Todd Nief was always motivated to self-educate.
“I always read all the blogs involved with CrossFit, and more general things like T-Nation, and (also) learned a lot from different strength coaches like (Charles) Poliquin and Eric Cressey,” said the 34-year-old Nief. This desire to educate also led him to follow OPEX Founder James FitzGerald on the Big Dawgs blog, he explained.
FitzGerald’s ideas immediately spoke to him, he said.
“At that time (when CrossFit was on the rise), there was a lot of information out there and it was hard to filter it all. It was like, ‘Well, Louis Simmons said you should box squat, but another strength coach says you shouldn’t. Which one it is?’ There were a lot of (contradictory) protocols and ideas out there about what works,” he said.
What set OPEX apart, however, was that it didn’t push one specific system or protocol.
“(OPEX) provided more of a framework to consider why these different protocols might be useful and when in terms of mixed modal training for our clients,” said Nief, the owner of South Loop Strength and Conditioning in Chicago, Illinois.
In other words, as opposed to prescribing some blanket prescription to people just because a strength coach you think is smart told you it’s the right way, the idea behind OPEX is to get you to consider context and think more critically, Nief explained.
Though Nief went through his OPEX education years ago, he said he still uses principles he learned during the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) with his clients today.
“The biggest thing is just sort of how to integrate more traditional strength and conditioning models with mixed modal training. Obviously there are differences in how we train our clients than endurance athletes, but that doesn’t mean you should forget everything people already knew about strength training or endurance training just because you’re doing deadlifts and handstand push-ups,” he said.
Thus, CCP helped Nief design more effective programs, both for his group class clients, which account for 80 percent of his membership, and his individual program design and remote clients, which make up approximately the other 20 percent of his clientele.
“Just because people are in a group doesn’t mean you can just do random programming. We still try to give (group class clients) good skill development over time,” Nief said.
And for those who want a higher level of service than the group workout, Nief takes them on as personal training or individual program design clients. Oftentimes people make the switch away from the group to the individual fitness route once they become clearer about their goals, he explained.
“When you ask most people what their goals are when they come in, most people don’t have a fuckin’ clue,” Nief said.
But often this changes. As people start training more, they usually become more in tune with what they really want out of their fitness. At that point, they often ask for a more individualized approach, Nief explained.
“When people become more clear in terms of what they want, then individualization makes sense for them. Or for those who don’t trust themselves not to injure themselves in a group, or if they have specific body composition goals, then I’ll steer them to individual program design.”
Nief said one of the things he likes most about working with individual program design clients is the chance to truly connect with them to make a real difference in their lives.
“If you understand their priorities, for example, you can be a much more effective coach by giving them appropriate training sessions that reflect this. Like, if their priority is their job, then you have to connect how improving their fitness will also improve their performance at their job.”
Nief has OPEX to thank for providing the tools to help him think critically about each individual person, and then to connect with them so he can provide not just what will make them fit, but also what will work best for their own unique lives.
“Now, I’m able to evaluate why something might work in a certain case, instead of it being so black and white. … And that’s what’s going to really help you help people,” he said.
If you’re a fitness professional or want to become one, you need an education grounded in principles. One that prepares you for a career in the ever-changing landscape of the fitness industry. Enter the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP), the gold standard of education for individualized coaching and program design.
Written and taught by James FitzGerald, a 25-year coaching veteran, the OPEX CCP has educated over 3000 coaches. This education not only bridges the gap between the classroom and the gym floor but also gives you the opportunity to develop your own coaching flair under the mentorship of James himself. Apply to join the next OPEX CCP cohort today and become the coach you’ve always imagined.
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