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You Be the Trainer #4 by Tony Budding, Justin Bergh, Pat Sherwood, Matt Swift - CrossFit Journal

You Be the Trainer #4

By Tony Budding, Justin Bergh, Pat Sherwood, Matt Swift

In Coaching, CrossFit

September 30, 2009

PDF Article

Tony Budding’s newest hypothetical client is a big, strong guy with brutal technique and ROM, especially on body-weight exercises. He ignores all your attempts to improve his movement but one day he sees the light and books a one-on-one session. How do you get him to move better? Compare your opinion with those of Justin Bergh, Pat Sherwood and Matt Swift.

Sammy is 6’4”, 255 lb. and 38 years old. He played two years of Division 2 collegiate football back in the day. He’s been part of your CrossFit gym for just over four months. Before that, he was a member of the town’s largest Globo Gym for 15 years. His routine was a wide variety of standard weight training four days a week.

Sammy is strong but has decades of bad habits, and he’s pretty committed to them. He never argues with you, but getting him to move properly through a full range of motion is a major challenge. He’s not openly defiant at all, but your cues just don’t make much difference in how he moves.

He hates body-weight workouts. He doesn’t mind running, but he keeps the same pace whether it’s 200 meters or 5K, first round or fifth. You’ve tried several techniques to get him to push harder in the runs. He just laughs and keeps on going.

His workouts so far this week:
Monday—Grace (as Rx’d). Time: 2:53
Tuesday—5 rounds of:
15 deadlifts (185 lb.), run 400 m. Time: 15:10
Thursday—The workout was Murph, so Sammy started to leave. As a compromise, you prescribed a “Running Cindy”: Run 400 m, 5 rounds of Cindy, run 400 m, 5 rounds of Cindy, run 400 m. Time: 28min (because you made him repeat so many reps due to partial range of motion)
Friday—Max push jerk. Load: 285 lb. (sort of)
Sammy doesn’t push jerk. They’re all push presses. His shoulder flexibility is so bad that he even finishes the presses way too far in front.

On Saturday morning, he calls you and says he finally gets it. He needs to move better, and he wants to pay for a one-on-one later that day. It’s on. What do you do with your session?

Post your opinion to comments and read on to compare your answer to those of top CrossFit trainers.

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13 Comments on “You Be the Trainer #4”


wrote …

Introduce Sammy to next year's CrossFit Games!

Hes was D-2 football player and understands competition and training for a goal.
Show him footage of past Games of athletes lifting heavy and running fast.
Point out the judges keeping track of form. This will get his juices running.

Let Sammy know that he will be specifically trained for the Regionals, for the Affiliate and for the Games themselves.

This will sink in and make a difference.


wrote …

Agree with Richard. As a former D-1 guy we're competitive (like everyone else right). From my own perspective, I have to have a goal more than that to just stay in shape for the sake of it or exercise for the sake of it. So the question I'd have to ask is what are Sammy's goals and as his trainer could I give him some competitive goals that he would take as his own? If so then you've got a chance. The other road in combination would be to push him... hard. As an athelte he is used to tough love so why be shy. First, make it clear your going to push him. Then do it. Thats what he's paying you for. He'll let you know if you overstep and need to pull back. Just my .02. I'm not a traininer but thats what I would need.


wrote …

first i would take him through a series of yoga poses that i stress he does on a daily basis. staff, down dog, triangle, warrior I & II, plow, bridge/wheel and headstand for fun. i would make him sit at the bottom of the squat until its very satisfactory. i would also work the movements that i think are most important that he gets better at. afterwards i would make him sit down and read the "stretching is dead" article by kelly starett (or whatever his name is).


Damon Stewart wrote …

Great article guys, thanks. I appreciate the PDF's this month, I'm in the minority that prefers reading to video. Ben...Yoga? Seriously???


Gerard Mcauliffe wrote …

Pat Sherwoods idea to put not as Rx'd beside his wod time is a great idea. I might have to steal that one Pat, thank you!
Yoga?!,he can go to a ballet class afterwards too!


wrote …

I'm very new to CF, what is Rx?


Tom Seryak wrote …

After strongman training got me tight as a knot, I started doing yoga (not the spiritual practice but yoga for stretching) 4-6x/week in addition to my other training. That was 5 years ago, and I still hit it up maybe 3-4x/week now. Personally, I would feel like shit if I didn't do it. Nice article.


Dane Thomas wrote …


I see the variety of approaches as being a natural extension of the particular talents of the trainers involved. They are all aiming for the same result, but they are taking different roads to get there.

As for the Yoga suggestion. I would not question the ability of the poses recommended to achieve the desired results, and that particular approach might work well for Ben with that type of client, but I don't think that I could pull it off so I would probably choose a different approach. That is more of a commentary on my own limitations than those of any particular method.


wrote …

I agree with establishing some goals for him. I would highlight his potential. With his background I would argue that with a little commitment and a willingness to push hard, he could be your top athlete. Paying someone a compliment like this could aspire them to reach something greater and that attitude can spread like a virus (the kind you want). Telling him he is going to the regional qualifier is a great idea and would give him a greater sense of purpose and from there he moves forward as a representative of your crew, which will give him the "I can't let my people down" attitude. Others see it then emulate it and the next thing you know new guys walk through the bay door ready for that type of effort...every workout.


replied to comment from Damon Stewart

call it yoga, call it stretching, call it taking your joints through a full range of motion, whatever. its one thing to tell someone to get into better positions for exercise, its another to help them be able to move their body into them. why dont you try doing all of those poses on a daily basis for two weeks and then tell me "yoga...seriously".


wrote …

Introduce him to CrossFit Football for a 6 week cycle. In my military experience, former football players tend to gravitate towards exercises that remind them of their glory days. I would also have him do bodyweight exercises as a warm up to help work on form. As far as pushing him to perform better, I would use what I use on my soldiers and that's the reward/punishment system as well as HEAVY use of the stopwatch. Instill in him the mentality that it pays to be a winner and watch the losers perform max burpees for 1 minute if they don't finish the workout in the allotted time. But then again, I am not training civilians, I am training soldiers, but you would not believe how well this works for some knuckleheads.


wrote …


On the running: Have him do 30 meters/yards sprints to learn him what full speed is. After that, a few sets plyometric jumps.
Shoulder flexibility: chins with neck to bar and swing front/under the bar. Deep dips can also help the shoulders flexibility. If necessaryu some specific movement excercises with a broom stick.
Have him try to do a overhead squat - and when he fails point out how much he sucks (but in a nicer way) so that he begins to understand what he lacks


wrote …

I'd go over PVC pipe drills with him focusing on the overhead and front squat. Sounds like our client has motivation issues with running. I would highlight his strengths and tell him where he's shortchanging himself specifically with his running. I'd encourage him to raise his standards and stop cheating himself. If that doesn't work I'd pull out a mega phone, hose, and have him do flutter kicks and burpees in the sand until his personal standards start to raise. That last part is a joke...

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