Learning when to use progressions and regressions can be a bit challenging. Having a trained eye is what separates a good trainer/coach from an excellent one. This specific skill set enables the coach to know when it’s time to move the athlete to the next level. The longer you linger at a certain point, the less quickly progress will be made. But, progress too fast, and you may be forced to go backwards. Striking the perfect balance is an art. As a trainer/coach, I’m looking to help my athlete break through what is known as the “neural edge.” This is the point where the body and the mind work together to produce optimal movement. How do I know when this occurs? Things I look for during exercises include comfort with breathing, stability and control, and, most importantly, form, i.e., maintaining ideal body control throughout a particular movement. Let’s take the squat, for example. One of the very first movements humans perform is crawling. Essentially, life begins on the ground. Eventually, we take our first steps forward, which provides us the opportunity to explore our environment in a whole new way. More movement is involved as we move toward things and then squat down to inspect things. We learn how to control our bodies.
So, you might be asking yourself, what is the point of all this information and what does squatting have to do with anything? It begins when we learn to crawl and then to walk. As we crawl we use our hips, knees, and ankles and all three come into play when we walk, run, jump, and SQUAT. They also come into play when we learn to catch a ball, shoot a ball, or ride a bike. Here's an example: If you compare an elite tennis player to an elite ice skater, who should win a match of badminton? Most likely, the tennis player. Why is that? Because badminton is a racket sport and has movements similar to tennis. It’s easier for the tennis player to convert his/her skills to badminton than it is for the ice skater to start playing a racket sport. The point is, squatting is a functional movement related to the movements of pedaling a bike, bending down to pick up a ball on the ground, or shooting a basket. Helping athletes to master the movement of a squat (through progression or regression), can create significant opportunities and help them convert their gains to other areas of their lives.
Lastly, the key ingredient to maximizing opportunities for an athlete is to make it fun. When you create a program, add in some games and/or movements that relate to the passions of the athlete. As I mentioned in Part One, developing rapport with your athlete is key. Use the information you learn from them while talking, asking questions, and making a connection, in order to customize the program. Doing the same thing over and over can get extremely boring, and if you lose the interest of your athlete, it will be difficult to progress. So, keep it fun and don’t be afraid of change. Chances are you will learn more about yourself and your athlete. See below for examples of how to progress or regress an exercise