Being a strength coach is considered one of the most prestigious and well-paying jobs in this field. It’s also one of the most competitive. In my case, I beat out more than 100 applicants to become the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. At the time, that made me the youngest director of strength training in the NCAA. Now I am at Clemson University. The edge I had going for me was Charles Poliquin.
Although I’ve paid my dues in formal education by completing a master’s degree in kinesiology, my practical education began nearly 25 years ago when I came across an article Charles had written for the Australian sports training magazine Sports Coach
. I read everything of his I could get my hands on and attended his seminars every chance I could get. His assessment techniques and training methods are simply the best in the field, in addition to being the most practical to implement.
Here are five lessons that stand out among everything I’ve learned from Charles Poliquin:
Lesson #1: There Is No Perfect Workout
Charles taught me the simple truth that if you always do the same workout, you are always going to look the same. He always said that if a magical program existed, every person would be squatting 1,000 pounds and bench pressing 700 pounds – and they would achieve these results quickly without training slumps or injuries. Not quite. World-class weightlifters, athletes and bodybuilders have all experimented with diverse training programs and loading parameters. He also emphasized the concept of individuality, in the sense that depending on the training level and the nervous system of the athlete, some individuals may need to change their routine every workout and some every three weeks. One size does not fit all.
Lesson #2: Maximize Your Gains with Post-Workout Supplementation
Charles said he has been a believer of post-workout nutrition since 1982, and he still promotes this practice, so there must be something good about it! After a training session is the absolute best time to maximize your gains, since insulin sensitivity is highest following a training session. More recently, Charles has taken post-workout nutrition one step further with the concept of peri-nutrition, which looks at what you should eat not only after a workout but also before and during a workout. Can you say BCAAs?
Lesson #3: Aerobics Is Overrated
Dr. Kenneth Cooper had the world believing that regular aerobic exercise was not only essential for a long and healthy life but also the best form of exercise to lose weight and keep it off. Through Charles’s articles and especially his groundbreaking book German Body Comp
, I saw the light. For example, Charles explained that cardio increases oxidative and adrenal stress. As such, cardio inhibits your strength gains, makes you slower and also prevents you from getting leaner. What hit home was the following example: “Who would you rather look like – a sprinter or a cross-country runner?”
Lesson #4: Never Stop Learning
The more time you devote to reading and learning from the world’s experts, the better you will become. He speaks of the Kaizen
principle, or constant, never-ending improvement. Leaders are readers. He always says to listen to educational CDs or podcasts in the car while driving to work. And Charles is one who “walks the talk.” He averages 16-18 hours of reading a week, which enables him to polish off several books – and he often goes back and rereads those books just in case he forgot some important ideas.
Lesson #5: Always Respect the Rep
Charles believes that the rep is the most important starting point in designing workouts because the selection of reps affects all other components of a workout: sets, tempo, rest intervals and exercise selection. He emphasizes the importance of always using a full range of motion and following the prescribed tempo, as perfect form will lead to the most efficient gains. In contrast, bad form and cheating will screw up the motor pathways of the brain.
I’ve been around hundreds of strength coaches, and Charles has no equal. I have such respect for this man that I named by first born after him, Charles Preston Greene. If you want to become the best you can be, whether it’s as a strength coach or a personal trainer, then you need to listen to what Charles Poliquin has to say.