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Why You Should Always Listen To Your Coach

You're warming up really well today. You feel fast. Strong. Probably capable of a new personal best. As you approach your 80% weight, you miss. No big deal, just attempt it again. You miss. What's going on? I feel great! Third attempt - missed again.

Your coach is watching on and he's giving you cues you've all heard before. 'Pull Higher!' 'Strong catch!' 'Stay over!' Deep inside you're thinking 'fuck I've heard this all before.' Deep inside you're thinking 'yeah I already know.' Deep inside you're shutting your coach out.

Have you ever fallen into the habit of doubting your coach or trainer?

I know I definitely have. Early on in my training I made the mistake of doubting the advice I was being told - instead favouring tips or cues that I read on the internet. Something like 'the Chinese pull with the quads' or 'you have to use the hips' or even 'it is okay to pull with bent arms.' The one's that made sense to me I would adopt, the ones that did not I would discard. Unfortunately this pattern also transferred to my relationship with the coach. It wasn't until I began coaching and training my own clients that I realised - there is no right or wrong.

Why is this important? Because although opinions may differ in terms of what is happening with a lift - your coach is giving you tips based on what they have observed. They have observed a flaw in your technique, something that you can do better. If you ask two physiotherapists how they would treat lower back pain, their answers may be very, very different. But one thing that they have in common? They are both trying to get you better.

In weightlifting, every coach has their own beliefs and styles based on their experiences as a coach AND lifter. So when you tell them something isn't working - they'll most likely understand. Because they've been through it themselves. They have coached the mistake you have just made before, most likely performed it themselves and in the best cases, coached AND performed it. So when they say 'pull higher,' there is weight behind that cue because it has probably worked in the past. Put your doubt aside. Trust your coach.

I know what you're thinking. Sure, some coaches/trainers can be wrong. But how do you know this? By listening. If they tell you to pull higher, pull higher. If they tell you to start eating more, start eating more. Do it and gauge the result. Did you make the lift? Are you having more energy while training?

If the answer is yes, aren't you glad you listened? If the answer is no, should you still be glad you listened? Yes. Because now you can use the information and create a feedback loop to your coach. Now you, AND your coach both know that this strategy does NOT work. Your coach can move forward to analyse different parts of your technique and give you other cues. As the lifter, you are the person who can give your coach the BEST feedback. Describe what you feel to your coach, they will analyse it and incorporate that with what they see. This way, you improve together. This is an integral part of the coach-lifter relationship.

There is another extremely important component of the coach-lifter relationship when it comes to injury management. If there is a particular exercise or technique that is hurting you. You must communicate this to your coach. From there you can move forward with the management plan. It could be something simple as dropping the percentage, varying the frequency of your sessions, eating more, sleeping more or consulting a trained professional. But if you don't - and your injury gets worse... You have no one to blame but yourself.

But what if the management plan doesn't work?

Communicate with your coach. As a physiotherapist, I've got a built-in bias but speak to a trained health professional. They will give you advice that you can relay to your coach. From there you've created a new management plan.

Don't get me wrong, I still have doubts occasionally with the advice being given to me. But I communicate with my coach and I tell him exactly what I'm thinking and feeling. They address my questions, and give me a rational explanation. This way, I know my coach has taken my point of view into account. Even if the advice is still the same - at least I know why it has not changed.

In summary, the next time you doubt your coach's advice, understand that they are trying to help you improve based on what they know. It may be different to what you've read or been told. Try it anyway. If it doesn't work, speak up. Remember that your coach was a lifter at one stage too. If you're hurt, speak up. See a health professional. And last of all communicate with your coach!

Phillip Liao (

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