Ivana with Ryan Faehnle and Derek Woodske, top strength & conditioning coaches.
After completing my theory and technical for levels 1 and 2 of the Poliquin International Certification Program (PICP) online in late 2011, I was finally able to complete my practical component of the program last month. For those of you who aren’t informed in the strength & conditioning world, Charles Poliquin is one of the world’s premier strength coaches, having successfully trained professional athletes and Olympians worldwide.
LEADERS IN THE FIELD
I believe in learning from the best in all areas of skill development, so the PICP Program is a natural choice. For the practical component, I spent five days under the skillful guidance of two esteemed Strength Coaches of the Poliquin faculty – Ryan Faehnle and Derek Woodske – at the well-equipped Dynamic Conditioning Centre facility in Toronto.
Although I obviously won’t be sharing the substance of the course (since I legally signed away my right to do so and if I do large muscular men will be dispatched to crush my neck with their biceps), I thought it might be valuable to share a few of key takeaways from those five brilliant days of learning.
The Poliquin method of assessing upper and lower body structural balance was a large component of the course. In simplest terms, structural balance is the expected strength in a particular lift (ex. Chin-ups, Dips, Reverse Curls) as a percentage of the strength in the main lift (ie. Bi-Acromial Bench Press). The data for these tests was acquired through decades of work that Charles Poliquin did with his athletes.
When structural balance values are within the expected range, the athlete would theoretically have a lower risk of injury when placing his/her body under the extreme stress of training and competition. Identifying weaknesses (including which muscles are particularly tight) should be the first step in designing an effective program for an athlete.
We discussed how to progress exercises throughout the strength training program. In each phase of the athlete’s program (normally 4 weeks), the athlete is normally progressed to the next level of the exercise. Program planning generally occurs on a 12-week basis, one of the main reasons why I recommend people undertaking personal training make a minimum commitment of 3 months.
Although not strictly part of the PICP course, one of the most valuable pieces of information I picked up from Ryan & Derek was about program design. They both believe that some coaches change athletes’ programs too frequently and just jump from one advanced training method to another (from German Volume Training to 6-12-25 to Cluster Training).
They stressed that minor changes in program variables are all that is necessary to achieve a training effect (ex. Rep range, rest period, Time Under Tension, etc.).
SO MUCH TO LEARN
The volume of information in PICP 1 & 2 is huge, and it lays the groundwork for a successful programming strategy for the strength coaching of athletes and motivated people who just want to be stronger and more functional. With a reading list of at least a dozen books, the PICP course gets the strength coach more inspired to learn more about optimal strength development.
I highly recommend the course to coaches and trainers, and strongly advise that athletes and clients find a trainer who possesses these qualifications. You’re likely to be in safe hands.