Success Leaves Clues: Lessons in Programming and Practical Application from Olympic Coaches

“You have to have an objective, a goal, some thought process, some strategy in your mind for whatever you do. Otherwise it’s a waste of time.” – Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan

“Know the rules before you break them. Know your rules physiologically, because you have to know how to adjust further down the road. If you don’t know you’re breaking any rules, that’s when you run into trouble. Study the history of training planning, periodization, block training, etc. Structure comes from studying history. Your program is a lesson plan, a hypothesis. Be honest with the results.” – Dan Pfaff

Dan Pfaff

Dan Pfaff

I’ll admit it. Ellie Spain beat me to it in the compilation of all the best quotes from the coaches during my week at the coaching apprenticeship at the World Athletics Center. During the course of the week, I occasionally looked over at Nick Sheuerman (who compiled them) and saw him typing as furiously as I was and felt fiercely competitive that I make sure to nail all the gems. Haha. You will find her excellent blog post compilation here.

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Instead of breaking it down into days for topics, I figured “themes” would be more appropriate, and allow for better reference in the long run. This first one will be about the strength and conditioning end, programming principles, exercise selection as well as a liberal sprinkling of coaching wisdom. Well more like a smothering. Stuart McMillan was the main voice for strength and conditioning throughout the week, so a lot of what I share will be from him, but really all the coaches contributed, it was just his niche a bit more than the others.

When you want to see how to do something right, go to the best first and filter the knowledge to what’s applicable for who you work with. What applies to elite athletes, will not apply to everyone, that’s obvious. They are outliers. True outliers, not just in a physical sense, but in a mental one as well. The .001 percent. But the same principles apply to everyone. That’s why they are principles. The principles by which the best athletes program and guide their progress are the same principles by which everyone should program their training.

“Sophisticated simplicity” is the term I keep thinking of in my head when thinking back on what I observed and learned. Simple because of the adherence to the basics, the laws and the principles. Sophisticated because of the attention to detail to all considerations for each athlete. The “art of the individual” was never more apparent than at WAC. Yet, when looking at it as a whole, the simplicity and flow of their programming, the daily, monthly, and yearly plans for their athletes, gave you a sense of; coaches who knew what to apply and when, yet had a deep respect for what Dan calls the “chaotic system” that is the human body. A program is nothing more than a plan. A hypothesis. Of course, the better the coach, and the higher the athlete, the better (hopefully at least) the plan.

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But, in saying this, Dan and Stu also emphasized the first responsibility coaches have, beyond just creating a good program:

Instilling belief in your athletes/clients is the first role of a coach. 

It’s what gets buy-in. Buy-in is what gets them to stick to the plan you have crafted for their success. If an athlete can trust you, they can trust your workouts. They can trust your plan. This is also why you can have sub-par programming and training, you can have less than ideal technical coaching, and yet you see coaches that produce high-level athletes anyway. Why? Their athlete believes in the process. This is huge. And this is the opposite of the approach I first took in becoming a coach and trainer. I stuffed myself full of technical knowledge and “how-tos”, but I didn’t really get this at first. In fact, I would say that while I “knew” it so to speak, I didn’t put as much thought and time into the “instilling belief” part. Granted, as I was very passionate about what I was doing, there was definite belief leakage. Coaching is a skill you have to hone even more than just accumulating knowledge. You can get incredible performances from belief. People buy-in to something they believe in, not because it’s “the perfect plan” but because they believe it will work. No one cares about “a great coach” with “great ideas” who isn’t training anyway. You need both. Which is unfortunately is also why so many fads last and get mad followers. They build belief.

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So before I talk about the technical programming, exercise selection etc, remember the first rule: instill belief in your athletes and clients. You need them, and if you want to find what works, and develop as a coach, you need people to try shit out on!

Of course,  if you have a high level of integrity, and a desire to learn and apply the best possible, the methods you give someone will be based on safety, science, best practices and the best interests of the athlete.

Stuart says, “When I met Dan Pfaff, I learned the importance of being a holistic coach. Dan is a master generalist.

You have to take it all into consideration if you want to develop an elite athlete. For average clients, this filters down into “as much as possible”. You are NOT in control of every part of their life, or even most of it. Not at all. But it is still part of your job to influence them and educate them on the bigger picture.

In a high level training environment, you can keep very detailed tabs on your athletes. At the WAC I saw them take every detail and variable into consideration (a brief list further down). That degree of detail is not always possible, or necessary with a client you see 2-3x a week. But a holistic approach still matters. Broaden your influence as much as possible to know the stressors that your athletes/clients deal with, in order to create a program that suits them, and will get the results you want.

For average clients, this usually comes down to keeping tabs on sleep, nutrition, outside stress, injury, and then just getting to know them over time.

Methodology Base for Programming: 

When broken down, the guiding principles to “why” a program looks this way, or this exercise is added etc….is not new. There was nothing wildly unfamiliar about the strength and conditioning the athletes were doing. It feels kind of redundant to say so, but I find often in the “fitness” world, we hold up in awe what “athletes do” without taking into consideration:

1.) Training level – what is your training “age”. Dan said “For a motor moron (love that haha) it could be 2 years!” You need to earn the right to specify. Before your training can be specific, it must be broad and comprehensive. My boss Geoff said this perfectly when we were discussing this “Someone will tell me ‘Oh I am adding volume to my snatches’ when I might say ‘Well some pushups might actually make you a better athlete right now’.”

2.) Minimum effective dose – This goes back to being holistic in your approach. You need to dose your stressors and do smart work, not just hard work. Stressors are just anything that affects you on any level (physiological, psychological etc). You want to do the least for the greatest effect. Anymore is just kinda dumb. Dan said “Hard work is smart work. Excessively hard work is stupid.”

Everything here can be applied to the average client in the right context. 

Stuart: “I base my methodology on: mastery of the basics. There’s a reason why coaches are attracted to what we do, and that’s because we are about the basics. The underpinning for a lot of my philosophies is: Know, Think and Guess.”

75% of what I do I know it works. It has a sound base in science and experience.

20% of what I do I think will work.

5% of what I do I am guessing. Playing a bit.”

He is careful with what he guesses at, but this is one of the things that keeps him interested and motivated in his profession.

This wasn’t just something that sounded good in his presentation, but was evident every time they answered a specific question. Very few times were the answers overly technical or “whoa”. Simplicity ruled.

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Basic SnC Principles for programming development: 

1.) Classification scheme – Posterior vs Anterior dominant. Pushers vs Pullers.

Before you can create a plan you need to know who you are dealing with from a movement standpoint, and a neural “type” standpoint. This is where you can classify people pretty accurately. Stuart shared his classification scheme from an movement standpoint, and then I’ll add on Dan’s “neural” classifications he mentioned a couple times. Bear in mind, that I am using their names because of who I heard say it, but it is pretty safe to say that this is the approach WAC coaches take, even though each coach will have their specific focuses, niches and coaching style.

Stuart said that over the years he has tried multiple movement classification schemes, and in his experience it finally came down to a very simple question to ask the athlete: do you prefer to squat or deadlift? He said “The best question to ask to figure out posterior vs anterior chain dominant turned out to be “do you prefer to squat or deadlift”. Sometimes they are wrong. If they are wrong, then we watch them move. It’s pretty easy to quickly see if they are a puller or pusher. Nothing worked better than just asking what an athlete would “prefer” to do.”

Dan also talked about people being “muscle driven” vs “neural driven.” I first heard about this type of profiling from Matt Perryman. “Muscle driven” people can handle a lot of stressors. They are the grinders. They can keep going. They can handle volume better, and need it to stay “on”.  “Neural driven” people  need more infrequent dosing of stressors. Spikes, moderated by longer periods of recovery. They gave the example of one athlete that only trained max strength every 14 days or so. He didn’t need more than that, and it was actually detrimental to performance. This also was the guiding principle for how weekly programming was done for each athlete. Some need more rest than others. Some need more repetition. Rest is a stress as much as training. You need to dose both to match what “type” of athlete you are working with. On the movement end, Stuart drew a little chart, that further classified athletes as single leg or double leg pushers or pullers, so you ended up with four categories:

1.) Double leg pullers

2.) Single leg pullers

3.) Double leg pushers

4.) Single leg pushers

“What kind of mover they are directs the cues they need, and tells us the type of exercises we do in the year both in the weigh room and on the track.

Here’s the breakdown:


– Ground based movers

– Like stability and the feeling of being on the ground, feeling force through the ground

– Pushers are more effort driven, like they can stand and exert

– Cues like “push” “drive” ground-based etc, much more effective


– Explosive, air based

– Like to get off the ground. Bouncy

– Pullers are “get up and fly” based. Want to feel things coming up, want to grab air.

– Respond to cues like “explode” “bounce” “get light” etc.

About 5% of athletes are hybrids. They are not predominantly one or the other, and are more difficult to cue and program for.

Which leads to the next point that was reiterated over and over, and was a sort of epiphany for me. Well, not a true epiphany, but one of those moments where you go “Yes, I haven’t remembered that as well as I should”. And it was this:

“We really need to work from an athletes strengths.” That simple. And this made me think back to my rant I did about people falling in love with their injuries and getting overly enamored with “what’s wrong” and “what their weaknesses are” etc.

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An athlete is an athlete because of their strengths. You cannot fight them, or you will be trying to change who they are on a fundamental level. And that is impossible. Not only is it impossible, it’s dangerous. It can ruin a career. Or on a lower-end it can lead to continuous frustration in training for yourself/your clients. I remember reading something by John Broz, where he recalled an Olympic lifting meet he went to watch. He observed a coach yelling the same cue over and over at an athlete that was clearly not “getting it”. From Broz’ point of view it was obvious to him what the problem was, but the coach was using a cue the athlete didn’t “get” no matter how often he shouted it. And this was a competition. This was when anything he was saying should have been screened for maximum effect, and minimum negative stress. Anyway, my mind made several connections like this as Stu talked about training for strengths. All the coaches reiterated this theme over and over in their discussions of how they train their their athletes through the year, and prepare them specifically for competition.

Stuart: “This also depends on the level of the athlete, and where they are in their season. The more elite an athlete, the more we work on their strengths. The younger, the more we work on their weaknesses. On a micro-level, the closer we get to the season, the more we need them feeling fast, and the more we need them ready to perform. Earlier in the year we don’t need that focus as much, and can work on their weaknesses more. You need to do stuff they are confident in and feel good in later in the season before competition starts.”

“You can’t significantly try to change someone’s strengths. The hardwiring in their brain is too strong. They are that way because of their strengths. If you try to change that (which you can’t), they will lose their confidence, and their strengths which makes them who they are to begin with.” 

“The biggest thing about this is that emotional tie-in, the mind body connection is huge. Especially in sport. Elite sport is all about working from strengths. There are far too many coaches that zero in on the weaknesses and it overrides everything!”

“Be careful of perceived weaknesses and training weaknesses (don’t assume what you “see” is a weakness because it doesn’t conform to generalized norms etc).”

This is a very important factor to think of when programming. How many people do you know who are frustrated with correctives? Who spend more time trying to fix themselves then actually training? Their approach to training is coming from a place of “What’s wrong with me, what am I bad at? What are my weaknesses? I need to fix that.” Think about the tone that sets for their entire approach, even when their weaknesses are completely legit. We all have them. They need to be addressed appropriately. We are often admonished to remember to train our weak points, and rightfully so, BUT the overall tone, the overall approach to your programming and training should come from a place of strength. This is an important motivational concept for training clients that keeps them feeling confident and motivated. Build an environment that fosters success and makes them feel strong, and give them exercises that they can be successful at while still working on what needs help.

Which is why I often say that if you are starting exercise, or aiming to build the habit of it, find something you can do that you like first. Build that confident connection with what you are doing. Use whatever “strengths” you have and start there.

“The closer an athlete is to competition the more positive my cues, and the less I cue. The closer I stay to their strengths.” – Andreas Behm

When you are dealing with  Average Joe, you get someone who comes to you with the slumped-computer-shoulders, the tucked-under-doesn’t-fire-bum, the fallen-arches-and-can’t-externally-rotate-shit etc, you get the idea…what do you see? You see issues. You see someone who can’t get into a squat. Who can’t jump a inch off the floor. You can get overwhelmed with everything that needs “fixing”. This is where, good coaches (and something I’ve really learned this past year) find what someone CAN do, and find something they are strong in (strong being relative), and puts them there. Puts them in those positions. Someone at that low level of physical “fitness” will obviously have to work more on their weaknesses (just like a younger, less experienced athlete), build up muscle hypertrophy etc, before being able to train more specific qualities like power and speed.

“The body doesn’t understand don’ts. The brain works in do’s. One of the best ways to worsen a “virus” in an athlete is to tell them what not to do. Automatically their brain will want to do it.” – Stuart McMillan

Next point is…..

2.) Zonal System for loading

Zatsiorsky came up with the template for prescribing training loads, that Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell made more well-known throughout the strength training/fitness world at Westside Barbell with his Max Effort and Dynamic Effort Days.

Maximal Effort (heavy, slower, maximal)


Repeated Effort (repetition, practice)


Dynamic Effort (speed)


Louie Simmons kinda got rid of the middle for his programs for powerlifting.

From these three types of loading schemes, you can cycle through your loading doses based on the performance needed and the qualities you want to train. They all overlap in effect to some extent, and clearly affect eachother. For example; RE at a lower load with not have the same effect if your max strength is lower or under-developed for instance. A novice athlete (or novice “body”) will need more work in the RE area to affect biomotor qualities. An elite athlete would need less ME work and could maintain it with primarily DE work.

Stuart classified ME, RE and DE as:

Zone 3 – ME max output

Zone 2- RE work capacity

Zone 1 – DE speed

Stu said “We work all of these to some degree all year. We will work pretty much in all three zones pretty much all year.”

RE for young or novice trainees is an important concept, and one that I often find is a bit of a “missing link” in the strength training community and a lot of popular programs. Sometimes your body will need to BUILD UP to Madcow or SS or 5/3/1. Been discussing this also with Geoff Girvitz, so that’s definitely another topic to explore further as I don’t feel many coaches appropriately know how to take a physical-fitness-dweeb and prepare their body appropriately to handle a barbell and not end up with knee and hip issues in a couple years. On my end, I feel it’s even more important for women whose neuromuscular qualities and anatomical structure do differ from men’s and they just don’t have as much advantage physically (big generalization obviously).

If your body is new to lifting, you need to practice lifting. You might need to clean up movement patterns before you get a barbell. To get in enough practice, you can’t jump to “max strength”. You have no baseline from which to judge “max” and neither does you nervous system. RE methods work very well for developing athletes (think high school level for instance), before moving onto training ME, and then DE (which requires a high level of technique that does not break down.)

Programming Blocks: 

Blocks are your mesocycles. Your cluster of weeks. Most common is 4, 6, or 12 week clusters.

There are three ways you can organize your programming blocks. Parallel, sequential or pendular (Poliquin’s undulating programming is an example of this).

A parallel system trains many qualities at one time, while working them all at the same time.

A sequential system graduates you from qualities over time. Each cycle builds on top of eachother. This is most common, and works well for developing sport.

The pendular system loads per different quality. Loading by volume, then intensity, then volume etc. You alternate how you load the qualities.

At WAC they use a parallel system for the elite athletes, though a sequential system is more useful for developing athletes.

Stuart made a very important point about changing what someone does too much. He talked about having a basic arsenal of exercises that an athlete needs to learn. When programming for someone new to training, you can’t overload them with information. People overestimate how much information the body can process at a time. And not just process, but process and then produce. Once someone learns something, you have to allow for the new qualities to be consolidated in a variety of conditions. From a programming stance, Stuart said “You can keep the exercises the same and change the zones. It is very important when learning stuff (exercises), that you learn them at different velocities, tempos, zones and ranges of motion.” Each “change” like that is a new stressor the body will adapt too.

Maybe this is what everyone means by “muscle confusion”! LOL.

Dan said that the basic template they found that has worked well for blocks of training, and what they use now is:

2 weeks on 1 week recovery – Elite athletes, most used

This may vary for developing athletes, as they need can handle more volume, due to lower overall intensity and fitness level.

What determines how long someone is a “developing” athlete really depends on the time it takes to build certain basic physical performance qualities aka “baseline fitness”, and then transition into more sport-specific training. As my boss Geoff said so succinttly “An elite sprinter is not using sprinting as a means of increasing ankle dorsiflexion.” There is just a hierarchy people! Dan said, “There’s a reason movement happens the way it is. When you see elite athletes run it looks easy, because it IS easy. It’s what their body wants to do.”

The earlier development of your base will be different for everyone, which is an excellent reason to:

1.) Pay attention to how you respond to training. Track your trends in performance and recovery. What type of mover are you? What type of neuro-person are you?

2.) Be patient and consistent.

Thoughts on programming for the various Zones: 

– Zone 2 (RE) work can be timed for work capacity. See how far they can go and maintain quality. Cluster the sets. For instance you can build cluster set ladders, with a time cap. 5×2, 4×2, 3×2 etc. Zone 2 is all about the reps. More reps, not weight.

– Zone 3 is about putting more weight on the bar. Range of motion is not as important. You can shorten it. 1/4 squats or rack pulls for instance.

– Zone 1 is about moving the weight faster. Period. Range of motion needs to be maximal.

After reading that, do some popular arguments about ROM make a bit more sense? ROM is just another variable, that like it or not CAN be dosed appropriately to get a different stimulus. So guys, that shitty range of motion you see on a 1000lb squat…..well, he’s moving max weight, and that was strictly the goal. You can’t get away with that in a snatch though.

Certain exercises lend themselves to certain zones well. Here’s some off the top of my head:

Zone 3 – max

– Squats

– Deadlifts

– Bench or Overhead Presses

– Cleans

– Snatch

– Jerk

Zone 2 – repetition without loss of quality

– Squats (goblet, front)

– Deadlifts (trap bar)

– Sled pushes/pulls

– Pushes (bench, pushups, dumbbell press variations, incline press variations)

– Rows

– Loaded carries and walks

– Crawls

– Hinges (kb swings, kb deads)

Zone 1- speed

– Cleans

– Clean grip snatch

– Snatch

– Jerk

Bodyweight stuff can apply here as well for certain populations but are harder to quantify for actual speed:

– Plyo pushups

– Jump squats

– Box jumps

And lastly…

3.) Timing 

So the actual timing during a training session is the last component for programming. And it starts with Parkinson’s Law.

Work will expand for the time allotted for. 

This simple sentence can tell us a lot about how to get the performance we want from someone in a given session, and how to apply timing strategies to 1.) Stay within your allotted training time 2.) Get in what you need to accomplish

Both important factors for long term success. You can have a great plan, but if you don’t get around to doing half of it….your original hypothesis is going to way off.

Stuart: “We found that we can get much more quality out of their work if we give them a time to complete it in. For instance: 15 minutes of doubles in Zone 3. They warmup, and then start the time when their work sets start (time does not include warmups). Often I don’t give them specific recovery time as well, to build in a bit of auto-regulation. By writing that auto-regulation in, it takes away any guesses I may have had about their state or capacity that day because they will adjust for it naturally. (Prescribed sets and reps and whether they will hit the plan that day specifically) is a guess for the most part on my end. Writing them into these zones, and using autoregulation we take care of reality. Allows for performance when the body is ready for it, and vice versa. You can’t write this in for everybody (especially younger or novice athletes, who have not built the training context and body awareness yet, and need more structure).”


Power and Speed – as much as needed

Repetition – 30-60 seconds

Max Strength – 3-5 minutes

Stuart on sets and reps and giving them time caps to complete the work within:

“If you script the sets and reps so tightly sometimes an athlete will walk out defeated. There needs to be a bit of flexibility. Aim to have them always walk out feeling victorious. A time cap for sets/reps to be completed allows for more fluidity.”

A repeated theme you encountered was about respecting the ebb and flow of training, and anticipating it so that there is as little negative or discouraging feedback in relation to training is passed on to the athlete. “Plans are fluid.” The emotional tie-in needs to be taken seriously.

Another common theme was the fact that the brain controls everything. They do not think in terms of “muscles” or even just “performance”, but STIMULUS, and controlling the doses carefully, and in the most optimal ways to produce high level performance. The variables you heard taken into consideration were:

– Training

– Manual therapy

– Attitude

– Family life and relationships

– Sleep

– Food

– Hydration

– Supplements

– Personality

– Movement type

– Training and injury history

– Physical strengths/weaknesess

– Mental strengths/weaknesses

– Environment and attitude of surrounding therapists/coaches etc

– The unknown – “Life is the final driving factor.”

Programming Hierarchy for the average client takeaways:

– Classify and assess your client for 1.) Movement type 2.) Nervous system “type” 3.) Training “age” (based on training and injury history). You might not know for sure right away, but you can get a feel for it.

– Set up a strategy for tracking baseline variables not under your control to the extent of your capabilities. 1.) Nutrition 2.) Sleep 3.) Outside stressors. Usually a simple 1-10 score.

– Set up blocks for weeks, and days, and then months. Have a basic outline for the year (for average client this can be progressive, for athlete, it can be regressive from date of competition that matters)

– Assess movement limitations. The FMS can be used for this, though it will not be 1.) Comprehensive 2.) Tell you anything about how they would respond under different conditions like load, velocity, fatigue, etc. As Dan said “I call movement assessments ‘watching someone train'”.

– Prioritize their needs. Can they do a basic hinge? Can they hold a plank (important if you want them to do a pushup eh?)

– Set up your session. Warmup > Power Development > Strength > Energy System

– Determine your first focus. Usually parallel based, and RE dominant. Don’t get sucked into changing shit up too often. Start with want you want them to do and work backwards for progressions.

– Progression is based on competency. Nothing else. If they can’t do the first thing well, you can’t do the next one. This aids in motivational strategies as well. Share the end goal movement wise etc.

– Respect their strengths and the emotional tie-in to their training. There is always something someone can do well, first. Have them leave each session successfully, and use timing strategies within a session.

Since we are in the “average bro application” area, I wanted to address one question that came up during the week, and that I hear often. And that is the question of very hard training for “mental resilience” or “because it feels good”. Crossfit style workouts for instance (though I am NOT picking on Crossfit specifically, it’s just generally the best example of exercise extremism in terms of both volume and intensity). The basic question was: is there a place for these types of extreme exertion, for no other reason than 1.) building mental stamina 2.) some kind of mental need for extreme exertion? This corresponds with the issue many trainers  have of clients who think they “need to work harder” or don’t feel they got a workout unless they are panting and sweating. Those ones who are addicted to losing their breath but aren’t any fitter. Here are two reasons I think clients feel this need:

1.) Lack of education. They don’t know what does what in the body, and why. If it feels “hard” right then, they think they are working and will make progress. Well, yes and no.  Start with helping educate them on basic exercise physiology. Most will appreciate understanding why.

2.) Personality-based. You have plenty of Type A people who have to feel like they are going nuts…..or they will swear it’s not working or not enough. You will need to adjust for this. Remember, you approach from their strengths, and in this case, their “work ethic” is more of a weakness, but can be channeled appropriately.

Here’s Dan’s answer:

“There is this myth that Crossfit style workouts (again, JUST an example) build mental resilience. They don’t. They don’t ensure any kind of success. Mental resilience isn’t puking. Hard work is smart work. Excessively hard work is stupid.” Remember the minimum effective dose? “Volume for the sake of volume is the sign of a dumb athlete and a dumb coach. Instead of putting one more sub-par rep into the body, we call it a day.” 

Stuart said this about lifting, which ties into the point about doing more for the sake of more “There’s no “magicness” in the numbers. What are you teaching if you end up teaching dis-coordination? Once you start to break down, you’re working backwards. I’m not going to be driven by the numbers or the values, but by the athletes body’s feedback to me. What I look for when someone is lifting is good rhythm, good bar speed, good posture, etc if anything changes….lighten up.”

They did address overreaching though. It is planned for when significant rest or downtime is coming up, usually around Christmas. Then they purposely push over the edge because it is 1.) A proper training concept that needs to be used appropriately 2.) Scheduled vacation time provided the perfect longer rest period needed after an overreaching cycle.



Training to peak: 

So what about peaking? We’re talking about periodization, blocks etc. What if you are training for a specific competition or date and want to ensure the best performance on a specific date?

First I will share the answer from the coaches which relates to elite athletes, who have multiple meets (this was a track and field facility, remember) per year, with the highest goal to be competing in the Olympics or World Championships. Dan said:

“Peaking is bunk.” 


Now for the rest of the response:

“People talk about peaking, but they are scared to climb the mountain of performance. If you want to be fast at the end of the year, you better be fast in the middle of the year, and fast at the beginning of the year. Good performance is about consistency, not about major peaks and valleys. Consistency level is important. Good athletes are never more than 8-10% off their best.”

So, for a little digestion. Dan’s overall attitude towards peaking was that it is the product of good training, training environment, respecting the process, and being consistent, not some magical time that you can plan for in highly specific ways. “We train for real.” Real = life. Part of good performance is also creating good performers, physically and mentally. Respect the competitive environment and how those stressors can and will change performance, and prepare for that as much as possible.

But the bottom line is that, good performance is a product of good practices. Done over and over.

And that about sums it up! Finally:

Programming doesn’t have to be confusing, but it will take practice. It’s an art, as well as a science. You have the science, but you have to practice the art. Start with the resources available for program templates from the greats in SnC.

But, remember your first responsibility as a coach, and then you can finally stop reading:

Instill belief in your clients and athletes. If they trust you, they will trust your program. 

P.S. There was more really exciting stuff discussed about eccentric training, and the implications for power and strength athletes, as well as some philosophizing about the history of SnC and it’s focus on concentric strength and the lack of correlation to athletic performance, BUT that needs some more digestion before I can spill 😉





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  1. Michelle Jenkins says:

    This was so interesting, even though some of it went over my head. I was planning on joining a local crossfit as I am someone who high intensity exercise appeals to. But now I am having second thoughts. I am somewhat of a beginner although I have done some weights and cardio at at gym for a few years now, but recently I have decided that it’s time to take things up a notch. I wanted to ask your opinion. Do you think I should steer away from crossfit and the high intensity exercise and just get a personal trainer at my gym instead? While I agree with everything you are saying I can’t help but wonder why so many crossfitters have this ideal athletic looking body. I would daresay most female crossfitters bodies are better than any of those regular people who just do PT. I have aesthetic goals as well as strength goals (I would love to look like an athlete). So is this just a matter of finding the right PT? how do the crossfitters get their bodies to look like that even if their training is sometimes off and not the right kind of training? I hope I am making sense lol.

    • Michelle,

      No worries, I understand what you mean. My answer is; find a good coach and a good box. Nothing more.
      Crossfit is a brand, not a “particular style” of working out. The concept of cross training, concurrent training etc has been around forever, Crossfit popularized it, and has made some extremely incorrect and damaging assumptions about exercise in general. BUT, it’s not really about specific exercises, as much as finding a coach who knows where you are starting from and can help you get where you envision yourself. Top crossfitters do have very fit bodies in a certain context, train very hard to compete in Crossfit, and are good at competing in Crossfit. Will everyone get there? No. Just like not everyone is not an elite sprinter either. Can you train to be healthy and strong and do many of the movements you see them do? Yes. As a beginner wanting to get bigger, faster and stronger 😉 without getting hurt, you most certainly need guidance. Take your time, do some research, ask questions, etc and realize that picking a coach and training environment is a very important decision. You could get much healthier or you could end up injured.

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  1. garcinia atroviridis

    Success leaves clues: lessons in programming and practical application from Olympic coaches

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