Training Adults for the MBSC Intern

Jun 22, 2022

Group training for adults is a huge part of our business at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. Over the past couple of years, enrollment in our adult groups has nearly doubled.The reason being is because we keep it simple and stick to the basics. Here are some things you guys (interns) need to remember when training our adult clients.

Get to know them first!

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”.  Get to know the adults first. We want them to lift properly and follow our program the way we intended but in the first couple of weeks or even month, that isn't your job, that is the lead coaches job. Your job is to get to know them. Learn their names, find out where they are from, if they have kids, what injuries they have, or special considerations they need. 

“Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”. Wise words from Dale Carnegie, and something Mike hammers away to his employees. Developing relationships and trust is that simple, just remember their names, and say them often. Don't be overbearing, but be polite, and happy, and you will attract more people.

Set the gym up

Since you aren't running the group, you should have plenty of time to set the gym up for the lift. This is really important because the adult lift is different than the athlete lift. This means we need different equipment set up. We do not want adults standing around. That means we need the right amount of medballs, boxes, etc. set up for that day's lift.  The flow of the gym is really important and it's something that the adults notice, so be prepared and communicate with your head coach so that it runs smoothly.

Let them workout

Don't worry about the athletes, coach them up, that's how you learn. They are your guinea pigs. Treat the adults differently. Let the lead coaches do the coaching, and help where needed.  This doesn't mean you should completely neglect something that is being done incorrectly. If it is a small detail thing like them needing to switch the position of their feet, or it looks like their back is going to explode, then please by all means coach them up. Just don't smother an adult who's been coming for 5 years, with all the new things you've been learning in your internship.  Confused as to what you should be doing, refer above!

Programming: Risk vs. Reward

We keep training adults at MBSC simple and consistent with how we train every body. That means we are programming the same qualities for adults as we would for our athletes. Just like the athlete session, we divide the session into two parts: Movement (warm up and conditioning) and Lift. Any good movement prep consists of foam rolling, mobility work, elevating a person's heart rate, body temperature, muscle quality/ preparation, and a low risk, high reward power circuit. Our lift consists of an upper body push, upper body pull, a knee dominant exercise, a hip dominant exercise, a rotary stability exercise, and a trunk stability exercise. Following the lift, we condition, whether it is with the sled, bike, or other variations.

Do's and Don't: breaking down the Movement and Lift


- Stretching:

Do: We love to stretch, especially with the adult population. We have started to use more active stretching versus static stretching, but either way we need to make sure we are stretching the hips so that they can move in all planes of motion. Acceptable stretches include 90/90, Spiderman, Wedge Hip Rotator, Adductor Rocking, and many more!

Don't: Don't do any lower back stretching especially in extension or rotation. Even worse than going into extension or rotation is doing it for reps like you would in a “windshield wiper”.  In some mobility drills we are required to flex at the lower back, like a toe touch or egg roll for example. Those drills are exceptions and are totally fine. Flexion becomes an issue when it is loaded or if it is done excessively (crunches for example). In an egg roll you are maintaining constant flexion, and it is a drill your adults will love.

- Activation/Mobility/ Correctives:

Do: I know the title seems broad but it isn't. For some one who can't squat or touch their toes, Toe touch to squat serves as a good corrective to hopefully improve those qualities. For the person who can touch their toes and squat proficiently, it serves as a mobility drill. Similarly, for some one who lacks rotary stability, a quadruped hip extension might serve as a good corrective, but for the person with good stability, it serves as an activation drill. In the end it's all semantics really. Either way, we want the adults to learn how to use their glutes, and core properly. We spend a lot of time doing activation drills like hip lifts, or plank variations to teach our clients how to properly use those muscles. For our mobility drills, we are staying consistent with Mike's Joint by Joint Approach. Some joints need more mobility than others. So we mobilize the ankle, hips,  thoracic spine, shoulders, etc. A good example of mobility work is the lunge matrix, which is something we want our adults clients to do every day because they are practicing moving the hips through a full range of motion.

- “Warm Up”:

Warm Up drills like skipping or, ladders are a terrific way to transition from stretching to more demanding circuit training. Aside from being a good warm up tool, it is a good way to introduce impact and low-level plyo's to those clients who may not be prepared to jump. Some one can't jump and land safely? Have them do safe, ladder drills, reinforcing proper sticking and landing mechanics.

Don't: If some one doesn't tolerate even low-level impact like ladder drills then this isn't your best option, however that is rarely the case. If it is the case, have them warm up on the bike, or work on things their lead coach has instructed them to do. No standing around!

- Jumping:

Do: Make sure they are sticking first phase, and probably beyond that. They need to demonstrate complete control in landing before we allow them to progress.  Lateral Bound, Box Jumps, Linear Box Hops, and Medial/Lateral Box Hops, are all appropriate places to start with adults

Don't: If some one complains of pain, typically back or knee, regress which usually means do not jump. Sometimes adults tolerate shuttle jumping, but if jumping is not tolerated replace jumping with something they can tolerate or need. Replace it with a medball throw or a corrective, but either way keep them moving.

- Throwing:

Do: Medball throwing is awesome for adults because it is safe and it helps develop power. Use Chest passes, OH Throws, Side Tosses, OH Slams, etc.

Don't: With shoulder pain, avoid OH throw. Sometimes those same people will tolerate OH Slam fine. With people who experience back pain, make it less dynamic. Some one who doesn't tolerate Standing Medball Chest pass might tolerate the static version, or supine version.  Don't allow them to go into extension on OH throwing variations


- Power:

Do: Kettle bell Swings, Ropes Slams, Medball Throws, Jumps, etc. Just because you threw in the warm up doesn't mean you can't use a different throwing variation in the lift, just keep it safe

Don't: Any Olympic lifting aka cleans, snatches, etc. Too much risk, and not enough reward, just trust us on this one and avoid these exercises.

- Upper Body Push:

Do: Pushups, Dumbbell Bench, Landmine Pressing, Cable Pressing, OH pressing with dumbbells or kettle bells

Don't: Barbell Bench. Some people say they tolerate barbell benching, probably because they can't imagine their lives with out it.  OH Pressing often becomes a Don't with adult clients, and even sometimes pushing in general. In these cases substitute OH pressing w/ horizontal pressing, and pressing in general with pulling. Remember if its only one arm, they can push with their good arm only.

- Upper Body Pull:

Do: TRX Row's, Chin Up, X-Pulldowns, DB Rows, etc. Teach them how to use the correct muscles in the correct postures.

Don't: Many people w/ shoulder pain should avoid Chin Ups and often don't tolerate DB rowing. Find what doesn't hurt and stick with it, likely will be some sort of horizontal rowing variation

- Knee Dominant:

Do: Keep it unilateral, the only exception should be goblet squatting variations, but stick to kettle bells and dumbbells, and avoid barbells. Split Squats, 1 Leg Squats, Lateral Squats; all great knee dominant options for training adults

Don't: Avoid goblet squatting and other bilateral exercise with clients who experience back pain. Don't let the knee translate past the toe on people who experience knee pain. If the Knee Dominant exercise still doesn't feel good, go Hip Dominant. Remember for the overweight client unilateral exercise will be challenging, so modify it by making it supported or by using some sort of other regression.

- Hip Dominant:

Do: Again keep it unilateral, although safe bilateral options include movements like Kettle bell deadlifting, and hip lift variations. SLDL's, Slideboard Lunges,  Leg Curl variations are all awesome options for adults

Don't: Avoid bilateral exercise with those who experience back pain. Avoid deadlifting with trap bar's and barbells, much too coaching intensive, and too much risk. Keep it simple, use dumbbells and kettle bells. Remember Risk vs. Reward.

- Rotary and Trunk Stability (Core):

Do: There are a ton of things you can do. Core exercise can be broken down very simply into two categories: Trunk Stability (the ability to resist extension or flexion in your spine) or Rotary Stability (the ability to resist rotation in your spine). We love crawling, simply because it is the most authentic form of rotary stability, and has huge amounts of bang for its buck, and we like different carry variations.  From there keep it simple and introduce basic core exercises that practice resisting movement as opposed to creating it. Plank Variations (planks, side planks, ball rollouts, body saws) and Cable Variations (anti rotation press out, push pull) are great ways to introduce core stability.

Don't: No crunches, Russian twists, or any exercise that has the word twist or crunch in it. We don't want our lumbar spine doing either of those things, and our core is not designed to create movement but resist it. So do yourself a favor and train your clients' core for resisting movement and not creating it.

Closing thoughts:
 Lots to digest here, but bottom line, just keep it simple. Follow the adult program. If it's some ones first day, or week follow the phase 1 adult program. For every adult who is just starting, start them off with only 2 sets of the circuits, no more than that. Ease them into it.  Measure everything Risk vs. Reward and Do No Harm.  Be ready to adjust with the adult groups, and work around pain.  The rules above might not apply to everybody, but when working with populations, we'd rather be safe than sorry and not program things that might do more harm than good. Remember if it hurts, don't do it.

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