Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Interview with Patrick Ward

1. Patrick thank for your time. Could you give my readers your background, and how you came to be a strength and conditioning coach, and a manual therapist?

Thanks for having me Robbie. I was always into exercise and working out (started at age 13). I played sports through my youth and high school, and then into my early twenties I did some competing in olympic weightlifting as well. So, being a strength coach/trainer was sort of a natural progression. I didn’t like working in an office and doing the 9-5 thing. I would rather do things that I enjoy doing everyday, and this is it.

2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?

I think the biggest problem is how easy it is to become a trainer. Anyone can get a certification from weekend course, and start training people. Naturally, this floods the industry with a lot of unqualified individuals who really have no interest in advancing their knowledge/education and progressing this field. So many are really lazy and don’t read anything or do anything to get better. I am really interested in gaining as much knowledge as I can, and I want to get better everyday. I wish more people were interested in the same thing. There are many people in this profession that I have met, that I can’t even sit down and talk shop with. They just don’t get it!

3. You recently open up your own facility with Keats Sniderman (Congratulations by the way). How have you found this experience?

Yea, Keats and I decided to rent a facility together. We own separate companies and we split the rent, but we do a lot of things together as well. It has been great having my own place, although there are a lot of other things that you have to do when you own your own facility – little (and big) things that you don’t think about when you work for someone else. It has been a good deal though. We were both pretty miserable renting space at various massage therapy studios and small personal training gyms.

4. You are also a Licensed Massage Therapist. How do you integrate this with the training of your athletes and clients?

Yes, both Keats and I are licensed massage therapists (and certified in neuromuscular therapy through Judith DeLany’s American NMT group).

I integrate the soft tissue work with athletes or clients when I need to. Sometimes after my initial assessment, I may find some things that need some manual work, so I just work on them. Then we get off the table and try and move and create some strength, stability and understanding through that new range of motion. I’ll also use it sometimes if an athlete has been training hard for a few weeks, as a means of recovery (to help encourage a parasympathetic state).

Additionally, I get a number of referrals for soft tissue therapy from physical therapists and chiropractors, as they send over people who may need more work than they have time to give them, or people who are preparing to be discharged and need to start training a little more intensely as they get ready to move back into sports participation.

5. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach, and as a therapist?

I have been influenced by a lot of coaches. If you look at my program design manual, you will see pretty plainly who my influences are. Guys like Mike Boyle, Vern Gambetta, Al Vermeil, Louie Simmons, Mel Siff, and Gray Cook are all in there (as well as a number of others). Additionally, my peers and my clients, who are continually asking questions and challenging my thought process, influence me. This keeps me learning and seeking out more knowledge.

From a therapist standpoint, my first influence was a local massage therapist that taught some of my classes, Don Miller. My main influences are Judith Delany and Leon Chaitow. Their large neuromuscular therapy textbooks are full of great information. Also, physical therapist, Charlie Weingroff, has made a big impact on how I do things. He is a really smart guy and offers a lot of practical information.

6. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:

o Strength Training: Supertraining by Mel Siff
o Physical Therapy Rehabilitation: There are four titles I would put here – Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, Stuart McGill’s Low-Back Disorders, Chaitow and DeLany’s Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques (Vol. 1 and 2) and Warren Hammer’s Functional Soft Tissue Examination and Treatment by Manual Methods. All good books!
o Nutrition: Anything by Lyle McDonald. That guy is incredibly smart.
o Business: Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuck
o Random: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD

7. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?

I try and attended as many seminars as I can. I purchase a lot of books and DVDs and I subscribe to a few journals (and try and get research from other journals that I don’t subscribe to when I think they will help me with something). I am always trying to advance my knowledge.
Some things that I have on the schedule for this year so far are:
- NSCA Arizona State Seminar (which I am also speaking at)
- Perform Better Clinic in Phoenix
- NSCA National Convention (I go every year)
- ACSM Convention
- Functional Movement Screen in Phoenix
I am also helping assist at the Neuromuscular Therapy courses being taught here in phoenix this year.
That is all that is on the schedule so far. But I am sure I will add more things as the year goes on. Between workshops, conferences, books, DVDs, and journal subscriptions, I spend a few thousand dollars on con ed every year.

8. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)?

Mike Boyle’s website has a lot of great information. I also just became a member of Joe Heiler’s and it is very good as well. I really like Lyle McDonald’s website, He has a ton of great articles and research reviews. I also will read Charlie Francis’s website from time to time.
I listen to the Strength Coach Podcast and Mike Robertson has a podcast that is really good too. Those are the main ones I check out (as well as the one from Keats and I have a podcast also, although with the holiday and then some of the things we are trying to do with the facility, we have not had time to update it. But, that is one of the goals of this year – to do more podcasts. The website is

9. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs)?

Sure. I use the Functional Movement Screen, developed by Gray Cook, for my initial assessment. Depending on what I am seeing with that, I will then move to various other tests to get a full understanding of the individual in front of me and the best way that I can help them, based on their limitations or inabilities. I also do a palpatory assessment, to see what the tissue feels like, so that I have an idea of the general tone of their tissue. If the athlete plays a particular sport, I also try and key in on range of motion assessments particular to that sport (IE lead hip internal rotation for a golfer or throwing athlete, etc.). After that, we can do more sport specific tests or strength/power tests, depending on the individual and what we are training for.

After my assessment is completed, I write the program. The design is pretty simple – the warm up keys in on any mobility restrictions that showed up in the assessment or any special needs that they individual may have (some times the warm up may also include some soft tissue work). After our warm up, we train power (depending on the individuals abilities), then strength and then our energy system work (intervals, tempo work, medicine ball work, etc.). What goes on in each of those sections of the workout will be dependant on the individual and what their needs are and also will depend on the frequency of training (how many times a week they are coming in).

In the first phase of training, it is very general, and we work on improving work capacity and getting in high quality work (learning proper exercise technique, improving deficits, etc.). We do a little bit of work in each of the three energy systems – power, strength, anaerobic/aerobic (aerobic mainly by way of tempo runs or just recovery training done with either low intensity body weight circuits or easy recovery walks outside. Anaerobic work is in the form on sprints and/or interval training).

After that first phase, we start to prioritize what we need based on the time we have to prepare. I keep all three energy systems in the program, but I try and increase the volume of one of them, and slightly lower the volume of the other two, in order to emphasize/focus on one to a greater extent. I don’t get very mathematical like some do with this stuff. I try and keep it simple and just know that in a power phase we may be doing slightly more plyos or Olympic lifts and in a strength phase we may be doing less volume of that stuff, and more volume of strength work. If it is inseason, then trying to keep the athlete healthy is paramount, and trying not to destroy them in the weight room (during a time when they are competing frequently) – just get in as much high quality work as they will be able to tolerate.

10. Last question, what advice would you give to young coaches, like myself getting into the field?

Read everything and read often. Read things that you like and agree with and things that you don’t like and don’t agree with. The later is important, as it will make you ask some questions, give you some cognitive dissonance, and either challenge you to think a different way, or reaffirm your beliefs in what you already know/do. Talk to ask many people as possible – coaches, therapists, doctors, etc. – to gain as much knowledge as you can.
Be an infovore!

Patrick, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you, and any projects that you may have coming up?

Thanks for having me Robbie. It has been great. I don’t have any upcoming projects at this time (other than trying to get better at what I do).

Readers can find me at my main website – - where I have a blog that I update pretty regularly with my thoughts and ideas on training and soft tissue therapy. I also am on twitter - - and facebook - - and our podcast is –

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