The training philosophy is to the coach as the curriculum is to teacher. It is the underlying moral foundation of your program. Without one, you are just regurgitating information you've heard from others and ultimately doing yourself and all those you coach a disservice. Every coach needs a philosophy. It is your unique identification card that separates you from the hundreds  of thousands of other coaches in the world.

If you are struggling to find your own voice in training, Dave Tate offers some insight in his article How To Develop a Training Philosophy. This will help any developing coach.

Personally, I am infatuated with training philosophies. You and I can read from the exact same library and have completely different training philosophies. Even more interesting is the reflection of someones personality into a philosophy and its translation into a program. For this round table discussion, I asked five very effective coaches the same question regarding the formation of their training philosophy.

"What is the single concept or methodology that shaped your training philosophy the most?"

Brian Schwab — Owner of Orlando Barbell, holder of the all-time world record total for the 148-pound weight class, inventor of the OBB Power Handles, and composer of the M2 method.

Justin Harris — One of the most premier bodybuilding coaches of the decade, atomic physicist, and the culprit for getting Dave Tate shredded. Justin is known for his incredible command over nutrition.

Mike Mastell — Masters in biochemistry, strongman, one of the youngest men to get his lightweight pro card, world record holder, and exceptional performance coach.

Brandon Smitley — Purdue graduate, 10-times bodyweight total and world record holder. Brandon offers a unique and highly effective view on coaching that has been proven through the success of his clients.

Julia Ladewski — D1 strength coach at University of Buffalo until 2009, powerlifter, competed in NPC Junior Nationals, and has helped many transform their bodies. Julia brings an incredible perspective to the table.

Schwab Inline

I’ve never had a coach, nor have I followed a specific methodology for an extended period of time. I basically researched various training methods and applied what worked best for me. Before opening Orlando Barbell I trained primarily at the YMCA where I worked for eight years with no team, no box, no GHR, no reverse hyper, no specialty bars, no accommodating resistance and no monolift. I was able to climb to the number one spot in my weight class. From the knowledge and experience I gained, I developed my own training method using a gradually increasing range of motion for the primary heavy movements while incorporating the necessary full range and accessory work to promote balance and prevent injury. This system allows for the ideal CNS stimulation and volume while limiting wasteful time in the gym. From that the Minimalist, or M2 Method, was born.

Once I opened Orlando Barbell and formed a team, many of them began following my method, although I never requested for them to. We have since produced numerous national champions. At this point I was able to incorporate the equipment from elitefts, which was unavailable at the Y. This, along with honing my training program, allowed for me to launch to the all time total. Although I feel that any routine that incorporates gradually increasing percentages while preventing injury will work, the M2 Method is ideal.

Harris Inline

If you want to get bigger, train hard and try to get stronger. When you find yourself squatting 500 pounds for sets of 10, you're going to have big legs — whether you want them or not. When you're benching 405 pounds for sets of eight, you're going to have a big chest — whether you want it or not. When you're deadlifting 700 pounds, you're going to have a thick back — again, whether you want it or not. Train hard and try to get stronger. 

Mastell Inline

The single concept that has shaped my training philosophy the most is the concept of not testing my strength but rather focus on building it. When I first started training, I got strong really quickly so I found myself maxing out all the time just to see how strong I'd gotten. It was great because I almost always got a better number.

That quickly came to a stop and I found myself wondering why my numbers were no longer moving like they used to. That's where I decided to spend most all of my time building strength. I would concentrate on doing things I've never done before with weights I knew I could handle perfectly. So I would add an extra set to the same reps/weight I did a few weeks prior, or I would add a rep with the same weight/sets I'd done weeks prior. Or do the same amount of volume in less time than before. By doing this, I was able to build my strength and also hone my technique on exercises instead of just getting under something heavy all the time and hoping that I was stronger than the last time.

I felt that not only did I get stronger but I was definitely better prepared to handle the new maxes as they came. The guys that are the strongest are often the ones that just go to work, trust the program, and make slow steady progress. If you add a pound a month to your bench press over 10 years you can go from a 400-pound bencher to over a 500-pound bencher without ever realizing how much stronger you've become.

Smitley Inline

It's pretty hard to nail down one single concept or methodology that's shaped my training philosophy. I like to take everything I can from multiple coaches, athletes, disciplines, and academics and use what I can, and disregard what I don't need.

If I had to pick just one aspect, it would be that general improvement over time and being patient is key. Getting strong is hard (not only physically, but physiologically). It requires a lot of patience and time for the body to adapt to the stressors placed upon it. Building new tissue to get stronger requires consistency and long-term vision. Yes, we need to tackle the training session that is ahead of us, but how does that training session play into the microcycle? Mesocycle? Macrocycle? Decade? Career? So in a general sense, understanding adaptation and realizing how long term of a process strength training truly is, is vital to success. No one becomes strong overnight. Proper demands and stimulus added up over time will create the desired result. Which program you ultimately chose doesn't really matter, it just may help accelerate the process and make it more optimal.

Julia Inline

When it comes to training methodologies, there are hundreds of ways, ideas and concepts. Some old, some new(er) and many just adapted and tweaked over the years with the base foundation still intact. I hesitate to say how my philosophy was shaped, because it typically gets viewed as a "my way or the highway" type of method. But 15 years ago, when I was first introduced to powerlifting, I spent a bit of time around Westside Barbell and Louie Simmons. It wasn't just Louie's powerlifting "Westside Method," but the pieces behind it. The characteristics of the science behind strength training and understanding how all the pieces fit into sport, training aesthetics, etc. 

The other concept that shapes how I train anyone is simple. We can discuss X's and O's, sets and reps, exercise selection, and any other topic, but what it boils down to is making sure that the program fits the athlete and their goals. If you can trace back the WHY of what you're doing (not because big time lifter does it, not because it looks cool), then you're on the right track.

It truly is your personal spice into a highly scientific and structured world. Your philosophy can be a book or two sentences — it really doesn't matter; it just has to be yours. You have to embody your passion and direction into the philosophy so it is something you can stand behind and pass on. 

These amazing coaches have shared with us what has changed their philosophy the most. That is what is most important. It is not a philosophy until it has been influenced and changed over and over again. A philosophy cannot be based off of one training cycle or one concept. It is guaranteed to change as you progress and learn but your experiences molding it are what make the training philosophy more unique.  

Andrew Triana was a previous intern here at elitefts. Read his log here. He is currently attending Springfield College, studying Applied Exercise Science. He competes in Strongman.