by Bret Contreras December 10, 2010
I wanted to post a couple of quick announcements for my readers.
1. BC to NZ
It’s funny how things work out. On a Friday night in mid-August I stumbled upon a study by Matt Brughelli on the biomechanics of sprinting. I was supposed to meet up with friends that night but instead I found myself reading the full paper twice, then composing an email to two of the authors. One of the authors was John Cronin. To make a long story short, I spoke to John on Skype, we hit it off, and now I’m going to be leaving in less than two months to go to New Zealand to get my PhD.
I’ll be attending Auckland University of Technology (AUT), which is in my opinion the best college in the world for strength training and biomechanics when you consider the academic rigor, the professors, the vision, culture, and environment. I leave in the beginning of February and my program will be full-time for three years.
On the one hand, I’m ecstatic since I’ll be surrounded by some of the world’s most intelligent folks in regards to strength and sport training. I’m excited to make friends and engage in discussions with other professors and PhD students from other parts of the world. I’m excited to formulate my plan and get started on my thesis. And I can’t wait to soak up knowledge so I can become a better researcher. There is no other individual who I’d rather serve as my mentor than John Cronin.
On the other hand, I’m scared out of my mind to leave my family and friends. I’ve never ventured far from home, and I’m a bit of a momma’s boy. I have the greatest family anyone could ask for. My favorite day of the week is Sunday because me, my twin brother, my sister, and my niece usually visit my mother in the afternoon and my father in the evening. We watch tv, pig out, go swimming or hit up the jacuzzi, and go see movies. I also have a group of friends who I love to death. When I’m around my friends, it’s non-stop ripping on eachother, which I’ll really miss.
But I’m trying to focus on my future and the fact that Skype makes it very easy to stay in contact with loved ones even if you’re half-way across the world. And the fact that I’ll be in New-Freakin’ Zealand!
2. Review Paper on Spinal Flexion
My graduate-level Biomechanics class is coming to an end and I have to submit my review paper. I’ve been working for the last several weeks like crazy on a review paper on spinal flexion exercises. Actually I collaborated with a colleague of mine (Brad Schoenfeld) who is a research-machine and we’re going to get it published. I think I’ve read around 200 full papers in the past few weeks and I realize that I thoroughly enjoy researching. But I’m ready to be done with this paper! I now know more about disc degeneration than I ever thought possible! Anyway it takes a long time for an article to be published so you’ll have to sit tight. But this is a very good paper which I’m sure will be a popular journal article when the time comes.
3. What Makes a Great Trainer?
I’ve spent all this time talking about research, which begs the question: What makes a trainer great? Should personal trainers be devouring research?
The most important thing is your personality and attitude. Clients won’t like you if they can tell you don’t care about them. Clients also won’t like you if you don’t motivate them or inspire them to be better. The next most important thing is your ability to deliver results. Clients won’t want to leave you if they know that no other trainer can get them looking better than you!
These two things are the most important facets of being a good trainer. Here are some other important considerations. You need to work out. How will you know if a new exercise works if you aren’t in good shape to test it out? How will you evolve as a trainer if you can’t test out new pieces of equipment, new programs, and new methods? A side effect of training hard is that you’ll look good, which shows that you “walk the walk.” This is important to many clients.
You also need to read. In my earlier years as a trainer I focused solely on reading sites like TNation and Elitefts as well as books/manuals from guys like Eric Cressey, Kelly Baggett, etc. I also read dozens of “classics” such as Supertraining, The Charlie Francis Training System, The Science and Practice of Strength Training, Brawn, Dinosaur Training, etc. Now I read mostly journal research but I always take the time to read the articles and blogs of my favorite coaches. There are good coaches with years of experience who take the time to write articles and books, film DVD’s, speak at seminars, etc. You gain insight from these coaches experiences which would otherwise take you years to glean on your own.
Finally, you need to train a lot of people. You get good at training and delivering results from training! No matter how busy I’ve been in my life, I always train other clients for at least a couple hours per day. There were times when I trained others for ten hours per day, but that doesn’t allow you to read and learn from outside sources (since you’re also so busy writing so many programs). There’s an optimal balance that should be reached if you want to maximize your effectiveness as a trainer.
As for the researchers; some of them couldn’t coach their way out of a wet paper bag. This applies to many physical therapists too. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t listen to them. Their input is invaluable. They force us to grow and evolve. They’re the ones who make huge impacts on our training methodology. As you evolve as a trainer you’ll likely find yourself reading more and more research. But you shouldn’t start there – you wouldn’t understand any of it and it would be a waste of time. I have trouble understanding a lot of the research I read and I’m a 4.0 graduate student!
We’re all part of a big family – the sport coaches, personal trainers, strength coaches, athletic trainers, manual therapists, physical therapists, researchers, professors, biomechanists, and exercise physiologists. And we all need each other! I’m excited to take on multiple roles as a trainer and researcher.
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