Jim "Smitty" Smith (left) and Joe DeFranco (right) with me at the CPPS.

Jim “Smitty” Smith (left) and Joe DeFranco (right) with me at the CPPS.

“If you can’t explain it to a waitress on a napkin, then don’t bother talking about it.”

-Buddy Morris

This wasn’t your typical weekend certification.

I don’t even like using the term “weekend certification” when talking about Joe DeFranco and Jim Smith’s Certified Physical Preparation Specialist (CPPS) course. It doesn’t do it justice. We live in a time where anything can be slapped together and labeled a certification when it’s nothing more than a money grab. I’ve followed Joe D. and Smitty for a long time and the biggest thing I’ve learned about them is when they team up for a project, you know you’re getting your money’s worth, and then some. Plus, not many “weekend certs” have you take a 28-page test and submit a 15-plus minute coaching video.

I kicked off my spring break in Paramus, NJ to attend the CPPS, but the learning didn’t begin there. It started in January when I signed up and had my study materials shipped to my door – their Complete Athletic Development System. This all-encompassing system is comprised of six books and 11 DVDs, so my work was cut out for me.

As a new trainer interested in working with athletes, there’s so many things I’ve learned from the live certification, books and DVDs. I left there a more confident and better trainer than I did before I started combing through all the material in January. I’m shy and was a little intimidated being around so many knowledgeable trainers, but two things that really helped me were how approachable Joe D. and Smitty were and how they are able to break complex topics into simple, easy to understand terms.

The CPPS was part lecture and part hands-on. Joe D. and Smitty made sure I was involved and Joe even made me introduce myself to this class – the largest class they’ve had to date – before I explained Janda’s Upper and Lower Cross Syndrome. “Hi, I’m Charlie Guthrie from Staten Island, NY,” I said sheepishly. “No,” Joe said in a slight disapproving tone. I didn’t know what else he wanted me to say, but then he continued. “This is Charlie Guthrie, our first ever Strong Bastard 911 grand champion!” Within seconds, the whole class was clapping for me, which was a nice ice-breaker. Smitty also made me jump in and help out with the squat practical and always asked how I was doing during most of the hands-on portions.

The April CPPS class had a record number of attendees.

The April CPPS class had a record number of attendees.

They make you feel welcome and treat you like and equal. They don’t try to out-smart you. I put that Buddy Morris quote at the top of this blog because I’ve heard Joe mention it a few times during his seminars and on his Industrial Strength Show podcast. Joe likes to bring up his SAT scores and say he isn’t the smartest, but the guy is a genius performance coach. Smitty is the MacGyver of training, where he can put together a 12-week program if all you gave him was a quarter, a rubber band and two 10-pound dumbbells to work with.

Part of their genius is that they don’t talk over you. You come away smarter after listening to them because they live by that Buddy Morris quote. I can talk about things like Verkhoshanky’s Theory of Dynamic Correspondence, Contrast Training, what a positive shin angle is and maximal and operational outputs because they make the material digestible for everyone. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is.

Sometimes I’ll read or watch something and give up after a few minutes because the presenter is throwing all these terms I’ve never heard before at once. That wasn’t the case when going through the Complete Athletic Development System. The 100s of new exercises I learned from the series are just the tip of the iceberg. Speed and power training were areas I was weak in, yet now I feel more confident programming it into my clients training. I learned how to properly set up a warm-up, how to train all dimensions of the core and their Strength book and DVDs have led to many quick PRs from me and my clients. Some of those PRs came just off of the tips they give on properly setting up and creating tension in the right areas.

The DVDs and books would have been enough, but the live certification made it that much better. The two days in Paramus gave me an education I could only get in person. One example would be my setup on the deadlift. I knew something didn’t feel quite right when I deadlifted, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Within five minutes of watching me lift, Smitty and Felipe Cotas, a fellow classmate in my group, fixed it. The camaraderie and hands-on work with fellow classmates really helped me grasp certain topics. I really saw the difference proper breathing has on mobility and weight lifting because I performed it with other classmates and instructor Brian Oberther cleared up any questions I had with his demonstrations. I feel a lot more confident giving assessments because we had to go through each movement with another classmate. It makes such a difference having another like-minded professional going through the exercises with you.

As I just mentioned, I didn’t just learn from Joe and Smitty. One of the perks of getting CPPS certified is you can attend any future event for free. Joe and Smitty have also brought back previous graduates to help teach the course. I had my squat looked at by power lifter and gym owner John Gaglione, who graduated from the first ever CPPS class. Another CPPS coach, C.J. Appenzeller, led the presentation on the deadlift, breaking down conventional and sumo pulls. One of C.J.’s coaches, Chris Ragos, was in my class and led the group warm-up. He taught me a few exercises to add into my own routine.

There was even some business advice and motivation tossed in from pitching coach, speaker and CPPS coach Paul Reddick. As a former player and baseball fan, it was awesome to hear a baseball guy speak. Paul’s whole speech centered around conquering fear to get to where you want to be. The part that stuck out to me the most was when he discussed the three parts of the brain. First is the “want” and the second is the “can”. You know what you want to do and how you can do it. The third, and most important, is the “will”. The “will” can mess with you if you let it and has for me plenty of times. That’s where the doubts creep into your head. He said you’re in charge of your brain and it loves motivation. This course has helped erased some doubts for me and the “will” is becoming more of a reality.

All of these experiences gave me the “why” behind everything DeFranco and Smith do. I’ve followed their programs and used almost of their exercises and techniques in my training, but I wanted to know why they program things the way they do. They showed me step-by-step how to organize a training session and a program. I learned how to put together a progression and regression model and all the components needed for a proper warmup and workout to get an athlete in the best shape of their life.

I’m still in the early stages of my training career and far from an expert. Attending the CPPS was a big step forward and I’m a lot closer to my goals than I was a few months ago.