Highlights of the episode:

  • Key constraints when designing a program
  • How he does screening for movements
  • How he individualizes his programs
  • His big learnings from running a facility
  • How we can reach PEAQ Performance

#seanbaker #preparelikeapro #plplivechats #podcast #melbournestrengthcoach

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Interview Transcript

Jack: Next up, we have Sean Baker, founder of PEAQ Performance. His center is located in Adelaide. His topic will be discussing creating a systematic approach to programming for a private sector gym. Thanks for jumping on, Sean.

Let’s dive in, mate. Let’s start with what are some key constraints to understand when designing a program for a high-performance facility? 

Sean: So, I guess where my passion comes to this topic is, and you guys might have had similar experiences, coming out of university, for example, even to an extent a Master’s degree, I was fortunate that I had lots of practical experience and picked up a fair bit through there.

But being an owner of a private facility now, and even facilitating interns that come through any of the football or cricket or lacrosse that we have, is that programming is the most exciting, yet overwhelming aspect of our job early on in our career. There’s so many times where you get an intern come in and you’d just like to challenge them and ask them the question, ‘Do you have a philosophy that you like to abide by?’

And I think social media is a wonderful thing. You get all the resources from all these amazing coaches and that we have on this panel and from a million other sources. The wonderful man John Siesemann, for example. You see all these exercises that are sexy, exciting. Some of them have their place in programs, but can cause a student or a new coach to become overwhelmed, essentially, and they’re just not sure where to start.

So, sometimes we see instances where there’s a million exercises up in this cloud, this library that they’ve got of exercises, and they just don’t know where to start. There’s other circumstances where they probably just lack the knowledge, whether it’s from a movement or a muscular point of view, maybe just exercise library point of view, that they create programs that aren’t really well-rounded.

So, we say, ‘Okay. I love what you strength program does.’ A leg press, a trap bar dead, a leg extension, a lunge, and a front squat. All in their own right can be fantastic exercises. But all put into that sequence can be obviously pretty imbalanced depending on what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re working with.

And then, on the other side of the coin, you might get guys who have put massive amounts of energy into creating a program. They’ve created this perfect program, that might be dumbbell Bulgarian squats, they’re doing single leg RDLs, cable abduction and so on and so forth. But they don’t program with any foresight where they’re going to progress that athlete to, or any hindsight of where that athlete has worked previously.

And then probably the last thing that I want to touch on in terms of the reason why I think this is such an important topic, aside from those new coaches coming through, is that all of us are involved in some sort of private facility. And I think creating a systematic approach to programming is a really fantastic way of ensuring those guys who start these facilities and become successful based on particular ideology and principles, they have that filter down the ranks of their programming.

Because programming can be quite individualized, quite a personalized experience for each coach and probably different in some ideology. And if you can find ways, so all the coaches that go out to Athletes Authority, there is a hint of Lucky’s ideology, potentially is a plummet to continuum. We were there on the weekends, I talked about The Rehab Continuum and so on and so forth. I think it’s important to have some consistency from coach to coach, but still allow some creativity.

So, without going into a massive monologue, I’ll try to pump through it nice and quickly. For example, we think a really great starting point for the majority of our 360 degree sports, so we’re talking about basketball, football, netball, potentially rugby, these sorts of court and fuel-based sports, just purely from our experience and certainly not written in any particular book. And you see themes of probably coach Woody here. Because he was my era, I graduated my Master’s degree in 2015. So, that was prime time Woody. They started to look at your push, pull, squat, hinge, lunge, so on and so forth. And then also more recently there’s been the Lucky Walmart of the world who have really impacted the industry. So, you probably see a bit of a blend in terms of where this principle comes from.

So, essentially we think that maybe we can flesh it out a little bit further than maybe Woody’s Big Six. We go to the Big Ten. So, we do squat, hinge, lunge and thrust or hip extension. There are maybe four primary low-body moments that probably need to be ticked off in about 80% of most circumstances, if everything else is well and good. Push and pull. I like to separate those, I think vertical push and horizontal push are very different. I think vertical pull and horizontal pull are very different. And then in our trunk options usually maybe a rotation or an anti-rotation. So, those are the 10 big foundational movement patterns that we’ll try to narrow down.

And now you’re saying, ‘Okay. It’s all well and good base. It’s all fine. You see those movements. How do you decipher which of those movements is appropriate?’ So, usually the next thing that we get our interns and young coaches through is for each of those 10 movements I want you to decipher what do you think is the most basic, regressed, unloaded, beginner variation of that movement pattern that you can think of? And then what’s every little baby reaching step all the way through to the most progressed, loaded, potentially unstable in some circumstances, advanced style of that moment that you can think of? And that essentially creates your movement exercise continuum.

And we say continuums a lot. Again, Lucky has brought that into popularity. I think it’s good to use terminology that people would understand as well. So, essentially you’ve got 10 continuums. And then from there it’s about you deciphering as a coach, using your methodology or ideology to develop an appropriate movement screening or testing protocol that, in turn, will help you to decipher which level of each of those 10 movement patterns that person’s up to.

So, ‘Look, I’ve got a wonderful squat, so we’re going to get them doing a barbell box squat, for example. But the hinge is a bit average. Let’s just get them on the GHD just to get them into that boomy pattern to start off.’ And so on and so forth. And then you build the other 20% of the program around potentially what are they trying to achieve out of it, what’s their injury history, it could factor into, maybe it’s as simple as some nice complimentary exercises in there as well. Often if everything is all well and good, you can pair up your hinging pattern with a knee dominant hamstring. So, you’re hitting both ends of the hammy. You could be complimenting your hip thrusts with some abduction work, so that you’re hitting two very primary movements of the glutes as well. 

And all of a sudden, you’ve fleshed out a pretty extensive and well-rounded program in a short amount of time, potentially working in a group scenario in a private setting. It can be quite highly individualized. So, maybe every person in a 30 person squad, now that’s unrealistic, but let’s just talk hypothetically, is doing it a different squat pattern, a different hinge pattern and a different lunge, but really the crux of what they’re doing is all very similar as well.

So, that is essentially a bit of a systematic approach to programming really condensed that we do implement at PEAQ. So, no matter which coach you align with, at the end of the day there is some hint of Sean Baker’s programming there. And I’m really confident in sending any athlete to any of our coaches, depending on their availability and the situation, that the content of what they’re providing really aligns with what the PEAQ brand is as well.

Jack: Yeah, I love it, mate. Thanks for giving us that background on your philosophy and how important it is to, like you mentioned, every coach is going to develop their own philosophy and their own way, but don’t get too caught up in the Instagram early days. Try and learn off an experienced coach. I think that’s great advice. 

Sean: And the other thing I’ll say, just to chop you out there, is that potentially setting something out like that system can sometimes help you conceptualize some of those exercises. Does it fit into any of these patterns? Is it a squat? Is it a hinge? Is it a lunge? Okay. If it’s not any of those, it’s an accessory. And, potentially, as an accessory, what that could compliment or what that could address that is not being addressed in our big 10 movements? And then from there, well, if it doesn’t do anything, is there a genuine point while I’m implementing this in our program?

The other thing I probably should touch on, I’m trying to push through here for you as well. We talked about those 10 being really important for our 360 degree sports. We’ve got some track athletes we work with. And potentially I don’t think that for our a hundred meter sprinter that vertical push, for example, is really that important. We might chuck that in there as an accessory, for example. 

So, we’ve got a different set of parameters for our track and field athletes. Horizontal vectors are probably a lot more, from at least an upper body point of view anyway, are more important for us. And then you might say, ‘Okay, I really think that elbow flection and extension is a primary moving pattern for a track and field athlete. So, let’s flesh out a continuum for that.’ Or ‘I think trunk anti-extension.’ So, you’re planking variations too.

So, really, as long as you’ve deciphered what are the key movement patterns for the athlete or client that you’re working with and all the population you’re working with, what’s the continuum of exercises within that movement pattern, that’s going to make your life a lot easier and programming for potentially a lot more people than you might do in a pro sector environment as well. 

Jack: You mentioned screening and let’s throw testing in there as well. What do you test and how does that fit in with your philosophy with these 360 degree athletes? 

Sean: So, from a movement point of view, I probably played around with a few different variations. We’ve had influence from Ian McKeown who’s high-performance in Port Adelaide, who did his PhD on the triple A. And I did some work under him when I was working for Port Adelaide development. So, that was as someone who I played with as well. We are actually just exploring now the Val movement screen assessment as well. There’s some new tools there that we’re going to have a bit of a squeeze at.

And simply we’ve got some coaches that will just work their way through the continuum. So, they might do a body weight squat. Yep. You’ve ticked that off. Okay. Let’s go into a split squat. Okay. That’s good. Okay. Let’s go into a Bulgarian. Okay. That’s all sweet. Now let’s add some load on. And they work their way down the chain and maybe identify a point down that continuum in which they think there’s a limitation or something they can work on.

So, we’re probably still playing around with that. I still don’t truly believe there’s one perfect movement screen that we’ve come across yet, potentially that ticks the boxes for everybody we come across.

In terms of performance testing, we’re big on the force platforms. So, generally we do a lot of academy with jumps. We do the hop tests. We do iso mid-thigh pull. They’re probably our primary strength and power measures. We do 20 minutes sprint, but that’s, obviously, as we’ve probably mentioned in a few of the presentations so far, that we’re probably limited in space in being able to really make some meaningful gains in that. There’s probably some marginal gains in your 20 minutes of sprinting. A couple of reactive agility tests as well. 

There’s a little bit of variability in terms of distances that can be covered depending on which tests you do. If you are adding a reactive component, as opposed to just a change of direction. But I would say, primarily our force platforms are what we rely on the most for giving us performance measures.

Jack: And you mentioned earlier with individualization for the sport, so that you tie that into that. What’s relevant from them within your fundamental movement patterns with the testing? How much do you go into that force velocity profiling? And how does that look for strength & conditioning coaches? Like how do you implement that? How does that influence your decision making from a programming point of view?

Sean: To an extent, I guess, once you’ve worked through enough athletes, you’ve generally got a bit of an idea of where you’re going to start to tailor what you’re after. And it can be dependent on the stage of the season as well, and potentially sometimes on what that client or athlete asks you, or tells you what they’re looking for to achieve. But usually we can paint a pretty good picture. 

One of the things we utilize is a pretty simple DSI. For example, we look at what is the peak vertical force you can produce in academy jump, how that compared to the peak vertical force in isometric mid-thigh pull, what’s the difference there, get a bit of a rough guide. If they can only produce 60% or less of their peak vertical force in academy jump, as opposed to the iso mid-thigh pull, then potentially outright the force development is a lot more of a focus for us.

The guidelines talk to us from the guys that we communicate pretty frequently with Val. If there’s somewhere between 60 to 80% Concord training was pretty appropriate. And then, conversely, if you’re producing 80% or more of your peak vertical force in academy jump, as opposed to mid-thigh pull, then let’s just get those athletes really, really strong. 

So, that’s probably, I would say, in most scenarios where we do a bit of that force velocity profiling. For some of our court sports in particular, we do look at RSIs on hop tests and things like that as well. And potentially for a little bit of fatigue monitoring too. So, I would say they’re probably our go-to in 80% of scenarios. 

Jack: I love it, mate. That’s a great response and, no doubt, all the S&Cs listening in have taken down some good notes with the gems you provided there. It’s a fun topic to discuss, and we could talk about it all night. But, since running the facility and looking after the programming, what have been some big learnings in your experience so far, to wrap it up, this topic? 

Sean: I think, implementing, and again, it’s something that’s been reiterated, when we have talked to the guys, the Athletes Authority, for example, you certainly want to provide that care and certainly a percentage, an extent of individualization to each person you work with. But, at the end of the day, and it’s something that Woody goes on about too, nailing those fundamentals is going to be first on your priority list.

And you’re going to drive yourself insane, if you’re sitting there, for example, working with 500 athletes, if you’re going through and trying to highly individualize and simply change exercise progressions for the sake of it, so that John’s program doesn’t look like Jack’s program when inherently there’s nothing really underlying that there needs to be a change for that, then it’s okay to have a little bit of generalization.

Just reiterating what a lot of the guys have said so far, I think what has really shown in all the presentations tonight is just how much this group of panelists really care about their community. And I think that’s helped us to thrive in a situation over the last two years, that’s been challenging for our industry. But we’ve been able to maintain more meaningful connections with our communities and therefore they rallied around us more. We’ve been able to keep in contact during ISO’s and out of program, through some circumstances, I send there equipment and things like that as well.

I think that’s what really separates this small, I guess I’ll say small business, just because we’re not big chains, but small business, S&C facilities that genuinely have a passion for being results-driven as opposed to just find through as many numbers as possible. So, just keep caring about it. Care about your athletes, care about your people. And generally the money will flow afterwards, I think. 

Jack: That’s a great note to finish on, mate. It was a consistent theme of discussion from everyone and probably a testament to how late it is at night, probably for everyone, except for Chris. He’s peaking. But now I want to thank everyone. We won’t do a Q&A at the end. I think there’s been jam-packed, plenty of information over the last two hours. And I want to thank everyone for the time. Sean, for everyone that is listening in, mate, in the podcasting world, as well as those that are tuned in live, where’s the best place to get in contact with yourself?

Sean: Instagram, @peaqperformance. But we are P, E, A, Q. And it’s not that I am dyslexic, it’s just a little acronym there for personalized, evidence-based, applied and qualified. So, I’m tuning that for a few people. There we go. I’ve spelled that out a few times. @peaqperformance on Instagram and @peaq or @peaqconditioning on Facebook and just www.peaq.com.au.

Jack: Fantastic. Well, we’ll add in all the links, websites, socials, and all the information in our show notes. So, for those listening in, if you tuned in late, head to our YouTube channel to watch the full recording. And we will release a bite-sized episodes. So, every presentation will become a bite-sized episode on our podcast ‘Prepare Like A Pro’.

So, thank you, the guest panel, all of you guys for sharing your time, your experiences, and, of course, your knowledge with us all. I’ve got a lot out of it and, no doubt, all the listeners have as well. And for everyone that’s tuned in with us, thank you for listening in to this live chat. Our next live chat will be with Aaron Kellett, the high-performance manager at the Australian cricket team, next Thursday at 8:30 PM. That’s the 3rd of March. Those listening in the podcasting world, I’ll see you guys then.


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