Bryce Lewis, 3 time USAPL National Champion and founder of The Strength Athlete, joins the show today to talk about onboarding clients, developing coach-athlete relationships, weak points, and the psychological side of peaking.
Bryce found his way to the world of powerlifting after spending time on the BodyBuilding.com forums when he was looking to increase his volleyball performance. Like many of us, he ended up enjoying the training more than the sport, and hopped on stage a few times in some bodybuilding shows. At this point he felt drawn to the heavier side of lifting, and found a talent in powerlifting and hasn’t looked back. Bryce founded The Strength Athlete in 2013, which provides a comprehensive powerlifting coaching service to clients around the world.
Bryce has had a passion for neuroscience and incorporates this into his coaching services and content at TSA. We dive in talking about the mental sides of training, including psychology and anxiety in powerlifting, and if throwing a garbage bag over the weights can improve your performance on a lift. Bryce discusses his techniques to get an athlete past a mental barrier on a certain lift. Many athletes will ramp themselves up to hit a big number but cannot get themselves to train consistently for reps at that number on day to day sessions, but Bryce tries to bridge the gap between peak performance and sustainable training.
Next we dig into the onboarding and assessment process TSA uses. Bryce kicks things off gathering demographic, training, and nutritional data as well as questions on stress and mental health. He will also request videos of all the big lifts and then hop on a conference call with the client to go over everything. This leads to the topic of client buy-in during the first couple months, as programs may not work for everyone and a remote coach will not always get it perfect right away. Bryce recommends keeping communication extremely open and bouncing ideas off the client to increase buy-in. If an athlete isn’t connecting well with a certain exercise, this communication will allow the coach to find another option and increase long term results.
This leads us into identifying weak points, addressing them, and programming to eliminate them. Bryce talks through his mixed feelings on weak points and what may or may not need to be addressed. For example, if an athlete has a slow and fast part of a deadlift, but their 1RM continues to increase, there may be no issue to address. However, a technique or positional issue may be worth addressing to improve movement efficiency and ultimately a larger 1RM.
On this note, we also discuss the variability in individual athletes and the importance of handling compensatory patterns in the right way. Coaching these can be tricky in that if an athlete is not in pain there may be no reason to change anything about their positioning. Commonly, coaches will try to correct an athlete’s mechanics, when instead we should be looking at what they’re doing right, why they’re doing it in the first place, and be objective if any change needs to even take place. We discuss training patterns that are specific to sport, but training movement variability that leads to success outside of a given sport.
This leads us into athlete monitoring and the wide variety of things that can impact performance. Bryce tends to collect a few subjective recovery scores, but he likes to focus on performance as a primary metric. Are weights generally moving up or down, and what is the overall emotional tone of the client in weekly check ins? Most importantly, a coach shouldn’t get lost in the bar speed or HRV of an athlete without even paying attention to performance on the field. Most importantly, he wants an athlete’s subjective experience to match their objective outcomes in order to create consistency within an athlete’s training program.
Lastly, we dive into the psychological side of peaking for meets and athletes that hold themselves back, when physically they are more than prepared. Bryce prefers to address these concerns as early as possible so nothing needs to be tweaked when gameday comes. For example, he may incorporate a ritual or breathing exercise before a high load lift and have the athlete practice that throughout the entire cycle of training. However, he emphasizes the need to help the athlete understand their response to competition day and use it to their advantage instead of trying to eliminate the response all together. Bryce does want his athletes to get stuck on the outcomes, but to learn to follow their specific game day procedure and utilize backup plans when needed.
Enjoy and hit that subscribe button if you learned a thing or two.
2:00 – Bryce’s background
7:00 – The mental side of training
14:20 – Bryce’s onboarding and assessment process
21:00 – Identifying weak points
30:00 – Compensatory patterns in athletes and how to coach them
37:00 – Athlete monitoring & feedback
47:00 – The psychological side of peaking for meets
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