you think that YOU are strong do you?”
- “How to become a strength & conditioning
coach without going to business school”
– THE STRONGEST OF THEM ALL?
debate for a moment. What do you consider to be the truest
measure of absolute strength? Do you identify strength
with the squat, deadlift, benchpress, or even the arm
curl? If so, then who do you consider to be the strongest
guy or girl you know? Is it super-freaky Fred, the guy
at work who can bench 390 lbs at a body weight of 165
lbs? Is it that guy at the Arnold Bodybuilding Classic
Bench Press competition who benched 685 lbs at a body
weight of 198 lbs? Or is it Dave Tate, the well-known
strength coach who is preparing to squat 1000 lbs?
are all amazing feats. But how can normal people, those
that aren’t “freaks of nature”, excel in a test of strength?
Well how’s about this statement: “the truest test of relative
upper body strength, and one that has application to everyday
living, labor, and sports performance, is the 1-arm chin-up”?
Is it possible that the 1-arm chin-up is a better test
of “true” strength than the bench press? Remember that
this is just a “theoretical debate”…
the opportunity to discuss and debate this issue is available
because everyone has an opinion on “true” strength. Regardless,
here is a chance for plenty of “everyday” people to narrow
the strength gap between themselves and some of the much
bigger guys in the gym. Look around your training facility.
Sure most of the guys perform a bench press with their
body weight (and much more) and everyone should be able
to do some pull-ups, but wouldn’t a 1-arm
chin-up really turn some heads?
many people do you know can do one? How many people do
you know have even tried one? In this day and age of “the
more mass the better”, people that have incredible relative
strength ratios (strength per unit of body mass) are often
overlooked, but this exercise can be a great “performance”
equalizer. After all, the bigger you are, the harder this
task is likely to be.
Now that you are a little more curious about the exercise,
your first question is probably, “How do I do a 1-arm
chin-up”? According to Brad Pilon, nutrition researcher
and label expert, “It is best to use a semi-pronated grip
because the body will naturally twist into this position
if you try to use a supinated grip.” In less technical
terms, this means that the palm of your hand should be
perpendicular to your body, rather than facing towards
or away from your body. Fortunately, strength coaches
such as Charles Poliquin and legend Arnold Schwarzeneggar
believe that this is the strongest grip position in the
this position, allow yourself to rest briefly in a full
hanging position. When it finally comes time to grab the
chin-bar and pull yourself 18-24 inches vertically with
just 1-arm and 1-lat muscle, remember that in order for
it to be a true measure of strength it has to start from
a dead hang, no “bouncing” on that first rep. Not only
should anyone feel a little pride in performing this impressive
task of strength but mountain climbers and many combat
athletes will likely be rewarded with this newfound strength.
However, now that you have more likely failed miserably
in your attempt to “reverse-curl” yourself to the top
position of the chin-up, you must be wondering how you
can accomplish this “easier said than done” feat of strength.
In essence, your training programs should almost always
mimic as closely as possible the test or competitive situation
in which you will perform. For example, the goal is simply
to do a single 1-arm chin-up, so there is no point in
training with moderate intensities or for muscular endurance.
You need to stick to 6 RM training or less, and the closer
to 1-3 RM training the better. For your choice of exercises,
1-arm pulling movements are paramount. You need, and want
to perform most exercises one arm at a time. Fortunately
there are many options.
pulldowns Sit as you would to do a regular pulldown, however
this time you will be using a D-handle, rather than the
traditional pulldown bar. Grasp the handle with the previously
described semi-pronated grip and pull down, bringing the
elbow into the side. Be sure to go through a full range
of motion and do not twist as you do the exercise.
1-arm pull-ups This requires the use of a Gravitron machine
(or another commercial assisted chin-up machine). Be sure
to use the appropriate assistance and practice the 1-arm
chin-up. You should progress to using less and less assistance
1-arm pull-ups This exercise comes from Charles Poliquin’s
book, “The Poliquin Principles”. Perform the 1-arm chin-up
but this time you are allowed to brace your working arm
with the opposite arm. Simply by holding onto the forearm
of the working arm, things become more stable and a little
easier. Here again, progress to using less and less assistance
rows Rest the left hand and left knee on a flat bench,
lean over and keep the lower back flat. Grasp a dumbbell
in the right hand with the arm in Full extension and slowly
row it up to the lower abdomen. Keep the low back tensed
in a neutral position and the right elbow tight to the
side. Slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position.
are also several bilateral exercises (exercises that use
both arms simultaneously) that will help you improve,
with the obvious being weighted chin-ups. In addition,
you would likely benefit from performing towel chin-ups.
chin-ups improve your grip strength, something that is
very likely an important contributor to this test of strength.
Fortunately, Matt Jordan, a strength coach out at the
Canadian Olympic Training center in Calgary has these
tips to share aside on the towel chin-up. Towel Chin-up
Get a strong yet small towel and loop it over a chinning
bar. Grab each end of the towel with a very firm grasp
and perform regular chin-ups. You will have no choice
but to use a very strong grasp here, otherwise the towel
will simply slip out of your hands. Don’t restrict the
use of the towel to chin-ups. It can also be used in rowing,
pulldowns, etc. Just loop it inside a D-handle or V-handle
and perform the exercise to get extra grip work. The rest
(the hard work that is) is up to you. Don’t expect to
be doing 1-arm chin-ups in a week, but if you plot out
a reasonable course of action, then you will soon have
a pretty unique talent.
2 – SO YOU WANT TO BE A STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
question that has recently surfaced a great deal on websites
and in the CB ATHLETIC CONSULTING emails is, “How do I
become a strength and conditioning professional”?
off, there are 2 distinct qualities that most successful
strength coaches have:
– “Real world” experience. Some coaches may quit school
(or go to part-time status) and simply begin working at
a gym to gain experience. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend
this, although you can be a successful “personal trainer”
this way (after all, like in the business world, many
entrepreneurs have only a high school degree). You will
have to learn a lot about the body and how it works on
your own, a very difficult task indeed. Furthermore, by
choosing this route you shut yourself out from future
possibilities, such as becoming a Certified Strength and
Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) because a university or
college degree is a pre-requisite for this. The CSCS designation
is a standard necessity for getting a true Strength and
the second quality, a formal education is absolutely necessary.
– Go to university/college.
Kinesiology/Human Movement/Nutrition/Exercise Science
(whatever, etc.) and do extra work that will distinguish
you from the rest of the crowd. A master's degree may
be necessary. Consider getting additional certifications
such as Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy,
or even becoming a chiropractor. Become a nationally certified
coach in the sport you want to work in. Get lots of practical
experience. Basically, sounds like long hoursin the gym
and in the books. But really, if you want to be a strength
coach, training isn’t work.
get caught up in the “schooling” aspect, and don’t spend
all your time training, you must meld the two together.
Balance the basic fundamentals with brilliant theoretical
programs. Give everything a try, all programs, all exercises,
and all nutrition. And even when you think you know what
is right, don’t get tunnel vision. Always keep an open
mind. Aside from dangerous practices, never say that one
type of training “will not work”. Obviously, every training
system under the sun has produced one individual with
successful results. Every thing can work. Strength coaching
is a combination of science and art, but fortunately it
is not rocket science.
to recognize the priorities. For example, don’t spend
all day reading about alcohol-induced motor behavior patterns
when your goal is to train powerlifters. Don’t get sidetracked
by your thirst for knowledge, it is impossible to know
everything. If it comes down to it, take a hit on your
geography exam if it means you will have more time to
study and understand the exercise physiology class you
are in. Even if it means taking a part-time course load
so that you can gain experience volunteering with local
teams or working part-time at a gym. Do what is necessary
to reach your goal. Never be left thinking “what if”?
basically, a successful strength and conditioning coach
combines these 2 attributes. You can’t have one without
the other and success does not go hand-in-hand with ignorance.
Oh yeah, learn how to market yourself. Being a strength
coach is as much a business as many other professions.
You have to learn to sell yourself, something that does
not get taught in many Kinesiology classes! Make contacts.
Don't hesitate to contact any and all coaches. They will
help. Probably because they wish someone had been there
to help them when they started. After all, it’s not quite
an "Established" field, especially in Canada and many
other countries in Europe.
yourself to work for yourself. That’s how the most successful
strength coaches are such as Ian King, Charles Poliquin,
and Peter Twist. They all have an entrepreneurial spirit,
drive, marketing sense, and determination. Makes them
all sound like your Bill Gates but with some athletic
talent. Are you beginning to see the need for a “business”
mind in the industry yet? Most importantly, and worth
mentioning 3 or 4 times, keep an open mind. Talk to lots
of people, and be prepared to spend a lot of money now
(when you might not have any) in order to make some money
in the future. Most aspiring professionals should get
a lot of technical information from the NSCA (National
Strength and Conditioning Association), by reading other
strength coaches articles and philosophies, and of course
from Kinesiology classes.
check out the exclusive links section at www.cbathletics.com.
You will find strength coaches that have taken a variety
of routes to reach their goals and have built successful
careers. In particular, check out www.sport-specific.com
for examples of Coach Peter Twist’s success (also a former
McMaster University graduate)!
may not get a lot of financial encouragement or professional
respect at first. In fact, be prepared to spend money,
lots of money, in order to make a little money. Furthermore,
there is no clear or “correct” path to becoming a successful
strength coach. In fact, each generation of coaches finds
a new and exciting way to the endpoint. Luck may have
a lot to do with it, as good coaches may unfortunately
get passed over, but if this is what you really want to
do, then you will be working hard when lady luck “comes
a callin’ on you”.