Strength Coaching Philosophy

The BLOC Approach: Client-Centered, Model-Informed, for Life

We don’t want you to be a passive observer of your training, whether you have a coach or not. You are the center of the process. Even if you start completely lost, you make the autonomous choice to pursue what matters. And as you follow the process, growing in skill and experience, you keep your end goal, the real goal, in mind.

The BLOC Approach

Client-Centered, Model-Informed, For Life
By: CJ Gotcher, Barbell Academy Director

How do we train in a way that’s consistent with our values, identity, and priorities (VIP)? Is the end goal just to help people pick up weights and put them down again, or is there more to it?

At BLOC, our approach—delivered through our coaches and taught in our Barbell Academy—is to deliver long-term success by staying client-centered and model-informed for life.

That may sound catchy, but what does it mean?

Client-Centered: It’s All You

Strength isn’t the most important thing in life.

Life is the most important thing in life, and only you can decide—and discover—what that means for you and what part strength training has to play in your life story.

You likely have your own VIP that led you to pursue greater strength and to learn more about it—otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article. However, your ”deep why,” your reason for training, is unique to you.

Every day, you’re trying to satisfy that deep why—to intentionally build a life where you can live in line with your values, doing the things you care about most, in a way that feels authentic to you.

Becoming stronger through barbell training often serves this goal. However, we recognize that when pushing for PRs and grinding through a progression gets in the way of that deep why, no matter how “successful” the scale or the training log says we are, it’s time to change plans.

Our role as BLOC coaches is to be part of your story. It’s not our job to tell you what matters and convince you to conform to our idea of what you should be. It’s our job to listen closely, work with you to figure out what it is you really want, and use our expertise and experience to equip you to coach yourself in getting there.

We don’t want you to be a passive observer of your training, whether you have a coach or not. You are the center of the process. Even if you start completely lost, you make the autonomous choice to pursue what matters. And as you follow the process, growing in skill and experience, you keep your end goal, the real goal, in mind. By taking ownership of your own training, you’re even better equipped to discover what it takes to keep you on track, whether you’re with a coach or on your own.

Model-Informed: Models are Tools, Not Rules

In the book “Think For Yourself,” Vikram Mansharamani describes the value of experts, checklists, mental models, and rules in specific situations and how relying on them blindly when those situations change can lead to catastrophic results.

The wise decision-maker learns what they need to know to assess the quality of each source, then keeps the experts ”on tap, not on top,“ owning the final decision. It’s no different for the barbell trainee or coach, who has to use all three pillars of information to be model-informed.

We start with “logic,” by which we mean we apply our mental models around biomechanics and programming to determine and deliver our program. These models are critical. They inform our troubleshooting and keep us anchored in the face of constantly-shifting trends, but we don’t rely on them rigidly at risk of becoming model-driven.

To test, adapt, and correct our models, we take the inputs of emerging science from various fields. We don’t worship the published paper—each study is a single, limited data point in a broad field—but when findings are relevant and robust, we adjust our models.

Finally, our models tell us what we can expect, and we test those expectations by how our lifters respond to the training. We recognize that the “average trainee” doesn’t exist. Although we’re generally similar, unique bodies, environments, and mindsets mean our general model will have to bend and mold to the lifter as they become more advanced. We don’t persist with a tactic that isn’t working for our lifter just because our model says it should.

Being model-informed means using all three pillars of training knowledge—science, models, and practice—knowing their limits, and working with the lifter to troubleshoot and innovate solutions.

For Life: Strength Isn’t Everything.

Our goal is to improve quality of life for life.

This has two elements:

First, life means so much more than just physical health. We aim to train and live in a way that reinforces all elements of our health and well-being. These include our social, emotional, mental, and spiritual lives, which are interconnected and mutually-supporting.

It’s because of this bigger picture that we start with strength in the first place. For many, especially those who aren’t already strong, getting stronger has a transformative effect on all the other physical abilities. It’s simple to address, generates an incredible initial return on investment, and often becomes a keystone habit that not only delivers better health and resilience directly but sets into motion many other habits and mindsets that change lives.

And where it’s appropriate from our position as coaches, we support these other domains directly:

  • Passing emotional skills to handle disappointment and failure under the bar that transfer to life
  • Bringing them into the social unit—the gym—or supporting their team sport or group activities that keep them connected
  • Teaching (when asked) our mental perspective—our models, observations, and what we focus on
  • Holding space for what gives them meaning and purpose, the heart of a rich spiritual life

The second part of “for life” is about the longevity and sustainability of the process.

We want you to be successful for however long you train—that might be three months, that might be thirty years. But regardless of the end state, we treat each lifter like they’re in it for the long haul.

We respect the long process of strength, the highs and frustrations, and resist the urge to demonstrate value in the short term at the cost of the lifter’s long-term success.

The BLOC Approach: Try This at Home

These practices—being client-centered and model-informed for life—are what we strive for as BLOC coaches. They’re what we teach in the Principles Course. But most importantly, they’re what we want to see in the coaching world as a whole.

Whether you choose to work with BLOC or not, we hope you apply these principles in how you train and coach. An industry where lifters are encouraged and supported in balancing the best information to take ownership of their training and live a better life is an industry we’d be proud to be a part of.

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