DESCRIPTIVE VS. PRESCRIPTIVE COACHING
Written by Dave Thomas
We love to be told what to do for our results. The comfort of having an “expert” dictate to you when, how much and what you should be eating reduces all of the stress from it. Knowing exactly what you should put on the barbell for every single workout makes us feel like we are in good hands.
However, is there a limit to all of the prescriptions that are handed out daily? Is this prescriptive form of communication and coaching in fitness actually good for our clients? Or, does it addict them to a crutch? Are you, the athlete reading this, in control of your own destiny? Or, are you reliant upon others for more things than you are not.
In your training, recovery, and nutrition there is a vast difference between using knowledgeable guidance and requiring constant hand holding, and I find that one form of communication constantly yields the latter.
In programming and coaching at our gym, I prefer that we use a heavy dose of description to go with very minimal prescription. We place enormous emphasis on the “why”, the reasoning behind what you are doing so that it can be executed with confidence, but also to build a knowledge base. I see a lot of athletes coming to us from other gyms with no real clue how to train. They will ask questions like, “Yeah but how many rounds should I be getting?” in a workout where that is irrelevant, or say things like, “I don’t know how to pace”. They are too used to prescriptions and have very clearly never been offered description for training protocol.
Here’s an example of each.
“10/s Renegade Rows”
“Men use 40# on the renegade rows, women use 20#.”
“The renegade row is a great movement to work anti-rotation, so today we want to make sure we select weight we can handle. Some of you will be able to do more than others, but all of you should emphasis flat hips and a torso that doesn’t rotate open. Whatever weight that is, make sure you are following those guidelines.”
With which one method do you think athletes will learn, grow and ultimately become better athletes?
Prescriptions for certain instances are very needed. But when we get into the habit of constantly telling our clients how to do everything, we choke off the airway of their growth and understanding.
As an athlete, start taking inventory of where you feel like you are always in need of having your hand held, and make it a goal to be knowledgeable enough to arm yourself with the power of autonomy in those situations.
Your results will likely take off.