How to Coach Movement Better, Part 3

We closed our last post with the phrase ‘Design begins where ability ends,’ which speaks to how we will go about creating a movement program for a client. There are a few important takeaways from that very philosophical-sounding phrase that I want to point out:

  • In order to drive adaptation, a stress needs to be placed on the body that is beyond what it is currently accustomed to.
  • That stress does not need to be so much that adaptation comes at the sacrifice of significant physical, psychological, or emotional resources. That would be adapting to survive, not thrive. Writhing around on the floor for minutes after a workout is an example of the former. Walking out minutes after a workout with a clear head and smile on your face is an example of the latter.
  • Effective design is not dependent on novelty, variety, or what seems fun and exciting. Quite the opposite in fact, as the best coaches know that consistency matters most for sustainable progress. We’ll unpack the underpinnings of this one throughout this post.

With that out of the way, let’s start by defining the steps we’ll use for this design:

  1. Use the 3 P’s Framework
  2. Honor proven training principles
  3. Write the movement program

The Three P’s Framework:

  • Prioritize
    • What were the red flags and low-hanging fruit that you uncovered during the assessment? Choose the 1-2 of these that will provide opportunity for small wins for your client to realize early on.
    • Example: You found that they had a hip shift to the left when they squat
  • Plan
    • What are you working towards improving? Decide on this and then tell the client: “Hey Jeff, remember how we discovered you shifting to your left when you squat? One of the things we’ll focus on in your first four weeks is bringing that back into balance. Here’s how that will help us get you closer to your goal of ___________”
    • That last little bit is crucial! Your client didn’t come in asking you to solve his ‘hip shift problem’, but you know how it ties into the bigger picture, so tell him!
    • This speaks to alignment – when you show the client your plan and explain it, they can align the goal they have with the actions you are having them take to get there. Hide either part of that equation (the plan or the sharing of it) and the client will check out and lose trust at some point. Loss of trust = client cancellation.
  • Progress
    • Start thinking of ways you can progress your client in a way that demonstrates success. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as: reps, sets, rest, tempo, load, complexity, etc.
    • In our example above, how would you begin to fix Jeff’s hip shift?
    • Remember that success breeds motivation, so you have to give them small wins to get them to show up consistently.
    • Don’t fall victim to the trap of giving too many (using everything described above at once) or too big (maxing out with load) of wins at once. Consistency > Intensity.

Honor Proven Training Principles:

  • KISS = Keep It Super Simple
    • Do you have a novice or intermediate client? (For our purposes, we’re addressing 99.9% of gym goers. If you think you have advanced clients, shoot me an email and we’ll talk further.)
      • Novice = Completed 500 training sessions, which breaks down to 3.33 years of coming 3x/wk or 2 years of coming 5x/wk
      • Intermediate = Completed 1000 training sessions, which breaks down to 6.66 years of coming 3x/wk or 4 years of coming 5x/wk
    • Focus appropriately for your client:
      • Novice = total body sessions, teaching control through ranges of motion in basic patterns without fatigue as a limiter, 3x/wk
      • Intermediate = split routine sessions, building volume to challenge control as fatigue sets in, 3x/wk
  • MED = Minimum Effective Dose
    • They need to do something that is just ahead of their current ability, not something crushing that leaves their resources totally depleted.
    • Why? They need to be fully confident in their ability to return tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. This fosters long-term sustainability of their fitness lifestyle.
    • Look back at the top two priorities you established earlier and decide how you’ll deliver success on those.

Write Their Movement Program:

  • Exercise Selection
    • What were they capable of doing in the assessment? Your decision to progress or regress them starts by answering this question.
    • Start with simplicity and air on the “too easy” side of things
    • Decide on what types of contractions are appropriate for their current fitness
      • Novice = isometric + cyclical
      • Novice/Intermedite = isometric + concentric/eccentric + cyclical
      • Intermediate = isometric + concentric/eccentric + dynamic (only if necessary for their journey) + cyclical
    • How many exercises per pattern?
    • How about sets, reps, rest, tempo?
    • See chart below for general recommendations when making these decisions:

Additional Resources:

Here are a couple handy charts that can help you pick out what movements you could choose to have your client do. It’s important to remember that within each exercise selection, there is an infinite number of ways to progress your client and show them success, which is ultimately what they want.

And below are two blank spreadsheets that can help you plan out what your training design will look like. Notice that there are two priority patterns with supportive ones to complement them. Also, pay attention to the subtle difference in the template for novices versus the template for intermediates:


Now that you’ve created the movement portion of their training design, you deliver it. This can be done online or in-person, depending on the model of your gym’s service offering. Once delivery kicks off, we can move into the final stage of how to coach movement better, which is correction, or ‘refinement.’ Stay tuned as we wrap things up in our next post.

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