Category Archives: S&C

The Calendar of Accountability

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A key issue that a lot of people have with training – both athletes and people training for fitness – is seeing results consistently. They might see a couple of weeks or month of improvements, followed by weeks of stagnation, or worse, a regression back to where they started. This usually results in frustration, leaving them asking “why aren’t I getting anywhere??” and, occasionally, people giving up completely.

So what causes stagnation, or a negative reduction in training results? If you’re healthy then the answer is always the same: the body is not receiving the required stimulus to change.

The body is lazy. It will quite happily carry on working the way it is doing until it is given a reason to do something else. If the body is asked to lift a heavier weight than it does normally, or for more reps than normal, then it panics! This panic will cause it to adapt by becoming stronger and more efficient at recovery. If the body is asked to run further or at a faster pace than normal, then it will panic again. In this instance the body will adapt by producing more red blood cells and increasing the force of the heart to move more oxygen around.

However, if the body is asked to lift the weight it is used to lifting, or running the distance that it’s used to lifting at a pace it can do easily, then no panic occurs. The body is not sufficiently stressed to feel the need to adapt. This will lead to stagnation. Even worse than that, if the body recieves no stimulus at all, then its fitness will reduce. For the person training for health, this is can be demoralising. For the competitive athlete, it can be disastrous!

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Cardio or weights first? It depends!

A very common question that comes up, whether it’s from clients or from family and friends, is “What should I be doing first, cardio or weights?” The response is always the same: “it depends.” This normally annoys people, as I then need to explain what it depends on and why (and in the case of family and friends boring them in the process), and it usually doesn’t end with the answer they were actually fishing for! So let’s have a look at what it depends on.

Whenever you perform any kind of training at all, you are providing a set of stimuli for the body, for example: a reduction of muscle and liver glycogen (fuel which has been used up during the exercise); a change in the pH levels of the muscles and the blood (your body using fuel makes the muscles and blood slightly more acidic); structural ‘damage’ to the muscle cells and protein degradation (by force being applied to them by increasingly forceful contractions), as well as many others. Each of these stimuli cause inflammation in the affected tissues, which despite what the anti-oxidant marketeers and holistic health quacks keep spouting, is not a bad thing. Indeed, this inflammation is a key element of the adaptive process and is what causes our bodily systems to get better and adapt after exercise.

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Have I hired an S&C Coach? Or a Personal Trainer in disguise?

Hi everyone,

Over the last few years, there seems to have been quite an uptick in the number of people calling themselves a ‘strength and conditioning coach’, or claiming that they are able to provide ‘strength and conditioning’ for athletes and consequently being paid to do just that. Now this is a trendy, hip term that certainly gets people’s attention, especially at this time of year as preseason hits full swing, or people sign up to 10K runs and half marathons after the summer holiday splurge!

But, what actually is an S&C coach, and who should and should not be using the title? Let’s have a look………

(Nb. this post is discussing the training of sports people with the expressed aim of improving as a competitive athlete, not people looking to improve general fitness)

Defining the term

Here in the UK, there are things called ‘protected titles’, which exist to ensure that the person using them is actually qualified in the service they intend to provide.  This is to make sure people are, firstly, safe, and secondly, not getting ripped off. For someone to be able to use these titles, or advertise that they are able to provide the service the titles are related to, they must prove (through various means) that they are capable of doing so.

Now, this does not mean that what they do is effective or safe (see the arguments against chiropractic, which carries the protected title ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’ despite the practice essentially being nonsense, and potentially dangerous), but it does mean that the person using the title has gone through some kind of vetting process before being allowed to ask for your money.

The title ‘S&C Coach’ or similar is not currently a protected title in the UK, nor is there any protection of the claim to be able to provide S&C. This means that literally anyone can give themselves this title or charge you for being ‘coached’ by them regardless of their education, experience or competencies.

This terrifies me.

Why? Because the nature of S&C training and the loads placed on the person’s physical structures and systems mean that a fine balance between getting stronger and being badly injured is always being struck. In order to fully appreciate and mitigate the inherent dangers of such training requires several years of study and practice, and even if the uneducated coach is not causing injury, they still might not be providing a suitable stimulus to make you stronger or faster.  So at best, you may have wasted your time and money, at worst, you may become chronically injured.

So, in order to define the ‘S&C Coach’, we need to be able to give usable thresholds on their education and experience.  This is tricky, but not impossible. For a start, there is no single qualification that demonstrates a coach’s effectiveness, but there are a few that you’re likely to see in Britain and Ireland that show that they have demonstrated the required knowledge to at least keep you safe. These are:

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