#112 – Nick D’Agostino: A Skeptic’s Approach to Strength Training and Physical Therapy
Perhaps the most genetically gifted (and certainly one of the strongest) Starting Strength Coaches joins us today, Mr. Nick D’Agostino. Nick has been an SSC since 2012, and will soon call himself a Physical Therapist as well. Unlike many of the coaches we have interviewed who began with the Starting Strength method and the novice linear progression, Nick was already a decently strong lifter before he discovered Starting Strength while listening to a lecture by another PT and SSC, Dr. John Petrizzo (who we interviewed on Episode 75).
Having read some of the classic strength training texts such as Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky and The Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatsiorsky, Nick was skeptical at first. But he tried the linear progression on a training client of his and noticed the rapid strength gains, but wasn’t convinced that a lifter like himself with some years of experience under the bar already could benefit from the LP. After Rippetoe told him he “had to” do an LP at a seminar, Nick gave it a try and soon found himself squatting his former 1RM for 3×5. Needless to say, he was sold on the Starting Strength approach.
Nevertheless, his natural skepticism has served him well as a coach and PT. Nick offers several insights he has gained over the last several years as a coach, including his concept of “cognitive coaching,” which he presented on at the 2018 Starting Strength Coaches Association. Cognitive coaching is the idea that learning is the product of active problem solving, and thus the ultimate goal of a coach should be to get the lifter to learn correct movement patterns – not just execute the correct movement patterns when coached. Nick employs this idea by searching for cues that force the lifter to figure out movement problems on his own, rather than cueing specific errors and the fix for those errors. For instance, he might fix an incorrect squat grip in which the bar is held too much in the hands by telling the lifter to “feel the bar on (his) back.” Of course, that can only be accomplished by straightening the wrists and allowing the musculature of the shoulders to hold the bar, but the cue forces the lifter to figure out the details, rather than point out the details in the cue.