3 Common Programming Mistakes Even Experienced Coaches Make


No matter what level or how experienced we are, mistakes WILL be made. Most coaches do the right things and push for their athletes to be the best they can be. But sometimes things slip through the cracks. Sometimes complacency sets in.

I think with all of the things a coach (or athlete for that matter) has to consider on a daily basis, it is hard to focus on everything to its fullest. This can happen due to limited training time as well.

Here are a few programming mistakes that most of us have been guilty of at some point:


Not Programming A Warmup


You see this quite often (I even make the mistake myself sometimes). Programming warmups is critical for a few reasons. For one, when writing programs for others, they will likely follow them as written. So, by not including a warmup of some sort, you leave them open to starting the program with NO WARMUP AT ALL. This is a mistake that can be critical, as injuries can easily occur in training.


Secondly, if you do not program a warmup (even for yourself), you may wander around taking too long because you are trying to think of what needs to be done. This clearly doesn’t make for efficient use of training time.


Trying to do Everything


Sure, there are benefits to many training styles. Sometimes that makes it difficult to choose your methods. Some coaches try to serve too many masters. The main issue I see is when coaches have 15 exercises, covering every area of training. They including Olympic weightlifting movements, powerlifting movements, strongman movements, bodybuilding, and the list goes on and on. They add and add, without ever taking anything away. You end up with poor technique, overtrained athletes, and mass confusion.

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Remember, there should be a reason for everything you include in your program, and for everything you remove. Sometimes, even if an exercise has merit and works, it could be a bad fit for your program because you already have too much volume for that day. Every plan must have give-and-take.


Overestimating Numbers


This is a problem that is likely innocent, but can be damaging to results. When basing programming on percentages, many coaches make the mistake of using training percentages based on a 1RM that is unrealistic. It may be a number that was hit at some point in their training career or is based on a higher rep max, but something they could not do regularly. This leads to training in rep ranges lower than the planned volume, or even missing reps in early work sets. That can be detrimental to progress as it throws off the plan, and really makes tracking difficult and inefficient.


I like to base training percentages on a number that I feel could be done for one-rep on nearly any day it was attempted. This keeps the ego at bay and allows you to train through the planned rep ranges.


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Remember, no matter what level or how experienced we are, mistakes WILL be made. There will never be a perfect program written, as there will never be a perfect execution of the program. Our focus has to be on being as efficient as possible with the time, knowledge, and resources at our disposal.


Which one of these have you done? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by ennuidesign



Science vs. Practicality in Strength Training: Who Can You Trust?


“I’m 260 pounds, all muscle!” This is the claim I saw someone make on Facebook a year or so ago in a discussion over training protocol (fortunately I did not involve myself). “ALL” MUSCLE! I thought, NO BONES, NO FAT, THAT’S PRETTY IMPRESSIVE! Impressive that you’re alive!

For many years, practicality in strength training was the main source of knowledge. The access to the educational resources that we have today was nonexistent for a great deal of time. But, with excessive resources comes the misuse of those with access to such resources.

With years of under the bar experience, years of working in the strength/conditioning/performance (whatever you want to call it) industry, and a degree in the field, people always ask me who should they take advice from (especially on the internet). This is a loaded question, and one that has become especially difficult to answer considering all of the hype marketing done in the fitness industry. The important thing to consider here is that you can’t take all your advice from one place.

If one coach or trainer claims to be the end-all answer, you are likely in the wrong place. There are so many things to consider when writing a program, giving nutrition advice, technique instruction, advising recovery protocol, etc, etc. It would be unwise to assume someone were the expert in all of these areas.

There are practical points and there are scientific points to training, both of which should be included. This leaves a lot more to consider than whether or not someone is big, strong, has a degree, or whatever the case may be.

In either case, a good place to start is to look at what the person has done. Here are some questions worth addressing in your analysis:

analysis photo


Have they coached great athletes? 

This can say a lot about a coach. Not always because they have coached a great athlete(s), but because to get into that position, often there is a lot of knowledge acquired. Working with someone who has won the genetics lottery is not the sign of a great coach, it is what is done with that responsibility, or what was done to receive that responsibility in the first place.

Have they been great athletes/lifters?

This is another tricky one. The reason for this is that some people give great athletes credit for being very knowledgeable in a sport, even though they might have just been incredibly gifted genetically. However, there is some value in achievement, and knowledge acquired through that achievement.

Sometimes it is the decent athlete/lifter who was a student of the game who becomes the great coach.

“Mediocre athletes that tried like hell to get good are the best coaches”. – Mark Rippetoe

However, if they have been great, there are always things they know (cues, techniques, etc.) that they might have picked up from their coaches over their career.

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Who have they learned from? 

Not everyone will have access to well-known mentors, but all of us have learned from someone. This could include books, videos, seminars, etc. but there is nothing quite like spending time working with someone in person. I have had the good fortune of working for and with many great minds. I have learned, debated, and discussed training with many of the most well-respected in the industry, in my opinion. This is the value of knowing who someone has learned from, or at least knowing their eagerness to learn and grow.

Many coaches sacrifice time, money, and energy to learn from those they respect in the industry. I know I have. Have the people you are looking to for advice paid their dues?

What is their background?

This point relates to the one above. Background can include who they have learned from, who they have trained with, where they have trained, what is their area of expertise, what kind of training styles have they/do they use, what events have they attended to get better, their educational background, years of experience…the list goes on and on.

Learn what you can about someone before you take their advice too seriously.

How many years of experience do they have? 

In terms of experience, you can look at the years someone has been training (under the bar experience) and you can look at the years someone has trained others (coaching experience). You can look at other areas of experience that could be useful as well, such as competition experience, leadership experience, programming experience, etc.

All of the above experiences can make someone a more knowledgeable coach. It’s not always the years, but the hours put in. Some coaches study and work a lot more in 1 year than others do in 5 years.

What is their education background (formal or practical education)?

Another point to consider is education. How much emphasis do they put on learning and honing their craft? Do they have advanced degrees and/or years of experience? Do they spend time getting results with clients, athletes, etc.?

This does not mean that one way is more important than the other. Many of my college classmates did not understand training beyond the books, and did just enough to get through the courses. To the contrary, many huge strong lifters or bodybuilders do not understand programming, functional anatomy, or exercise technique. They just have great genetics and work hard. This is confusing to many beginners or people looking for advice. The “muscle magazines” can compound this issue.

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There are many more questions that could be asked in this scenario, but this is a good place to start.

There are things to be learned from everyone. You might not accept everything they have to say, but most people with education or practical knowledge will have something to offer. One thing an education provides is the base of knowledge and the ability to decipher quality information from hyped fluff. This can go a long way.

Most coaches know that a program that looks great in theory might not always look so great in practice. So herein lies the value of practical knowledge. A pencil-neck guru will argue all day with you about the validity of a training protocol while never using it himself! Those with the practical knowledge know that there is a major difference in an effective program and the latest research fad.

All in all, what you have to remember is that there is value in both formal education and practical training knowledge. You must be sure to have both if you want to be the best coach. So who should you take advice from? Everyone and no one. Carefully.


The Lessons of a Busy Year; How to Have a Stronger, Better 2015


I will start by saying that I am a big goal-setter. However, most resolutions fail because they rarely have a plan of action behind them. I still like this time of year, as it has a way of making most people reflect on their life, goals, and how they plan to move forward to have […]

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Standing on the Backs of Giants; Recycled Ideas and Concepts


How often do you hear about the “latest, innovative training methods”? I am sure it is pretty often. There are hype marketers all throughout the industry, pushing replayed and recycled ideas as their own “new” methods. At the end of the day, there are almost no new ideas. If people are claiming to have some […]

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What’s Worth Reading – Best Strength and Fitness Articles, Videos, etc. : Week 4

Strength Fitness What's Worth Reading

Welcome to Week 4 of What’s Worth Reading! Here is what I have written lately: Overcome Adversity and Be Great   Here are the articles I have checked out this week. http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/a-career-after-coaching/ By Mark Watts This is a solid overview of what the displaced Strength Coach has in store after his/her career as a Collegiate Coach […]

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Overcome Adversity and Be Great

Why are there so many moderately good lifters, but few great? Even though many of the moderate level lifters may be more genetically gifted.   There are many factors at work, of course. But, a major variable is how they handle and overcome adversity. Everyone who trains to be the best will run into hard […]

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What’s Worth Reading – Best Strength and Fitness Articles, Videos, etc. : Week 3

Strength and Fitness - Worth Reading

Welcome to the 3rd Week of What’s Worth Reading. Check out what I’ve been up to below. Here are some articles I have written or been included in this week:   http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/why-you-should-vary-your-back-squat-stance http://breakingmuscle.com/editors-picks/proven-strategies-for-getting-stronger   Here are the strength and fitness articles I have been reading this week: http://www.supertraininggym.com/2012/03/underloading-reloading-by-mark-bell/   Listen, if you have never read […]

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What’s Worth Reading – Best Strength and Fitness Articles, Videos, etc. : Week 2

What's Worth Reading Best Fitness and Strength articles and videos

Here is the week 2 edition of What’s Worth Reading. I have added a new article this week. Find it here: http://slonestrength.com/training-plan-worthless/   Also, there have been a lot of good articles and videos I have seen lately, check them out below.   Articles   http://fitbusinessinsider.com/common-errors-squatting/ by Eric Cressey   This is a very interesting article giving […]

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Why Your Training Plan is Worthless

atlas stones slone strength

How many times have you seen a program or training plan that was just perfectly written, but the person at the wheel just never kept the programs on course? It happens all the time in both training and nutrition. The training plan you write is practically worthless on its own. The same can be said […]

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What’s Worth Reading – Best Strength and Fitness Articles, Videos, etc. : Week 1

training toolbox slone strength systems

In an effort to save you the effort, I am adding this resource of some good information I have ran across recently. Check it out, as I will try to add new info weekly.   Also, I have posted a few articles recently. If you want to check them out, you can do that below.   […]

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