10 Things I learned on day 1 of my Poliquin International Coaching Program Certification

Principle 1

Supplementation is essential for maximizing the performance of athletes, especially clean ones. There is an abundance of evidence and scientific literature pointing to the positive influence on work capacity of many supplements such as: creatine, ribose, carb powder, protein, glutamine and beta alanine. Such nutrition support translates to the ability to handle greater loads when performing multiple sets. (1)

Principle 2

A:  The brains intent determines the training effect, not the velocity of the bar when training for “speed” or training to build quick twitch muscle fibres.  Some people believe that the only way to become FAST is to move the weight quickly. False. Concentrating on moving quickly while reaching muscle failure will bring about the same adaptation as moving the weight quickly. (2)

B: The key to becoming more explosive is keeping the reps low(1-5) so that the quick twitch (high threshold) motor units are recruited. Training 8-12 reps – even though quickly, is highly ineffective.

Principle 3

The nervous system doesn’t like imbalanced strength ratios between the: upper and lower, front to back (anterior-posterior) or right and left sides of the body. It senses that these imbalances may lead to a potential injury. For example If you are only interested in aesthetics and over train your “mirror muscles” or train your upper body un-proportionately to your  lower body, your gains in size and strength may come to a grinding, screeching hault. You are only as strong as your weakest link and the brain and nervous system thrive off of balance and symmetry for maximum performance. Your bench has not gone up in a while? It might be time to build up your squat or increase the strength in your lower body to blast through your upper body plateau.

Principle 4

Structural balance is king. Determining structural balance should be the starting point for anyone especially athletes and bodybuilders. Why? Minimizing strength and flexibility differences in the body will allow you to perform better at any lift and greatly reduce risk of injury.

Principle 5

Your primary movers are probably not what’s holding back your lifts, your stabilizers and fixators are. Most people have an imbalance between their primary movers and their stabilizers,favoring strength in their primary movers over their stabilizers. Your stabilizers are what keep your bones and joints in mechanically advantageous positions, not your primary movers. The nervous system will detect if the  stabilizers will fail to keep extremities in alignment and will act to  inhibit primary movers from producing maximum force by reducing the neural drive to the muscles. Often times increasing strength in the rotator cuff instead of where everyone usually focuses: pecs, delts and triceps can and will often lead to increased poundages in the bench press and other similar exercises to the bench.

Principle 6

An anaerobic base (endurance) is not a factor in strength development. Are you listening  crossfitters? If you are trying to get stronger you don’t need to keep “wod-ing”. Not taking a break from significant endurance style training may result in seriously futile and negligible gains in strength. Crossfitters are not the only ones who fall victim to this. Sometimes athletes need to be told to stop endurance training in certain phases of the off season in order to devote maximum resources and bring about maximum gains to strength. (3)

Principle 7

All new clients should undergo a fibre composition test prior to beginning training to determine whether  they are a quick twitch or slow twitch dominant individual. This will determine what rep range will be most beneficial towards eliciting gains in performance.

Principle 8

The VMO (Vastus Medialis Oblique) is the rotator cuff of the knee. Faulty movement patterns when squatting, lunging, jumping and improper tracking of the knee are most commonly traced back to this muscle. Strength in the VMO is the greatest predictor of knee health and the greatest combatant of ACL tears.

Principle 9

The more muscle fibres that you stretch in a given exercise the more muscle you use. Full range of motion exercises are far superior for gains in strength and size than partial range of motion.

Principle 10

The stronger the fibres of the lower trapezius the greater the predictor of shoulder health. The “ Bent- Over Prone Trap 3 dumbbell raise” should be a mainstay in almost everyone’s program. If you want to keep your shoulders happy and healthy you absolutely must work these fibers. Furthermore the ratio of this exercise to your 1RM bench press should be 10.6% meaning if your 1RM bench is 200 lbs you should be able to perform 8 reps with a 20lb dumbell (21.2 actual percentage).


  1. Nutrition and supplementation influence work capacity. Haddock & Wilkin 2006, Kanaley et al. 2001, Denton & Cronin 2006, Kraemer et al, 1998.
  2. It is the brain’s intent that determines the training effect, not the actual velocity of the bar. Bottaro et al. 2007, Chen et al. 2006, Paddon-Jones et al 2001, 2004.
  3. An aerobic base is not a factor in strength development. Leveritt et al. (1999)

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