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Filtering Framework: Take Your Coaching to the Next Level

May 03, 2020

Develop and fine tune your systems in a step by step process so that you can discern new information, apply what is useful, and transcend your coaching.


You go to several seminars and conferences each year, but you find it difficult to utilize the information in any meaningful or useful way. 

"This information is great! BUT how do I use it?"

Building bridges, between new information and with your currently held knowledge and beliefs in a specified context, is when that information truly becomes useful. This is also where most people fail. 

A bridge can’t be constructed unless there are two sides. On one side, you have new information coming in, waiting to be organized, and used. On the other side, you need to structure your current knowledge and experience into simple systems.


Systems? Yes. 

Systems provide a foundational structure to be able to add or subtract from, when new information is presented. There is a vast world of fitness information, training modalities, and variables to consider when coaching. The complexity can be overwhelming and anxiety-provoking.

A way to avoid getting lost is to boil down the complex into simple systems to help direct your focus, formulate questions, consolidate information, guide decision making, and learn more effectively.

Pursuing continuing education is honorable and creates a positive professional trajectory. However, you can get lost in the chaos of information if you do not start with a proper foundation of your own systems. Systems are models, principles, and processes that are a collection of what you deem to be important, believe are the best practices, and an organization method to direct your actions.

A filtering framework will help you deepen your understanding, create consistency, build confidence and extract useful avenues of information while simultaneously avoiding the overwhelming realm of limitlessness information. Development and progress are about being able to create new scaffolding while maintaining the same basic structure.

If you have basic structure within simple systems, you will be able to acquire various sources of content but consolidate the information into your specific context. The structure will remain to provide predictability value, but it allows you to attain new tools that will be necessary at different times.

The usefulness of a filtering framework comes from the ability to think of new information within your own context, systems, and problems when you are listening to a speaker or reading a book. New information can be extracted to improve your systems, solve your problems, or fill gaps in your understanding. 


“Learning is a process of exploration, and learning is at the foundation of any transformation.”

– Todd Bumgardner


Transformation is the process of directing action steps from where you currently are to where you want to be. The components of a successful trainer or mentor is often what you will use to judge where you want to be.

Discerning qualities from others, exploring different resources, and seeking answers, in a specific direction, will allow you to be the best version of yourself

Transformation is NOT embedding yourself into one system and using jargon to create miscommunication. 

The first step with creating your own framework is understanding where you currently are and recognize your knowledge, beliefs, and experiences.

WHERE TO START. Take some time to reflect in the following:

Recall basic concepts, explain concepts, and justify a current stand or belief

  • Where are you right now and how are you sure about that?

  • Write down what you already do.

  • When you are preparing a session, what is your current thought process?

Do you do a warm-up? If yes, why? What activities do you usually choose and why?

If your answer is based on a third party (i.e. my previous coach did a 5 minute ride on bike, so that’s what I do), you have identified a gap in understanding.

Moving forward you can deepen your understanding by adding and subtracting from your currently held rationale. Awareness of this gap in rationale will help you extract information from resources. Knowing the ‘how’ is extremely important but through writing down ‘where you are,’ your continuing education will be more effective in expanding your reasoning for the ‘how’.

This will be useful, for example, if you attend a modality seminar (TRX, Kettlebell, etc). You will most likely learn how to execute an exercise via coaching cues and set-up, but not understand yet when to choose the exercise, how to make modifications based on the client, or why the exercise is useful. 

Why do you choose a particular exercise when designing a training program?

Movement definitions are valuable here. Write down how you define a movement, why you think it is important to perform the movement with competency, what it should look like, and list different tool options for that particular pattern.

This will improve your ability to identify what you’re looking for, how to make changes, and communicate why it is important to you.

This will also allow you to have a model (based on a movement pattern) to add and subtract from as you learn new information. How you teach the movement may stay the same but your rationale may deepen.

  • Write down what is important to you… Take out a pen to write or draw diagrams as a representation of your thought process.
  • How do you structure your training sessions?
  • What is the purpose of coaching and training?
  • How do you choose exercises? How do you choose strategies for exercise execution?
  • What is your process for short- and long- term programming?
  • How do you interact with your clients/athletes? 
  • What do you want your client experience to be?

Boom! You just took the first steps in understanding your foundational systems.

Use information in new situations

  • Apply these systems deliberately. Most likely, you are already doing these things, however, I want you to draw and write them out, then test them. For example, read your process for programming before you write a new clients program.
  1. Were your systems effective and efficient? Did your systems create confidence in your actions? 
  2. What questions do you have from applying your process?  
  3. Did you have any problems?
  4. What gaps in your process need to be filled?

Now you have questions. Now you have problems. Now you can seek answers. Now you can seek solutions. This will direct your learning and direction when filtering resources. 

Draw connections

  • Review your systems and processes that you created above. Can you find 3 to 6 commonalities? Can you discern values that determine your priorities in training?

These are your training principles!

  •  Review your systems and processes that you created above. Can you diagram an interconnected web that links all of your systems together? More specifically, elements that guide your decision making within those systems and processes.

This is your model. 

Your model is a system that is used as an example to follow or imitate. It should also include your processes for decision making (assessment-intervention-outcome), organizing, reflecting, critiquing, and adapting.

Now you can support, critique, and produce new work moving forward

You now have a supporting structure to formulate questions, seek answers, acquire new information, consolidate the information into something useful, and lead you in a desired direction.

Now, you can welcome new information by listening to speakers, attending seminars, and reading books to evolve and transform.   

This is uniquely personal. It is time intensive. If you try and fail, well, that is important for success. Try again. 


Each includes a hyperlink for more detail. 

  1.   Process for Organizing Training Sessions 

    This is an example of a template that I use for preparing training sessions. Organizing a structure with separate blocks and establishing purpose for each block of time, will make it easier to select exercises, create strategies, and provide a predictability of order for clients

  2. Process for Exercise Selection/Creation 

    This is an example of a template for exercise selection. The Exercise Creation Model has a three tier process to create an exercise. The first tier and foundation is position, second tier is fitness qualities, and the top tier is variations. This tier system was created to evaluate and analyze a thought process for exercise selection, ways to progress, and subtle strategy changes. There are many ways to progress, in which you can change position, change fitness quality, or add a variation.

  3. Process for Client Direction 

    This is an example of short- and long-term planning. This is a process for client trajectory and goal setting. When I have a new client, I use this process to establish where they currently are and where I want to take them.

    The process can be related to a specific exercise progression, specific movement pattern progression, physiological adaptations, competency, and/or comfort with a training environment. I will use this process to guide intake form questions, assessment, programming, interactions, and challenges.

    Within the ‘out of control’ category, I am applying my new client intake process: 

    1. 1-on-1 evaluation including open ended questions about training history, injury history, past experiences, and goals. This is mostly conversation. 
    2. First session includes a learning orientation. The client learns various movement patterns, warm-up activities, how a session is structured, positions, and movement pattern tools. This also serves as a movement assessment.  
    3. I then provide a program customized from the evaluation and orientation session
    4. The first phase of programming (4-6 weeks) with the client if reviewed and the client provides feedback (including client in process) and short- and long-term goals. 
    5. Step 4 is repeated for 2-3 phases while determining key performance indicators to track based on client goals and determining when they have entered the ‘regained control’ or  ‘let go of control’ categorizes based on perceived competency, confidence, and welcoming of challenge.
    6. This process will be reflected in my process for programming.

4.   Process for Program Design 

This is a process for short-term phase (4-6 weeks) program design. This is a three step process: 1) What lesson do I want to teach the person based on my training principles 2) what exercises can I use to teach that lesson 3) what strategies (exercise order, constraints, references, tools) or cues can I provide to maximize the execution of those chosen exercises. 

The Training Model

This model is a representation of a proposed structure that is designed from recognizing and determining connections between the above processes and systems. The above processes and systems are embedded within the model to direct action and generate direction. The model works backwards from the ultimate goal of improving performance. Performance training variables can be broken down into variation and specificity.

  1. Variation includes activities that address barriers to performance and regaining control (regain movement options and reduce the secondary consequences of training).
  2. Specificity includes the primary benefits of training such as targeting a specific adaptation or skill acquisition. 

Both include training principles which are used to establish intent with exercise selection (strategy), create exercises (methods), and execute exercises (coach). Finally, the model has a cyclical element to review the effectiveness of the decisions, modify, and adapt accordingly.


Some people avoid the use of systems as they associate it with rigidity. However, systems provide the groundwork for the ability to adapt.

As a fitness professional, it is useful to be clear about where you are as a coach and what you value. What you value will be reflected in your behavior and actions. A way to do this is to write out what is important to you, which are your principles, processes and models.

There are so many methodologies and variables to consider in training and human behavior (complexity) which can be overwhelming and even de-motivating to navigate. Creating useful, simple processes to streamline your training sessions, exercise selection, and decision making will reduce anxiety from the vastness of options. Your principles, model, and processes are the avenue to boil down human complexity into simple action steps within your training decisions.

Your systems will serve as a framework to be able to determine if new information is useful for YOU or fits better within YOUR context, thus evolving your framework. A filtering framework used for learning is the ultimate avenue for success as it will allow you to learn a system within your own level of understanding, instead of embedded yourself into others’ systems that will not serve you and your clients.

Once you have your model and principles you will better be able to align your coaching tactics, exercise selection strategies, programming decisions, and establish a consistent product that is worth marketing. 

NOW that you have started the steps for more effective learning, discover the 1-stop-shop guide filled with the best resources in the fitness and performance industry from leading professionals. The NEW THIRD Edition of the Ultimate Performance Training Resource Road Map 3.0 is now available. Click here to get the FREE guide for the best cutting edge resources in the fitness industry. 

The RESOURCE MAP includes 14 subject categories and most of the resources within those subject areas include hyperlinks to access the resource and a rationale for the resource’s usefulness.

 About the Author

Michelle grew up in central Massachusetts where my interest for athletics and playing sports began. I played soccer, basketball, and ran track at the collegiate level while studying Nutrition (B.S). After reflecting on my life passion for athletics and sports performance training, I decided to pursue a higher education degree in strength and conditioning (M.S.) and exercise physiology (PhD) at Springfield College (MA).

 She has several years of professional experience as a strength and conditioning coach at a Division 1 institution working with a nationally ranked top 5 Women’s Ice Hockey team, a nationally ranked top 10 Men’s Ice Hockey team, and other teams including Field Hockey, Women’s Soccer, and Men’s Basketball. I then created my own company, Michelle Boland Training, in order to support others in achieving their performance and fitness goals to the best of my abilities. You can find her on Instagram as @dr.michelleboland


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