Jesse Burdick, expert strength coach and head coach at PowerWod, sits down with Mike Giardina at the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games to discuss the need to be an open minded coach as a way to grow and dig properly assessing physical and psychological tolerances in your athletes.
Burdick starts off by explaining the beginning of his journey as a coach. He spent months watching people walk into the gym and assessing their walking gait and basic movement patterns as they walked through the long entryway. Through this experience, Burdick realized that it can be very helpful for a coach to assess athletes when their guard is down.
Movement screens can be very helpful, Burdick explains, but a good athlete can break the screen – meaning an athlete can work to hide their inefficiencies because they know they are being screened. So, Burdick spends more time looking at them when they’re not expecting it – when they walk in, load the barbell, grab a pair of dumbbells, etc. Are they limping, favoring a side, or slumped over? This type of physical assessment provides the information necessary to determine an athlete’s physical tolerance for the day – which is one of the necessary components for prescribing relative intensity.
Burdick also explains the importance of building rapport with your athletes. Ask “How are you feeling, man?” and watch and listen to their response. What do they say and how do they move when answering? Do they sound tired or upset? Are their shoulders slumped or is their head down when answering? Does their answer conflict with their body language? Are they telling you everything is good to go, but they look like they’ve been hit by a truck? If so, dig in and determine their mental readiness to train. Are they ready mentally ready to go for a max effort lift or try to PR a benchmark workout, or do they just need to go moderately heavy and just move their body through a workout? This is how we meet an athlete’s psychological tolerance — the other key component to prescribing relative intensity.
Prescribing relative intensity requires an assessment of your athlete’s physical and psychological tolerances. This Is figuring out how physically and mentally prepared the athlete is for the day’s intended stimulus. This is not only important for new athletes. It should be done daily with all athletes.