5 Things I learnt From Charles Poliquin That Made Me a Better Coach.

5 Things I learnt From Charles Poliquin That Made Me a Better Coach.

“On my first course with Charles back in June/July 2010. Those who have read the German Body Comp book will recognise the headlock pose.”

This week has been a bittersweet one to say the least, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Charles Poliquin when I woke on Friday morning.

Charles was certainly a divisive character in the fitness industry. Whether you you liked his work or not, just mentioning his name would provoke a strong reaction in people.

They say grief comes in waves, from the smallest beach break that laps at your toes, to the overwhelming tsunamis that can strike from nowhere and leave you unable to speak for hours at a time. As it has been these past few days; from moments of private contemplation, to watery eyes after reading a post by a fellow coach and peer sharing their memories of Charles.

I’ll preface this by saying I certainly did not know him as closely as others, I met him 5 separate times since 2010, either at his own courses, conferences or him just being in the gym I happened to be working at. The last time I spoke to him was back in 2013 in Sydney.

Those who have taken one of his courses will no doubt remember fondly his tradition of making you as group remember 5 things we had learnt during that day of the course, to follow that tradition here are the 5 biggest lessons that I learnt that have helped me to become a better coach and trainer.

1. Retention not learning is the key to development.

“With Andre Benoit at the same course in 2010. He was Charles’ right hand man at the time. A superb coach and all around great human.”

As Charles would often say, he believed that if left to your own devices, you would only retain 10% of the information presented to you on a course.

Its all well and good to do courses to learn, but you can only apply and use what you retain. It’s your job as a coach to self-facilitate your learning by not just turning up to a course and expected to be spoon-fed everything and somehow magically absorb it. Rather, you should go away, review and digest what you learn each day.

Learn, retain, apply.


2. Give a Damn About the Details.

“With Matt and Anthony Ham. Back at the first gym I worked at in Australia. We helped Anthony drop 10kg (hence the 10kg weight plate) in a matter of weeks with some sensible diet practices and a lot of hard training and effort from him.”

Charles was always big on not just training people with the best intentions, but rather you trained them with crystal clear purpose and focus.

Know exactly what your goals are with each client and know exactly why you are using each method and exercise.

For example, a simple laying hamstring curl exercise. Is it to be performed uni-laterally or bi-laterally? What are the reps? The sets? The tempo? The foot position? The rest period? Is it part of a super-set with something else? Is it part of a giant set?

All of these questions are answered based on the specific use of that exercise for that particular client and their specific goals.

If you give a damn about your clients, give a damn about the details.


3. Would You like Some Cheese…

“Ritchie showing the results of 12 weeks of German Body Comp training and following his diet to a T.”
“Russ also showing some dramatic changes after 12 weeks. A lot of this was down to his commitment to diet, as he tore one of his bicep’s at work about 3 weeks in.”

…With your whine?

Charles had no time for pissing and moaning about not doing the work.

He was brutally honest if you were lazy and whiney, but also brutally fair to praise those who did the work.

Those who did the PICP level 2 with him will know that special feeling of going through either the German Body Comp or German Volume Training protocols. Anyone who moaned and brought the rest of the group down were generally to be berated (usually though something in a French-Canadian dialect you couldn’t understand.)


4. Don’t Piss On My Leg…

…And tell me its raining.

Be honest, not just with others but with yourself.


5. Gratitude.

Probably the most important lesson I learnt from Charles, which unfortunately has only now been cemented with his passing, is that of gratitude.

Those who have followed his articles and courses will know of the importance he placed on keeping a “Gratitude Diary”. The idea being that before you went to sleep each night, you would take the time to realise and appreciate all the things you were thankful for that day.

It could be people, relationships, something you learned, your health, your pets, something business based or even just a funny joke or moment. Just something that made you thankful what you have.

Things I am thankful for today, all of which are in part to Charles:

Being considered as a methodical and passionate coach who gives a damn about his clients and their results (sometimes far more than they do).

Having the benefit of being able to learn pearls of wisdom from him and coaches all over the world to help me provide clients with the results they deserved for their efforts.

The confidence and self-belief to not only chase but create (through tenacious hassling) potential job opportunities in London, Canada, the US and Australia.

Being inspired to realise that I could not only dream (but also actually make a reality) the idea to leave my sleepy home town in the south west of the UK, and travel to the other side of the world to practice and develop my craft as a trainer and coach.

Meeting my wife after about two months of arriving in Australia.

But most of all, I am grateful for all of the great coaches, trainers and awesome people I have met either at one of Charles’ courses or though the network he created with his passion and knowledge.

Especially Eric, Luke, Derek, Ryan, Mark, Christian, Andre, Nick, Andy, James, Anthony, Matt, and Nathan, Matt B, Lenny and Jimmy.

We all have our own specialities and thoughts on training, but we all share that passion to be better coaches/trainers/businessmen and I would not have met you if it were not for Charles’ influence on me.

I won’t go too soppy or sycophantic, but just to say I respect you all and steal all of your best ideas (there’s a joke there for a few).

“Ro (my wife) loves her sprints!”
“With James Doolan and Pete. James has now gone on to become a superb trainer and coach.”
“With Eric Falstrault during his podcast interview.”
“Big Derek Woodske during his podcast interview.”
“Christian Maurice, an actual legit ‘trainer to the stars’, during his interview.”
“Andy Bell. Calls a spade a spade. “No matter how good the guru appears online, they are usually only about a third as good as you think they are in real life.””