The role of the Fitness Coach (or Strength & Conditioning Coach, or Coach of Physical Preparation, or whatever you want to call it) is to raise the athletes’ level of fitness to its highest potential in preparation for sports competition. With a variety of movement based rehabilitation courses available these days, many fitness coaches have gravitated towards them as a way to “branch out” and extend their services. However, I feel that, in the process of doing so, we (as a profession) have gotten away from developing fundamental fitness qualities in our athletes, as we have gotten so bogged down with focusing on only one aspect of their development – movement.
I certainly will never (ever) discourage a coach from taking more courses and advancing their learning and I do believe that it is important for coaches to educate themselves on various rehabilitation methods to allow themselves to effectively communicate with the medical staff and be a part of the solution when an athlete is injured or returning from injury. Just as I would encourage medical professionals to learn about basic conditioning methods so they too can discuss with the fitness coach and not hold athletes back, which can sometimes happen, because they don’t understand the possibilities of training when injured or preparing the body for sport when returning from injury. Additionally, I do feel that there is something that strength coaches may be able to gain from a number of these courses in terms of how they see things within an athletes movement, which may lead them to select a certain exercise over another.
However, many Fitness Coaches have gotten so far away from developing the fundamentals of fitness and focusing on movement that they actually have athletes who may move decently but lack basic fitness competency. What ends up happening is that as fatigue sets in during the competition the athletes “good movement” begins to break down and the athlete ends up in this vicious cycle of injury, rehab, competition, injury, rehab, competition, etc…This was part of the reason Charlie Weingroff, Joel Jamieson, and myself got together to record our Strength in Motion DVD– to show coaches how to combine a movement based approach with concepts that are essential to being a great strength coach and developing well-rounded athletes.
Requisite competencies are the aspects of training that I feel are essential to develop in all athletes. These are the fundamentals. The basics. If you focus on only one area or aspect of these requisite competencies then you end up with a deficient athlete who lacks a well-rounded fitness base. The three requisite competencies, as I see it, are:
- Movement Competency
- Work Capacity Competency
- Locomotion Competency
Many fitness coaches live here and do a good job with this (as I stated earlier). In this area the key goal is progress the athlete to a level where they can move efficiently and fluidly in all three planes of motion, they have appropriate joint ranges of motion to satisfy the needs and demands of their sport, and they have basic competency of fundamental exercises – push, pull, squat, hinge, and lunge.
Work Capacity Competency
Work capacity is essential to general preparation for sport. This competency should be focused on developing a very robust level of fitness that can tolerate high amounts of work and allow the individual to be resilient when it comes to recovering from hard training or competition. Having a well developed aerobic system is a good starting point and how you develop this will depend on the methods you choose and, to a certain extent, the sport the athlete is training for – sports specific work capacity being the ultimate goal.
Movement competency deals with how an individual performs movement statically while locomotion competency deals with how well the person propels them-self through space (how they loco-mote). One can loco-mote in a variety of ways and they should all be developed – crawling, walking, skipping, running, and jumping (plyometrics, hopping, leaping, bounding, etc). The goal of locomotion competency is to develop athletes so that they have a very large catalog of locomotion options that they can call upon when participating in sport.
These are the fundamentals. They are not sexy by any means but they are an essential starting point when planning training. The role of the Fitness Coach should be to enhance all of these qualities and set the athlete up for success in their given sport. Focusing on only one component of the above requisite competencies ends up leaving athlete deficient and preventing them from attaining their highest potential. I know most coaches will read this and think, “I already know all that. We already do this stuff!”. But I would encourage you to really look at your program and think long and hard about whether or not you are doing the basics well. I think many believe that they do these things (when in fact they may only do one or two of them well) but they may be leaving some things on the table when it comes to developing requisite competencies.