For over a decade Matt Dickens has been working with professional athletes ranging from rugby players to the Olympic elite. Associated with the very finest athletes, his work has been accredited with helping these remarkable individuals reach their remarkable standards.
THE COMMON DENOMINATORS
Having identified the common denominators required for individuals to reach their optimal performance Matt also understands the importance of these elements being applied in a personable and tailored fashion. An accredited coach with the UK Strength and Conditioning Association, Matt also has an MSC in Strength and Conditioning from St Mary’s University and his approach to training and coaching is backed by the strongest scientific evidence and research into human performance. His business, Atlas Health and Performance has grown from this fertile background and is the go-to for the industry.
Very present online, Matt believes in communicating with his audience, finding that with the savvy use of social media his lessons and experience can benefit a far wider community of people. With this in mind he creates as much content as any influencer online although he says he does not consider himself a vlogger or a blogger.
“I just like to share good quality training content and engage with my audience via Instagram,” he explains, “I’ve been a lot more active in that space over the last year and have seen general engagement grow. It also is helpful to my clients to see this content online.”
His main profession is strength and conditioning coaching, and he explains that his success rate with many athletes from many different areas has been the real factor of his business growth. Having successfully coached and worked with athletes such as Chris Mears who earned an Olympic Gold in the 2016 games, and Matt Miles who is the captain of the England Counties Rugby. The influence that he has had on these careers has made him a very strong name in the field.
Of course, thanks to the current Lockdown, things have had to evolve, and he has seen a significant increase in the engagement from his online audience. Everyone’s main escape at the moment is via the internet and for those sporting people who are looking to improve their training when Lockdown ends, they’ve had more time to do research and to ask questions about who will help them get that extra percent out of their training. Matt has around 4300 followers on Instagram and 1,500 on Twitter and while this is a modest number in comparison to some vloggers and fitness bloggers it is an audience of real relevance to the sporting industry.
“I’ve had loads of new followers since I’ve started taking live training sessions on Instagram,” he says, “As well as a lot more people reaching out and asking for help. The live sessions are a new thing for me but it’s great to see around 100 people tuning in to each session. Then hearing how each person is benefitting, really makes it worthwhile.”
With most of his audience being made up of athletic individuals who have suffered greatly with their activities cut down and their routines disrupted, he has been in an ideal position to help them focus on using their time as an opportunity to come back fitter and stronger.
“The daily live sessions are structured towards specific goals in physical performance and are not just “exercise classes”,” he says, “I’ve been writing a great deal of personalised programmes to ensure people have a plan that works for them and will see them leave Lockdown having accomplished something.”
Matt reveals that his philosophy starts by encouraging people to be great “movers” first and that, to get fit, you have to focus on what you enjoy doing. This will naturally motivate you to improve and get stronger.
“I prefer the term ‘training’ to exercise,” he says, “This gives us goals to strive for and a way of measuring our progress. People refer to having to do “exercise” as something generic that has to be done and lacks focus. Usually someone “exercises” when they’ve been told that they need to. Whereas, training is something you do with purpose. You train in martial arts, you train for rugby, swimming, gym. Training is full of focus, dedication and is very goal orientated. Definition makes all the difference.”
This leads into the manner in which he trains his clients, be it online or in person. As a highly energetic person, Matt’s enthusiasm rubs off on people and pushes them to put their own energy where they need it. But he doesn’t believe in trying to motivate people.
“I think if you really want something you know you’ve got to work for it,” he says, “And you’ll be willing to put the work into it, but you won’t think of it as work. Instead of saying I “motivate” people I’d rather say I help people channel that energy in the right way.”
Of course, people are easily motivated and inspired by Matt, however it is worth mentioning that the clientele he tends to work with are people who have already been putting in the work to develop themselves. His clients’ usual needs involve them squeezing out the last drops of juice that will make all the difference to their performance.
“I help athletes and athletic individuals improve their physical performance,” he says, “This has to be done in a scientific way to keep things safe and can mean anything from running faster to getting stronger and certainly fitter. I help them build specific plans that work for their lifestyle and transfer it to performing better at the sport they love.”
CONVERTING FROM FACE TO FACE TO ONLINE
Matt had already been offering online sessions and courses for some time before Lockdown occurred, so he found himself in the position to help right away. However, this has still required some development and learning on his part. He explains that training programmes always take a little planning, as can videos.
“I’m getting more efficient at the creative side and posts are now less time consuming now that I have a few templates and found my feet as it were,” he says.
HIS OWN TRAINING
Knowing that the proof is in the pudding and especially in this industry you have to be able to lead from the front, Matt values a variety of training options to keep himself as fit as possible. His favourite is speed and agility training which he has found transfers well to rugby while in the gym he mostly lifts free weights.
“I use explosive movements like Olympic weightlifting and various jumps,” he says, “But I love all kinds of sports, rugby and mixed martial arts, climbing, cycling and running. I like exploring and challenging my body with movement flows and generally playing however I can. You can’t be afraid to try something new and just give it a go.”
Health and Fitness is so important during this time and Matt is confident many people will use this time at home to explore how they can train with just their bodyweight and maybe discover new skills like handstands. It’s a great time to understand how their bodies can move; rather than just repeating the same weight routines in the gym. He also believes it is a great opportunity to see how we can reach wider audiences online and hopefully some great new platforms with high quality content will emerge.
And what would Matt’s top lockdown training methods be?
“It depends on who it’s for obviously,” he says, “But for me it would definitely be sprints, heavy clean and jerk and Turkish get ups, but for anyone else it needs to be what they enjoy doing and takes them towards their goals.”