One of the challenges of being a personal trainer is staying current with all the latest trends in fitness. Luckily technology has made this easier than ever with online journals and articles. However, at times it can seem to be almost too much information.
A professional trainer is required to take continuing education, such as new certification or a workshop, every year to stay current. This year I was lucky enough to be able to attend a course I have always wanted to take: the EXOS Performance Mentorship.
EXOS works with world-class professional athletes, and are probably best known for prepping players for the NFL Combine. Since the NFL is the premier sports league in North America, millions of dollars are on the line for these athletes getting ready to be picked in the NFL entry draft.
The players are physical specimens already, and getting their absolute best performance on the day is the difference between getting picked in the first round or sometimes not getting drafted at all.
The founder of EXOS, Mark Verstegen, also worked with the German National Soccer team to get them prepared for the World Cup. After Germany handily defeated the host country Brasil, it put EXOS on the world map for soccer performance coaching as well. EXOS now works with a number of national team programs for soccer as well as professional teams in European leagues and MLS in North America.
Needless to say as a soccer player, fitness geek and overall sports fan I was excited to see how they did things. The EXOS Performance Mentorship is a four-day course. Essentially it is 50% theory and 50% practical.
We would report to their 30,000 sq foot training center each day for 8 hours, for classroom and field or gym sessions – as well as have access to their facility and everything it offered! My favorites were the recovery tubs (alternating hot or cold) as well as onsite nutrition.
I have taken many courses during my 15+ years as a trainer, and by far this was the most professionally run and the most in depth. I can honestly say I will use everything I learned in this course. This is not always the case with continuing ed as some courses may just be review, or things that may not apply to your clientele.
Top 3 Takeaways
I learned A LOT, specifically about how they can train their high-end athletes 2-3x a day for two hours per session. They have a unique way of breaking things down so that you’re developing the athlete without over-training.
Here are my main takeaways that apply to anyone – not just professional athletes:
1. Each Pillar is equally important
At EXOS their main Pillars are:
Each Pillar may be broken down further. For example, training sub-categories such as strength and power, plymetric, pillar prep, movement prep, energy system development, etc.
The main thing to learn was that you can’t just train really hard. You need to have nutritional support and recovery support. Whether it was doing the contrast baths they had on site between workouts, releasing sore muscles with the vibrating foam rollers, or scheduling massage therapy and yoga at the end of a hard week of training, recovery needs to be planned and executed – it’s just as important as the training itself.
I have seen so many people struggle with this: increasing their training volume and intensity, without increasing their recovery modalities or nutrition. The end result is usually injury or blaming bad luck for their lack of success – instead of their poorly designed overall plan that respects each Pillar.
EXOS prepares each muscle and movement pattern before training. The approach isn’t revolutionary per se, but, a great example of the application were the glute activation drills that they made us do.
Since we were sitting for a few hours at a time – and sitting can lead to your glutes being shut off – we did glute activation drills before every session. Ideally your glutes are firing for both postural stability and for performance.
3. Small details
The training program break-down, although not revolutionary, was efficient and organized. They train their athletes 4x per week with two active recovery days and one full days of rest. How they broke down the four days so that there was limited overlap allowing for the most recovery and the most training volume was interesting.
They also had a system for squeezing in movement programming and stretching as assistance exercises so that the athletes were always moving. Since recovery was needed, they may not have been doing a traditional weight exercise the entire time but they were always achieving something.
I learned a lot in my four days at EXOS Performance Mentorship and have already applied to go back again later this year. I look forward to learning about the ins and outs of their program design and methods.