Coaching Couch – Training Movements Over Exercise

As a coach, it’s important to remember that all exercise and training essentially boils down to selecting specific movements and loading them appropriately to achieve the desired outcome. Whether that’s hitting a new 1RM on your back squat or jumping as high as you can, they can be broken down into a finite number of open or closed chain movement patterns. These movement patterns can be assessed, analyzed and from there you can select the appropriate exercises and loading schemes. Without that initial analysis, you will be limiting your progress as one exercise isn’t always going to be appropriate for everyone to include in their programs. A classic example is a high bar vs low bar squat; picking an exercise based on your own anatomical efficiency is very much advised and while (in theory) everyone should be able to do both, it doesn’t mean everyone should do both. Don’t try to knock a square peg into a round hole.


So, now we’ve established it’s important to remember that exercises correlate to a specific movement pattern, how do you then decide which exercise is correct for your training goal? This will come down to your needs analysis. When you’re selecting exercises, whether you know it or not you’re analyzing your needs and selecting exercises which you deem appropriate to achieve your desired outcome. For example, we’ll take a winger in rugby and analyze their needs for performance. These will be entirely focused on the physical attributes of the athlete and will be far from an extensive list.

A needs analysis can be done in a number of ways, but a spider graph is often the easiest way to do this. These can be done by both the coach and athlete so you can discuss the training rationale and get that all important buy-in. Using our example of the winger in rugby, I’ve listed 3 physical attributes, which are:

1) Speed
2) Agility
3) Core strength


So now we’ve got our training goals, we can start to look at the movements associated with these attributes. I’m going to focus in on one movement per example to keep the post relatively short.

1) Speed – When running at near maximal speed we have large amounts of hip and knee flexion/extension.
2) Agility – When changing direction in relation to an external stimulus you can recruit a ‘side-step’ movement to avoid a defender.
3) Core Strength – When sprinting the athlete will need to maintain a strong pillar so that their force transfer effectively throughout their body (not so much movement, but stopping movement).

So, now we’ve identified movements associated with our physical attributes we can begin to look at exercises which fit the bill. Again, I will provide one exercise per example, however, there is an extensive list of exercises that could be used.

1) Hip & Knee Flexion/Extension – Dumbbell Step Up: This exercise not only utilizes the desired hip & knee movements, it also provides us with a unilateral exercise. This means that it is a single limb exercise, which is perfect for running as you will never have 2 feet on the ground whilst when sprinting.
2) Side Step – Lateral Lunge: When the athlete is avoiding a defender by side-stepping, one of their legs will move laterally so that it moves away from the centre of the body. The lateral lunge trains the same movement in a controlled environment and will help strengthen the quads, hamstrings, glutes and hip abductors/adductors. This will help avoid injuries in these muscle groups.
3) Stability whilst sprinting – Resistance Band Anti-Rotations/Palof Press: This exercise will provide a resistance which will try to pull the athlete out of a centred position and will, therefore, train their core stability.

So now we’ve established the exercises we’re going to utilize to achieve the training goals we’ve just got to decide on an appropriate load and volume for the athlete based on their current condition. This is probably another topic for another day so keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a follow-up blog on the coaching coach.