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Category: Coaching Advice (Page 1 of 2)

Remembering a Mentor

RIP Frank Engel (Nov 2, 1961 – Jan 7, 2020)

You wouldn’t be reading this were it not for Frank Engel.

Back in 2004… it would have had to be around fall… my hockey coach, Rocky Trottier, told us that we were old enough to start lifting weights. So many of us did.

I had spent countless hours of my youth hurling hockey pucks at garages, nets, brick walls. I had a piece of plastic fake ice. I liked playing with a longer stick because I could really confuse attackers when they came through. I liked taking slap shots because I wasn’t good at wrist shots. I practiced stick handling fast, but never learned how to do it without looking down at the puck. And I spent my other free time playing hockey video games.

I wanted to be a professional hockey player, and I knew that I would need to practice — to get better — if I were going to get there.

So when Rocky recommended we start lifting weights, I was on board. That’s something that athletes do, so I should do that.

I remember walking in the first day. There’s lots of commotion. I’m not a loud guy, but I at least knew a few of the people around. I had no idea how to do any of the lifts I was about to do.

So I walk up to this hulking, scruffy dude who tells me the workout is on the whiteboard. I think he even gave me a notebook to track my workout. He gave me all the weights, told me to walk around to the different pieces and just do the workout. The last one was a trap bar deadlift: 150lbs for 10 reps. “That one’s gonna kick your ass,” he told me.

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Getting Good Technique Out of Ex-Athletes and Crossfitters

If you’ve followed me for… pretty much any length of time, you know that I tend to prioritize quality movement before most other things. That’s why I’ve been releasing one video a day on various exercises for the last 239 days and counting.

So I care about good technique. It’s not always the answer, but biomechanics is interesting to me.

Some clients, though, come in with blatant disregard for technique. This is commonly the recovering Crossfitter or college athlete. They don’t feel like they’ve done a workout unless they’re lying in a puddle of sweat by the end of it. They might do 2 hour workouts for fun. They’re usually addicted to the burn.

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Helping Someone Solve Their Own Problems

This one is hard because, in my opinion, you help more when you try to help less. It’s like dating: if you reallllly like someone (a.k.a. they are hot), it never happens. Part of that is our negativity bias, but you also don’t want to sound like too much of a know-it-all.

There's a pile of green good balls on the ground with a butterfly sitting atop them. The heart says, "Brain, LOOK!" The brain, staring at a single black ball of bad, responds, "Not NOW! Can't you see I'm BUSY?!"
Credit: The Awkward Yeti

I have learned to say less. I want them to do all the talking if possible. Partly because I don’t like talking. But mostly because listening is where the magic happens. They will tell you everything you (they?) need to know.

I just try to ask leading questions and be on their team. If I knew what they knew, thought what they thought, and believed what they believed, what state would I be in? What goals would I find realistic? What habits would I be interested in changing?

This works for general goal setting, but I have to tell you that this alone doesn’t do much other than help them stay in the gym rather than backpedaling. The people who see the most results are the ones who are just embarrassed by their body, their health, and their actions.

So not everything can be sunshine and rainbows.

How do you know if you reach the “right way”?

I’m looking for a flush scapula on the rib cage. If I see it coming off of the rib cage in any area, then I want to fix it. The only other situation where this doesn’t work is when someone is substituting scapular elevation for protraction.

Scapular winging is likely when the rib cage is wide. When you look down on it from above, it looks more like a rectangle and less like a circle. This makes it difficult for the scaps to swing around because they have to make a sharp turn.

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