant energy system to the athlete and their sport.

A Kettlebell Sports Person needs great lactate tolerance, a combat sports guy needs to be both explosive and enduring, so we may want to maximise their aerobic threshold using whatever means best fit the individual. The endurance guys often are lacking in their anaerobic development, but their sport takes care of the aerobic, so we can arrange the training accordingly.

On paper this all sounds quite complex, but the reality is it's not that hard.

Once we know the energy systems we want to emphasise, we have an idea of the intensity we want and the rest periods we want.

Once we know the movement capability of the athlete and the movement requirements of the sport, we know the exercises to choose from.

Then it's just putting it all together.

2: Movements vs Muscles and the anti reductionist approach

Thinking back to the early days of WG-Fit, there was a big divide in the training community between those who trained a muscle by muscle approach, i.e. standard bodybuilding, and those who used a "movements not muscles" approach.

I always identify with the movements side, but at the same time I could never reconcile with this dualistic way of thinking.

Nothing really exists in binary, it's almost never one way or the other. In reality most things exist on some kind of continuum.

We have the Right, a 9 O'Clock and we have the Left, our 3 O'Clock, but in between the two extremes lies a slew of other angles. Keeping with the clock, we can turn right to 9 O'clock and then return, 10, 11 and 12, or continue turning right, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, hang on, we're now facing left.....

This little analogy with the clocks is simply to illustrate that when we reduce things down to a dualistic thought process, we lose the wider thought process.

So movements or muscles?

Why not favour movements, but understand the muscles that are operating to create that movement?

Within a big compound movement, there may be a weakness that can be shored up by understanding which muscles to train in isolation.

Maybe there's a motor control element within a movement that that can be looked at better in other movements

If we're talking about a deadlift, as shown by Seba above, maybe we need to do some isolation work for the upper back, or maybe we need to improve awareness of spine mechanics.

Maybe our muscles need attention to better allow movement

In most training programs we look at the motor control stuff in our warm ups, and the individual muscle "isolation" exercises in our assistance work.

When laid in this manner it seems really obvious, but it's something I completely overlooked as a younger coach.

Intuitively I had an idea, even when training a body part split bodybuilding routine, it didn't feel right unless I shadow boxed between rounds and used martial arts drills and interval runs as the conditioning sections of the training.

Maybe I was subconsciously utilising the shadow boxing to ensure motor control?

It's hard to say for certain, but as I gained more knowledge and experience in the training world, my thought processes changed and developed which means the programming I produce and advice I offer has changed and evolved.

3: Did you see our new range of Wg-Fit kit?

T-shirts, Hoodies, Leggings, a Multi Purpose headscarf, flip-flops all recently made available in our updated shop page beside our eBooks.

Now, if you've read this far, congratulations and thank you for your patience as I've meandered through these thoughts.

In return I'd love to meander over your thoughts, in order to do so you need to send them to me.

I'd recommend using email, but you can use the comments here on the website, you can use the facebook, I check Instagram messages the least.

But please do, get in touch and I'll do my best to answer anything you ask.

Well, almost anything....


Dave Hedges

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