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Strength and Conditioning: Why Education Matters

Greetings readers! My name is Mitch and I have been asked by The National Rugby Post to write about the importance of strength and conditioning in rugby. Over the next year, I will be writing about different topics within the realm of strength and conditioning and hopefully shed some light on some previously held beliefs. I am a firm believer basing my strength and conditioning programs only on science and research.

When I was first asked to write for The National Rugby Post, I went back and forth on what my first post should be about. I wound up deciding to start this series with a bang and getting up on a bit of a soapbox. Today, I want to talk about the importance of education in S&C.

To kick this off, let me pose this question: if you had to go in for surgery, would you rather have a surgeon who went to school, got his medical license, and went to specialty school or someone who had a few surgeries done on him, watched a few YouTube videos, and just shadowed other surgeons for a few years? I bet you didn’t even have to think about that, right? What about a less extreme example: would you bring your car to a non-licensed mechanic? Some might if they had a personal relationship with the mechanic but I’d bet that most of you wouldn’t even entertain the idea. So then, how is strength and conditioning any different? Just like you wouldn’t trust someone to work on your car who wasn’t educated, you shouldn’t trust a strength and conditioning professional who didn’t have any education. The sad truth is, in the US, most strength and conditioning professionals are not qualified enough to program workouts for their players. I realize the implications of what I am saying and that it probably won’t sit well with most of you but if you look at the bio of most strength coaches, most will have non-related degrees and will base their merit on their past experience/success as an athlete. Call me an elitist but if you don’t have AT LEAST a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Physiology, you will not be able to gain a true mastery of the science that goes behind programing a good strength and conditioning program. Even then, you may miss out on more advanced information in Kinesiology. For instance, I didn’t learn until I was in graduate school that in order to develop faster sprinting velocity, you should only do resisted/loaded sprints using a load from 8-12% of body weight. Anything higher than that and you start to compromise your running form and then you lose the benefits of the exercise. If you compare S&C in the US with any other country you will find some significant disparities. For example: in Australia, professional rugby strength coaches have their Ph.D. and would never even look at someone with a Bachelor’s in Physical Education, no matter how many years of coaching experience they may have.

Now don’t hear what I am not saying. Experience is also extremely important. You can have your Ph.D. in Ex Phys and be able to write the perfect program but if you don’t know how to organize, communicate with, and relate to your players, you will never be successful. Think back to my first question, would you want your surgeon to be fresh out of school and have only performed a few surgeries or would you rather him to have a few years of experience under his belt? These strength coaches that have been in the business for 10+ years have an uncanny ability to talk to their players and get them to do anything. Not to mention their ability to fit a 50-minute workout in 30 minutes when the head coach keeps the players in meetings and interferes with your workout times. What I am saying is that your best strength coaches will have a combination of practical experience as well as the advanced degrees to back up their knowledge and to give them the tools to continue to read up on research so they can continuously evolve and adapt their programs in ways that will only benefit their athletes.

As you can tell from this short post, this is something that I am very passionate about and love to talk about so if you have questions or would like to talk more about this, feel free to get in touch with me and I would love to talk more about the importance of education and proper qualifications with you.