Are You a Coach or Are You a Training Partner?

Photo Credit: OneKilo

As coaches within weightlifting or strength & conditioning, we take great pride in the physical culture of our occupation, our own performance, and our ability to lead by example through our own training.  But, for those coaches that may have decided to consistently train side by side with the athletes they work with, I pose the question – are you a coach or are you a training partner?

I see this in the micro gym and weightlifting setting more than I do anywhere else, and when Coach decides to jump in with his or her athletes more often than not, the lines between coach and training partner can become blurred.  Both roles are crucially important to the development of an athlete, but it’s important for both parties to understand their role in the relationship. Because of this, I challenge those coaches who consistently train alongside their athletes to commit to making these lines crystal clear in their own personal and professional interactions with their athletes.

There are certain obligations that come with being a coach, that do not exist between training partners. A coach OWNS the performance of their athletes – good or bad.  On the other hand, a training partner may help elevate an athletes performance in an individual workout, but at the end of the day, they carry no responsibility associated with it whatsoever.

The training partner is there to provide moral support, create a level accountability, potentially even provide some type of mentorship, but in the context of performance – it’s surface level.  The coach must dive deeper!  The coach is there to turn a vision or goal into reality.  This involves a level of detail, focus and mental effort not only away from the platform, but also in the midst of a training session that can be bone crushing at times.  Many of you may be able to relate that coaching can be more exhausting than a hard training session!

So, it’s important to realize that if you want to maximize the performance of your athletes, training with your athletes takes away from your ability to maximize their long term performance.

Just as there are physical energy systems (phosophgen, glycolytic, and oxidative), there also exists mental energy systems (analytic, diagnostic, and systemic).  If you are coaching, you need to put your energy into exhausting your mental energy systems, specifically your analytic and diagnostic systems.  If you are training, you need to put your energy into exhausting your physical energy systems.

Each have their limits, and in order to improve these energy systems, you must focus on one at a time – you can not maximize those mental and physical systems simultaneously if you are a Coach. If you do try to tap into both, you become ineffective at exerting and maximizing those energy systems, and in the end both suffer the consequences.

As coaches, we lean on various training principles such as Overload, Reversibility, Specificity, and Individuality, to guide the training of athletes.  We must also lean on and apply these same principles to how we look at our own coaching.  Here’s what I mean:


In the context of training, the athlete must experience a progressive “overload” in volume (reps) and/or intensity (weight on the bar) in order to progress.  In the context of coaching, the coach must progressively overload their mental effort.  As the athlete progresses in their development, the mental effort a coach needs to put in becomes greater, because path to improvement in performance requires more thought and effort – progress is no longer linear.


In the context of training, if you don’t use it, you lose it!  The same applies to coaching! If you train with your athletes, your mental energy towards coaching is not being maximized – in fact it is being minimized.  Programming is only a cog in the larger wheel of coaching.  Real COACHING happens when your athletes are banging it out and fighting their way through the depths of Mordor.

If you are approaching this through the lens of a training partner, the moral support is needed, but your blade is becoming dull and you’re ability to successfully GUIDE your athletes to the other side is diminishing.  Over time, you lose your ability to see the 1,000 foot view and provide perspective when you’re training side by side with your athletes. Instead, you develop the same 5 foot view as they do, because that is what you are seeing and experiencing.

Specificity & Individuality

In the context of training, form follows function, and load should challenge technique, never change technique.  Additionally, Tex McQuilkin, Power Athlete Director of Training, shared some great insight with me once that unconscious failure is where individuality exists. This is where the ART of coaching comes into play.  We must first be able to observe and delineate when technique is challenged vs. changed, and where unconscious failure occurs.  Secondly, and more importantly, we must be able to make the necessary adjustments to the training for an individual or individuals.

As a Coach, this requires an intense amount of focus to narrow and hone in your “coaches eye”.  If you’re in training mode, you’re not in 100% coaching mode.  This is a reason why the role of a training partner is surface level.  The coach requires a deeper level of focus.  This becomes stunted and limited if you’re training and coaching simultaneously.

If you are a coach, specialize in being a coach!  In trying to balance the role of a coach and a training partner, you are submitting yourself to being a generalist and wading in a pool of mediocrity.  Leave the role of the training partner to the athletes.  In doing so, you will accelerate the adaptations of not only your athletes of but also yourself as a coach!

New Training Cycles at DELTA Weightlifting!

I want to pull the curtain back a bit for you all to give you more insight into what we’re doing with our training and with our athletes here at DELTA Weightlifting. At the start of each new training block, my hope is to provide more context to what you may be seeing on social media.

If you’re training on your own (a globo or garage gym type setting), I’m an open book, so please feel free to reach out to me with any training related questions at The easiest thing to do, however, would be to up on one of our online training programs or teams and experience what we’re doing first hand!

Keep training hard, and compete for excellence daily!


For those of you that have been following us, our high performance athletes have been in the midst of an intense, but needed General Physical Preparation (GPP) Phase. As we finish this part of training, it’s time to build on the momentum we’ve created during this phase of our training.

As we transition away from GPP, training will start to become more and more specific. Will will now look to develop SPECIFIC adaptations and training qualities.

The focus of training for the next 4 weeks for these athletes will be to improve their technical positions at the point of explosion (think power position), and developing and improving their Rate of Force Development (RFD). What is RFD?

RFD is simply a measure of how much force you can produce in the shortest amount of time possible. In weightlifting, the best way to develop and improve this training quality is through lifting from the blocks at the power position, or right at the point of explosion.

Concurrently in our strength work, we will be driving the adaptation of myofribillar hypertrophy, e.g. increasing the size of contractile muscle fibers.

Our athlete’s are going to not only increase the contractile muscle fibers in their strength work, but they’re going to USE, or learn to use, those bigger muscle fibers with the block work, which will increase their ability to produce more force and power! It’s time to unlock their athletic potential.

If you like what we do, need purpose and structure to your training, but can’t find a way to make it in to train with us in person. Train with us remotely on our Peak Platform Performance Team. Now is the perfect time to get started. Click here to sign up!


Meat Factory is a newer program we recently released that I’m really excited about. We are finishing up our first 6 week training block, called Building Beef with some of our members here in the gym, and I want to start offering this Team to the masses!

To give you an idea of what our team, Meat Factory, is all about, it’s simple: BUILD LEAN MUSCLE MASS and get STRONGER! DELTA Weightlifting is ultimately about performance, so the muscle you’ll gain through Meat Factory is not just about show….they are about GO! You can always tell the difference between those that train and build muscle to look good, and those that train and build muscle for strength and performance. We prefer the latter.

July 1st is not just the start of a new month for Meat Factory, but it’s the start of a new training cycle! If you’re new to us, great – you couldn’t have jumped in at a better time!

I’m calling this next training cycle “Meat Sweats.” It’s 6 weeks in length, and since we’ll be hitting it hard during the dead of summer, you will sweat…a lot! We will be hitting higher intensities, i.e. heavier weights, this cycle compared to last. To get our volume in, however, I will be including a number of “drop sets” that will be based off of a percentage of your rep max for that day. I want the focus of these drop sets to be about SPEED. How fast can you move the barbell?? I want you to move the barbell in these drop sets with insane amounts of speed!

If you’re looking for structure and purpose in a general strength program, Meat Factory is for you! Sign up here to get started with our new training cycle today!

Mental Energy Systems

Just as there are physical energy systems for the athlete that need to be trained and developed (phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative), there also exists mental energy systems that the coach must train and develop.

In my latest blog for Power Athlete, I explore and define what these systems are, and which of those systems need the most attention for you to grow as a coach and to maximize the performance of your athletes. Read the whole blog (approx 3 min. read)HERE!


Also, I’m excited to announce a new program we’re offering – MEAT FACTORY! It’s a general strength and body building program that will stack on the meat and increase your strength. Punch over to TrainHeroic here and get started now!

The Benefits of the Weightlifting Movements for Baseball Players

Photo Credit: 123RF

There are no bad movements – just poor understanding, shitty implementation, and even worse execution.  Just because you don’t completely understand an exercise or can’t communicate effectively to teach and coach your athletes to do something proficiently, doesn’t mean that the movement or exercise has a purpose and validity in training athletes.

For whatever reason, weightlifting and overhead movements have been demonized in the baseball world for years.  Admitting you use the snatch and clean & jerk with your baseball players seemingly gets the same reaction as you would walking through the streets of San Francisco wearing a MAGA hat.  Making broad statements about the “negatives” of the weightlifting movements and their variations is only one side of the coin.  To me, most of these “negatives” are simply just excuses and underscore a lack of understanding of how these tools can actually be a huge benefit, rather than a hindrance to performance.

In fact, there are many positives to why these movements could and should be used with baseball players throughout their training career.

I want to make clear that I don’t believe an athlete’s program should look like that of a weightlifter – that would be dogmatic and naive.  What I am saying is that before completely throwing out one of the most potent tools in your belt because of the “negatives,” or as I see it – excuses, it’s important to understand the benefits first.  From there, you need to reflect and analyze your skill set as a coach.  Do you have the skill set to effectively implement these tools?  If you don’t, will you look to improve your craft, or will you settle for mediocrity, and be dishonest for why you don’t use these tools?  Be a pro – always look to improve your craft.

Remember, there are very few absolutes in this world, especially when it comes to training – only Sith Lords deal in absolutes. It makes me uneasy and should be a red flag to others when coaches make blanket statements of “all,” “none,” “always,” or “never.”  It exposes either a dogmatic approach or inexperience.  Just because certain exercises aren’t a good fit for a handful of athletes, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for everyone.  That’s where you as a coach need to be ready to make adjustments for that individual, or individuals.  Be fluid.

With that in mind, I’m going to first outline some of the most common and unfounded arguments, or excuses, that advocate against using the weightlifting movements, then I’m going to provide a rebuttal as to why you should consider use them in your programs for developing baseball players.  Also, while we may be directly addressing baseball players, there is obvious carry over as to why the weightlifting movements could and should be used for other sport athletes as well.


The weightlifting movements and their variations are only high risk if they are coached and executed poorly.  And yeah, no doi that health and longevity of the upper extremity joints is crucial for success.  But let’s take a step back and look at the most common injuries in baseball, and then address why this is occurring.  Shoulder and elbow overuse injuries are the most common and rampant across the board.  Why is this so? Two fold.

First, because of early specialization and year round play. This provides no offseason to develop the body or other skills and athletic traits by playing other sports.  This is becoming an epidemic at the youth level for many club sports outside of baseball (just google early sport specialization in youth sports). Coupled with year round play, a second contributor for this epidemic in shoulder and elbow injuries is due to lack of dedicated or focused emphasis in strength training, especially in the upper body.

I’m not sure we can do anything about the state of travel ball and early specialization in youth baseball or other sports – we’re small cogs in a big wheel.  But what we can do to minimize these overuse injuries is to STRENGTHEN these athletes and their upper extremities through effective training.

If coached and used properly, the weightlifting movements and their variations can be extremely effective at STRENGTHENING the connective tissues and the surrounding musculature of the elbow and shoulder joints, not weaken.  Are you putting stress on the joints when you snatch or clean & jerk? Sure, but not all stress is bad – in order to drive adaptation and resiliency, stress is a crucial component of development. You must stress to progress.

Too often, the weightlifting movements are only viewed in terms of their ability to develop and produce force, but for athletic development, a crucial component of using these exercises is their ability to develop and train the athlete to absorb impact and REDUCE force.  Force reduction is an essential part of injury PREVENTION and creating a more durable baseball player to withstand the demands of throwing year round.

One of the biggest mechanisms for elbow and shoulder injuries in baseball players is deceleration, or lack thereof, in the follow through of throwing.  This is a major reasons to have baseball players snatch, for example. The turn over and the catch in the snatch trains and improves decceleration/force reduction qualities baseball players.

So in reality, the biggest issues that should cause the most concern for health and longevity with baseball players in the upper extremities, especially youth, is year round play and the LACK of training to develop strength and stability in the upper extremities using overhead movements.  Don’t run away from a problem, run to it and attack it head on!


If you’ve identified a performance limiting factor like limited mobility, what are you doing to improve to limiting factors?  Again, some strength coaches have a very myopic view of what the barbell can be used for.  While it is primarily understood as a tool to develop strength and power, many overlook the barbell as a tool to develop and improve MOBILITY.  The weightlifting movements and basic barbell exercises can simply be mobility tools in and of themselves.  Those coaches that don’t realize this haven’t spent much time using a barbell – it shows.

Look, the full lifts obviously wouldn’t be a great option for a baseball player, or any athlete for that matter, whose hips are too locked up to get in a good start position from the floor, or shoulders too tight to get into the bottom of an overhead squat.  You’d be negligent to force a range of motion that isn’t there yet.  BUT, if you have an understanding of the different variations, it can be a simple fix to set the athlete up for success (in terms of both performance AND health/longevity).

An example of this would be to start from blocks or the hang, and finish in a power (think a quarter squat) – both positions don’t require as much hip and shoulder mobility respectively.  To regress it further, you can even simply do a snatch press or overhead squat to a range of motion where the athlete can maintain solid posture and position.  The mobility, stability, and strength gained in the shoulder girdle can be quite dramatic in the most positive way!

If you have a visceral understanding of the barbell, it can provide you with another tool in your belt to attack the performance limiting factors of limited mobility and/or lack of stability to compliment what else you are doing to mitigate those limiting factors.

Again, instead of running away from a problem, run to it and attack it head on!


Again, another excuse and I despise.  Sure, you get a pro or college athlete that comes to work with you during a short break that a) has never done a weightlifting movement, and/or b) doesn’t do weightlifting movements in their program back at school or club, then sure, teaching and implementing those movements would be a poor use of time.  You would get more bang for your buck implementing sprints, dynamic med ball work, plyos, and basic barbell training.

But in the context of longer term athlete development in the high school or college setting when you have 2-4 years to work with these kids, you’re telling me you can’t get someone to move effectively within a couple of weeks!?  This tells me that you, the coach, don’t have a systematic and repeatable approach to teaching and progressing an athlete with the weightlifting movements. Which is fine, but what are you doing about it to fill that gaping hole in your coaching?

There’s only a high learning curve if you don’t have a systematic and repeatable approach or you can’t effectively communicate.  Yes, the weightlifting movements are complex, but complex doesn’t need to be difficult.  In my experience, when I see a “high learning curve,” it has more to do with the coach than the athlete.  If you spend the time as a coach developing and improving your approach to TEACHING the lifts, the learning curve for the athlete can be reduced exponentially.

I’m a performance whore.  If there’s something that I think will improve the performance of my athletes that I don’t have a great understanding about, I’m going to invest my time and resources into gaining at the very least a base level of understanding so I can then effectively implement it with my athletes.  Why wouldn’t you want to do the same?  Don’t be a “systems guy.”

Additionally, it’s not just about getting the athletes to be in a position to move “heavy weight”.  Again, this view shows a lack of deeper understanding of the benefits of the weightlifting movements.  There’s so much more that these exercises train and develop than just strength and power!  Even if the athlete is moving around and learning simply with an empty barbell, he is developing and improving their biomechanical and neuromuscular efficiency – important factors in developing general athleticism.


Power may very well be plane specific, and I agree – if you only train sagittal plane movements, you are not truly developing athleticism, and you’re creating performance imbalances that will catch up to you at some point and cost you when it matters the most.  Even with my weightlifters, we incorporate movement in all three planes of movement.  I wrote about this at length in a recent article for Power Athlete here.

With that being said, using the sagittal dominate weightlifting movements is still important in DEVELOPING power.  The implementation of dynamic med ball exercises, additional plyometrics, sprinting and change of direction drills in the frontal and transverse planes is how you EXPRESS and DISPLAY your developed power.

Weightlifting movements have their time and place, especially with baseball players!  The transfer to the field that these movements can have are powerful and undeniable.  But there’s one last point to be made should you implement these potent tools into the training of your athletes – it’s NOT about the numbers.  The numbers, or weight on the bar, should never be the priority. The emphasis and focus should always be about quality of MOVEMENT and how the bar is being moved, not what on the bar is being moved. If you’re chasing numbers, the quality of training will suffer over time, as will the health and longevity of your athletes.  Movement over intensity – no question about it.

Instead of pushing false and worn out narratives, a better and more honest answer to the question of “why weightlifting movements aren’t great for athletes and why we don’t use them” should simply be “we don’t know enough about them or have enough in depth personal or practical experience with them to effectively and safely use them with our athlete population.”

Now that’s an answer I can respect!  Why?  It tells me you’re honest with yourself and understand what you do and don’t know.  But want to be a pro coach? Take it to the next level. Take ownership. Be honest with yourself. Stop making excuses.  Admit what you know and more importantly what you don’t know.  Excel at what you do know. Continually seek out knowledge and improvement in what you don’t know. Apply that new knowledge.  Push the profession forward!


If you want to learn more about what we do and train with us, click here!

Lessons Learned from International Competition: Dane Miller of Garage Strength

Dan Miller’s Athlete, Jordan Wissinger, Competing at the 2019 Pan American Championships

With the conclusion of the 2019 Pan American Championships recently, I reached out to fellow coach, friend, and rockstar, Dane Miller, to see what he learned from his experiences coaching at the most successful international meet in Team USA history.

Dane Miller of Garage Strength

For those of you who are not familiar with Dane, he is the owner of Garage Strength in Reading, PA and has developed and coached athletes to international competitions at the youth, junior, and senior level within a relatively short amount of time. Something very few coaches have been able to accomplish.

I love the opportunity to learn from other great coaches and their experiences, so I’m grateful that Dane was willing to share his wealth of knowledge with us! Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dane:

DON: You recently got back from coaching at the Pan American Championships down in Guatemala.  As a coach, what was the biggest thing you took away from that competition?

DANE: There are so many lessons learned on these trips. Lessons that are specific to the sport of weightlifting and lessons that are also related to other aspects such as travel, sleep preparation, nutrition on the road, general organization, etc…Ultimately, the two biggest lessons I see are more from the lifting realm. Every lifter speaking about the future, the lifters discussing their programming AFTER Pan Ams, those were the lifters that didn’t compete as well. Every lifter that was entirely focused on the tasks that were immediately in front of them were the lifters that tore it up!

Cj Cummings is a great example. He arrived in Guatemala the night before he was set to compete. When we ate breakfast the next morning, he wasn’t stressed about weights, he wasn’t talking about how he came in the night before and had long travel, all he was focused on was making lifts. His direct response, “As long as I make my lifts, it will be fine.” That attitude is the “go with the flow” style attitude that creates champions. SO…focus on the task at hand, make lifts and go with the flow. Those are the best lessons.

DON: I want to learn more about your process for evaluating the performance of both yourself and your athletes.  How do you judge and evaluate success and/or shortcomings in a meet, and what do you do to ensure better success in the future?

DANE: Judgement of my performance is based around a few things. I want to see how prepared my athlete was physically, mentally and technically. Did they hit their necessary numbers during the last 10 days of preparation? If so, then we are in a good spot physically. Were they focused entirely on the competition, the task at hand and did they have a clear cut goal laid out in their mind that could be executed? If so, then we are in a good spot. Finally, how was the movement and technique of the athlete. Were their positions solid, did they understand what our technical goals were? These are all aspects I focus on as a coach to ensure that we are clear about where we are heading for each meet, international or national.

As for my athletes, I want to see how prepared they are on game day. Did they pack their food for the meet, do they have their stimulants, do they have chalk, tape, wraps, everything you could possibly use for lifting, they better have in their bag! When we do our meet preparation, are they in a firm mindset, are they confident? That helps me see where they are at mentally. The ultimate benchmark is based around warm ups, how they handle hairy situations where they have to sit or wait for attempts and then how they execute on the competition platform. If they miss lifts they should not miss, then that’s not a good situation obviously. If they miss lifts that I view as “reach” lifts, then I am less inclined to view those lifts in a negative light.

DON: What are the differences in coaching at an International level vs. a national level meet?

DANE: I think there are a few key differences. The equipment at international competitions is almost always a bit lower quality, especially at Pan Ams because the Pan Am competitions are in poorer countries that do not have the funding that we have in the US. That means the bars may not have great knurling, they may not rotate well, the chalk may not be great, the platforms might have grooves in them, the mats on the side might be uneven…but we need to remember that everyone is dealing with the same situation!

Internationally, I have also found most athletes are jammed into one area with regards to their attempts. This can be similar to some National events but I rarely have seen 8-10 athletes open up within 2-3 kilos at a national competition. This past event, Senior Pan Ams, Jordan Wissinger waited 17 minutes from his opener snatch to his second attempt. This is stuff that needs to be factored into preparation. Sometimes our athletes will complain about sitting and waiting BUT, being able to sit and wait and still perform is key on the international stage.

At National meets, all of the hospitality tends to be excellent, the food is normal and the travel is generally simple. This makes for a lot less stress for the athlete. One final difference at international meets is that coaches tend to take more sensible jumps. Usually, the jumps in weight are more calculated and more explainable. Coaches will have a bit more reasoning behind attempts and if they do end up taking a BIG jump, it is likely to jump into a medal spot or to win.

At international meets, everything in my mind is about earning those medals. The more medals, the better. Generally, the total does not matter. If it is a world qualifier or Olympic Games qualifier, the total still matters but for the most part, medals are the number one goal. At the national stage, I tend to focus less on medals and more on specific totals to make international teams. I want to have the best team in America and that means MAKE TEAMS! The more athletes I have get on teams, the better. So my approach at national meets is to make teams, my approach at international meets is to earn medals.

DON: Which coaches were you impressed with the most and why?

DANE: Every coach at Pan Ams is there for a reason. It’s an honor to be at meals and be surrounded by coaches like Max Aita, Spencer Arnold, Tim Swords, Brian Secrest, Dave Spitz and many of the other greats in our sport. Every single coach has an incredible knack for their lifter, their mindset and their movement and what could be bothering them or helping them heading into this big of a competition. Out of those coaches, Josh Galloway, coach of Kate Nye, is the coach that has impressed me the most on a regular basis. This was the third (I think) trip with Josh and just having short discussions with him and watching Kate’s progress, he is impressive. He also has very good energy and is a good dude to be around!

5) When it comes to competition coaching, what are the top 3 most important things you are focused on and why?

I have all of my warm ups laid out ahead of time, I ask the athlete what they want to do if we get jammed up at a weight and the meet slows down and I always make sure the athlete has enough food, pre-workout, tape, chalk, etc. At pre-meet, we always discuss the cues we are focused on, the ritual before lifting the bar, all the way down to asking them if they want back slaps! I believe the three key factors end up being: 1. Have a good loader who is quick and paying attention. 2. Have a coach that is the communicator and does the counting on the table and helps let the other coaches know how far out they are. 3. Have a hype man, the dude that everyone feeds off of and get excited about going out and hitting PR’s!

6) In an international level competition setting, what are you more concerned about – performance or results? Is that different from a national level competition setting? If so, how?

This is similar to number three. In most cases, I am more concerned about earning medals and making lifts. If everyone makes lifts, they earn the medals we want. This is slightly different from national competitions because we often work toward the goal of making teams and may take bigger risks in competition…BUT, the most important aspect behind both situations is that the athlete MUST MAKE LIFTS. That means they need to be consistent, they need to know the technical goal and they need to know the approach to being a champion!


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