Under One Roof
“How do you train athletes of all experience levels at the same time, in the same gym?”.
Going back to the Soviet training model, it was believed that athletes of various caliber must be separated and sorted by experience. In their system, the separation of beginners, novices/intermediates, and elite athletes isolated the training variables and styles that pertained to the various training ages. I personally believe it is very possible, and even beneficial, to have them all coexist and train amongst each other. I have a mindset and specific goals for each level. Each stage provides a unique, but consistent, opportunity to master technique and athletic proficiency. By no means can you have a blanketed solution, apply it to all levels, and achieve results. The same core themes exist at each level, with technique being the most dominant focus, but the manipulation of these variables is what I focus on as athletes evolve through the system and their lives.
I approach an athlete of young training age with highly age specific rest periods, rep schemes, and cues. During this period, technique rules and its value is instilled in the athlete. Focuses center around general movement, overall technique, and coordination. All movement revolves around proper technique, but also towards making sport enjoyable. Developing strong technical bases, creating responsive neural pathways, and having broad, but goal driven, programming creates a structurally strong athlete. This athlete lacks specialization but has the structure in place to adapt to any of the various paths through sport as they move into the novice/intermediate level of training. A strong athlete emerges with quality technique, ready to be molded into whatever they choose.
When an athlete presents a drive for more and comprehends both directions given and the direction of their own lives, they break the mold of the beginner model and progress to intermediate. At this level technique still remains key, as it does in all levels, but the approach to it becomes more mature. Cues can become slightly more critical as the athlete’s maturity and comprehension increases. At this point, we can start to increase general strength, with gains coming rapidly. With a carefully crafted foundation and dedication applied, the walls and roof go up in no time. The technical model becomes more internalized and athletes start to figure out which realm of sport they will thrive in. Their training is slowly coupled with the periodization model and is then catered to one or two of these athletic possibilities. Once the athlete becomes slightly specialized, chooses their potential path(s), and becomes committed to technique and achieving greatness, they begin to approach the elite level.
These athletes typically are between 17 and 25 years of age. Training age and maturity are much greater than in the previous levels. Value is placed on the technical model, even more so than before, even though it has been emphasized through each level of athletics. At this point training becomes more cerebral. As a coach, this becomes the peak for critical cues. As they become closer and closer aligned with the technical model, the actual changes that need to take place are much more minute, which leads to the increased in criticism. With training age older and adaptations more precise, these adaptations occur slower. An elite athlete may go through a long period training with the goal of mastering only a few specific cues. The other variables that go along with athletics are able to be controlled due to the maturity of the athlete at this stage. Nutrition, mobility, proper rest, and other facets of training are now emphasized along with the prime focus of technique. The older athlete is capable of controlling the controllable and becomes educated on how to do so. In order to make these highly specific and specialized adaptations, more facets of the human body need to be understood and possibly manipulated. The training model for the elite athlete aids in these areas.
As athletes transcend the different levels of sport and programing, a system is created that is continually tested. If intermediate athletes are lacking in a specific area, the beginner model can be challenged and changed to meet the new standard. The same can be done from elite to intermediate. A model that consistently challenges itself through its various components demands the best from each level, develops goal driven technical mastery, and demands innovation to meet its changing needs. If these levels of training are all separate, or coached by different people, each level ends up trying to sort through what was done at the level below. Inconsistent training and cues through the progression of level to level clouds the water for the athlete and takes away valuable time for gains. The coexistence provides adaptable consistency. Each group of athletes showcases areas for improvement in the other groups. It highlights areas within in the programming that need change and provides a constant feedback loop. That same loop demands change and the absolute best from every single facet of the gym. Garage Strength and its athletes demanded more than my parent’s garage could handle, outgrew the barn in just a few years, and will continually demand even greater things from the current facility. They have demanded the same level of growth from myself as well as my team of coaches. Nonstop testing of everything from the valleys to the peaks creates a nonstop hunger that drives everyone to their goals, coaches included.
Athletes benefit from exposure to all levels of training. Watching a beginner or intermediate athlete internalize a cue and make a change, no matter how small, can encourage an elite athlete to shed their layers of experience and make changes in their own training from a more open perspective. Hearing the foundations of sport and watching early development from an outside perspective can encourage openminded reception of cues in training and drive home important aspects of sport that may have been left to the wayside, depending on their initial training background. From the opposite perspective, a young athlete can be unsure of their path, but through observation of countless elite champions walking among them, they can conclude that they too want to reach the elite level of athletics and demand higher outputs and successes from within themselves. Any questions about technical model a beginner has can immediately be answered with a simple glance around the gym. Athletes of all levels can observe hard work amongst the ranks and challenge themselves to be better. It is easiest to understand the end goal if all stages of the process are currently observed in development. You cannot possibly understand where you’re going if you don’t where you’ve been. Being surrounded by each stage of athletics allows a deeper understanding and constant reminder of the end goals, technical mastery and athletic achievement. If as a beginner you are constantly exposed to a high standard of sport, you work to meet it at all costs. If an athlete trains at each level, unexposed to what exists further ahead, they can’t form the goals needed for progress.
Athletes of all levels can thrive in the same gym and constantly demand that each other be at their very best. Unique areas for growth and understanding develop as mastery is being chased in each level of sport. The goals and benchmarks are constantly pushed further and further, as more and more is achieved, creating a constant drive for everyone to improve. If a beginner sees a state/district champion, he will want to be one and will work for it. If a beginner sees an Olympic champion, he will do the same thing. Expose yourself to greatness and demand it from yourself. Who do you train with?