Sean Noriega joins the show today to discuss managing clients, onboarding, programming, weekly training splits, frequency of the big lifts, coaching and cueing, and sacrifices for elite performance.
With a burning passion for baseball, Sean began lifting weights to improve his performance on the field, yet eventually found himself loving the training aspect more than the sport itself. Sean did his first powerlifting meet at 17 years old where he squatted 500lb, benched 245lb and deadlift 515lb. The following fall in his first semester at MIT he hired a powerlifting coach with the intention of doing a meet and then playing another season of baseball. He never returned to baseball and instead put his full attention towards powerlifting and learning as much as he could about programming and coaching. Sean soon began coaching athletes of his own, starting with fellow students and local lifters and slowly growing his online clientele. His team is now around 50 lifters and Sean coaches full time.
We dive in discussing the way Sean organizes his daily schedule, including how he prefers to interact with his clients. As opposed to weekly structured check ins, he leaves communication to be completely open to all clients through social media or text. This allows them to send anything noteworthy “day of” rather than be addressed all at once. Sean finds that he can monitor progress more consistently and make better on the fly adjustments to fine tune each lifter’s performance. Since early on most of his clients were also fellow students, his schedule tended to coincide with when his lifters were training. As a self proclaimed night owl, he finds his best work, including his own training, getting done very late in the evening and he will often stay up until 2-3am.
We take a bit of a U turn at this point and discuss our early experiments with various pre-workout supplements. Matt took us way back to the original Gaspari “Super Pump 250” later named “Super Dump 250” (thanks to all the magnesium). Kyle’s being Ultimate Orange, which unfortunately had killed several NFL players due to an obscene amount of ephedra contained in each serving, and Sean remembers the days where Jack3d was infiltrating seemingly every gym and locker room across the country. James and Sean then proceed to share stories from their baseball days involving Jack3d, Jack Daniels, and protective cups...don’t try this at home.
We switch gears and head back to lifting talk, and we dive into Sean’s onboarding process with a new client. Sean has all clients fill out a typical intake form including an extensive history of their training, coaching, and performance. He will also request videos of their squat, bench, and deadlift and assess whether he needs to address any technical deficiencies. A good note here is that he will not change someone’s squat if they are at an elite level but have an undesirable technique. If someone isn’t experiencing pain and is making progress, he feels no reason to spend months deconstructing their technique when it may not even make them any stronger. While he works with lifters of all abilities, Sean prefers to coach people who are serious and prioritize their training as much as he does his coaching.
After establishing baseline volume and frequency for a client, Sean tries to run an intro block for as long as possible with as little changes as possible. He aims to write the microcycle that will drive adaptation by virtue of it being a good microcycle. He wants to know that a client is making progress due to the volume being prescribed as well as the spacing between sessions. Because powerlifting is so performance oriented, he puts a large focus on finding the best scheduling for his clients to allow for optimal training. Regardless of volume, Sean has found that finding the right frequency can work wonders. Once a client starts getting into meet preps, that’s where he will begin to manipulate volume and frequency accordingly to find the right balance for the individual so they can PR on game day. Sean has tweaked schedules for so many athletes over the years that he has recognized patterns at specific levels that just seem to work, although every athlete is different.
Sean collects quantitative data from his clients, but throughout the week he also aims to hear about more subjective measures including sleep, nutrition, general fatigue, and localized muscular fatigue. By asking the right questions, he can get to the bottom of what his lifters actually need and not only avoid longer term issues down the road but find the right training split for that individual to maximize their progress. Through this process, he has developed good intuition for taking feedback and making the necessary adjustments (if any at all).
Next we talk about consistent themes that Sean finds himself correcting for clients. This is completely dependent on where the lifter comes from both geographically and previous experience with coaches and styles of training. For example, many athletes will try to squat into sumo deadlifts, or try to tuck their elbows on the bench press. The most common issue Sean sees is improper bracing for squatting and deadlifting. Where many people are still taught to just take a big breath and flex against their belt, Sean wants to teach athletes how to integrate the rib cage and pelvis and orient their center of mass.
This led us to discuss training and techniques that are advantageous to powerlifting versus what is more advantageous to health and longevity. Sean makes the point that powerlifting is still about maximizing your leverages to lift the most amount of weight with the least amount of range motion, and there needs to be some perspective here. It comes down to knowing what you want to do and understanding the pay off to achieve that.
Enjoy and hit that subscribe button if you learned a thing or two.
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