Why Excel makes you a better coach

Training Articles

Yes, this old technology can help EVERYONE better understand training systems.

 min. read
September 30, 2022
software for strength coaches

Why Excel makes you a better coach

I just talked to one of the most prominent strength coaches in America yesterday, and not only was I blown away by his passion for helping others, he said something to me that confirmed a working theory of mine (confirmation bias? Maybe, don’t care).  The first two weeks he doesn’t discuss sets and reps, periodization, exercises, or anything training related.  He has his interns do a crash course on excel.  Making a workout, formatting it to fit on one sheet, how to manipulate the sheet to show the data that you want.

 Now, most people know I am also the owner of Excel Training Designs, so my ears immediately perked up.   I have had my interns for years do the same process, but to hear this Coach have such a drive for making sure his interns learn how to create a workout card before all else was a great thing.

Simply put, Microsoft Excel makes you a better coach.  Periodization and training protocols are abstract things.  You cannot see them or touch them.  Even with graphs like on my block periodization post, how the hell are you supposed to know what the accumulation phase consists of when it lists intangible qualities such as work capacity, strength, volume, effort, general preparatory exercises, etc.  If you are reading this, you likely know what those are.  But could you qualitatively describe each one and how those factors intertwine to create a program when you did your first internship?  My guess is a resounding no.

Excel takes those random terms and puts them into a visible, tangible quality that allows you to learn those things.   It allows you to see why doing squats 3x per week at 75, 85 and 60% makes up an undulating cycle, and how that correlates with the rest of the exercises on the sheet to develop that microcycle.  It can allow new coaches to see why sets of 12 on bench in early training phase fits into the training goal to develop work capacity.  Excel takes abstract terms and puts them to something tangible, and if you are developing interns to truly understand what training is, this is VITAL to their development.  Graphs, charts and tables are great, they throw information at the athlete.  Seeing it in action is what allows coaches to translate that information into something real.

Take away?  Try this next semester with your interns.  It has worked for me for years, and now that I hear of coaches way smarter than me doing it, its officially time to recommend it to you.  Teach how to use excel first, in full detail, then teach what goes in it and why.

What about you as a coach?   Well, there is several reasons.   Lets cover it in three sections:

  1. The practical aspect
  2. The programming viability aspect
  3. The visual appeal aspect


The first reason having a good template is the practical reasons for it.  Setting up a proper excel template with basic features such as dropdowns immediately increases the quality of your training program.   Dropdown lists allow you to build a database, and put all of your information in front of you. Lets say you are creating a program and entering in a posterior chain circuit, having your list of posterior chain exercises spelled out in front of you allows you to select the most appropriate one for the goal and time of year.  

Trying to remember all the exercises you have for every general category you train will result in you defaulting to the same few time after time.  Same thing with sets and reps: if you create a database of sets and reps, you can more accurately and efficiently enter an appropriate set and rep scheme for the athlete, sport and time of year than if you are entering them as you remember them.   Lastly, setting up your template so that it automates menial tasks can save you hours of work.

Programming Viability

Here is one thing to remember: your excel template determines how you will be training, and thus should be built based on what you want to do.  How can you do a Triphasic with French contrast if your template doesn’t have superset options, or a column to dictate tempo?  How can you do Tier system if you don’t have a template with atleast 3 distinct tiers?  See what I mean? You’re training is limited to what you can display to your athletes, and if you can’t get the necessary information across to your athletes because the sheet you use doesn’t allow you to, you must limit your training methods to whatever you can get across.  Long story short: learning to manipulate excel is going to vastly increase your ability to use different training programs, if you can make your template display those programs.

You can even apply this to supplemental training and tracking methods.  Can you imagine trying to implement MAS on field training without an excel template to give you some good information back to use?  How do you intend on tracking the progress of your athletes in general and specific testing variables over time?  Probably Excel.  Does your testing template tell you enough about how your athletes are progressing over time, so you can confidentently go to the parent/sport coach/athlete and show that progress?  If you want an athlete to buy in, prove to them what you are doing works.

Visual Appeal

Lastly, the visual quality of your training template is extremely important.  One thing to remember when it comes to excel is this is your method of giving your athletes information.  This sheet is your way of saying this is what we are going to do today, and this is how I want it performed and tracked.  If you take pride in your weight room, your personal coaching method and philosophy, the way you treat and talk to and care about athletes, shouldn’t you care about the paper you give them?  The level of care and detail you put into your template will be returned to you by the athletes in respect and hard work.  We as coaches talking about developing a culture, they say “it’s the little things that count”, if your athletes see you do that in your work, they will do it in theirs!  Be the culture you want your athletes to be.  

Basically, spend the time and create a good excel template. It will make you a better coach, increase the quality of your training program, allow you to spend less time doing it, and contribute to the quality culture you are trying to develop with your team.                                     

Copyright © 2023 Strength Coach Pro. All rights reserved.

Download the Strength

Coach Pro Mobile App