by Bret Contreras January 24, 2010
Patrick Ward is a coach I met via a strength coach forum. I’ve visited him on several occasions (he works only a couple miles away from where I live) and I can tell you first hand that Patrick is an extremely intelligent, top-notch trainer. Patrick also maintains an excellent blog, so please check it out. I recently sat down with Patrick and threw the following six questions at him. Here is what he had to say:
1) Patrick, describe the shift in thinking you’ve had over your career as a strength coach and the various methodology and gurus that influenced you.
Wow, that is a loaded question! I started out lifting when I was 13 (I am 30 now, almost 31), so I have had many influences along the way.
When I started out, I just lifted to get bigger (I was a small kid). While I was working as a trainer at a gym in NYC, I became good friends with one of the trainers who was a competitive powerlifter. He was really instrumental in changing my ideas of training. He would lend me a lot of the Milo Strength Journals from Ironmind (where I read many Dr. Ken articles), as well as some of the classic strength books like Super Squats, Dinosaur Training and Brawn. So I got really into reading about strength training and that basically was my “real” foundation in training – squats, deadlifts, presses, etc.
I then started reading more about Louie Simmons and Westside barbell. That prompted me to purchase Mel Siff’s “Supertraining” and Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s “Science and Practice of Strength Training”. It was pretty much over from there…I was hooked. I read everything I could on strength training, and I even joined an Olympic weightlifting team and learned the lifts and competed for a little bit.
Around the early 2000’s (probably around 2002 I think) I saw Mike Boyle speak, and that was really influential as well. After I saw him speak I started checking out all kinds of other great coaches like Vern Gambetta and Al Vermiel. Additionally, Mike was talking a lot about various rehab professionals, so from there I started reading things by Shirley Sahrmann, Gray Cook and Stuart McGill. Since then my library has grown considerably over the past several years.
2) How does being an LMT make you a more effective trainer?
Soft tissue therapy is something that I had always been interested in (especially after reading Charlie Francis’s book Training For Speed), so getting my massage license just gave me another tool in the bag. I don’t sit around and do massage like a traditional massage therapist. I use it when I feel that it will give me the result I want with regard to getting someone to have better awareness, decrease muscle tone and/or improve overall movement (which of course happens when the individual is off the table and performing exercises or movements). Additionally, it is a great thing to be able to offer when a client or athlete feel a little “beat-up” after training hard for consecutive days. There are many opinions out there on massage, many different modalities (ART, MFR, NMT, etc), and many ideas/theories on why it works and what is actually taking place. I have some of my own ideas and skepticism regarding what it is that I do…but that is a totally different interview.
3) You’ve recently opened up a studio with Keats Snideman. Please shed some light on the decisions you faced before opening up the studio. I’m sure you have some great advice for aspiring trainers wishing to open up their own business.
Don’t do it!!!
Having your own facility is awesome. I love that I can open up shop whenever I want, say what I want, do what I want, and take vacation when I want. Of course, having your own facility also comes with headaches. For a young trainer, being good at what you do is very helpful and you additionally need to know a thing or two about running a business and marketing (something I need to learn A LOT more about!).
Everyday is a learning experience and it has been great. We opened the place up only a few months ago, September 2009. Before that Keats and I were both just renting various massage rooms and gym space at personal training studios – it was pretty miserable. Keats and I actually own our own companies. We just split the rent at the facility. But, we share a lot of the same ideas and we are trying to do more things together with regard to lectures, classes, etc…
4) Now that Youtube has become so popular, we see a lot of videos uploaded from popular trainers. What are the main problems you see with exercise form and methods being espoused by many of today’s trainers?
Youtube, like all of the internet, can be vary dangerous. Anyone can log on and proclaim they are an expert. Unfortunately, the public isn’t to informed on what is “good” or “bad” – they typically go with what looks “cool” or what promises the quickest way to get results.
One of the biggest issues with youtube is that exercise technique on most of the videos is horrible! A lot of these people are strength coaches or facility owners, and they put this stuff up as if they are proud of it. Either I have a totally different idea of what good exercise technique is or these videos really shows us how far this industry has to go (probably a little of both).
But, that is how the internet goes. There is a lot of garbage out there.
5) Have you got any projects in the woodworks? What’s next for Patrick Ward?
Well, this will probably be published after my lecture for the NSCA Arizona State Clinic. Keats and I are talking about the Art & Science of Strength and conditioning and how critical thinking and skepticism fits into the whole thing.
After that, there are a bunch of con ed. courses I am looking to take (always trying to learn more!) and from there, just trying to do the best I can with my clients and get the best results possible.
6) Quick responses:
Mobility before stability:
This is what I learned most from checking out Gray Cook’s work. Each joint has to show its optional mobility before you can try and train for stability. This concept has been further driven home after hanging out with physical therapist Charlie Weingroff a few times. He has taught me a ton and is probably my biggest influence right now. I never did an internship in this field, so everything I have learned is because I wanted to go out and learn it (con ed., conferences, books, DVDs, etc), so hanging out with Charlie and having him talk to me about some of his concepts has been incredibly helpful.
Stability before mobility:
While mobility before stability is the way it should go, stability before mobility may sometimes be needed depending on the person and their individual issues. The “art” of strength and conditioning is really about being able to assess the needs of the person standing in front of you and determining the best approach to helping them get the most out of their training program.
Great tool. They are a nice to have but not a need to have. I started playing with some exercises like swings and getups about a year and a half ago. Since working with Keats, I have really learned a ton about proper technique and coaching some of these exercises, so that has been really helpful.
Bilateral vs. unilateral lifts:
I am a middle of the road guy, and don’t like to speak in absolutes. Bilateral and unilateral lifts both have their place. It just depends on the individual in question and what you are looking to get out of the exercises. I use a lot of unilateral training with people, but we still do bilateral squats and deadlifts when the opportunity presents itself.
Again, I am a middle of the road guy. If things are tight, then stretch. I think that people who speak in absolutes about this stuff tend to take things way out of context. Programs should be well rounded and some people may need stretching, while others may not. We use all kinds of methods at our facility – soft tissue work, mobility work, static stretching, muscle energy techniques (aka contract-relax stretching), active isolated stretching, etc. It is all good stuff! I am a fan of whichever tool is going to get you the best result. For some it may be one thing and for others it may be something else. If all you have is a hammer, then everything will look like a nail.
Thank you very much for your time Patrick! It’s been a pleasure.
Thanks, Bret. It has been fun.
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