Real transformational coaching requires dealing with real people on a regular basis – and getting real results
Every Sunday I drive 30 miles to coach a bunch of local dudes for free. Part of it is giving back to the community and part of it is that these men are lab rats in my ongoing minimalistic-strength coaching science experiment. I was attracted to this situation as a way in which to kill two birds with one stone: do some community service and help sincere individuals actualize their transformative dreams one hardcore workout at a time.
Here is a little secret: lame coaching using a lame system can trigger great gains working with genetically gifted athletes. Some people are born physically challenged while others are born physically advantaged. The advantaged have fabulous singing voices, grow to 7-feet in height, perhaps they’re super smart. Genetic deficits and gifts are distributed randomly: everyday somebody losses and every day someone hits the genetic jackpot.
Weight room gains come easy for the genetically advantaged, even using dumb-ass training and coaching methods. It is far more difficult for a coach with a method to elicit gains for Joe-Six Pack (a guy with a job, family, kids, commitments, a decided lack of time and no genetic advantages) then for a member of the genetic elite. Being able to obtain consistent results for the average person is demonstrably more difficult on every level.
I conduct an ongoing coaching field experiment using my little test group of 10 to 15 lifters. What works? What doesn’t? Real coaching is all about what to do when progress (inevitably) grinds to a halt. A good coach has a big trick bag full of tweaks and progress-stimulators ready to select from when stagnation takes hold.
What coaching methods create strength, power and muscle? What coaching methods are dead-ends and a complete waste of time? Multi-time world champion and world record holder Kirk Karwoski and I have between us 87 years of hardcore empirical experience. We point out the trip hazards and potholes.
When I first started out on my own iron journey, I got a lot of help and advice from high level lifters, grown men, seasoned elite lifters, that would take time to help me hone my techniques and get me straight on training. These ancient alphas gave me free information and helped me avoid potholes and dead ends when I was young and ignorant.
It is only natural to freely share the modern version of the iron lessons on techniques and tactics freely taught to me. Our strength system is perfect for the time-pressed modern man. get the most-est (results) from the least-est (amount of time.) Our strength system was not designed to be time-compressed, it just turned out that way.
What elite powerlifters discovered was that they performed optimally when the body and the central nervous system were fresh and rested. Powerlifters followed where results led. They found out that the “rested effort” so critical for optimizing strength output in a hardcore training session required seven days rest for large muscles and 3-5 days rest for smaller muscles.
Further, the CNS/PNS must also be healed and normalized. When the body’s muscular system is fully rested, when the central nervous system is fully rested, then and only then is the body capable of a true 100% effort. If the body and/or CNS are fatigued, optimal performance is impossible.
Our overarching goal is something quite profound: a radical transformation of the human body. This is done by adding lean muscle and decreasing stored body fat. Make any human significantly more muscular and significantly leaner and performance automatically goes up.
Strategically, we always have a coaching plan. Kirk and I insist and assist every lifter that trains with us on Sunday in establishing a periodized (preplanned) game plan that is four distinctly different, yet interrelated disciplines: progressive resistance training, cardiovascular training, nutrition and “brain-train,” i.e. the psychological aspects related to the transformative process.
Our strength strategy is super-simple: once a week perform the barbell squat, bench press and deadlift. We do all three lifts on Sunday. The rested effort and healed CNS are insured by the six days of rest until the next session. Each week each trainee has a preplanned poundage and rep target.
Each Sunday each man works up to a lone top set in each of the three lifts. Then we move onto the next lift. The reps and poundage selected correspond to the preplanned, periodized goal in that lift for that week. Each week the athlete handles slightly more weight or squeezes out additional reps on that all-important top set.
After working through the squat, bench press and deadlift, some guys might hang around and do some overhead pressing and/or some arm work. Most just do the three lifts and leave, getting back to their lives, their wives, their kids and their responsibilities.
Some try and train mid-week, hitting overhead presses and arms, most don’t. Yet, despite training once a week, each man has made radical gains in size, power and pure muscle gains. It seems impossible that dramatic gains could be made working up to one top set, this in three lifts, all bunched together in a lone training session, done just once weekly. How could this possibly work?
Yet work it does: adherents are consistently thriving and improving using this uber-minimalistic approach. Six men rotating and spotting one anther can work through all three lifts from first squat warm-up to final deadlift set in 60-75 minutes. A man of average strength working by himself can complete all three lifts, working up to a top set, inside 30-mimutes.
Imagine performing all your strength training for the week in a single 30-minute training session? And making dramatic progress in physique and performance. The system is self-justifying; each successive week, our lifters make mathematically verifiable, irrefutable gains in poundage and rep handling.
Back to coaching: those regular types I work with every Sunday all get results and get them on a consistent and ongoing basis. Each is an ongoing case study. I take into account everything I know about them as I plot their next move.
I adjust their lifting, advise them what to do nutritionally, request they get serious about cardio and psychologically coddle them or, alternately, kick their asses. I use elemental child psychology. I continually exhort them to storm the barricades of their current limits and capacities in some manner or fashion.
The coaches challenge is to find the right tweak at the right time. There are so many potential progress stimulators to pick from. The validation of your coaching is the performance of your students. Competitive formats are the best place to find out if your methods are working.
My trainees enter powerlifting competitions to test strength. What better place to get your report card than in the cold spotlight of white-hot competition in front of impartial judges? All types of formal competition are encouraged.
Part of our success is due to the dynamic of peer pressure. When we train, each man lifts while the others spot or watch. Everyone, regardless of level is expected to equal or exceed last week’s effort.
The eternal goal is to improve. If our lifters improve ever-so-slightly over what they did the previous week, we have succeeded. Each week small incremental gains in reps or poundage handling ability force the body to trigger the adaptive response, muscle is built as a defensive response to the decimation we administer every Sunday.
Our men arrive coming off six days rest. A lot of CNS excitation can be related to stresses outside the gym. Assuming the lifter hasn’t had some catastrophe or upset occur, they arrive for Sunday’s session with rested muscles and a rested CNS. Now they are ready for “rested efforts.”
By being fresh, rested and anabolic (induced by quality calories) the lifter is ready and capable of exceeding – ever-so-slightly – last week’s effort. String together twelve successive weeks of weekly successes and the compound interest of small incremental gains results in radical transformations. We’ve seen it and supervised it for decades.
For online coaching inquiries please contact Marty Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.